A True Family Farm

When our boys help in the gardens they represent the fifth generation of the family to work the soil on Kimker Hill. Four generations still live on the farm today. Strong family bonds and a deep love and respect for the earth influence all of our farm practices.

Our gardens provide us with the best and purest of food, matchless beauty, and the ultimate earth science classroom for our homeschooled boys.

Sustainability is a popular buzz word among small scale agriculture. To us it means giving more than you take. Putting back what you use. Remembering that this beautiful earth will last forever and it's our commision to care for. In our gardens we try hard to follow these ideals and work with the earth's design, not against it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The chicks got a new home today!

We moved all 27 chicks to their new home today. They have really grown quickly, except for the two little ones that hatched last, they are so cute and tiny.

We knew it was time to move them out of the garage when they started getting out of the brooder on their own when we went to refill their waterer. It was just too crowded in there.

So, on this beautiful, sunny morning, Bear, Nate, Sydney and I carried them out, one or two at a time, to the "old big coop." Yesterday, after Danny got home from work, he and the boys moved it alongside the new coop and got it ready for them. It was fun to watch them as they discovered the big outdoors. The coop has a rather large screened in area with a tarp over it for shade, so they have room to explore. They all move around it in a pack as if they were still in the brooder.

After they were all settled, we moved the fence around both coops with fresh grass for the rest of the chickens. We had to laugh when I opened up "The Eggmobile" (that's what I'm calling the new coop) and the chickens came pouring out of it. It didn't take them long to check out their old coop. They seemed totally mystified when they couldn't get inside, and then taken aback when they noticed the chicks. We're hoping that by the time the chicks get big enough to integrate into the flock, they will already be used to one another and get along.

As the day progressed, we realized we moved the chicks outside on a rather frightening day from their prospective. New home, new neighbors and then rain followed by major storms. We had a lot of lightening, thunder and even hail (but nothing compared to last year's hail.)

This past week has been very productive in spite of all the rain. Danny took a few vacation days off work to be able to work even harder on the farm! He and the boys finished putting up t-posts and cattle panels for the tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. They spread a lot more hay on the gardens, and Danny got a lot planted (transplanted and direct seeded.) He also built inner covers for the beehives and got them installed. I'm almost finished planting the tomatoes, I think I have space for 12 more plants.

This year we are closely guarding our "just-in-case replacement plants." We have moved them in and out of the hoophouse repeatedly because of all the storms. Last year, when the golf-ball sized hail hit, all the extra plants were either on the back porch or in the hoophouse and they got shredded along with the ones in the garden. This year, we're not taking any chances.

Well, the summer market in the Tower Grove Park is off to a good start. If you haven't been there yet this year I hope you can join us soon. We're there every Saturday from 8:30am until 12:30pm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Opening Day at the Tower Grove Market!

Kickoff Celebration was a great success! All five of us were there. It was fun getting to look around at all the different vendors and trying new items. Bear and Nate had a ball again at the playground. They even found a way to play and work. They took a basket of my muffins, a few at a time, and sold them all!

You can see Zach working in the last picture at Oh Crepes!

Now we're back working on the farm. Hope to see you Saturday at the market.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good news!

Two more 'little peeps' were waiting for Danny this morning when he left for work. They seem so much tinier than the others. I'm waiting until tomorrow to introduce them to the rest.

We still have hope for the other fourteen in the incubator, but we haven't heard any peeping for a while now. Oh well, we'll wait and see.

Today my Dad and Grandma came to see the chicks. Grandma seemed as excited as I was. She was hoping another one would hatch while she was here, but it didn't. Grandma also came to help me transplant various plants to larger pots to get ready for the weekend.

This Saturday, May 9th, is the Kickoff Celebration for the Tower Grove Farmers' Market. It lasts longer than the usual market. It runs from 8:30am to 2:30pm. Check out the website for all the details: http://www.tgmarket.org. Hope you can join us!

We'll be bringing a lot of heirloom varieties of tomato plants, such as Green Zebras, Brandywines, Tappy's Heritage and Reisentraubes (at Earth Day I found out that means enormous grape). We'll also have hot pepper, sweet pepper and banana pepper plants, as well as herbs and flowers.

I've been taking more pictures. I'll try to get Zach to post some tomorrow. I even managed to get a good picture of Grandma working, not an easy task because if she sees the camera she makes a face.

Five more 'fluff balls' have arrived

They all hatched this morning and are all doing very well. All 25 of the chicks have been moved to the brooder in the garage. The five that hatched this morning just got moved a couple hours ago. They seem to like being part of the brood.

There are still sixteen eggs in the incubator. Technically, they were just expected to begin hatching this evening. We are beginning to hear little 'peeps' coming from them. We're guessing that the different varieties take different lengths to fully develop.

I want to go check on them one more time before I go to sleep.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update on the chicks

As of 9:30 this evening twenty chicks had hatched! Almost all of them hatched in pairs. To us, it appeared as if they were racing to see who could escape first.

Only 4 of them look like the Buff Orpingtons. The rest are a mixture of colors. Quite a number of them have coloring like a chipmunk. The boys are calling them "Chickmunks'!

Fourteen of these 'balls of fluff' have been moved into the brooder in the garage. It had gotten quite loud in here for a while. They seem to all start peeping at the same time.

Six are still very sleepy and some are still a little damp, so they are snuggling together in the box in the kitchen.

Right now, two more have broken holes in their shells but are resting in preparation for the 'big hatch.' The ones in the box were peeping loudly in encouragement, but now they are all sleeping again and the kitchen is quiet.

The adult chickens seem to like their new coop. We let them out for the day and when evening came, about half of them went back into it on their own. We had to help the rest of them get back inside. Today, they even rewarded us with the most eggs we've ever collected in one day, thirty-one!

Oh, I think the other chicks are hatching, I want to watch!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Some pictures...

An eventful night!

We all had trouble going to sleep last night, no one wanted to miss seeing the chicks hatch. Zach had the idea of taking turns sleeping and he took the first watch. Everyone else went to sleep, but...

About 3:30am, Danny woke me up asking how the chicks were doing. I came downstairs and found Zach sound asleep on the couch. When I looked into the incubator, one egg had a crack most of the way around it. I was fascinated. This was a first for me. I've never actually watched a chick hatch before. It happened in little steps. It rested a minute from its pecking, then it pushed and broke the top apart from the bottom. Rested a minute, then pushed its head upwards. Rested again, then gave a mighty kick and the bottom flew off. Rested again, then wriggled away from the shell. I was so excited I wanted to go wake everyone to tell them the good news... I didn't, I restrained myself. After all there were still 38 more to hatch. I went back to bed.

At 5:30, I decided it should be dry enough to put in with the others. When I came down to move it, there were 2 chicks dried off and waiting for me. The second one was a buff, the first three are all Siver-Laced Wyandottes.

I put them in the box, checked on the others and then went back to bed. When Zach and Nate woke up, there were 2 more hatched and waiting.

Bear, Nate and I have spent the morning watching chicks hatch. They are every bit as excited as I am. The thirteenth one hatched a few minutes ago. So far there are only two buffs. It's fun watching them as they go from these tired, wet, little bodies to cute, soft, cuddly, adorable balls of fluff.

I'll update later, the boys are calling me, two more are just about to pop out!

Surprises in the incubator!

When Danny came downstairs this morning to make coffee, he heard little "peeps" coming from the incubator. The boys and I didn't get to hear them until later in the afternoon. I was surprised, I've never heard "peeping eggs" before, I didn't expect to hear them until they hatched.

When we came home this evening, we were surprised again. There were two chicks waiting for us in the incubator and "peeping" loudly. One was already dry but the other one looked like it had just hatched, it was still damp. They both seem to think Bear is their mom. When he holds them they are quiet and relaxed.

We had to scramble to get supplies together for them. We thought we still had a couple of days to prepare. For tonight they're in a big box in the kitchen. After they've all hatched, we'll move them to the brooder in the garage. Gretchen, our indoor cat, will be happy about that, for now she's locked in the basement.

Just wanted to share the good news.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The chickens have a new home!

We moved the chickens into their new home today. It really does look a lot like an old-fashioned covered wagon. The chickens weren't nearly as excited as we were. First, we tried pushing and pulling it ourselves. We found out we're only strong enough to move it on level ground. Then Danny hooked it up to the lawn tractor and pulled it over near the hay bales. He stopped briefly so he and the boys could load it up with some hay.

Then he let the younger boys climb in and go for a ride while he moved it into place. They were thrilled! He ended up having to go get the big tractor to get it precisely where he wanted.

The chickens were very happy to have a totally new area to explore and to scratch up. Of course, first they scattered all over the farm while I was moving the fence around the new coop. The boys and I spent hours rounding them up again and getting them back inside the fence.

We tried coaxing them to go inside the coop and check it out for themselves with breadcrumbs, but it didn't work. So, when it got dark, still they didn't want to go inside. They tried to get back to the old coops. We had to pick up each one individually and put them in. Zachary got a flashlight and put it at the back so they could see where they were. That seemed to calm them down and by the time we headed back to the house they were beginning to roost.

The plan is to leave them inside the coop for the next couple of days. We want them to become accustomed to their new home before we let them out. With all the hay in there it should keep them occupied for awhile scattering it around and eating all the seeds in it.

Hopefully by the time we let them out the new chicks will have hatched! I removed the eggs from the automatic turner this evening so they can begin positioning themselves for hatching. They should start hatching on Tuesday. I'll let you know when they do.