Sustainability

Trying Buckeye chickens

Hard to believe it’s the 2nd week of June already! The tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables are almost all in the ground and calving is well under way. Everything is bright green and the wildlife is out harvesting the grass along with the cattle and sheep.

To better harvest the bounty of our pastures in the future, we are trying a chicken experiment. The broiler meat chickens
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we raise on pasture do eat some green stuff but on the whole they have too little of their natural instincts left to do more than scarf down feed and grow large breast meat. To try and move away from these chickens we are trying Buckeyes, a native Ohio breed (and created by a woman, an unfortunate rarity in the livestock breeding business). The Buckeyes are smart and nimble dual-purpose chickens, able to lay eggs and be meat chickens. They can forage for a large portion of their own food.

They will take longer to raise (16 weeks instead of 8) and they will have less white meat and more dark meat. However, they will be able to live happier, healthier lives, get more of their food from our great pastures, and we hope that the flavor will be excellent. Let us know what you think about the Buckeyes!

Considering Red Wattle hogs

We are considering another new operation here on the farm. Last week I went to visit 1000 Hill Acres farm run by Mark and Tory Reed. They have a number of different ventures underway including a herd of Red Wattle Hogs.

Red Wattles are a breed of pig believed to be extinct until they were rediscovered in the wilds of Texas. They are calm and good at foraging for their own feed and both hardy and tasty! I hope that soon we may have our own Red Wattle hogs and try breeding them ourselves. They will be more self-sufficient than our current feeder pigs and can hopefully live happier, healthier lives as a result. One more step on the path to greater sustainability.

Rocket stove heat for winter plant growth

In preparation for next winter, we are trying to put heat into one of our greens hoophouses. This would allow us to grow tomatoes and cucumbers out of season, as well as give our fig trees a fighting chance!

To accomplish this, we are trying to build a rocket stove, a super-efficient wood-burning stove that uses the ground below the hoophouse as a heat battery. We are also going to use the thermal mass of water to store heat and either act as part of a hot tub system or a winter aquaponics setup.

Living fence progress

Recently, we tried a new experiment; a living fence. Okay, that sounds a little creepy.
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It's actually a cross between a fence and a hedge row made out of willow stakes cut from trees in the homestead. The test fence will form a perimeter around the orchard. I try to get more mileage out of the larger diameter stems by splitting them. We'll see if they can survive this process.

The hope is to create a livestock barrier that requires less maintenance, produces livestock browse, and looks cool!

In the photo, you can see the untreated stakes have buds on them that have started to open!

Prairie nursery

We have just added a new permaculture endeavor, a prairie nursery! We just planted 2 varieties of Eastern Gamma Grass, a native tall-grass prairie plant with high drought resistance and livestock feed value. Tall-prairie plants are often highly productive, resilient perennials which makes them well-suited for permaculture applications.

The idea is to take root cuttings and plant them out in the drier portions of the fields. This will not only restore some native diversity, but will also give the cows and sheep something more to eat during droughts.