We maintain a flock of heritage breed chickens and a small herd of Oberhasli goats. Managed regeneratively these livestock more than earn their keep. From helping us to nourish the soil with their nitrogen rich manure to assisting us in the termination and incorporation of cover crops, their presence is critical to the overall fertility management program on the farm. All that work they do is wonderful, but the chickens and goats also yield delicious eggs and milk, which is an important component of the complete nutrition plan for those who live here.
In addition to our traditional livestock, we also support an apiary of about four honey bee colonies, centralized on the property so that our managed pollinators are close to all the various crops on the farm. The honey produced by these hives, who source their nectar from amongst the abundant diversity of the farm, is a delicacy like no other. In addition to honey bees, we have also constructed various lodgings for solitary bees like the native mason and leafcutter bees, who require little to no management, and while they don't produce any honey, their presence helps to stimulate the bountiful growth of our gardens and support the amazing biological and entomological diversity of the land.
The 2021 summer was the first year we began trialing an aquaponics set-up, which was met with limited success. However, it was a valuable learning experience and we are well poised to reinvigorate the system this upcoming spring. We built a classic chop and flip system using an IBC tote, where the bottom two-thirds become the sump tank that contains the fish. The nutritious fish waste is then pumped up to the grow bed where a microbial process makes the fish waste bioavailable for the plants growing there, who then effectively filter the water before it returns to the fish below though the means of a bell siphon. The only input into this system is a small amount of fish food, as opposed to more traditional regenerative agriculture, which requires a more involved fertility management program.
We compost our kitchen and farm byproducts, like weeds, animal manure, and vegetable matter through a few different systems, such as large piles of hot compost, Bokashi composting, a Johnson-Su bioreactor, but perhaps my favorite system of all is our vermicomposter. We have a vertical tower system that contains thousands of red wiggler worms that can eat half their body weight per day in food scraps and in the process generate some of the most potent and nutritious compost on the farm. We use this compost to brew potent teas that are foliar sprayed onto our vegetable crops and use the compost itself to give our transplants a quick boost. While perhaps not true livestock, my love for our worms knows no bounds and this upcoming year I have plans to redesign their home to a horizontal worm bin on wheels so that we can more effectively feed them and utilize their castings.