June 19, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view. a few changes from last week.

William standing beside the kale plants from last year which have gone to seed. The seed heads are quite a bit higher than William.

It rained nicely on Sunday which was a great relief as we had been getting pretty dry. It was not a lot of rain, but it did wet the ground down a good 6 inches or so. the environment Canada weather station just down the road from us recorded 8.7 mm of rain for yesterday. Before that we had only 3.4 mm on the 4th of June and it was on the 25th of May that we last had a real significant amount of rain, 23.8 mm, and prior to that 14.9 mm on the 21. A total for May of some 109 mm of rain so May was a good, moist month. We do though need a little bit more rain over the next few days to keep us happy.

Some of the trays of veggies awaiting transplanting to the garden.

The onions and broad beans with straw mulch. Broccolli to the left.

So much work still needs to be done, so many plants and seeds need to go into the ground yet. Having had the rain will make it easier too, ground is not hard as concrete in places and cultivating and digging is so much easier.  Seeds will germinate quicker and transplants will need less water and will not be so stressed. The slightly cooler temperatures will also be better. We can also work faster and for longer periods of time when it is a little cooler. Much is planted in the garden and much more still needs to go into the ground.

The chicks which are now about 7 weeks old. They have grown a lot but not near as much as the ducklings. The ducklings are about 8 weeks and are very near full grown.

The 8 week old ducklings waddling quickly to their favourite spot under the little apple tree.

All the animals are doing just fine. Still mostly adequate pastures and as with all plants, the pasture plants will now be growing much better now that they have had some rain.

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June 12, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view of the garden. Hard to yet see the changes as everything is still very small.

We have downsized our chicken flock somewhat over the past two weeks. The two older flocks were combined over a month ago and we then selected out those that seemed to be laying. This is done by a physical examination of the hen looking at it’s general appearance, especially around the head looking at the eye and the colour of the comb and wattles and the tissue surrounding the eye. The vent is examined as it is obvious from the vent appearance whether or not the hen is laying and we look for signs of obvious unhealthiness.  From this the hens that were retained as still laying, were passed on to Aerron and Maggies friends and to Heather and Kevin next door as older layers, and the ones culled out went on Monday last to ENS Poultry near to Elora where they were killed, plucked, cleaned, weighed and packaged.  We took them there, a one and a half hour journey the one way, for 8 in the morning and returned there for 4:30 in the afternoon to pick them up. This facility is well run by Mennonites and provincially inspected.  I actually was talking to the inspector while unloading.

The ducklings in their favourite spot to take it easy. Under the small apple tree.

The remaining birds are all younger. There are two flocks of layers, one acquired as ready to lay early last fall and the other acquired in March again as ready to lay.  The fall gotten flock will be retired out at about a year old, as older layers to be given away and the non laying of them  will go for more soup hens. At about this time our chicks acquired as day olds at the end of April will be starting to lay. The chicks are all older heritage unusual even somewhat rare breeds.  They mostly do not lay near as well as our present laying flock but they will do better over all as a free range farm flock on whole grains and scraps. And they really look nice. Some of these are a dual purpose chicken making nice roasters when young and being good though not excellent layers. Some of these breeds should make very good roasters when they are well matured too.

Vegetables in trays and various plants in pots all awaiting transplanting into the garden.

The garden planting continues though very much more slowly than we’d hoped. We are doing too many things too slowly. The present hot weather slows us down too and we cannot do transplants when it is this hot but tomorrow is to be cooler and transplanting can resume.  Still much to go in. The transplants look really good and things will grow very quickly as long as we keep them well watered.

A look across the garden. Lots of bare ground so far. Lettuce growing in amongst left over garlic with this seasons garlic and onions growing in the far background, straw mulch all around.

Aerron has used the single row horse drawn cultivator a lot to prepare the garden.  We have reduced our tillage. as at one time, years ago, we would have plowed, then used the disc harrows and then used the cultivator to finish the ground preparation. Now only three to six passes with the cultivators works well. We are also putting down compost in each bed, not a lot, but not a lot is needed and will mulch with straw to retain moisture, provide cover for life and more food for the critters in the soil as the season and the year goes along. The horses also are making more work for us as they are still not all that well trained to work. We got them that way. They do not stand well and do not back well. They need a lot of training work but we don’t have time for that so their training is as they do garden or wagon work. It requires two of us to hitch to an implement and one of us always has to be on the lines at all times. This is a real nuisance.  Flies have been bothering the horses too. We know how to eliminate the tiny gnats that get in the horses ears but the face flies and body flies are another matter and these are the major nuisance.  Deer flies are not too bad but horse flies can cause a real dangerous situation as horses get real agitated and hop around a lot when they buzz about. Fortunately they are rare.

Cows, sheep and horses are well and grass is good. No hay in yet though.

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June 5, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view with a little more change from last week in evidence

Very busy these days what with planting and all the other associated garden work.  Today is especially busy as we had to go to ENS poultry near to Elora and be there by 8 in the morning.  It is a one and a half hour drive.  We took about 35 end of lay hens and about 6 roosters, 41 birds in total, to be killed, cleaned, weighed and very nicely wrapped.  ENS poultry does an excellent job and their facilities and the people are first rate. These will be soup birds, not roasters.  We have to go back up there after 4:30 this afternoon to pick up the processed birds. Much else. But all little things needing attention too. So little time, so much to do but so much fun!

Chickens, sheep, ducks(somewhere in the photo) and distant bees on a fine late spring day.

The two young heifer calves, a ewe and her lamb.

All is well meaning no major disastrous events have occurred over the past week and no one is sick. We do need to have a little more rain. I have to examine the rainfall amounts for the past couple of weeks but it seems that we have not had a significant rainfall for a about a week. It is of no consequence just yet as the soil is plenty moist and there have not been any really hot days.

A really nice cloud formation just last week. A rainstorm that passed just to the north of us.

If anything it has overall been a little too cool because of the night time temperatures often being around the 10C mark.  We have potatoes planted and they do not like to sit in cool soil for to long but if the days continue warm and there is enough sun to warm the soil during the day then the spuds will probably be just fine only a little slow to grow. Hopefully WordPress will allow me to load photos today unlike last week when I could only get two posted. Short blog, too much to do to stay at the keyboard too long.

Nell and Marta came a runnin’ when I called them over. They must have thought that I had a treat for them. But I didn’t.

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May 30, 2017 FARM NEWS

The Monday morning garden view. A bit changed from previous weeks. Those are transplanted lettuces between the garlic plants. The leaf pile is getting smaller.

I have only been able to  post 2 photos here. Four other tries came up with http error for reasons that are quite unclear. They are loading extremely slowly and that may be a part of the problem.  So for this week at least go to our Facebook page for photos.  Facebook.com/Robin Kirby or perhaps it is Devon Acres, I really have no idea!                      A somewhat less eventful week than last.  Much work was done in the garden with bed preparation using the horse drawn cultivator. A couple of beds of onion sets have been planted and partially mulched with straw and a half a bed of three rows has had lettuce transplanted to it. More trays of newly sprouted veggies are turning up in the outside area to await there turn getting transplanted out.

The horses are well. The team of Nell and Marta has been a little difficult as they can cause considerable trouble when harnessing.  Once harnessed they are pretty good.  The flies cause them much irritation and Marta especially will be moving around all the time even when the team is supposed to be standing.  Once under way with the cultivator though they seem to be alright. They really just need to be worked more regularly and some special training should be done to get them to stand still better and to back without spreading. More work will help all that.

Cows and sheep have all be pretty well behaved. There is now  a good lot of green and growing grass which is what hey especially like.  Contented sheep and contented cows will not be pushing at the edges and breaking fences.

The chickens are laying steady at a good rate though the ducks have dropped off just a bit. The new chicks and ducklings are also doing well. The ducklings are outside every day and have not needed a heat lamp for more than two weeks. They are a panicky lot though and will be to a gradually lessening degree your several years.  Ducks never get quite as docile as chickens. The chicks will need to get outside very soon but they, unlike the ducklings, will need confinement so as not to wander to much and get eaten by hawks, crows and cats etc.

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May 22, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view of the garden. again this week not a lot of change is obvious

They are in their ready to panic mode. They all move together. the more upright ones are called runners but not so obvious which they are in this photo.

A week full of side tracks.  A flat tire on the manure spreader had to be fixed as we needed the spreader to haul compost to the garden.  It took a lot of time to get it jacked up and the wheel off, the locking pin was stuck and needed a bit of persuasion.  We drove the wheel over to Campbell Tire for repair and the next day at noon had to go over to fetch it.  They did a good job on a really old wheel and tire. Then rains kept us from drawing the spreader up the hill. And we had to spend two days finishing up the newest hen house. It was all kind of temporarily and weakly rigged and a raccoon managed to get in and nearly walked off with a chicken. Aerron heard the squawking and raced to the rescue. Just barely in time and the chicken survived.  But the hen house is now secure … for sure this time. We had an incident too when Aerron again responded to loud squawking at the front hen house and racing to the scene of the crime heard a loud crashing as a piece of wooden fencing was knocked down.  Whatever nabbed the chicken and knocked down the fence, had heard Aerron coming and, ditching its prize, our hen, and disappeared  down into the trees. With his flashlight, Aerron could see a pair of eyes down there. We’re guessing it was likely a lion or tiger escaped from the African lion Safari, a grizzly bear or … even more likely, actually quite probably; a coyote. This time the chicken died.  It was a chicken that had been inadvertently locked out and it was on the outside of it’s enclosure. Not a good place for a chicken as night falls. Easy lunch for a coyote. So we are being a little more careful to get all the birds locked up well before dark.

The tray of Chinese cabbage that we had in last week’s blog has grown considerably.

Newly germinated lettuce trays and the also growing woodpile in behind.

Chickens, ducks and Kari Bishop’s beehives.

And then it was way too windy on Saturday and way too rainy on Sunday.  We were still plugging away doing things but were somewhat restricted in what we could get done.  So this past week, when we should have been getting a lot planted, we didn’t. Going to have to be extra very busy this coming week.

Three little chicks, different breeds. Notice the heavily feathered legs and feet in the nearest chick.

Three little chicks, different breeds. Notice the heavily feathered legs and feet in the nearest chick.


Just a few of the chicks. There are 11 different breeds here of lots of differing shapes, sizes, leg and feather colours.

he four footed beasties; horses, cows, sheep, cats and dog are all just fine.  No unneeded excitement with them, and we don’t want any. Everyone is happy on pastures which are pretty good which is just as well as we are now out of hay.  This was a good wet week and we needed that as things were getting a bit dry, nothing near serious, but still a good soaking about once a week is perfect to keep things growing really nicely.  This year is so far a big improvement on last spring when it was much colder and was much drier. And it got much drier still as spring moved to summer.  Still a little cold so far but not too bad and will be alright if it keeps gradually warming.

The ducklings are all gathered beneath a young apple tree doing their preening, having a snooze and chattering amongst themselves.

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May 15, 2017 FARM NEWS

The Monday morning garden view and still a little hard to see any changes from last week.

The newest hens at breakfast. Apple trees in blossom in the background.

The spring planting is going along quite well.  We have not yet put a lot into the garden as mostly it has been too cold but what is in is growing well and there is a lot growing in trays.  The plants growing in trays are started in the house and yurt and moved into the green house, usually when they have their first true leaves.  When they are growing good the plants are then moved outside near the garden, slowly introduced to wind and sun and carefully grown until they are big enough and sturdy enough to be planted out in to the garden. Many of these trays are now outside and some are now ready for transplanting into the garden.

These are the trays with the newly germinated and rapidly growing vegetable plants. each tray is about 12 X 22 inches.

This is a tray of Chinese cabbage, O142 in the William Dam Seeds catalogue. These are the cotyledon or seed leaves. The first true leaves are yet to come but that will be quick.

These two trays have lettuce plants which are now sufficiently large to be planted out.

The catalogue number on these is 273, a white sweet onion with the exotic sounding name, Sweet White Wing F1. The F1 means hybrid, first finial I think it is meaning if we were to save seed from this we would not likely get much which was White Wing but be getting the parent stock instead.

Aerron has been using the horses on the single row horse cultivator to work up the beds in the garden for seeding and transplanting.  The horses have not been used, have not been in harness much, since the fall. They were pretty well behaved once hooked to the implement and working but as usual for them they made for a difficult time getting the traces hooked on the double trees. They do not back straight and do not like to stand still.  We need to work the horses more regularly and more often. But all that is ok. Much better to have horses as the power on the farm.  No noxious stench from the exhaust, horses do have their own noxious odours but quite a bit less harmful, they are pretty quiet when working and they set a nice pace. You cannot be tempted to work to long because when the horses are really tired and have had enough then they are going to tell you, they get to refusing to move, not doing things properly and stopping quite a bit when they’ve not been asked too.  They also need frequent breaks and this gives the teamster time to look about, contemplate things. A little slower than a tractor perhaps but then there are always ways, no matter how fast you are going. An older small tractor would come in real handy though for tasks needing the bucket at the front. Tasks such as loading manure or compost or, with a spear attachment, loading and unloading the large round straw and hay bales on the wagon. So we have for a couple of years been on the lookout for an older tractor, a Cockshutt 20, 30 or 40 would do the trick as would some of the smaller McCormicks, the Farmalls.

Aerron with the team. Photographed by his son William Kirby aged 6 and a half years. An excellent photo I thought.

We have made a huge dent in the wood pile compared with last week we have also stacked a good lot of it too.

We have gotten a lot of wood lately, branches and small trunks that needed to be cut to stove length and stacked to dry for a month or two then moved into the woodshed to finish curing for next or ideally the season after. So that is an ongoing lot of work that is far better done now than in the fall.  We should also be doing that in the fall for two seasons in the future … again, ideally. But the wood has been free to us and that is always good.  We also need to go to two of our neighbours to cut small trees and bring the wood back.  The truck is still not working so that must go in. The front tire on the manure spreader will not hold air for longer than two minutes so that needs fixing right away as we need it to draw composted manure to the garden.

Checking out the magnolia. Sniffing the flowers?

So no shortage of things to be done.

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May 8, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view. The car is there because of the muddy lane way. Lane is fine now but the ar will only move when it is needed.

The big news, likely with a lot of others, was the rains this past week.  Not very heavy but for a long time.  No damage was done to anything on our farm and with our height here and the hills, flooding is never an issue.  The roof on the new chicken house leaked badly in spots but the hens there were no more wet than the hens in the perfectly dry older house who decided to go out in the rain anyway. The ducks are oblivious, mostly, to any weather. The rain was good for getting the ground thoroughly soaked though it is likely it was anyway.  With last season still fresh in our memory we will not complain , yet, about too much rain.

Chickens in the morning.

We were not able to get much garden work done though once the rain stops and 24 hours have passed then we can often get in and work the ground. We went to William Dam Seeds and got our second lot including potatoes and onion sets. These will very soon go into the ground. With the very cold overnight, it seems we had little or no frost, but even colder, -2C predicted for tonight, we are very happy not to have any frost sensitive plants up and growing. We do have plenty of things growing in trays in the greenhouse and a lot of it can now be put outside to harden off and then soon planted out in the garden.

We managed, between rain showers, to get quite a bit of this wood pile cut into stove lengths. Now we need to pile it all to dry and get the rest cut up.

Last seasons Kale plants are growing a bit spikey as they will soon start to flower and set seed. Still good for eating.

This is, we think, a buff Brahma chick. It looks really nice and healthy, good size, alert, active.

Not sure which breed these three chicks are. They are blue/grey in colour

All the chickens, ducks, chicks and ducklings are fine. Some of the horses have been started on their pasture rotation, Cows have been out on pasture a bit and so have the sheep.  Most of the pasture is still not quite ready.

The team out on pasture.

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