B-flock pullets grazing free range in the pasture. (photo by Cielo)

Our Stewardship Philosophy

Learn the baseline philosophy that governs our farming activities.

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Our land ethic can be summed up with the phrase, "do no harm to land or water." This simple admonishment involves a high degree of sensitivity and earth awareness on our part. When we venture into managing other life forms such as chickens and bees, and large four-legged mammals, we assume responsibility for the well being of these farm "partners." We do not take this responsibility lightly.

Why we are in the sustainability teaching business.

Teaching what we know

Over many decades of living a life that demands paying close attention to season, temperature, wind force, and rainfall, we have re-learned much of what was once widely known, but is now mostly forgotten about how to work with the natural world co-operatively. Our continuous research and observations, independent of the dominant consensus of a material consumption culture, we have become experts at designing efficient, sustainable systems for meeting the farms many energy and resource needs using low tech, low cost materials, often available free from the daily waste stream of our consumer oriented society.

Every farm has core products it shapes itself around. For our farm, dairy cows, honey bees and chickens are the most numerous agricultural workers who assist us. In exchange for careful and worker well-being-based management, we receive a yearly bounty of eggs and honey, pollinated fruit and vegetables, and a healthy functioning eco-system to live in as a partner.


The Chickens

At the cultivated center of our farm is "Chickenville," a well laid out, fenced in grid of wooden structures (all built with 85%+ recycled materials) for egg laying, chick brooding, and peep rearing. These houses and pens are clustered on either side of the feed and supplies shed.

Adjacent to the south side of all the houses are fenced, grass paddocks that can be expanded or diminished with a series of interconnecting gateways. Outside of the chickenville perimeter fence is the largest of our three gardens. Manure and floor litter are rotationally spread on individual garden plots during the winter months, while greens and blemished or bug damaged vegetables, as well as grubs, hornworms, june bugs, etc. are fed over the fence during the summer months to the waiting chickens. Watermelon rind, over-ripe cucumbers and tomatoes are some of their favorite treats.

In turn, the chickens provide more fertilizer, eggs for eating and hatching, meat, and soil tilling services. When we bring a load of compost or our barn floor litter to chickenville, we just unload it into a pile and let the hens work it down. Eating and scratching are a chicken's bliss. Sixty pairs of chicken feet can level and widely distribute a pickup truck-size pile of leaf mulch compost in about an hour. After that, they begin to till it into the top layer of soil after methodically picking it clean of insects. After 5 days, we move the chickens out, level out the worked up soil and plant seed. Chickens do a good job tilling soil, are nearly 100% effective against cutworms and grubs, and don't require fossil fuel in order to work.

Our well-designed laying house has a cement floor in both the roosting and nesting rooms that are gently sloped to a floor drain. Every morning we shovel up the manure and then wash the floor. This daily chore removes odor causing fecal residue, eliminates disease carrying flies, and provides the hens with a clean, cooler area to chill-out on hot summer afternoons.

The wash water drains to an outside area where it helps grows a lushly growing diverse plant bio-mass, which is periodically cut and composted.  We routinely bring visitors and workshop participants into a chicken house, where they are surprised at both the cleanliness and pleasant smell. This is how we both protect their health and show a basic respect to our feathered flock's contribution to the overall success of our farm.

Because we allow our birds free range conditions within large, protectively-fenced areas, we lose some birds to predators. We also don't force them into unnatural or out of season egg production. And  by not using fossil-fueled lighting, heating, or bulked up industrial farming type laying rations, our hens live longer, healthier and long term more profitable for us.

"Nature is cruel, but there is no reason humans have to be that way."







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In conclusion

We feel that our primary products produced here on our farm help contribute to the overall symbiotic relationship we are promoting with our stewardship philosophy. We are mindful that we are not separate nor independent from the web of life that repeatedly manifests itself in our daily lives. Through observation, we have learned about the needs and lifecycles of other species, and how we can promote their well being within our farming practices. We are also keenly aware of the interdependent links of all the species of plants, insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals that call our farm home. We seek to honor this circle of life by being good caretakers of this Earth.