The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Looking ahead to 2013 chicken experiments

Chicken popholeDespite spending two weeks regaling you with the highlights of the 2012 chicken season, there's still plenty to experiment with in 2013.  I'm not sure if we'll get to it next year, but Mark and I both feel our coops are due for an upgrade to match our specific needs.  (This is really more for the sake of the chicken-keepers --- our flock is extremely flexible and the birds are quite happy as-is.)

Similarly, we want to lick the Lucy-cutting-through-the-pasture problem.  As Mark mentioned, our dog door in the pasture had growing pains and needs an upgrade to keep me from having to chase chickens out of the garden in the summer.

Of course, the most interesting experiments (in my opinion) always have to do with plants.  Mark had the great idea of pollarding our mulberry so it stays bush-like, and using the Mulberrycuttings to add a lot more mulberries to our pasture.  Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of seedling American persimmons I also want to add to the pasture, and I hope to graft Asian persimmons onto the American rootstocks in 2014.  (I've read that in cold climates, it's best to let the American persimmon rootstock grow three or four feet tall before grafting on the scionwood so that cold snaps close to the ground are less likely to nip the tender Asian persimmon twigs.)

Meanwhile, I'm itching to terrace the steepest pasture, plant comfrey as a soil-holder on the vertical faces, and seed cover crops to start improving that problematic soil.  The idea is to prevent what's bound to be an erosion problem when chickens repeatedly scratch bare spots on the sloped ground, and also pave the way for some more trees and shrubs in the future.

I'll be posting on our chicken blog as these new experiments go into place, and will be sure to sum up here again in fall 2013.  Thanks for reading!

Our chicken waterer is the automatic, clean solution for the high tech modern homesteader.

This post is part of our 2012 Chicken Experiments lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Ever thought of a combination of nut trees and black locusts for holding the soil in place? The nut trees, with their deep tap roots, would act as nails pinning the soil down, whereas the black locusts with their fairly flat roots would act as a fabric to hold the top of the soil in place. You will need two black locusts per nut tree, for fertility reasons. Mulberries would work nicely with this combination as well, in case you wanted to feed chickens along the way.

It's just a thought--in case you are looking for a more forested way to deal with a slope.

Comment by Dan Fri Nov 16 13:32:06 2012
You've mentioned comfrey a few times and I've been wanting to add it to my own garden BUT. I can't find it anywhere and I've even run across some literature saying it's restricted or banned or whatever-you-just-can't-get-it. How to locate this guy? Tips much appreciated! (I'm in Nebraska, btw. Would it be more available where you are?)
Comment by Chris Fri Nov 16 13:32:23 2012
I've found that has comfrey seeds.
Comment by Brian Fri Nov 16 14:36:17 2012

Dan --- This particular spot is a bit tricky in terms of trees since the powerline is above it, so I'm sticking to shrub-sized plants. Hazels are one of the ones I'm considering, but they aren't tap-rooted like the other nuts. Unfortunately, the only other short nut is almonds, which can't handle our Japanese beetles (and can barely handle our cold). Even black locusts are really too tall.

Chris and Brian --- I've got an interesting pair of guest posts coming up next week about comfrey, so hold off on making any orders until then! There are a lot more intricacies than even I was aware of, and seeds aren't likely to provide what you're looking for.

Comment by anna Fri Nov 16 15:49:50 2012

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