Sunday, June 15, 2014

Goodbye barn. Hello grass.

Yesterday was moving day for the meat chicks, but I thought I'd take just a moment to catch up on the 2014 farming season so far.

It's been quite the spring farming season.  The weather, as usual in farming, has dominated what has been happening, or rather the lack of what has been happening.  In a repeat of last year, the skies have rained and rained.  We have had standing water in the fields since June of last year.  In a so called "normal" year, we would be starting field work in late April or early May.  A short recap of this spring's activity goes like this:

May 27th was the first day it was dry enough for a plow to touch the ground.
May 30th tomatoes went into the high tunnel.
June 1st the first sweet corn, peas, green and lima beans were planted.
June 3rd onions planted.
June 4th the soybeans got planted.
June 8th we had an all day rain that totaled just a little more than an inch. 

That little event on June 8th brought everything to a screeching halt.  June 11th would have been dry enough to do some light field work and then it rained.  June 12th we had a little more rain.  June 13th was deemed dry enough to start tilling.  Mike and the girls were just ready to start laying plastic and then it rained.  The ground will now need tilled again before any plastic can get laid.

Back to the chickens.  Their move to pasture was delayed as well.  The target date to move them was June 8th, but that was the day it rained over an inch.  The entire next week the weather service was predicting the possibility of thunderstorms and I certainly did not want to introduce them to the outside world and then have them sit through a storm their first night out.  And so I waited.  And waited.  But yesterday was the day.  Almost always I will have the pasture pens ready to go and just have to get up in the morning and move the chicks.  But all last week it rained or the wind would blow or both and so yesterday I had to prepare the pens, move the chicks and the feeders and waterers.  Along the way, I took some pictures.

The pasture pens are based on Robert Plamondon's hoop house.  You can find more information about them on his web site:  CLICK HERE.  They are floorless pens that are 8 feet X 9 feet in dimension.  This allows the chicks to have access to the grass.  In the winter, they sit out in the grass all naked so yesterday's first job was to get them dressed.

"Dressing" involves several tarps and lots of bungee cords.  I always seem to be tarping up the pens by myself which is why I had to wait for a day with light winds.  I've done it before in the wind.  It doesn't work well and when doing this job by myself in the wind, the words "flying solo" come to mind.

Next job to move the chicks.  This part is good exercise.  My brooder pen is about 12 feet by 12 feet.  I built it in the bottom of our bank barn with scrap wood that had been left behind by the farm's previous owners.  One wall is plywood.  One wall is pressed fiberboard.  One wall is T-111.  You get the picture.  For some reason that escapes me now, I built a 4 foot high and 4 foot wide ledge that runs the back of the pen.  It creates a space for the chicks to try and hide from any human trying to catch them and makes the human chasing them have to crouch down and waddle like a chicken.  Humans are not meant to crouch down and waddle like chickens.  Thus, this part is good exercise.  After numerous leg squats, all chicks were rounded up and transported out to the pasture pens and divvied up between the pens.

Next I had to go get the feeders and waterers.  Even though they are on grass where they get to eat plants and bugs, they still need some chicken food.  These are fast growing eating machines.  Plus it takes them a little bit to figure out grass and bugs are food.

And a final view of the pens with my little red tractor with my little red wagon that I use to haul feed and water out to the chicks.  We'll be butchering them in 4 weeks.  Fast growing little buggers.