Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Throwback Thursday I:Biodynamics.

Posted on | September 18, 2014 | No Comments

Because I am incredibly hip, I have decided to join the Throwback Thursday trend on social media.  No, I’m not going to get twitter or instagram and I promise I will never hashtag anything.  Mostly because the # symbol means “number” to me.  It has already been hijacked to mean “pound” on occasion. I think it makes life way too complicated to also have it represent “hashtag.”  Besides, it seems unfair.  Why so much attention for # ??  What do the people on social media have against ^ or {  ?  Those guys are totally underutilized.

I am also going to spare you any pictures of me in my 80’s hairstyle.  Primarily because I still wear my hair the way I did in the 80’s so you people get to see that every day.  Enjoy.

I also won’t bother to post any pictures of the kids when they were little because it’s too hard to resist the embarrassing photos.  The ones I am hoarding to display at the kids’ weddings.  Like this one of Middle playing princess and “breastfeeding” his baby.  In all his finery.  Because real princesses breastfeed, people.

Oh, wait,  I said I wasn’t going to do that.  Whoops.  Sorry, Middle.

Instead, I will use Throwback Thursday to share some of this summer’s happenings that never made it to the blog.  Because summer is busy.  Part of summer is too nice outside to spend time in the house, writing on the computer.  Part of summer is so hot and humid that you have to be at the lake or the beach to survive.  And since cameras rarely survive a trip to the lake or beach, I certainly don’t want to risk the laptop.  In any case, summer flies by and I forgot to fill you in on some of what went on around here.  So here’s my chance to participate in the latest trend and your chance to catch up on every scintillating moment of what goes on around here.  Because we do a lot of things.  But we don’t do boring.

Biodynamics

Around here we have a biodynamic approach to farming.  Biodynamics can sound complicated, but it generally means my farm produces the things that I need to continue to run my farm.  Which I enjoy because it makes things a whole lot cheaper easier more balanced.  Each aspect of the farm helps support another aspect.  Except when they don’t.  Then it is less like farming and more like Farm Jenga.  Move the  wrong piece and everything comes crashing down.

For example, I had to combine my 12 week old Copper Maran chicks, Polish crested chicks, and Black Spanish turkeys with the rest of the free ranging flock last week.  So I closed off the chicken pasture by dropping hardware cloth over the cattle panels that the chickens usually stroll through at will.  This confined the flock to their coop, feeding area, and the back pasture of the property.  Then I added the newcomers from the brooder room.  The plan was that the newcomers would now learn to eat and roost with the rest of flock.

By closing off the chicken pasture I kept the clueless new additions from wandering off into the woods or down the driveway into the road, getting lost, and never returning.  But the pasture also gave them enough space to escape from any of the mature hens that might give them a drubbing instead of a warm welcome.  Chickens are not known for warm welcomes to new additions and establishing the pecking order can mean new hens get pecked to death.

You might find this video adorable.  I, being a chicken owner, was watching it with bated breath.  Because it seemed just as likely to me that she was going to go for his eyes.  At the conclusion, I didn’t think “Awww, isn’t that adorable?” as much as I thought “Whew!  That was close one.”

So I was thrilled to find that the pullets and poults survived their initiation with only minor fussing.  I was not thrilled with this:

On my way to feed and water the chickens I had to step over pony poop outside the gate.  On my way to the milk stand to do the milking I had to walk around pony poop.  While pulling out fresh hay for the goats and sheep, I stepped in pony poop.  Pony poop was everywhere.  Not because C.C., the fat pony, was being more inconsiderate than usual.  CC never regards “considerate” as part of her job description.

The problem was that with the hens confined to the back pasture, they didn’t have access to the poop piles.  Free ranging hens attack piles of poop with abandon.  They are always seeking bits of undigested grain and scratch the piles apart as soon as they find them.  This means there are no mounds of poop for insects or flying pests to lay eggs in and it means I don’t have to step around (or in!) pony poop.  But with the chickens off duty I had to switch to boots instead of flip flops for the duration of their segregation.

Then to ease the congestion on the back pasture I removed the bucks and took them to the side pasture to clear brush under the power lines.

With the bucks out of their pen, the Silkie promptly went broody.  She’s been determined to hatch eggs in the bucks’ hay bale for months, but their incessant noshing has always broken up her intentions without any assistance from me.  I couldn’t face having to crate her, dunk her, or constantly haul her out of the hay.  So I let her set and figured I’d worry about brooder rooms and chick crumbles when it came to that.

But if Blackberry the Silkie was glad the bucks were gone, Michael the rooster was mortified.  As the lowest rooster in the pecking order he usually sneaked grain out of the bucks’ trough rather than risk getting drummed out of the chicken’s feed trough.  I let him stay outside the back pasture to keep from getting harassed, but that meant he was my daily sidekick as I went about my chores.  He hung out as I milked, as I fluffed hay, and filled waterers.  Good thing I was wearing those boots because he was standing on my feet almost every morning looking for handouts.  And he terrified visiting children by rushing up to them and trailing them around the barnyard, too.  Country kids know enough to be wary of rapidly approaching roosters.  They were nervous watching that video, too.

I might have had trouble keeping Michael away from me, but I had more problems keeping someone else at home.  Bruno the livestock guardian dog was squeezing himself through the barnyard gate 2-3 times a day.  I was fielding calls from neighbors, finding Bruno snoozing on the deck every afternoon, or interrupting his strolls down the middle of the street on my way home from work in the mornings.  I’d like to say that Bruno’s wandering was due to increased predator pressure or anxiety about the bucks being out of his range.  But I’m sure it was just from locking up the chickens.  One simple act is enough to throw a biodynamic system completely out of whack.  You can talk about keystone predators or habitat destruction all you want.  But turn free range hens into pasture-raised and the entire barn yard comes crashing down.

After several attempts to stop Bruno’s escapes, I finally ended up with an extra cattle panel, a snap hook, and 3 new chains on the gate.  Which managed to hold him for the remaining 2 weeks that the chickens had to be locked up.

One evening before I headed into night shift, I found all the chickens, turkey poults, and pullets roosting safely in the chicken coop.  The turkeys were sitting on the feed cans and one of the pullets had lodged herself in the rafters, pooping into the buck’s feed trough.  But at least they were all co-habitating safely.

I opened the gate to chicken pasture as I left and Bruno happily raced in to remark his territory.  I figured that would keep him at home and busy for at least the next few days.  I led the bucks back to their pen and pasture, with Michael following behind joyfully.  I scooped up Blackberry and placed her and her eggs into the brooder room for a hatch date just a few days away.  It was a great relief to leave for work knowing there was a place for everything and everything was in its place.

Roll, biodynamic wheel of farming, roll.

Too bad when I arrived home in the morning I was in for a big surprise.  The boys had filled their backpacks, packed their lunches, and were all ready for their first day of school.  Except for one thing.

Little was bald.  B.  A.  L.  D.

Apparently, after I left for work The Other Half gave back-to-school haircuts.  When Little’s went horribly awry, he ended up a complete and total shave.  Then The Other Half, feeling bad about the situation, had the boys shave his head, too.  Completely.

Darn it.  Flat tire.

Middle decided to pass on the haircut.  Guess he realized restoring biodynamic balance is little bit trickier than it seems.  That boy’s a smart one.  Smart one.

It’s OK, though.  Boy hair grows faster than grass after a 3 day rain.  And it’s not the oddest hairstyle that Little has sported.

Yeah.  Sorry, Little…..

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