Notes from Windward: #67

 

Vermadise Update

winter produce and chicken fights


     As we experience waves of below freezing temperatures and snow storms, followed by days filled with sunshine and warmth, I am exceedingly impressed at the resilience of some of our grow tube plants. We have gone multiple days where it doesn't get above 32 degrees, yet the spinach and kale inside Vermadise remains thawed. The soil in the grow tubes has completely frozen, yet it appears that some of the plants are actually continuing to grow. Our spring salad mix does freeze, but then it continues to thrive once temperatures rise. On nights when I know it is going to be very cold, I cover the grow tubes with plastic bags, and I have found that this helps the plants stave off the cold. We're still enjoying fresh salad greens everyday, and it's the middle of December! Amazing!

  

      The romaine lettuce we were growing in the top tank of the mini-aquaponics system broke after a freeze-thaw cycle, but we were able to harvest most of it before that happened. The red leaved lettuce is currently the most affected of the plants, not withstanding the freezing temperatures. Most of it has wilted and is slowly dying off. It still makes a great treat for the chickens!

     This summer, a number of growing containers were dug into Vermadises floor then planted to see how cold weather plants would do inside Vermadise, and some of those plants are moving right along. The peas seem to be wilting a little, but I still have hope for them. The kale, spinach and beets are growing very slowly, especially compared to those that were planted out in the garden, but they should be ready in the spring to be moved outside or into grow tubes.

  

     The red worms that compost the rabbit waste are doing well, each time I turn over the compost, I see lots of red wigglers. It seems that they are not affected by the cold.

Chestnuts over-wintering in Vermadise on top of the worm bins
  

     We currently have 3 runner ducks, 3 guinea hens and 12 chickens, 2 roosters, 10 hens, housed inside Vermadise. They produce about 5 eggs a day. After watching the chickens ruthlessly pick on the guinea hens, I finally decided to separate the birds.

laying boxes make a chicken barricade
  

     I was concerned that the chickens were not allowing the other birds to feed, as was displayed in their territorial behavior toward all three feeding troughs. I also witnessed many instances where chicken hens would chase around the guineas, cornering and pecking at themů for no apparent reason!

guinea hens chowing down
  

     I never realized how cruel birds can be! Now that the ducks and guineas share half of the run, and the chickens have the other half, perhaps the smaller flocks will feel more at home and stand the cold better. The chickens will just have to satisfy their bullying needs amongst themselves!


Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67