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Archive for January, 2011

Layer Lights

Our hens have reached a very low rate of laying and some have begun to molt. We know that adding lights to their house will increase their laying rate, but we have read that the day must be lengthened very gradually, and preferably the lights should only shine prior to dawn (i.e. not after sunset). We explained this to our friends at Cooper Perkins in Lexington, Massachusetts and discovered that they have their own backyard chicken maven on staff. They put together a lighting controller that will detect sunrise and sunset each day, and then by turning on the lights before dawn each day, it will lengthen the day gradually. The hens will get about 5 minutes more light every day until they reach the maximum recommended day length of 16 hours. That should take about 3 months (instead of the 5 months it normally would). So now we are a certified organic farm AND—a high-tech test site!

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The annual New Hampshire Grazing Conference is coming up, and this year Steve will be one of the presenters. The conference is a great opportunity for farmers to get together and learn from each other. The date is March 5, the location is Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, and the registration fee is $50. Steve will be discussing his experience with mob grazing tall pastures.

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Soil Health 101

Marty Michener, Steve and I attended a seminar last week—just to keep our nerd credentials current—called “Soil Health and Nitrogen Management Workshop.” Sounds exciting, no? Well actually, it was one of the most gripping presentations I have attended in a while. It turns out that most farmers (us included) have been pretty much guessing about the physical and biological health of our soils, because standard soil tests only look at the chemical attributes of soil. But now Cornell University has devised a test that reports on all three areas. The test ain’t cheap, but the information is vital. We will all be out in the pastures with our shovels as soon as the ground thaws.

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We got nice coverage in an article about grass-fed beef in the winter issue of Edible White Mountains.

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