Saturday, March 31, 2012

Seedlings Are About to Take Over!

The time has come....the seed starting unit is full!  The first seeding of peppers and herbs are starting to outgrow their trays!  We've got more tomatoes, peppers and herbs to start, and soon we've got to start celery, broccoli and cauliflower!  We've got to make some space!'s time to pot up!

We've got tables at the ready with grow-light stands.  As our sun room is east facing, the light is not great for young seedlings.  We don't want lanky, spindly plants so, over the years, we've invested in some table top grow lights and had one donated by pal Deb, as long as she got veggies in exchange!  We also have some more lengths of fluorescent lights to hang under the tables because every inch of this sun room will be green within the next four or five weeks!

We'll pot up peppers and tomatoes largely into those six packs for now, herbs will go into 2.5 inch pots.  The flat of basil seedlings, thickly seeded in five rows, will probably become five, maybe six flats of little pots.  The flat of 'California Wonder' pepper seedlings will become four or five flats of six packs.  You can see how we start to fill the space quite quickly!  Along with space concerns, all the little babies become more of a maintenance chore - watering will quickly take twice as long  This cycle will continue for about six weeks: pot up, make room, start more flats of seeds.  With the nice weather we've been having, we may be able to move into the greenhouse early this year and 'thin out' the jungle the sun room will become.  Oh, right, add that to the never-ending 'to do' list: clean and disinfect the greenhouse!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting Ready for Goat's Milk!

We're teetering on the edge of Spring.  Although we've had some unseasonal warm weather, today it is snowing.  The snow is sticking to the ground for now, in a slushy, mushy way.  It will probably be gone in a day or two, but once again we'll be wet and muddy for a while, with more precipitation in the forecast this week.  No gardening, yet!  Although we have seeds started, and more just arrived, March is largely about getting ready for what's coming up in the Spring and Summer.  March is about building projects, maintenance and preparation.

This past couple of weeks, when not battling the flu, the emphasis has been on getting ready for baby goats!  The first babies are expected in the last half of May, when we should be busy planting!  Better to get all the preparation done now, when we have the leisure.  Farmer Man has been re-decorating the barn - preparing a nursery, for all practical purposes.  No pastel wallpapers or anything like that, but a separate fenced pen with a draft-free box that will accommodate one new Momma and her offspring.  The goat part of the barn has been completely emptied, swept, new pens and fencing constructed and new straw installed.

Along with babies, of course, will come the milk!  The whole point of this little herd is to collect milk and for that we need a milking stand.  As is usual around Aagaard Farms, we were looking to make our own!  Found some great plans for a little stand on Fias Co Farms website.  I think we've mentioned it before, but if you have goats you really need to check out Fias Co Farms - they're sharing lots of great info for goat owners!  We downloaded a great set of plans (all they ask is a small donation) and Farmer Man got busy, using all pieces of wood and plywood that were here already!  I think the only purchase was a feed bucket which hooks over the front 2x4, which we found at Total Farm Supply in Brandon.  Today was the day to test it out, and start to get the girls used to it.  We'll get them well acquainted with it now, using it to groom and trim hooves, so they are completely comfortable when it comes time to milk.

The first problem is that our little herd of four is pretty close.  They go everywhere together!  So, how do you get one on the milking stand, give them a little grain treat in the bucket and have them stay calm while three others are prancing around trying to get at the treat?  The obvious answer seemed to be to keep the stand in Farmer Man's shop and bring the goats in one at a time.  Now, we haven't trained the goatlings for a collar or bridle, so separating one out, getting her through the door solo and then shutting the door turned into a bit of a comedy show.  Farmer Man did the door, seizing on the closest goat and directed her in while I headed off the other three.  Mabel was first, and it all went quite well! She took quite calmly to being installed in the stand, showing just a little resistance when the yoke closed on her neck.  As soon as her grain ration was in the bucket, she paid little mind while Farmer Man trimmed her hooves.  The problem came when we decided we were done, and she didn't want to leave!  She kept looking around for more treats!

We eventually got Mabel out by leading her with the treat scoop.  Goldie was next, again with little problems.  Next, aiming for Chocolate, Randi made it in the door - seemingly quite anxious to see what was going on!  Always adaptable, we put him on the stand and used the same format to trim his hooves and give him a nice little brushing!  Finally, Choco was done and the milking stand, and the goatlings, were 'broken in'.  We'll continue to do this every three or four days; hopefully, the girls will get into a routine, including waiting patiently for their turn each time!  They're going to be well groomed little goats in the next little while!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Raised Bed/Cold Frame Aagaard Farms' Style!

North side, high side.
We've been talking for a couple of years about building cold frames and raised beds.  Both have big advantages for extending the season - a boon in our cold Manitoba climate where our last frost date is June 6th and our first Fall frost date is September 9th.  Yes, that's right - we've got four months to grow everything.  Manitoba has been known to get snow in mid-June and we've gotten frost as early as August 21st!  It's a good idea, especially if you grow vegetables for a living, to have protection, back up plans so to speak!  To that end, we've had great luck with our hoop houses or high tunnels over the last few years and we do plan to build a second this year.  After we fix the first one....again.  Even with a heavy-duty plastic cover, the hoop houses are prone to winter damage from the weight of snow and high winds.

Cold frames are in-ground beds with a glass or plastic cover.  The glass cover creates a solar affect, heating up the soil inside faster than the surrounding ground.  Seedlings are protected from wind and excessive moisture, the soil retains some heat in the evening and they'll provide some degrees of frost protection if the temperature dips or it snows.  If electricity is available, soil warming cables can be put in the bed to ensure good night-time temperatures!  As daytime temperatures increase, the glass covers can be opened or moved to keep temperatures at a reasonable level, then returned later in the day.

Raised beds are beds built above the existing soil.  They can be constructed of various materials and you can pretty much choose your height.  They can be built over soil that is of questionable quality and filled with a rich, nutritious mix.  They also raise the working area - a bonus for bad backs for both weeding and harvesting.  Raised beds have become popular features in retirement communities where, with a solid walkway, even people in wheelchairs can continue to garden.  They are also really useful in urban areas where they can be constructed over concrete or really depleted city soils and be really productive.  They are also visually appealing, providing some variance in height.  We've seen beds built of natural stone, old brick, reclaimed chunks of concrete, lumber and timber.  If growing food in your raised beds we would highly recommend avoiding treated wood of any kind, including railroad ties!

So, Farmer Man has been reading and thinking on these things for a couple of years.  When a neighbor offered free small bales of straw, Farmer Man saw an opportunity!  This being such a mellow winter, the snow has already melted from the area he had in mind.  He'd been thinking about an area along our front driveway, close to the road.  It's an area of poor soil, prone to erosion.  He started by discing the whole area to chop up last year's plant debris and loosen up the soil.  He next used the tractor to take one scoop of soil to create a mound.  You see, cold frames should be oriented south, to catch maximum sunlight!  He started the frame of the bed, in straw, on the mound, as the high point and back.  He then continued to lay out bales until he had a rectangle, lower in the front, south side.  The opening is about seven feet long and three and a half feed wide.  He then filled the bed with a screened mix of our own two year old compost and well-aged manure purchased last year from the Research Centre.  The opening was then covered with some old windows he had stashed.  He weighted down the windows, just to be safe.

All this just happened yesterday, two beds were created.  I went searching today for a spare thermometer and got it in place, on the shady side, so we can monitor the temperature over the next few days to get an idea of how these beds are working.  The straw bale construction is certainly being tested today, as we've had winds all day of 35 kph with gust to 55kph (about 24 mph with gusts to 40 mph)!  If temperatures seem reasonable, we'll probably start by seeding some lettuce and maybe some onions early next week!  We'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We're Collecting Potatoes!

One corner of the root cellar.

From left: French Fingerling, All Red, Pink Fir Apple,
Russian Blue and Linzer Deleketess.
Most people know, from the grocery store, that there is a red potato, a white potato and the baking potato.  These people are rather surprised when they learn we're growing twenty six varieties of potatoes!  When you've got a bit of space and you grow things, it's kind of easy to start collecting interesting seeds of vegetables you really like - and that is certainly what Farmer Man has done with potatoes!  He's had helped from a few acquaintances also potato-obsessed: Menno and Greg B. have contributed to our stock of interesting seed potatoes!  It also definitely helps that we have a proper root cellar with ample room for storage!

Potatoes are largely classified by when they are ready to harvest: early season, mid and late season.  Early season potatoes are the first to be taken as new or baby potatoes - the Spring delicacy we dream about all winter!  There's just something extra special about new potatoes: a freshness, a sweetness, it's hard to define but they are a short-lived treat as the potatoes continue to grow and become just regularly, tasty potatoes!  It is a timing thing, as well.  Small potatoes are not necessarily new potatoes; we can harvest late in the Fall and each plant might have a couple of little spuds but they will not have the taste of a potato dug at the beginning of July!  Mid and late season varieties can be taken as new potatoes two to four weeks later, but most of those varieties have thicker skins and deeper eyes and are just not the same as an early.  Mid and late season varieties tend to store better; it's mostly late varieties that we're currently eating!  Early potatoes, for us, can be mature by the end of August, late season we'll leave until mid to late October.

So here's a wee round up of what's in our root cellar, still being eaten and just waiting to get planted:

     Aladin: A red potato, awesome as a new potato!  Mature, it's texture is often described as 'floury' or dry, meaning it's good for mashing, needs extra butter when boiled!
     Almera: Medium sized white potatoes, pretty good in storage.
     Caribe:  Purplish potato that sets lots of spuds!  Stores quite well.
     Carlton: A lovely white potato, multi-purpose.
     Eramosa: Probably our favorite new potato - thin skinned and delicate white potato!
     Norland:  Awesome red baby potato.  I've got to admit to you I wouldn't eat a Norland most of the winter - they become soft and bland quite quickly in storage and there are just better choices.
     Warba:  Exists in records since 1933.  Not available for sale this year, we're still building our stock.

    Charlotte:  New to us this year, just given to us be Greg B.  Very popular in the UK as what they call a 'salad' potato, not a term we use a lot in North America.  Apparently, it's somewhat waxy and the skin comes off easily, making it great for potato salad.  Not available for sale this year!

     Alaska Sweetheart:  Red on the outside and interesting pink-marbled flesh!  Bred in Alaska, good for short season gardens!  Similar to All Red, but a smaller potato.  Not sure we're going to continue to grow this one because we prefer All Red!
     Cherry Red:  A smaller potato with a deep red skin. Great all-round potato. Very nice in potato salads if you leave the skin on!
     Linzer Deleketess:  Ah, one of my favorites!  Heirloom fingerling - meaning it grows long and skinny.  The fingerlings are mostly all waxy in texture making them awesome for roasting, soups and stews because they hold their shape, they don't get crumbly like a white or mushy like a red.  Beautiful, nutty flavor.  Stores awesome for a mid-season!  Maybe we'll have some for dinner tonight!
     Purple Viking:  Lovely, large multi-purpose, purple skinned, white fleshed potato.  Good baked, boiled, mashed, nice creamy texture!
     Roko: A good red, quite nice as a new potato a couple of weeks after you've eaten the Norland!
     Sangre:  Probably our favorite red for eating all winter! Crisp flesh makes a lovely creamy texture, great flavor, stores well.  With last year's high water table, for the first time ever we've had a wee problem with hollow interiors in the large potatoes.
     Yukon Gold:  A golden fleshed, golden skinned potato, good flavor, great for fries.  Consistently picked by top chefs as one of the best flavored potatoes out there, used to be one of my favorites until I met German Butterball!

     Marc Warshaw's Quebec - New to us, acquired through Menno.  A really funky potato with a marbled red and white skin.   The story seems to be that a fellow named Marc Warshaw scored some seed from an elderly Quebec farmer who's family had been growing it for years.  Seed of Diversity lists it as one of their members' favorite potatoes!  Not available this year as we'll be trying to increase our stock.
     Tamagami:  Another selection via Menno.  Apparently a red like Chieftain, but better.  Not available this year.

     All Red: A really neat red skinned potato with red-marbled flesh!  Makes hilarious pink mashed potatoes.  A really nice dense, meaty potato; not quite as smooth as some of the reds, not quite as dry as many of the whites.  We like it layered in scalloped potatoes, along with Russian Blue and a white for a color hit!
     Bintje:  A really nice white, not as thick skinned as some of the storage potatoes.  Nice flavor.
     Blue Mac:  White flesh, purple-blue skin.  Still eating this one as it has really nice flavor, almost wheaty or bread-like!
     French Fingerling:  A favorite, an heirloom fingerling with pink/red skin and mottled red marbling in yellow flesh.  Waxy texture, lovely nutty flavor.
     German Butterball:  Yukon Gold used to be a favorite - until I met German Butterball!  An heirloom with golden skin and flesh and the most delightful buttery flavor!  A fluffier texture great for fries, mashing and baking.
     Island Sunshine:  Bright yellow flesh, nice flavor.  A fluffy potato great for fries, baking, boiling.
     Pink Fir Apple - Our rarest variety, it's mentioned in British records as far back as 1855!  Officially a fingerling but this pink-skinned potato grows all kinds of little 'apples' all over it.  Gorgeous waxy texture and great nutty flavor. A true gourmet sought after by connoisseurs.
     Russet/Burbank - Also known as Netted Gem this is the standard baked potato in restaurants.  This variety has been around since 1874!  Thick skin with a net pattern all over.  It's a dry, fluffy potato also good mashed.
     Russian Blue - The all purple potato with purple flesh and skin.  Absolutely hilarious purple mashed potatoes!  Officially a fingerling, it's texture is a bit less waxy and more fluffy.  All that purple color means higher levels of some anti-oxidants.  Makes a great purple french fry!  One of our favorites for layering in scalloped potatoes with All Red!

For our CSA families, we always tell them what potato is in their box each week.  It's interesting how people become hooked on a variety or two.  We've had CSA members as well as Farmers Market customers buying potatoes all winter - asking for a particular variety, now that they know about it!  Best selling: German Butterball, Pink Fir Apple, Linzer Deleketess and Russian Blue.  Even our customers will still just ask for a red or a white, as well, leaving up to our discretion what is best for eating at the time.  Blue Mac certainly has made a few enthusiastic fans, as well.  If you're in the Brandon area the next time you can see all, well quite a few, of our lovely potatoes will be at the Earth Day celebrations in Princess Park the afternoon of April 22nd!  If you're not in the area and want to know more, email us!  We'll talk potatoes!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Community Supported Agriculture in Brandon, MB

Picking up a share at the park!
Community Supported Agriculture has been around a long time.  From what we've been able to find, it started in Europe in the 1950's, when some people in a Swiss city got tired of high prices for poor quality vegetables.  Those with a rural background knew there was better food out there, so they went to visit some local farmers and made a deal for the farmer to deliver directly to them ever so often.  The concept has slowly spread across the globe, and taken on many different forms.  The basic concept is that members, or shareholders, buy a share of the farmer's harvest and then receive a box of food at designated times.

The CSA concept has seen huge growth in the last ten years or so, as consumers become more interested in  fresh and local food, lowering their carbon foot prints, supporting local economies and knowing who's growing their food and how it's being grown.  There are many variants: some CSA's require the members to work on the farm, there are (often illegal) raw milk CSA's, there are grain, egg and meat CSA's, in warmer climates there are year-round shares, there are winter CSA's of vegetables from the farmer's root cellar.  Any way people want to eat, there is probably a CSA for it, if there are enough people interested!

We certainly can't take responsibility for bringing CSA to Brandon.  That was done by the ever progressive Evelyn and Menno Isaac, long time Farmers Market vendors and some of the first to use organic growing methods in Brandon.  They started a CSA about fifteen years ago with customers interested in a regular supply of their great produce!  We got to know them through Farmers Markets and about eight years ago, they asked us to do one week of CSA so they could have a wee summer vacation - something almost impossible for those of us of selling at Farmers Markets!  We helped out a bit in the next few years, and when the two were ready to largely retire, they asked us to take over the CSA.  What a gift they gave us!  We love growing for our CSA members!  Everyone involved is interested, enthusiastic and committed to healthy food!

The way it works is that people buy a share in the Spring.  They pay at a time when the farmer needs cash flow - Spring is when we're buying our seeds and compost, using extra electricity to keep our green house going, repairing and maintaining equipment, filling the big tank of gasoline for the equipment, hiring a few people to help with planting and weeding.  That's part of the 'support' in Community Supported Agriculture - our community helps to support us in what would otherwise be our 'leanest' times and we support the community by providing a few jobs.  We start pretty much all of our own seeds; indeed seedlings of tomatoes, peppers and herbs are started in the house right now!  By July, when crops are getting going, our shareholders begin to receive their weekly boxes of fresh food.  They'll receive a weekly box through September, until we've 'spent' the money they paid for their shares.  We meet once a week at a designated spot, or home delivery is available for an extra fee.  We offer three different 'sizes' of shares so there's something appropriate for single people, couples, large families or vegetarians.  The pick up is fun: we're there to answer any questions, share recipes and identifying anything that might be new to our families!  We also have a Farmers Market table there with extra selections so that members can 'trade' anything in their baskets that they might not use!

CSA day is both a joy and a frantic scramble!  Our CSA is based on fresh food and we take that seriously!  We might dig potatoes the night before to give them a chance to dry off but everything else is harvested, cleaned and packaged on the meeting day.  We take a walk through our fields the day before to see what is ready and ripe and we make a plan for the next day.  We also work with a couple of other like-minded, chemical-free, local gardeners, to ensure a wide variety of food and we've got to be in touch with them, to see what they'll have ready.  The interesting part is always how much can be harvested and then how we split it among our families!  A lot of decisions, and math calculations, are made on the fly: we harvested eighteen pounds of lettuce and have twenty five families so everybody gets....

When we started organizing Farmers Markets, the Isaacs were one of the first growers to join us.  They introduced us to Samaritan House, our local food bank.  The Isaacs invited Samaritan House to come at the end of Farmers Markets to collect any left over produce that might otherwise go to waste.  Samaritan House would distribute it to their clients the next day, such a brilliant idea as fresh food is often missing at Food Banks!  As we got to know the staff of Samaritan House and as we learned more about the need in our community, we had the idea to promote sponsored CSA shares for Samaritan House.  People can sponsor a share or part of a share for a family, and it is a tax deductible donation; we donate a part of each share, so it's a lower price than a regular share.  We've been so proud of this effort, and so inspired by our CSA members who stepped right up and donated what they could!  Samaritan House supporters have also sponsored families and it really makes a difference in the lives and health of struggling families!

It may be March, but CSA registrations for 2012 have just gone out to our members!  We've been gratified that a number of families immediately emailed that they'd be joining again; some even came to visit us at Seedy Sunday with their cheques in hand.  The support is so invigorating and inspiring!  We can hardly wait for the snow to melt so we can get on the land to grow for 'our' families!  If you're reading this and you're not in Brandon, check out the Manitoba CSA website, Buy Local Think Global website for Canadian and US farms, or in the US check Local Harvest.  Will you be eating fresh and local food this summer?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Getting Chubby in All the Right Places?

'What are you looking at?'
We've been watching our three young does very carefully.  With the introduction of our little buck Randi in December, we're hoping the ladies are pregnant.  We're newbie goat owners, so we don't have that 'wealth of experience' that more experienced owners would have.  We're doing a lot of reading and a lot of research right now, getting ready.  And looking carefully at the girls.....

We thought, in November, before Randi, that the girls were a little over-weight, a detriment to getting pregnant.  We re-assessed the amount of grain they were getting, the amount of treats and extras, purposely took them out on more walks and they did slim down.  Now, we're thinking they're getting a little fat again - but in different places!  Goats will get wide with their babies, not bulging below.  The girls didn't seem very receptive to Randy when he first arrived, and we've never witnessed any goats 'doing it', but it may be time to have Dr Sherry out for a visit!

Pregnancy brings different requirements for goats.  For instance, too much protein, and the baby (or babies, as goats often have twins) can put on too much bone mass to quickly, and be difficult to deliver.  That will mean the mothers will have to get an adjusted grain ration.  So, although we kind of like to do things naturally here and could take a wait-and-see attitude, we'll be getting a pregnancy test done soon.  Mabel, our two tone, looks the most pregnant and she was, indeed, the 'nicest' to Randi.  Chocolate, who does not show any signs, was the least receptive; well into January she was chasing and head-butting Randi quite frequently!  Deliveries spread out over a period of time would suit us 'first time' parents!  If Mabel took a liking to Randi early on we could have babies as early as mid-May!

I can hardly wait for baby goats!  They are the the most adorable little creatures!  Plus, of course, that's when we'll finally have a regular supply of lovely goat milk and we can begin to be more self-sufficient in fresh, unadulterated milk, butter and cheese.  Plus, we'll be able start to Aagaard Farms' newest product: goat's milk soaps and lotions!  And, baby goats are just the will be hard to get any work done!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Thrill of the Sprout!

Doesn't matter how many years we do this, every time a flat of seeds sprouts it's a thrill!  A whoop-dee-do, yee-haw kind of a thrill.  Something about that wee life starting from that tiny seed is awe inspiring, every time!  We'll start a lot of seeds over the next month.  Anything that requires a growing period longer than the four months we have between frost dates will be started indoors.  This will include tomatoes, peppers, herbs, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, some of the winter squash and more!  Last year we probably started over forty flats, thickly seeded!  Many of those had to be 'potted' up into pots as they got too big and crowded for the trays - besides, bigger tomato plants are better, right?  Before we can safely use our greenhouse, weather permitting the beginning of April, we will end up with plants everywhere in the house - and then we'll fill the greenhouse, too!

We always start with any seed left over from last year.  Pictured is basil; I ordered a huge bag last year and had a pretty good harvest but still had a bit left in the bag.  Also started bell peppers left over from 2011.  So far, no sign of the peppers, even though they were planted a couple of days before the basil.  I've also started some mesclun lettuce mix for our eating, also from last year.  As seeds arrive in the mail, more flats get started.  Cubits Organics were very prompt in sending my order and some of their sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano and borage are planted.  Received West Coast Seeds and their peppers and tomatoes will be started early next week (The awesome Dragon's Tongue bean is stashed).  Johnny's Select Seeds emailed that they have shipped and that will include more tomato and pepper varieties, as well as cabbage and some other goodies for seeding direct into the garden, like sunflowers.  Tomorrow at Brandon's Seedy Sunday I'll be picking up some packets from Heritage Harvest Seeds including a few of their awesome selection of heirloom tomatoes!  Then, the bulk of our crops, especially regular, direct seeded veggies like carrots, beets and beans will come from Brandon's own Lindenburg's Seeds.  If the 2011 bell pepper seed doesn't sprout soon, we'll add that to the order from Lindenburg's.

As the seeds progress, it adds so much to the house.  The humidity is raised, the smell of life and green growth starts to permeate all the rooms.  It's like Spring starts early, indoors.  Soon we'll be snacking on micro-greens with the added zest of some basil sprouts.  I can hardly wait for the basil to grow: even though we dried some of last year's harvest, there is nothing like fresh basil!  Of course, it's not all good smells and easy growth.  It's hard working keeping all these babies happy!  Some, like the peppers, tomatoes and herbs, need heat and light.  The lettuce prefers it cooler and a little shady to start.  The sun room, where we start seeds, is a little unreliable in temperature so we've got the seed rack wrapped in plastic to preserve heat.  On a sunny, warm day the temperature inside can shoot up quite quickly.  So it's a lot of monitoring: opening the plastic, closing the plastic, unplugging the heat mats, turning the grow lights on, adjusting the lights' height as seedling grow.  Once the little plantings have two sets of leaves we'll start fertilizing with a dilute liquid, organic seaweed fertilizer, custom mixed and getting stronger as the plants grow.  We'll be busy the next few months and then even busier as we move outside into the garden!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No Dumb Chickens Here!

Cleaning up underneath the suet holder!
Every morning, when we open the chicken coop, seven of the chickens immediately fly over the pasture fence and head off on their day.  It's not a pretty sight: chickens are not graceful flyers.  Some awkward squawks are part of the event as they make it to the top of the fence and then, with flapping wings, land on the ground on the other side.  The other forty three chickens are quite happy to stay within the pasture fences and they spread out (barring fresh snow) under the trees and around the straw bales, pecking and scratching.  In the evening, when it's time to put the chickens away for the night, most of the travelling hens have already flown back over the fence and entered the coop the traditional way.  Two are quite often sitting on the door step, waiting to be let in through the human door.  If we approach too quickly, or have a rambunctious dog with us, they scatter and then slowly amble back over to hop up onto the sill and enter.

The seven are Black Sex Links and Ameraucanas, all young hens just purchased last June as day old chicks.  As chicks they were raised in Farmer Man's shop, then they were moved into the green house.  When they were old enough to be out-and-about but still too young to be integrated into the existing flock (older hens may have attacked them) they were allowed to range in our backyard and around the barn.  They must remember that and each morning they head for the barn and spend a happy day, maybe  laying an egg and scratching through the goats' bedding for 'treats'.  Their propensity for travelling has led to the daily egg hunt, because they are not completely consistent in where they lay their eggs.  They're right there, front and centre, when we feed the goats their grain ration, hopping right into the bowl to steal some corn.  They seem to get along fine with both the goats and the barn cats; we actually like the idea of them keeping the barn a little cleaner, 'recycling' the goats' droppings, so to speak.

Two of them are a little more adventurous then the others and have wandered around the back yard and to the front of the house on nicer days.  During their strolls they've discovered the bird feeders, which are only out in the winter.  Every day now two of the hens make the trip to the front of the house and 'clean up' under the bird feeders.  They'll spend about an hour out front, having a great little feast.  They are now the two chubbiest birds in the flock!  It appears, though, they're not sharing because they're not bringing any new friends with them!  That's a couple of smart birds!