Five years ago we faced an indisputable fact... our soil, never very rich to begin with, was rapidly depleting into dust.  Where raspberries weren't taking hold of the fields, moss and bracken were.  Our gardens, once reasonably productive, were sending forth yellowing and stunted spinach.  We needed to build up our soil, and we needed to do it quickly.  While truckloads of compost are commercially available here, we didn't have a whole lot of cash to throw at the problem.  Someone suggested chickens, in small pens, would do the trick.  And, of course, since Vermonters never throw anything away (you never know when it
might come in handy) back in the shed were the old chicken water fonts and feeders.  We trotted off to Agway and came home with 12 very loud meat birds in a tiny shoebox, popped them in their "chicken tractor" and stood back to watch the results. And they
were eyepopping. That first summer we let the chicks crop down the weeds in their pen (visible in the back of the garden), then threw straw down for their bedding.  They churned and turned the straw hunting for bugs and seeds, liberally fertilized it, and when they had built up a good 6 inch bed, we moved the pen to a new section of the garden and started the cycle anew.  That first season, 12 birds built us 3 new freshly fertilized raised beds, which in turn
produced fall crops of heroic proportions.  We were sold on chickens.  I'll admit, slaughtering the meat birds wasn't much fun (the first time is quite the story), so we decided to try laying hens the next season. Three years later, we are in the free range egg business, and you can see our little flock of Rhode Island Reds and Gold Stars cleaning up the garden for us last fall.  The dogs are Golden Retrievers (we are Golden Retriever Rescue for our corner of the world) and no, they don't bother the chickens, but they will dig up the garden given half a chance.

the farm, 2000... trees, vs.

the farmhouse, 1950... no trees!

Today the farm is moving ever backwards toward the future.  As you can see, one of our most bountiful crops (but hardest to harvest) is timber... firewood to heat our home.  But we keep a patch of wild brambles going for blackberries in the fall, defend our apples and blueberries from deer with some success, and continue to maintain a comfortable garden.  Controlling spontaneous forest growth is our number one problem, and to keep the brush from taking over we will be adding dairy goats, probably next summer.  We are happy to entertain the curious visitor, really happy to entertain anyone who knows anything about keeping dairy goats for soap production!  Drop us a line to let us know you're coming. 

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More about RagTag Golden Retriever Rescue

Farm history (the beginning)