Re-balancing pastured poultry paddocks, and prepping for bees!

Bee Hive Comparison: Perone, Kenyan, Langstroth

Bee Hive Comparison: Perone, Kenyan, Langstroth

Highlights for the month:

  • We’re back in balance with a smaller flock of 20 layers after selling 10 birds to local farming friends. The smaller flock means less eggs for my son to sell in his first entrepreneurship venture, but also significantly less work for me hauling extra food/water and less work for our family when rotating the entire poultry paddock setup to fresh pasture.  Now I’m re-thinking how to capture all that great compost that we’re currently leaving in the field through a combination of a permanent coop with movable paddocks.
  • As my friend Laura – purveyor of Modern Victory Garden – says, we’ve returned to the season of the Seedling Shuffle with rapid rollout of seedlings from our grow lights to our greenhouse, and then (for the cold hardy) out into the food forest under mini hoop houses.
  • After spending enough time on forums, I finally realized I should be growing my own chicken food. I’m now reseeding our pasture with similar ingredients as what is in our commercial feed that we buy direct from the manufacturer via our homesteading group of friends. By the time the birds return to this same ground a year later, it should have a healthy crop of what they normally eat ready and waiting for them. I also added a Biopod to our vermicomposting setup to convert kitchen scraps into grubs for the chickens.
  • Ready for the 2013 Battle of the Bees, where we’ll be able to directly compare how our Italian bees do in three radically different hives. From left to right you see a new Perone hive (named after the Argentine inventor) I recently built with our local Bee Godfather, a Kenyan (aka Top Bar) hive, and a classic Langstroth hive. When the bees packages arrive later this spring, we’ll install two packages in the large Perone hive and one in each of the others. Will report back later in the year how this direct comparison between the hive styles pans out, at least for our microclimate here in the Pacific Northwest.

Lowlights for the month can be summed up in just this one graphic. Ugh.
Showers, with a chance of rain

The greenhouse is a spring board

What a great tool a greenhouse is for rapidly launching healthy seedlings into the garden and food forest.

Our current work flow consists of seeds started under grow lights in our garage, then potted up into the unheated greenhouse, and then on to the raised bed gardens or food forest (although the heat lovers may stay in the greenhouse indefinitely).

Best of all is the space we have to grow seedlings for other folks; I’ve begun paying folks with bartered seedlings as folks in our zone begin thinking about setting out food plants for the spring.

This is the view out our bathroom window into the attached, lean-to style greenhouse. Makes me smile every morning.

What will you eat this winter?

We’ll be eating fresh salad and spinach, thanks to a few new cold frames.

My sales pitch to my wife for a greenhouse was unsuccessful (too much money), so I went the less expensive route of additional cold frames. By surrounding these three cold frames with bags of hay, and blankets during the odd snow storm, we should be able to eat salad straight through the winter.

I hope.   🙂