Frith Farm

Friday, May 31, 2013

Chores & Carpentry Skills

This week has been a busy one, but oddly enough, the focus of our time and efforts hasn't been directed at our plants. 

One of the things that all three of us value about our apprenticeship at Frith has been the extremely varied opportunities we get, to learn, not just about growing plants, but about planning and building everything from Eggmobiles to broiler shelters. 

This week we were working on two bigger projects that have been looming over us for quite awhile it seems. 

Above you'll see Josh, constructing the frame for two additional broiler shelters that were needed to put our meat chickens out to pasture. This year we will ultimately be raising 500 broilers in all, and so now we have four shelters on pasture, each fitting 50 chickens. 

For me, constructing anything at all is a new experience as I was not brought up with many power tools and handsaws lying around. I'm quickly learning the difference between a socket wrench and a regular wrench, along with how to use a circular saw and Great Stuff! 

Above you'll see Will putting chicken wire along the perimeter of the broiler shelter with a staple gun. And below he's working on the walk-in cooler that is becoming more and more necessary with the 90ºF weather we've had the past two days. 

This walk-in will allow us the luxury of not waking up at 4:30am every Wednesday morning to harvest for the Portland market! When it's completed we'll be able to harvest on Tuesday evening and wake up like normal farm workers at 5:30am. 

And speaking of the early mornings, I wanted to shed a little light on the chores that Will, Josh and I are responsible for each work day. Every month we switch, so for the month of May, I was in charge of our laying chickens, Josh our meat chickens (also called broilers), and Will the pigs and sheep. 

Although this changes throughout the season, our chickens currently require the most time and energy to care for. 

The layers not only eat a lot of food, but the eggmobile must be moved weekly and then there's those eggs!

In case anyone is curious, this is what 164 eggs looks like. We get around that many each day, hand wash them, and put them into egg boxes with the Frith Farm logo. For an experienced egg washer (like myself, now that May is almost over!) this process takes roughly an hour and a half, beginning with collecting the eggs from the nest boxes, feeding and watering the chickens, then washing eggs and boxing them up. 

The other chickens now require special attention as well. Each broiler shelter must be moved twice a day to give the chickens fresh space to fertilize and new grubs to eat up! Moving a shelter of this size single-handed is an art in itself, but a perk of the job is that the broilers are located in a picturesque pasture a short bike ride down Ash Swamp Rd. 

Saturday is June 1st, meaning that all three of us will be switching up chores once again! The past few days have felt like summer has finally arrived to Maine, so it feels right that a summer month is about to begin. Enjoy the summer weather everyone!

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