December 5, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning photo of the garden.  Snow is slowly melting.

The usual Monday morning photo of the garden. Snow is slowly melting.

We can again say that the weather for the week was pretty good for this time of year and we were once more able to get quite a bit done.  The only difficulty with the weather is that it has been quite wet and we would like to have things dry out  a little.  The firewood that is just out lying around is not getting dry and the ground has been too wet to work.  The soil sticks to the implement’s tools too much and makes a lot more work for the horses as well as not doing a proper job of it.  If it is too wet it won’t work at all and continuing on just makes a mess that costs much more time to fix up later.  Still we have pretty much cleaned up all the garden and laid compost and leaves on several garden beds.  We have plenty more beds to make up but if they are not done now we can spread compost through the winter and finish them in the spring.  As well, we will be able to spread a lot of straw mulch any time that the wind is not too strong and we will have gotten a head start on spring garden preparation by doing as much work as we can now, in the fall, and throughout the winter.

Greens in the snow, bok choi, loose leaf cabbage and rapini still in flower.

Greens in the snow, bok choi, loose leaf cabbage and rapini still in flower.

Three little lettuce still surviving even in the snow.

Three little lettuce still surviving even in the snow.

Meantime the kale and a few other things are growing still or at least are surviving.  It would be much better if we were to have it all growing under cover. That is not the case right now but is what we are planning for.

Three horse, three crows, and a snowy pasture.

Three horse, three crows, and a snowy pasture.

All the animals are well and benefiting from the rather pleasant November/December weather.  The sheep are roaming all the pastures pretty much going where they like and we let them roam so long as they don’t venture out of the pastures or go into the garden.  The cows are confined for the time being waiting for the ground to freeze.  Poor fences are the problem but what once that is fixed and the ground is solid and the sheep are on their proper overwintering pasture … we’ll have the cows out again.  The horses are doing just fine too and looking quite good in their winter coats.  The ducks and chickens are especially happy that it is not too cold.  The chickens are laying eggs at a good rate still and seem to be pretty comfortable in their houses.  Their doors have been opened each morning so the birds can all go outside but the doors are opened just enough for the hens to squeeze in and out so as to keep it a bit more comfortable inside.

A Marans rooster, two years old, fine looking comb and wattles, nice eye and a strong beak. Beautifully feathered as are all the Marans.

A Marans rooster, two years old, fine looking comb and wattles, nice eye and a strong beak. Beautifully feathered as are all the Marans.

The cow Tippy, an older Dairy Shorthorn, gave birth to a fine little bull calf early Sunday.  They are both doing just fine though Tippy is bursting with milk meaning that Aerron will be milking her out to relieve the pressure.  There will be plenty for the calf.  Tippy has been prone to getting mastitis so she has to be given extra care.  Photos of the new calf and Tippy for next week.

They are staying inside for now; 13 barred rock hens with a single Marans rooster, a single red silkie rooster, a single grey silkie rooster, a single rhode island red hen and a single Marans hen, the coppery black hen.

They are staying inside for now; 13 barred rock hens with a single Marans rooster, a single red silkie rooster, a single grey silkie rooster, a single rhode island red hen and a single Marans hen, the coppery black hen.

 

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November 28, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of our garden. A very light frost still to be seen where sun has not yet fallen.

The usual Monday morning view of our garden. A very light frost still to be seen where sun has not yet fallen.

Another week of pretty fair weather for us and still so much not done.  But then so much has been done.  Things progress slowly since nothing has been done with other than human power, not even the horses have been used yet this fall. Aerron is planning to harness the  team today and hitch to the single row cultivator to make up seed beds for next season.  These newly made beds will, if there is time, be marked with planting grooves for seeding into or for transplanting into and then covered with a layer of straw.  Depending on where the beds are being formed and what we plan to seed into those spots, there may also be leaves and compost spread on these beds either prior to just  using the horse drawn cultivator or before covering with straw.  Which ever way we do the beds, we do the same thing to the beds in the spring, which is to pull back the straw, perhaps retool the grooves, and then plant and close the straw back on the grooves.

Leucan soaking up the early morning sunshine.

Leucan soaking up the early morning sunshine.

Nell soaking up the early morning sun's warmth.

Nell soaking up the early morning sun’s warmth.

It is really nice to be able to get work done when the temperature is relatively pleasant and as well this week  the winds were  mostly calm and there was little rain.  So a lot of firewood cut and brought under cover.  But Marie and I burned quite a bit in the house as we like to stay more comfortably warm.  When we are burning wood to heat we are running the cook stove and all our meals are cooked on the stove plus most of the water for our coffee and tea is boiled on the stove.  We do need a good bit of firewood.

Two horses no wind lots of sun, not many  clouds, warming temperatures, above zero.  Looks to be a fin e day.

Two horses no wind lots of sun, not many clouds, warming temperatures, above zero. Looks to be a fine day.

Everyone else in addition to us humans is also quite happy with the week’s weather.  The chickens continue to lay well, sheep are still finding a good bit of grass on pasture, cows and horses not so much and they are getting hay.

The old duck pond will soon be put away for the winter.  Today though it is great fun for ducks.

The old duck pond will soon be put away for the winter. Today though it is great fun for ducks.

The chickens and ducks on opposite sides of the fence share the same feeder.

The chickens and ducks on opposite sides of the fence share the same feeder.

We still have some veggies growing in the garden but much of it is showing the effects of the cold and frosts that we have had over the past few weeks.

The kale still looking quite good

The kale still looking quite good

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November 21, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual weekly garden view at a windy Monday noon time. Looking decidedly late fallish this week.

The usual weekly garden view at a windy Monday noon time. Looking decidedly late fallish this week.

Another fair weather week but it ends with cold and wind.  From record warm and sunshine on Thursday and Friday to temperatures right around zero Celsius, clouds, a bit of snow and strong gusty wind on Sunday.  Aerron spent a lot of time during the week getting seed beds ready; bringing up and spreading compost, marking out and transplanting onion for next year and we also worked on getting firewood together.  With cool evenings we often need to run the wood stoves and now, with the colder conditions and strong wind, the stove runs hotter.  We also spent an evening repairing fences for the horses. Then there is our usual work looking after chickens, ducks, sheep, cows and horses as well as a dog, several cats, a parakeet and two peafowl. We also harvested a lot of veggies that were left in the garden anticipating a freeze up soon.

The horses are getting the last little bits of grass while waiting for more hay to be brought to them.

The horses are getting the last little bits of grass while waiting for more hay to be brought to them.

The horses will be moved very soon to their over winter area and we have to fix up shelters for them as well as ensure that fences are ready with any new posts put in before the ground freezes solid.

The same for the cows and the sheep though the sheep area is pretty much all ready. It is next to the barn as the sheep go into the barn each night to prevent coyote mutton feasts.

The chicken house with the door only open enough to let a chicken through.

The chicken house with the door only open enough to let a chicken through.

The chicken houses need to be fully winterized too which means making sure that drafts are minimal.  The mobile duck house has to be mobilized to it’s winter position near to the chicken house. The new house for the peafowl has to be built too.

Two Black Copper Marans hens flanking a Marans rooster.  All three are comfortably perched high on a roof rafter.

Two Black Copper Marans hens flanking a Marans rooster. All three are comfortably perched high on a roof rafter.

We should be finished getting ready for winter by spring, at the present rate.

Two Black Copper Marans hens flanking a Marans rooster.  All three are comfortably perched high on a roof rafter.

Two Black Copper Marans hens flanking a Marans rooster. All three are comfortably perched high on a roof rafter.

Check the new ”EGGS” page which is under construction and will be for some time as we try to put down in print all about our hens, how we manage them, what breeds we have, what are objectives are and all about eggs too.  Everything you wanted to know about chickens and eggs but didn’t know to ask.

 

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November 14, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view.  Compare to the several previous Mondays to see the changes.

The usual Monday morning garden view. Compare to the several previous Mondays to see the changes.

This view down the valley has been put on the blog several times. No fall colours now.

This view down the valley has been put on the blog several times. No fall colours now.

The weather continues to favour us again this past week.  Very nice and warm for November though the nights are a bit cold, but this has allowed us to get a lot of work done.  Aerron has finished planting the garlic and we now have about three and a half beds each 300 feet long with three rows per bed.  Some onion needing to be planted and then the whole four beds get covered with straw as mulch.  Two of the beds still need leaves spread and kept in place with more compost.  Too much wind the last while has prevented the spreading of leaves.  We have also been gathering and cutting firewood, the cook stoves have been running quite a bit now. Every morning our stove is started and it is going for most of the day.  This means though that we have to be getting together a lot of wood as we did very little wood gathering over the summer.  We are also just doing a cleanup around the area close to the house, mostly picking up and consolidating our wood piles and cleaning out our wood shed.

The four beds of garlic. The two on the left still needing more leaves and compost and all need their final coat of straw mulch.

The four beds of garlic. The two on the left still needing more leaves and compost and all need their final coat of straw mulch.

The cows are still being rotated through their pastures as there is still slow growth of the grass.  The horses are now mostly stuck on the same piece of ground.  The sheep are moved through their pastures too but their grass is now mostly eaten down.  All of these four footers are very happy that the weather remains relatively warm and the sun is great when you can just stand and soak it up.

Snoozin' in the early morning summer, whoops, fall sunshine.

Snoozin’ in the early morning summer, whoops, fall sunshine.

The ducks and chickens are all well and we have been doing work on their housing too, making improvements to the roosts in particular and getting winter ready.  The work on our pick up area shelter has come to a halt for now but we do need to do more to it as well.

The ducks and chickens at breakfast.

The ducks and chickens at breakfast.

We have a new page to our website.  This page that you are now on is the “Home” page and the pages are notes along the black banner across the page below the top photo, the site map I suppose.  The new page is the fourth page along titled “EGGS”.  This page is very much under construction and will be so for quite sometime as we are going to have a lot of information there about the chickens and eggs.  So have a look at that to see what it is about and where we are on it.  Eventually it should be a good source of information on all things chicken and egg. Well …  most  or many things and maybe even a hypothesis on what came first, the chicken or the egg.

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November 7, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden

The usual Monday morning view of the garden

Rows of fall veegies, kale, Korean mint, arugula, and the Asian greens.

Rows of fall veegies, kale, Korean mint, arugula, and the Asian greens.

The fine weather continues and we are now getting a good bit done.  This week past was the last week for CSA vegetable pickups for 2016 and this is a big change for us.  On the one hand we are very happy that it has ended  and we can turn our attention more fully to getting a lot of very pressing work started and finished.  But on the other hand it is a sadder time as we will miss our weekly conversations with everyone coming to pick up their veggies and we will miss the  rush  getting everything ready in time for the four o’clock start of pick ups each Tuesday and Thursday.  On Tuesday we did not need the cover on our shelter at the pick up area but it seemed that it would be better to have it up for Thursday and though we had no rain it did break a cool north-west wind and make things just a bit more comfortable. When we finally do get our structure completed it will provide shelter on pick up days from sun, wind and rain and though it is a fairly large structure there will be many weeks of pickups when all the space will be filled with vegetables.  It is about 20 by 14 feet in size, likely tables down all sides and in the centre.

Thursday November 3 getting the sheltered pick up area ready for the CSA.

Thursday November 3 getting the sheltered pick up area ready for the CSA.

Aerron is washing the Chinese cabbage getting ready for the pick ups.

Aerron is washing the Chinese cabbage getting ready for the pick ups.

The work of getting the garlic planted is going along slowly but it requires a lot of work. Compost is brought up from the barn, where it has been ripening for a year or more, and spread thinly on a three row bed. The three rows are marked with a planting groove made with two or three passes with the wheel hoe. A hand hoe is then used to loosen the bottom of the groove which is about 2 to three inches deep. The garlic cloves are planted at about a 5 to 6 inch spacing by just pushing them into the soil in the groove. A wide spaced two pronged hand cultivator is dragged along to throw dirt on the cloves, a thin layer of tree leaves is put down on the bed and another thin layer of compost is applied. Then it is finished with a layer of straw. One and a half beds of garlic are now done, except for the straw layer. with another 1 1/2 beds to go before being finished.  The straw goes down on the whole three beds at the same time.

On the left the garlic is planted and covered. The centre bed is thinly spread with leaves topped with compost. On the right side the compost is ready for three trenches to be made where garlic cloves will be planted.

On the left the garlic is planted and covered. The centre bed is thinly spread with leaves topped with compost.
On the right side the compost is ready for three trenches to be made where garlic cloves will be planted.

The bed on the right is finished but for the straw mulch covering which can be seen started in the background.

The bed on the right is finished but for the straw mulch covering which can be seen started in the background.

We had an unusual visitor this past Saturday.  A medium to large sized bird, a western cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis, in the heron family Ardeidae. It is relatively uncommon here though there are perhaps 400 to 500 breeding pairs in Ontario. They do not over winter in Ontario but will fly south close to the Coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  These birds follow large mammals such as cattle and horses feeding on insects disturbed by the grazing animals. They are a very common bird in the US and points south and in their native Africa. Our bird stayed with the horses all day but the next day was gone, presumably having stopped here for the day to rest and feed, resuming the migratory flight at night.

Our Cattle Egret friend.

Our Cattle Egret friend.

A cattle Egret, three horses and fall colours. The yellow leaves are still mostly on the Large Toothed Aspen and the Red Oaks but the Cottonwood trees in between have lost all their's.

A cattle Egret, three horses and fall colours. The yellow leaves are still mostly on the Large Toothed Aspen and the Red Oaks but the Cottonwood trees in between have lost all their’s.

All our grazers and poultry are finding this to be very favourable weather, just like their human keepers.  A bit of snow forecast for Saturday coming so we’ll also have to do a bit of work preparing for that too.

Three happy horses in the warm late morning sunshine.

Three happy horses in the warm late morning sunshine.

Snoozing Nell.

Snoozing Nell.

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October 31, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden.  The area of the garden with vegetables still in it has narrowed to this area.

The usual Monday morning view of the garden. The area of the garden with vegetables still in it has narrowed to this area.

The weather the past week has been quite interesting.  We’ve had several nights with the temperature below freezing, a bit of rain now and then, 7.2 mm one day, and a very small amount of snow on the ground for a brief time one morning.  But then on Saturday it was quite nice and the temperature was at a high of 19.6° C.  Most of the tree leaves are fallen now and we are bound for a freeze up before too long.

Compare this photo to the two in last weeks blog to see the difference in the leaves.

Compare this photo to the two in last weeks blog to see the difference in the leaves.

This bird flew over this morning. Looked a bit like a crow but sounded entirely different.  I suspect it to be a raven, the third time this year we have seen them. Yesterday we saw four. In early summer saw one being chased by three crows.

This bird flew over this morning. Looked a bit like a crow but sounded entirely different. I suspect it to be a raven, the third time this year we have seen them. Yesterday we saw four. In early summer saw one being chased by three crows.

We have gotten along quite nicely with the shed over the CSA veggie pickup area but there is still much to do on it.  We have the four corner posts up with beams running between them and bracing at two corners and the ridge pole is up but will have to come down again for finishing.  So maybe 10 % of the work is done, but that is significant, and with a tarp temporarily thrown over we have an area protected somewhat from wind and rain. But we are bound for a freeze up before long so we have to hustle a bit faster.

Construction of the new CSA pick up shed continues.

Construction of the new CSA pick up shed continues.

We are also nicely started on planting the garlic though this is very late and we would have liked to have had it in the ground much earlier than this, the middle of September would have been much better.  But the end result should be the same.  We put down some well composted manure first, followed by making of the rows.  Two passes with the wheel hoe with a plow attachment, a pass with the other wheel hoe with the chisel point, a pass with a single tooth cultivator on a handle to get the groove worked deep and then the individual garlic cloves will be planted at a spacing in the row of about 5 inches. The rows are planted about a foot apart, three rows to a bed with the beds 4 foot on centre.  After the garlic is planted they will be roughly covered if not already and then a thin layer of leaves, followed by more compost and then a good thick layer of straw for mulch.

A bed being prepared for planting garlic cloves with compost spread and worked in as the trenches formed.

A bed being prepared for planting garlic cloves with compost spread and worked in as the trenches formed.

Kale to far left, remnants of the lettuce bed about centre and greens to the right with straw bales in the background ready to roll out.

Kale to far left, remnants of the lettuce bed about centre and greens to the right with straw bales in the background ready to roll out.

This week marks the last week for the CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) weekly vegetable pick ups here at the farm. We had 19 weeks of pick ups in this our 23rd season of doing a veggie CSA. Once we have finished the CSA we will concentrate on getting the garlic planted and the pick up shelter, the shed, finished so as to keep out snow and rain.  Over the winter it will serve a s a storage building housing the gardening tools, hoes and rakes etc., as well as some firewood and lumber.  In the later spring once we’ve completed our tool shed it will be cleared and readied for CSA veggie pickups which will hopefully begin late May.  We must also, this fall, get some of the veggie beds prepared for next spring,  Some soil preparation may be done and a lot of straw mulch put down for over winter. This will mean that the beds will be ready for seeding or planting into with specific veggies right away in the spring with the only work needed being to pull back a narrow strip of mulch, draw a narrow groove for seeding or if doing transplants, just transplant directly into the soil underneath the mulch.

An experiment  in culinary combination; chicken and garlic.  The chickens seemed uninterested.

An experiment in culinary combination; chicken and garlic. The chickens seemed uninterested.

We are keen on trying another method for making a semi permanent bed using small sticks and branches laid on the ground with a bit of manure and compost with a lot of mulch, again done in the fall, settled over the winter , ready in the spring for planting.

The ever popular Leucan.

The ever popular Leucan.

Gotta go, much to be done!

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October 24, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday photo of the garden, noon hour this time

The usual Monday photo of the garden, noon hour this time

Looking down the valley from our house about 5 days ago.  Note the change in the next photo.

Looking down the valley from our house about 5 days ago. Note the change in the next photo.

A lot of leaves have come off the trees during the last three days. That's Marie horse at the bottom of the photo.

A lot of leaves have come off the trees during the last three days. That’s Marie horse at the bottom of the photo.

The weather is getting to be more fall like every week.  For us so far it has been very good as we still have a lot of vegetables growing in the garden and the grass is still green in the pastures though the growth has really slowed.  Mostly the garden growth is really slowed as well and large plants are staying large and only maturing slowly which is a good thing.

Radishes in the foreground with kale behind. The kale leaves here has been picked over the last two weeks.

Radishes in the foreground with kale behind. The kale leaves here were harvested over the last two weeks.

We still have much to do. The CSA pickups will continue for at least one more week and very likely two, and if the weather does not get too cold and if we still have enough vegetables then we may have three more weeks of CSA veggie pick ups.  Two or three more weeks would be really nice so as to make up somewhat for our slow start this year. Our chickens are still laying at a good rate so we have plenty of eggs.

The chickens were mostly staying inside as they don't like the cold wind today.

The chickens today were mostly staying inside as they don’t like the cold wind.

In the garden growing right now there is KALE, RADISH, CABBAGE, BRUSSELS SPROUTS, ARUGULA, PEPPER, LETTUCE, BOK CHOI, TATSOI, MIZUNA, KOMATSUNA, TURNIPS, COLLARDS, MUSTARD, CRESS, RAPINI AND SPINACH.  And probably a few things that I’ve forgot.  Mostly greens for salad and stir fry, soups and sandwiches.

The garlic to be planted still resting in the shed.

The garlic to be planted still resting in the shed.

Firewood waiting to be split and moved to the woodshed to be stacked.

Firewood waiting to be split and moved to the woodshed to be stacked.

We have gotten a start on the vegetable pick up shelter. Much more to be done.  Next some bracing and a roof.

We have gotten a start on the vegetable pick up shelter. Much more to be done. Next some bracing and a roof.

We have several important works underway at the moment; we are trying to erect a shelter at the pickup area, a building long over due and one on which we have made a good start; we are preparing ground for the planting of our garlic, have to move on this very fast as ground  may freeze up on us at any time now; getting firewood for the winter, it is all around, we just have to get it in the wood shed; and get the garden or parts of it prepared for winter so as to be ready for spring planting. These are probably the priority and then there are the usual day to day things and a whole host of other little projects that have been delayed or put off as we did not have time to do them.

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