2012 Michalka Work Week

For two years in a row now (indeed, since we moved to Shady Grove Ranch in 2010), we have hosted the Michalka family (Bobbi’s relatives) for a work week here on the ranch. Last year we tore down the old mobile home that was on the property when we purchased it. This year, we did all sorts of projects, summarized in the pictures below.

We built a new mobile egg house for our pasture-raised laying hens. It’s a good thing, too, because we have collected the first tiny eggs from our leghorns and americaunas, meaning that we’ll have about 130 more eggs per day here in a few weeks! The new hen house has a floorless roosting area so that the hens can do their duty on fresh ground each night, building the fertility of our pastures as we move them around the field. It also has 60+ boxes for laying with room for more as we grow our flock. The boxes have ladders that fold down, allowing us to move the egg-mobile through gates as necessary, and that prevent predators from stealing eggs–and chickens. Our livestock guardian dog, Ezekiel, will keep watch over the hens day and night.

We also finished up our new chicken range feeder, which will hitch onto the back of the egg-mobile. This allows us to move the chicken feeding area every day or so in order to spread the wealth (aka poop) around our fields more evenly.

Another project was to begin rebuilding our fences that burned during the fires in September 2011. This involves cutting down trees, clearing out brush, and installing new posts. One of the more badly damaged property lines had a beautiful old pine tree that fell, so we finished burning that off in order to rebuild the fence. We will chip all the smaller branches to supply organic matter for our pastures as well as for bedding for our hens and chicks. We accomplished lots, but still have lots of work ahead!

A smaller project we accomplished was to build an A-frame trellis on the Cadman family garden. We have lots of blossoms on our heirloom tomato plants and are looking forward to a prosperous veggie season!

Finally, we improved our well-house set-up so that routing water to the various places on the farm will be simpler and more efficient. We also began organizing the shop area so we have room to work on future projects.

We celebrated the successful (and very tiring) week by dining at the Stillwater Inn in Jefferson. The chef graciously agreed to prepare a beef rib roast and a chicken from our very own ranch. It was the best meal we’d ever eaten!

The first green egg!The first green egg! Where’s the ham? (Just kidding–they aren’t green inside.) Checking out the flavor, and the tiny size (little one is on top)! Don’t worry–they will get bigger as the hens get older.
Shevi (our foreman) is cruising around the build site, making sure everything is in line. Rodney stretches his back after constructing yet ANOTHER laying box!
Grandma sorts out the good screws from the bad. Shevi says he approves of the nest boxes.
Putting the finishing touches on the roof trusses with our farm hand, Zack. Nothing ever goes to waste on this ranch. Removing the hardware from some salvage 2×4′s.
Anchoring the nest boxes. That’ll be a lot of eggs! Shevi loves to help. He’s holding down the ladder.
Trusses are up! Now to bolt everything together. Pasture-raised takes a lot of work, but you sure get some wonderful eggs!
Shevi’s trying to decide what should happen next. It always helps to scratch the head! Tin goes onto the roof. Almost done!
Hiding under daddy’s feet on the ladder. It should stay nice and cool under the new hen house.
Check out the nifty hinge-down ladders for the hens.This will keep predators away from the eggs and hens. We even built a tag-along range feeder. Here’s Matt outfitting the new tires.
Toby is making sure the boogey man doesn’t get our range feeder. Our new range feeder out in the field. Once we get the axles put on the henhouse, out it goes, too!
Beginning the long work of clearing burned fences. This kind of work definitely calls for a tractor!
The work also calls for a weed whacker and technician. There’s something for everyone to do! Axl takes charge of the resting. He slept through the whole thing!
Shevi is teaching Pap-pap how to climb off the trailer. Burning the big stuff and the little stuff, including a magnificent old pine tree that we were sad to see die during the fires and drought.
Two love-birds taking a little rest in the shade. We’ll go back and chip the branches to make wonderful mulch for our pastures and bedding for our hens.
A nice clean fence line ready for new fence installation. Jerica found a big nasty weed on the other side of the fence. It’s taller than her!
A little hole in the bottom of the trunk made a natural oven. It was quite a sight! Matt was working hard to chop down all those trees.
Axl is showing off his super-strong neck and back muscles! We just love those handsome blue eyes!
The lovely new addition to our kitchen garden: an A-frame tomato trellis! Our dinner at the Stillwater Inn–our own prime rib and roasted chicken alongside Stillwater’s delicious veggies. A great end to a very busy week!