Thursday, April 29, 2010

Killick is in the dog house...literally

Our big dog Killick, has had a chicken fetish for the last couple years. He's been pretty innocent in his endeavors, until now. One of our friends put it this way: "He's border patrol." The chicken gets out, Killick takes care of it. Our new flock was getting out all the time. I've never had a flock of chickens "FLY the coop" as much as this one. In fact, I've never had chickens fly over the fence at all until this new flock. I knew Killick was getting them when they got over, but I never wanted to know how many I lost, until now.
Last Saturday we were gone ALL day. It was dark when we got home and I went to lock the coops up. I walked into the barn (the coop for the larger, newer flock) and found a big pile of feathers, a mass of feathers, some with flesh still attached. This was not an ordinary thing. I looked around for a carcass thinking maybe a chicken just died and the others had lunch (they actually do do this). But no carcass was found and if that had happened, there would have been a carcass. I looked around outside in their run for one as well, but didn't find one. Instead I found a broken fence, as in something literally climbed the fence!!! It was broken at the top and the bottom half was sagging tremendously!
I have no doubt in my mind that our dog, Killick, got into the coop! Killick has not been on my "friends" list in a VERY LONG time. It is no secret that I do not like this dog and do not consider him my dog at all. But now! Words cannot explain how I feel about this dog now.
I SHOULD have approximately 81 hens in that barn. I've sold some, a couple have died and therefore I SHOULD have approximately 81. On Saturday I decided I just needed to know what he's done. I waited for them to roost for the night and went to count.

I am not pleased to say that I THINK I MIGHT have sixty hens left. Maybe, if I'm lucky. I'm not saying he got 20 hens in that one day, I know that the numbers have trickled down slowly but I know he got more than one. The last 2 days my egg count has been down by about 10-12 eggs, give or take.

Killick is now on a trolley lead in the yard. He is NEVER to roam free again, except at night. Once the chickens are locked up for the night I let him go run and chase other predators. (notice I say "other" ) He has a doghouse (he doesn't know how to use) and he is not welcome in my house any longer. (I might lose the battle on that one when winter roles around again, though.)
Let me be very clear...this was NOT my decision because he is NOT my dog.
You know what they would have done on the old farmstead?

Friday, April 23, 2010

What I learned from WSDA Food Safety Program for Shell Egg Producers Information Night

Last night I went to a meeting that the Kitsap Poultry Growers Coop had. Their guest speaker was from the WA State Department of Agriculture and he came to tell us everything one needs to know about selling eggs or slaughtering chickens in WA. These regs only apply if you want to sell eggs "off farm" (at markets or to stores) or if you want to sell your chicken for meat. One of the only positive things I walked away from this meeting with is a better appreciation for ANYONE who wants to make a living farming in any way. And this meeting had nothing at all to do with organic, he kept saying "that is a completely different department altogether". So taking these regs and building to comply with every little thing you need to do in order to sell and adding to them the regs for wanting to be organic, which from what I understand is NOT an easy thing to do, you can completely understand why organic food is so expensive. The small farmer seriously goes through an incredible amount of "bull" to be able to sell what he works so hard to produce... off the farm. We can sell our eggs on the farm, like we've been doing, selling to family and friends all we want but as we were told last night it's a"buyer beware" sort of thing because we aren't "inspected". Haha! So "buyer beware" if you buy our eggs.

The reason why I went to this meeting was to really understand what I needed to do to sell at Farmers Markets. Last summer I made a decision to completely concentrate on chickens instead of having a variety of farm animals to raise. I was always and forever turning people away who wanted to buy eggs because I didn't have enough. So I thought I could possibly make a little extra income selling eggs. I love my chickens. I love selling the eggs. Everyone who buys our eggs says they are awesome. I get lots of fun compliments all the time. Like the time my friend told me her 3 year old daughter wouldn't eat the store bought (organically raised even) eggs she was forced to buy when my husband was on a business trip and couldn't deliver to Seattle, but when she finally got our eggs again she gobbled them up. :) So I sold the goats and started on my adventure with 100 new chicks. Now that those 100 chickens are laying (and I don't even have 100 anymore but closer to 80) we are getting about 70+ eggs a day (we also still have the old flock that give me about a dozen a day)! The problem is, things aren't going according to my plan! I can't sell enough to keep up. So we are eating LOTS of eggs, donating to the food bank (which is a very good thing), and trying to advertise for more on-farm sales but we still need more sales. So I thought I'd check out this possibility of farmers markets. But the good ol' government don't make it easy.
So we'll plug along with the way things are. I'm sure Poulsbo's food bank doesn't mind me bringing eggs in now and again. We'll be butchering our old flock and donating some chickens to All-Merciful Savior Monastery (if they ever get the chicken coop done, When Fr. Tryphon???) and hopefully with a slight increase in sales (thank you to some new customers from the east side of the water) we'll even out here soon.
But I have to eyes are opened a little wider and I appreciate all those small farmers all the more. ( A small farmer selling eggs is any farm with less than 3000 hens!!) I AM one of those small farmers, but I have resigned from ever trying to make something of it. I really wanted to but until I have the time to put into all the "bull", I can't. Maybe once the kids are grown and I'm not needing to concentrate on home AND school.

BUY FROM YOUR LOCAL SMALL FARMERS!!!! BUY ORGANIC!!! Seek them out! They need us! Don't know where they are? Check out this website...Local Harvest.

One more thought. Through all of this I'm regretting getting rid of the goats. I feel that for little people like us the goal really should be self-sufficiency and sustainability. This means VARIETY. Growing and raising lots of different things so that we don't need to go elsewhere, except for a very few needs. Back to rethinking how I might want to do that. For this year, it's concentrating on the garden!

Happy Spring to you all! May the sun shine on my farm a little more every day...I need it. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Little Bit of Heaven Here On the Farm

Yesterday was an amazing, beautiful day. Spring has truly sprung! By the afternoon the sun was high in the sky and temps were rising. I think we hit about 60 degrees. Today it is suppose to be even warmer and we started with sun! Yeah. I got to work outside, in the garden mostly, for more than 3 hours!!! Earlier this spring I set up my little Icon shelter in the east corner of my garden. The icons I put in there are from the girls. The Theotokos one Kelsey made at camp and the little one in from of it is a rock icon of Christ that Charissa made at camp.

Below the icon shelter is a wooden cross. It isn't because there is something buried there, but because one of my kids made it and wanted it displayed. :) Joseph and Charissa made that and Joseph pounded it proudly into the ground.

The chickens were really enjoying the weather yesterday. I walked out to the run and found all these chickens laying around on the ground. They were sprawled out on their sides, legs stretched, wings stretched. They almost looked dead. They were just relishing in the warmth of the sun!

This little, old flock will become food soon. They've been a wonderful flock but they need to move on to their next purpose since the new flock is finally giving back to us now. We'll start butchering tomorrow, not sure how many we'll get done in one day. We have about 30 to do.
I worked in the garden for a long time yesterday and hope to for a long time this afternoon as well. I LOVE IT! This project that I'm working on has been going for a couple months now, but here is what I'm doing. I revamped the whole layout and decided to do a "no dig" method of gardening raised beds! There is tons of information on this on the internet. One of my favorite books though is called "Lasagna Gardening". If you google lasagna gardening you will gets lots of information as well. Since I started late in the winter I didn't have time to do LOTS of layers but decided that they will build up a little each year. We'll see how it all goes. First, I started with a layer of newspaper or cardboard, THICK.

Second step was to then put a thick layer of straw. They say some straws aren't good, I think I got one that isn't good because it is starting to sprout, but there is nothing I can do about it now. I just pluck out the little sprouts and because they aren't rooted into anything it's easy.

Third step is to put on a thick layer of compost! This is the step I'm still in the middle of doing. Well, yesterday I finished 2 beds that still needed the first 2 steps done. Today I plan to haul compost all afternoon and get all 10 beds complete. I also hope to do some planting in the beds that have been complete now for a month. The 3 closest beds you see below have been ready for a month. There is a fourth one ready, you can see a tiny corner of it in the lower part of the picture. I planted lettuce, kale and spinach in that bed 3 weeks ago.

Here is my spinach sprouting!!!
A funny picture of Nicholas. Nicholas has become my inventor. He has a "laboratory" up in his bedroom and wants to be an inventor. This has really inspired his sister as well and they often invent things together. This is a blessing, because most of the time all they do is fight. But they've worked nicely together on their inventions.

The reason I mention the inventor and his sister is because yesterday Charissa was the inventor. She spent a good part of the afternoon rigging up this watering system. Hours!
When she was done and it did what it was suppose to she was SO proud of her work. I was too. The bucket fills with water, she moves the ropes to let it dump into the buck that is waiting below.

She filled the duck waterer with her new invention.

So, So, So happy spring is really here and very much looking forward to summer and hoping it is a good one, weather wise.