Sunday, February 5, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the farm...

I've been very happy with the big greenhouse that I built in 2009. 
If you look carefully, you'll see a little mud by the panel

 Farm operations continue as usual.  Here's the big greenhouse, doing its winter duties, housing the feeder pigs and sheep.  In the picture above, our little livestock scale is at the bottom left.   I divide the greenhouse into several sections with hog panels.  Right now the pigs are back past the big feeder you can see in the distance.  I do that so that we can get in and out without having to watch for the pigs.  They are very interested in this. 
The mud is caused mostly by spilled drinking water, but I prefer to provide a drier surface for the pigs, so we re-chip it whenever it gets sloppy. 

 This is looking from where the pigs are, back towards the main entrance -- we're looking at the other side of the feeder.  When I put up this greenhouse I was very careful to do it so that the tractor could fit into it.  Rebedding the pigs is a pretty simple task; three scoops of chips, a few minutes of raking, and they're good to go.   What happens is that the pigs choose one area to dung in, and that area gets sloppy.  So we'll bring in a scoop and cover it.  The wood chips provide carbon, the dung nitrogen, and the pigs get a clean surface to lay on 
 The pigs are always interested in whatever is in the bucket. There's usually bits of greenery, leaves, needles, branches, and they'll spend hours sorting through it and browsing.  The wood chips are my preferred bedding because of this... and because they're free.  We get them from local tree service companies, and appreciate every load. 
 Once the chips are down in a pile, 20 seconds later...
you spread them out with the bucket, and then go get another scoop. 

Now you may be wondering when we clean these chips out.  The simple answer is that we don't.   From time to time I'll bring in a small rototiller and till the floor.  That breaks up any crusts, allows air into the mix for better composting, and makes for a consistent soil. 

 In April I'll move the pigs out onto the grass.   I'll do a soil test, which usually shows that I need some lime, and then I'll plant directly into this floor the hot-weather crops that I like.  Tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, basically everything that's hard to grow in my marine microclimate.   The urine, manure and wood chips will have combined and composted and provide a nutrient-rich soil that results in very good crops.

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