I don't know if it would actually work, but I have okra and tomatoes planted in the same bed this year and those okra plants look like they would maybe support some tomato vines. They are certainly pretty tough, and standing about 5 feet tall right now, though I think the tomatoes would try to smother them if they were mixed (presently the tomato plants are trellised along the north side of the bed). Maybe find a cherry tomato variety that doesn't grow so large (a 'patio' type), and that would have the best chance of success?
Getting away from annuals may be the best bet. I could really envision a tomato growing up into a a pine tree or over a dogwood or plum thicket...though I have to say, I've never actually seen it.
Here's the promised picture. It's certainly greener, though how much of that is the heavy rainfall we've had this year and how much is due to the swales is an open question. It certainly seems that it has helped, the infiltration is so fast I don't usually see standing water, and haven't seen much overland flow during our storms.
The woodchips are free from the city, so far I've filled my car twice.
I eventually decided that I wanted to put chickens or ducks on this slope eventually, mixed in with productive plants that I could keep mostly out of their reach. A larger, deader area up top can be used for the housing. If chickens, I'll move a compost heap up there too (difficult ground to grow on and the chickens can work it over!). I also wanted to be able to divide into paddocks, so I eventually decided to do hedges on top of swales to divede the areas up and hopefully hide any eventual fencing.
So what I ended up doing was putting a swale about half-way down the slope, which has a hedge of Black Chokeberry (Aronia) started on it. At the base of the slope is another swale, this one is presently planted with a wildflower mix, but I was going to get some Buckbrush (aka Coralberry) to plant along there as well. A few Serviceberry and Redbuds are on the margins, a Buffalo Currant (1 of 4) survived on the slope in the center, and the far fence (from the perspective of the picture) now has a 5 Gray Dogwood running down the slope. 8-9 Comfrey plants are scattered throughout. Most of the plants seem to be doing alright currently, though I haven't seen a whole lot of growth I am hoping that they are putting in roots and getting ready for a big second year. I planted seed for Purslane a few weeks ago but haven't seen any poking up yet. I also have Goji seed and Sea Buckthorn seed, but I haven't tried germinating them yet... will probably try to give them a year in small pots so I can give them a better chance of surviving behind the fence. Oh yeah, we also replaced the fence
Getting some vines up into the cedars is intriguing, I hadn't heard of Mouse Melon before. Something else to look into. I'll try to get a picture taken from the same angle soon for a comparison.
I know it isn't exactly what you're after, but I did just get some root crowns from Horizon Herbs recently. Their prices are reasonable ($3 for 1, $2 each for 6 and $1.50 each for 20) and the crowns really are as "generous" as they claim - most were around 5 inches or so. I ended up cutting some to plant a total of 10 (I think) from my order of a half dozen. Should send up shoots soon with the spring rain we've (finally) been having, we will see how they do.I ordered the Bocking 14, but they do have True Comfrey as well.
First, the Kansas Forest Service (Yes, it is a pretty small agency ) sells Siberian Pea Shrub, and they mention that the bushes are especially attractive to grasshoppers. They mention it as a potential problem (though they also say that the bushes tend to withstand the damage just fine)... but in a chicken pasture this could be great! So even if the seeds or leaves aren't too palatable to the chickens, we do know they love grasshoppers.
Secondly, the Contrarian Farmer article that Druce linked to got me thinking. He mentioned chickens feeding off his haystacks. I live in town, but I do have some lawn to mow that I can't let the chickens onto directly. Now I'm thinking about making hay from grass clippings. Has anyone else done this? My thought was to spread the grass to dry then rake into a chicken-wire cylinder under a cedar tree to store it relatively dry. Then just let the chickens access it over the winter and they will pick it apart through the wire. If it doesn't work, and it turns smelly, I can always spread it out to kill the anaerobic bacteria and then toss it into the compost heap.
I was also thinking that bugs and new green growth are a great feed supplement most of the time, but in winter fresh food is harder to come by. So I looked up bushes and trees that have fruit that can hang into or through the winter. Right now I'm planning to put a hedge of coralberry (buckbrush) along the front of the chicken/duck paddocks - these last at least part-way through winter. Redbud trees have a legume pod that hangs at least into February. No idea if the chickens will like it, but at least the songbirds don't take it before we can give it to them. The other sources of fresh food will be food scraps from the house and access to compost, deep litter bedding, and the forest litter along the hedgerows.
If you are looking at rabbits you may want to check Joel Salatin's books or videos to see if you can find out more about his rabbit tractor system. All I know is that he figured out you could lay down hardware cloth or chicken wire (one of these) ahead of the tractor by a few days at least, that way the grass grows its way through the mesh so it can be eaten, but the wire is still there to protect the rabbits and keep them from digging up the rhizomes. The other system he called Racken (for rabbit / chicken) and I think that one involves a moveable traditional rabbit hutch combined with chicken tractor... but I'm not sure. I wish I could remember more about these, but I've only read about them and haven't seen any pictures/diagrams/videos, etc to get the ideas more embedded. I've looked into rabbits a little bit, but I'm honestly not familiar enough with the subject to know how to avoid the disease issues if you don't do a raised hutch. I think there were some threads about colony-raised rabbits around in the "critters" forum that would have valuable information and people more knowledgable than I.
As far as the four strategies, it may work best to do all four. Think of #1 as a hub within the larger run or paddock system (#2). The hub may end up being fairly desolate and ... poopy, so this might be the best place to put compost and deep litter and allow compost-utilizing animals (I'm thinking chickens, but there may be others) free access to help aerate the piles and keep the bugs down. Supplement feed with #3, especially during the winter, but during the growing season put weaned litters of kits or meat birds in tractors or paddocks over grass (#4). If any one food source is getting short, you can fall back on the others... or similarly, cut back on the others when any one becomes particularly abundant. Of course, it only sounds this simple when it's written down, otherwise I would be able to talk about the system I have instead of proposing one
As a fellow shy non-schmoozer I can't help with concern #2, but this is definitely an area where others on the forums have some experience.
In Manhattan, KS there is a requirement to keep livestock housing a certain distance from neighbor property lines, I think it is 25'. This does limit my coop location options quite a bit, as my lot is only about 60' wide, but generally isn't too obtrusive. A law that established a shorter distance to a neighbor's property and then a longer distance to their actual dwelling might be a better way to formulate the law. There is another law specifically stating that domestic fowl are not permitted to "run at large" within the city limits, which I guess this means you could walk them around on tiny leashes if you wanted to. Otherwise, that's it. Other potential problems are just governed under the laws for public nuisance... so noise or odor problems are still taken care of, but without arbitrary legistation. I was actually really (pleasantly) surprised to find how little regulation they have here.
Many thanks to everyone for sharing advice! It's a lot of help to be able to bounce some ideas around. The plan I've worked up will have a traditional coop-and-run along the back fence as the hub, with three paddocks as radiating outward, divided by a wire-and-shrub hedge. By using ducks, it will be easy to get fences down to around 2 1/2 feet, which should be more aesthetically pleasing than a higher wire fence and let me simply step over them when I want to. I worked up a plan that can put some of these hedges on or near contour so I can pair them with a series of small swales. Those can be deeply mulched to absorb spilled water (and hopefully smell). I've put together a plants order I'm giving the final thoughts to that will consist of dogwood, aronia and buckbrush (also called coralberry) for the hedges, and I already have an order pending that includes some redbud trees, golden currants and serviceberries. I can get goji seeds to help fill in some spots with a good nitrogen fixer.
I looked through some videos of different breeds of ducks, especially where a couple breeds were present, and these seem to confirm the hatcheries' general consensus that the Welsh Harlequin are relatively quiet (probably quietest other than Muskovies). That makes them my top choice, at least for now... I'll probably go back and forth a few times.
All that said, it seems that there isn't much difference in planning for chickens or ducks at this stage of development. If I decide to go with chickens I'll just have to go with a fairly heavy, docile breed (Buff Orpingtons... maybe Barred Rocks) that aren't as interested in escaping, stretch some wire on poles above the hedges, and maybe clip a few wings if that doesn't work. It doesn't seem like it would require the 6' tall fencing I led myself to believe. Beyond that, I would have to modify the coop design, and I could move my compost pile into their run and let them work it over (instead of doing it all myself), then maybe fence off some more fragile plants within the paddocks. ...That's pretty much it.
Thanks Jack, I've been watching the Duck Chronicles but I do have a few to catch up on this weekend. Those and a few of the podcasts are actually why I started to give ducks a second look. (Somehow I got it into my head that they need at least a kiddie pool of water with daily changing, which just doesn't fit with my environment. However, a couple gallon dish so they can wet their heads is pretty feasible, especially if incorporated into a swale system.) In your videos it seems like the chickens have always been separated from the waterfowl... have you ever tried pasturing them together?
I just want enough eggs for home use, with some to give away or barter during the peak season, but not as a serious pursuit.
I had thought of doing ducks and chickens, but my concern is the possibility of getting the worst of both worlds rather than the best of both, if you know what I mean. (Have to fence for a chicken flock but provide water as for a duck flock) The additional consideration is that level areas to put shelters on are limited, so I may have to do a combined chicken and duck coop. This might not be a real issue...I just haven't looked into it too much. I could see advantages if over a deep litter (chickens scratch up the litter so the ducks don't mat it down) but I would have to keep the area dry for the chickens and exclude ducks from the area under the chicken roosts so they don't get pooped on. To keep the coop dry would it be okay to only provide water outside the coop? Maybe predator-proof a small run and don't close the coop up... would the chickens roost all night while the ducks go in and out and do their thing? The idea of combined housing may be a separate thread of itself. I will go through Harvey Ussery's site (http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Home.html) again and see if he mentions much about housing, I know he has integrated chicken/duck/goose flocks.
Landon --> The points you raise seem to further support the idea of a mixed flock. It may be that the balance is more on the "best of both worlds" side.
The remaining issue is the noise factor. As near as I can figure, ducks are somewhere between a hen and a rooster in noise level, and drakes are at or below hen noise levels. I know that roosters are too noisy, so the question is whether the ducks are nearer to that end of the scale. If only moderately louder than hens I could see this being mitigated through good design (place coop at back of property with solid walls and a plant screen towards my house and the neighbors, the back can be open to the highway).
I've been considering having a small egg-laying flock for my city lot. The backyard area I can devote to the chicken or ducks and my food forest is about 1200 square feet on a partially shaded slope with a depleted silty clay loam soil that I am only beginning to get into condition to actually grow anything well (the lawn struggles). I had been thinking mostly about chickens, and had some ideas for how to incorporate them into my designs. These included letting chickens do compost work, starting bulk materials on the top of the backyard slope and letting them work it downhill to where I could collect it and spread it on the garden. I wanted to let them range (either paddocks or freely) this 1200 square foot run planted with shrubs and small trees to provide berries (serviceberry, currant, goji, etc) and seeds (redbuds and/or siberian pea shrub), as well as weedy forage plants (polyculture of clover, purslane, chickweed, some comfrey and whatever else I toss in or volunteers). The main planning challenge here is how to mitigate the bad side of the chickens scratching behavior. This would probably mean subdividing the run into paddocks and protecting individual plant bases with wire so they don't dig up shrub roots. Due to limited space and noise considerations I think I would need to limit the flock to 6 birds at maximum, but maybe more wouldn't be a problem, I'd like to hear what people think on that.
Recently I've been considering a change to ducks, but this means planning for duck behaviors rather than chicken. Advantages: easier to fence in, less destructive scratching, less shelter needs. Disadvantages: no scratching to take advantage of, messy with water and feed. The changes I see to my previous ideas include less need to paddock or fence off individual shrubs, putting water basins in my swales (and moving them around periodically) to put waste water to good use, making their shelter easier to access or portable to mitigate their inability to fluff litter, and doing all the compost chores myself. So, am I off base on the assumptions I've made here? What elements am I missing? I also don't know what the difference in noise would be between a flock of hens and a mixed duck flock of the same size (another advantage of ducks, the males are quiet, so I can let them breed their own replacements ) Buying any birds are at least a year into the future, I would like to plan out and begin establishing a system to support them before introducing them.
If it affects your choice, Cackle Hatchery has Welsh Harlequins for $4.35 each, which is only moderately more than their less-rare breeds. The disadvantage is that you can only order stright run for the Welsh Harlequins or any other 'rare' breed. They have most of the other varieties on your list as well. I haven't ordered from them (or anyone else, still considering adding some fowl) so I can't vouch for quality.
I have a similar list of requirements, and personally have tentatively arrived at Welsh Harlequin. That said, I have no experience with raising any livestock whatsoever. I'm just going off of what the guides say about them.
"Always a good idea to post that, Ryan. I wonder if someone has something similar for Kansas out there. "
There is, just not nearly as good. I started getting in touch with some permaculture enthusiasts in my area (Manhattan) and the one person who had ordered from a state nursery said she used Missouri's because they seem to know what they are doing more so than KS. None-the-less, there is a Kansas Forest Service (actually their office is about 2 miles from my house), and their spring sale is currently going. Here is the link to their ordering website, and the Forest service site itself:
Their plants are definitely cheap, but not as useful for me since I live in town and don't need 25 seedlings of any one thing. Their selection is also much more limited. I do have an order in for the "Songbird bundle" (look under "Special Bundles"). This has 3 red cedar (already have enough of those, so I might give those away or toss them), 3 red buds, 3 saskatoon/serviceberry/juneberry (ameliancher alnifolia, use the name you want), 4 golden currant and 5 fragrant sumac. I'm pretty enthusiastic about the serviceberry plants, they are supposed to be very productive and tasty. The one advantage the KS site has is actually the Serviceberry: the MO site offers a more treelike species, while the KS version is the western, shrub-forming species.
Another direction to go with this that might work is a doggie-doo septic system. I don't know much about these, but they do make miniature septic tanks designed for dog owners. The septic leach field could support a denser-than-usual stand of vegetation for the chickens to forage and would alleviate anyone's concerns over feeding dog poop more directly to the hens.
I hadnt considered many other materials yet. The hardboard looks like it will work almost as well structurally and obviates the toxicity concern rather nicely. Pallets also seem like a decent option, the newspaper in town gives away theirs so I will have to see if those are just heat-treated or not. (At least from this source I can know what was transported on the pallet and probably leaked all over it)
Having built one raised hugelbed with 2x4 lumber, I've been considering switching to plywood as I expand to include more beds. The construction should be much quicker and far cheaper than the 2x4 method was. I've made peace with the idea that I'll have to replace the borders every few years; my main concern is that the glues in plywood, which are formaldehyde-based, could release toxins into the soil. The research I've seen so far indicates that formaldehyde is a toxin and carcinogen when off-gassing into areas without ventilation, so is a respiratory concern that doens't really apply here. Of course, most articles are concerned with human risk, not the risk to the innocent tomatoes I will be putting in harm's way. SO...it doesn't seem that I have to worry about it as a soil contaminant, but I'm interested to see what people think on the matter, especially anyone with experience doing something similar or extertise in toxic substances.
Thanks for the resource! I should have clarified, these are eastern red cedar, which actually are a juniper species. I hadn't heard that junipers had a juglone similar to walnut, that could be quite helpful. Looking back through the (very authoritative, I know) Wikipedia article, these juniper also increase alkalinity with their leaf-drop, and reduce organic matter and nitrogen from the soil (which in turn leads to compaction). The other thread mentions that they suck up a lot of water too, which isn't exactly overabundant here. So going forward, I'm thinking:
1) Increase soil water retention through a swale just downslope of the cedar stand and a heavy sheet mulch over the whole area, which should counteract the compaction and nutrient loss as well.
2) A buffer of juglone resistant plants (especially mulberry and elderberry, as they are native here and I was considering those already!) as an understory, probably planted in the swale
3) Planting some chicken-resistant, perennial nutrient accumulators and cover crops among the cedars. It seems a lot of the problems with pasture suppression is related to the low branches blocking sunlight, which isn't a problem here thanks to over-zealous pruning. Hopefully the sheet mulch will dilute the ill effects of the cedars enough to get things established, after which it can hopefully be sustained by using more nutrient-accumulating plants than one would otherwise.
Oh, and here's a picture of the area. And yes, that green spot is astroturf... another fall project.
Well, here's the hugelbed. For late summer/fall I have some pole beans and basil that just might get a harvest before frost, and a mix of carrots, radish and mesclun in a corner. As it starts getting colder (as in less than 100 degrees) I have some chard, lettuce and sweet peas to try out as well. I think the front edge (which faces the kitchen door) will eventually be nothing but herbs, so can maybe get some cilantro in this fall as well.
Next project is to repair the back fence and start restoring the soils on the slope underneath these eastern red cedars. Will probably add a swale to get some moisture into the lawn.
Thanks for the encouragement from everybody! Hopefully more progress will be forthcoming!
I've recently moved into a new place, and am looking for ideas to deal with a line of red cedars along the back fence. They block the view of the highway, so I don't want to get rid of them, but the ground underneath is DEAD. I've considered using the area beneath the trees as a long chicken run with compost areas accessible to them. Another idea is to grow vining crops (top choice is hardy kiwi) up the trunks, but the toxicity of the cedars is a concern there.
Has anyone had any luck planting around cedars, especially vining crops or plants that might be useful to chickens? Or have other ideas for incorporating his area into the yard, rather than just having a dead area along the back of the property?
I just started a hugel bed made mostly of brush. It's on a smaller scale than you all are talking about, only 4x12', but was made from a few major branches a neighbor lost out a sycamore, plus whatever leaves and bark scraps I pulled together from my yard. I put a lot of effort into breaking the piles down by trimming branches so everything is more compact, but there are a lot of small branches and leaves in there. I also packed in the small branches and leaves then put larger logs on top to smush them down. I built it 2 weeks ago and planted this last weekend for a fall garden and so far it hasn't subsided noticably, but it is definitely pretty early to tell.
As far as the smaller wood breaking down more quickly, I really hope it does (read: am planning on it) as my soil isn't very good.
Hey, just joined the site. I'm about 2 hours west of KC, just starting out with all this stuff. I actually just installed my first hugelculture bed last weekend and need to figure out a fall crop. If everything goes according to plan (which has never happened before, but there's always hope) I'd like to get to the point where we have 4 veggie beds, a small (but living) lawn, a few city chickens and some vining crops with maybe a fruit tree or two. Anyway, good to see that there's a few like-minded people in the region.