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There certainly is a lot involved with starting a farm. Mine is no different! Winter is coming to an end, spring is only days away, and the sun is showing her bright face more and more as the days go on. Let me tell you, I am psyched!

It seems that I always manage to keep myself exceptionally busy. This year is certainly the busiest I have ever felt in my life. It’s a good busy, a rewarding busy. Farming is as much a lifestyle as it is a job. Whether you run a chicken farm, an herb farm, a vegetable farm, or any kind of farm. You do this because you love it. That’s me, in love with farming.

For those of you new to the blog, in particular my new CSA member, welcome! I have enjoyed sharing my experiences through the years on this website, and I plan on continuing that through this year and the years to come. You’ll catch on to my format pretty quickly. I love to take photographs. That way you can choose whether to read through everything I write, or if I drone on, like I am dong right now, you can skim the pictures and get a version of the story that way.

Starting a Chicken Farm

There is a significant amount of things to do before the chickens actually get here. I’ll spare you the details on the business side of things. I talk about that on my farm podcast. And that content is a little dry for this website. What I would like to share is one of the places the chickens will living, as well as a sneak peak at what they will be living in.

chicken farm

FoodCyclist Farm chickens will start out by sharing pasture with some rescued horses in Gaylordsville, CT. This land belongs to my friend Curtis Eck, who I will be working with this year. We have other fields in mind where the chickens will fertilize between his cuttings of hay and organic grains, but to start they will share in using one of three paddocks with some horses.

There are three fenced in areas. When the horses are in #1, the chickens will be in #3. When the horses move to #2 the chickens move to #1, and so on and so forth. This way the animals are separated and calm. The birds can scratch the horse droppings for bugs and larvae, and the pastures have time to rest a little. It is all clean and natural, just like a farm should operate. I try to create situations where everyone benefits.

The land there butts up against the Housatonic River. It is quiet, secluded, and peaceful. The drive there is a little tough on the shocks, given that it is a dirt road. But I drive an old beat-up SUV, so I make the trip just fine.

Because of the roughness of the road and the longer drive for some people, I have decided to work with White Silo Winery in Sherman, CT for my CSA pick-ups. That way there is good parking, easy road access, it is closer to town, it is beautiful there. The pick up will be Friday and there is always have the option to stop at the Winery for a wine-tasting. How’s that for a Friday? Pasture raised chicken and perhaps a bottle of vino. Who else offers a wine tasting at their CSA pick-up?

chicken tractor-1

The birds are going to live in chicken tractors that look like this one. This one is about 70% completed. It still gets chicken wire all over it, a tarp over the top to protect the birds, and a feeder and waterer. It is 6′ x 10′ and about 5′ high at the point. This will house about 30 birds which suits the Certified Humane standards of 2ft squared per broiler.

There are a LOT of predators in the area. Fox, hawks, eagles, coyotes, weasels, and even a bear. There are a ton of ways for the birds to meet their end (besides me).  These cages ensure the birds are safe from all manner of predators. That being said, some losses may happen. It’s deeply upsetting to me when they do, but that comes with being a farmer.

I tried a couple designs when researching how the birds were going to live this year. I finally settled on this design for a number of reasons. It is nicer to work with than some other designs. The birds have more room. It is easier for me to get in and out. Also, this doubles as a cold-frame for season extension at the beginning and end of the season. I can stretch greenhouse plastic over the top and use it as a little movable growing area.

Starting an Herb Farm

I am not all about chickens at FoodCyclist Farm. I am growing culinary herbs this year as well. I like to use fresh herbs when I am cooking, and I want to offer that opportunity to others as well.  Paired with the weekly chicken of the chicken CSA there will be a small bunch of herbs to compliment your roaster. I will have recipes to share as well to give members (and anyone online cooking chicken) ideas for what to do.

I intend to grow a limited number of vegetables as well. These will be for me and Kate, as well as some friends and family. If I can grow enough, I will bring them to the CSA pick-up as well. No promises there. Irrigation is still a bit of a question for me.

herb farm

This is one area where I will be planting herbs this summer. Looks a little cold now, but I can picture it in the summer. Leaves on the trees, cool breeze, and the smell of good things growing. It is also Curtis’s land. Good soil, well drained, sandy loam. It has been in vegetable production in the past, but not intensive and never with any chemicals.

herb farm johnnys seeds

I ordered most of my seeds this year from Johnny’s Seeds. They offer organic options for seeds, many of which I bought. Amongst seed suppliers, the are well respected and I am happy to buy from Johnny’s.

herb farm growing rack

Well, I wanted to start sprouting seedlings, but you can see from the picture above, there’s snow on the ground. I didn’t really have an indoor place to grow. But, not having options has never stopped me in the past. A few bucks at Home Depot for some cheap lumber, some scrounging to find and old wooden ladder and some screws, and I was in business. I built a shelving unit for our apartment that can hold plant trays and grow lights.

herb farm seed starting

The rack is seven feet tall, over 4 feet wide, and takes up a fair amount of space in our tiny one bedroom apartment. Did I mention we’re expecting a baby come July? From here, I can closely monitor seed germination, and keep them warm enough until they go outside. Note: The sides of the shelf are made out of an old red ladder. Cool idea, but it was crazy twisted, so it was tough to get it to sit flat and straight.

culinary herbs

They’re sprouting! Thanks to some soil and trays from Paul and Rebecca over at Fort Hill Farm, I was able to get started right away with planting seeds. They start in this ten row planter, then will move to larger cell packs. Eventually, they will all be outside in the ground growing for the CSA and for market.

Kate and I are excited for this year! As we are excited for every year. Very happy to have you with us as we embark on our farming adventure in New Milford. I am hoping that I still get to do some bike riding this year. The farm is bike-able from our apartment which is great.

To incorporate craft beer into our farming efforts, I have been researching recipes that include beer. The obvious being “beer can chicken”.