Lest you think this whole farming thing is all beauty and glamour (yeah, right), I will tell you that the most exciting thing on the farm this week was well, manure, and the most exciting activity was a trip off-island (for about 5 hours total) to pick up a tractor part. Whee! We know how to live. This was our first off-Island escape together in about four months, and what did we do but shop for farm stuff. I didn’t even get my promised visit to Target to look at kitchen goodies. We ran out of time. Oh, well, we did get to stop and visit with Roy’s parents for like ten minutes, which was the highlight of the trip, as far as I was concerned.
But I could tell Roy was pretty excited by the new purchase from The Tractor Supply store. (Who knew there was such a thing—it’s a big box store just like all the rest of them, only full of farm(ish) stuff. Some fun things, like Muck boots and dog toys, but mostly manly items like well pumps, chain saws, fence posts, and livestock gates. Good to know you can pick up a collar for your goat here, or a block of salt for your cow.) The purchase was a rock rake attachment for the tractor (see photos). Roy is prepping a big new vegetable field on our back four (not forty) for next year and the soil is full of rocks. A piece of equipment like this that will drag the surface rocks off and smooth the soil at the same time is a real time-saver. (The soil has already been tilled once.)
And about that other excitement (photo at top): Roy has been helping a friend build a cart for his horses. Not just any horses, but two beautiful draft horses—Clydesdales in fact. You know, big horses generate a lot of well, crap. So our friends call their horse manure CC, for Clydesdale Crap. (Excuse my language.) But the really amazing thing about their CC is that they age it (turning it over as it heats up and “cooks”) for a year before doing anything with it. The end result is crumbly black gold (below), the finest composted manure you could hope to add to a brand new field. And they gave us a whole truckload of it in exchange for Roy’s help.
We also finally have our own first batch of aged chicken manure. (We’re calling ours CP for Coop Poop. All the manure is mixed with straw or shavings when it comes out of the coops. It looks like the photo at right in the beginning.) It’s been a year since we got the first big batch of hens (the 200 arrived last November and the 300 this spring), and 7 or 8 months since we stopped adding to the first pile. Our piles also heat up and Roy turns them with the tractor, so this stuff is breaking down nicely (photo below).
Chicken manure is particularly high in nitrogren, but it, like horse or cow or pigeon or any other kind of manure, should be well-aged (and preferably hot-composted, too) before using in a veggie garden. Roy is going to combine a little of the CP with the CC to lay down on the new field.
Three years we’ve been building the farm and this is the first year we will really be adding significant amounts of fertility to the soil. Up until now we’ve had to purchase most of our organic fertilizer (augmented by small amounts of leaf/household compost), and while we could pull that off with the market garden, it wouldn’t be a good (or affordable) strategy for a bigger farm field.
So there you have it. Not the sexiest side of farming, but maybe one of the most important. So I didn’t exactly get a Susie shopping trip this week, but I did get a happy farm boy, a fun ride in the truck (with Farmer, too), and a good investment for our future. I can’t complain, but I do feel like we’re starting to resemble the Clampetts (of Beverly Hillbillies fame) more every day.
After soil fertility (and sunlight), the next most important thing for a new field is irrigation. So Roy’s working on digging a well (in his spare time, yeah. The well will provide water for the 500 chickens, too.) Then there’s the deer fencing…which might involve another trip to the tractor store. Oh boy.