Week 2 of Chicks

Guest post: Charlotte

In spite of our best intentions, documenting the chicks has not been as thorough as we had hoped. Big Foot and her inhabitants have been busy as ever with all sorts of projects. Many of these pertain to the chicks and so, an update is due.

It’s been a mixed bag of a week for our little chicks. Lots of excitement (including some involving excrement), learning (for humans and chickens), and, unfortunately, some loss.

Excitement: The big excitement, which was scary, was a power outage last Monday. Of course the chicks rely on the heat lamp and the heat blanket, both of which rely on the outlet, which relies on … power. As soon as we put two and two together, all hands were on deck. Josephine procured a hot water bottle, while Babette fished some old foam insolation out from the basement and covered the top of the brooder with as many sweaters as could be spared. Nerves were high – would it work? How long would the power be out? Was there a fire hazard if it came back on unexpectedly in the night? The first and last question did not receive an answer, for as soon as we had set everything up the power returned. BUT now we know we have a plan for the next power outage! Woo! Or … if we wanted to do electricity free chicks.

Loss: Last weekend we noticed that some of our chicks had developed pasty butt –  also known as pasting, paste up, or sticky bottom. Pasty butt basically means that some of the chick’s droppings are sticking to their vent, and then harden and seal the vent shut. IT IS A VERY SERIOUS CONDITION and despite twice-a-day cleanings with q-tips, warm water, and gentle touch, three of our chicks were lost. Babette and I gave them a proper burial with flowers and a yellow crepe paper shroud.

Learning: Due to the pasty butt problem, we decided to look into natural ways of prevention. One simple answer was fermented grain. Turns out fermentation is good for the chicks’ gut bacteria too! Now we give them an ice cube tray full twice a day. They are growing fast.

We also remodeled the wool-y hen into a wool-y castle, complete with starter roosts made of twigs. The chicks love being brave and hoping up, then practicing fluttering down. They are learning to be real chickens!

Loss (and excitement): Some of our chicks are no longer as baby – they are growing real wing and tail feathers and have doubled in size. We think these might be the roosters. While we are sad to lose the cute baby-ness of them, we are excited to see them grow into big boys and girls!

We got our incubator in the mail yesterday and will be picking up some eggs on Thursday. Another learning experience is just around the bend.

Chow for now Arizona,


How to build our chicken hoop house

I spent countless hours on YouTube, reading online PDF’s as well as paper books (like Ussery’s the Home Grown Flock), and attending the three-unit mini-series I set up with the Boston Food Forest Coalition keeping back yard chickens.  Our design result is a combination of clever things other people have done to make chicken-care better, with some modifications of our own. In another post we looked at some design requirements; this post goes through the actual build.

How to design a home for compost-fed chickens and relaxed chicken care.

I want to write two posts on designing a run and coop (home) for chickens fed on compost. This one is about the design requirements. We ended up building our own chicken run and coop, in part because it was fun and because it was cheaper, but also because if you are feeding chickens on compost, the ready-made coops and runs available from the farm store or online won’t work. By building the coop and run ourselves we were able to add additional features: super relaxed chicken care; chickens empowered to get up when they want; setup for better winter-egg laying.

Here are four goals we ended up meeting:

  1. Feed the chickens 100% on scraps and waste in a backyard-suburban context;
  2. Super-relaxed chicken care that includes NO getting up early to let them out of the coop and NO cleaning smelly coops;
  3. Lots of eggs the entire year – including December, January, and February;
  4. Building the coop was inexpensive, used only simple tools, and minimal skill.

Make the chicken home large enough so you can easily manage the large compost and deep litter piles for zero-grain feeding.

The trick with feeding chickens on kitchen scraps is to put in way more scrap, leaf, and green material than they can eat (see post) and create a big compost pile which also provides the chickens with worms and grubs feeding on the decomposing foods, and warmth in the winter.  You need space for a compost piles that is a couple of cubic yards.   Moreover, every now and again, you, the chicken owner, will want to turn get in and work the piles with your pitchfork: you might turn the piles to create more heat in winter, or expose yummy worms for your ladies in the summer. Twice a year – in Fall and in Spring, you will “clean” the coop by taking out fantastic half-cured compost for finishing. There will be multiple wheelbarrows of this good stuff, so you want to have an enclosure that will comfortably fit you, giant with a pitchfork.

We built an enclosure that is 7 feet tall in the middle and 8 feet wide with a door large enough to comfortably enter it. Ah yes, and another reason to have a large enclosure that you can stand up in is so that you can socialize with your chickens and they can perch on you!

Enclose your chicken home to protect chickens whether they are out and about or sleeping on their roosts.

The conventional backyard chicken set-up typically includes a run and a coop.  The run is the area where the chickens can roam around during the day (at least 8-10 square feet per chicken), while the typical coop is an enclosed area safe from the elements and predators, where the chickens sleep at night (2-3 square feet per chicken).  To protect the chickens from night-time predation, the chicken owner has to close up the chicken coop after the chickens have gone to roost, and in the morning, has to let them out. I do not want to have to get up early every morning to let out chickens!

So for the relaxed chicken care, I was looking for a coop set up where you don’t need to let the chickens out in the morning and close them back in at night.  Besides, it is chicken empowerment to let them decide on their own when they go in and out.  Our solution was presented to me by a 14-year old boy at the BFFC chicken mini series): he and his dad built a large run that is enclosed with the coop inside it so the chickens are always protected and can come and go into their coop as they like.

We have a similar setup. The entire coop and run is an enclosed hoop house with hardware cloth all along the bottom. Two-thirds of the hoop house is open-air with hardware cloth up the sides to 4 feet, with chicken wire around the higher areas; and one-third is closed to the elements by plywood and a metal roof. In this protected area, which is always accessible from the open run, we put the roosts and the nest boxes.

Find a way to keep the chickens warm and protected from wind and snow in their run in the winter.

Although chickens are very cold-hardy, they require 50% more energy when the temperatures drop. This means extra food, and it means they have fewer calories left to turn into eggs. A couple of design elements kept them warm in the colder months: the compost; putting some reflective insulation around the roosting pole area; covering the hoop-house with greenhouse plastic.

During the leaf-fall period, we put out word in the neighborhood that we would take leaves. Soon, a number of neighbors approached us and asked if they could leave their leaf bags on our driveway. In no time, we had more than 70 bags, which we brought to the back. After the Fall compost clean-out in October, we put half the leaves about 3 feet deep into the run and the coop. The chickens had a good time with it!

As the months got colder, the pile heated up, exuding a nice temperature balance. A Cornell article I found said that a ton of compost can produce 1000 BTU of heat per hour.  We have at least two or three tons of compost in the chicken house, which might have put out 5-7 MBTU from December to February (compare: an efficient people-house around here uses about 30 MBTU for winter heating).

The other winter accommodation was turning the hoop house into a greenhouse. Many people in colder climates move their chickens to a plastic-covered hoop house in the winter. We thought this was a great idea, but, to make life easy for ourselves, we built the entire structure as a year-round hoop house from the get go. In the three warmer seasons, when chickens like the ambient temperatures (except when it gets too hot and they need shade), the hoop house was uncovered. In late November, all we needed to do was get out some greenhouse plastic and drape it over the two-thirds of the chicken home that was open. Our chickens were cozy even when the wind howled and the snow blew all around. Below is a photo of our chicken home after a snow storm – inside, the chickens are dry and happily scratching around in the compost! At the end of March, we took the plastic off and stored it in the basement.

We found that with this setup, our food requirements remained more or less the same, which was handy since we did not need to find extra neighbors for compost, and we kept getting eggs: Winnie and Pooh (the True Greens) dropped production just 10% in February; Kanga and Roo (the Australorps) were producing at 50% December-February (although this might have been due to worms).

Simplify the build with standard materials, simple nest boxes, and simple roosting poles.

Most chicken residences have a separate coop-house, with doors and windows – very complicated to build. Often, you will also see nest-boxes built as an addition outside the coop so you can collect eggs without going inside, another complicated addition.

We kept things really simple. First, to make the overall chicken house, we used 16′ cattle panels which we bent into hoops. The hoops fit into a simple wooden frame on the ground made with standard sized 2”x6″ lumber. The ends of the hoop house were made from scraps of plywood (this was the most fiddly part of the build because we cut the plywood to fit the hoops’ curves, and built a door). As mentioned earlier, we covered one-third of this hoop-house with standard metal roofing – we partially partitioned this covered area on the inside of the chicken residence, but left it open enough for a human to easily enter. In this enclosed area, we just mounted a scrap stick for a roost. The egg boxes consist of a simple shelf mounted on the hoop house end, two rough cut boards mounted in an A-frame. Our daughter Josephine added curtains for egg-laying privacy and as a cosy design element (in the photo below you can just make out Winnie getting ready to lay in the nest box).

All of these design requirements were met with a cattle panel chicken hoop house of which there are many, many designs online. 

Chicks in the time of corona

20200409_204922.jpgIt is evening and I am sitting upstairs in one of the attic guest rooms next to a box of 40 sleeping baby chicks.    It is so peaceful; all is right in the world – as it should be.  These tiny new lives, so delicate, are utterly calm and content.  Their feeling of content expands around them in a bubble a wave, and envelopes me.  What a gift.  Thank you little baby chicks.

My daughter Charlotte and I drove out to Western Mass today to get them.  It was completely miserable, cold and driving rain, and getting more water thrown on our dashboard by lines of large trucks.  We stayed in the slow lane on the right and had a car-meeting about our joint chicken project.  We set the agenda: goals, grand overview of project timeline, preliminary task division, next steps.  It was a fantastic meeting, very productive and clear.   Charlotte really knows her stuff when it comes to setting up to jointly do a project!

We picked up chick paraphernalia a-la corona: I ordered everything online, received a confirmation email that everything was ready for pick up, then called when we got to the store to ask them to bring it to our car.  I put on a face mask and gloves for any store interaction.  They were supposed to just put it in the back of the car, but there was a bit of a snafu and we ended up in a huddle with 3 people at the back of the car.  Then I emailed the person who was selling us the chicks with a proposal for the exchange: we meet in a designated parking lot; I put the cash in an envelope and put it on his dashboard; I open the back of the car and he puts the box of chicks in.  When this was done, Charlotte picked up the box with gloves on to put it on her lap for transporting; we don’t open the box yet because we have not disinfected it with a spray of bleach.   It does work – humans are quite adaptable after all – but in a year we will look back on this all and shake our heads: did we really do all those things?

So in this crazy time, the chicks are a blessing.   Our plan is to have the 4 of them up here in the 4×4 brooder we made out of old left-over plywood that had been standing out in the yard, some scraps of hardware cloth and 2×4’s and screws we had on hand based on a youtube design — with some of our own improvements of course :).  Then they will move to the 4×8 urban mini-coop for we built at a Boston Food Forest Workshop for 4-6 weeks, and the brooder will be for a next batch of chicks.  In these weeks, we will build the big chicken run out in Hatchery road and move the chicks out there after the mini-coop.   After two or three rounds, we want to end up with 50 laying hens and some amount of roosters at Hatchery road.  We have unsexed chicks because in a weird way it seems better to at least honor the roosters with 4 months of a good life and a purpose in the end, than to have them killed at birth, which is what happens to excess male chicks, but our daughter Josephine does not like the bit about the roosters, and I can understand.

One of the goals of the chicken project is to be better about documenting all the fun, clever, silly, dumb things we do.  So hopefully, there will be more to come.  But for now, good night little chicks!

Short how-to article on feeding chickens with scraps

WInnie, Kanga, and Roo enjoying some new scraps, while Pooh explores the older pile that is already semi-composted.

I was a little disingenuous when I said that we were going to raise old-fashioned chickens because back in the day, I am not sure people intentionally used the compost pile approach.  It was more that chickens roamed around, fed themselves, and happened to find compost piles.   The compost and chicken system that Karl Hammer at Vermont Composting invented and that I have now implemented at a backyard scale is not historical; it’s a super-cool innovation.

In this new system of feeding chickens on kitchen scraps you put in way more scrap, leaf, and green material than the chicks can eat – 2 pounds per chicken per day (we use our own scraps as well as those from three neighbors).  This runs squarely counter to conventional wisdom, which admonishes to give the chickens only as many scraps as they can eat or the left-overs will turn into a slimy pest-attracting mess.  So what’s the deal?  Why don’t we get a big, slimy mess?

The secret is: what we’re doing is not just feeding chickens; we are creating a big compost pile.  Anyone who composts in their backyard knows that compost piles – without chickens – don’t smell or get slimy as long as they are turned and have a good ratio of greens to browns.  For starters then, let’s think of our project purely as making a compost pile.  We pile garden waste and food scraps on top, turn it every now and again, and when necessary, add some leaves or other carbonaceous materials – compost business as usual.   The chickens are just helping us.  They eat some of the scraps and what they eat comes out the other end as fantastic manure, plus they constantly aerate the pile with their scratching.   It’s a compost system deluxe.  Here is a good article on it.  Oh, and by the way, the chickens lay eggs too!

We throw all kinds of things on the pile that are not supposed to be fed to chickens according to the literature, including moldy food, citrus rinds, meat and onions.  The chickens are not dumb; they don’t eat the bad stuff, they focus on the plentitude of delicious treats.  The rest they leave to decompose in the compost pile. (However, when our cat killed a baby rabbit, I did bury the corpse deep in the pile, since I did not want the chickens to directly eat it, and preferred it to provide nourishment for pill bugs.  I don’t actually know what happened to the rabbit, I never found a trace of it ever again.  Was it decomposed in a week in the pile?  I don’t know.)

One piece of work I do engage in is to turn the compost piles.  Sean Dembrowsky from Edible Acres, whose terrific chicken series I watched on YouTube for hours, likes to roll his summer compost piles from where they start with fresh food scraps, to the almost finished compost.  I’ve adapted this into a three-pile system.   The first pile is where the fresh scraps go, the second is an intermediate pile, and the third is where the compost hangs out the longest.  Every week or whenever I feel like it, I will take the material from the intermediate pile and put it on the third, finishing pile, and then move the fresh scrap pile into the number two spot, leaving an empty area for the new scraps.  This exposes lots of worms and bugs for the chickens (they are all over it!), and designates one pile to be the one that I can remove for compost use in the garden.  I believe this system will change somewhat during the winter, when the piles will include a few cubic yards of leaves, but that remains to be explored.  Other folks just continually throw new material on the pile, and move the newer stuff aside to get the older, good garden stuff on the bottom on an as needed basis, so that works too.

There are so many worms and bugs in this turned-over compost that I wonder whether the chickens’ work is actually creating a better environment for growing lots of wriggly critters – a symbiotic relationship where the chickens provide worms a better place to thrive, and worms become chicken food.  That would be typical of Nature’s way of doing things: a positive feedback loop.  However, as I didn’t find any research on this, it will have to remain my personal little theory.

There, and that’s how you feed your chickens for free on compost!




Meet our raised-on-compost chickens!

In the last post, New Old-Fashioned Chicken Theory, I wrote about the idea of raising chickens without grains or other chicken feed from the store.  At the time, I felt excited to try the experiment, but also some trepidation about whether we might not end up leaving our new birds hungry and unhappy.   So we bought a bag of chicken pellets from the store, just in case, before we got started.

This is the result two months into experiment:  It totally works!  It’s amazing!  We will probably never buy chicken food again!

Shortly after the last post, we purchased four pullets (young female chickens). Our daughter Josephine created a multi-criteria spreadsheet for about 20 breeds of chickens (egg production, friendliness, noisiness, ability to forage, and so forth) which we used to identify desirable breeds and then we looked on Craigslist to find them.  First Mark and I got two Whiting True Greens from a lady in Sherborn who we named Winnie and Pooh.  It was so exciting sitting in the car back home with our two new girls in a box, reaching in and gently feeling their soft feathers!  Finally, chickens! after so many years of thinking about them!   A week later, encouraged by our success with WInnie and Pooh, Mark picked up two Australorps from Hadley who were named Kanga and Roo.

Winnie, Pooh, Kanga and Roo had all been conventionally raised on grains, and did not know how to forage; we had to train them, to encourage them to find their true inner chickeness and express it.    We made two large piles of old leaves in their run, and after the first couple of days of pellets in a bowl like they were used to, we started to strew a portion of their pellets on the leaves.   They were initially quite confused, it was intriguing to see how much they had lost their foraging nature.  Gradually we saw them exploring, with a timid little scratch to find an extra pellet, or a hesitant peck at a leaf.   Once they seemed comfortable, after just a few days more, we added some kitchen scraps, and started to reduce the pellets bit by bit.  By reducing the pellets, we were forcing them to forage around for other food.  Over the course of a few weeks, we weaned them off the pellets entirely.  Since then, they have lived on a diet of whatever comes out of people’s kitchens – vegetables, pasta, bread, beans, chicken bones (!), crushed eggshells, banana peels whatever.  If they don’t like it, for example because it’s moldy, they don’t eat it.  In addition, they get fresh green weeds, and a constant intake of small invertebrates that grow in the composting materials.

Under the current system, we provide the 6-8 pounds of kitchen scraps per day (1.5-2 lbs per chicken) as our research had told us was sufficient. On some days, it’s way more, but that’s OK because it adds to the compost pile.   We don’t produce that much ourselves, but I contacted three neighbors and asked if they would like to collect scraps for me to pick up once a week.  This has been wonderful, once a week, I have an opportunity to see my neighbors for a few minutes and catch up on the news. I provide them with a clean 5-gallon bucket, and walk home with their filled bucket for our ladies.  Often, I will top the scraps off with some leaves of comfrey or jewelweed or some other fresh green, which they love.  On the occasional day, when we have done a lot of weeding, I will just bring them a big pile of fresh greens and leave the kitchen scraps to collect for the next day.   If the pile starts to get smelly, I toss half a pail-full of the aged horse manure wood chips that we have outside their run.  I am sure we could also use leaves or wood chips, just as long as it’s some carbonaceous organic (and free!) material.   If the chickens have eroded their pile with scratching, I’ll take a pitchfork and put things back up.

Another terrific side benefit of their constant foraging is that the girls clean up their own poops.  We have a deep litter of leaves and pine needles under their roost.  In the morning there will be a little line of fresh white poop where they slept, but by afternoon, it has been thoroughly incorporated.

Are the girls healthy?  Well, first, they have grown into very sizeable girls, and, more importantly, since a few weeks they have been giving us three pretty eggs every day (Roo is not laying yet), which suggests that they are definitely getting enough to eat.

Now that we have been doing this for two months, it seems bizarre that we would ever feed chickens store-bought grains, just as it initially felt a little scary to wean them off it.   The compost system is easy, cheap, healthy, and fun!  No more store-bought chicken feed ever!

New old-fashioned chicken theory

Featured photo credit: Photo from Backyardchickens.com: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/composting-with-chickens.64531/

Permaculture and regenerative agriculture are full of innovators and experimenters, and some of them have found ways to do things – to do with raising food – that are vastly more efficient in their use of human resources, waste reduction, and building up nature than mainstream practices.  I mean, not marginal improvements on our current ways of doing things, but paradigm shifting revolutions.

Take chickens.

Back in the day, farmers and poor people used to keep chickens around the house, letting them eat scraps from the kitchen or scratch around on the manure pile.   The biggest care was to get them inside a coop at night (Here a Chick).  They absolutely did not buy food for them.   Today it’s the opposite.  If you’re trying to get your game on for a home-flock of chickens (like me), you’ll go to some workshops, read some books or websites.  Everywhere, the basic assumption is that you will buy feed for your chickens.  You will buy grains and scratch for them plus minerals and maybe you might give them some nice greens from the garden or scraps from the kitchen as treats.   Industrial as well as local farm-raised chickens are similarly fed grains and the high cost of feeding chickens is one reason it is so difficult to make money on them.

Chickens eating grain – photo from internet.

Some math: A laying, fed chicken eats 1/4 lb of grain per day so you need about 100 lbs of feed per year.  For the home-flock, a 50 lb bag of basic layer feed costs about $15 at Tractor Supply, or, about $30 per chicken per year.   Figure a chicken lays about 200 eggs per year, that computes to about $2 feeding costs per dozen eggs – about the cost of conventional eggs do in the supermarket.  But what if you’re trying to stay away from chemically farmed grains? Now you’re looking at $140 for your 100 lbs of organic feed per chicken.  Unless your organically-fed chickens produce more than 200 eggs per year (which they don’t), you’re going to pay more than $8 per dozen for your home-flock eggs!  Blimey!

There is a different way.

A few years ago, Mark and I visited Karl Hammer at the Vermont Composting Company   If you can’t visit, here’s a fun, short video.   Karl says the only reason we got into this crazy chicken-feeding regimen is because machine-farming made grains so darn cheap.  Back in the day when we harvested our grain by hand with a scythe, we did not feed it to chickens.  So here’s what Karl and his team do.  Local restaurants tip 1100 tons of food waste at VCC, where it gets mixed with barn manure, wood shaving waste and leaves into giant piles.  A flock of 600-1400 chickens works all day on the piles feeding themselves and turning the waste into superior chicken compost that Karl sells to local farmers.  As it happens, the United States produces enough food waste to feed all of our chickens in this way!  Imagine — so many problems solved!

In 2017, Black Dirt Farm researched the finances of Karl’s system with a USDA grant.  Their study included two flocks of 50 chickens, one conventionally grain-fed, the other using the composting system.  The results are an eye-opener to say the least. Between the tipping fees from restaurants to take care of the food waste, selling eggs, and selling the compost, the 50 compost chickens were earned the farm $10,000 in 6 months, compared to the 50 grain chickens losing the farm $1,600!   People, why do it any other way?!

But, who will heed my preaching the “new old-fashioned chicken theory” gospel from my armchair?  We need to try it out ourselves!

I did some math based on VCC and some other research (Edible Acres, James McSweeny) to scale the compost system down to a home-flock of 6 chickens and here’s what I came up with:

  • Kitchen scraps: 2 lbs per chicken per day   For a flock of 6 chickens, that is 12 lbs per day, which fills approximately half of a 5-gallon bucket.  That is about as much as 5 households produce, meaning I need to find 4 neighbors who will let me pick up their kitchen scraps.
  • Carbon materials: 110 leaf bags per year.  That’s about as many leaves as 5 households in the suburbs produce. Easy to pick up in a couple of weeks in the fall just on our block.  I would also throw in one truckload of horse manure bedding for the manure and the wood shavings.

The scraps and carbon need to go in big piles for the chickens to rummage around in, and that stay warm during the winter.  A person may need to keep piling as the chickens will flatten things out, and needs to make sure there is enough carbon to keep the scraps+chicken poop from getting smelly.  Plus water.  Will this work?  I don’t know, but I am super excited to try this out, and we’re building a big chicken hoop-house to get started!


Screw it!

Hey, anyone wanting to read up on another fun and funny (crazy?) back to the land project, check out this blog on the post-undergrad summer-in-a-tent written by Charlotte, our oldest daughter!

Post-Grad Tent-sion

IMG_8456 Squaring a floor joist.

Well here we are.

What started as an odd tongue in cheek idea about a month or two ago has materialized into a full blown platform on some friends land, around $500 spent (and many more saved, we hope), and two impassioned (or crazy) post-grads embarking on the next phase of our life.

Some questions in our minds as we approached the end of undergrad:

Where to live?

How to spend the summer?

How to save money?

After being in this academic race (yes that happens too in very alternative liberal arts colleges) how could we find some clarity? How could we become grounded again?

Robin was having trouble finding  place with his friend, Saul, and Charlotte really just did not want to pay the $600 rent for her (lovely but janky) college apartment room.

Neither of us are huge Thoreau fans or aficionados but…

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A lot can happen in between seasons

The last time I wrote in this blog, it was September 2018; today, it is the end of May, 2019.  At that time, we were looking back at the wonderful season of putting together our Bigfoot Food Forest  – cutting trees and branches; laying out the paths; taking the Applied Permaculture course with David Homa; working with Ruby, Dana, John, and Mik; putting in polycultures; bringing water to the back of the garden; building the sheds …

It was exhilarating, but you know what: in all honesty, then the first frosts hit, I was really glad that the quiet season of Winter, when nothing grows above ground, had arrived.  I photographed frost-bitten leaves and mind-wrote a blog post about the inward turning of Winter, which brings the farmer and gardener precious time for rest and for other interests (mind-writing is when you put all the words down in your head but they don’t get on paper or in the computer).  I was planning some some winter painting jobs inside the house.


The Grim Reaper visited and I moved up a generation.  My mom passed away on December 16 – just like that – and I spent a lot of time in the Netherlands with family.  She left an enormous hole, and into that hole we all sped to be closer together and in a desire to fill it.  She departed as she wanted to, in the middle of life, without illness or pain or even knowing; it was just a bit sudden for the rest of us.  Her spirit roams with us all.  I miss you every day, mom!  Wish you were here!

Mark and I became landowners.  Having done such a bang-up job building a food forest on 1/3 acre, I felt confident to take on 36.  Mark did recently point out that our new farm is 100x bigger than our yard here, hm….. The land is near Greenfield and Mark’s mom and John.  Hooray! We will now have a Bigfoot lab site in Needham, and the Bigfoot food forest farm in Montague.  My mom would have loved it and I hope it’s possible to read blogs in the Hereafter.

CERES Community Environmental Park in Melbourne – 30 years of community permaculture!

I retired from one career and started a new one.  After 25 years as an economic demographer and consultant on global education issues, I completed my last gig in Australia in February.  It was a great time, plus, I was able to visit some 30-year old permaculture sites, as the Australians started long before we did in the US.   Part of the career-switch is working as workshop coordinator for the Boston Food Forest Coalition.  In February, we started the PDC teacher training seminar, and the Applied Permaculture Series, inspired by David’s in Maine.  We also did a mini-workshop on chickens – aha, more on chickens later!


Our two daughters graduated from college.  Having taken quite different paths, each fitting to the wonderful unfolding adults they are, Charlotte and Josephine both walked the stage on the same weekend (but different days, phew!).   Mark and I were exhilarated and proud parents, and oma was riding on my shoulders (much simpler to join as a wee spirit than to fly over in an airplane).  We wish both young women godspeed and the best of luck in their next adventures!   Check out Charlotte’s blog postgradtentsion and Josephine’s circus instagram account.

As I said, a lot can happen in between seasons.