Vegetables and Fruit and Wild Stuff – Having never grown anything but pots of herbs 5 years ago, Linda and Tony have come a long way in their quest to vegetable self-sufficiency! Our half-acre, permaculture vegetable garden has been carefully designed and built over the years with the talented help of our volunteer summer gardeners. It is now teeming with at least 30 different types of vegetables, beautifully zigzagging along swales, curves, and terraces; a true Garden of Eden! Mixed within the annual beds are several pockets of emerging perennial forest gardens with several varieties of fruit trees and edible shrubs and herbaceous plants that will eventually grow into a multi-level natural forest of food.
New this year, thanks to our intrepid garden guru, Tyler Davis of Foragers Farm, is a one-acre market garden that will be intensively cultivated for higher yields to help feed all our clients both on and off the farm. Not wanting to loose our permaculture roots. Tyler is using raised beds with a diversity of plants. He’s also integrating perennial rows and borders to help break up the openness of a field garden and aid in fertility, pest control and climate regulation. Soon a second one acre will be readied for next year as well.
In addition to our cultivated food, take a hike around the property and find roadside stands of raspberries, blackberries and currants, invasive wild grape winding up our bigger trees and lots of wild edibles and medicinals growing in our meadows and forests including nettle, comfrey, dandelion, fiddleheads, plantain, watercress, wild leeks and elderberries.
Laying Chickens – Our flock of 25-30 egg-layers are heritage varieties that provide us with a beautiful mix of colour and personality. Linda says she could sit and watch her hens all day and never get bored – from early morning foraging for earthworms and new green shoots to mid-afternoon dust baths and naps to late evening squabbles over roosting spots in the coop. Our birds are hearty and healthy and lay eggs in shades of cream, brown, blue and green. During the summer, our hens free-range out on our pasture, adding to it’s fertility by scratching in the manure left by the cows. They sleep in their fancy egg-mobile where we collect the eggs each morning.
Meat Chickens – We raise Red Bro broilers, an alternative breed to the standard white CornishX you see in the grocery stores (the ones that grow so fast with intensive feeding their legs can’t support them.) Our slower-growing chickens reach their desired slaughter weight in 12 weeks so the birds are healthy and can run around and forage. Red Bro and other similar breeds have been used all over Europe for many years and are the standard birds used in all extensive (as opposed to intensive) production systems. They arrive as day-old chicks and, at 4 weeks, we put them in outdoor mobile cages called chicken tractors where they get plenty of sunshine and fresh air. They help improve the fertility of our field with their manure left dig up insects and tender shoots. They have a proven track record for livability, a wonderful range of feather colour, great texture, juiciness and flavour.
Goats – Although we were reluctant to raise goats, our farmer-friends from Wicklow Way asked if we could graze their goats on our land and we agreed. When a dozen La Mancha baby does and bucks arrived that first year with their little elf ears and big eyes, we were hooked. Needless to say, our misgivings about a goat’s destructive tendencies haven’t gone unfounded. We’ve had to repair numerous fences, animal pens and even someone’s car windshield! They are extremely curious and intelligent and love to push things over, even people, just for the fun of it. We slaughter the males in the late fall for meat and milk the does for our own use.
Cows – This year for the first time we are introducing a small herd of Highland beef cattle to Headwaters. Owned by the Cole family nearby, we are getting a feel for cattle-raising to see if we want to start own breeding herd. Highland cattle are the oldest registered breed in the world originating in the Scottish Highlands. With their colourful shaggy coats, short stocky bodies and long horns they look formidable but are actually very docile and friendly. They thrive outdoors all year and can graze on any kind of pasture without the addition of expensive feed. Highland beef is 38% lower in fat than other beef breeds and 4% lower in cholesterol but still very tender and well marbled, with high protein and iron levels.
Crops – We grow our own hay and feed (oats & barley). We also grow buckwheat and red clover for seed and this year we will be experimenting with more grains and perhaps some sunflowers.