Another Weekend in Review

Dateline: 2 May 2006

You can not reason with hens. They will not listen to you when you tell them that you do not want them scratching up newly-planted seeds in the garden. They ignore admonitions against pecking at salad greens and ripe tomatoes. And if that is not bad enough, they poop on the porch outside your front door.

Perhaps, in the culture of the hen, those disgusting blobs are a friendly little gift, and I should be honored. Well, I would be most honored if they did their business on the compost pile. But you can’t reason with hens. You can drive them away with a broom and spray water on them with a hose but they will return. I think they are that way because their brains are very, very small.

Don’t get me wrong, I happen to really like hens and that’s why I spent last weekend building my small flock a nice little fenced yard outside their house. We do this every year. They have had free run of our homestead since last fall but the growing season is upon us and the birds need to be corralled. So my son, James, and I spent a good part of Saturday working together to fence in a new yard.


I thought about getting electric poultry netting this year but it’s downright expensive. Besides that, I’m partial to wood-slatted snow fencing for the chicken yard. It’s a nostalgic thing for me. My grandfather (the man on the cover of This book) had a chicken yard made of snow fence. I happen to have some snow fencing that I’ve been using for several years. The nice thing about snow fence is that if a wood slat breaks, you can pull it out and insert a new one.

For fence posts, I use heavy duty T-posts. I’ve used and reused these posts for years. I space them 4ft apart and drive them into the ground with a sledge hammer.

We tie the fence to the post with short pieces of twisted wire. Laying out the yard, driving posts in place, tying the fence on, and replacing broken slats is something that a dad and his 11-year-old son can do together. And when it’s all done they can both stand back and admire the job, complete with a snow fence gate.


The next morning several hens had figured out how to fly over the fence. So we will snip the feathers off one of their wings. That throws them off balance—They don’t get much uplift on takeoff and they tend to veer off to the side. That’ll learn ‘em. You can’t reason with hens.

Saturday morning, before the kids got up, Marlene and I went up to my dad’s house (3 miles away) and got the bales of straw and hay that he put around the foundation for the winter months. They were wet and heavy. The straw bales will be used to mulch my garlic. The hay will be tossed into the new chicken yard over the next few weeks. The chickens will scratch it out and add their “little gifts.” Then, in the fall, I’ll fork the hay (and kitchen scraps and garden waste that gets tossed to the chickens) into a pile in the middle of the yard and let it compost.


To make room for the new chicken yard last weekend, James and I and his brother Robert teamed up to remove the remnants of a two-year-old compost pile.

I invented a nifty motorized compost sifter a few years ago. I shovel “raw” compost into one end and the sifter sifts it through a mesh of 1/2” hardware cloth. Rocks, sticks, string, kitchenware, small plastic toys and other unsiftable items in the compost self-eject out in a separate pile.

The sifted compost is absolutely beautiful and it is awesome good fertilizer. Much of it will be applied, along with some dried blood, to my garlic plants prior to mulching with the straw.

I am still developing aspects of the sifter design and hope to one day publish plans so others can make their own motorized compost sifters.


My son Robert worked Saturday afternoon picking rocks for a local farmer. That is something he has never done before. Last year he helped this same farmer put hay in the barn. He enjoyed the rock picking and will be doing more of it in the afternoons this week.


I gave my pastor a copy of my new book a week ago Sunday. When I walked into church last weekend, I noticed he was reading a portion of it to a couple of folks off to the side. Then he came over and, with a big smile, told me that if everyone who reads the book enjoys it as much as he did, it will be a best seller. He also said he wanted to give a copy to several people. That was really nice to hear.


This week I will start sending copies of the book to several different publications in hopes of getting it reviewed. And I’ll be sending it to some booksellers in hopes that they will pick it up. I welcome any suggestions from you who read this blog for publications, people and booksellers you know of that might have an interest in the book. (


I was contacted by an editor for a well-known Christian magazine requesting a review copy of Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. He said he is doing research on Christian agrarianism. I thought that was interesting. Like I’ve said before, this little movement is getting noticed.


prairiemomma said...

Chickens....gotta love um! We too have our own flock of about 35 and are planning on adding 50 more. Flock is too nice of a word sometimes....when they get out they are more like a herd. I love the idea for the composter! Look forward to reading instructions about that. Congrats on the book! It really is lovely!

Emily said...

Hi Herrick! I'm just reading through your posts from the past week. You always have such creative ideas. You and my husband would get along great! Dwayne built a sifter for our dirt heap out of that same material but his is manual. He expressed the desire to have something motorized. We'd love to see pictures of yours if you'd care to post or email them. It's hard work and slow-going by hand.

We're getting our first chicks in a couple of weeks and soon I'll have my own dumb old chicken stories to tell. We hope to modify a built-on shed on the barn to accomodate them at night with a chicken yard next to it for daytime fun. What exactly is snow fencing, and is it inexpensive? Any chance of getting a photo of your set-up?

I'm sorry I don't have any ideas off the cuff on whom to send your book to, but I'll be thinking on it. I do have to say that I am enjoying it tremendously and will be writing a blurb on my blog soon.

Hope you're enjoying this beautiful spring as much as I am. God bless you and your family! P.S. May I "borrow" Robert for the day? We have a lovely crop of rocks just ripe for the picking! :)