Crow’s Nest: Closing the circle

December 12, 2015

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


As part of the ongoing landscaping of the newly-renovated Jacob house at Crow’s Nest Preserve I am adding organic matter where soils are thin. In this case that’s bedding from the cattle run-in-shed, straw well mixed with urine and manure. To spread it uniformly I dumped a pile where desired and added cracked corn. Our chickens will spread it evenly as they search for the corn.

(Can you see all six chickens? From left to right, a Rhode Island Red, Barnvelder, Black Australorp, Java, Plymouth Barred Rock, and Gold-laced Wyandotte. Named, respectively, Cacciatore, Schntizel, Marsala, Florentine, Tetrazinni, and Paprikash. Despite their dinner-entree names, they are family pets that will stay long after their egg-laying days are over. Three are now 2 1/2 years old, three are now 1 1/2 years.) They reside in a portable chicken tractor when not cruising the yard for seeds and bugs.

An additional advantage of using the bedding as a soil amendment is that we won’t have a manure storage pile to maintain. The straw we use was was grown here or at another nearby farm. They hay the cattle forage in winter is grown right here.

We try to keep input to a minimum on the preserve—not importing expensive, unsustainably-sourced materials to subsidize growth here, nor exporting undesirable waste. To the extent we can, we try to and close a nutrient cycle or other energy flow entirely onsite. That’s often the way nature does it and seems like a good model to follow.