Monday, 3 May 2010

Two birds with one stone

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

In our efforts to raise our own food, sometimes some of the tools we require can be an expensive part of the deal. Especially fixed equipment or buildings. To spread out the cost a little, we try to plan for multiple uses when we are planning and purchasing. By applying the permaculture principle of stacking we can utilize the same space and expenditures many times over, and sometimes simultaneously to help defray the initial cost.

When we had our large pastured poultry laying flock, we required a brooding space for a large number of chicks. What we didn't want was a single purpose building that would be outfitted just for chicks for a short number of weeks. And since heat lamps were involved for 24 hours a day for a while we also knew we didn't want to just partition off the corner of one of our existing wood buildings. Having heard too many tales of entire barns burning due to heat lamp failure, we decided not to put all our eggs in one basket. While the baby chicks were an important part of our operation, replacing a barn for $500.00 worth of chicks just didn't seem worth it.

What we settled on was a small hoophouse with metal framing and plastic covering. It would allow for natural light, provide semi-safe housing for baby chicks, and in case of fire, would be fairly easy and quick to replace. And a plus in our minds, also service as a great place to start early plants for the garden, or even grow a small quantity of plants after the chicks had outgrown the space.

For approximately $500.00 we purchased the bows, purlins, hardware, plastic, wire, and lumber to build a 20' x 20' unheated brooder/greenhouse. The chick area is 15' x 20' and that leaves a 5' x 20' space for feed and supply storage, our "personnel" area.

While it may seem cost prohibitive for a smallholding or farm. A smaller model with these ideas in mind may work better, but I have to say, these buildings, (we have two) have paid for themselves over and over.

A place to brood chicks, gather their nitrogen rich manure with bedding for the garden, and later in the year a hothouse for warm weather crops. By changing uses, parasite cycles are broken, giving "rest" to this plot of land and allowing us to spread the expense over several endeavors.

Normally, I start my plants on the chick hover before the chicks arrive. This year, we had terrible mice problems in the sprouting seeds. So we rigged up a hillbilly plant bench from leftover plywood and baling twine.

When it was time for the chicks, I moved the plants to the personnel area. The plants still need the warmth of the greenhouse, but I didn't want to be watering the chick bedding area daily. I did leave the makeshift plant bench though, and have been using it as place to store chick stuff. It's handy, and since it isn't fixed if it becomes cumbersome, I can take it apart in 5 minutes.

And actually it is quite pleasant to work transplanting, with the sound of the chicks nearby. I am sure they are getting the benefit of having growing plants in their space, and they are getting used to us because we are in there a lot puttering about with the veggies.

So this may not be for everyone, but I just wanted to throw the idea out there, to think outside the box in regards to our farmsteads and gardens. You never know what kind of ideas will grow!