It has been decidedly quieter here on applewood farm since the departure of Hammy, Bacon, and Pork Chop just one short week ago. For the rest of us, life has gone on and we have continued preparing the farm for winter in various new and assorted ways.
Battling farm rodents (mice, voles, and squirrels especially) has been a sidebar to our lives these days.
As the weather starts to change, the voles and squirrels have become proficient burrowers around the chicken coop. Every morning, we were finding new passageways dug into the coop where, luckily, no chickens were harmed. It seemed these critters were simply looking for a free meal of cracked corn and chicken pellets, which they found aplenty.
After various unsuccessful attempts to solve this by strategically placing rocks and boards around the coop (which, apparently, the rodents found amusing), we finally dug down about eight inches and buried the chicken wire below the level of the burrowing.
So far, this has proved successful. We figure if we want to feed squirrels, we can go sit on a bench in Central Park; until then, the food is for the chickens!
Unquestionably the most emotionally difficult task this week was taking down the portable electric fencing around the pig area and starting to dismantle the pig barn.
Without the pigs here, there is a palpable quiet that brings about the occasional melancholy as we go through our day.
While it was nice to be able to work in that area unmolested by Bacon and her partners in crime, none of us would have minded the occasional boot nibble or snout push.
In happier post-pig news, the sausage-making-braising-curing-brining extravaganza has begun!
There is almost always something simmering on our stovetop, being packaged for the freezer, or being fashioned into some delicious treat. A couple of the goodies so far are these beautiful jars of pork stock:
And these incredibly wonderful (and gluten-free!) sausages:
Along with our newly-shortened days, the weather has begun to really take a turn toward winter.
Luckily, this has not yet affected the egg production of our laying flock.
A little while back, we learned that by simply running an extension cord to the coop along the clothesline, we could mount a 100-watt light bulb on the interior wall of the hen house. The purpose of this is to trick the chickens into thinking there is more sunlight than there is.
Why, you may be asking yourself, would we do such an unnatural and crazy thing?
Well, folks are divided on this point.
There is the school of thought that says, “Don’t mess with nature. Let the natural process be.” We totally agree with that idea, but we also want our hens to continue to produce eggs and when the seasons change, the reduced light signals the chickens to molt.
A molting chicken makes a feathery mess and then puts all of her energy into regrowing her feathers–energy that could be spent making delicious eggs! So, a simple bulb on a timer adds the extra couple of hours of light that keeps our hens feathered and laying… Kinda the way we like ’em.
Finally, the hoop house has finished being transformed from a tomato and hot pepper jungle to a hopeful environment for healthy kale, spinach, mustard greens, and lettuces.
We have transplanted all of our seedlings into the raised beds and have (almost) finished building the last mini hoop house. When the sun is out, the temperature inside the minis can reach 80 degrees!
The only real problem is sunlight. As with the chickens, the plants suffer from the shorter days.
While the plants are definitely surviving and growing, the growth is SLOW and is going to definitely require a lot of patience on our part.