Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mandala's, Chooks and IKEA

our first geodesic chook dome is done!

hubby and i laughed a bit because we liken it to IKEA furniture's ability to test a relationship.  if your relationship can handle putting together a piece of IKEA furniture (or a chook dome!) then it can survive anything.  and you bet!  we survived and boy!  are we happy with the outcomes ... it means that we can seriously start putting our mandala beds together!

but i have to digress a little and pay thanks to those who deserve it .... because while i am sure they don't realise it, they have played a significant role in this little accomplishment and inspiring us along this path and setting an example that we can EASILY follow (and i SO mean that!).  a bit of a hat tip to them first.

to the folks at Purple Pear.  we had never really considered the concept of the Mandala Garden, and how you can use chickens as an integrated part of the process until we spent a day with them on their property in the Hunter Valley.   it was great to see the rotational grazing and dense nutrient rich soil that their chooks created in their lives on the farm.  to get an idea of the process they went through, have a look here.

to a permie guru Terra Sancta Permaculture, thank you for hearing our desire to combine function and beauty and encouraging us to use the mandala as an integrat part of our farm.

there was never a more complete, easy to read, and thorough resource on how to build a geodesic dome than what the guys at Milkwood have done.  take a look.  it is easy to follow and i know that as hubby and i stood in the middle of the paddock pieces bits together we had the iphone at hand with this page up so that we got it right.

 we like the geodesic dome because the interlocking pieces strengthen the dome as they interlace. easy to move isn't even a doubt.  and the way that the function of the chickens doing their job and making scrumptious soil to plant in and the beauty of how a mandala garden can function together is a thing to behold.  if you've never heard of a mandala garden before .... do a google search and you'll get a myriad of different and gorgeous concepts for how they come together.  for us, the mandala is a circular bed, with a keyhole centre that you can walk in.  our design will be a centre mandala with circles all the way around.  i reckon that if you had an view from a plane it might look a little like a daisy.  in the end we'll have two of these, each with a geodesic dome moving the chooks around and fertilizing the soil and cleaning the beds.  yeah!!!

the negative???  the chicken wire.  it's a bit of a pain really .... and will never look "nice".  just ain't gonna happen .... but the fact is the chickens don't care what it looks like as long as they have food/water and a perch they are just fine.  so i've let go of my innate need for this to look nice and it works.

this is a huge step forward for us ... give the chooks a week or two on the area, throw in a bale of hay for them to work, scratch and poo in ... and then i'll be able to start considering what yummy end of summer veg we can plant!

electrical conduit ready to be cut

the calculations can bend the brain.  measure twice and
cut once was truly the method we had to use!

our first batch of chickens!  LOL!

and so it begins to rise ....
i told you it was light weight and easy to move!
coaxing our two month old plymouth rocks
into their new domicile.

our version of "pasture poultry"
all done and dusted thank you very much!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

meet Bob ...

... with his girls Babs, Brenda and Bee (the 3B's).

Bob (aka the rooster) is in the very back .... he has the pink comb.  he wasn't the most aggressive
or assertive, but my research would indicate that you want a protector not an aggressor.
these guys will form our breeding group. a huge step forward in the cycle of life here at JustEarth and an important one.  successful breeding means that we will be in eggs and roast chicken as long as we manage the process properly.  our first foray into sustainability from a meat perspective.

the idea for us is that we start with something we can handle and learn from.  when we lived in the blue mountains we got utility chooks as layers and enjoyed the eggs and learning about the best way to manage and care for chickens.  now that we are comfortable with that, we are making the leap into the world of heritage chooks.

heritage animals are important, and if you want to learn about our choice for plymouth / barred rock ... you can read that here.  but our kiddo's have grown and grown ... starting life as these small little fluff balls, and becoming gangly teenagers.  the boys are starting to fight so it is time to separate out the best boy to have a harem .... (being a male on a farm is really only good for you if you are at the top of the proverbial pecking order!).

have had to do a fair bit of research on choosing the best birds as hens and which would be the ideal rooster, etc.  i highly recommend the book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvery Ussery .... fabulous resource .... truly.

it will be a while before we are getting new life out of these birds.  if we had older hens or an old rooster it might be different ... as they would be inclined towards breeding straight away .... but given the length of warm days and nights here in the Northern Rivers of NSW, i reckon by early next spring (that is August for all you folk north of the equator) we will have new chick life becoming part of the life force at JustEarth. .... maybe earlier .... but that is the aim!

the diagram below represents the chicken cycle at JustEarth.  an aside .... i am sick and tired of buying eggs from the store.  so what that means is that i am going to kick start our layer hen flock with 5 or 6 point of lay isa browns in the next week or two (geodesic dome #1 goes in this weekend) .... to start rewarding us with some yummy fresh pasture eggs ..... nom, nom, nom .....

an aside for those of you who are wondering about names.  there are two reasons you see.  one is to preserve the lines and prevent inbreeding (although not a huge issue).  the other is well, in ode to one of our favorite muso's Sandra Boyton ... and her little ditty about a boy with numerous pets ... all named Bob.  ergo Bob and his brood of "B" girls .....

and if you were wondering what happened to the other 8 chickadee's (we started with 12).  well, they are enjoying life as our first true "pastured poultry" ... and loving it!