Designing a New Duck Hut

The thirteen ducks living on the farm spend most of their time outside, but at night they sleep in this hut:


It gets the job done, but it doesn’t have sufficient insulation or ventilation, is difficult to clean, and is very ugly. So, we are in the process of designing a new, better duck hut.

Ducks have simpler living requirements than chickens. While chickens require roosts to sleep on and nest boxes to lay eggs in, ducks prefer to sleep and lay on the ground. Ducks emit a lot of moisture when they breathe, so ventilation is very important, especially in the colder months, because high humidity and low temperatures can cause frostbite on the ducks’ feet.

The new duck hut will have a graded roof with ventilation on either side. It will be 4 feet tall at its shortest and 5.5 at its tallest (a lower ceiling keeps the heat in). It will be on skids so we can hook it up to the tractor and drag it when we want to move it.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 5.20.04 PM

There will be a duck door on the front of the hut that swings down and becomes a ramp. The front wall on either side of the duck door will swing out so the entire front of the hut can be opened up for easy cleaning. The straw bedding will go on top of a rubber mat on the floor that we can slide out when we need to replace the straw.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 5.21.34 PM

Some aspects of the design will probably change by the time we build the duck hut, but this is what we have so far.



Plans for Pasture Broilers at the Farm

By Logan Whitcomb

We have decided to run a batch or two of broiler chickens this summer at the Kenyon Farm, and I am planning out how we are going to approach this new task. We will require some new infrastructure, and I hope to take advantage of the opportunity to improve our existing chicken systems by constructing a new brooder – the Ohio Brooder. I learned of this design from my time at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s annual conference, where I took a class on pastured poultry by Mike Jones of Tierra Verde Farms. Much of my plans come from his guidance, and he explained most of his ideas came from Joel Salatin, who I hope to meet this summer when he comes to Amish Country in Ohio.

Our broiler operation will look like this:

  • Mail delivery chicks, make sure to count deceased and get reimbursed
  • Brooder: We will release the infant chicks into a brooder space, I propose it be on the concrete block in the barn
  • Pasture/Tractor: we need to construct a container to keep the chickens in while on pasture, the design of which I will draw out
  • Butcher: how are the animals going to be processed, will AVI be purchasing any of them?

Our goals for this project are:

  • Keep chores down to one hour or less;
    • when summer hits and we are busy doing a variety of other tasks, there won’t be time for me to spend three hours on chickens alone
  • Provide a good quality of life for chickens
    • Keep the animals healthy and happy
    • This means dry bedding for the time they’re in the brooder, plan to check everyday for wetness and allow more space, moving the brooding lamp around and cleaning as you go
    • Allowing the animals onto grass will produce better, healthier meat and happier animals
  • Protect chicks from disease and environment
    • Both brooder and tractor need to be secure

I’ve started by measuring the available concrete space in the barn. The importance of the concrete is that it will allow us, after finishing brooding, to scrape the bedding remains into the front loader and easily move them out.
We have a 192 by 150 inch rectangle, of which I would take a 6×6 block and put the Ohio brooder (which measures 4×4), three feeder trays and one 5 gallon drinker, which I would put up on a block to keep level as well as discourage chicks from swimming/drowning in it.

The Ohio Brooder involves the following:

From (

  • Weighs about 30 pounds without insulation material.
  • Accommodates 150 to 250 chicks when made 4 by 4 feet or 250 to 300 chicks when made 4 by 6 feet.
  • Is operated on the basis of the behavior of and comfort of the chicks rather than thermostatic heat control or temperature shown by thermometer. Thermostatic heat control is unnecessary, since the chicks readily adapt themselves to their heat requirements and comfort in a brooder of this kind. A thermometer is misleading rather than helpful, since the ordinary thermometer can not be depended upon to indicate the radiant or infrared heat requirements of chicks or poults.
  • Has a wide range of heat supply for special brooding requirements throughout the year.
  • If we use the Ohio brooder, less insulation is required in the rest of the space as the chickens have a place to go to be warm.
  • The insulated heat-lamp brooder is a simple plywood box on four short legs, with two heat lamps. Insulation is provided by piling wood shavings on top.

List of Materials needed

  • One piece of 4 by 8-foot, ¼-inch plywood or 1/8-inch pressed wood (to be cut into one 4 by 4-foot top and four 1 by 4-foot sides)
  • Four cleats 1 inch by 1 inch, 4 feet long, to which the top and sides are nailed.
  • Four pieces of 1 ½ by 1 ½-inch lumber, 16 inches long, for corner posts or legs
  • Two porcelain electric lamp bulb sockets (Porcelain lamp sockets are necessary for these lamps)
  • One 150-watt, 115- to 120-volt projector or reflector Mazda spot or flood lamp and one 250-watt R-40 Bulb Drying lamp
  • Twenty feet of rubber-covered electric appliance cord with plug and cap

No special provision need be made for ventilation. That which takes place through the open space between the lower edge of the hover and the floor will be ample. As the chicks or polts grow larger and need more air and less heat, bricks or blocks can be placed under the legs to raise the hover 2, 4, or 6 inches higher. When feed and water are to be placed under the hover, or the floor litter is to be removed, one side can be raised to the desired height and held in place by a hook suspended from the ceiling of the brooder house.

Lamp Rules

  • 250-watt bulbs are the most likely to scorch the lid of the brooder and cause premature socket failure. Use lower-wattage bulbs when possible.
  • Use either heat lamps or reflector flood lamps.
  • Heat lamps are preferable because of their longer life.
  • Red bulbs aren’t necessary unless you’re brooding a breed with a tendency towards brooder-house cannibalism. (Modern broiler breeds are non-cannibalistic, so you’re fine. Heritage breeds and modern laying breeds vary.)
  • Red heat lamps are available in 175 watts and 250 watts. Red floodlights are available down to 50 watts.
  • White heat lamps are available between 100 and 250 watts. White floodlights go all the way down to 30 watts.
  • For above- freezing temperatures, use two bulbs of the size given below
  • 4×4 Brooder: 125 watts.
  • Monitor the chicks first thing in the morning. If they are resting around the perimeter of the brooder, rather than inside, you can reduce the size of the bulbs, saving even more electricity.

They will spend 3 and 1/2 weeks in the brooder, and will then be moved to pasture until 8 weeks, when they will be harvested.

Chicken Tractor Design

The tractor design I am using was provided by Mike Jones.

It is constructed by putting two 10ft 2x4s against two 12ft 2/4s, creating a rectangular base. Two lengths of cattle panel are then arched between two ends of the rectangle, creating a roof. Hog panel is attached to the sides, and creates an enclosure. Chicken fence is then run along all of this existing fence and any gaps, to keep predators out. Two wheels can be attached to the back end for ease of movement.

Fruit Orchards in the U.S.

North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX)
Nursery, Resource, and Suppies Links

*Adams County Nursery, Inc. <>*, PO Box 108,
Nursery Road, Aspers, PA 17304.   (717) 677-8105.  Old nursery with good
reputation.  All of the popular tree fruits, including a large number of
peach varieties.

*A. M. Leonard, Inc <>*., PO Box 816, Piqua, OH
45356.  (800) 543-8955.  A complete catalog of orchard supplies, tools,
etc.  Fast service.

*Big Horse Creek Farm <>*, Ron & Suzanne
Joyner, P.O. Box 70, Lansing, NC 28643.  (336) 384-1134.   Specializing in
Southern Appalachian Apple Trees

*Blossom Nursery <>,  *216 CR 326, Eureka
Springs,  AR 72632 USA  Ginko seeds, pawpaw seeds and trees.

*Bluebird Orchard & Nursery*,  Tim Strickler, 4711 Three Mile Rd NE, Grand
Rapids, MI  49525.  (616) 361-0919.  Email Tim sells
apple scionwood, but no longer grows trees for sale.

*Nick Botner*, 4015 Eagle Valley Road, Yoncalla, OR   97499.  (503) 849-2781.
Sells trees and will sell or trade scions from his huge collection of
apples, pears, plums, and grapes.

* Buncombe County Fruit and Nut Club, North Carolina* Blog
<>, Website

*Burnt Ridge Nursery <>*, 432 Burnt Ridge
Rd., Onalaska, WA 98570 Long-time NAFEX member, Michael Dolan, offers a
wide variety of nuts, fruits and native plants.  Phone and Fax (360)

*Calendula Horticultural Books* <>, 1411 NW
120th St, Vancouver, WA 98685.(360) 573-6581 Specializes in old and
out-of-print books on gardening, garden history, fruit, etc.

*Chestnut Hill Nursery* <>, 15105 NW 94
Ave, Alachua, FL   32615. (800) 669-2067 – toll free. 386-462-2820
<(386)%20462-2820> – local 386-462-4330 <(386)%20462-4330> – fax. Wholesale
only.   Chestnut trees, tropical fruits, temperate fruits, berries, some
shade trees.

* Christian Homesteading Movement*, Richard Fahey, Oxford, NY   13830.
Scionwood of many varieties of apples plus other fruit.  No telephone
number given; send SASE.

*Cloud Mountain Farm <>*,   6906 Goodwin
Road, Everson, WA 98247.  (360) 966-5859  Large selection of   many fruits
especially for North West gardens.

*C & O Nursery <>*, PO Box 116, Wenatchee, WA
98807.  (800) 232-2636. Many varieties of fine fruit trees.  A commercial
nursery, but accepts retail customers.

*Cummins Nursery <>*, 18 Glass Factory Bay
Road, Geneva, NY   14456.  (315) 789-7083.  Specializes in
disease-resistant varieties of apples and the new disease-resistant Geneva
rootstocks for apples.  Carries the NY-numbered stone- fruit varieties and
new releases.

*Dave Wilson Nursery <>* offers a wide selection of
fruit and nut trees and grapevines to the wholesale and commercial
industry. Their extensive web site gives links to retail and mail order
sources for their trees.

*Edible Landscaping <>*, PO Box 77, Afton, VA
22920. (434)361-9134 <(434)%20361-9134> . Hardy kiwis, rust-resistant
currants, autumn olive, much more.

*England’s Orchard and Nursery <>*, 2338 HIGHWAY
2004,  McKee, Kentucky 40447-8342 Phone(* 606 965 2228
<(606)%20965-2228>  , Email:
<> *Chestnuts,
Hazelnuts, Pecans,  Walnut, Heartnuts, Hickories, Jujube, Persimmon and

*Fedco Trees* <>, John Bunker, PO Box 520-A,
Waterville, ME   04903.  Hardy trees and plants, including fruits.

*Fork & Spade <>, *1313 Scenic Drive, Modesto,
CA, 95355.  Bareroot Roses & Fruit Trees, Garden Accents, and Tools

*Forestfarm <>*, Ray and Peg Prag, 990 Tetherow
Road, Williams, OR   97544. Many rare and unusual plants.  Catalog $3.

*Gempler’s <>*, 100 Countryside Dr., PO Box 270,
Belleville, WI 53508.  (800) 382-8473.  All sorts of safety equipment and
protective clothes.

*Greenmantle Nursery <>*, Ram and Marissa
Fishman, 3010 Ettersburg Road,  Garberville, CA   95542.  (707) 986-7504.
Catalog $5. Greenmantle specializes in organically-grown fruit trees and
roses, particularly older varieties. The apple listing [over 250] includes
many selections bred by Albert F. Etter{1872-1950}; these are notable for
pink- fleshed types and dessert-quality crab hybrids. There is also an
assortment of European hard cider varieties.

*Hartmann’s Plant Company* <>, PO Box
100, Lacota MI 49063.  Sells many varieties of blueberries and other small

*Henry Fields Nursery <>*, Carries a large
selection of fruit varieties including several new releases not available
to the commercial market. To request a catalog call (513) 354-1496.

*Henry Leuthardt Nursery* <>,
Montauk Highway, Box 666, East Moriches, Long Island, NY   11940.  (516)
878-1387.  Specializes in dwarf and espalier-trained fruit trees.  Antique
and European varieties.  Catalog $1.

*HoneyberryUSA* <>, PO Box 512, Bagley, MN
56621 218-694-3071 <(218)%20694-3071>. Specializing in cold hardy berry
trees imported from Canada – honeyberry, dwarf sour cherry, and saskatoon.

*Ison’s Nursery & Vineyards <>*, Brooks, GA
30205.  (800)
733-0324.  Muscadine grapes and other fruits.

*Jerry Appleseed Nursery*, P.O. Box 6292, Ketchikan, ALASKA 99901 (907)
225-5098) (far southern Alaska) has a mail-order catalog for Alaskan
customers.   Jerrold Koerner has plans to expand this to all 50 states in
the future.  He has many varieties of early-ripening apples.

*Johnson Nursery, Inc. <>*, 1352 Big Creek
Rd, Ellijay, GA 30540.  Toll free: (888) 276-3187. Quality fruit trees with
antique and disease-resistant varieties. Small fruit also.

*Jung Quality Seeds <>*, Randolph, WI   53957.  (800)
247-5864.  Good list of fruits.

*Lake Sylvia Vineyard Nursery*, 13375 51st Avenue, South Haven, MN 55382.
Hardy grapevines.

*Lawn-Gardening-Tools <>* specializing in
garden hand tools, pea shellers, and high speed nut crackers.

*Lawson’s Nursery*, Route 1 Box 472 , Ball Ground, GA 30107    (770)
893-2141.  Tree fruits, berries, grapes for south. Free catalog/list.

*Lawyer Nursery, Inc <>*., 950 Highway 200
West, Plains, MT 59859 . Large selection of field grown seedlings.
800-551-9875 <(800)%20551-9875> (VOICE) 406-826-5700 (FAX).

*Louisiana Nursery <>*, the Durios, Route 7,
Box 43, Opelousas, LA   70570. (318) 948-3696.  Fruiting trees shrubs,
vines, and many other plants including magnolias.  Catalog $6 or free list.

*McKenzie Farms* <>, 2115 Olanta Hwy, Scranton,
SC 29591 (843) 389-4831 specializes in cold hardy citrus, eucalyptus and
some palms.

*Miller Nurseries <>*, 5060 West Lake Road,
Canandaigua, NY   14424. (800) 836-9630.  A fine list of new and old fruit.

*Montoso Gardens* <>, Bryan Brunner, Hwy 120,
KM 18.9, Box 692, Maricao, PR 00606 (787) 221-0614 specialize in rare and
exotic tropical fruit trees and seeds. Certified to ship anywhere.

*Morse Nursery* <>*, *12300 Betz Rd, Battle
Creek MI 49015 (800) 338-2105 Specializes in trees that produce fruit and
acorns to attract and feed wildlife, such as persimmon, paw paw, wild pear,
crabapple, etc.

*Nash Nurseries <>*, 4975 W. Grand River Rd.,
Owosso, MI 48867-9292. (517) 651-5278,  Container
stock of grafted pawpaw, hybrid chestnuts, pine nuts & fruit trees.

* Neighbors Nursery*,  Joyce Neighbors, 1039 Lay Springs Rd., Gadsden, AL
35904   (256) 546-7441.  Sells scionwood of old southern apples and other
antique varieties.  Free list of scions available for shipping  in February
and March.

*Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery* <>, 797 Port
Wooden Rd., Upton, KY 42784   (270) 369-8551 Mon.-Sat. 7-7 C.T. .  Grafted
nut trees and persimmons.  [One of the best nut tree nurseries.]

*North Star Gardens*, specializes in raspberries for the whole country. Now
sharing catalog and addresses with Indiana Berry and Plant Co., 5218 W.500
South, Huntingburg, IN   47542.   (800) 295-2226

*Nourse Farms <> – *Nourse Farms 41 River Rd,
South Deerfield, Ma 01373 (413)665-2658 <(413)%20665-2658>
Specializing in small fruits, including strawberries, raspberries,
blueberries, and ribes. Free catalog.

*Raintree Nursery <>*, 391 Butts Road,
Morton, WA   98356.  (360) 496-6400.  Fruit and nut trees, rootstocks,
berries and vines.

*Rhoras Nursery <>,* 32983 Wills Road Wainfleet
Ontario, LOS 1VO (950)-899-3508.

*Lon J. Rombough <>, *PO Box 365, Aurora, OR
97002-0365  Phone (503) 678-1410  Cuttings of a large selection of table
grapes and wine grapes.

*Sherwood’s Greenhouses*, J. S. Akin, PO Box 6, Sibley, LA   71073. (318)
377-3653.  Southern fruit, including mayhaw.  Send SASE for list.

*Old Southern Apples Nursery <>*1333 Hood
Rd., Gadsden, AL 35907 855-953-5693 <(855)%20953-5693>, offers old southern
and antique apple trees, scion wood, and rootstock. We also carry grafting
supplies. E-mail

*St. Lawrence Nursery <>*, 325 State Highway
345, Potsdam, NY   13676. (315) 265-6739.  Fruit and nut trees for the
northern climate.

*Stark Bros Nurseries <>*, P.O. Box 10, Louisiana,
MO 63353 (800) 325-4180.  Fruit trees, nut trees, small fruits.  Free

*The Apple Branch,* Antique apple bench grafts, rootstock and apple scion
wood. PO Box 281 Portland, MI 48875. (517) 648-2443. Email

*TRECO <>*, Oregon Rootstock & Tree Co., Inc., 10906
Monitor-McKee Road NE, Woodburn, OR   97071.  (503) 634-2209.  Extensive
line of dwarfing rootstocks.  Minimum order 100.

*Trees of Antiquity <>*, 20 Wellsona Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446. (805) 467-9909.  Large selection of apples and many
other fruits.  Free catalog.

*Van Well Nursery <>*, 2821 Grant Road · PO BOX 1339
Wenatchee, WA 98807 509-886-8189 <(509)%20886-8189>  TOLL FREE:
1-800-572-1553.   More than 150 fruit tree varieties.

*Vintage Virginia Apples <>*, PO Box
210, North Garden, Virginia 22959 (434)295-5382 <(434)%20295-5382>  Gift
boxes of classic apples, rootstocks, young trees and scionwood, workshops.

*Wagon Wheel Orchard * <>15380 Edgerton Rd,
Gardner, KS (913)893-6050 <(913)%20893-6050>. A preservation orchard that
benchgrafts over 1,000 varieties of apple and pear every spring. Check fall
listing for availability.

*Walden Heights Nursery and Orchard* <>, 120
Vermont Route 215 Walden, VT 05873 802.563.3012 <(802)%20563-3012>
Certified Organic fruit trees, scionwood, and rootstocks–hundreds of

*Whitman Farms* <>, Lucile Whitman, 3995 Gibson
NW, Salem, OR   97304. (503) 585-8728.  Many gooseberry and currant
varieties, plus other fruits.

*Willamette Nurseries, Inc*. <>.25571 S.
Barlow Rd, Canby, OR 97013
(800)852-2018 <(800)%20852-2018> Seedling and clonal fruit tree underrstock
50 pc min
*Woodlanders, Inc. <>*, 1128 Colleton Avenue,
Aiken, SC   29801.  (803) 648-7522.  A wide variety of hard-to-find
southern plants.



A visit from Wiggin Street Elementary First Graders

Dear Juno,

Thank you for showing us around the farm and for helping us learn more about the animals and the potatoes. We loved seeing the goats. We learned that goats can stand on tables.  It was funny when they pooped.
We had fun petting the goats.  We hope you will send us a picture when the baby goats are born.
The bee hive was interesting.  Thank you for letting us touch the wax.
 We are so excited to try and incubate the eggs.  We will send you pictures if they hatch.
We loved the Kenyon Farm.
From Mrs. Kramp, Mrs. King and the whole class!!!

A Natural History of the Farm

While anatomically modern humans have been around for some 200,000 years or more, it is only in the past 10,000 that we took up agriculture.  Somewhat amazingly, agriculture emerged independently in many sites all during a short period of time:  in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, “The Fertile Crescent”, with peas and wheat, in Asian with rice, in Africa with millet and sorghum, and in the America’s with maize and beans.  The question is why did it take us so long?  And how do we explain how agriculture emerged nearly simultaneously across continents?

One answer has to do with climate.  Over the past 1.8 million years, the Earth has cycled out of cold and warm periods known as “glacial” and “interglacial” periods, respectively.  In cold periods massive glaciers spread across much of the American, European, and Asian continents.  In warm periods they receded.  The cause of this is largely attributed to changes in the orbital pattern of the Earth–it’s tilt, the shape of it’s orbit around the sun, and the “wobble” of it’s turning.  (For a greater discussion on these read up on the Milankovitch Cycles named after Milutin Milanković, a Serbian geophysicist who was the first to discover these changes).


Some 20,000 years ago a great ice mass, known as the Laurentide Ice Sheet, over a mile thick sat on top of Knox County.  As the last major ice age entered into a warming period 15,000 years ago, the ice melted forming the freshwater Great Lakes and depositing thick bands of glacial till, ground moraines, and alluvial deposits (clay, silt, sand and gravel left by the winding streams produced by the melting glaciers).

The fresh, finely ground minerals rich in nutrients made for a superb parent material for soil formation–one of the reasons why the Midwest U.S. boasts such high quality soils good for agriculture.  In Knox county, soils such as Centerburg, Bennington, Pewamo, Wooster, and Wadsworth would all be formed by the receding glacier.  (See the 1986 Knox County Soil Survey for more information on the formation, distribution and characteristics of soils in Knox County).

Around 12,000 BCE, the Earth entered into a rather warm period known as the “Holocene“.  Although humans had already been on the planet for perhaps as many as 190,000 plus years, the warm steady climate of the Holocene would be the first time that humans would really start shifting from hunter and gather societies to ones based on permanent settlement and agriculture.  Also around this time, it is believed that small bands of people from Asia were able to cross the Bering Straight land bridge from Asia into would become the State of Alaska making their way east and south as the spread across not one but two continents.  The first Native American groups appeared in central Ohio around 11,000 BCE.


The various groups that lived during the Pre-Columbian period are generally lumped into a large category referred to the Mound Builders in reference to their construction of various types of earthen mounds which can still be found around Ohio and surrounding states today.  Examples of mounds include The Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Alligator Mound in Licking County (the latter two both effigy mounds depicting animals), and Fort Ancient in Warren County.  An Adena burial mound was located in what is now the Mount Vernon Cemetery although has been substantial reduced in size and was excavated by the Ohio Historical Society.

The Adena are generally considered to be the first major agriculturalists although it was likely tribes before them practiced more limited agriculture and the Adena probably still relied on hunting and gathering for a substantial portion of their caloric intake.


Ground was cleared by girdling of trees and controlled burning-highly effective but elegant techniques to clear land.  The ash from burning provided key inputs of potassium (aka “pot-ash”), calcium, phosphates and other minerals that remain in the ash after burning. The high temperatures near the soil surface killed weed seeds and pasteurized the soil surface decreasing the likelihood of plants contracting bacterial and fungal infections.

Eventually, without the input of manure or fertilizers, the soil would become less and less fertile over time and eventually settlements would be abandoned and new sites would be found where the process would start anew.  Historians believe sites may have been used for 5-15 years until moving on.  Eventually, after 20-30 years, the tribes may have resettled previously settled sites as the trees and vegetation would have been much easier to clear than primary old-growth forests.  This practice, known as “slash-and-burn”, shifting cultivation, or “swidden” agriculture, is the oldest form of agricultural and was practiced all over the world at one point.


By Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis – Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley at [1], Public Domain,

Crops such as maize (Zea mays), beans (Phaseolus), pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo), squash (Cucurbita moschata), gourds, and sunflowers (Helianthus)as well as lesser known crops such as goosefoot (Chenopodium), amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), and hopniss (Apios americana) were widely cultivated.

Maize, beans and squash is commonly referred to as the “three sisters” as they tend to work symbiotically with each other.  (This term, “three sisters”, is thought to have originated from the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] Indians but used widely by other tribes as far north as Canada through Central and South America.)

Maize (“corn” in the US), a heavy feeder that requires substantial soil nutrients for good yields, is also a high yielding staple crop that stores well.  Beans are protein rich crop and, being among the Fabaceae family, are nitrogen-fixers meaning–possessing a uniquely important ability to extract triple bonded nitorgen gas from the atmosphere and “fix” it into their tissues and the surrounding soil.  The beans benefited from the natural trellis that the corn provided while the corn benefited from the extra nitrogen from the beans.  Members of the squash family (Cucurbits) such as pumpkin and butternut squash with their low-to-the ground or “pronate” growing habit meanwhile help shade out weeds with their dense canopy and conserved soil moisture by preventing direct sunlight and evaporation.


Tools comprised of wood, bone, turtle shells were used to plant, cultivate and harvest. Food caches were often dug into the soil-much like modern day root cellars-to preserve their harvest throughout the winter period.


The first “discovery” of North America by white settlers was made by the Norse leader Leif Ericson around 1000 A.D. but was largely unknown by most Europeans despite having created a settlement in Newfoundland in modern day British Columbia.  In 1492, Chistopher Columbus voyaged to the “Americas”.  Mistaking the continent for India, he referred to the local natives as “Indians”.

Perhaps as many as 90 to 112 million Native Americans lived in North and South America–more than all of Europe when Columbus set sail.  Guns, germs, and steel decimated the local populations with disease being perhaps the most important contributor to their die-back.  Mainly through the raising of livestock, Europeans had been exposed to and built up immunity to the many zoonotic diseases that infected their populations over millenia.  Native Americans, by contrast, had few domestictable animals and had not developed natural immune defenses.  Diseases from viruses that caused smallpox, influenza, hepatitis, measles, encephalitis, and viral pneumonia, and bacterial infections that caused tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, typhus, scarlet fever, and bacterial meningitis wiped out huge swathes of the population.   In some villages, as many as 70 to 90 percent of the population were wiped out by European diseases.


Early European American colonialists rapidly deforested the rich lands previously occupied by the Eastern Woodland and Mississippian cultures converting the land to treeless landscapes.  In the South, much of the land was placed under monocultures of tobacco and cotton due to its high economic importance.  As geomorphologist David Montgomery, put it in his book “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations“,  Virginia had become a “factory for turning topsoil into tobacco”.

Combined with intensive tillage, such farming practices led to widespread degradation and erosion of soils in the Eastern colonies.  British lawyer and geologist Charles Lyell, toured the South during this period, commenting that the colonialist had “assaulted the twin evils of soil erosion and exhaustion.” Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington warned of the degradation of soil during this period.  Patrick Henry , the American Revolutionary, seeing erosion as a major threat to the democratic experiment, stated that “Since the achievement of our independence, he is the greatest patriot who stops the most gullies”, beguiling farmers to stop erosion by filling in gullies that had formed from water erosion.

More than the commonly taught notion of “manifest destiny”, it was increasing pressure for good agricultural land spurred the movement of settlers from Eastern states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia to immigrate westward to Knox county.

In 1806, John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman traveled through Mount Vernon casting the a vote in the town’s first election.  Knox county, named after General Henry Knox, was established in 1808.  By 1825, many of the Indians had died from disease, been killed, or forcibly removed from Knox County.  By 1842 they were almost entirely pushed out of the area.


By H. S. Knapp – A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. (1862), Public Domain,

In 1824 Kenyon College was founded by Philander Chase named after James Gambier.  Chase had decided that the college needed to be farm from the “vice and dissipation of urban life”.


By, Public Domain,

To quote Kenyon College historian Tom Stamp ’73, “According to several sources, Chase first investigated the wooded hill on Sunday, July 24, 1825, in the company of Henry Curtis (whose wife’s uncle owned the property) after Chase had preached to Curtis and his fellow parishioners at Mount Vernon’s newly formed Episcopal church, the one we now know as St. Paul’s. Chase and Curtis tied their horses at the bottom of the hill – contrary to the content of the otherwise worthy mural by Kenyon professor Norris Rahming in the Gambier Post Office. They made their way through thick undergrowth to the summit.  There, Chase was able to stand on the trunk of a fallen tree, one of many that had been knocked down sometime earlier by a windstorm, and see the long, relatively flat plain at the top of the hill. After barely a moment’s hesitation, he made the famous declaration, “This will do.”


After purchasing the land from Elizabeth Hogg Curtis’s uncle, William Hogg, Chase and his students began clearing the land of both fallen and standing trees. The song “Philander Chase,” a ditty with words by College historian George Franklin Smythe that’s known to every Kenyon man and woman, informs us that, among other labors, the founder “dug up stones, he chopped down trees” and then repeats “chopped down trees” for emphasis.

“Furthermore, the grounds were in a state of disarray, with piles of discarded building materials scattered about, untidy woodpiles adjacent to College buildings and faculty members’ homes, and livestock ranging freely throughout the area. The last of these was especially problematic, because every effort at beautifying the campus by planting bushes or trees had been thwarted by what historian Smythe colorfully labeled “the investigating snouts of roving swine.”

Hatcheries in Ohio to buy chicks

The following list includes hatcheries in (or at least near) Ohio.

Ridgeway Hatcheries LaRue, Ohio offers a variety of hatched poultry including White Pekin, Rouen, Mallard, Indian Runner, Muscovy, Blue Swedish, White Chinese, Bantams, White Leghorns, Pheasants, Quail and more.  Their contact information is 615 N High St., Box 306 – LaRue, Ohio 43332-0306.  740.499.2163.

Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio offer a variety of hatched poultry. Their contact information is 626 OH-89, Polk, OH 44866.

Murray Mcmurry Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa boast of being “The World’s rare breed poultry headquarters.”  P.O. Box 458, 191 Closz Drive, Webster City, Iowa 50595.  515-832-3280.


A visit from the vet about our chickens

We currently have approximately 83 hens of various types and ages along with two roosters.  Our flock was recently infected with scaly-leg mite.  We had been treating with a combination of pyrethrin, warm water baths, and Vaseline application to their legs.  Additionally, we have been noticing rather low egg production levels: sometimes as few as 6 to 15 eggs per day during the month of November.  While we expected production to dip with colder weather, getting as few as 6 eggs per day from an 80 chicken flock is not encouraging especially when they are eating through around 25 pounds of feed a day or more at a cost of $7-8 per day.


Veterinarian Dr. Robert Krueger (aka Dr. Rob) of the Mount Vernon Animal Hospital visited the farm on 11-29-2016 came out to evaluate our chicken flock.

First and foremost, Dr. Rob said that the age of our flock was the key contributor to overall poor flock health, low egg production, and high cost of maintenance (both for treatment and feed). While industrial producers cull hens at the age of 12 to 16 months in general, he said that heritage birds not under as much production pressure could live up to 2 years of age, but probably not much longer than that.  There are several benefits to early culling, principally, an overall healthier flock with a better collective immune system and much better egg production.  A side benefit is that culling of chickens while they are still healthy and relatively young is that you can enjoy the meat.  In other words, they feed twice.  Old chicken’s meat is tough, undesirable, and when recently medicated, unusable which means there is unnecessary waste occurring.

Roosters are fairly similar.  They reach the height of their reproductive capabilities around a little less than a year.  After two years, they’re ability to fertilizer eggs diminishes exponentially.  While rooster over two years of age might be still good for protecting the flock they are not good for maintaining by creating fertilized eggs for incubation.

In terms of the mites, Dr. Rob advised that pyrethrin and pyrethroids are not very effective at killing mites and generally waste of money and time.

Cycle of scaly-leg mites is 7-12 days meaning a new brood of mites are hatched from their eggs every week or so.  Many treatments including suffocation (e.g. application of Vaseline or mineral oil to legs), pyrethrins, and general insecticides such as Ivermectin do not kill eggs so multiple applications of chosen treatments should occur around every 7 to 10 days to kill newly hatched mites.

Dr. Rob said that Ivermectin is quite effective at killing various types of mites–in addition to being a general dewormer–and that it can be applied either orally (as drops) or injected.  He advised that injection is generally much easier. Ivermectin is very inexpensive for treating a small flock (labor is cost prohibitive in a commercial setting). Cost is about $0.10 per dose, but note that each bird requires 2-3 doses and the labor required for catching and treating birds makes it quite expensive apart from the actual cost of Ivermectin.

Mineral oil or castor oil in spray bottle recommended over use of Vaseline for ease of treatment.

Overall key recommendations from Dr. Rob:

  1. Decide What We Want to Be: We can either be a working farm that aims to maximize productivity while still practicing good animal husbandry and sustainability or we can be a “bird sanctuary”, but we can’t be both!  Introducing new birds into the existing flock that already has a heavy parasite load is not a good practice.
  2. Good record keeping: Knowing the age and past history of animals is critical to their care.  This includes banding chickens and recording production levels, illnesses, treatments, and so forth.
  3. Depopulate-Repopulate: The most effective way to control for scaly-leg mites and other pests and pathogens that might be in our flock is to cull the entire flock, re-locate the coop and start all over again either by incubating eggs from a healthy nearby flock or from purchasing hatchlings from a reputable source that can guarantee lineage and do routine testing for disease.
  4. Preventive Measures: Segregating flock from other wild and domestic birds (particularly in regard to avian influenza), better coop cleaning, use of diatomaceous earth in dust baths, and rotation of coop location.
  5. Put a ‘Culling Program’ in Place: Once we decide whether we want to be a production farm we need to come up with a systematic record keeping and culling program at which we cull the birds at a particular age.  Again, if this is done when the hens are fairly young (i.e. less than 2 years) the meat from the ‘stewing hens’ will be a nice secondary benefit instead of letting it go to waste

Other notes from the vet:

Older hens need more calcium–suffer from osteoporosis the same way humans do.  One sign of this is softened eggs which are more prone to toe pokes.

Double yolks are sign of over stimulation (either by light or by nutritionally dense food).

Dr. Rob recommended visiting a commercial barn.  Even if this isn’t the type of ‘mass production’ we want to model at the Kenyon Farm, it may still be a highly valuable learning experience from which we can gather better insight to better taking care of our flock.

Lighting of 12-14 hours will maximize production.  Inflorescent lights are acceptable (though LED preferable for energy conservation) and should be turned on from 6:30-9 am and again from 4:30 to 9 pm.  Lights should not be left on during the day as this may encourage hens to stay in the coop.

Weed management at the Farm

Awake! arise! the hour is late!
Angels are knocking at thy door!
They are in haste and cannot wait,
And once departed come no more.
Awake! arise! the athlete’s arm
Loses its strength by too much rest;
The fallow land, the untilled farm
Produces only weeds at best.
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

New farmers often don’t recognize the importance of weed management, or, in the case of many young sustainably minded farmers, think that “they are natural and therefore we should let them simply grow”.  The truth is that weeds can make or break a new farm especially one that has decided not to use herbicides for crop protection.  Anyone who has had to battle Canada thistle–even in a small garden patch–knows how much time and energy it can take to deal with it.  Conversely, a clean weed free stand can yield bounties.

Understanding a bit about weeds, identification, biology, and reproduction can go a long way in implementing a smart, environmentally sound weed management plan.

What is a weed?

A weed is simply a plant that is out of place.  The dictionary defines it as “a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.”  Who decides if a plant is out of place? People.  Thus, what determines a weed or not is a bit subjective and certainly anthropocentric, nevertheless, managing and controlling weeds is an essential task for the would be farmer.

The Kenyon Farm has, unfortunately, become engulfed in opportunistic weeds: mare’s tale, dock, thistle, golden road, quack grass, cheat grass, giant ragweed, and pigweed among others.  They are particularly bad around the fence line where they have found a safe place from the mower and a well built trellis to boot.


Summer 2016 at the farm.  Hard to grow crops in coditions like these!


Weeds along fence line–difficult to move and ultimately threaten the longevity of the fence.  We choose to use a string weed eater to mechanically remove these weeds.


Weeds prior to mowing.  Notice the thistle infestation–often usually a single thistle can produce a large number of above ground “plants” which are infact one individual with a vast network of rhizomes.  Mowing alone won’t eradicate this weed!


At this time the farm’s only mowing equipment is a walk-behind DR Field and Brush Mower.  While it’s a fairly robust 10.5 HP piece of equipment for a walk behind, it’s a bit on the inefficient side.  Then again walking is a enjoyable and healthy activity.


Field after mowing and weed eating around fence lines.  Yes, the fence does need a bit of mending…


Sun going down on the farm.  Time to rest and settle in for the winter!

Annuals vs. Perennials

One of the biggest distinction between weeds are annuals versus perennials.  Annuals, such as lambsquarter, black medic, purselane and spurge, invest their photosynthetic earnings in seeds which are dispersed to create a new generation of offspring each year while perennials, such as nutsedge, ground ivy, and buckhorn plantain, use their energy to spread and store energy in their root systems so they can overwinter and return the following warm season.

Good Weeds vs. Bad Weeds

Some weeds are highly noxious while others are rather innocuous.  Purple dead nettle and white clover for instance don’t pose too much risk and infact may actually provide some benefit in the way of biomass and, in the case of clover, some nitorgen input.  Mile-a-minute vine and canada thistle, on the other hand, are horribly difficult to eradicate and can greatly diminish productivity if allowed to spread unabated.

Soil Seed Bank

A “Weed Seed Bank” is a way of thinking about the seeds and other vegetative propagules (e.g. rhizomes, tubers, and bulbs) that are present in the soil.  Deposit are made when weed seeds uncontrolled and allowed to reproduce.  Withdrawls are made when seeds and other propagules are eliminated.  Unfortunately making a withdrawal is a lot more difficult than making a deposit.

A single lambsquarter plant can produce 30,000 to 500,000 seeds.  Most of the seeds will probably not lead to a viable plant–many will be consumed, decompose, or simply not find a viable place to germinate.  For the sake of argument, consider what would happen if only 0.1% do germinate and go on to produce a viable seedling, we would be looking at 30-500 plants the following season from one individual plant!  And because lambquarters can survive for up to 40 years, the seeds can build up in the soil waiting until the conditions for germination are right.

One study in Nebraska found that 5 years of intensive weed control decreased the weed seed bank by 5%, but a single year without proper weed control led to a 90% increase.  Wow!  That’s why preventing deposits is the real key!

Table 1. Years Required for a Reduction in the Weed Seed Bank (From PSU)
Weed Species 50% reduction 99% reduction
Common Lambsquarter
(Chenopodium album)
12 78
Field Pennycress
(Thlaspi arvense)
6 38
Giant Foxtail
(Setaria faberi)
>1 5
Prostrate Knotweed
(Polygonum aviculare)
4 30
Yellow Foxtail
(Setaria glauca)
5 30

Common Weeds around the Farm

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense): an herbacious creeping perennial that can be accidentally spread through tillage as their roots (or rhizomes) easily bud from nodes even when chopped into rather fine pieces.  Oregon State University recommends tilling every three weeks for the entire growing season (or if using herbicides to spray clopyralid [trade names Stinger or Lontrel] shortly after emergence).

SI Exif

Marestail (Erigeron canadensis): also known as horseweed, an annual with sleder leaves resembling a horse’s tail (hence the common name).  In Ohio, this is considered a noxious weed as it has developed a tolerance to herbicides containing the active ingridient glyphosate (aka roundup).


Pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri): several different varieties of pigweed or amaranth including Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and redroot pigweed are problematic in Ohio.  Like marestale, Palmer amarthan has developed a resistence to glyphosate and is spreading (mainly in soybean fields in Southern Ohio) across Ohio.  Ohio State University fact sheet on identifying pigweed.


Quackgrass (Elymus repens): Also known as couch grass, a perennial grass with creeping rhizomes that allows it to spread quickly across fields and passtures.  According to OSU, a “single quackgrass rhizome node can produce 14 rhizomes with a total length of 458 feet in one year.”




Weeds of the Northeast by Richard Uva, Joseph Neal and Joseph DiTomaso

Creating a Weed Management Plan for Your Organic Farm by Penn State Extension

Ohio State University Weed Management website