Vegetable Garden Plans: Putting our animals to work for us

Our awesome farm is teeming with wild birds. It’s slowly reverting back to natural woodlands and meadows so there’s plenty of food and shelter here. I’ve always loved watching the birds. I like to walk through forest and sit in gardens listening to them sing. I keep lots of feeders out for them to keep them around for natural bug control. Its good to keep a balance between providing habitat for them in our garden and protecting our own harvest from being devoured. I heard loud cawing and went to investigate.

Goat's Tethered

Our Pygmy Goats are helping to clear our future vegetable garden site

Our future vegetable garden is designated in the area that the previous owners tied up their horses. The ground is blanketed with hay and horse manure and has a healthy growth of weeds with thick bramble on 3 sides. It’s an organic garden dream site: south facing, protected from wind, fertile and chemical free. It’s also a great patch for our animals to forage for their own food. I’ve tethered our goats in there and they’re doing a fine job munching back the weeds and bramble. I stopped to watch five rogue chickens happily scratching up the weeds and pecking up all the creepy crawlies along side the goats. Awesome teamwork, dudes! These Buff Orpingtons decided to free-range right where I was planning to put them to work in the chicken tractor. We inherited an awesome chicken tractor with the farm. We used it to house our broody Buff Orpington and her clutch of chicks before Awesome Hubby extended the chicken coop and built us an adjoining broody coop. I need to remove the chicken wire from the bottom of the tractor so I can get our future vegetable garden tilled, fertilized, weeded, deseeded, debugged and mulched.

I’d read that chicken wire on the bottom will prevent burrowing predators from harming the cooped chickens so it was reassuring to have for the chicks. However, the chicken wire bottom makes the tractor useless for its true purpose. Our chickens scratch up the dirt, eat the weeds and weed seeds, peck at every bug that moves and leave the soil fertilized and well tilled. Right now they are free-ranging the property and like to stay within 20 yards of the barn area. At dusk they take themselves back to the coop leaving behind widening patches of weed-free, fluffy, dark soil. A chicken tractor allows you to get the chickens to do what they do at a specific site, turning it into a prepared bed, before you move the tractor to the next spot you need to clear. Unfortunately, with the wire on the bottom we got no benefit from having the chickens in there eating, pecking, scratching or dust bathing as they could only nibble on the greens poking through the wire. The tractor is integrated permaculture genius using chicken power to get the benefits of expensive machinery without the soil destruction, weed seed disturbance and pollution.. but alas not with a caged bottom. I have to take the wire off asap and move the chickens over there as its a big space. In the meantime the goats are clearing the brush and leaving behind their berries (goat manure is excellent ‘cold’ fertilizer that won’t burn plant roots).

I found the source of cawing. A beautiful blue Steller’s Jay sitting on the fence post flew off as I rounded the corner. I didn’t get a photo so found this one on the interwebs and learned that the Steller’s Jay is the official provincial bird of B.C.

Gosh, I just love living here.

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