Heading into our first full-time season of farming, changes are abound for Bluebird Sky Farmstead. We’ve spent years learning from local and regenerative agriculture leaders, reading as much as we could, and combing the internet for as much information as possible. The time to go after our dreams of healing the earth and producing high-quality food, while making a comfortable living for our farm community is finally upon us. We couldn’t possibly be more excited!
Keep up to date on all our seasonal activities via instagram BluebirdSkyFarmstead and on the website via the farm journal.
Our main goal for the 2019 season is to bolster our inventory of products before the farmer’s market season in 2020. Unfortunately this means many of our products won’t be available until March of 2020, but we’d love for you to follow along with the process of getting the farm there! We will more than likely host a few on-farm events throughout the summer and fall to introduce our friends to the farm and show y’all what kind of amazing product is in store for you!
We will be starting our pastured pork operation just west of the farm house and next to Swede Ditch. We’ll use the pigs to root up and turn over this roughly 2.5 acre piece of land each year. In the fall, we’ll cover crop all of the turned over paddocks for the next year and start raising the pigs via a deep-mulch bed system. This will give them plenty of insulation through our cold Colorado winters and add organic material for them to work into the soil. We’ll run this system in this spot for about 3 years to add good organic material to the site of our future orchard. You always have to be thinking ahead in farming, even more so in farmsteading! Once the orchard site is prepared, the pigs will move on to the main property of the farm to continue their rotational grazing system. Bluebird Sky Bacon, here we come!
The only changes you’ll see on the farm this year regarding pastured pork system will be installing a bit of fencing and acquiring our breeding sowes and feeder pigs. We’ll also be building a few shade/weather structures for them. Luckily it doesn’t require that much infrastructure to get started raising pigs, so we’re able to get going on this fairly quickly. Once we learned how to take care of pigs, it was a no-brainer to incorporate them into our farmstead.
Pastured Laying Hens:
Our second large enterprise of 2019 is officially getting our laying hen operation going. Many people who have been following our farmstead from the beginning know that chickens are our main jam. We’ve had predator problems in the past, but after spending a year doing more research and learning from other chicken farmers, we’re confident we have a great plan to keep our birds safe for the coming seasons.
The changes you’ll see happening on the farm regarding our pastured laying hens are pretty significant. We’ll be brooding 3 batches of 200 chickens a piece. To house all 3 batches of chickens, we’ll be building 3 mobile chicken coops on top of trailers. These will be pulled around in our hill field. You can clearly see this field on the north side of Nelson Road, just west of 63rd Street. This entire 8.5 acre field will be hard fenced this season as well to protect our birds from predators. This helps our chickens out a lot, but it’s also in preparation for the ruminant system we’ll be starting in the next few years. In addition to the hard fencing, they’ll also be enclosed in electric poultry netting. This netting serves two-fold, it adds another layer of protection from coyotes, raccoons, and all the other critters who prey on chickens and it also keeps the birds contained so we can highly direct which pasture they can graze and where they’re depositing their organic matter and nutrients (ah we’ll just say it, poop!). Don’t worry though, we’ll be moving them as soon as they’ve had their fill. We don’t want to be overgrazing our pasture and we want our birds to have access to the best grass, bugs, and seed our field has to offer!
Eventually we’ll add a fourth house with another 200 laying chickens. This will give us 800 total separated into 4 groups. Each group will stay on the farm for roughly three years while they’re in their most productive laying cycle, and then the whole batch will be processed on-farm and be sold as bone broth birds. We’ll fill that house up with another 200 birds and be on our way again. For the first few years we’ll have to pre-cut the grass for the chickens, but ultimately they’ll be paired with our ruminant program and be following the ruminants after they’ve had a chance to graze the field down.
This is more of a minor enterprise that we’re starting this year, but one that we’re very excited about regardless. Rabbits are a very sustainable form of meat. I’ve been highly interested in them ever since I graduated culinary school. I needed to source a local rabbit for my graduation dinner and I was having a hell of a time finding a farm that raised rabbits. Eventually after calling maybe 30 people and asking around for a week I found this guy who had been raising rabbits but was getting out of it. So he agreed to sell me his two breeding rabbits, we were making a stew after all so the older rabbits would have more flavor. Then he offered to teach me how to process them. I head out to his homestead and he talked me through the process while expertly processing this rabbit. Then he offered to let me process an older laying hen that had stopped laying and they wanted for soup. This was my first experience seeing an animal killed and butchered down to the point where you could cook and eat it. It was truly life-changing. His name is Matt Wallace, check him out on instagram at chef.wallace, he’s always doing awesome stuff with local food and agriculture.
Anyways that experience got us into researching raising rabbits for meat and how it’s done. That’s when I learned just how sustainable it is! Did you know rabbits can get almost all of the nutrients they need from high quality grass alone? In the right system you only need to feed your rabbits fresh pasture and let them have access to fresh water and they’ll be ready to process in about 9 weeks (two weeks earlier than chickens). In addition they breed like rabbits! You get get several litters off of a doe each year and they average about 8 kits per litter. That’s a lot of meat for keeping just a few breeding animals. Our does and buck will live in a shed like the one pictured to the right. They’ll get access to the outdoors for several hours each day when they’re not breeding and it’s not winter. During the winter, we’ll feed them a high quality organic feed and high quality hay. While the sales markets may not be prevalent right now, I think we’ll be able to drum up an interest in rabbit around here.
Tree planting goals:
When we arrived on our property, trees were very scarce. Well to be honest, they’re still pretty scarce. Our farm has an aggressive tree-planting program for the next 10 years to combat this though. Eventually, we’d like all of our irrigation ditches to be lined with deciduous trees. Every Spring/Summer growing season, our goal is to plant 15-20 well established, deciduous, and drought tolerant trees. Over our 10 year goal, that’s over 150 well-established trees being introduced to our land!
During the 2019 season we’re planning on planting 5 Robusta Cottonwoods (cottonless), 5 Purple-Robe Locusts, and 5 Rocky Mountain Douglas Firs.
Inherently when installing fencing, you have to turn over a bit of dirt. It’s also beneficial to bury in your fence line to prevent coyotes from burrowing under and your animals from pushing through the bottom. Any fence lines that we install this season and seasons beyond, we’ll spread Colorado wildflower seed over any exposed dirt to create more forage for our pollinator friends.
We’ve also started a large hugelkultur mound in the garden exclusively for wildflowers. We’ll also have several beds for cut flowers each season. The goal is to eventually have a good enough environment for pollinators to justify getting a few honey bee hives to keep on the farm within the next few years.
Other Minor Projects:
Expanding the garden:
Vermicompost/Bokashi composting system:
Grow tent microgreens:
Grow tent mushrooms: