What comes to your mind when you hear the word treat? You probably begin to think about a slice of cake, a fresh batch of cookies, or a chocolate bar. We treat our farm animals to vibrant orange, sweet, and nutritious carrots!
I was going around giving carrots to everyone this morning. The dairy cow, Caramel, happens to absolutely love carrots. She greedily plucks them from your hand and almost swallows them whole in anticipation for another one. The pigs quickly squash the carrots, in their deceivingly strong mouths, and munch them off the snow-covered ground. The chickens surprise you with the sharpness of their beaks, as they quickly shred a carrot in minutes with their pecking action. The ducks bunking with the chickens and sneak in and eat any stray morsels of carrot. Kuva and Luna, our guardian dogs, obediently sit waiting to take their ‘chew carrot’ to their favourite spot to gnaw slowly on their treat. This little act of treating the critters of the farm, makes me think about how lucky I am to have a diverse farm.
Let’s talk about diversity! Winter is a time to dream. Donovan and I have been spending a lot of time dreaming about ways to stack enterprises at The Homestead. In the late summer we worked up an acre of garden, for not this coming summer but the next. We have the pigs on a section of it already, distributing straw and their “fertilizer”. When spring comes we can plant a mixed cover crop onto the freshly piggy-tilled soil, which will then in return be grazed by the pigs and worked into the soil to feed the future vegetables.
We have a school bus converted into a mobile chicken coop for the summer, which we plan to be moving around behind the cows and the sheep, where the chickens will scratch through the manure eating bugs and spreading nutrients. The hope is that we will have three of these boops (bus coops); one will be called Bibbity, the other Bobbity, and our current one Boop.
Caramel, the milk cow, unfortunately isn’t ours. We are housing her for the winter. In the future though we plan to have a milk cow or two. One milk cow produces way too much milk for Donovan and I so we can use any extra milk to feed the pigs and chickens. The excess butter milk, whey, and skim milk from butter and cheese making, is a great source of protein for pigs and chickens. Some people even talk about spraying milk onto the grass to help it grow! Wouldn’t it be nice when someone asks you what you spray on your vegetables you can beam back with the response, “Why just a little bit of milk!”.
Then there is compost. There are many ways to make compost. Some people make vegetarian composts. If all we had was the garden, then we would probably have to consider that. Now imagine how many different micro-organisms and nutrients you can introduce with cow manure, sheep manure, chicken manure, and pig manure! Let’s sprinkle on some milk. Wait I have some pea shoot debris. My mind is exploding with opportunities and they are right at our fingertips with our mixed farm.
We are looking forward to the summer, but until then we will keep handing out carrots and dreaming about diversity.