Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Tractors

The chicken tractors are done. After thinking that building them would take a week or two at the most, I find myself having worked on them over the course of six or more weeks. I somehow finally see how such projects can with ease eat up large chunks of time. Now, with the summer giving up her fight, I somewhat thankfully return to a more scholarly oriented schedule made possible by the completed construction of the Ecotone Flerd. As you can see, I freecycled some old billboard material, which is UV resistant and very easy to work with, to cover the tractors. As it turns out, we got an old Verizon ad, and the hens can now have their gods.
Many thanks go out to all those who helped put them together: John, Mary, Christina, and, above all, Jen, whose patience and support in my strange habits of constructing things (or not), put up with so many birds so close to the house for so long. The chickens are now behind the electric netting - though old habits die hard, and many fly over the 4-foot hot netting to roost in the trees between the brooder and the barn. But for the last week it's been raining off and on, and I think I'm beginning to notice an increase in the use of the tractors over night.

All said and done, I think these are over built. To be sure, if all the birds actually got in them when it rained or even slept in them at night, there would be very little that could get them. These are tight, solid structures. But we don't seem to be under particularly heavy predator pressure, nor do the turkeys seem to notice the inclement weather so that the shelter the tractor provides is a noticeably appreciable good. They're heavy, too, and I'm already thinking of their animal-powered motion. In the meantime, and for the first time, they're alright. I'm glad their done. And just in time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Naughty by Nature


Watering Hole

last days of September summer,
learning the ropes from local kids

And getting the hang of it!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Birth Day Gift

After finding the clutch a day before, yesterday we ate our first eggs! They were wonderful: bright-orange, firm yolks with a distinctive taste, full of labor and love and plenty of grains, grasses, and bugs. Our pullets are daily becoming hens, leaving miniature eggs in two corners of their first brooder.

I am so grateful, humbled and continually amazed by the utter specificity of food. Fact: each egg comes from some particular chicken, no matter whether it roosts at night in a tree or rises all its days by the timed excitement of noble gasses in glass tubes. Specificity aside, though, I wonder whether this seeming gift is not in fact an exchange, and what difference that makes to the ethics of eating and the economies of domestication.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shady Grove

In constant flux of movement and migration, Ecotone has acquired another animal.

With the welcoming encouragement of Jen and CJ, I moved to Ecotone in the dog days of summer and was promptly pastured in the farthest corner of the farm. Campsite A stands on a tall floodplain above the confluence of two dry creekbeds and below some of the oldest trees on the farm. Its place-name is Turkey Hollow, named for the wild turkeys who roam this stretch of woods. As we cleared away the underbrush, CJ picked up a beautiful feather and ceremoniously bestowed upon me the key to Turkey Hollow.

One partial purpose of these antics is a kind of sociological landscaping and construction project: to share in the chores and joys, the lessons and the fellowship of the farm, while creating and making comfortable a variety of guest quarters for future visitors and present occupants.
Settling in has been gradual and satisfying. It began with surveys of a couple possible campsites. Under the shade of old oaks and close to the pond, Turkey Hollow recommended itself as a cool place to wait out the hottest days of summer. Once the site was chosen, we entered a phase of creative demolition. This involved the removal of significant areas of underbrush, which my body remembers as consisting mostly of multiflora rose and poison ivy. Moving in has definitely been a community effort. Jen, CJ, and Mary have all contributed to housewarming the hollow.

The next phase was unexpectedly archaeological; as we cleared away the plants and tugged at roots, we uncovered old boards, broken glass, and rusty automobile parts. Thinking of waste management as a public service is a relatively recent phenomenon, and living with these seemingly endless scraps of the past seems somehow an appropriate reminder of the detritus we still produce and often forget. I also consider that these objects bother me more than they seem to bother any of the other inhabitants of the hollow. But I am glad to clear them out, if only for the tarnished mirror they present.

Finally, and slowly, construction began. The primary bulding materials have been woodchips, acquired for free from a local tree-trimming company. After pulling old car parts out of the dirt, it feels right to return the forest to the forest floor. My tools have also been pretty straightforward -- mattock, axe, shovel, rake.

To tie the room together, I bargained with the manager at our local grocery, Tony's Foodland, to acquire a small picnic table (made by the store butcher, who has a side operation making picnic tables in his garage). Finally, CJ and I hung a reading hammock, for study or relaxation.
The biggest challenges so far have been humidity and bugs. But all said, we were blessed this year with a mild August in Tennessee, with every weekend heralding the approach of autumn, and already September promising to prove the trial worthwhile.
It took the birds a few days to find the feeder, but lately I've had visitors in the evening. This indigo bunting and another (his lady?) have begun to take their evening repast in the hollow.
The future is fortunately full of possibility. A little bit like the eggs these chickens are fixin to lay. Mud huts, straw bales, log cabins, cast iron cooking, cobblers, campfires... I am looking forward to the projects out on the farm.