Posts Tagged "Sustainability/Permaculture"

Better Buckeye Update- 12 weeks

Posted on Nov 7, 2008

Better Buckeye Update- 12 weeks

I wasn’t happy with the photos of the Buckeyes I posted yesterday. I’ve been jumping back and forth between doing the blog photos at Flickr, uploading to Blogger directly (hence the small photos yesterday – that is my least favorite method…) and using the Picasa web albums now that there is a new Mac uploader. The last method seems to be working well. The photo size options are not the best – either the tiny 400px like yesterday, or the giant 800px below. (I prefer a nice 600px) But’s it’s fairly speedy and easy, so we’ll go with BIG photos!

So I went out to get some photos of the girls again at 12 weeks old. Tossed out some oats for them to snack on to keep the group close to the camera. Otherwise, they will come briefly to check out what you are doing, then most will wander away, while the handful of particularly chummy birds will stand so close that it’s hard to walk around without stepping on anybody.

Above is a group shot, mostly Buckeyes with a few Black Australorps thrown in. If you missed the post on why Buckeye chickens are pretty special, you can read about Buckeyes at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy page here. You have to be careful though, on that website, or else you’ll find yourself with a new hobby of preserving heritage livestock like I did. It could be worse, I could have picked cows or horses to work with! (I wish I had that much land!) Anyway, it’s a great organization to join and their newsletters are really interesting.

But back to the Larrapin Buckeyes. Note the chicken bloomer shot above. Since I had tossed out oats, it became difficult to get any pics that included their heads, since they were VERY busy looking for those oats in the leaves. This is my sneaky way of making my chickens work for a living. All leaves get raked into the chicken pen, all scratch grains get tossed on the leaves. And presto, a month later the leaves are reduced to a finely ground leaf mold that is exquisite for a compost base or for mulching garden beds! This method words even faster if your chickens are in a smaller coop – you can pile in the leaves and they will work on them all day, every day!

Above is a good representative photo of the pullets at 3 months old. They have huge feet! If chicken are like puppies, these should grow up to be big girls!

Buckeye’s have lovely feathering, even if their coloring is pretty routine. The feathers are very distinctive and textured as you see above. Another characteristic in the literature that turns out to be VERY true is their need for a lot of space. These gals love to explore and wander the whole pen – a series of three paddocks. So I can see they would not like a constrained space. They are the ultimate free rangers it seems. I do note though, they like a long afternoon nap sprawled on the hay in the sun… Smart chickens.

This is one of the personable girls, saying, Hey, got anymore oats in your pocket?? They are very curious and like sparkly things – especially my ring. I switched to oats from cracked corn for scratch since the oats are supposed to be better for egg production. (Though that will be a while for these girls…) I’ll add some corn in over the winter for heat. The Buckeye’s are bred to be fine in Ohio winters, so Arkansas winters – even in the farthest NW corner where we are, should be a cakewalk for these girls. Note the very small pea combs – that’s to avoid frostbitten wattles in cold climates.

And then the guinea hoodlums show up, run all the girls off and the photo session is over. Thanks for getting to know the Buckeyes better. For folks with the room, they are a fine chicken to preserve.

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Buckeye Chick Update – 1 Month

Posted on Sep 12, 2008

Buckeye Chick Update – 1 Month

Buckeye Update

So, the Buckeye chicks are a month old! In a previous post I described getting the day-old chicks. Now here they are, about five times the size they arrived (at least!) —

Buckeye Update

The red ones are Buckeys, the black ones are Australorps, both will grow up to be brown egg layers. I picked th Australorps, I confess, because I love a glossy black chicken from a photography/aesthetic point of view. Plus I have an old black hen of unknown origin who is my favorite… The Australorps, I read, are a friendly docile chicken. Someone forgot to tell my batch this as they are a shy, flighty bunch with one striking exception of a little gal who will follow you like a pup. But maybe they are only flighty when compared to my beloved little Buckeyes, who are basically fearless.

The Buckeye is the only U.S. chicken breed developed by a woman. Hattie Metcalf of Ohio developed the breed in the 1800s to be dual purpose (meat/eggs), vigorous free rangers, friendly personality and very cold hardy. While the last part isn’t so critical in Arkansas as in Ohio, the personality (friendly, fearless, hate mice and make unusual sounds!) and free-range foraging traits perked up my interest.

I first read about them on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy “critical” list of varieties of chickens of which there are 500 or fewer birds, or less than five breeding flocks (50 birds) in the U.S. The Buckeye was on their priority list to preserve and the traits were enough for me to say THAT’s the chicken to take on as a Larrapin farm project! (ALBC’s Buckeye page)

Maintaining the genetic heritage of these livestock breeds as we go into the future is a part of sustainable living in my opinion. Our ancestors couldn’t depend factory-grown chickens (can we? should we? I won’t buy the stuff after living here in their chicken raising part of the world and seeing how industrial birds are raised…) so farmers of the past developed breeds that could live in the real world, in specific locales. That is a genetic heritage we don’t want to lose, given the uncertainty of the future…ok, stepping down off the soap box…

So my first group of 12 chicks arrived from Ideal Hatchery out of Texas, all pullets, with their Australorp friends. Of the twelve I’ll pick the best hens to keep and then gradually add to my flock while selecting for egg productions. Washington County Fair, poultry division, here I come! (With the size and quantity of our hawks, I shouldn’t speak too soon!)

But first, we had to make a bigger home for these gals because at a month old, they outgrew their 4 x 8′ playpen. We took one bay of the chicken shed and closed it in and set it up as their new playROOM. (Our place came with three open sheds in the three little pastures because the former owner raised emus)

We were taking a break from building the door and front of the shed when I snapped this pic. We’d locked the other chickens out so they wouldn’t get in the way or get too curious about the babies (which might not be safe for 1 month old chicks who are strangers to my old flock…). I love how the old girls are waiting outside the gate like, hey, why are we out here!?

Buckeye Update

It didn’t take too long to build a sturdy door and front with hardware cloth. Can’t use chicken wire because raccoons are notorious for reaching through and pulling out chickens piece by piece! Yikes. So we have 1/2 inch mesh heavy duty hardware cloth on the front. We also wrapped the back of the shed in it. The old boards are falling apart and until I can replace them, we did a wire overwrap… Here’s our new door with babies happily in their spacious playroom:

Buckeye Update

They love it! Finally, if you’d like to see these cute one-month olds romp in their new digs on a one minute video snippet, press the “play” arrow below:

For you folks outside the city limits, check out the ALBC’s list of rare heritage livestock in need of conservation. You may find your next barnyard friends and be doing a good thing too.

Thanks for stopping by Larrapin.

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Posted on Aug 27, 2008

Wild Friends
Barnyard Friends
Other Gardens
Sustainability & Permaculture
Beauty & Vistas
Winter
Spring
Summer
Autumn
Larrapin Good
Roadrunners

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Bees in the Comfrey Flowers

Posted on May 8, 2008

Bees in the Comfrey Flowers

Bee N Comfrey

One thing I’ve learned from my baby-steps study of permaculture concepts is the idea of planting “guilds.” That is, grouping plants that benefit each other by being in proximity. A classic example seems to be grouping a tree with smaller plants such as nutrient accumulators/mulch producers like comfrey, then some plants that attract beneficial insects etc. So last year I planted this comfrey at the base of the Prarie Fire Crabapple, a tree I treasure for the spring blooms, but mostly for it’s bird-food value. (Permaculture is much more oriented toward people-feeding trees, but I’m getting to those this year…) It also has some Sedum (attracts beneficials) at its base.

And by golly, both the tree and the comfrey look remarkably happy! Comfrey is one of those great multi-functional plants that accumulates nutrients from deep in the soil, is self-mulching and weed suppressing and pollinators LOVE it. (And of course it’s medicinal.) Just don’t let comfrey loose in rich garden soil, or you’ll soon have a comfrey farm…

The bumble bees are busy adoring every pink bloom on the comfrey. There are loads of bees this spring (bumblebees — but I’m seeing very very few wild honeybees) and they are loving the comfrey!
Bee N Comfrey

Bees are hard to photograph. They are, after all, very busy.

Bee N Comfrey

And very beautiful in their yellow and black velvet coats.

Bee N Comfrey

And he’s off to another flower!

So, after this experience, I’m putting a start of comfrey at the base of every new tree I plant. (Don’t worry, not even comfrey can become invasive in our natural clay/gravel…) I’ll let you know how it goes.

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The Beauty of a Clothesline, Part II

Posted on May 7, 2008

The Beauty of a Clothesline, Part II

When Is a Clothesline a Work of Art?, originally uploaded by Gardener At Larrapin.

I posted the pic above a few days ago, when the sun was shining enough to dry clothes in about an hour. Today it’s raining and I want to add my promised addendum to the clothesline post. Thanks “Amanda” for your comment and agreement about the beauty of clothes hung out to dry — and the silliness of communities that outlaw this simple way to save energy.

One group has gone even further to celebrate the clothesline:

Project Laundry List
Our Mission: Project Laundry List uses words, images, and advocacy to educate people about how simple lifestyle modifications, including air-drying one’s clothes, reduce our dependence on environmentally and culturally costly energy sources.

What fun! And why not get behind these simple things that can go a long way to reducing energy usage.

The main block to handing out clothes (as long as you don’t live in a clotheslines-outlawed community) is lack of time. Then the question becomes: Do I want to have the kind of life where I don’t even have time to stand out in my lovely back yard and hang up clothes while listening to the birds sing? That is the kind of question that has driven me to seek more simplicity and less consumerism. The less I buy and spend, the less I have to work outside the home, the more time I get to spend with the wind, the birds and my family. Now that’s a good deal.

I’ll end with this wonderfully poetic take on the beauty of clotheslines from poet Mendy Knott called “Instruments of Peace” from her blog A Creative Life. Here’s a snippet:

“Looking out the window, hands in the kitchen sink
washing up the dishes gives a person time to think.
I see our colorful clothing fly,
this old Arkansas home’s prayer flags;
from t-shirts stitched with slogans to denims and dust rags.
The blessed sun shines down.
The breeze it blows and fills.
They sail and pull at pins
as if the billowing clothes
could keep this old world spinnin’
spinnin’ spinnin’ spinnin’ spinnin’
spinnin’ round.”

(Read Mendy’s whole poem here: Instruments of Peace)

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