Sunday, March 18, 2007

Does anyone want a goose egg?

Or two? Three? Twelve?

This time of the year the geese are really laying, laying far more eggs than the chickens do.

A goose egg, incase you don't remember, is a very large, the size of three chicken eggs, white (well, white with the stain from a little bit of goose dirt) thick shelled object.

My first though when seeing a nest of them in the chicken house was to pop a dozen or so the large white eggs into the incubator for a month to see what happened.

Only, only I'm afraid what I would get out of the project would most likely be a goose (A baby goose, I've been told, is called a gosling). And while I'm sure goslings are as cute as any other baby bird, they still will grow up to be a goose.

And, yes, I am sure there is a reason for the term 'a big fat goose egg.' means zilch, zero, nothing or like a dictionary says 'when someone gets a goose eggs they get less than nothing, less than zero'.

I mean, even if a baby goose, a gosling, is cute and cuddly for a month or two they do eventually grow up.

And you know what that means? It means a lot of manure, politely referred to as guano, to deal with (which is just fine for an organic farmer, but...

But that's not what I intended to write about today. What I intended to write about wasn't the task of hatching eggs but, rather, the chore of collecting them. Goose and chicken egg gathering.

As I said in the last newsletter we recently had to rebuild our hen house. Or, rebuild what is technically known as our 'chicken tractor'. The old one, if you saw it, looked a lot like a gingerbread house on wheels. It was tall, narrow, brown and sat up on top of a huge trailer.

(a trailer that at one time hauled a pretend nuclear waste cask around the country to illustrate what would be moving on the roads from Massachusetts or Florida to Nevada if we decided to store the country's commercial nuclear waste in a Nevada hole in the ground called 'Yucca Flats'. How the trailer got on our farm is another story completely).

But, the reason why the windstorm made such easy work of it was its height.

A 37 mph gust came out of the north, caught the hen house on its side and whoosh, picked it up and lifted it off the trailer.

Its landing was far more destructive than what the tornado did to Dorothy's house. Everything but the roof trusses broken.

In rebuilding, the thought occurred to me, 'don't rebuild it as high. Keep its profile low and the next time a windstorm comes along there wouldn't be as much surface for the wind to beat against.'

So, that's what I did. Instead of the sides being 8 feet tall I made the new sides less than three feet high. Still a respectably tall building once you considered the roof.

Only, only when I first climbed inside to collect the eggs did I realize why this design was flawed.

I mean, I'm six feet tall, the sides are three feet high and the roof, well the roof is built just like the roof is probably built on your house.

A gable. Triangular. Double slopping roofs with the third side of the triangle, the bottom part running from one side to the other, from the top of one wall to the other.

All this meaning that there is only three feet to stand in between each truss.

And while you are thinking about the problem of a six foot human entering a three foot tall living space, a house that is inhabited by geese (and chickens and turkeys and one lone guinea fowl) to collect eggs, let's do the farm news.

Seedlings. We are now up to just about 22,000 seedlings started. We even have some up and growing. The broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for our first week of shares have poked out of the ground. Also, a few hundred black beauty eggplants have sprouted. This coming week we will continue planting and by the end of the week we should have about 20,000 seedlings up and growing with maybe 40,000 planted

Fire wood. A bulldozer will be coming out this week and pushing down the small trees on a couple acres of land. This is land that was pasture 40 years ago but was allowed to grow up. I'm having this land cleared so we will have more land to grow vegetables. I'm having it returned to the way it was from before 1950 back to the mid 1700's.

The trees we will be pushing over won't be good, 'keep your house warm' firewood. But it will be wood that after it dries over the next year, will produce a pretty fire in someone's fireplace. if you (shareholders only) are interested, you can have some of it. In fact, if you are going to do the labor of picking it up I'll cut it for you with my chain-saw. E-mail me.

And now we can get back to visualizing me climbing into our new chicken tractor with an egg bucket under my arm.

There is the first gable. My choice is to either climb up into the attic part of the chicken house or get down on my hands and knees and crawl under it.

This is a 14 foot long chicken tractor and of course, which end do you think the hens decide to lay their eggs?

Right at the opening where I can just reach in and daintily pick up eggs and deposit them in my egg basket?

Or the far end where I have to crawl through the accumulated guano of over a hundred birds?

This is the sort of activity that makes me want to begin to take on 'farm interns.'


Leigh Hauter

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I’ve been really remiss in newsletter writing lately.


It’s not that I don’t have things to write about. There’s the weather, of course.

Farmers can always write about the weather. But this winter has been remarkable. The word, I think, to describe this winter is 'chaotic'.

Record hot weather. Record cold weather. Record high winds. Wind storms over and over and over again.

I could also write about the wild animals. The three hawks that sit in trees overlooking the chicken tractor.

The fact that coyotes have finally moved into our valley. The one coyote that leaves tracks most nights circling the electrified chicken fence.

The fox that, two nights ago, squeezed under the chicken fence and absconded with a chicken.

(is this the same fox that gets its picture taken on our wildlife camera most nights. If I put out a live trap for him could I relocate him to your back yard?)

Then there is the latest honey bee disaster. I think they are calling it the ‘lost honey bee syndrome’, or something like that. No one knows what’s causing it but beekeepers all over the country are going out to their apiaries only to find their bees gone.

No live bees. No dead bees. The bees are just gone as if they flew off into the night.(this isn't bees swarming, its bees disappearing).

We have friends over in the next county who have almost a thousand beehives. This is what they do for a living. How they pay their mortgage, pay for their food.

This winter they went out to their apiaries only to discover all of their bees gone.

A thousand hives full of bees. Gone.

Talk about disasters. It makes my uninsured greenhouse fire seem trivial. A stubbed toe compared to a broken leg.

But let’s stop looking at gloom and start looking on the bright side.

Number 1! We should finish rebuilding the greenhouse today. There are only a couple hundred feet of water line left to run to bring water into the greenhouse and then we are ready to start planting.

Everything else is ready. The flats are filled, the seeds have arrived. The heat is up and ready to fire. Plastic on.

In fact, tomorrow we should start planting seeds for our June vegetables.

Broccoli and cabbage. Cauliflower and pac choi.

After that we’ll begin the peppers and eggplants. Tomatoes, basil, and all the other herbs. Hopefully by this time next week we will more than ten thousand seedlings peeking up out of the soil.

And besides the greenhouse we also finished rebuilding the wind destroyed chicken house yesterday. As you might remember one of the big wind gusts of chaotic weather took the chicken house this winter and picked it up and smashed it to the ground. Fortunately landing on only half a dozen chickens in the process. It could have been a lot worst.

Which brings us around to the subject of wind. And Wind storms.

I haven’t looked yet, I have a weather station that records such things. High and low temperature, wind speed and rain. I’ve been keeping records for the past half dozen years. Anyway, I haven’t looked yet but don’t remember this many high wind days in the over 20 years of living out here.

For that matter, I don’t remember a hotter January or a colder February/March either. This winter has had the most chaotic weather that I can remember.

And now for people who have toiled this far through the newsletter a brief look at subscriptions.
We are filling up quick. This year is a little bit faster than normal. I don’t have the exact numbers right now but we’ll probably fill up by early April.

Anyway, After April 1, I look to see who has paid and who hasn’t. After the beginning of the month I start reissuing the shares of those who haven’t. So, if you haven’t sent in your check its getting to be the time to do so. If you have trouble paying by then, send me a note. We can surely work out some plan.

And that’s enough for this week. I see in the weather forecast it’s predicted to get up in the upper 60’s next week. Sounds like nice weather for a hike in the country. If you want to come out and see the farm, you are invited. E-mail me first so I can plan on being around.

Leigh Hauter