February 20, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view. The snow has gone, the sun shines bright, the mud is quite apparent.

The usual Monday morning garden view. The snow has gone, the sun shines bright, the mud is quite apparent.

This week’s weather has been very pleasant for us and we are much more easily able to get more done.  There is still a good little bit of frost in the ground and it is not yet all out.  A rain with warm temperatures will get rid of what frost still remains.  The downside is that it is now very muddy and will be for another day or two by which time it is predicted to rain.  So likely we won’t be rid of mud any time soon.

the chicken house on the left and the duck hut to the right with the bale of straw between them.  A warmer view than the same view posted last week.

The chicken house on the left and the duck hut to the right with the bale of straw between them. A warmer view than the same view posted last week.

We did some detail work to finish up the green house attached to our house so it is now that much closer to being able to hold all the trays with seedlings growing in them.  But that will not happen too soon as we don’t want to risk having to hold plants too long before setting them out in the garden.  Not too much before March first.

Nell and Marta waiting for more hay and liking the warm sun.

Nell and Marta waiting for more hay and liking the warm sun.

The animals are liking the warm weather of course and we have finally been able to let the chickens out all day with out fear of cooling the chicken house too much.  They are also steadily laying better as the weather warms and the day length increases.  Some of the older hens do not lay well at all during the winter.  We have to do a lot of culling to find out which hens are not laying eggs.  There are some in the older group.  The older hens do lay the bigger eggs though they are often then more fragile. We are giving them crushed oyster shell as a calcium supplement so that may help.  The ducks have adopted to the new location of their duck house without any problems.  They should start laying eggs again soon as there is now a light on in their house and day length increase is also important to trigger their egg laying.

Chickens at the feed trough. The white hens are two of our nine Leghorns, the very prolific white egg layer. Nine leghorn hens have laid nine eggs each day for the past seven days.

Chickens at the feed trough. The white hens are two of our nine Leghorns, the very prolific white egg layer. Nine leghorn hens have laid nine eggs each day for the past seven days.

We will start to work in the garden in earnest once the frost is out and the ground has firmed up.  The spreading of straw mulch and composted manure are going to take a lot of time and that is what is needed along with working the soil and preparing seed beds.  We are suddenly overwhelmed once more but as it is still only mid February everything good grind to a halt with the return of winter weather.

The twin lambs with their mother.

The twin lambs with their mother.

She is checking. Yep, they are all here.

She is checking. Yep, they are all here.

Giving mom a kiss?  No just checking to see if it's mom.

Giving mom a kiss? No just checking to see if it’s mom.

There are two other reminders of spring coming soon.  Twin lambs were born last week, no more since, but these two are doing well.  The sap has started to flow and we began boiling down a small amount yesterday.  We only do a small amount of maple syrup each year as we do not have many maple trees.  Some of the trees that we have tapped in the past are on the river bank and it is very difficult to get to these and even more difficult to carry out a full ( maybe 15+ litres) pails of sap. We also tap Manitoba maple as well as he Sugar maple and that work s alright.

A single tap on the sugar maple by our house. Not the usual sap bucket, this is actually a stainless steel dairy bucket.  Most of our sap buckets plastic.

A single tap on the sugar maple by our house. Not the usual sap bucket, this is actually a stainless steel dairy bucket. Most of our sap buckets plastic.

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February 13, 2017 FARM NEWS


Overcast , just below freezing, light wind, a pleasant day though. The usual Monday morning view of the garden.  Still frozen.

Overcast , just below freezing, light wind, a pleasant day though. The usual Monday morning view of the garden. Still frozen.

The old horse Marie to the left being harassed by the young stallion Leucan.

The old horse Marie to the left being harassed by the young stallion Leucan.

Tuesday was the rainy, warm day.  Not too much of a problem for us though the roof on the one chicken hut leaked a bit and there was a flood in the corner of the other hen house.  The chickens do a very good job at tracking the moisture well beyond where it came in.  Some extra straw thrown down made it much better. The biggest problem came when trying to drive the car out as there was a thick layer of snow that was perfectly fine for driving on when still well frozen but of course with all the rain the car tires just mushed right through and could not grip and shovelling and a bit of sanding was needed.

The opossum eating scraps and cat food from the kitchen compost bucket.  He looks quite well filled out, well fed, lots of cat food, nice sharp teeth and those are both his front legs. He was unmoving and quiet.

The opossum eating scraps and cat food from the kitchen compost bucket. He looks quite well filled out, well fed, lots of cat food, nice sharp teeth and those are both his front legs. He was unmoving and quiet.

After taking the compost bucket away.  Our old cat 'Whitey' has been sleeping in the box on the left and has been there the whole time just ignoring the goings on around him.

After taking the compost bucket away. Our old cat ‘Whitey’ has been sleeping in the box on the left and has been there the whole time just ignoring the goings on around him.

It has been a week of interesting wildlife sightings. Earlier in the week an opossum, a resident here, and often seen, hurried off from eating the cats food at our front door when I went out. I try not to leave the cat food dishes out too long at night so as not to be feeding the opossum or even a raccoon as happened last winter.  This is quite a large plump opossum that appears to be well fed.  Then on Thursday early afternoon we saw two fox in the pasture to the east of our house not 100 feet away. we were inside. One was significantly smaller and darker in colour and followed the other. the other was normal fox size and barked a couple of times as if calling to the smaller one.  Last week a single fox was spotted in the neighbours corn field to the west, at dusk, as the chickens were being shut up for the night.  On Friday evening about 9:30 Aerron spotted a single coyote sitting on the field lane down the hill to the east of our house.  He was sitting watching the two horses, the two mares Nell and Marta. The horses are in no danger from coyotes and the coyotes around here would not likely even consider  horses for potential meals.  Some coyotes with maybe more wolf genes might be inclined to do so but coyotes and wolves will go after the easiest caught prey.  Mice and rabbits first and foremost. But one more opossum incident on Saturday evening when I photographed one obstinate opossum eating cat food again on the porch at the front door refusing to move without some gentle persuasion from the corn broom, kinda gently swept away only to return searching for more cat food an hour later with another opossum..

The kale is looking really drab now but some leaves are still quite useable.

The kale is looking really drab now but some leaves are still quite useable.

The great ice storm for Sunday morning turned out to be a bit of snow and a bit of rain, pretty much no freezing rain. We got quite wet when we moved the duck house at around the noon hour.  We levered it up on to a set of wheels, hooked it to the Honda Pilot and dragged it carefully up to beside the hen house where we manoeuvred it into position with pry bars and boards for sliding it on.  Much better spot and now we’ll put in a light on the same timer as for the chicken house lights.  Hopefully we can get the ducks back to laying eggs again soon.

The duck house newly repositioned is on the right, the large straw bale covered  at centre and the chicken house to the left. The chickens door is shut, they won't much go out yet, might open it after lunch but the ducks door is open and the ducks are still inside.

The duck house newly repositioned is on the right, the large straw bale covered at centre and the chicken house to the left. The chickens door is shut, they won’t much go out yet, might open it after lunch but the ducks door is open and the ducks are still inside.

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February 6, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden

The usual Monday morning view of the garden

Last week was the first week, the first Monday since January 2 of 2012, that I was unable to post our weekly blog.  We had so much going on and it took me until Wednesday to get the photo upload problem sorted out. It was really vey simple.  The slot on the computer which takes the SD card from  the camera in order to upload photos was damaged by spilled coffee. Yes, I know, I should not have let me near the computer with a cup of coffee. We were lucky.  There was no other damage.  Aside from the SD card slot the rest of the computer is functioning as usual.  The solution was to buy a card reader that conveniently plugs in to one of the USB ports on the computer.  Quite simple.  Works fine.  Back in business.

The ducks preening and just enjoying a fine though somewhat overcast day.

The ducks preening and just enjoying a fine though somewhat overcast day.

It has, as mentioned, been a busy week.  We did a lot more firewood gathering and a lot more planning for the upcoming CSA and veggie growing season.  Things just seem to take a lot more time than expected.  We have finished up with making changes to the CSA for the 2017 season and are now prepared to accept payments or down payments for CSA vegetable.  Look at the page on this website; Our CSA Program for more info or contact us.  Send an e-mail. We are still drawing up lists of vegetables to get for planting and looking at what shrubs trees and berries we should get to begin the agroforestry method of agriculture.

Leucan on a pleasant day just doing nothing

Leucan on a pleasant day just doing nothing

The animals are all doing fine.  The weather, though a little cooler these past two weeks, has not been all that bad.  Not much rain or ice and just a little snow, nothing to make getting around difficult, no need to shovel any snow, so that is always nice and with the amount of snow that we do have the sled slides nicely when we use it to bring up firewood.  So much easier than carrying by hand or using a wheelbarrow and not enough to justify going to the trouble to harness the horses and hook to the wagon.  We really should do that just to  get the horses doing something. If the horses are not harnessed and used regularly and fairly often, then they need extra work to get them relearned again.

Last season's Kale rows are now looking pretty drab

Last season’s Kale rows are now looking pretty drab

 

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JANUARY 23, 2017 FARM NEWS


I am unable to load new photos to the computer so no photos to this blog until I get it sorted out.

A wet, wet week.  Pretty much no sun at all and lots of fog and sometimes a rain or drizzle. Everything has stayed wet nearly all week and things have been getting quite muddy.  This is nice though as warm is better than cold as far as us and all the animals are concerned.  We are all much happier for it.  One drawback to the fog though is that dark is now really dark. Normally if I’m out after dark there is no problem seeing but with the fog it was so dark that I needed a light to avoid walking into things.

The chickens have been going outside every day this week though sometimes we have delayed letting them out until after most of the egg laying has been completed.  This because I suspect they had laid the odd egg outside.  I did not find any but the number of eggs is almost always lower when the hens are outside.  We have ordered various breeds of chickens as day old chicks from Performance Poultry of Carrying Place near to Trenton. Chicken breeds with names like Silver laced Wyandotte, Black Australorp, Blue Andalusian, Ameracauna, Buff Brahma and Buckeye.  Very small numbers of each but a large enough number of different breeds that we will be able to compare the egg laying and meat growth  to get an idea which breed is the best for our situation, our growing conditions, our way of doing things. There are different coloured eggs in this mix too. Should be very interesting. We are also getting more egg laying ducks so our duck loving friends will be happy, once the ducks start laying again.

We were also able to get a new cover on our greenhouse this week. A 20 X 25 foot single sheet of 6 mil plastic perfectly covered all but a three foot wide bay at the one end and we’ll use the narrower 6 mil roll to finish this off. Once the top cover is in place we can set about cleaning up the greenhouse and sealing all the various spots were air is leaking in.  It is hard to keep the temperature up enough for germinating unless the place can be made near air tight. One thing that we need to do is to decide how we are going to provide bottom heat for the seed trays in order to speed up and to have reliable uniform germination of the seeds.  There are a number of little tricks to use in the design for bottom heat,but some of them are a bit suspect from the safety standpoint.

Still much to do and by next week we also must have all the changes to our CSA structure for 2017 in place and a note sent out to all previous CSA members as well as those who have expressed interest. The new CSA information will also be posted on this website at the CSA page.

 

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JANUARY 16, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view, snow all gone and looking quite spring like.

The usual garden view, snow all gone and looking quite spring like.

The Kale is now looking rather poorly.  too much wind being the main culprit .

The Kale is now looking rather poorly. too much wind being the main culprit .

This past week has been pretty good weather wise and for a time we have had warmth and little wind and have been pretty comfortable.  The animals do well, the chickens have been outside almost more this week than during all the last half of December, the horses appreciate the sun’s warmth as do the cows and sheep though the latter have been inside a bit more than usual lately.

Some of the hens inside on the roosts and some in the corner in the sun.

Some of the hens inside on the roosts and some in the corner in the sun.

Leucan having breakfast and thinking it's a fine day.He'll not like the prospect of rain later in the day.

Leucan having breakfast and thinking it’s a fine day.He’ll not like the prospect of rain later in the day.

We managed to get the replacement cover on the woodshed and it is firmly in place this time and should be able to stand up to everything short of a hurricane.  this will be of enormous benefit as we’ll have more room for wood both for lumber and for firewood and hopefully enough room for doing some woodworking too.  It is all very temporary as we intend to take it down when we can next year or the year after and erect a more roomy, better built structure with a more durable cover.

The herd of ducks

The herd of ducks

We have been looking at seed catalogues to try to get seed orders sent off as soon as possible.  we may need some seeds for seeding as early as next month but most seeds can wait until March before being planted. We have also been looking at what to get for poultry having in mind various chicken breeds for replacements and for different eggs and also to have some birds to be raised for roasters, chicken, duck and turkey.  Not a lot, we have to really figure out how much room we need for all of this and where they will all go.  we do have some big ideas.  We have mainly been looking at what Performance Poultry of Carrying Place, a wee hamlet just to the west of Trenton, has to offer and also Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs.  Both of these places are very reputable places to buy poultry from.  Frey’s has day olds, started birds and ready to lay hens while Performance Poultry has only day old chicks. Both places have chicken, turkey and ducks and I think guineas though we are not looking to get guineas.

Cats in a bush.  No birds there.

Cats in a bush. No birds there.

We have also been looking at moving more towards a permaculture farm and to agroforestry.  This is something that we have always been wanting to do but just have not been able to do with the pressing needs of the day to day and preparations for each seasons harvest. The amount of grass, hay fields and hedge rows in rural Ontario has been steadily decreasing.  We would like to plant more trees of many species, with nut trees and fruit trees being predominate and with various berry bushes and lots of wildflowers.  All this means a considerable financial investment from us even when we are doing a relatively small area.

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January 9, 2017 FARM NEWS


There are no photos for the blog today.  I just have not had time for them. Hopefully I can get some up tomorrow.

We’ve had more very cold weather.  Frozen eggs, frozen water pipe, frozen water troughs, frozen (well, almost) toes and fingers.  But there are now only about 60 days until reliably milder weather and about 75 days, or about 10 Monday morning blogs, until the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Not so much snow the past few days but plenty of cold to drive the frost deep.  The plus to less snow is less shoveling, and though we do only the absolute minimum snow shoveling anyway, blowing and drifting snow can cause a lot of shoveling.

We have gotten in more hay over the weekend and with this hay we will now likely have enough to do until everyone is back out on pasture. That could be as early as the first of May, more likely the middle of May but if it is a cold spring like last spring then it might be closer to the end of May before there is enough growth on the pastures to allow grazing.  We do rotational grazing with the cows and horses. They will be on a particular pasture for from one to four or even five days before being moved on to the next.  The number of days on a pasture  depends on plant growth and the size of the particular pasture. But for now we are still feeding out hay and are going through a single 4 X 5 foot round bale in a little over two days.

Everyone from chicken and ducks through to cows and us is doing fine, coping with the winter mostly.  We have been very busy over the last week getting firewood into the woodshed and we now have a pretty good, though far from adequate, quantity of wood. stockpiled.  On Tuesday we pulled a tarp over the wood shed so as to effect a repair to the myriad small holes and   large gaps that had accumulated in the original 6 mil plastic cover.  The new used large tarp covered the shed very nicely and there were no longer any holes.  We did not quite finish the job. We needed to secure it all along the edges but we had it weighted down good on three of the four edges and it was getting  dark so the job of finishing was left to the next day which dawned so very windy that the tarp just blew off.  Still have not yet got it back on.  Snow and rain are forecast for late Monday night so we had better get it back on.

 

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January 2, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view. today is just above freezing with a light east wind and no clouds

The usual Monday morning garden view. today is just above freezing with a light east wind and no clouds

HAPPY NEW YEAR.  The last week of 2016 was pleasant enough for this time of year.  It certainly could have been a lot worse than it was.  We don’t do nearly as much work over the holidays though we did get a lot of wood into the fire wood shed over the past week. There has not been too much else happening, except that we did get another load of hay delivered and when we get just one more, that should be enough hay to see us through until everyone goes out on fresh pasture in the spring, probably early to mid May.  We observe grass growth to determine when the sheep cows and horses can start going through their pasture rotations.  But May is a long time off, four whole months, about 120 days, quite a bit of hay.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale.  Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale. Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

We did find time this week for some spring planning.  We need to figure out what seeds and plants we need to buy and of course the quantities. Mostly for the seeds the question is; which of the many different varieties should we choose?  We do save a good bit of seed but we are always trying a new variety of something that promises to be better in some way; perhaps better resistance to disease, better yield, better under certain growing conditions. But sometimes when we grow that better promise, it just does not perform as expected since our methods and growing conditions are different.  So for that reason we may grow several better promises to see which one might be best for us.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale.  Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale. Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

It has become more and more apparent that the rate of species and habitat loss has been accelerating.  It has been for some time but the rate at which this is happening is greater and more apparent.  Some species have done very well. Canada Geese, Raccoons, Grey Squirrels, Coyotes and Turkeys are good examples of species that have thrived over the past several decades.  There are many others too but at the same time other species have declined or even disappeared locally.  The Grey Partridge (a European native to be sure) and Grouse, are no longer seen.  Monarch butterflies were very rare this past season and it is possible that we will not see them come back.  There are many fewer insects of all sorts.  This is all directly attributable to habitat loss and to pesticide use. The worst aspect is the great loss in grassland and woodland.  The grassland is plowed under for corn in the main with large amounts in soybeans and more in cereals seemingly mostly rye and wheat.  Fewer beef and sheep farms on pasture and almost no conventional dairy farm puts the cows on pasture any more.  Pastureland, the grasslands are no longer as permanent, and the acreage has shrunken dramatically.  This is all the needed habitat for many insects and birds as well as mice, voles and rabbits for predators such as hawks and coyotes. Then there are too many homes going into woodlots.

One of the more successful species, I think. A trio of sparrows but I'm not sure which kind. They stay around the chicken house to eat the chicken food.

One of the more successful species, I think. A trio of sparrows but I’m not sure which kind. They stay around the chicken house to eat the chicken food.

Our single Ameraucauna chicken, a rooster. His name is Nugget. The hens of this breed lay a blue egg.

Our single Ameraucauna chicken, a rooster. His name is Nugget. The hens of this breed lay a blue egg.

We are considering a move to agroforestry, an old method of agriculture experiencing a bit of a revival.  Agroforestry means many more species of trees, much smaller fields bordered by trees in wide hedgerows. Many but not all of the tree species have uses for humans such as for fruit, nuts, firewood, and lumber.  The trees and everything else growing in the area around them can be used for pasture for cows, horses, sheep and goats which when used correctly are of benefit to the plants as well as all the fauna living there from tiniest of organisms, fungi and bacteria up through insects and small mammals and various birds.  An ecosystem quickly evolves.  These wide hedge rows would be great areas to run chicken flocks too.

062We need to move towards that model and we will make an attempt.  We will be budgeting to plant more fruit and nut trees and fruiting shrubs.  It will take a lot of work to get it all established and growing well. But we are pretty small.  Perhaps we could become an example of how things could work.

 

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