Art of Proprietation

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Chicken and the Egg

I was reading on the Granny Miller Blog today (just a kindred blog I enjoy checking on occasion). She was relating how someone asked if raising meat chickens made financial sense with the cost of chicken in the store. Granny Miller (not her real name) talked about what chickens cost to raise. That's a common topic around our household also. We keep goats for milk, Chickens for eggs, and garden intensively for vegetables. Being the person I am, I track how much we spend on various pursuits and balance it against benefit. I once explained to my frien Steve the perato chart I created to display how much I spend on vehicle travel and how his bar for Mainting freindships compared to other expense categories. He was disgusted with me for knowing how many miles I drive to keep him as a friend, but, that's just the sort of friend I am. Maybe someday I will write another post about my OCD box, but for now, I will get back to the cicken and the egg. Just trust me when I say if I offer you a glass of goat milk at my table, savor it. That milk might be some of the most expensive milk you have ever had.

I was going to write Granny Miller a comment commiserating about the price of storebought eggs versus home laid eggs. But it got a little elaborate and I decided to post about it here instead.

I have had chickens and guineas for eggs, bug reduction and some meat for about five years. This year I had to order some new laying hens because my flock is dwindling down and we don't get enough eggs in the winter.

I ordered 25 chicks from a hatchery. I think with the shipping, they were about $80. Before they went outdoors, we had gone through 50 lbs of food, and we went through another 50 before we divided the flock in half to split with my brother. About a hundred dollars and we had no fatalities, so a about 4 dollars a bird. But they haven't started laying yet (and won't unitl august or september). My experience says 12 chickens will go through $10 worth of food a month. And they might lay reliably for 2-1/2 or three years. So about in the neirborhood of $40 per bird. And they might lay 200-250 eggs per year during those three years. And that doesn't count any money for housing. Those eggs in the store would cost $70 - $80 per chicken (about 225 eggs per year for three years at $1.39 per dozen, what commercial eggs cost that last time I bought eggs). But store bought eggs don't wake you up in the morning to be fed, get killed by racoons, get loose in the garden and dig up your wife's peas, etc. Raising chickens for eggs might be a better deal than chickens for meat, but I think it doesn't figure financially when you compare to commercial eggs.

But Home layed eggs are fresh daily, and for anyone who hasn't compared them, that makes a difference. And, there is a symbiosis between or chickens and our vegetable gardens. The chickens get to eat the garden leavings and kitchen waste. The Chckens eat insects that would be harmful to the garden. The chickens live in the garden over the winter, eating and striping anything left standing and spreading around their manure. When a chicken lives long enough to stop laying, about three years with our breeds, we eat the chicken. And, our chickens are freerange freerange (as opposed to comercial freerange which means loose in a chicken barn with 10,000 other chickens and a window where they can look outside), no antibiotics, etc. So there are some non financial benefits, also. And my chickens keep me off the road, I used to have all sorts of off premises pursuits, but taking care of the animals helped me give that up, saving lots of gas money and discretionary spending.

But it is still a little discouraging to think about how much it costs to raise your own food. The other part that is discouraging is realizing I am still participating in the industrial food market even though I am raising it myself. I am still feeding commercial livestock feed. It comes from a local feed mill, but they buy their grain from anywhere and it is mostly corn. Probably GE corn, certainly corn raised on pesticides and fertilizers derived from petroleum. I want to raise more of my own feed, but right now I am still dependant on foriegn oil. And, no, drilling in ANWR will not help! ;) And with the cost of hay this year, don't get me started with the cost of goats milk.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Logging aftermath

Just a quick post as it's still cool but going to get hot today. And my laptop threatens to over heat in this weather...

And for Granny Miller, I'll talk about the new pasture grass first.

After the logger got done, the upper field that he used for a log landing was pretty scuffed up. The chains on the skidder had dimpled the ground, dragged logs had churned it and there was some litter from the logs laying around. But it really wasn't too bad. It was still reasonably smooth. Not lawn smooth, but pasture / field smooth. And the skidder chains actually did a pretty good job of preparing a decent seed bed and tearing up the wood litter. And, surprisingly, the equipment had not overly compacted the soil. I moved the biggest debris pieces but that's about it. Above there's a typical area as left by the logger.

In mid June, I got around to scattering some pasture seed. I went with a brand name pasture mix called pasture perfect on the recommendation of my local feed store. I would have liked to seed with native grasses, these are mostly from Oregon, but I really felt compelled to get some thing on the ground now. I will continue to research native grasses, though, and may seed other areas with more local grasses.

To seed, I simply hand spread the seed and then knocked the soil around with a leaf rake to get better soil contact. It wasn't optimal, but I was able to get the seed out there in advance of a couple of days of rain. And the dimpled ground left by the skidder chains accepted the seed well. I wasn't sure how things were going to go and I was worried that it might be too dry, but a week later it looks like we have had pretty good germination. And the temps haven't been too hot and dry. With a little luck these seedlings will take root. Here's a shot of the seedlings carpeting the scuffed ground.

The old road was impassable to my full size van because of steep grades, gullies and it was too narrow in spots. This the road as the logger left it. Reasonably smooth, no ruts. Pretty nice, I could drive a sub compact car in and out of there. But that's really just sand and some clay. I knew looking at it that a good rain storm was going to make a mess of it. I have been waiting impatiently to get some gravel on it to protect it from runoff.

There are some structural problems with the road as it is. The profile of the road allows rain to run down the road, gathering volume and speed. Just as important as the gravel, I need to provide ways to get the water off the road and absorbed into the ground. Otherwise, this is what happens.

That's a 18" deep gully. The sand has been carried down the road an emptied into the intersection with the town road at the bottom of the hill.

I don't have access to any heavy equipment at the moment, so I dug some quick check dams with a shovel. They are just slashes going diagonal across the road. The idea is to move a little bit of road bed down hill, just enough to form a 4" deep trough with a minimal grade to get the water to the side of the road and into a catch basin. I'll be trying to get the water to absorb into the ground in those catch basins rather than running in a ditch alongside the road.

The road is pretty ugly right now, those check dams are pretty rough and would not withstand traffic. When I have more power at my disposal, I'll do some serious road work trading the hand dug checkdams for "broadbased dips". A broadbased dip is the same idea as the check dam with wider dimensions that allow a vehicle to travel over them without forming ruts that breach the downhill side of the dip. I'll also try to broaden the profile of the road so the steepest grade becomes a little more gentle. And then I'll add gravel. Gravel will be the icing that holds it all together.

Labels: , ,