My last post was in the fall, so I thought I should do an update of our progress so far. I wish we had more to show for these months, but this winter has been a bit crazy for us, between both my partner and I being sick/injured, family events, and unstable job
situations. Doing this thing requires both hard work and some source of funding, even if I try to find everything I can for cheap/free. We do what we can with what we've got, and luckily we've been able to set a little aside from each paycheck we get for the "farm fund". I'm looking forward to my tax refund and hoping spring shows itself soon!
While the weather outside was frightful, we were able to spend a lot of time working on things indoors. This house was previously rented out to various people
who absolutely trashed it for a number of years, and undoing all that is a gargantuan task on its own. We've patched so many holes in walls, torn out zillions of screws and nails from places they never should have been in the first place, put new glass in old broken windows, reinstalled lighting and fixtures that were stolen for scrap metal, and painted over more graffiti indoors than you'd see on a freight train. It's only the beginning, but it is starting to feel more like a loved home instead of an abused house. When two guys from the local
phone co-op came to install our internet, they were shocked at the changes we've made so far and kept telling us what the house had looked like before - among other things, they said their had been a wood stove
sticking out one kitchen window and a dishwasher sticking out the other, so that they could be used without need of the chimney or being hooked up to a drain. The electrical supply had been amateurishly re-wired around the meter box so that power could be stolen from the company. There were massive amounts of trash and broken glass piled around, inside and out. While fixing, cleaning up and repairing most of this is not directly related to permaculture
, it's still an important step to making this our home, and its where I feel like we've had the biggest payoffs for our work so far. The psycological effect of having your living space clean, orderly, and cozy is huge for me... it's hard to describe how much better it feels once you've painted over the racist remarks on your bedroom wall and hung up a painting instead.
When we do get a break from the rain, we've been clearing massive amounts of himilayan blackberries, english ivy, and english hawthorne. We've been doing this mostly by hand, with pruners and a shovel, and concentrating on the area around the spring/summer garden and the buildings where it has grown up over the last 15 years. The ground is so wet that the roots
are relatively easy to pull up, and this time of year, before everything leafs out, it's easy to spot the evergreen berries and ivy. I do plan to leave a patch or two of blackberries and one rather nice looking hawthorne tree because of the food they can provide for us and the local wildlife, but right now these plants take up far too much space and mercilessly choke out everything else, including our large trees. These species are considered invasive here, and although I like to judge each plant on it's merits for my situation instead of just listening to the conventional wisdom, in this case the label is well deserved.
This week, I brought home six chicks from our local feed
store. They're gold and silver laced wyandottes (three of each) and from what I've read, they're good free rangers and good mothers. We're converting the old "donkey shed" that's attached to the end of our barn into a chicken coop
, which means closing off the side that had previously been open, and closing any gaps where predators might be tempted to squeeze through. I think it's pretty secure, though I still need to bury some rocks and wire around the perimeter... I guess the real test of that will be when we move the chickens
out there and the predators get wind of them. We have feral cats, foxes, coyotes, skunks, opossum, and at least one mountain lion in the neighborhood, so I've been trying to make the coop into a chicken
's fort knox. Our intention with these chickens
is to let them out during in the day so that they can free range around the property, and lock them in at night. I hope to be able to feed them mostly from kitchen scraps/sprouts and free ranging, and I've been collecting and starting some "chicken food forest" plants around their yard. We plan to get a rooster once these girls are old enough
to start laying. While we got them mostly for the eggs, pest control and compost-generating capabilities, if they begin reproducing on their own (which we're hoping for) then they'll also be a nice, if irregular, source of meat for us. A roo should also help to decrease losses from predation, at least that's the hope. We also make sure to take our dog on frequent perimeter walks and scatter his used bedding on the trails leading on and off of our property, so although he can't be trusted unsupervised around birds, he can still help to keep other predators at bay. At the moment, as the chicks are only about a week old, we're keeping them in a makeshift brooder in our hallway closet. They're just starting to get little wing and tail feathers, and I can actually tell them all apart from their markings already. I sit by their brooder and talk to them or hum to them from time to time, and pet them and feed them out of my hand. Only a couple are brave enough to eat chick starter mix from my hand, but when I offered them a bug, they all crowded around trying to get in on the action. I don't want them to become pets, but I do want them to bond with me and not fear me, and perhaps be a little easier to herd in at night when they're adults. Still, I do really enjoy interacting with them in their cute chick phase.