Being Pistol Whipped By a Rabbit

There is a delicate balance when someone buys a farm and then still has an off farm job.

True – our farm is not producing anything for sale on the market. It may not ever. It may one day support our whole family. But I don’t think our farm has to produce things for other people in order to be considered a farm.

I want to create a food forest so that at any time I can just walk outside and grab things for dinner. I want my animals to contribute to the crops to contribute to the humans to contribute to the animals, etc, etc, etc.

We have an orchard, a blueberry patch (12 bushes in now, with another 6 being added in the fall), a nut and berry shield on the far side of our pasture that’s nearest the road that has hazelnuts, pine nuts, mulberries, serviceberries, a fig tree, some honeyberries and one gorgeous western red ceder (just cause I like the bark, ya’ know.) Our main garden area is gigantic and our pumpkin patch is just starting to come into it’s own. Our flock of chickens is growing yearly – 18 at last count! And our quail hutch is churning out some nicely fleckled little eggs.

Our herb garden is marching right down our hill with a couple of pear trees and an Italian plum right out in front leading the way. The grapes are growing, not thanks to an unwanted haircut by some rodents with hooves deer. My comfrey has been separated and strategically replanted. Our huge ass compost bin system is quietly filling with greens and browns.

Things are producing. The hops are climbing their new trellis. The hardy kiwis are trying to outpace them but have slacked off as the weather got hotter. The climbing rose has thumbed her nose at both of them and has commenced her own voyage up a different, yet equally awesome separate trellis system.

In 20 years, the heartnut trees I planted will be throwing great bushels of nuts down upon our heads. If we are still here.

We bought this property last year and none of this was here.

Just grass was here.

Well. Grass and weeds and plantain and scotchbroom.

And tires. Tires and screen doors. There was a pile of fiberglass wall pieces that I still haven’t figured out what they were used for. A truck jack. One pair of shoes. Some glasses. Too many car parts to recall. A 20 foot length of industrial chain. Some rusted pieces of god knows what. And a small army of golf balls that I know the previous owner shot into the lower pasture from the hill our house sits on while he was drinking beer with his buddies.

How do I know that? Because he came by after we bought the property and told me. While holding a beer and accompanied by his buddies.

But in the last year that we have owned this land I have bled for it. Hobbled at the end of the day by fence building, hole digging, compost making and weed pulling. My typical foray into the kitchen for a bowl of popcorn and bit of Walking Dead at night is usually punctuated by a waddle only ever seen in me in the long ago time when I was pregnant beyond reason.

My hips scream, my back creaks and I’ve gone through too many bottles of solarcaine to really accurately count. Because throwing a german/irish white girl born and bred in the Pacific Northwest into the noonday sun in July is tantamount to putting a metal bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. AKA – not a great idea and usually accompanied by violent reactions.

But I have bled for this farm. I’ll take the aching back and throbbing, piercing sacro-iliac pain when I stand up if it means I can come out of the garden with a bowl of raspberries, freshly picked. Or if I can go out in the morning and pick breakfast (this morning it was potatoes, kale, strawberries, broccoli and some eggs from our chickens.) Every week, we haul in more and more.

Which reminds me that the broad beans are ready to be harvested and the area cleared for winter greens.

So it stands to reason that when I get all gussied up to go to my off farm job 3 days a week, sometimes I get to my climate controlled office and find that once I’m sitting down adjacent to a cool cup of iced coffee and my notebook, I start to notice my legs. And feet. If I’m dumb enough to wear short pants or a longer skirt, I’m occasionally horrified to see the cuts, bruises and welts criss crossing my ankles and lower legs.

As if, in fact, I’ve been pistol whipped by a rabbit.

Like, a crazed rabbit hopped up on PCP looking to settle a score.

I don’t know if this makes me bonafide or supremely stupid. The jury is still out on that.

Thankfully my client’s don’t seem to mind and the couple that have made comments seem to think my lower legs are hilarious.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

~ Hunter S. Thompson

 

Rage on, gardeners.

 

Hey Maggot Bucket – This One’s for You! Using maggot buckets to feed chickens.

We use maggot buckets on our farm to feed our chickens maggots.

Now. Go take a breath, wipe the throw up off your lap and stick with me – lot’s of people do this and for many good reasons…

IMG_4610[1]

Maggot’s, in their ultimate state, are just little wriggly tubes of protein and fat. And chickens need all the protein they can get to ensure good health, excellent laying production, even temperament, healthy coat, etc, etc, etc.

Chickens are omnivores – they eat all the things. Meat, veggies, bugs, etc. They can do well in environments in which they only receive vegetarian feed, but, like some humans, they can also have health issues if the vegetarian diet isn’t closely monitored to give them the right amount of protein.

In permaculture, there is a saying that the “problem is the solution”. Here, our “problem” is meat scraps from dinner – either from chickens we have harvested on our farm or from meat we get from other farms or the store.

We use those scraps in the Maggot Bucket. I also have used deli meat that has gone off, old leftovers that have meat in it and other odds and ends.

Here is how you put a simple one together. This method works well for people who have smaller flocks – say, between 5-20 chickens. For much bigger flocks, multiple buckets, or a bigger bucket can be used.

Maggot Bucket
2 plastic gallon sized pots with holes in the bottom, some meat, and some wire.
Maggot Bucket
Poke holes in the sides, string wire through and tie off to make a hanger.
Maggot Bucket
Layer meat and then put wood shavings, grass clippings or old leaves over the meat.
Maggot Bucket
Put the other gallon sized container over the top just lightly – not so that it squishes the meat and leaves, but just enough to deter rodents and other vermin from getting in.

 

  1. Get 2 gallon sized planting pots.
  2. Use wire to poke through and tie off to make a hanger.
  3. Put in meat and some substrate – leaves are good, or pine needles or wood chips.
  4. Put the other gallon sized pot on top just lightly.
  5. Hang high in a tree or bush in an area that you won’t have to really go close to when collecting eggs or cleaning out the coop.

Here is what happens:

  1. Flies are attracted to the smell of rotting meat.
  2. They lay their eggs in the meat and substrate.
  3. Eggs hatch about 1-2 days later and  *POOF* – instant protein.

This system does NOT breed more flies. In fact, it can lower your fly population b/c the maggots never reach maturity. You want flies to lay eggs in the meat because the maggots get snapped up by the chickens once they wriggle their way out. And wriggle out they most assuredly do. This process is way more desirable than, say, flies laying eggs in your trash can and those eggs potentially reaching maturity.

I would strongly suggest not using any kind of grain or mash in this system. This article talks about the potential for botulism in grain or mash that has been allowed to be fermented and worked over by maggots. Botulism can kill chickens and it’s very important to monitor what goes into the maggot buckets.

Bigger, 5 gallon buckets can be used much like the smaller ones. Drill holes about 1/2 inch wide  around the perimeter about an inch up.

Instead of using raw meat, you can also use manure – the flies are just as attracted to poop as they are to meat.

Our method of maggot farming is different from other peoples. There are lot’s of ways of doing this technique. I prefer the one in which I do not have to look or smell the bucket too often. I just provide the housing and time and lets the flies do the rest.  I wait until I don’t see maggots coming out and then I know that they bucket is usually exhausted and I take it down and add more substrate, meat or bones, and then cover again. I haven’t had a ton of problems with smell and I’ve NEVER had a chicken get sick or die after consuming maggot’s from the system.

I have, however, noticed a decrease in excessive molting and and increase in egg production.

I have also noticed that it keeps the hens engaged, entertained and less likely to pick on each other and cause a ruckus. Chickens love novelty and busyness. They do not like to be kept in a run without things to investigate and turn over. If left without things to do they turn to tomfoolery and that’s when they can start pecking at each other or me and trying to escape.

We do not free range our hens b/c the farm has many growing areas that I am not keen on having my carefully laid mulch obliterated by chicken’s scraping feet. For their safety and my sanity, we keep them in a big run and continuously throw weeds, scraps, worms, bugs, and huge piles of grass clippings. These things, and the maggot bucket, keeps them happy and healthy.

Has anyone used this system? What are you doing that is different from ours and what have you found works well for substrate? Keep the conversation going in the comments.

Take care!

 

 

In peace and hard at work – Lindsey

 

 

Almost Nothing Turns Out…

…Exactly the way you thought it would.

Potato Flower

Up above my office desk sits an archaic window frame where I choose to share certain sayings, snippets of conversations, quotes, book titles or thoughts that pop into my head for my client’s to mentally floss with.

I have figured out over the years that the things I choose to put up there must occur to me spontaneously (such as – I’m washing my hair and all of a sudden I have Henry Rollins speaking in my head, or – I’m washing dishes and suddenly a snippet of a TED talk I listened to several years back crashes my consciousness) in order for them to reach the person they need to reach.

Several days and even a one week long stretch found that archaic window empty, because nothing came to my mind organically. I figured the spot needed a break. Clients commented on it sporadically. A few had amazing things to add to the empty window. Time passed. Eventually an Audre Lorde quote came to my mind and that replaced the emptiness.

If I’m patient, and wait for the saying to come to me organically, it inevitably reaches the person it needed to reach in the moment they needed to have it.

One such collection of words, so pedestrian it’s almost shameful to talk about it here, came into my thinking last week and I have been saved by it multiple times.

Almost nothing turns out exactly the way you thought it would

Turns out, this organic word moment was aimed directly at me.

This week, our potatoes came out with a fierceness that can only be attributed to our latent pattern of heavy rain interrupted by periods of intense, humid sunshine.

The potatoes are in rapture. They yawn forth from the sandy soil (a menace in itself) with this wicked voracity, spilling delicate pink flowers out and over the top.

I planted a motley crew of potatoes. Some seed potatoes left over from last years dismal harvest. A cadre of thrown together leftovers from a farmer friend’s sowing, and some certified seed potatoes from Territorial Seed down there in Oregon country.

They have all come up with such a wide degree of speed that I have almost forgotten which row is which.

Almost.

The row of cast off’s from last year are doing well – despite the meager harvest we saw in our first year on the farm. The certified seed potatoes are outgrowing them all, as they are naturally wont to do. The mishmashed set from the farm across the highway are holding their own, despite having their feet tickled by the mammoth sunflowers some idiot I planted right next to them.

Potato Patch

Almost nothing in my garden has ever turned out exactly the way I thought it would.

Almost nothing in my life has turned out exactly the way I thought it would.

The rows of potatoes are hardly turning out in any such way that I ever thought they would.

Yesterday, while surveying the potato patch with the gut wrenching realization that I had waited a little too long to hill them up and give them a good weeding, I had that collection of words pop into my head again. I had been leaning on my hoe, mentally preparing myself for the herculean task of weeding/hilling potatoes, when I realized that my brain was doing that nasty little trick again – thinking it knew everything that would happen with the right intensity and ultimately right ending.

But I have a secret for you. Are you ready?

Our brains know so little about our world, our capabilities, how long a task will take or how terrible a thing will be. Our brains think too much, and in way too much detail about things we have no way of knowing. That 3.5 pound lump of meat riding shotgun up top tells us that the potato patch will take all day (it took 45 minutes), that we will be exhausted upon completion of said task (nay – I still found energy to eat Phad Thai AND build an entire 3 chamber compost bin. From scratch.) and that we are idiots for letting it get so out of hand (uh – not even the worst thing I’ve done this week.)

Our brains know so little. Yet, like a zealot trying desperately to overcompensate, it tells us stridently that it KNOWS. ALL. THE. THINGS.

ACCURATELY.

But it doesn’t.

And the little potatoes that could are telling me that there is no such thing as a rubbery seed potato. All seed potatoes are good. They all grow. They all have tremendous potential. I think I know how the potato patch is going to turn out. But I have to remind myself that I’m almost never right about how things will turn out.

So I drop my shoulder and grab my hoe.

I’m hoping this post finds you well. I’m hoping you were smart enough to hill up your potatoes before it became the weedy, messy, ridiculous thatch that mine was.

Here’s to all the things we get wrong. May we always have the ability to recollect that this is so.

~Lindsey

Farm at Twilight

 

 

The Creative Types

Our inter-generational farm is populated by The Creative Types.

You’ve seen the type, right? Probably generated some ideas of your own about those types. Probably openly laughed, cried, envied or talked with those types.

Maybe you are one of those types, yourself.

In that case – welcome to everyone who decides to take time out of their day to read the posts on this site and consider them.

This website functions as a portal to all things Big Bear Farm. We are knitters, singers, songwriters, therapists, farmers, soap makers, artists, hard working practical humans using every day to generate an idea for a world that more closely resembles what we want, and not necessarily what we have.

This website will be ever evolving as humans are naturally wont to do – changing when and if it needs to change. Your only responsibility as a reader is to keep an open mind and consider this as you work through your day:

Just because you listen doesn’t mean you agree.

And just because you agree, doesn’t mean you have to act.

I consider our charge as farmers to be constant workers, creators, interested consumers of media and knowledge. I consider the charge of this website to be respectful, fun, and challenging. I consider the reader and will work to make every post respectful, interesting and thought-provoking.

But, what I will not do is provoke just to get clicks. I won’t inundate readers with ads and propaganda. I won’t use this space to objectify, ridicule or cheapen human interaction.

If this sounds good to you, please check back often and join the conversation.

Talk soon,

In peace and hard at work,

Lindsey