One of the things we have wanted to include on our little farmette is chickens. Not only do chickens lay eggs, and my teenager is, and has always been, a chicken whisperer (and while he is allergic to all mammals/meat/milk, he is not allergic to feathered animals or eggs!), and they are also wonderful in a permaculture system. They eat bugs, weeds, and bits and pieces of garden plants, and they leave rich fertilizer for our compost, orchards, and gardens. We are raising them only for their eggs and fertilizer, not for meat. They will hopefully live a long and happy life here at Lunar Hollow!
We got 6 sexed chicks in early March, and inevitably one was a rooster - so we have 1 big guy and 5 hens. We have 2 golden laced wyandotte, 2 silver laced wyandotte, and 2 barred rock. They should all be pretty cold hardy in our Wisconsin winters. The boys initially wanted to name them after epic video game characters (Ahri, Aurelion Sol, Cassiopeia, Fiora, Jinx, Kai'sa, Shyvana, etc.), but I have just naturally fallen into calling them by names that end with the -ie sound, since it is easy on the mouth and easier to remember for me, so the names are starting to stick. The boy is Budgie, then we have Siouxie, Terri, Cyndi, Annie, and Toni. (Can you tell how old I am from the names?)
We live with a natural woods barrier on one side, but 3 other sides are pretty open for wandering (& one side is along our road), so we have not let them roam without supervision yet. Every day they get out to roam in a different area and we are taking them farther from the coop and run each time, and training them to come back when called (treats!). It took a few of us to herd them back each time, but now I can do it myself with only minimal clucking sounds, as they know what awaits them when they return. As the summer winds down, they will get to wander in our food gardens, medicinal beds, and orchard, and we will know they will come back with us when it is time.
We started with just 6 chickens, but plan to add possibly geese or ducks next year, if we make it through the first winter with the chickens. We shall see. It worked out well for us to start with only 6 and get used to the routine and care of the chickens before expanding.
It is interesting to see the intelligence of the chickens, see their personalities, and see them learn and figure things out. They are fun little dinosaurs! Our next phase for the chickens is figuring out the best way to add some shelter/tarp area for rainy season and as we go into winter and snow. Also, winterizing the coop...any tips?
Summer has been in full force here. Record breaking heat, storms, winds, sunsets. All spring it was a lot of work, but also a lot of discovery. We first looked at this home last July and moved in September, with only a few hours on the property in between. So, it was a guess about the land, the plants, the soil. We have been really happy to find so many natives and medicinal plants growing here. For awhile it was a daily discover, and now in peak summer, I have identified a lot of what is growing here. We have been very lucky to find (I'm sure I am forgetting a few):
sThere were also many garden plants in ground besides the trees including asparagus, raspberry, and strawberry.
We also have been working to plant a lot of food and medicinals. We started by creating a few beds in one primary area and widening a few existing beds. We got a lot into the ground. We started a beautiful triangle medicinal bed and a strip along the food bed for plants that can be moved out into more of a permaculture guild design ongoing - including wormwood, anise hyssop, tulsi, skullcap, brahmi, calendula, white horehound, dagga, echinacea, milkweed, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, St. John's Wort, mugwort, hyssop, clary sage, elecampane, Moldavian dragonhead balm, lavender, agrimony, thyme, sage, evening primrose, and a bunch more. We also got plants such as rose, valerian, solomon's seal, black cohosh, american ginseng and a few others into the ground, but it will take a few years to see anything. We also have about 50 pots with herbs on our deck and stairs in back that includes rosemary, fig, lemon, lime, passionflower, and more culinary goodies that like heat. We installed a few flower cutting beds as well, to have fresh flowers all summer - which is nice. We have also been preserving and pickling away from our food beds.
I feel like there are not enough hours in the day, but that is the nature of working a few acres, homeschooling, volunteering almost full time, having a mentor, volunteering in clinic, taking several classes, and trying to have a life! I am enjoying summer as much as I can, while also starting to look forward to autumn and winter for downtime (ha!).
All of that and I have not even mentioned our dog, chickens, or bees. We not only got a new house, we got a whole new life.
More later. Because one thing I have noticed is that I mess the blogs of the 00's. When we would write, share, read, comment, and have actual conversations. I feel overwhelmed by instagram and facebook a bit. More of a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks endeavor, not conscious thoughts assembled to share connect. I mean, I suppose there are people trying to do that, but the more "popular" one is on social media, the more it is just posting to get everyone to tell you how amazing you are. Not anything that benefits the relationship between the two or the reader/viewer. Mostly a poster ego stroke, and I am just not into that. I feel like I want to get some of the old engagement and conversation back. SO, I will be writing likely to myself, for myself, with only myself to read it, but ... it is time to take back this space. until then.
We have had a few months settling in, getting used to wind, water, slope, drainage. Bugs, animals (lots of animals). We have been working to develop a big plan for planting, but really wanted to get to know things a bit first.
We have been working on the big plan - where the beehives will go, the compost pile, the coop, the cutting garden, the food garden, the fruit trees/orchard, the cane fruit, the nut trees, the medicinal gardens, the greenhouse. I have been working on and tweaking a digital plan (see above). We adopted a dog recently, and so I have been walking the perimeter in sun, rain, and snow, so some of that will change as I have walked the land so much I have a better idea of space and light and drainage.
I am trying to make gradual process in some areas, but I also want to get a lot done (without burning out my family helpers). We laid out some black tarps in the fall, planted some canes and fruit, deer-proofed the small plants - we see a dozen deer a day on our property - and then plotted out where the other beds will go and where we hope to install the high tunnel. We have many bare root and 2nd year plants coming in the spring, so we will plant as we get them! We have our starter beehives and bees will be coming this spring. We have a plan for chickens and geese, but we may ease into that as we recently got a dog and there is much work to be done to get this all started, and more coop and animal care might be too much for everyone. We shall see how we feel once the snow starts to melt!
Our goal is to create not only a permaculture farmette here with food and medicinal plants, but also educational gardens and a space for classes. By working to preserve endangered plants as we can, this space will become a botanical sanctuary, caring for pollinators, plants, and people.
We setup a large seed starting system and I have started seeds. I will share more on that later - but here is our big plan for this year.
2019 Planting Plan
I am a certified aromatherapist, herbalist, organic gardener, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.