Notes from Windward: #67


Vermadise Update--April 23

     As you can see, the Rhode Island Reds are continuing to grow like weeds. At this point, their chickish down is giving way to feathers, and they spend part of their day running up and down their 40' long pen flapping away. They're always hungry, and any time any one comes into Vermadise, they just know they're going to get something tasty to eat.


     Part of their feed is sprouted wheat--one of the sustainability principles involves working with what is locally produced and available without processing, and around here, that's wheat. The chicks wouldn't be able to handle wheat corns straight from the burlap sack, so the first step is to soak and sprout them, a process which makes them digestable in the mechanical sense, but also in the dietary sense in that the sprouting process greatly increases a kernel of wheat's nutritional value.


     Later this summer we'll be building sprouting cabinets as part of our internship program, but for now we're just using a series of nested, five-gallon buckets. Wheat fresh from the sack goes in the bottom bucket, and after soaking for a day, it's transferred to one of the buckets that have had their bottom drilled with eighth inch holes on one inch centers.

     The wheat in the top bucket is fed to the chicks, and then that bucket is refilled with the wheat from the bottom bucket--the wheat that was put in to soak yesterday. The bottom bucket gets another coffee can of grain, the bucket with the soaked grain is stacked on top of the bottom bucket, and then each of the other buckets is stacked on top of that bucket until the grain that's been sprouting the longest is on top. Then fresh water is poured over the wheat in the upper-most bucket from where it will drip down to moisten each of the lower buckets in turn before collecting in the bottom to soak the dry wheat that was just added to the system.


     Last winter we did some experimenting to see how kale would do in Vermadise's grow tubes without any supplemental heat. During the coldest part of the winter, the kale went dormant, but as soon as the weather warmed up, it started growing again in earnest. Rather than harvest it, we decided to see if we could get it to go to seed. Well, I'm pleased to report that it's standing tall and going into flower.


     Gina did a great job of brooding our new batch of India Runner ducklings, and now they're just too big for their brooder. In time they'll be given the run of Windward in the day time since they're one of the primary ways we control insects in our garden area--every bug a duck eats is a bug that doesn't reproduce.

     Unfortunately, a pack of coyotes took out our duck flock last winter, so we're having to start over. For now, the ducklings are being given the run of Vermadise where they're patrolling looking for everything from larva that have escaped from the vault to kernels of wheat that didn't make it to the chicken run. They're so cute--it hasn't been the same place without our squad of ducks keeping tabs on things. They take their work so seriously, and look so funny doing it, that you can't help but love them.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67