We started our day at one of the kids’ favorite spots on the farm–the chicken coops! One of the things that the kids would learn later during their visit to the composting area was that the chickens serve many purposes on the farm aside from the gorgeous eggs they lay each day. But for the time being, collecting eggs was the focus. They filled their baskets quickly, some of them more tentative than others. Some of the hens can be quick to peck at hands that are trying to reach beneath them for the eggs that lie in the cozy, sawdust-filled nesting boxes, while others languish comfortably waiting to be relived of the pile under their feathers. And then there are the more accessible chicken-free nesting boxes that are full of eggs–light brown, darker brown, pale blue, pale green, creamy white–and the kids like to gather those the most! The farm’s free-range hens produce eggs of a variety of hues because they forage for food in the orchard and the color of the eggs shows their varied diet.
After a good time spent in the hen house we headed back up to our picnic tables where the kids created watercolor butterflies for mobiles they would create later. We gathered fallen sticks from the orchard’s apple trees on our way back from the chickens to use to hang the butterflies when they were dry.
When the art project was complete we were joined by the farm’s proprietor, Josh Morgentheau for a mini-lesson about good bugs and bad bugs before heading out into the orchard for some hunting. Josh truly loves what he is doing and his passion for the farm, its ecology and its mission is palpable. He speaks with conviction about his practices and about his own growth as a new farmer. He is also an excellent teacher, and while I spent time among the queen anne’s lace, butterfly weed and mugwort with the children catching whatever we could, Josh fielded questions from parents with an impressive depth of knowledge. The children were thrilled to find various larvae snuggled on the undersides of apple tree-leaves, to pick ladybugs from the meadow grasses, to chase the monarchs and to catch the grasshoppers that sprang up from all directions.
We then hiked over to the composting area where the kids were fascinated by the garbage that would soon become the farm’s “black gold.” It was there that they learned that the farm’s hens not only eat the compost, but contribute to the soil in their own way–chicken poop makes great fertilizer!
The day ended with the kids assembling their butterfly creations on the patio with some apple cider donuts to help them along.