Mariana is our youngest at nine years old and this year she became in charge of the laying hens and egg production. Here she is collecting eggs from a specially designed coop that is kid friendly because we can get the eggs from the outside without walking in the coop itself. The next step is for Mariana to wash and dry and weigh each egg, then place them into cartons of correct size, then label each carton. It sounds like a lot of time, but she can wash and package 10 dozen eggs within an hour or so - not bad for a little whippersnapper.
Michael is eleven years old and in charge of the Chicken Brooder where we start the Meat Chickens and Turkeys in a warm/safe environment before moving them out to the pastures. These young chickens (Pullets) in the photo are about three weeks old and will be heading out to the pastures later today where they'll be eating all natural forage, bugs, and crickets. Michael will be in charge of organizing the move, so he'll be catching these birds and supervising his older siblings on this operation.
Once the Meat Birds are out on Pasture, we shelter them in these portable units called "Chicken Tractors." We let the Chickens out each morning and close them back in each night to protect them from predators. Here's Christia (15 years old) moving the tractors one length (each day) in order to spread the nitrogen fertilizer of the Chickens around the Pasture. After a season, we'll run the cows on this same pasture that has been naturally fertilized and cleaned of all pathogens by the hungry Chicken Cleaners - a good example of one of the many symbiotic relationships between the animals in this natural ecosystem here at Our Lady's Ranch.
Here's Zachary (17 years old) fixing an electric fence to keep our curious little milking cows in a spot where we want them to stay. Zachary's been working outside with us on the Ranch since he could walk and started driving at age 13 with not only cars, but tractors and equipment of all kinds. Needless to say, he's the Ranch Manager and has developed a wide variety of knowledge and skills in everything from animal husbandry to pasture optimization to building maintenance, so he keeps our operations running smoothly.
Here's Joseph (Age 12) with many responsibilities at the ranch, not the least of which is the pasture irrigation. Twice a day, Joseph zips around on the Quad and checks the watering system while closing and opening new gates along the pipes to move the water around the pastures in sets. We run two sets at a time in order to get fresh Sierra snow-melted water to each stretch of pasture on a weekly basis. We maintain deep-rooted, native, perennial grass plants on our pastures, so they receive a deep watering on a weekly cycle.
Here's Happy Ali (14 years old) getting in on the Turkey action - checking on their water supply and getting ready to close them into their coop for the night. Turkeys naturally roost on tree branches, so here you can see one of our Turkey shelters that is equipped with roosting rails inside for the Turkeys to fly up and set on for their cozy protected sleep area. Nature accounts for many Turkey offspring because many of them get eaten by predators in their tree roosts, but we can't afford to loose them to predators, so we close them up at night and let them back out in the morning to wander and forage while fertilizing and cleaning the pastures like the Chickens.
Well, we just wouldn't be complete without Ty (19 years old) who keeps us online and connected to you all. She's had the hardest job of all (Teaching her parents how to work on a computer). She'll be sending out this Newsletter shortly, along with cooking up a storm at the local Farmer's Market this Saturday.
Well, there you have it - A day of Farming Operations here at Our Lady's Ranch. Thank you all for your continuing encouragement and support.
Blessings and Peace to you,
The Zeiter Family
Family Friendly Farms