Chooks doing all the work

We enjoyed a sunny day in the southern hemisphere today – a first in what seems like many months. It was a day when I was able to get out into the garden and start to think about my summer produce garden.  I intend to get my chooks to do most of the work – lazy or not?  I’ll let you decide.

Chooks love to forage and scratch around in the dirt.  In their natural bush environment they do this to find tasty morsels of protein in the form of bugs, worms and other little soil dwelling critters.  They also peck and sample tasty morsels of weeds as they go.  Along with the scratching they are very efficient at clearing up a garden bed in preparation for the next crop.

We are in the middle of moving to our rural property and with this comes cleaning up the garden beds that I have used in our rental property to return them to what they were when we arrived (which was pretty bare and unproductive, actually).  So while the weather was warm today I gave the chooks a practice run and set them up in what was my pumpkin bed last summer to scratch it over, provide some fertiliser and generally clean the area up.

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Now admittedly I could have got the hoe out and dug over the weeds and scratched the soil around, but the sound of the chooks clucking around out there happily in the sunshine and the fact that I can get on and do other things in the meantime is a great incentive to let them do what they do best.

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Now that they have had a good practice, not that they really needed it, I can start to think about getting them to clear the new beds at the farm and start to think about what I might plant in my summer beds.  I think the 10 most useful summer vegetables will definitely be on my list, but I might try my hand at a few other things too … I definitely need to revive my herb beds and some cucumbers and eggplants will be on the agenda too.  

But first I need to work towards the chooks’ happiness and give them some foraging time on the untouched earth of our farm which will form the basis of our summer food production this year.  Then I can get on and do some other things while they are busy doing what they love to do.

What will you be planting in your summer garden this year?

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Eggs

A little while ago our second chook started moulting.  She looked terrible, feathers falling out all over the place, bare skin revealed on her underside, skin showing through around her wings and not an egg laid for weeks.  It must have been cold for her moulting during a very cold May, she started very late this year.  We fed her plenty of raw veggie scraps and soaked chick peas.  My theory on the chick peas is that they are a great source of protein which she would need if she was to produce great new feathers to replace those she was losing.

Three weeks on the chick pea dietary supplement, with lots of fresh raw organic scraps, grain pellets, shell grit and lots of water and she was back to looking healthy and happy.  Slowly and surely she has started laying again – and it was worth the wait,  I weighed a week’s worth of eggs of hers today and the smallest one weighed in at 74 grams, with the largest weighing 82 grams!  Great work chooky!

Every time I sit down to a meal of scrambled eggs, or any other meal where the eggs are such an obvious inclusion, I am so grateful for the goodness that our girls produce on such a regular basis.  It also makes a meal more enjoyable knowing that the food miles are virtually zero.  Food miles?  More like food steps.  And it is nice to know that I can make these two chookies lives just a little bit happier, more natural, with a little bit of free ranging, provide somewhere safe to peck at worms and other bugs, use up my kitchen scraps in a constructive way, as well as give them a warm and comfy place to sleep.

And in return I get lovely little parcels of tasty protein to use as a meal, in a cake or muffins, to brown a pastry or to condition my hair.  What a lovely circle of sustainability that is!


Sunny Saturday

After a long and busy week where I haven’t managed to step outside during daylight hours I ventured out into the garden this morning.  After a couple of very wet weeks our rainwater tanks are full to over flowing, the clay ground is soggy and water logged.  I have spent the week dodging rain showers when I did get outside.

When I ventured out into the garden this morning, I was greeted by sunshine, rays reflecting off leaves, warmth radiating from the paving, and clear light making everything look lovely.  As I took scraps to the chooks, I discovered that the garden is flourishing, despite the cold temperatures and short days that we are having.  Isn’t nature amazing!

         

Of course, chooky had to have a look and see what I was up to while I was photographing the penstamon (above on the right) … there could be a weed or two in it for her!

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And as I spent a little time in the veggie garden later in the day I decided to harvest some tasty root vegetables for our dinner …

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A sunny Saturday – just what a girl needs after being stuck in an office all week!  Absolutely soul-restoring 🙂


Foggy Rainy Morning

When I awoke on Monday morning and pulled up the blind, I looked out to find I had been enveloped in a misty fog which had descended during the night.

I looked across the valley, only I couldn’t see the valley.  I could only see the trees which are on our side of the hill.  Beyond the gully – just grey fog.  Lovely!  A day when I want to stay inside, not face the elements and keep warm.

Problem no. 1 – it is Monday – a work day.  Which means I cannot stay inside, I must face the elements and I will probably get cold and wet doing so.  Which I wouldn’t mind if I wasn’t expected to show up looking corporately dressed and composed.

Stoke the fire – it’s going to be cold when I get home.  Fortunately I’d planned ahead and brought firewood in last night – so didn’t need to brave the weather just yet.  Feed the cats – that’s okay too as they sleep under cover and I don’t have to go outside of that cover to feed them.  Eat breakfast – great morning for porridge – such a comfort food, so warm and sweet with honey drizzled on it.

Feed the chooks – make them some porridge (they don’t get drizzled honey on theirs, just oats and water), grab the umbrella, and the chook food bucket (scraps of yesterday) – both hands full, step outside.  Not only is it foggy but just at the precise moment I chose to step outside it started raining again!  Of course – no time to turn back the clock is ticking and I’m due at work soon.  Stepped in a puddle on the way to the chook yard and remembered that the sole in my shoe is not waterproof – note to self: avoid the puddles and think about getting that sole repaired (attempting to live sustainably can sometimes have its down side too like I have to remember to get my shoes repaired and find something else to wear while I do, instead of just rushing out to buy another pair because financially I could).  Chook house open – chooks come running out to see what delights I have brought them – they don’t seem to care about the rain – just let them at that porridge!  No eggs yet today – good – I don’t have to bend down to collect it and risk getting mud on my work clothes.  I must look a sight in my corporate outfit, with umbrella and chook food bucket, scrabbling about in the rain in their yard!

Back down the path – might as well check the rain gauge to see how much we’ve had over night while I’m out here in the rain anyway.  4.8mm – not a bad start to the day and I mentally calculate how many litres of water that has put in our tanks – just over 250 litres – thank you very much – I’ll have a long shower tomorrow to celebrate!

Notice there are some interesting looking mushrooms growing in our potato patch – won’t eat them – my mushroom identification skills aren’t that great – never know what might happen!

Back inside – what a start to the day!  I love the sensation of rain – the sound it makes on the roof, the way it changes the colour of the bark on the trees, the way it glistens on the leaves, the way it makes the flowers droop under its weight, the way it seems to wash everything clean and make the whole world smell nice.  I wouldn’t even mind being out in the rain or stuck in a foggy valley, if I didn’t have to “corporate up”.  One day …


Chooks

For many years I have wanted to own chooks, but for one reason or another I wasn’t able to.  However for the last 3 or so years we have had two pairs of clucky girls.  Our current pair of chooks (Mignon and Chasseur) has been with us for almost 2 years, foraging for insects and food scraps amongst the straw and tree litter within the confines of their cage.  The work they have done on the soil in their yard is impressive, to say the least.  Originally a heavy red clay, the top soil has been scratched and fertilised, composted and turned daily by our dynamic dinosaur descendants and is now a friable dark soil, thriving with life.  The trees and shrubs within their cage provide them with shade and shelter and in turn they are fed and watered with high quality nutrients.

When I go to their part of the garden their cluck-clucking greets me as I walk the path to their gate.  It is comforting and friendly as they run up to see what delightful scrap offerings I have brought.  They are so excited by what some would consider waste.  They are amazing at consuming all manner of weeds, fruit scraps, stale bread, vegetable peelings and off cuts, turning carbohydrates into protein for human consumption.

When the summer veggies are finished and the beds need reviving, I send in the chooks to do their thing for a couple of days.  Two days on the veggie bed and they have turned, pecked, cleared and fertilised the bed ready for a new crop.

The eggs they provide are sustenance for us, as well as our extended family, on a regular basis.  Starting a day off with scrambled eggs, home grown spinach and tomatoes is always appealing.

I am a big fan of chooks.  Friendly, useful, productive – who wouldn’t want a couple?