CompostBinsI wrote a few weeks ago about how farming seemed to be about 40% fencing. If you have animals, I think an additional 40% is about poo management. Today, if you haven’t guessed, I cleaned out the chicken coop, changed out the shredded paper under the rabbit cages, and chipped out the area in the duck pen where they spend most of their time at night. All of this was deposited, with a LOT of water, in the compost pile, using a shovel and a wheelbarrow. After all, the bedding is supposed to be absorbent, so it takes a lot of water to get it wet enough to get the composting process started.

I’ve learned to wear a wet bandana around my nose for this lovely task, as the ammonia in the chicken poo irritates my lungs, and given the dry conditions in the coop, it quickly fills up with dust when you start moving things around. But once it is well cooked and turned into fertilizer, it’s the greatest stuff on the planet for growing healthy happy vegetables.


One of the young roosters, hatched out around April 1st.

The chickens were a bit baffled by the whole procedure, as I kicked them out of the coop while I was working, since the back stall door was open. I learned early in the day that if you leave the back door open, even for a moment, everyone wants to see what is on the other side and you get taken way off task herding chickens back into the pen…three different times. So everyone who hadn’t laid an egg that day got to cross their little chicken legs and “hold it” for an hour while I got things mucked out, layered in the compost pile, and then new wood shreds added back into the coop. I’ve been trying to get to this task for weeks in the last afternoon when everyone is done laying, but it’s been so hot by then that I just couldn’t face it.

Since I was already filthy and dripping sweat, I decided I might as well go mow the aisles between the garden rows and then hose down the mower, which was caked with several months worth of dirt and grass clippings. Go me. Such are the joys of farming.

FreeRangeBut then, after a much-needed shower, I went back out into the chicken yard, and out in the pasture everyone was grazing. EVERYONE. Ducks, chickens, turkey, goats and sheep. All contentedly munching on clover and generally looking like something from a children’s book titled “Farmer Jen’s Animals”. Pretty sweet.

wildcherriesLast Friday, my husband’s work had their annual employee picnic. We made the obligatory appearance, but I had ulterior motives. The picnic is held every year in this large park along the river. And along that river is the highest abundance of wild edibles I’ve ever seen in one place, just there for the taking, right on the bike path. Wild cherries, chokecherries, old apple trees, huge rose hips, blackberries by the gallon, elderberries…I’m sure there is more I’ve missed. The cherries were ripe, so we brought along a bucket. We had hoped we could just shake the tree, as the cherries are WAY up there (no dwarf root-stock on these old girls), but that wasn’t happening. We eventually found a tree with some branches we could reach. The cherries were sweet (not like chokecherries) and yes, I did find a few small green caterpillars, but I picked them off, and was happy for the free fruit.

CherryApricotCanningWe decided the best use for these black beauties would be a simple cherry syrup (hello Sunday morning pancakes). So I cooked the cherries down in their own juice, ran them through a food mill (fed the left overs to the goats), then ran the results through a strainer. I saved the pulp that didn’t go through the strainer, and added it to a batch of apricot jam I was making. Fantastic! And the 4 cups of cherry juice, plus an additional cup of sugar, got cooked down, bottled, and water bath canned; now ready for that winter Sunday morning, if we can wait that long.

Plums are almost ripe. The tree is LOADED. I have no idea what variety they are, but they are going to be tasty!

PlumbsRipePears have a long way to go, but are stunning. I keep thinning out the fruit in the hopes that the branches don’t break. We lost a HUGE branch on the nectarine from the weight of the fruit, and an additional branch on the same tree is also broken.

Cheeto, the LaMancha, came over for a scratch, while I was trying to get a picture with all animals in it at the same time, that you could also tell who was who. No luck on that one. But she’s pretty cute, in the way goats can be cute that only a Mother can see.

CheetoAnd now, like the ducks, time for a much deserved rest.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2012, where we THINK we’ve finally gotten all of the poo off of us, and are looking forward to a salad with some of the last of the spring lettuce.