This weekend is the last Saturday for Derek’s Permaculture Design Course, here are some photos from previous weekends.
In our Permaculture course we have been studying of design implementing Permaculture in permanent human settlements in a sustainable way.
It is not simply agriculture or a way of farming, but encompasses the complete and holistic spectrum of life: Food, Energy, Water, and Sanitation.
In the course we are running now we have delved into these topics for both the developed world and the developing world. The pictures you have are part of the course, working to build an appropriate aspect of agriculture called “hugelkultur”.
It is a method of conserving and retaining water, self-mulching, self-composting, and much more. Our aim is not simply to include aspects of training that are lecture or classroom but also provide hands-on activities so students can apply the knowledge they are gaining.
Last Wednesday (Nov/12) we had the Campus Fair at University of the Nations. Students came to the Natural Farm and took part on a short presentation explaining what we do here and inviting them to a tour on Saturday. Thema Black, our shephered, brought one of our newborn sheep for them to see and everyone was really excited!
A big thank you to everyone who helped make that event a total success! You are awesome!
With the hurricane in August we were expecting our roof for the chickens to disappear.
But now thanks to our new staff member, Tony Jackson the chickens can roast with confidence.
Read more to see what the chickens now have.
We recieved 3-4 inches of rain on Tuesday according to my rain gauage. That is amazing for our little desert area. The timing was perfect, as we had just planted the African expression area of the farm with millet, sorghum and sunflowers. We had also just sown sudan grass and popcorn in the chicken yard area (put temporary fencing around it). It is always amazing to see the overnight growth and happiness of the plants after a good rain. The baby pumpkin plants doubled in 24 hours! I have heard that rain water is quite different from ground water and I can see the difference in the response of our garden. While the rain was pouring 7 little piglets were birthed and the next day another litter showed up. I have heard of raining cats and dogs- but piglets?!
I have spent hours researching calcium supplements for chickens and am still a bit confused. From what I have found, the form of calcium in eggshells, calcium carbonate, is not digestible to humans. What I cannot find is if chickens are somehow able to break it down and get free calcium. Everyone feeds their chickens eggshells or oyster shells as a calcium supplement. Apparently in the wild chickens do not lay everyday.
Some sources say our domesticated chickens are laying 10 times the amount of eggs they would in the wild. That is a lot of calcium in the form of eggshells they have to come up with. If they run low the eggshells become weak. Most people give their chickens layer feed with calcium in it, but free ranging chickens can come up with calcium from the bugs and plants they eat. In my research, the calcium in egg shells is freed up for absorption only with an ion exchange.
Pumpkin kitty was having a rough day. For some unknown reason he was following me around meowing and meowing. I fed him, freshened his water and gave him lots of strokes- but he continued to pester me. Finally I just had to ignore him and get back to work. My next task was to crank up the ice cream maker for our sweaty, tired work duty students. After a few moments I realized Pumkin was no longer following me around crying. We found him contentedly lying next to the obnoxiously noisy ice cream maker. That was what all that fussing was about! He just needed an ice cream fix. I completely understand:)
Two weeks ago our little flock of chickens celebrated their first year of life on the Natural Farm. It was a day of feasting- as every day is- of bugs and duck weed and kale and kitchen scraps. So to sum up our first year of back yard chicken raising- it has been delightful! We had no idea how much fun and learning we were in for.
A Year of Chicken History
We started with 30 Rhode Island Red/White Leghorn mix pullets and 1 rooster, all 24 hours old. They were shipped from a family business in Honolulu. The arrival was exciting and a bit stressful- having to worry about the temperature and food and water constantly- but they all survived and thrived! They received hundreds of hours of handling from the children that live on base and have never, ever pecked a person! Even when our first hen hatched 3 chicks several weeks ago, as protective and careful as she is, she still allows us to hold her babies without fussing. These 3 chicks all look different (a bit perplexing to us) and are doing well. It was so much easier with this generation as they had a great momma to take care of them and we didn’t have to think about keeping them warm or teaching them to eat.
About six months into the adventure we sold 6 hens to a local farmer friend who needed more layers, one hen mysteriously died ( appeared to be a broken neck- maybe flying and landed wrong) and during the year 3 have had to been put down due to the bubble eye infection. They never developed any other symptoms and only had 1 eye infected, but they would scratch and get so miserable we had to have mercy and put them down. According to our internet research this is a respiratory infection that is common in chickens, but ours never developed any other symptoms. This has been a demoralizing situation. We tried all natural remedies- borax solution, tea tree and oregano and garlic and black tea washes; nothing ever remedied the situation. And yesterday we found yet another hen and had to separate her. This fourth hen takes us over a 10% loss to the mysterious eye disease.
Our original rooster became chicken soup after getting aggressive and attacking me one too many times. We received a young rooster from a friend but the hens did not accept him and we let him loose. Another friend was using our old hen house to hold a rooster given to him for butchering, but he was too busy to get around to doing it. In kindness we let the rooster free but he came back into the fenced area to join the hens and he has been a perfect gentleman!! He has never been defensive toward a human but people have witnessed him warding off mongoose. And to top it off- he is very beautiful!
We have experimented with feed. They do receive store bought layer pellets (and the donations we receive for the eggs is about twice the cost of feeding them) and we have also grown some grains such as amaranth, sorghum, sudan grass and sunflowers, along with comfrey and kale leaves from the garden. They also free range and eat bugs (love cockroaches but not too excited about sowbugs) Recently we have put a large barrel of water with duckweed and azola growing in it- the chickens love eating these water plants and actually clean it out so thoroughly we are have to reseed it every day! They get daily bits of greens from the kitchen and any other treats random people bring them. I have come to find out that many of us keep a bucket of scraps in our fridge at home to bring to the spoiled chickens.
Over the summer we accumulated several batches of random chickens but decided to give them all away, except for the 3 silkies. They were very young when they arrived and now it is apparent that we have 2 roosters and one hen- but they are such good bug eaters and so interesting to look at that we kept all three. One rooster was getting “aggressive” (he would do a little sideways dance and then peck at our shoestrings) so we put them in the “back 40” and they are perfectly content. The young hen started laying 2 weeks ago. The eggs are super small but we are hoping she will decide to brood someday soon cause we are all super curious what silky chicks would look like.
This year some old familiar terms suddenly make sense. I now know what the pecking order is all about. And being cocky has a whole new meaning now that I have seen roosters in action (and even had to eliminate one for his attitude!) Birds of a feather, bird brains, the drama of laying an egg, nesting; I have a vivid picture in my mind when I hear these phrases. Yes- there have been some escapades and minor damage from chickens scratching where they don’t belong. But they always come back home and when they bust out running to come and greet me I find instant forgiveness! There is a special sort of love that hits your heart when you get greeted by twenty-some excited to see you again bird brains.
Maria recieved his name before his crowing days. He was a young adolescent rooster when a sweet little Norweign girl decided upon his name. I found some humor in having a rooster named after my mother- not sure if she ever fully appreciated the honor. I was surprised to learn all the roles of a rooster and we enjoyed watching Maria bloom into a protective caretaker of the hens. Until the protectiveness meant protecting the hens from me. He has surprised me a few times coming at me from the back and last week he was determined to fly into my face. Over and over I kicked him away. His intensity was starting to scare me- the aderenalin was coursing as I kicked him away over and over again. The very same day he decided to attack another staff person. Luckily she had a shovel in her hand and he went rolling down the yard. I was not convinced that you can teach a chicken- but I must admit that the next day when he saw me with a shovel I could see the wheels turning in his little bird brain. Nevertheless, the problem with Maria must be solved. We have little people visitors everyday and will not have a rooster bullying them. I have a friend who is more than happy to give Maria free anger management counseling- something about a magic stewpot…… We will be looking for a different breed of rooster, one known for more mellow ruling of the roost. Goodbye Maria. I enjoyed singing this song to you and hearing the hills come alive with the sound of music:)