January 2009

By Example - The Quest for Sustainable Living Newsletter
January 2009

Our Winter Garden is Growing


Even though we live in the sunny state of Arizona, our high desert climate brings cold winters. This year we've seen temperatures dip as low as 6 degrees Fahrenheit and have had several icy snow storms, yet our winter garden is growing!

Before the first freeze of the season hit, we constructed cold frames and attached them to our raised garden beds to safeguard plants from winter weather. While we intended for our simple cold frames to extend our growing season by a few months, we never expected that winter gardening would be so easy, almost simpler than summer growing and certainly less intensive. There are no harmful insects to be battled and no scorching sun. Watering is required infrequently, and in fact the bigger challenge is to avoid over-watering. The vegetables in our winter garden were carefully selected for their cold tolerance and though we do not have the variety that is available during the summer harvest, we do have fresh greens aplenty.

Our flock of egg laying chickens has also performed marvelously despite winter conditions. They are housed in our insulated passive solar barn and receive sunlight through its south facing window and supplemental light from a timed fixture. We believe that these two factors contributed significantly to our flock's high productivity levels this winter. Though our charts show a slight decrease in productivity for December, our dozen chickens continued to produce at a rate of 80% or about 10 eggs a day.

In addition to farm fresh eggs and homegrown veggies we are also on track to have our first farm raised meats before spring. We've combined efforts with other area farmers to raise a pig and will soon be getting our share from the butcher. Our rabbitry is also growing. It has been slower than expected to get started, but we have learned from our setbacks and now know a fair bit more about raising and breeding rabbits.

Right now we are abuzz getting ready for spring planting. We've placed orders for seeds, live onion transplants and potatoes, all which will be arriving in the coming months. We are making plans to build two more raised garden beds this spring and will be fencing another area for a garden expansion. In the meantime, while the cold weather persists we're keeping busy indoors...building rabbit cages, planning garden zones and drawing up plans for a second chicken coop.

In peace,

Mel & Patrick

Growing in Cold Frames

Thanks to our cold frames we are still eating fresh vegetables out of the garden. In this article read about our cold frame construction method and what vegetables are growing in our winter garden.

Egg Laying Chickens for Beginners

We are in our first year of raising chickens on our farm. Though several area farmers helped us to get a start, there has been a lot to learn and most of it through trial and error. Now, we monitor egg production levels to track and identify the effects that temperature, light and coop modifications have on our egg laying chickens.

Building New Chicken Nesting Boxes

Our new chicken nesting boxes are state-of-the-art! We modified our original nest boxes to create several smaller nesting spaces and the chickens seem to be much more comfortable in the new arrangement. Plus, we can now collect eggs from outside the chicken coop.

Rabbit Breeding Begins

We've spent the past months acquiring rabbits and learning the ins and outs of rabbit breeding. Soon, the day is nearing when we begin bringing farm raised meats to our table and stop spending so much at the grocery store.

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