November 13 and 20, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden photographed on November 14, last Tuesday.

The usual garden view on a Sunday afternoon. November 19

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Buff on a bough. A Buff Orpington hen.

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The usual garden view on a Sunday afternoon. November 19

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A clutch of cats and kittens. We should have a count the cats contest. The first to call in the correct answer might get a prize of two cats with the second call in getting one.

Last week was one of the rare weeks in which I was unable to get the weekly blog posted. There has been a problem loading photos from the WordPress media library on to the blog. I have no idea what is wrong.

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A fine looking Ameracauna rooster. There are 5 of these guys and each looks a little different from the other. This here is ‘Blackbeard’, for obvious reasons.

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Buff on a bough. A Buff Orpington hen.

The previous week we had to harvest all that we could of what remained in the garden and which would be damaged by freezing. This was mainly potato, gladiola, cabbage and radicchio, and then we had to make space to store it in the basement along with onions and garlic. That was a whole day affair and there were still potatoes in the ground. This week we did get more dug and there are not many left. Perhaps a morning’s work will see them all out.

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Nell and Marta again, in about the same spot as last week’s photo

We are still bringing in firewood to the woodshed and there is more that needs to be cut to length and split. We have brought a lot wood cut to stove length into the wood shed. Some of it is ready to burn but more has to be split into smaller pieces and then stacked. this of course should have been done in the middle of summer. We can split in the woodshed so the important thing is to get it all stacked inside and split when we can. We still need to get a lot of other things done before freeze up and those things are progressing slowly. Compost is regularly spread on the garden, one or two wheelbarrow loads each day. Straw mulch is being spread nearly every day. The chicken houses are still not fully winterized.

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The six beds of garlic are under the straw mulch in the upper left and the long dark bands are beds covered in compost and ready for marking. The bed on the right side of the garlic beds is prepped for the spring planting and half covered with straw.

This week we worked on getting the last of the potatoes out of the ground and are all but finished doing that. We have finished putting the straw mulch on to the garlic so no more to do there until spring when we will have to closely watch for any difficulty with the new green shoots coming up through the straw. We may have to pull the straw back from the emerging garlic until it is all up and then push it back around the plants.

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The straw covered garlic beds sleeping ’til spring with a half row of a bed prepped for the spring planting of onions.

The animals are all well. Chickens, ducks, peafowl, pigeons, opossum, cats, dog, sheep, cattle, horses ! A lot of our day is spent tending to poultry and the others.

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Leucan just spotted the cats playing around in the far corner of his field.

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November 6, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden photographed on Tuesday and posted today, Wednesday

Another fine wet week as we go slowly but steadily down the thermometer towards winter.  The temperatures have actually been quite good mostly and that has allowed us to get work done even though it is sometimes wet. Still cabbages and Kale growing in the garden though, with temperatures forecast to drop to, we may have to gather up all the cabbage. We still have potatoes in the ground that need to be dug. But we do have most of it out.

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The garlic beds covered with rye straw mulch except for about a quarter top left in the photo

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Another view of the garlic beds.

The garlic has now all been planted into the ground.  The procedure was to clear the ground of everything then to spread a good layer of compost down each 3 foot wide bed. There are 7 beds for the garlic, each 122 feet long. Aerron would then strike three rows in each bed with the  moldboard plow attachment on the wheel hoe. This made a nice deep, about 2 inches deep, furrow and this plowing also incorporated most of the compost into the soil. The individual garlic cloves were planted into the groove at a spacing of about 3 inches.  The groove and the garlic were covered in soil and leaves spread thinly on the beds. We then spread a thick layer of rye straw mulch on the leaves and garlic beds and the walking row in between each bed. The leaf and straw spreading was about 3/4 completed as of Sunday evening. We are now readying another area, next to the garlic, for next spring’s planting of onions, leeks and broad beans. Here a layer of compost will be spread on the beds, rows struck with the wheel hoe plow and leaves and straw mulch spread. Planting here will be done in the spring after the straw is pulled back to expose the grooves.  The area for the corn and the various squashes, cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins and vines will be done somewhat similarly and hopefully we can do it before the ground freezes. This should save us a lot of time in the spring and have the straw mulch nicely set by snow and rain.

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The two chicken huts for the new special chickens. Fully wrapped and ready for winter.

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Blue Cochin Rooster. A magnificent feather footed chicken.

We also need to winterize the poultry houses to keep the ducks and chickens comfortable over winter. This mostly means wrapping in plastic and fixing any leaks so as to also keep it dry. The chickens and ducks are doing fine. The egg laying rate continues a slow decline as is expected with older hens. The hens hatched at the end of April have been laying eggs for about a month now and their rate of lay continues to slowly increase and the eggs size is also slowly increasing. These young hens are called pullets and their eggs pullet eggs. Pullet eggs are of generally higher quality as they have fewer defects such as blood spots or misshapen and weak shells. The interior is better with firmer yolk and firmer and clearer whites. Their drawback is that they are smaller. All of our young birds are heritage breeds. They are uncommon mostly and some are not excellent layers though some are. The size and colour of these eggs is quite varied; from blues to off whites varied hues of browns, terra cotta, speckled browns and quite dark browns.  These birds should all be better than the high laying hybrids under small farm, free range conditions, and do well on whole grains such as wheat, oats and weed seeds. Some of them will make good roasting fowl as well.

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Nell and Marta are finishing up their hay from the night before.

The horses and cows have their winter coats on now and are mostly eating hay as the pastures have been left for the sheep to pick over.  They are all just fine at being outside in the harshest of winters. They like to have a bit of shelter out of the wind but it can still be open, they don’t really need a roof. The biggest problem for us is with their water buckets getting frozen over so we have to be careful to water more frequently and not leave water in buckets overnight. It works well until we forget to empty a full bucket and find it frozen solid in the morning.

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October 30, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view. Cool, windy, but not raining and no snow in the near term forecast.

Last week was the last week for the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) vegetable pickups here at the farm. We had run 17 weeks of pickups though we had hoped to have done 20 weeks. We really could not do any more pickups now, the three missing weeks were due to a slow start in June. There are a few vegetables still in the garden, a good number of various cabbages, plenty of kale, small amount of potatoes and a small amount of radicchio and onions too. But that is all. We will have these, along with our duck and chicken eggs, available for purchase at our roadside stand. This is of course located at the western corner of our garden, right at the intersection of Greens Road with Robinson Road, at our daughter Heather’s driveway. Heather, Kevin and the girls have been selling a few vegetables and their and our eggs at this stand all year now.

Standing at the entrance to our driveway looking westwards along Robinson Road to the intersection with Greens Road, coming from the left, and the roadside stand, in Heather’s driveway a bit, at the far right.

The road side stand at upper right. A truck is turning on to Greens Road from Robinson Road.

The weather has not been too bad, cold of course and at times rainy but we have managed ok so far without getting really cold fingers. We have now managed to plant almost all the garlic. There is only about a full bed left to go, three 120 foot rows. Leaf mulch and then straw must now be put down and then we’ll be done that work and the garlic will be left alone until spring. We will monitor the sprouting garlic in the spring and pull back the straw mulch if the new garlic shoots are having any difficulty in poking straight up.

The garlic beds. Each white stick is labeled and marks a different garlic variety. Two beds mulched with straw and three unmulched.

On Friday we had planned to do woodstove chimney cleaning. However the last of our straw and hay was delivered and that kept us busy the entire day. The hay and the straw is in the large round bales that we have to often move around by hand after the skid steer loader driver deposits them as close to their final destination as he can get them. This can be a bit of work as they are heavy, around 800 plus pounds or 800/2.2 kilograms, and as they have been sitting for about two months now, they have developed a flat spot where contacting the ground. There were 30 bales of hay, feed for our horses cows and sheep and 20 bales of rye straw though our friend Bill miller who delivered them, thinks that 11 of the bales could be barley straw. Will matter little to our purpose which it is, rye or barley, as both are satisfactory for bedding and litter for the mammalian critters as well as the feathered ones. Also every week or so I have to stuff fresh straw into the duck and chicken nesting boxes. Doing so reduces egg breakage and helps keep the eggs clean. Especially when it gets wet and muddy outside, though ducks are great at making mud from a small amount of water even in a drought.

Two of our eight Leghorn chickens sitting in the nesting boxes. An ISA hen just visible next row below.

So Saturday was flue cleaning day. So far this fall we have not had our woodstoves operating. Our only heat has been from the television and from cooking, so not much. Friday had been a nice dry day and at comfortable temperatures but Saturday was wet and a good bit cooler. Not ideal conditions for going up on the roof to unscrew the top section of chimney in order to lower a rope and pull up a wire brush flue cleaner. But it was not too bad and two swipes of the wire brush were sufficient. The short section at the stove was cleaned likewise and after the soot was vacuumed and wiped up from walls, stove and floor and everything ascertained as being all buttoned up proper, the stove was finally lit at 2 in the afternoon for the first time. A small amount of paper at first to warm the flue and then a proper good fire was lit and the stove and the house warmed up nicely. The house and the yurt, after a quicker cleaning there, are now much more comfortable.

A blue runner duck in the typical pose as she strides from the feed box to the duck pond.

The chickens are still laying quite well, the sheep, cows and horses are still finding a small amount of grass to eat though cows and horses are now also eating a good ration of hay. We will next week winterize the hen houses by wrapping with plastic. Very difficult to avoid the use of plastic. It is so useful and so inexpensive and it dos a good job with little effort.

The team, Nell and Marta, our on a rapidly dwindling pasture nosing through last nights hay.

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OCTOBER 23, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view

Just a nice photo of a flock of pretty looking chickens.

A boy and his chickens. Gabriel is getting the chickens to eat out of his hands.

Another week of excellent weather. Short days make it less than perfect but then it is past mid October and only two rather light frosts. The warmth and dry this past week has allowed us to get a lot done though much more could have been done and far more needs to be done. We had some much welcomed help for which we are quite grateful, thanks Jay, and four rows of garlic were planted with a thin layer of leaves put down on top. A straw mulch was spread thickly, That took me two afternoons and one whole round bale of rye straw. More garlic has to be planted, we are about a quarter the way done as yet though a good amount has been ‘cracked’, that is to say the cloves in each head of garlic have been separated, broken apart from the head.

A bin half filled with garlic cloves ready for planting. Two uncracked heads in there.

Two beds, 6 rows of garlic, freshly covered with straw mulch and more beds to be planted into at the right. The implement on the right is a versatile item with changeable tools. At the moment it is set up with a mouldboard plow attachment which we use to make a nice deep groove to plant into. We set the garlic cloves into the grooves at about 3 inch spacing.

We spent an entire long day on Sunday replacing the cover on the green house attached to our house. This cover is a piece of 6 mil semi opaque plastic 20 foot by 26 and is cut from a 100 foot roll. We can usually get at least 4 years from a cover, sometimes longer, so long as we do a good job getting it well secured and tight with few opportunities to flap. We will use the remainder of the roll to cover our pick up shed. Before that we need to flip the shed’s ridge pole, straighten and brace the four posts that are now in the ground and put up the roof rafters. That is a considerable amount of work and to get it done before winter we need to get at it right now. We have done no work at all on firewood this week and very little for the previous two weeks. The woodshed has a good lot of wood inside but we do need about 3 to 4 times the amount that is now inside in order to have enough to see us through the winter.

Inside the greenhouse attached to our house with the new cover on the rafters

Three just dug potatoe plants. There are a good number of tubers of pretty good size on each plant. These are the variety ‘Chieftain’.

Our 2017 season CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) will end with this week’s pickups and that will allow us a lot more time and flexibility. We had a 17 week long season but we’d hoped for at least 20 weeks. We had a slow start, then the summer was cool and wet. This was just fine for many things, not so good for many others. Tomatoes for instance grew nearly as well as ever but fruiting was much delayed and it was near the end of August before we had any ripe tomatoes. It was about then that the blights hit so the tomatoes were decimated with even green fruits almost completely damaged by blight. The blight also affected the potatoes killing off much of the tops before most of the crop had fully matured. Fortunately the potatoes had enough time to produce good sized tubers in reasonable numbers. The season was saved at the end of August with the weather turning unseasonably warm and also it was dry. So many veggies that had been delayed were able to mature and give us at least some thing to harvest.

The September 12 pickup table.

The August 10 CSA pickup table.

 

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October 16, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden. A very cool but sunny day.

The weather has been quite good for us as it has been reasonably warm and we’ve had a good amount of rain. We still have some things growing and in need of warmth and rain; beets, leeks, Swiss Chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and more. But the wet weather this past week has made things a bit difficult in that we get quite muddy digging out the potatoes and the last of the onions. Very muddy when we are out there in the garden digging in a steady rain. We are running out of time to get things done before winter is here. We have a lot of work to do to repair and to finish the various structures, we need to get more of the garden ready for spring, and that is vital to getting a real good start in April and we still need to get more wood into the woodshed.

Brussels Sprouts with two types of Kale in the background

Radiccio in various sizes, some loose, some heads and two colours but most green.

We’ll likely do two more weeks of CSA vegetables before closing down for the season. But then we’ll still be very busy preparing for the rapidly approaching winter and getting things ready for spring. We are preparing beds and rows which will be planted in the spring by tilling them now, making a furrow for seeding or transplanting and then covering the rows and the walking area with a thick layer of straw mulch. We are continuing to split and pile firewood in our woodshed and already have about 4 full cords (4 x 4 x 8 feet) of wood stacked in the woodshed. Our firewood is cut into lengths of about 12 to 15 inches.

This area of the garden has been spread with compost. We’ll make furrows in the ground, plant garlic at about 3 inch spacing and cover thickly with straw mulch

The woodshed, stacked and some just randomly piled.

We thought that we would be getting more bales of hay and possibly straw on Friday but our hay delivery man did not show up and have not heard what happened. He’ll be here before long though with 30 bales of hay and about 30 bales of rye straw. The hay is coming from Macland Farms on Bethel Road and the straw from Edgar’s farm on Rest Acres Road. The hay is winter feed for sheep, cows and horses and maybe a bit for chickens while the straw is mostly for the garden as mulch with some going for bedding for cows and sheep (cows will eat most of it) and also a good bit for the chickens.

The potatoes are out of this spot and more straw, foreground, will be spread thickly over the rows for next season’s crop.

 

 

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October 9, 2017 FARM NEWS


Marie horse almost exactly two years ago. She was about 28 years old at the time.

This is Marie in October 2015 with the 4 month old colt Leucan.

One of our loved work horses died this past week.  Our Belgian Mare ‘Marie’ was about 30 years old. She had been quite thin and we’d started giving her a small amount of oats each day to try to get more weight on her to help see her through the winter. We found her in a shallow small valley lodged up against a large honeysuckle bush. She had likely been there all night and in her weakened condition could not get up from her awkward position. She had gone through the fence to get there. The horses never do that, really no idea why she did so this time except to think that her doing so was a result of her deteriorating condition and she knew that she was going.

Marie with the younger team of Nell (Leucan’s mother) and Nell’s sister Marta.

We acquired ‘Marie’ in 2000 after one of our original team, ‘Popeye’, died suddenly. She was a good horse in that she was quiet and well behaved, standing well when needed. She had her quirks. She had sensitive feet and when we ran the team on the road she could come up lame after a few days. The other horse, her team mate Wimpy would be fine. She would attempt to get relief by running on the gravelled edge of the road but this was not a good place to run a wagon fully overloaded with hay. She would also try to shirk the load on the downhills when the horses job, without brakes on the wagon, was to hold back the load, and the load would be held by the britchen straps across the horses butt. They could be holding the wagon and load totalling about 4500 pounds on about a 30% grade so this would not be the occasion to do funny things or for something to break. Nothing ever broke. But her team mate would know what she was up to and would reach over and bite at her giving us perched some ten feet up on a pile of hay, or on the front of those big round bales some tense moments trying to prevent disaster. No disaster happened. Same thing when backing a load into the barn because backing was like holding the load on a hill. She’d give us a hard time. ‘Marie’ had been retired for about four years now. She was Leucan’s pasture companion and he is still often standing watching over where she died and where she has been buried.

On the single row team cultivator in June of 2012 with teammate Wimpy on the far side. Aerron driving.

The Marie horse will be missed but remembered with fondness as with our house cat, Buffy, who mostly lived outdoors. He disappeared about a week ago without a trace, likely the victim of a coyote or an owl attack. Then a new litter of kittens was discovered a few days after with a single buffy lookalike there. Things happen!

Our house cat Buffy in July

Still a few weeks left in the garden and we are still quite dry. The recent rains have been but slight and the ground is quite dry right through the top soil into the sand a couple of feet down. The unusual warmth has been welcomed and we are getting things done. The garlic planting will begin this week. Mulching of the garden which will be in place in the spring will continue. Packing the woodshed continues.

The woodshed as of last week. A good amount of wood in here but we’d like to see at least 4 times this amount in before the snow flies.

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October 1, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view very early on this first Monday in October and a cool 5 degrees C it was.

Happy October and we seem to have gotten a frost early Sunday morning, with the temperature down to just above zero. The sweet peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, some tomatillos and of course the tender basil were all badly affected. We think that the fruits will still be ok as it was not a very hard frost and some small areas were unaffected.

The frost was on the pumpkins on the weekend and though not good for them it was far, far worse for the zucchini plants to the left. They are completely finished off now.

We have been irrigating regularly still but as we’ve noted before, it is difficult to get enough water to the garden. This is why it is so important for us to improve  the soil, to get organic matter in for both water retention and for fertility and why we need to put straw mulch down all through out the garden. The straw mulch works well to suppress weeds, to retain moisture and eventually, as it decomposes, to improve the soil quality. Wherever we use it the improvement is obviously noticeable.  It is some what time consuming as we do it but it saves time in the longer run. And those bales of straw must be paid for but again the results are well worth the price.

Looking down the rows of Swiss Chard and a sprinkler head watering away at the other end. A few beets to the right are also getting that water.

Looking down the cabbage rows from the well straw mulched eastern end.

The other nice thing about straw mulch is that we will be putting it down in most of the garden in the fall on mostly prepared seed beds so that come spring we will either just plant through the mulch or pull the mulch back, only as far as needed, seed or transplant, and then push the mulch back in place. This saves most of the preparation time and effort in the spring allowing for much faster planting and time in the spring is always very tight.

Looking down from the western end of the garden with the cabbages way over to the far right and in the fore the kale and the Chinese cabbage which two are not mulched yet.

We have again this week split a lot of firewood for the winter and have gotten it stacked in the woodshed. There is a lot more to go but we’ve made a significant dent in the piles and are well on our way to having the entire winter’s supply stored away in a nice dry place.

The duckies and in behind them a flock of laying hens and one rooster which is the blob to the left. A fine day for the ducks and chickens and generally fine weather for them for the past several weeks.

All the animals are doing well. The ducks continue to lay a few more eggs and the chickens are holding steady at a good though somewhat short of excellent rate. The newer chickens, those hatched at the end of April are just now starting to lay a very small number of eggs and sometimes it is only one a day.

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