The bees are buzzing and spring is almost here,
Longer days have arrived and more eggs are near!
My, oh my, spring is nigh! The snow is melting, the earth is thawing and this week the magic started happening – the bees have started buzzing around in the sunshine. Although there isn’t much for these sleepy little pollinators to feast on quite yet, the buzzing of bees on their cleansing flights is a hopeful sign that spring is around the corner. As we prepare for the business of the coming season, we thought we’d take a moment to share what’s happening on the ranch this time of year.
The cows’ pregnant bellies are beginning to show, but they won’t start calving until early summer, when the grass is green and the temperatures are warmer (the deer let us know when the time is right). Since mid-January the cows have been bale-grazing, which means we’ve already laid out all their bales of organic hay over the field, but use our electric fencing to give them access to only as much as they can eat each day. Using this practice we are able to offer the cows a fresh paddock each day, and tightly control their impact on the land. We prize the nutrients in the ‘waste’ hay and manure the cows spread, and each year choose an area of the farm to bale-graze that will benefit from this impact. Later in the summer we will be able to see a darker shade of healthy green forage where each bale was eaten over the winter.
The pigs have been in the barnyard for the winter where they have shelter and fresh spring water. Next month, once summer water is back on and we have our first flush of spring growth, we will put them out on pasture with our portable electric fencing so they can dig and forage for roots and greens, and we can move them frequently to fresh pasture.
Our laying hens spend the winter in a stationary greenhouse with a permanent outdoor paddock and hay for foraging. They seem to like this cozy set-up just fine, but I bet they’ll be pretty excited when they get to move back onto pasture in their mobile coop next month! With longer days their production is creeping up, meaning more eggs for you!
What are those gorgeous dogs doing in there? If any of you have asked about why eggs are in such short supply recently, Tristan may have told you about our owl problem. Our electric fencing keeps out predators that travel by ground, but those aerial predators are harder to control, and owls had begun treating themselves to fresh, organic laying hens daily. We tried many deterrents to no avail (can you spot the useless scarecrow in the photos?), but recently worked out a way for the guardian dogs to move right in with the hens, which solved the problem. Thank you Samsquanch & Tucker!
Our first batch of broiler chicks have arrived and are just a few days old. We raise ‘Freedom Rangers’, a specialty breed that grows slower than conventional commercial broilers. This slower growth means healthier animals that are better at foraging, and develop tastier, healthier meat. For 4 weeks, the chicks will keep warm in the brooder at the perfect temperature and humidity to thrive and stay healthy. Then, once they feather out, they’ll be moved into our mobile coops on pasture.
Next year’s laying hens, who hatched in December, are still protected in the cozy barn while they feather out. Next month, once the older hens are moved out of their winter housing in the greenhouse, these girls will move in. The greenhouse allows them additional protection as they continue growing, while still having access to the outdoors. Then, mid-summer, once they have started laying well and are finished with their growth spurt, we’ll move them into their own mobile coop and they’ll be given access to fresh pasture weekly throughout the summer. You can all expect to see dozens of mini-sized ‘pullet’ eggs listed on the online shop by the end of next month.