Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Coldest Day In Petén

God has blessed me with a great gringa friend over the last year. Her name is Holly! Holly and Benj live in our current town and serve with the Mennonite mission. My boys have become great friends with their 3 kids. I am very thankful for this family! 
{A couple of weeks ago at Holly's daughter Sue's birthday party}
Jimmy and Benj just recently started working on a trial project for the institute together. Holly and Benj have some farm land in our town and agreed to try out the institute's first 2 chicken tractors. It is very convenient for us to have the chickens so close to be able to monitor themeach day. We still live about 40 minutes away from the institute (we will move in Dec probably) so this saves Jimmy gas on the days he isn't in San Pancho.
This chicken tractor is based on Joel Salatin's. It has been adapted slightly for Petén. 

After Jimmy and Benj got the first one built Holly and I brought all the kids to fill it with baby chicks! 
There are 2 unfortunate things that happened. First, Jimmy and Benj had it right next to a live electric fence. We had to walk in high grass on a rocky uneven path right next to it with 6 children to get there! (Only one person got zapped... and it wasn't a kid!)
{Electric fence}
The second unfortunate thing is that as soon as we arrived it started pouring down rain. Petén is hot... always hot. You get muggy rain sometimes or a little breeze that makes your sweat feel nice, but it is ALWAYS hot. Well that day was freezing. It was like there was icy rain coming down on top of us.
{Eden and me, in the rain}
 Probably not bad for people use to cold, but for people acclimated to the Petén, we were shivering! 
Jonah's little teeth were chattering! What we were worried about though, was the baby chicks. 
Thankfully they had put the coup down before it started raining, so the grass under the roofed part was still dry. 
Holly let us put 2 of her hens in there to help keep them warm and to teach them to forage. 
The foraging part is important because it aerates and weeds the field. As you move the tractor each day it gives the birds fresh grass and allows them to be free range yet still contained. This gives you healthier chickens with a 30% less cost of feed. It also fertilizers your field to either help the trees/plants that are already there or prep it for a new crop. It also saves you from ever having to clean a chicken coup! I'm sure Jimmy or Joel could explain it better, but that's the gist. 
All of the chicks survived that first uncharacteristically cold night! 
4 ended up later being eaten by a rat, but Jimmy has since heightened the security, so it hasn't happened again. 
{My husband, the chicken farmer!}
This is the first of 2 chicken tractors that will be part of the trial. They will each hold about 50 chickens. Now is a good time, because they will be ready to sell by Christmas, when everyone will be shopping for them. Jimmy is also testing what type of chicken will work best and prove to be most profitable. 
{Farmer Silas}
 The boys love checking on the chickens with daddy! (When there's no freezing rain!)
{Farmer Jonah}
 This is very educational for them as well!
This will be one of the projects the students will learn while in school that they will be able to reproduce in their village to help provide for their family. 

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