One of the first things you learn about free-range chickens is not to walk out on the porch barefooted. Especially in the dark.
While we are awaiting election results, I thought I would share some of my observations watching sustainable agriculture at work all around me. I’ve written before about Josh and Kimberly, my son and daughter-in-law, who are all about organic vegetables, raised-bed composting, berry bushes, and such.
The farmers have moved from their tent into the house as a concession to having my grandson, Sawyer. At eight months he is out there in his SUV stroller amid the weeding, the pruning, and the planting.
But back to the chickens: The free range is great, the eggs are heavenly, but they are not without problems, like putting them into a locked coop at night and letting them out in the morning to frustrate the foxes and the coyotes. And they have to learn boundaries; if you can figure that out let me know.
If you think you like organic produce, you ought to see how much chickens like it. They especially like to dig the seeds out of the raised beds, along with the young shoots. So the vegetable beds are now surrounded by little wire fences. But the fences were needed anyway. Rabbits also love organic vegetable leaves, almost as much as foxes like chickens.
So the chickens come up to the house and scratch out the flower beds.
As soon as the weather is warm enough, or at least bearable, my home office moves to my rocking chair on the porch, laptop on my, well, lap. Ain’t technology great?
But it has taken some adjustments. I’ve finally convinced the hens to stop jumping up on the arm of my rocking chair while I’m working. Brushing them off is not discouraging enough. I found that picking them up and throwing them out in the yard seems to work. But that doesn’t prevent a half dozen of them surrounding my Airedale’s food dish on the porch and leaving little souvenirs of their visits.
Kim has explained to Scout that he is, under no circumstances, allowed to touch one of her chickens, ducks, or guineas. So he stands and stares at them circling his food dish, and I swear he is sending them telepathic messages of what he would like to do to them. They are not impressed.
He also has some favorite shady cool places under the shrubs where he likes to relax. It’s where the chickens love to take dust baths. If he stares at them long enough they finally decide not to push their luck and move on someplace else.
Those wonderful eggs I told you about? Well, everybody else loves them as well. They buy them by the dozen. It hurts me when I sometimes have to buy those yellow-yolked eggs at the store, after enjoying the deep orange-colored yolks of free-range eggs.
We didn’t have much luck with the potato condo. Bill Dunn tells me he is trying an alternative, which consists of spreading the potatoes out on the ground and covering them with dead leaves to create a compost. I think we may try that.
I say “we” like I have anything to do with it besides being a consumer. I’ve never been a big fan of vegetables. But I’ve discovered that kale greens and the like, fried up in an iron skillet, is some good eatin’.
The thing about sustainable agriculture is that it isn’t for one season. Berry bushes will soon be bearing. Perennial herbs and other plants will come back every year, and do not require replanting. Once built, the raised beds are there, only requiring a little compost on occasion.
The sustainable method meant the farming went on during the pregnancy and the tremendous adjustment to having a baby around. Kimberly is a wonderful mother. So Sawyer is getting a good education from being read to every day and also by sitting and watching the farming action.
He loves it outside and it won’t be long until we’ll have another farm hand.