Before I was the apron wearing permaculture chicken ninja master, I was a pro mountainboarder.
Don’t believe me? Check out the “height” of my career in this 1-minute Full Throttle Commercial:
Ok, so I’ve always been a dare devil.
These days I’m challenging myself to grow more and more of my food in a sustainable way.
Everyone who wants to grow something struggles with time, money, energy and limited space.
So what happens if we dared ourselves to grow as much as possible in 100 days?
The “100 Days of Growing Food” Challenge is what happens.
As I write, I’m 74 Days into the challenge, and I’m pleasantly surprised at what’s been possible.
Here’s a quick overview of what’s possible.
If you’d like me to email you when I post a new video, join my email list here.
Ok, on to the stories…
We Grew A Year’s Worth of Chicken in 51 Days.
“They” swore they’d never raise Cornish Cross Meat Chickens again.
I heard so many nightmare stories about this crazy hybrid meat bird; I shied away for years.
They said they had heart attacks…
They said their chickens got so fat they couldn’t walk around.
They said their chickens got so hot they wouldn’t even get up for water (and died).
Well… I learned that “they” were wrong.
Or, at least something went amiss in their management.
Finally, after seeing the success of Joel Salatin himself (decades of success), a lady named Jay on the permies.com and my friend Jonathan I thought I should give it a go myself.
After all, it’s hard to resist double the meat in half the time on the same amount of food (compared to traditional chickens).
For more of why the Cornish Cross are so “weird”, why I shied away for so long and why I decided to (finally) give them a chance, check out my article, “Why I’m Giving The Very Unpermaculture-ish Cornish Cross A Chance”.
I’m glad I did because we were able to put a year’s worth of chicken in our fridge in just 51 days.
I decided to kick off my “100 Days of Growing Food” when my batch of Cornish Cross arrived.
We were expecting them May 4th, but they arrived on the 3rd:
I Wasn’t Ready For These 75 Chicks….
The Stunts of My Early Success
- I made sure they had plenty of heat in their broody
- I gave them about 12” of fresh bedding (pine shavings)
- I kept their water clean by setting it up on a “dirt” trap
- I cut and carried fresh grass into their brooder everyday
- I made sure they had plenty of rooster teeth (small grit in the form of creek sand).
- I gave them magic water for the 1st week of their lives (1/2 gallon warm water, 1/2 cup honey, two cloves garlic crushed, two tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar).
- I also gave them fermented feed for the 1st week of their lives. This and the magic water helped boost their immune system and created a strong, healthy foundation.
- After five days I began to ration their feed and only let them access food 12 hours a day.
The next big move was when we graduated them to pasture…
Moving them one to two times a day also helped keep them healthy and on fresh ground.
And, early evening I would prop up the pastured poultry pen and let them completely free range.
Now, I wasn’t without my problems…
There was the time My Cornish Cross Escaped…
And, that other time a Snake Ate My Chicken Alive…
But, other than that the adventure went pretty smoothly and We Butchered A years worth of Chicken (In One Morning)…
“They” Also Said Half My Turkey’s Would Die
Turkey’s are another thing we’ve always wanted do, but just hadn’t gotten round to it.
This year was the exception.
I figured, “What the heck, I’m the bird man. I’ve just gotta have turkey’s”.
But…. the guy at the feed store warned, “be prepared to loose half of the turkey poults.”
I had heard that before, so I ordered a bunch (like 12).
Even the breeder from the Sustainable Poultry Network where we picked them up said I could plan on about a 25% failure rate.
Check it out, here’s the day we picked up our 1st turkeys…
How many died?
I ordered 12 but got 14.
So if one died, that’s less than a 10% failure rate (.7%).
Granted, Turkey’s are way more fragile, so I implemented the following tactics:
- Kept them in our hallway inside and kept a red heat lamp on them 24/7 for the 1st four weeks.
- I also gave them magic water and fermented food for the 1st four weeks.
- I added a bit of fresh bedding each day.
- I keep their water and feed elevated so they wouldn’t manure it in.
- Once they started to roost on the water I put a protective plate over the top.
- At around five weeks I put them outside during the date in a floorless cage with a shade cloth for a roof allowing them fresh air and green grass.
- Around the seventh week, I moved them outside to pasture and kept them in their coop for a day and a half to orient them to their new home.
- Now, they’re out free ranging every day inside of an electric poultry net.
Here, me and My Men In Training Set up the Pastured Turkey System…
Then, we moved the Turkey’s to their New Coop On Pasture…
And, finally, we let the Turkey’s out to free range for the 1st time…
Now, the Turkey’s are out enjoying the grass as we speak.
They’ll be ready for harvest by Thanksgiving.
“They” Also said Guineas Would Be A Pain in the Butt
And… They were right.
We actually went to a chick sale to get some chickens but came home with guineas…
We got guineas to free range them to take down the ticks.
You see, I’ve got Lyme disease.
Here’s to hoping my kids won’t get it.
Guineas are supposed to be great free rangers. Meaning, they can live off the land, eat ticks and generally NOT eat the garden or scratch up any mulch.
We oriented those Guineas for six weeks by keeping them in their coop, so they’d know to come back there. Well, that didn’t work. They roosted in trees and one by one got, got. Until there were two left.
I think fiasco’s like this always work better with the camera, so I shot some vlogs about it…
The Day we let them out to free-range…
The very Next Day the Guineas Got on our Roof (and I followed them there)…
And, finally, we had a great time chasing the Guineas (that didn’t get gone by predators). Even Willow, our family cow got in on that action…
Pretty soon after all this the Guineas just flew into my main flock of chickens, and they’ve been there ever since, chasing around the up and coming chickens.
Yes, “they” were right with Guineas. They haven’t worked out like we hoped.
Pretty early on I started to Harvest All Kinds of Meals Out of My Yard
There was the time we collected Breakfast from the Yard…
Welcome to the (Garden) Jungle…
And, Most recently, Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner (From the Yard)…
You can now see the progress of my challenge week by week, in my Friday Farm Updates:
June 3rd – My Farm Is Jammin
June 10th – How’s My Farm Really Doing?
June 17th – Grandpa Built This Barn By Hand
June 24th – I grew all this in 50 days
July 1st – The harvest Has Just Begun
July 8th – Things Just Want to Grow
July 15th – Abundance Right Outside My Front Door
Now, it wasn’t all unicorns farting rainbows either…
My wife, “the beautiful One” literally saved our kitchen garden. If it were up to me, I would have pulled it all.
Something’s Wrong With My Garden…
Probably the strangest chicken kill I’ve ever seen was when I found a broody hen dead with her entire head and neck soaked.
What in the World Killed My Chicken…
Looking back, it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished in Just 74 days:
- Grew A years worth of Chicken (65 birds made it to harvest)
- Started 14 Turkeys
- Set a Mama Hen and hatched three chicks
- Planted two, 1,200 square foot crop garden
- Planted two batched of sweet potatoes
- Planted two bags of potatoes
- Planted a 1,200 square foot kitchen garden
- Ate wild weeds, fruit, and grape leave
- Collected dozens and dozens of eggs
- We’ve planted kale, collards, onions, squash, melons, tea, herbs, corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, sunflowers, cucumbers, and pumpkins.
How Much Space did this take-up?
The overwhelming majority of this food was grown on less than 1/2 acre.
How Much Time Did This take?
This could easily be done in less than 10 hours a week. An hour a day during the week and a longer project on the weekend.
My Final Challenge
Now, we’re coming down to the last few weeks, and I want to finish strong.
So, I’ve got another challenge within my 100 days of growing food challenge.
For the last 21 days (starting …… ) I’m only going to eat whatever I’ve grown on my land.
Now, I know that “ONLY” is a strong word. I do believe I’ll make the exception for salt, pepper, spices, dairy supplements (like cream in my peppermint tea from the garden), honey, condiments and the like.
The point will be to show myself, my family and all my fans what’s really possible in a short amount of time on a little bit of land.
Follow the rest of My Journey
Follow me on the rest of the journey through my Youtube Channel or Subscribe to my personalized daily email notifications to know when I’ve published the video for the day.