May 14, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual garden view this morning with these few ducks who managed to wiggle through the fence.

Looking across the garlic beds to the alliums, various onions and leeks covered nicely with straw.

By necessity, a short blog today.  We have been very busy getting things into the garden this week and getting a lot of straw mulch spread on the garden too. The straw mulch (we are using rye straw) is very important. The straw prevents most of the weeds from germinating, it provides shelter for insects, it shades the soil from the sun thus moderating soil temperature, retains soil moisture and eventually breaks down and is incorporated into the soil building humus and providing nutrients. It takes a lot of time to spread the mulch but the time spent now saves much, much more time spent later and greatly improves our vegetables.

The garlic really is growing so well

Green scallion onions near the wagon with partially straw covered newly seeded potatoes.

None of the collection of four footed farm creatures are yet out on pasture, that will come in another week as we allow the pasture plants to put on more growth. None of the horses, cows or sheep are particularly anxious to stay off the pastures, they cannot wait to frolic in lush green grass. We took delivery of 14 round bales 4 foot by 5 foot size, on Sunday afternoon as we had run out of hay. This will be enough to get us through until turnout on to pasture.

The communal chicken dust baths

A really magnificent, impressive and beautiful rooster and I can’t remember which breed

The chickens have always been out on their pastures and some of their pastures are getting a bit run down. Chickens will eat everything close at hand and dig big holes for dust bathing. The new chicks, acquired at the end of April are doing just fine and are now occupying their entire floor area. They are still inside with heat lamps on except when the sun gets quite warm.

Some of the ducks just taking it easy or fluffing their feathers.

The weather has been good for us but it is getting dry. We have not had very much rainfall and will get seriously dry in another week or two unless we can get at least 25 or 30 mm of rain in that time. One observation that we have made is that it seems there are much fewer bees and flies around, especially bees of all species. Nothing in any of the huge number of dandelion flowers and we’d have expected to see the bees quite busy. What is going on?

Leucan, as always curious to see what I’m up to.

If anyone has been considering signing up for our 2018 CSA season, contact us as soon as possible to let us know. I do know that I have not yet heard back from everyone.

Peas and lettuce eseeded in the foreground with the nicely grown well mulched garlic in behind.

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April 30 and May 7, 2018 FARM NEWS

Monday April 30 Garden view. A green haze starting to be apparent. Stuff is growing.

A view of the garden on Sunday May 6 late afternoon. Storm clouds were slowly moving in. The green haze is even greener and hazier than last week

A very busy two weeks it has been. I got bogged down with things to do and did not get the time to post a blog last week. So this week it is two in one. The first week first.

The little white and brown miniature horse fell over the fence at his next door pasture and cam over to visit with his bigger cousins.

We had to prepare for the arrival of the newly hatched chicks which were to be picked up on Saturday April 29. Chicken houses needed to be cleaned out and chickens shuffled around. We had previously taken away the flock of older hens so the fancy breeds were moved to where the old hens had been as the fancy’s house was the place where we brood new chicks. So two houses were cleaned out and repairs made to the roosts in the old hen house and everything taken out of where the new chicks will be going.

A chicks eye view of the newly arrived day old chicks under the red light of the heat lamp.

Marie and Aerron drove to Performance Poultry near Carrying Place in Prince Edward County. Just a bit west of Trenton for the pickup late Saturday afternoon. We kept the two boxes of chicks overnight, all day Sunday and overnight again, in our kitchen beside the wood stove. We hadn’t quite finished cleaning and getting ready their brood house. They were somewhat overcrowded but had heat lamps on them as well as the woodstove. The ideal temperature is 95F reducing by 5F each week until at 70F at which time they will be sufficiently fledged to be ok with out supplemental heating. We moved them into their brood house with lots of space and several heat lamps on Monday. We’ll have the heat lamps off after only about three weeks if the weather warms as we would expect through May.

This hen is almost exactly a year old now. She is a silver laced Wyandotte, not rare breed, there are good numbers about. but they are somewhat unusual. They should be excellent layers and we think that ours are.

We have gotten several obscure breeds of chickens as well as two breeds of turkey, the Ridley Bronze and the Bourbon Red. The chick breeds have names such as Spangled Russian Orloff, Silver Grey Dorking, Delawares, Sicilian Buttercup, Blue Andalusian, and Golden Laced Wyandotte. Parts of the names will often refer to some physical characteristic, such as colour and colour patter, type of comb and also the place of origin. Sometimes the colour description in the name is a bit difficult to interpret unless you have seen it described before and sometimes the place in a name is not actually where the breed originated. We are getting all these various breeds for several reasons. We are wanting to find a breed that will work well for us, our location, our management practices, good laying on whole grain feeds and foraging on pasture and good longevity. We would like them to lay eggs economically for more than three years, 1000 days. We are aiming for an 80 to 85 % lay rate in the first year, 70 to 75 % average in the second year and at least 6o % over the third year. We also would like to have a bird at the end of lay which will have a good carcass as a meat bird. We are wanting a good long lived dual purpose chicken.

Inside the fancy chickens house. Nesting boxes at the back to the left of the door. The overnight ladder roost near the door. I have to be careful when opening the door in the mornings as chickens fly off the roosts straight out the door. Several times I have had chicken wings brush my nose. The cage on the left wall has 5 newly acquired ISA hens who were kept in the cage for two days in order to get to know their new room and room mates.
They are out with all the others now, no problems.

Grandson William had the camera and took several fine photos. Spring flowers.

The weather has now finally been good enough to get working in the garden. We have been held up too long by the poor April weather.  We picked up most of our seeds and sets at William Dam Seeds in Dundas. More seeds are in the mail from Prairie Garden Seeds in Saskatchewan and there are one or two packets that we need to get from a couple of other places by mail order. There is still much work to be done to prepare the garden. Work that could not get done until now because of the weather. Seeding rows have to be prepared, straw mulch spread. Seeding will be done both before and after spreading straw depending on what it is we are planting.

The fall planted scallions are growing quite well. Another of William’s photos.

We are still burning wood though a week ago Saturday we had let the fire go out for the day, re-firing in the evening for overnight and we did again let it go out for a day and did not have the stove on for just one overnight. Hopefully we can soon let it go out for more extended times.

This is Wendy a 4 week old lamb with a severe handicap. She is perfectly healthy lamb except for not being to use her front legs. She was born this way. She lives in a box In our kitchen, skitters about the house and outside. Just now starting to eat a little grass. Her back legs propel her along quite quickly if need be and she can spin around in a blink when she gets playful.

Horses, cows and sheep are still not yet out on pasture. It will not be until near the end of May that the grass will be grown enough to turn them out. They are going to get quite anxious for fresh grass long before then. If the weather stays warm enough but not too hot and the rain comes regular then we might have enough rapid grass growth that we will have to get them out so that the grass does not get over mature.

The rhubarb is rowing really quickly now. Rhubarb stew and pies soon.

Stinging nettle, Korean mint and parsley.

This past week has seen us really getting our hands dirty preparing seed beds and planting. There is now so much to do and so little time in which to get it done. The weather is fine and we do need a bit of rain every week or so. An inch or 20 to 25 mm would be ideal each week.

Two of the main flock of Red Sex-link hens. You’d think that they could come out with a better name. They are scratching under the junipers at the front of our house.

Last Friday the big windstorm held things up a bit. Wind gusts at the weather station a quarter mile down the road, were recorded at 94 kph late in the afternoon. The rafters in the green house attached to our house became detached from the house at about that time. The plastic covering fastened to the rafters tightly and I had to cut it away with my knife as I was concerned that the whole thing might go with possible damage to the house. So that is a real nuisance and the only damage that we sustained. It really did need a rebuild but we don’t have the time now.

My photographer helper William hand feeding his Brahma chickens and others.

All else is well. The horses, cows and sheep are still waiting to get out on new grass but that will have to wait a little bit longer just now. So much do be done in the spring. Seeds from Prairie Garden Seed arrived. Even more to plant now!

The hairy woodpecker getting set to strike a peck.

Mid strike.

A belly view and feet tightly gripping a brittle little stem.

He was drilling away sideways and upside down too.

A male Hairy Wood pecker spent a lot of time over two or three days pecking away at the dried last years flower stems of Yucca (probably Yucca filamentosa) on our front lawn. No idea just what he was finding there but he sure was busy. Lots of photos and here are but a few.

The red patch on the back of the head says male, the downy feathers on the back say hairy.

Another view of his hairy back.

He just looks so nice.

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April 23, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view of the garden. it is a fine April morning today.

This is what you do a lot of when you are a horse on a real nice, warm April morning.

Cleaning up the last of the previous evenings hay.

I think that we had winter last week.  Already, with the warm temperatures, nice sunshine, and just plain fine weather over the past few days, winter seems a distant memory. Maybe last week was just a movie, a dream. Nope! We still have a bit of snow in the out of the sun spots to remind us that winter was here and just a short while ago too. The forecast for the next 5 days is encouraging but it will be cooling off just a little after tomorrow. Still we can now get some work done in the garden. Unfortunately the last two days have seen us tied up with distracting social activities and a birthday celebration. But that’s ok., we have to make room for such family events. Tomorrow will see a good lot of work done.

If you look vey carefully you can se some garlic poking through the straw mulch. There is beginning to be a long green line showing down the row.

We took another lot of older hens and some roosters in to the processors last week and now need to do some major shifting of flocks. we have to separate out some of the various breeds of chicken that we are keeping and save back some eggs for hatching. Our prime focus is on the Barred Rock, Marans, Barneveldr and Rhode Island Red chicken breeds. The Barred Rock, properly called the Barred Plymouth Rock, is an old chicken breed dating from the 1860s. Barred refers to the colour pattern. It was a good dual  purpose breed meaning it was a good layer of large eggs and had a good meat carcass as well. It is no longer quite so good as it once was, especially as a meat chicken. We will be selecting for heavier birds, good layers and long lived birds. We want hens that will lay around 2oo eggs minimum a year and lay for 3 to 4 years at a good rate and be a good heavy meat bird at the end.

The little black lamb with the crippled front legs. Growing real well and very healthy except for the front legs.

Horses, cows and sheep are still not back on grass as it will be at least three weeks probably longer before we have enough growth on the pastures. We are running short on good hay and will have to purchase a few more bales to get us through.

We have a Red Bellied Woodpecker nesting at the top of a poplar tree along our laneway. They are quite common but many others which once were common are not so any longer.

We are pretty sure that this is a Red bellied Woodpecker. Pretty sure since even though I did get a photo of a bit of his belly there was no red to be seen.

The woodpecker did this going hallway into the hole trick, several times.

The launch. He/she is flying away from us.

A report has come out; STATE OF THE WORLD’S BIRDS from Bird life International, of which Nature Canada is a supporter. This is an important if somewhat depressing report that highlights what we already have suspected and known: numbers of the majority of bird species are in sharp and rapid decline. Agriculture being the number one reason, among many. It come down to there just being far too many of us.

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April 16, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view.

The garden view during the Sunday storm

The ducks are quite happy parking themselves here.

Another look at the straw bales and the snow covered Sunday garden.

Another week gone by and still winter persists. Not quite so severe as in January or February of course but still the weather is not yet conducive to spring planting. None of the animals is too very happy with this weather either, the horses, cows and sheep are really anxious for fresh grass. The snow pellets and freezing rain over this past weekend have done no damage here. We filled buckets and various containers with water in anticipation of a power failure, but the power was out for only a very brief period of time. If the power goes out then we have no water as the pump is electrical. We could fetch water from the creeks or a spring but that means we’d have to lug water for about a quarter mile and it is all up hill. Better to stockpile. We’ll keep it handy for another day or two until we are sure that ice is no longer likely.

The horses enduring the Sunday weather.

We took some of the older hens, the ISA breed, and a few of the roosters, to the poultry processor, ENS Poultry near to Elora. They do an excellent job, very clean, vacuum bagged, weighed and labeled. It is a bit of a distance to go but I’m pretty sure that there is none other closer to us. They require them to be taken in the night before or by 7 in the morning and to pick them up around 5 in the afternoon. The total cost to us for each bird, including processing, HST, and costs of transport, is around $4 for each bird. These hens do not make nice roasters, as they don’t have a lot of meat on them, but are excellent as soup hens and the meat is then quite tender. The hens are light weighing from about 2.25 to maybe 3 pounds and we’ll charge $2 per pound.

A very nice Red Sex-link hen out in the snow.

We must separate some of the different breeds of chickens so that we can save eggs for hatching. A rooster and 5 to 8 hens running together for about two weeks and then we” select eggs for hatching. We want to select the best hens and the best eggs so as to get the best chicks. Eggs hatch 21 days after setting and a hen lays eggs beginning about 21 weeks after that. We want chickens that will lay eggs for at least three years though we accept an annual slow down for the winter and as they molt. We are wanting hens that have a good lay, 330 eggs a year would be best, but 280 would be real good still especially in the second or third year. Hens decrease their lay rate each year.

These are our main flock of Red Sex-link with 6 Barnevelder hens there too. They like the ducks are having a good time out in spite of the snow.

We have some day old chicks coming from Performance Poultry at the end of April so we have to make room for them too.

The Garlic still slumbers and now under an April Sunday’s snow.

The ducks are quite happy parking themselves here.

Gardening needs to be started but the weather has not allowed much of that yet. It is getting to be late now but this is still perfectly ok and maybe better than having it real nice and warm soon and then a sharp cold spell. It is always too tempting to get an early start and then have the cold do a lot of damage to growing plants.



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April 9, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view.

The cold weather has kept us busy the past few weeks with firewood. we cleaned up some piles of brush and wood, cutting it to stove length, and stored it in the woodshed. Much of what we have in the woodshed is unsplit rounds so before bringing wood into the house it is necessary to use the axe, maul or sledge and wedges to split the wood into small pieces for burning. Sometimes it turns out that the wood is wet and then it gets stacked separate in the woodshed so as to dry more.

Kids with the lamb Wendy. Lambs are very popular with kids. Wendy Lamb seemed happy to be the centre of attention.

Wendy is zipping about faster every day in spite of her leg deformity.

We have a lamb born last Wednesday, winds day, very high winds day. No damage here due to the wind, just a few things blown about and the power out for about three hours. All of our rather flimsy looking buildings held up just fine. We did have to refasten the plastic sheet on one of the chicken houses but that needed doing anyway. We use too much of the plastic but it is cheap, easy and durable in the short term. We can have a plastic covering over a small building last more than 5 years, and often closer to ten, before it starts to tear apart.  The lamb, named Wendy by Lauren, was a surprise as it was thought that we were done lambing. The mother has not been very enthusiastic but that is likely because the lamb itself is having trouble standing. We have it in the house and in the yurt overnight as it needs to be kept warm and bottle fed. Not sure just what is the matter but the front legs were splayed out and not straightened properly. The lamb can now stand and hobble awkwardly about so it has improved. The big problem is that the mother needs to be milked out by hand and that is a chore and takes time and she is not giving much milk and is likely drying up. It is possible to get some milk from other ewes but often time they have been milked out by their own lambs and have none. It is a tiny, cute black lamb with bits of white. The chances of it surviving are rather slim but we’ll keep working at it and though she is but five days old, there has been noticeable improvement and but for the bent stiff legs she is healthy.

The little bull calf is now near 4 weeks old. He likes to poke around and play with the cat .

Leave sleeping ducks and sleeping dogs lie. The ducks just get real noisy when disturbed.

The chickens lay rate has declined a little over the last week, likely because of the cold and wind. They are still laying a good number of eggs but just not quite as many each day as last week. They will begin to lay more when it warms somewhat and the hens are that little bit more comfortable. They were starting to get used to and like that bit of spring last week. The ducks however are laying better than ever. They are hardy souls, mostly lay a very large egg and lots of them.

All else is well here with everyone of us and our animals getting really anxious for the spring to come. So long as it stays cool and spring is delayed, then it becomes likely that spring will come all at once and that it will get too warm too soon and will be too dry. We’ll see.

So we have not done anything yet in the garden as the weather has not been quite right. Things stand as they did last week with little progress made.


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April 2, 2018 FARM NEWS


The usual view early Monday morning





The above photo shows the progress building the hotbed. It is finished for about a third of the length. That is the bit beneath the plastic sheet. It is heating so we’ll put in some cross supports, put a removable cover in either glass or plastic on the top and then it’ll be ready for us to put in the trays with freshly planted veggie seeds.

018022This is a Maran hen. A red black colour or black copper is another name. This is one of the 6 Marans hens that we have and these are the hens that can sometimes lay the very dark chocolate brown eggs.

The weather continues to present us with difficulties.  Often too cold overnight and there have been too many rainy days. Temperatures are up and down too much. Spring is coming but, with some steps forward there are some steps back. But over the weeks there are more steps forward than back and there are more and more signs of spring. A blue heron was seen making it’s way towards the river yesterday, killdeer are well established, turkey vulture seen as well as many other feathered harbingers of warmer weather. But then a snowy owl was spotted by someone just yesterday not a mile north of us.

033All the animals are fine. Leucan and his mother Nell snoozing in the warm early morning sun. Hens are laying well including the ducks which increase their lay each week.

035Cats too like warm sunshine. This is Wesley the second. Just a short blog this week as I can’t remember what happened last week which means that likely nothing too noteworthy happened. Just the usual stuff.

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March 26, 2018 FARM NEWS and HAPPENINGS

The usual Monday morning view. Still cold early on but brilliant sunshine and still.

The ducks head for the garden area as soon as they are let out and then disperse a bit and wander all around snuffling for things to eat.

A Leghorn hen, very good looking, the eyes and general condition of the wattles, comb and feathers and the way it hold it’s head tell a lot about the health and if it is laying eggs. White ear, white eggs.


One of the old hens, an ISA looking in very good health and likely a very good layer too. Brown ear, brown eggs.

In last Monday’s blog post I had mentioned not seeing the Tundra Swans anymore. But after posting that blog on Monday last, two separate flocks were seen passing overhead. So they were still around and Aerron has heard them at all hours of the night. Last Monday was a nice day with lots of sunshine all day. It was just a little above freezing so it was comfortable but a light S.E. wind felt cold. The temperature dropped below freezing as the sun set. Turned a good length (about twelve feet) of the hot bed by hand with the fork, breaking clumps, spreading it evenly and wetting it down good as it was re-piled. The home fires are still burning to keep our house warm so splitting a bit of wood is a daily bit of work done.

A few days ago. Nell, Marta and Leucan snoozing in afternoon sunshine.

There is a cat in amongst the pigeons here trying his best not to draw the attention of the chickens.

The week’s weather was good in that it was dry, however the nights were still quite cold and though the days warmed up to above freezing the winds were from the north and felt quite cold. The hotbed has not yet been completed but the next few days should see it operational. Right now it is all in pieces with piles all round and quite unrecognizable.

A blue Cochin rooster. Well feathered feet and legs.

This is a Whiting True blue hen with the distinctive muff and ear feathers of this breed and the closely related Ameracauna. This hen lays blue or blue-green eggs.

But the equinox came, spring is here. The Tundra swans are now likely on their way again with another stop in Manitoba I think it is, before they get to the arctic. Bluebirds have been seen, the Killdeer first heard then seen, several around again, lots of different bird calls now. I’m not familiar enough with them to know which is what when I hear them.

A bunch of lambs and mothers at the door. The lambs like to get out an bounce around in the sun.

Mom ewes and curious lambs.

Another couple of weeks and it will be time for early spring planting of some field crops. There is now a lot of work to be done. But then there is always a lot of work to be done.

The lambs play games of chase and pushing about and if there is a hill it is Queen/King of the hill.

Chickens, ducks, sheep and lambs, cows and their calves and the horses. All are well. The last lambs for this year were born over a week ago and we had another calf born last week too. All are doing well.

They are all alert and curious little things.

All the lambs are as nice looking as this one is.

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