Horse Fertilizer

Switching from conventional corn/soybeans to veg is a process and one big aspect of it is trying to build the soil back up.

We have 1 3/4 acre that we’re working with and ideally we would like to have about 10” of manure on the whole thing, which means we need a ton of crap.

We found some names on the UIUC Manure Share website: so we could start this little project.

One place we found is working out. It’s a horse farm, and we have started the process of taking their pile. OF COURSE, this is a transition year, so we didn’t have any equipment ready. They let us borrow a horse trailer. We went out there with 2 muck tubs and 2 shovels and started working on the pile.

Spoiler alert: It turns out you don’t get too far that way.

Still, look at all these worms—this is fantastic!

(Don’t focus on the fact that I took a close-up of poop) LOOK AT THE LOVELY WORMS!! (Let’s move along.)

For the second load, they used a loader to get it on there, so we only had to shovel it OFF the trailer this time. Still, if you have ever seen the business end of a shovel it may not surprise you to learn that we were inspired to buy a beautiful, old dump truck!!

  • …Drumroll
  • …Fanfare
  • …Singing choir of cherubs,
  • …Etc.

I will try to post the epic saga of buying the truck soon, but in the meantime, I can’t WAIT for load number three!!!

We finished the second coop!

Our box chickens are out of the box! We’ve got them in their movable coop so they’re protected from hawks, skunks, coyote, etc. but still get access to the world.

Our local hawk population would LOVE to sample some chicken.
Those brown leghorns are serious about roosting high (see earlier post about getting them out of the trees). In the other coop it took Tacky weeks to decide to roost high and she is the only one I’ve seen up there. These birds night 1, hour 1 they were right up there wrestling for spots. One tried to sit right on top of the other. Much squawking all around! Of course, the three other empty poles would never do…!
Goodnight, chickens.

Tacky the Eagle

Ok, so have you ever read that picture book Tacky the Penguin? There are all these perfect penguins and then there’s this one penguin who is doing his own thing and is kind of an oddball.

It’s a very sweet book.

I would like to introduce you to Tacky the Eagle:

Oddball probably applies to both of us, but let’s focus on the bird…

The kids call this chicken “Eagle” and it was their favorite chick—they held it a bunch. The whole flock is pretty friendly—puppy chickens, really. Still, Eagle is special.

Eagle is funky because she is a leader—will try new things sooner than the other birds—but also is pretty low on the pecking order. Pretty much all day you can see the chickens doing the poultry equivalent of throwing their hands up in the air and saying, “Tacky!!!”

When a person enter the coop, Eagle makes baby noises and checks them out.

The other day as I was walking in with one of their food bowls she decided to go to the top roost and fly into the bowl. I can’t decide if it was diabolical or accidental, but the others gave a cheer.

Newest trick: Eagle is working on her status in the flock by roosting a little higher:

Tacky is an odd bird, but she’s a good bird to have around.

Crop report

Beans are flowering
Two kinds
Spaghetti squash, zucchini, onion, and delicata continue with vigor. Two batches of rainbow chard. Just starting summer squash. A tiny bit of spinach. Sunflowers drying in the house. Finished: the kids’ tiny row of sweet corn and some spicy, hot radishes that the pet bunny enjoyed. Just about to be ready: honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, cilantro, beets.
We got the leggy starts of broccoli, cauliflower, and broccoli in. Now if it can just survive the hard rain… C’mon, baby, you’ve got this!

Chicken selfie with the Little Giant

Yesterday evening the weather was wild. The wind came up and then it *pounded* rain. The kids and I were on the far side of town and I felt anxious for the chickens in their new coops, so we headed home & checked on them. The tarp had blown around and messed up part of the roof (but only busted the hog-rings not the wire, so it should be fine, we’ll have it good as new in no time).

The chickens were wet and huddled and scolded me because THINGS WERE VERY STRESSFUL AND THERE WAS A SITUATION!!! until I got the tarp back in place at which point it was like flipping a switch and the chickens collectively relaxed and were like oh, time to eat, yeah, no bigs.

So then I came and checked on the box chickens (they got that name because they are waiting for their coop to be made by hanging out in a rectangular chicken tractor that gives them access to new ground every day and protects them from predators but which also looks like a box). The box chickens had wet heads and were actively getting rained on, but were also like, time to eat. So I felt relieved and actually ended up taking care of a few things and heading back to town.

On the way home from town the sunset was so pretty that my son took a video of it, but even that didn’t help it register to me that I needed to have put those chickens to bed!

(Note: During the day, we keep the door open and they forage in the yard inside a loop of portable [solar!] electric fencing to keep predators out. At night we shut them in the box since chickens are so vulnerable when they’re sleeping. This was their first night in the box.)

When I got back and looked in the box, there were 8 of 31 birds.

Oh dear.

That meant some chickens were in the trees.

Well, the rest of the chickens that were in this thorny tree. There were several other groups.
Another group. This was well over my head. This is not the face of a bird who is thinking I’d better get in the box because of predators. This is the face of a bird who is thinking you are annoying.
This is the face of a person who is thinking This is annoying.

It took me an hour to find/get all the chickens safe. Nice team-building exercise for me and the birds. I did set an alarm on my phone to put the chickens to bed a touch earlier for the next night. Goodnight chickens.

Gratuitous advertising because I felt so grateful to be snorting around with something solid last night: If you’re going to take a selfie on a ladder in the dark while the wind is starting to blow again and you are holding a chicken, Little Giant is the brand of ladder you will want to do it on.

Goats on hold.

Welp. Our Kikos aren’t going to work out. Change of circumstances on their end. We are disappointed, and our weeds are disappointed.

But there’s another place with Kikos that’s closer, so maybe it will work out better in the long run anyway. Guess this means the pressure is off to finish the enclosure.

Maybe we’ll focus on catching up on some fieldwork, getting chickens settled in the new moveable coop, and getting a good setup for some bunnies for a minute.