Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Soggy Chickens

Some chickens are smart enough to take shelter during the rain....and some aren't. We've had more than three inches of rain in the last 36 hours. Daisy and Squill seem to enjoy the reprieve from the drought. 

Daisy is soaked from head to tail. 

Squill's back is drenched and her tail feathers are dripping. 

Silly girls!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Extending the Season

Last night's hard frost finally brought an end to tomato season. We've had a satisfying crop of tomatoes this year, and we've also brought in many pounds of potatoes, squash, carrots and onions. Our canning shelves, freezer and root cellar are full. In spite of the drought, this has been a rewarding growing season and we've learned so much.

Cool fall temperatures don't necessarily signal the end of the season. Extending the growing season to Thanksgiving is possible even in Zone 5 Wisconsin. Our cheap little greenhouse continues to produce "eggplant poppers" and snack-sized green peppers. Although it's 42 degrees outside, the greenhouse can easily reach 80 when the sun is shining. As shown in the photo above, the eggplant are currently blooming.

We've hooped two of our raised beds for fall crops--spinach, Swiss chard, beets and small purple onions. The hoops are made from half inch PVC pipe and secured to the sides of the raised bed with PVC conduit u-rings. The hoops are covered with sheet plastic from the hardware store. We secured the plastic to 1x2 lumber on the long sides of the raised beds. The short ends are simply rolled up and tucked under some bricks. On warm days, I remove the plastic and let the air circulate.

Although it's nice to enjoy the fruits of our labor, the growing season isn't over yet!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Culling the Flock

As an urban farmer, the size of my chicken flock is regulated by city ordinance. Most cities with chicken ordinances permit three or four hens per yard, although I'm hoping that number will increase as neighbors understand the benefit of chickens and realize that birds are much quieter than many dogs. But I digress...

Most backyard chicken enthusiasts raise hens for egg production, although some folks keep them just for fun. Here at Red Bucket Farm, our girls are a hard-working component, providing healthy eggs for the kitchen and plenty of waste for composting. Because of flock size restrictions, we're not able to retain the birds who don't produce.

The recent addition of Thelma and Louise, our new Delaware-Buckeye hybrid pullets, forced us to cull the flock. Culling is the process of removing sick, injured or inferior birds. Rhoda, our Rhode Island Red, has been largely unproductive for many months. In addition, Rhoda is mean. She's been a bully for as long as I can remember.

It's difficult to think about where our meat comes from. As a culture, Americans have become so removed from the source of our food that many of us barely recognize that an animal died in order for us to consume meat. I think that anybody who chooses to eat meat should know the source of their dinner---how the animal lived and how it died. We can't assume that a meat animal's life is handled humanely.

Even egg-laying chickens struggle for a decent life. A commercial egg farm in southern Wisconsin routinely gasses thousands of birds after about a year of egg-laying and disposes of the carcasses in a nearby landfill. In cultures where people live closer to the land and their food sources, it is important to honor an animal's life by using all of it's parts in death.

Rhoda died quickly and without distress. We'll enjoy coq au vin tonight and cook down the remains for soup. She lived a good life right to the end.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Pullets

Welcome, Thelma and Louise! These two girls are a Delaware-Buckeye hybrid, recently acquired from an area farmer. I love their bright yellow legs! They have rather small combs ("pea comb") that may develop a bit more as they reach maturity. Their tails are still a little stumpy but are likely to fill out. Since the girls are only about three months old, we'll wait a little bit before they begin to lay eggs.

The Delaware breed is designated as a heritage breed. The birds are white, winter hardy and lay large brown eggs. The Buckeye breed was developed in Ohio from a Rhode Island Red. The Stoughton-area farmer who bred Thelma and Louise is hoping for very hardy birds that lays plenty of rich, brown eggs.

Incorporating pullets into an established flock is a little tricky. The older birds don't exactly roll out the red carpet. Thelma and Louise are keeping a low profile, sometimes perching on elevated roosting spots that the big girls can't quite access. It can be a bit of a circus, and Louise (with the pink leg band above) tends toward the dramatic.

Stay tuned for more updates on the transition in our small flock.