Tag Archives: poultry

Winter is certainly here!

But, it took a long time to arrive.

I timed my final harvest of carrots down to about the last possible second.


This was the first week of December and the ground hadn’t yet frozen.  If I had gotten to this job just a day or two earlier, it would not have involved snow.

As you can see, the chickens have been moved into their winter quarters inside the garden fence where I can run an extension cord to plug their coop in for supplemental light and a heated water dish.

The garlic seed is snugly tucked into the ground and poultry net has been strung around the garlic beds in case the chickens get over exuberant.

At this point, the sheep were still getting most of their nutrition from grazing.  As you can see here, the lawn was still quite green.  Plenty of forage was available in most of the pasture.  This is really remarkable.  Often, by mid October I am feeding hay because there is no forage left, but this year it just kept right on growing until it got covered with snow in early December.


I take pasture photos at 6 standard locations on the first of each month as a form of research and record keeping.  This was the 12/1/16 photo of Paddock 1.

Today, we are experiencing a real winter deep freeze.  The benefit of weather so cold that I’m reluctant to step outside is that I do finally get around to the paperwork and computer projects that had been languishing when I was working on outside projects.

I’m very pleased to have finally made a bunch of updates to my little online store.  Have a look: https://squareup.com/store/autumn-larch-farm-llc.  There you will find soaps, sheepskins, raw fleeces, roving, yarn and more.

If you live nearby, save the postage and contact us to set up a time to stop in and do your shopping in person.  If you live farther away, this little online store is a great option for having a look at the products available and getting them delivered right to your door via USPS.

Stay warm and enjoy the vibrant sunshine that usually comes with the bitter cold.

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, gardening, Getting Organized, Research, Seasons, Sheep

Meeting with my Legislator

Back in mid March, I took a day away from the farm to join Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) in Madison for their Farm & Rural Lobby Day.  It was a great experience.  I carpooled with Linda and Cathy to Stevens Point and then we vanpooled with other WFU members from the central part of the state.  WFU scheduled meetings for us with our Senators and Representatives, in our case, Janet Bewley and Beth Meyers.  Policy staff at WFU had prepared really nice documents to share at these meetings on 4 priority topics: Supporting UWEX, Nonpartisan Redistricting, Rural Broadband and a Well Dispute Settlement Program proposal.  We also had the opportunity to bring up other topics of importance to us.  For Linda, Cathy and me, supporting UWEX was especially important and we each had examples of ways in which UWEX has been extremely valuable to us over the years.

We asked that our legislators let us know when they are in Price County so we could meet with them to continue the conversations.

Not long afterwards, I got a call from Beth Meyers’ staff person asking if she could come to tour my farm and learn about agriculture in Price County.  Of course I was thrilled to host her.  The day when Beth visited here, she also toured Linda and Gerry Ceylor’s Organic Valley dairy farm and had a listening session with a group of farmers in Catawba.

Just before Beth arrived here, a Channel 12 – Rhinelander van pulled in and Ben Meyer asked if he could tag along on the tour.  Turns out this meant with video camera in tow!  Good thing I didn’t have advance warning, I would have had time to get nervous.  Here is his take on my visit with Beth Meyers:  http://www.wjfw.com/storydetails/20160422174529


Filed under Farm, Local Food, Natural world, Policy, Sustainability

A Playful look at On Farm Physics and Indoor Air Quality

Or, a cautionary tale on Relative Centers of Gravity.


Sweet Sophie – post collision

Who would guess that this little farm hand could become a self propelled projectile able to fell a slowly ambling object more than 5 times her height?


Scout finishes off the spoils

I learned a good lesson that day… Never cheer on and encourage your four legged friends to run and chase unless you are viewing from a safe position.  They came racing through at top speed and reached me just as one foot was leaving the ground and the other was just beginning to touch the ground.

Sophie’s center of gravity won and mine approached the ground at the speed of gravity.  The 14 eggs I was carrying went sailing.  One landed safely in the grass.  The rest were cleaned up before I could regain my feet by these savvy little helpers who were well aware of what nectar the lovely, large, brown gems contained.

They had managed to clean up all but 5 before I could intervene.  And this is where the issue of indoor air quality comes in… If someone in your household consumes their weight in eggs (an exaggeration), be sure to keep them in a well ventilated space until the offending matter has passed through their system… Phew!!

Happily only the eggs were harmed in this encounter.

Being slow to learn and typically needing more than one lesson for things to sink in, I was nearly knocked over one more time recently and this time the projectile was even smaller.  Our cat Chaplin, in mid dog chase, bumped into one of my feet while I walked (again with egg basket in hand) and it was all I could do to maintain my footing.  And save the eggs.


Chaplin – Always willing to help out

These frisky little furry friends sure are entertaining, but must be approached with caution.


Filed under Farm

Autumn Larch Farm LLC in the news


purses hang on fence

Photo by Jane Fyksen

November 26, 2015 1:00 am  • 

PRENTICE, Wis. – Previously a commercial architect living in downtown Chicago, Jane Hansen moved with her husband, Chris Wallner, to Price County 15 years ago — to become a farmer.

She’s still building, but now she’s building connections in the local-foods arena. Though she stepped down as coordinator of the Wisconsin Local Food Network in April, she remains active and looks forward to the 10th-annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit, to be held Jan. 14-15, 2016, at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan Falls. She helped plan the first nine summits.

“We are excited that Jane will be assisting us in bringing local food to our state convention in January,” said Lloyd of Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Jan. 29-31 gathering at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. “It is a priority for our members to directly support farmers and the local economy by buying local food for our meals together.”

Hansen raises sheep and poultry, and direct-markets artisan wool products and more. She named her farm Autumn Larch for swamp-loving Tamarack trees in the Larch family. The trees produce a second round of golden color in the fall after hardwoods have lost their leaves. The farm’s sheep are Coopworth, a breed from New Zealand that originated from mating Border Leicester and Romney.

“It’s a strong dual-purpose breed,” she said of high-quality wool and meat production.

The hardy breed fits her pasture-based management, which includes wintering outside with woods as windbreak. Although not certified organic, Hansen uses garlic to boost sheep immunity and stave off internal parasites. Year-round she feeds fresh-ground garlic in grain once a week, at the rate of one to two cloves per head per week. She deworms ewes by drenching with garlic juice. Each 150-pound ewe receives 5 cubic centimeters each of garlic juice and aloe juice with 20 cubic centimeters of water.

An avid learner and armchair researcher, Hansen uses an herbal “antibiotic” called artemesia annua — known as wormwood or sweet annie – to control liver fluke in her sheep.

“These are things I’m dabbling in,” she said. “It’s part of the buckshot I use to try to solve problems.”

Hansen sells lamb, tanned hides, fleeces, roving and yarn. A fiber artist herself, she knits and felts colorful wool handbags. Her ewes wear coats to protect their fleeces. The sheep sport names such as Hoglah, Tirzah and Micah.

Her laying flock of red hens supplies several customers with eggs. She also makes nine fragrances of soap and unscented “Not So Plain Jane” soap, which pokes fun at her name. Some of her herbal soap is wrapped in felted wool; no washcloth is necessary with the unique bath-and-shower product.

In addition to attending craft fairs, Hansen belongs to Countryside Artists’ Gallery in the Fred Smith house at the Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips. In 1948, Smith, at 62, started creating artwork that resulted in more than 230 embellished concrete figures in his yard. The concrete folk art is a tourist attraction, which is an outlet for Hansen’s products.

An avid market-vegetable grower, Hansen specializes in hardier produce such as salad greens, cabbage, onions and garlic. She extends her season with a hoop greenhouse. In October she planted about 1,700 cloves of garlic, some of which is braided. The cloves will be decorative in customers’ kitchens. Grocers also buy her garlic for resale.

One of many local-foods connections Hansen has forged is with the Phillips School District and Food Service Director Terra Gastman.

“I really enjoy working with Jane,” Gastman said of a farm-to-school partnership with Hansen. “She emails me each week and lets me know what she has available. We have made fresh squash for the kids several times this year. We have some saved to serve with our Thanksgiving lunch at school.

“The kids do notice when the produce is fresh. Fresh oven-roasted zucchini is a favorite. Jane’s fresh vegetables are a great addition to our lunch program.”

Vice-president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Price and Taylor counties’ unit, Hansen is active in the farm organization’s local-foods promotions.

“Wisconsin is a leader in the country for work on developing a vibrant local and regional food system,” said Sarah Lloyd, Wisconsin Farmers Union special projects coordinator. “Jane Hansen has been an important leader in the network of farmers, organizations, agencies and consumers that are working on the issue.”

Visit AutumnLarchFarm.wordpress.com for more information on Hansen’s products. Visithttps://wilocalfood.wordpress.com/summit-2016 for more on the 2016 Local Food Summit. Visit www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com to learn about Wisconsin Farmers Union’s local-foods thrust and upcoming convention.


Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Local Food, Research, Sustainability

Chicken tractor in summer

Chicken tractor in summer

Here is the mystery structure, sheltering its summer group of meat birds. Right now, it is hard to visualize that season.


February 19, 2014 · 6:24 pm

Any ideas yet?

Any ideas yet?

Winter came so early back in November, that we didn’t get these structures moved into their sheltered winter location in the spruce grove.

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February 19, 2014 · 6:15 pm

What is that under the snow?

What is that under the snow?

More snow is expected tomorrow, but we’re feeling quite satisfied with the amount we currently have. What do you suppose I have lost under the snow? The next photo will give a bit of a clue and the one after that will show you exactly what it is.

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February 19, 2014 · 6:11 pm

Correction: She’s nine for nine!

We discovered later in the day last week that our hen had actually hatched all nine of the eggs she was setting on.  The rooster must have been serious about his work as well.

Mama hen is a remarkable teacher.  She is clucking instructions all the time.  And, she’s not afraid to dole out a quick peck to the head when one of her little charges gets out of line. 

In a couple weeks we will move the pen, hen and chicks out near the rest of the flock so that they can begin to watch one another and hopefully have an easy introduction back into the flock. 

I can’t tell yet how many hens and roosters I have.  This will, in part, determine which birds we keep as permanent members of our flock. 

Here are a couple more photos:


All nine chicks in evidence

Teacher at work

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Filed under Farm, Local Food, Sustainability

Getting chicks the ‘old-fashioned’ way

I selected our laying flock in part to try to have breeds that are stilling willing to get broody.  Once the weather was reasonable, we kept a ceramic egg in the nest box at all times to encourage broodiness.  One of our Salmon Faverolle hens was the first to become broody.  We have an Araucauna rooster and four Araucauna hens, so we selected the green, pink and pale tan eggs for her to set on.  We moved her and 9 eggs to a pen of her own so she wouldn’t be harassed by the other hens.

Brooding pen

She was extremely diligent and rarely came out of the nest box.

I knew eggs took about 21 days to hatch. I expected the eggs to start hatching on Wednesday, but we got a surprise on Tuesday morning as we enjoyed our breakfast outside on a beautiful morning. At first I thought we were seeing Mama Hen turning her eggs, but then we realized it was a couple little chicks!  She had successfully brooded 8 of the 9 eggs in her clutch.

A brand new peeper warm and cozy

If I had nothing else to do, I would sit and watch this little family all the time! They are just that cute. Mama Hen cluck, cluck, clucks at her group of chicks. I think I watched her training them to follow her around.
And she is really hungry. She can finally refuel after her long vigil.

Chicks are popping up everywhere


Filed under Farm, Sustainability

The first of the chicks have arrived!

The annual routine has begun again.  The call a few minutes after seven in the morning.  “This is ____ from the post office, your chicks have arrived.”  Really no need to point out that the chicks have arrived, I can hear them peeping in the background.

I use cold frames based on an Elliot Coleman design as my brooders.  I have added 2×6’s to the frame to give the birds a bit more headroom.  My frames are about 4’x7′ (a size that was determined by the aluminum storm windows we had removed during our home renovation).  I can fit 100 birds in a cold frame that size as long as I move them to pasture before they are 3 weeks old.Image

By waiting until this late in the spring, I am quite certain that the nights won’t be too frosty 15 to 20 days from now when I move them out.

This first batch was 100 Freedom Rangers that I mail ordered from Abendroths Hatchery in Waterloo, WI.  I hadn’t had any experience with this hatchery but my sister-in-law has had many years of good experience with them.  I have ordered Freedom Rangers from Pennsylvania in the past.  The birds I got this year are eggs from that hatchery and by ordering them from a hatchery in Wisconsin I have reduced their travel fatique significantly.

Later in the week I will be receiving 50 Silver Cross from Nolls Hatchery in Pennsylvania and 3 weeks from now I have 50 Cornish Cross coming from Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam, WI.  I staggered the delivery dates in order to be able to group the Silver and Cornish Crosses on one butchering date – their growth rates vary that much.

To help the birds settle into their brooder, I provide them with a water solution that is 1 cup of sugar and 3 T. of cider vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of water.  This seems to give them a boost of energy right off.  They will continue to receive a ‘glug’ of cider in their water throughout their lives.  I have read that it helps increase their productivity, most likely by aiding digestion and allowing them to fully benefit from the organic feed they receive.

For the entire time that they are in the brooder, they will be receiving a sprinkle of turmeric on top of their feed each time I replenish it.  The turmeric has antibacterial qualities and seems to help reduce problems with coccidia.  Last year was the first time that I used turmeric, sugar and cider and my losses were much lower than previous years.  Just one chick in each batch of birds instead of 3-5 like I had often experienced before.

I purchase my organic feed from S&S Grains in Arcadia, WI.  Bob and Connie offer reasonable/stable prices and are very willing to work with a group of farmers up here (nearly 150 miles away from Arcadia) to cooperatively fill up their delivery truck, thus spreading the shipping costs across a much larger order.

The starter/grower mix they prepare contains: corn, roasted soybeans, wheat, crab meal, fish meal, Fertrell Poultry Nutribalancer, calcium and grit.  I do sprinkle a bit more grit on top of the feeders each time I replenish them because I have read that having plenty of grit available can also increase their productivity.

ImageOur little dog Sophie – just one year old – can probably remember the broiler chickens from last year, but the brooding process was over before she joined our household.  We’re having a good training opportunity today.  She is excited but doing really well.  I’m not too nervous that I will turn my back and find she has torn off covers to get at the little peepers.  I have high hopes that she will help me to herd the broilers into their pens at night later this summer.

In case you are wondering about her breeding, so were we.  We found out she is 1/2 Jindo, 1/4 Schipperke and 1/4 English Springer Spaniel.


Filed under Farm, Local Food