Birds, beans, Indian Summer, and the not-so-bucolic farm life!

It’s been a tough week on the farm.  A lot to do to prepare for what the Farmer’s Almanac predicts will be a tough winter.  Beans are past ready to pick—the deer have nibbled the tops but don’t eat the beans, carrots need to be dug, and maybe I’ll get something from the Russian Fingerling potatoes planted, along with transplanting of Rosemary and other herbs to winter quarters, and harvesting the herbs—all needs to be done asap, along with some seed starting in the greenhouse.    And I’ve been waiting on the local guy to build my portable coops—which has resulted in some juggling and moving of birds.

This wasn’t good.  Last weekend, I ran a high fever and couldn’t do everything I needed to get done.  On Monday night, a predator got into the old hen house.  I lost some of the little babies and one of the almost ready-to-lay Barred Rocks.  So all plans got upended.  On Tuesday , I moved the flock to temporary quarters  —the old dog kennel (rewiring it was one of my winter repair tasks).   Nothing like moving a hundred birds in the dark by yourself, roosters included, though Spawn O’Satan, who if he attacks me one more time is likely to be renamed Coq au Vin, was left to fend for himself.

John, Rooster of Many Colors

The flock  have settled down, and actually have done a good job of clearing the grass in the old kennel.  The local guy was replaced with another who is a fabulous carpenter and also grew up on a farm, so actually understands what he’s building.

To create efficiency—important for a one person labor team– I drew plans for custom designed 4×12 portable coops  with 12 removable nest boxes, that have side access to nest boxes, wire floors (heavy predator-proof mesh) for easy cleaning—I’ll hose the coops out–and clear panel tops for light.  They’ll hold about 50 mature birds and can be easily moved around.  I looked at many plans and didn’t see anything quite like this, so plans are copyrighted and will be offered for sale online via the website.

Two coops will be ready on Saturday.

The old hen house is sturdy and will easily hold about 200 birds, so reinforcing that is next on the agenda, after getting the beans picked!  The predator issue has been addressed (I think—but will be making sure) and the old main chicken house will be cleaned and given fresh straw on Saturday after market.

It’s been blessedly warm this past week but we have only a two week window until the frost date.

Lots to do, as always, and this week has made me think about the tendency of those who lack farm experience to romanticize the work.

Old Dog Kennel, temporary home of the flockDealing with predators isn’t romantic.  Nor is cleaning out old chicken houses, or bending over until one’s back hurts, picking beans, yet the urge to romanticize the farm has been around for centuries.

Marie Antoinette liked to go out and pretend to be a diary maid, riding around Versailles in a little cart, as part of a fashionable trend.   18th century French country landscapes show farmyard scenes as “enchanting,” and this portrayal of rural farm life was also popular in early modern landscapes.

Today we see this romanticism at every level:  from quaint ceramic roosters, to the “farmhouse” look in furniture, a recurring trend in New York design, to the new food trends that emphasize Farm to Table.

Some of this is good—as in an emphasis on healthy food.  But some of it means that people really don’t understand what it takes to get their food—and maybe they might not want to understand.

Anyway, back to work—there are beans to pick, and carrots to dig!

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