SEPTEMBER 14, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view on Sunday morning. The little trailer is being re-purposed as a chicken house on wheels. It will be pulled around by hand to give a small flock of chickens a regular change in pasture.

Looking at the gardens from about 30 feet to the left of the previous photo and at the CSA pick up tables.

This photo is from the other end of the garden looking back towards where the previous photo was taken from. The are spots in this and the previous photo are because crops are finished and this is the area that will soon be planted in next season’s garlic and some of it is in newly seeded vegges for this fall.

No rain this week until Sunday morning early when 5 mm showed in the rain gauge. Things are still looking good since it has not been hot but that small amount of rain was most welcome. Some days did get quite warm for a brief time though we had a couple of nights that were quite cool, less than 10°C. This is far too cool for the basil which suffers damage at temperatures approaching 10C so we have put several of the basil pots in our garlic shed which is a plastic covered green house affair. They have a lot of re-growing to do. Most other vegetables would much prefer a good bit more heat than we are now getting, but it is fall, and this is fall weather. We will have veggies until the end of October and maybe beyond but we will have a frost, and a hard one, sometime between now and then.

These are the youngest ducks hatched the first week of May and now looking very well grown. They are mostly drakes and are having great fun, as they always do, in the ‘duck pond’.

A buff hen. This is a 3 year old bird now and looks really good though she was never a great egg layer. Maybe 150 eggs per year whereas a real good layer will lay 250 or more in a year. But she will continue to lay eggs for more than just one season and is a much longer lived and hardier bird than some of the more productive hens.

This rooster is quite cocky. Actually is so by definition but is also a big chicken when it comes right down to a push and shove by anyone other than another chicken.

The pastures are looking much more green now, much more like pastures and we’ll soon put the cows out on a through the pastures rotation and also move the horses to a good spot where there is food. Meanwhile the sheep continue to roam where they please, except for the gardens, and have made it difficult  for some of the pasture to recover. Chickens are pretty happy these days.

The bees are very busy with the sunflowers.

This sunflower head should be ripening nicely now but a significant amount has been eaten by the bird, most likely golf finches and possibly the hairy woodpecker who may be looking more for insects in the seed head than the seeds.

In the front, yellow beets, then red beets with purple carrots in the next row with yellow and orange carrots beyond that.

The root crops; the beets, carrots and turnips are all growing well and this is perfect weather for them. The various greens, collectively called Japanese, or Chinese or Asian greens are also doing great. These are komatsuna, koho, mibuna, fun jen mustard, tatsoi, and mizuna. The cabbage family crops are growing well too but are still quite young. These include, as well as cabbages, kale, cauliflower and nappa cabbage.

Komatsuna

Koho, similar to bok choi

This is mustard, fun jen

Tatsoi, another which is similar to bok choi

Mizuna

 

 

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SEPTEMBER 7, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view on Sunday morning since Monday was forecast to be rainy

The cut flower patch between the new cherry trees with the row of sweet peppers running behind.

Sunflower. This fine looking lot are all from seeds spilled by the birds last year as they feasted on the ripe sunflower heads.

Nearly all the sunflowers are like this one: multiple heads on a single stalk. They are mostly smaller in size than the mammoth types but make good cut flowers.

This particular potato variety has done really well. Most varieties did poorly with drought and potato beetles killing off many plants. This variety is a blue potato and is growing well with no gaps., no losses, and though it is a late maturing variety it should produce a lot of late potatoes for us.

THE WEATHER: Sunday morning the temperature was at 6.1°C. The previous temperatures this past week have not been so bad, Saturday morning’s being the next l0west at about 11 . These temperatures are not so good for growing vegetables and can be and likely were, quite damaging to the likes of basil, tomato and cucumber. It might take a day or two for the basil damage to show up and the damage to tomato will be in their not setting or developing fruits. We’ll see what happens. No rain last week though it looked promising a few times and we got some scattered drops a couple of times. Saturday we had enough to moisten the ground but it did not register on the rain gauge. Still it dampened the newly seeded cabbages types and the newly transplanted lettuces.

The newly seeded cabbages, kale and broccolis with a stray zucchini wondering what happened.

GARLIC: We pulled all our garlic about 4 weeks ago now. We did well with the garlic this season. It grew well having survived the winter without loss. We had mulched this spring with leaves and some straw but only after the green eaves were growing and we were careful not to bury them. They were scaped early unlike previous years, and we had the whole lot pulled in one day. We had a lot of good help this year. The garlic bulbs were a medium size on average, somewhat smaller than we’d hoped and likely because of the drought as the garlic got no irrigation. But there were far fewer small garlic heads than in previous years. Next seasons garlic will be planted soon.

The garlic shed is a temporary structure that has worked well to store and sort the garlic.

Turned to look in the opposite direction from the previous photo of the cabbage, kale and broccoli

These are newly seeded rhubarb plant which germinated about two weeks ago. They will remain in pots over winter and be planted out likely next spring. we have a lot of them so will have a lot of rhubarb in a couple of years.

OTHER VEGETABLES: Most everything is doing ok and of course would have done better with a little less heat and a lot more rain. The chard is doing excellent even though it gets quite wilted at times of dry and no irrigation. The beets and carrots have done well with only the occasional watering. The first lot of carrots, a variety called Yaya, would normally have produced lots of good sized carrots but the have been smaller than usual. Some of the later varieties which we are not yet harvesting, are larger. Beets are a good size. The tomatoes have been unusual this year. The quantities have not been as large as expected but the quality is excellent. The tomatoes did well in spite of most having no watering, they had been heavily mulched with straw. The straw and the heat and dry kept the usual diseases including blights away. The cool nights, especially the below 10°C nights in May, just after the tomatoes were set out, were likely the reason for the smaller quantity of fruits. We have just seeded more peas, while cabbages, kale and broccoli were seeded a couple of weeks ago and lettuce transplants were set out last week.

These are two of our older Marans hens. We’ll have to hatch eggs from them next winter, early spring. These hens lay the very dark , chocolate brown eggs.  The lump of grey feathers to the right is a feather legged and footed cochin hen.

This is a really nice hen, a Silver Laced Wyandotte. Unfortunately the egg size is medium to small.

These are the young ducks. Only three are hens and they won’t have any eggs until late in the fall.

LIVESTOCK: Horses and cows are still getting hay and are not being moved around the pastures since the grass is still not grown back and may not this season. The sheep get some hay and wander all the pastures. The chickens are staying with one pasture per flock so as not to scratch up too much while the older duck flock still has a large area to wander. The young ducks are restricted to a smaller area with the peacock and their daily chicken visitors. The chickens fly over the fence to get in with the ducks and also come through a hole in the fence dividing the interior of the chicken house into a chicken side and a peafowl side.

Hot pepper plants in pots with morning glory growing all round.

PROJECTS: We have a number of long delayed projects that we may tackle this fall. We have work to do on the house and on the yurt. This urgently needs to be done before winter. Another urgent before winter project is the digging of our irrigation water storage pond. Other smaller projects are a couple of small sheds and several poultry houses. Even small jobs take an enormous effort and time. We also need to do a cleanup at the barn.

 

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AUGUST 31, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view on Sunday late morning.
Looking pretty wildly overgrown and, though perhaps some parts are, mostly the vegetables are not too weedy.

The Basil Boat at the pick up area. The old skiff, now no longer sea worthy, has been filled with earth and planted in Basil with a very few (5) Okra plants.

We did not get any rain this past week except for 2 mm on last Monday. But it has not been very hot and the days are getting shorter too meaning that there is less moisture lost to evaporation. The garden is now looking much better than it has all summer and the grass is greening again in the pastures.

We have all these pepper plants and some herbs growing I pots and planters at the pick up area and since they can more easily get regular waterings they are growing quite well. They are hot peppers so a hot September will be to their liking.

We are pretty sure that we saw 5 eagles at one time just briefly on Sunday late morning and saw four of them for quite a long time. We are quite surprised and pleased at this. We do frequently see one or two eagles, mostly circling high overhead and towards the river about a quarter mile from us,but very rarely directly above us and low down. Lots of Canada geese these days as the field dent corn is now maturing, have not noticed any ducks yet but they will also be around in the corn fields soon too. The wild turkeys frequently walk through our gardens though they have not caused any damage and do not seem to overly concerned when we are out there too. But they do then slowly move off.

Two eagles soaring high up in the sky just to the north west of the gardens.

Two nice sunflowers growing at the edge of the cabbage garden

Same sunflowers but just past them, soaring over the Grand River, are those two eagles again.

Most of the vegetables are growing quite well now though a lot is now quite mature and not so much left. We do have other vegetables that coming along well, broccoli, cabbage, more lettuce, kale and various greens.

The newly planted cabbages, kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage.

Looking down rows of pepper, greens and cherry trees.

The cows and horses are still not yet back in a pasture rotation as though the grass is growing back it is not yet enough to sustain grazing except  by the sheep. We need another rain to keep it growing well.

This rooster and his three hens had free run of everywhere and were locked away every night so they’d not get eaten by racoons or coyotes. But they have been scratching were they should not be and have begun venturing into the garden and hide their eggs where only the racoons and skunks can find them. So they now have a proper little moveable overnight house with an egg lying box and an attached outside run. It was really nice to have them just run about but they have been getting into too much trouble.

The chickens and ducks could also do with better pasture, they all like fresh green grass and weeds. They have plenty of bare areas to dust bathe in. A favoured pass time or chickens, ducks would rather have mud.

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AUGUST 24, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual morning view of the garden. But I have moved over about 5 feet to the left of where I’d stood before. Anew normal spot to stand as there are hosta plants at the old spot.

LONG DELAY: It has been 4 weeks now since we’ve published a blog. The farm is still here, we are still here and the vegetables and all the various farm animals are still here. The lack of blogging is a result of a combination of factors, but mainly that I have been much restricted in what I can do as a result of heart surgery and also because of the prolonged drought and consequent need for near constant irrigation. No one has had the time.

Potted and planter vegetables at the pick up area. Sweet and Hot pepper basil, tomatoes and herbs.

More of the potted plants at the pick up area.

MYSELF: I am now still recovering, but recovering quite well, from heart surgery on July 10 when I had a valve replaced and another repaired. It is a testament to the wonders of modern medicine that I have had such a rapid recovery even though I’m still very restricted in what I can do and will be for a long while yet. But I do feel much better than before surgery.

The garden looks pretty dry  here. Beans to the far left , Chard, Beets and carrots

A little further back up the row, same vegges as before. Looks very dry here too though.

DROUGHT: We have not had much rain since the middle of May and the temperatures have been quite hot. I don’t have a record of rainfall amounts through May and June but do know that from mid-May it was minimal. The total for July was 23.5 mm and to date this month 22.6 mm. The rain over these past 7 weeks or so has occurred on 12 separate days and the maximum was only 8.4 mm on August 2 followed by 1.9 0n the 3rd and 4.8 on the 4th of august. But with temperatures for July averaging 30.6 C and a maximum of 35.9, and, for August so far an average of 28.1 and a maximum of 32.3, those rainfall amounts were far too little. June’s temperature averaged 26.4 with a maximum of 32.5 C. Even though May’s average temperature was 17.5 C we did have a maximum of 30.7 C. Lots of numbers but good to record. We now have many trees dropping shrivelled up leaves adding to the long ago dried up grasses. It has been very difficult to keep the garden going and we have lost a lot of vegetables to both excessive heat and to lack of moisture.

Newly seeded cabbage and kale. The black line crossing the first two rows, on the left, is the shadow of a small tree there with the white things which are disintegrating paper bags full of leaves. The other bit crossing the rows further on is a squash plant. And those are birds off to the right.

Tomato plants and ripening fruit. Not so many fruit, probably to hot and ry when they were pollinating.

A mix of flowers, borage and basils between cherry trees with sweet pepper and eggplant beyond.

VEGETABLES: As mentioned, it has been very difficult to keep things growing this summer and many of the mid-summer plantings simply failed to germinate because of the excessive heat and difficulty keeping the seedbed moist. We shade most newly seeded vegetables with boards laid directly on the soil or with mulches to provide shade and to retain moisture. It is a trick that usually works well for us with the difficulty being that the boards must be remover immediately on germination and mulch cannot be too thick for most things. With the boards, their removal immediately exposes the emerging seedlings to the sun so a cloudy day is ideal for their removal. That does not always happen and unless we can acclimatize them and keep them constantly moist for their first few days then we’ll simply have the whole lot die off. That happened several times. We really should have done the seeding into trays and later transplanted to the garden but we were not expecting such prolonged severe weather. We do have several trays of lettuce as that is especially difficult to germinate in the garden during a hot dry summer.

Sunflowers with the fuzzy centres. I think the dark spot on the right of the far right flower is an insect.

CHICKENS, OTHER POULTRY AND FOUR FOOTED BEASTS: We have been drawing down our winter hay supply for over a month now as pastures have dried right up. This hay goes to the horses, cows and sheep. We’ll need to get more before the start of winter and it will not be cheap. We do need our own home grown supply and we have some. We need a hay mower for our tractor and we need a mower that can get into tight places. Perhaps next year. The horses and cows are not being moved on much so as to keep pastures from being to badly cut up and also so they will recover quickly when the rains come. Even with rain it will take a month before they can be grazed again. chickens also have no pasture now and are restricted so they don’t scratch up and turn everything to dust. The young chicks will be laying by October and the young ducks a little while after. We’ll need to get some replacement laying hens as most of those we have now are just too old and with the heat and lack of pasture are not laying well at all.

One of the few coloured sunflowers in the garden.

I need to write about garden pests this year, how well the garden grew this year so far and what we expect in the fall and more. but another time soon.

 

 

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JUNE 29, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual view of the garden late this Monday morning. Already was getting quite hot.

Moving from the green barrel to the right the first three rows are the latest lettuce planting, the next three rows are the oldest and the ones that we are harvesting. Beside those lettuce are two rows of peas, then a new planting of spinach, carrot rows, beets, chard, beans then tomato.

The weather this week was much better than it has been. We had several days with a good lot of cloud cover and we had 4 separate days with small amounts of rain. The total over the week was about 24 mm. This was an ok amount though it did dry out between some of the rains. One rain for instance was only 2 mm and a  warm sunny day passed before we got more. The next few days are forecast to be 30°C and over with a small chance of rain expected on Tuesday and Wednesday. If we get any at all it will be very nice.

The potato patch looking just a little too weedy.

The garden is growing very well now and looking quite weed free except for the potatoes where the weeds and grass got far out of control. We have gotten a good start on the weeds there and on controlling the potato beetles and their larva which are at large undesirable numbers. Daily walking of the rows is needed to look for and pick of the beetles, their larvae and eggs. Some significant damage has already been done but it is manageable still.

The carrots and the chard.

There are three tools, cultivator shovels, mounted on the bar at the rear of the tractor. One in the centre, one behind each rear tire.

The tractor is still not operating properly The fuel tank was removed, cleaned and re-fitted. and the fuel problem has been fixed. But when we ran it the engine was still rough running and further looking determined that numbers 1 and 2 cylinders are not firing so no wonder it runs the way it does. The battery is also not getting charged so likely a generator problem there too. More investigation needed.

The garlic patch is relatively weed free but has a lot brown leave tips because of the lack of rain.

This week will be the third week for CSA vegetable pick ups for this season. We will likely have the same vegetables available this week as for the first two: lettuce, nice looking, tasty and large and as many as one can use; green onions, small, about 6 inches but very nice looking and a good diameter; green garlic, or spring garlic being the entire garlic plant consisting of green leaves as well as the developing cloves; garlic scapes, the long stems of the developing garlic flower; lambs quarters, a wild green used much as one would use spinach; stinging nettle for a cooked green or a tea ; camomile for tea was available for the first week but unavailable now until it regrows;  spearmint or Korean mint again for teas or for salads and wild greens, mostly dandelion and wild lettuce, nice bitter greens.

The chickens were pretty hungry.

The sheep sometimes disappear in the long grass. Too long.

Four week old chicks, young ducklings, chickens, ducks, turkeys are all well and pretty happy with a warm summer. The sheep, cows and horses are still on pasture, and the rain, though not enough, was sufficient enough to help get the grass growing again. A lot more is needed though.

 

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JUNE 15 TO JUNE 22, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden. The grass is quite dried out. We are long overdue for a good rain.

This view is just a little to the left of the previous. The rows of growing vegetables that are doing well are from the left; two rows of peas, three rows of the early transplanted lettuce and then three rows of the early spring seeded lettuce.

We were quite unable to find the time last week, last Monday,  June 15, to write up the weekly blog. We have been working more this past two weeks than at anytime during the whole spring and we have had quite a bit of good help too. Much of the work was in maintaining the gardens; weeding and watering as well as a very little bit more seeding. It has been very hot and very dry. Very good for weeding and very good for growing, so long as things can get enough to drink. We are watering a lot but our water supply is meagre and the means of getting it to the gardens is slow.

A closer look at the lettuces. Those are the sweet cherries extending in a line beyond the green water barrel. Sweet peepers and eggplant to the right of the cherry tree line.

Moving a little more to the left again. In the centre is a newly seeded bed of three rows of spinach. Three rows of carrots to the left and then three rows of chard, beets then tomatoes.

The gardens are looking very good though there is still some planting to be done. A lot of weeding has been done, and that makes those areas of the gardens looking really well tended. There are still some parts where the weeds could do with a good bit of thinning out. The potatoes in particular need a lot of work. We did some tractor cultivating of the potatoes on Friday just before a very brief and very light rain. Then the tractor quit working.

These are the walking onions with their curious curled scapes at the tip of which are little garlic like cloves. As the plant ages these tops bend down and the cloves are planted at a little distance and thus the onion has walked, just a little, to a new position.

The garlic is still looking good but with a lot of tip browning of leaves it is definitely showing that it has been much too dry.  This will likely reduce the eventual mature size of the heads. A very good rain in the next few days would fix things though. The garlic is scaping now and they all need to be removed for the garlic to give maximum growth to the developing heads.

The tractor has proven to be quite valuable to us this spring in allowing us to get more work done than we would have if we’d been doing it all by hand or even with the horses. It has been quite frustrating at times trying to figure out how to use it under conditions very specific to the way we do things. We leave a lot of debris such as straw and other plant material in the garden for instance, and this can be difficult to work in to the ground when there is a lot of it. But after getting various bits and trying different ways of mounting tools we were getting it to work pretty good. But then the engine quit because chronically unlubricated distributor gears were stripped and had to be replaced. Easy enough that was but the re-timing of the distributor has been difficult. This has been compounded, we think, by an ongoing problem with bits of foreign matter in the fuel tank. This includes what appears to be rust particles and tiny bits of the filler cap gasket seal which had been deteriorating and crumbling. So much fine debris will accumulate on the screen on the sediment bowl that fuel cannot get through and the engine starves for gas and quits. It looks like the only real solution is to flush the tank thoroughly to rid it of all debris. Once we have the fuel system back together and working properly we’ll then be able to go back to attempting to retime the engine.

The tractor sitting idle, carb removed, and gas tank to come off next for cleaning.

Devon and a young duckling being moved from the chicken house, where they stay overnight, to the outdoor box on the grass where they’ll stay the day.

The hens are off their lay quite a bit which is disappointing and, though we are not sure why, they are getting quite old now and the hot weather might not agree with them. We will try to get some ‘ready-to-lay’ hens. These are hens that are aged 18 to 21 weeks. Hens begin to lay at about 21 weeks but will lay only sporadically for the first two to four weeks. Good production, 9 or 10 eggs per hen per day, 90 to 100 % lay rate, will happen sometime around week 25, that is, 5 to 7 weeks after we get them.  We’ll have to build one or two moveable structures to house them as we have no spare room and we’ll need to retain the old birds until the new lot is up to speed on egg laying.

The hens are up on the roosts and the rafters settling down for the night. A bit of a dark photo as the flash would not work.

Horses, cows and sheep are doing fine and the pastures are ok for now. It is getting quite dry and if we get no rain this coming week we’ll have little or no pasture left for them and  they’ll be back on hay. That will not be good.

The potato patch has a lot of weeds and is going to need a lot of work to get it cleared up.

Last week was the first week for the CSA pickups here at the farm. We had available only a few vegetables; lettuce, green onion, green or spring garlic, garlic scapes, lambs quarters (or bathau if you are from northern India), stinging nettle, mints and camomile as well as very limited quantities of rhubarb and asparagus. We’ll have about the same for the next few weeks. Much more will be available as the season goes along.

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JUNE 8, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual photo taken on Sunday with Gabriel out with the watering can in the background just to the left of the top of the straw bale.

The tall stuff is radicchio from last seasons. Being a biannual it is going to seed. But it still tastes like radicchio. Onions to the right.

The weather this week has been very good for planting even though we have had some pretty hot days. The weather has also been very dry which is not so really good. We did not record the rain but we may have gotten only a few mm during the whole week. It is more than likely that the weather will now follow what for us is the usual summer pattern; no significant rainfall until September. We hope though that we do get some good rainstorms during the season to keep things growing well. Ideally we would get an inch of rain each week. But that won’t happen.

These are the white onion sets, the radicchio is just out of the photo to the right.

The boys are watering the new planted sweet corn.

Little Xander is only 4 years old but insists on helping and manages to haul a watering can out near full out of the barrel. Again and again.

The first lot of sweet corn was planted this week, a 65 days to maturity variety and a 73 day variety will follow in about another week. we have been busy, with a lot of help, with watering and weeding, the onions now look real good and another lot of the white onion sets were stuck in the ground.  We should have a lot of onions. More tomatoes were planted last week and many thanks go to Mihaela for growing them from her saved seed and then bringing them out when they had grown a nice size and then, on top of all that, helping me to plant them. Getting water to everything is major work and does take a lot of time. Aerron’s four boys have been helping quite a bit in the garden and have done their share of watering, especially Gabriel who has spent much time with hose and watering cans. Maggie and Jerusa and I think Gabriel too, have weeded a lot in the lettuce and that is a finiky, painstaking job.

The ducklings in their outdoor box. Just lazing around Their routine is to eat , snuffle and splash in the water, laze around, repeat.

Our 11 little ducklings are now 4 weeks old I think and getting quite big. They have been out of the heat lamp for more than two weeks and outside on the grass for over a week. They now stay inside a large covered box with the peacock for overnight. Protection from raccoons is our prime concern; not during the day so much but overnight and the very early morning.

A closer look at a little fuzzy chick with the wing feathers already started to show.

The 21 four day old chicks. These are a mix of our special breeds of chickens.

The chicks were hatched out on Friday. They are nice big fluffy healthy things. They will stay in the broodhouse under a heat lamp for about a week then we’ll have them out ion grass like the ducklings.

There are many fine lettuce plants growing.

The garlic scapes are developing quite rapidly. The scape is the white shoot in the photo

The CSA will be starting very soon. We don’t have much ready yet. Lettuce, green garlic, garlic scapes, green onion, mints, stinging nettle and other wild bitter greens such as wild lettuce, and dandelion.

The chives with their purple flowers, then the welsh onions just starting to scape, a bed of two rows of white slicing onions, newly planted and not yet sprouted, with two rows of the Egyptian walking onions with the little topsets just developing.

The animals are all doing just fine. This is their best time of year. Lots of lush new green grass, nice and warm.

The hens from which We collected the eggs that we had. hatched.

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JUNE 1, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual weekly view of the garden. things are growing ever so slowly.

All of the area in the foreground has been seeded and some has germinated. Tomato transplants in alongside the straw to the left and the newly planted cherry trees along the far right.

A very productive week though the weather has turned quite cool the last two days and nights. More seeding was done during the week, more potatoes and onion sets were planted.   We got the trees and shrubs from Whiffle tree Farm and Nursery on Saturday morning. The strawberries, raspberries, dwarf cherries and the peaches were all in the ground by Saturday evening and well watered in. A little more panting was done on Sunday and on Monday the entire lot remaining were all planted. There were a total of eleven persons over the course of the afternoon all working away digging holes hauling water and transplanting. Not only were the trees planted but also the tomatoes, rhubarb  and some marigold. A large amount of work done and we thank all of the working shares and some who just volunteered their time.  A big job well done. Now we have to work hard to keep them growing.

The cherry trees along the right side with the perennials herbs to be planted alongside.

The garlic rows. There are different varieties growing and have differing heights,the trees are the newly planted columnar apple beside the garlic and on the right are newly planted and hard to see strawberries.

The tractor suddenly stopped on Thursday. It took a bit of work with crucial help from Brian Enes to diagnose the problem. Thank you Brian. The distributor was not turning, and disassembly revealed that the gear at the bottom of the distributor was stripped. On Saturday morning we went to Lynneville Farm Equipment down towards Delhi and picked up replacement gears. Being unable to help with the planting I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning up all the distributor parts prior to reassembly. I managed to clean up a rather hard to access casting without using any solvents which was very nice. On that same trip we went to the farm of a Farmall tractor enthusiast who provided us with parts for the PTO and belt pulley. With this we will now be able to run the tractor mounted mower. We have still some cultivating to do but when we have done we’ll remove the cultivators and attach the mower. It is a real performance to make the change over and it would be a lot easier to have one tractor for mowing and another for cultivating, but for now we have to make do with the complicated switch from cultivator to mower.

The tractor distributor disassembled. Gasket material at the top. The new gears are the small shiny parts. All ready for assembly

The distributor has been removed with a plastic bag stuffed into the opening where the distributor assembly is fastened.

On Monday we managed to get the distributor parts reassembled and now the last little job remaining to be done is to reset the ignition timing. Easy enough really but not having done it before means it will take a bit of special care and time.

The distributor assembly back in place and just needing to be timed and some wires re-attached.

Chickens are doing well and laying a good number of eggs still and liking the weather. The ducks are now older so they have not yet come up to their usual lay rate and we expect that they probably will not. They do still lay a good number of eggs and are at about 60% although that can fluctuate quite a bit. We have some young ducklings that will be laying eggs come fall.

The sheep on the pasture to the east of our house. The tree is one of two Comfort sugar maples that the boys and Aerron planted last year.

The cows and horses are being moved in their regular cycle ; a few days on one pasture then on to the next for another few days. The sheep just roam at will and we need to finish the fence that will keep them out of the garden. Haying starts soon but for us that only means buying delivered bales and rolling them into the mow. It would be ideal to have our own field and do the cutting, raking, gathering and stowing it away in the loft. We need more acres and those are rather pricey.

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MAY 25 2020, FARM NEWS


The usual view of the garden on a fine sunny Sunday

watering newly seeded carrots and spinach

We are just a little late in getting this blog, this report on the week that has passed, written up and posted. The weather has been excellent for getting things done, we have had a lot of help, sometimes as many as seven or eight of us working away. The boys will help for short times but it is difficult to have them out for more than a three hours, We have a those with working CSA shares coming regularly and it is then is that we get so much more done.

The perennial onions on the left and newly seeded beds of onions on the right.

The cultivator setup at the rear of the tractor. They leave three furrows spaced at 12 inches in the right spot for use as rows to seed into.

This week we have finished the moving of strawberries from one spot to another in the garden. The onions are nearly all seeded and today, Tuesday, should see the last of them seeded and all the onion sets are now in the ground. These are all much later than we’d like as weather, availability of seed and circumstance all conspired to delay. But the filling up of the garden is now going quite well. We got our main seed order from William Dams Seeds just yesterday but are still awaiting the tree order from Whiffletree Farm and Nursery. The Whiffletree order will have to be looked after right away when it does arrive. These are all bare root trees and other plants and as it is now very late in the season and warm the 100 fruit trees, 200 strawberry plants and 100 raspberries will need to be put in the ground as immediately as we can manage.

A tom turkey with chickens. We always run the turkeys with the chickens no problem

The turkeys always look enormous beside the hens

In the ground now are onion sets, onion seed, broad (fava) beans, chard, spinach, carrot, lettuce, potato, and more. Sweet corn, cabbage, broccoli, kale, cucumber, squash, zucchini, tomato and pepper will be going In this week.

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MAY 18, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual weekly view with once again a vehicle in the way. The SUV was carrying the bags of seed potatoes and was in a convenient spot.

At each of the stakes is an apple tree. This is the lot of trees that Aerron has grafted, mostly Melba. If you squint you might make out the bands of tilled ground running across the photo. Trees of many sorts will eventually be planted here.

Much accomplished this past week. A large number of small trees, mostly Manitoba maple, but a few silver maple and black walnut, were transplanted in a wide row just east  of our house. No edibles in there  yet except for the few walnuts but we’ll put in a lot of blackberry, raspberry, current and other small edibles in coming years. We have nearly finished spreading leaf mulch in the garlic beds, we have set out nearly all the Dutch sets onions, we transplanted 3 rows about 200 foot long of tiny lettuces, we planted 11 rows of potatoes, each 300 foot long, and transplanted more strawberry. Much more to be done of course but two days out of the garden now as it is too wet from a welcome rain.

The potatoes all in the ground but only the single rows covered

The potato beds fully covered. There are 11 beds, each 300 foot long. Four beds have two rows, three beds have a single row.

Looking at the disc hillers mounted underneath the tractor towards the front. This was their position to cover the single rows of newly planted seed potatoes. To cover the double rows the hillers were located more to the left in the photo and still covered a single row at a time but a pas in one direction covered one row in the bed and a pass in the opposite direction covered the second row in the bed.

We rented a small tractor with an attached 55 inch wide rotor tiller for the day on Tuesday. We used it to till the entire garden and also to till rows in the adjacent pasture and around the garden where we want to plant trees. We had gotten behind on the garden preparation and though we burned a bit of fuel we got more done in a singe day than we could have gotten done in three weeks working it by hand or three or more days working it with the horses. Most of the garden had two passes with the tiller and some areas with a lot to turn in and mix got three passes.

The rented tractor and tiller at work. Did a great job.

A typical untilled portion of the garden.

The tiller incorporated a lot of straw that was thick on the top into the soil. Most areas were gone over twice.

A blurred photo but it shows the 55 inch wide tiller attached at the end of the tractor.

The cows are  out on pasture now, as are the sheep and horses and are being moved from one pasture to another after two or three days grazing the same one. All except the sheep who more or less are free to roam where they like. We do of course have to keep the sheep out of the garden.

Freshly tilled ground either side of a row of radicchio.

Three rows of very tiny lettuce plants just transplanted into the freshly tilled seed bed.

Weather is much improved now though still a little cooler than we would like it to be for this time of year. Especially overnight. After Wednesday the forecast looks to be much better and we may get the thermometer reading in the high 20s. Soon we can complain that it is too hot. So long as we continue to get some rain each week we’ll be very happy with the warm weather.

Nearly all the garlic has been mulched with leaves. The garlic is growing really well.

 

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MAY 11, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday view of the garden. The truck is being loaded with leaves to be spread on the onion area and between the garlic rows.

Same photo but pulled back a bit.

I have to post this once more without all the photos that I wanted. I still have to use a phone for the photos and it is of poor quality and the only way that I can get them on to my computer in order to load them to this blog is to e-mail. I contacted a shop in Brantford to get my Canon camera repaired but they say they are still under the lockdown. No idea why they just can’ t ask to have the camera to be out in a box their door knocked on, and the camera left on the doorstep. Reversing the process for pickup. I’ll add photos to the post as I’m able to get them.

Here we are eleven days into May and the forecast is for snow again.  We had a few flurries two days ago and ait again early this morning and a bit even stayed on the ground for a very short while. Temperatures have been as low as -5°C overnight and are forecast to go there again and down to -6°C Tuesday night. Not so good for blossoms and we have peach and apricot trees in bloom. Unsure yet if they have been damaged as they still look good. This is apparently the result of a stationary counterclockwise rotating vortex of air around Baffin Island which is bringing cold air down to us from the arctic. It would be rather nice if it would just move off. The vortex appears to moving slowly north and west. A good warm spell would be welcome and it is forecast to warm considerably by next weekend. We need warmer weather to get many of our vegetables growing.

Aerron and the gang have been working at spreading manure on that area of the garden where the corn will be grown and are working towards the squash, cucumber and pumpkin area. They have also gone all over the garden to tidy things up in preparation for having the whole garden tilled. We are renting a tractor and a tiller for Tuesday and hopefully will be able to get the whole of the garden tilled up so as it will be ready for planting with only a minor raking out. We have what is apparently a fuel flow problem with our little Farmall 100 tractor and that is my job to sort out. I cannot do it when it is cold and windy nor when it is wet and raining. The job has to be done outside and is likely to take a few hours. I’m looking for a blockage at the screen over the sediment bowl beneath the fuel tank first and after that moving down the fuel lie to the carburetor and taking that apart if needed. They are pretty simple affairs but this one has paint all over it gumming up the exterior. It looks good until you get close.

The sheep have been out each day this week for a short while and really do appreciate the new grass. They have been out just a short while each day and after having first had some hay so as not to get any digestive problems from gorging on fresh grass which can cause bloat. that can quickly be fatal to them.

The chickens and the ducks are still quite happy outside and the egg production is still getting slightly better each week. The cold weather has not diminished their egg count. The lengthening days have more to do with it than any of the other factors; temperature, winds, insects and grasses for food.

A photo from the 14th of May a year ago. This is one of our blue egg laying hens.

Next week we should have a better report on gardens progress. And the weather I hope.

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MAY 2, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual view on Sunday. Grass is a little greener each week and tree buds swell more and more.

 

 

Tuesday May 5. Three photos have been added.

The weather has noticeably improved. We are definitely moving into spring and not back into winter. No heat waves yet, the temperature has barely made it to 20°C this spring and that was but just once, in March, not April, but March 29th, when it reached a high of 20.6. The average of the high daily temperatures over the month of April was 10.2°C and for April 2019 was 10.9°C. I’m guessing that May will be a little cool but that should be good for us. Last May was a little cool too I think. So far we have adequate moisture.

Newly planted apple trees, one at each of the slender bamboo stakes. these are the newly grafted wood on dwarfing roots.

We got a dozen pieces of apple rootstock from Silver Creek Nursey and this past week Aerron took some scion wood from some apple trees and grafted them on to the rootstock. The last of these was planted on Sunday. Some of the scion wood, short straight twigs taken from a tree and about the same diameter as the rootstock, were from our neighbours Melba apple and some from a nice apple tree, variety unknown, growing here on the farm.

Setting out to do some garden bed making.

We finally got the cultivators mounted on the Farmall 100 tractor, it has taken us nearly three weeks, and tried it out. We have, probably, an unconventional arrangement of cultivators but for our purposes it worked rather well on the first try without having to make any adjustments. Some areas that we need to use the cultivators on have too much grass and mowing with the lawn mower is needed we think to get the ground nicely worked.

I’m using a cell phone for photos and have not yet learned to make good photos with it yet. It does not take good photos into the sun but the centre mounted cultivators can still be clearly seen.

I’m not sure just what they found so interesting here but they were pretty busy and ignored the photographer.

The chickens and ducks are rather liking this weather and it shows in the numbers of eggs that the hens are now laying. The hens are all  quite happy with the warmer weather, the warmer and brighter sun, the increase in day length, a few insects to be found, and some green things growing in their other wise bare run that they are stuck in until the grass grows enough.

Nearly the same photo with the white hen on the left now coming over to see what the others are up to.

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APRIL 27, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view at noon time today

No photos of a spring snowfall from this week. The weather has not been the greatest, a little cooler than usual, but we should not complain too much about the rains as, for us if not for others elsewhere, wet is better than dry. We dry out quite quickly here so even if we might have a heavy rain early in the morning we can likely get to work in the gardens in the afternoon. Not so if we were on clay. A bright, clear, sunny morning, about 10°C  as I write this, and little wind. This is perfect working weather for this time of year and I think that our chickens will completely agree.

In the foreground are the daffodils, their first year, with newly planted dwarf apple trees in a row with chives behind and the walking onions behind that.

It has been too cool to not run the woodstove so it is rekindled and relit early each  morning and runs all day. It is a cookstove too and so much nicer to use than the electric. We have an ample supply of wood and have a pretty good lot ready for next season as well. We will likely have the stove going regularly well into May.

A really nice little carpet of flowers between onion rows.

The hens are liking today but they have been down just a very little on the numbers of eggs laid each day. Warmth, especially with sun and no wind will see an improvement in the numbers. We still have them on their overwintering areas. A little too soon yet to have them out on good pasture again. They’ll wreck it far too quickly when it is growing so slowly still.

The hens out in the sunshine on a particularly bare spot in their run.

We are progressing well on getting the cultivators set up on the tractor. We got the sets of spring tooth units from our neighbour and they work well the way we have mounted them. We still have another two to mount behind the rear wheels and we want to put a pair of disc hillers on the outsides to delineate the outside edge of the plant beds. It will take a bit of time to get it set up just the way we want and then it will be a matter of making careful note so that when we do eventually dismount the lot we will be able to mount it all back the same. It would be ideal to have a tractor devoted solely to cultivating so that the cultivators could be left on untouched.

The tractor in the garden with the cultivators on.

The main order of seeds from William Dam Seeds has been sent, it might be several weeks before we get it, and we still have not yet heard from Whiffletree Farm and Nursery regarding our tree and shrub order but that should come available soon. The trees from Silver Creek Nursery have all been planted with the exception of rootstock. We will be getting scion wood for these any time now and get them in the ground and grafted.

The rows of garden looking over the tractor. Yhe rows here have compost dumped on that will be worked in with the tractor cultivators and things like lettuce, carrots, beets and many other vegetables will be planted here.

So much still to be done but still early for planting directly into the garden. We do have a lot of saved seeds that we can seed directly and also seed into trays for later transplanting.

 

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April 20, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual view of the garden on this Monday afternoon. Sunny, plus 6 degrees and calm

The usual view of the garden earlier in the week on the morning after alight snowfall.

Spring is still very slowly unfolding with nice, sunny but not really very warm days and then some cloudy and rainy not very warm ones. And then there has been the occasional little snowfall which is pretty thin and stays not long at all and then there are the cold nights down to -2°C, even -4°C. But then there are the spring flowers and the swelling buds on the trees, the growing grasses and scores of various herbaceous plants; dandelion, wild lettuce, stinging nettle, clovers being just some of the common edibles along with garden plants such as mints, onion, chives, garlic and lettuce.

We can get these greens from the garden now along with carrots from last season still keeping in the basement. The greens on the plate are onion, then going clockwise, lettuce, chives, dandelion leaves and stinging nettle. All gently stir fried or with an egg omelette. Carrots separate.

The forsythia in flower with a light dusting of overnight snow.

This onion was in last weeks post and is now a bit bigger even though it got snowed on.

Straw bale, water barrels and garden tools with a thin uneven blanket of snow.

The chickens are really liking the weather when it is calm, sunny, warm and dry but not so much when it gets cool, windy and wet. They’ll mostly stay inside then. The hens are laying a little better this week in spite of the variable and not so really warm weather.

Chickens and Turkeys really liking this days warmth.

Digging a big hole in the ground and having a dust bath is a great thing … if you are a chicken

This rather nice buff rooster is living what fro a rooster is the ideal life… a few hens and a nice hole in the ground to sit in.

The cows and sheep are still ok with being inside but will soon be getting quite anxious to be out in the warm sunshine with fresh green grass up to their knees.

The dwarf apple tree line along the garden edge is now complete

Aerron picked up a small number of fruit trees from Silver creek nursery along with  paw paw a single Kentucky coffee and a few others. The trees were mostly dwarf apples to finish the line along the edge of the garden. We did also get some root stock which Aerron will use to graft on some cuttings including from our neighbours Melba apple tree; if she is willing to let us take some. We are still waiting for the larger order from Whiffletree Farm and Nursery.

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APRIL 13, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view , a photo taken on Saturday. the grass is growing, green coming along everywhere now.

The Forsythia flowers are starting to open up.

Spring is having a little set back. But in spite of a little bit of snow and some much cooler weather at times, even below freezing a couple of overnights, everything is continuing to grow and spring flowers continue to appear. The sun shone nicely yesterday again and it was warm with a only slight wind. Now. Monday afternoon, as I right this the rain has ended, sun comes and goes, temperature is plus 9.1 and it is quite windy. Interesting that the environment Canada weather station just a quarter mile down the road is measuring temperature at 9.1 and our thermometer reads 8.8. Often they disagree, sometimes we are a little under, sometimes a little over the Environment Canada reading. Unsure just why, maybe a quarter mile makes a big difference sometimes.

The garlic survived the winter with no losses and has been growing well. needs to have leaf and straw mulch spread on it now after a pass with the wheel hoe to clean up the roads from weeds

Things are growing well in the garden, buds are swelling quite noticeably on the trees. Much work needs to get done.

A nice Welsh onion growing in the wrong spot. It is in the tomato row and there are garlic and other onion there too.

The horses have been moved to a new bit of ground where they quickly cleaned off the grass and have thoroughly manured a portion of the area; they have been pretty good at dumping manure at around the same spot. But they also have the bad habit of making it at about roughly the same spot where they get their hay. Horses are as lazy as the rest of us.

Leucan and his mother Nell. In the upper right hand corner I the sky some distance off, are crows chasing either a hawk or an eagle. I did not notice when I took the photo

We got the cultivator arms set up on the tractor and tested out the two Spider wheels  and they did a fine job. These are an 18 inch diameter wheel consisting of curved spikes radiating out from the centre that dig into the ground. they work fine but the width of ground is narrow. We need at least one more set of spiders, one more set of clamps, the two sets of spring teeth from out neighbour, and a set of wide, 18 t0 24 inches would be nice, sweeps to follow the rear tractor tires.

The spider wheel is near the top, tool shanks the right with a clamp near the bottom of the spider and a sweep on a tool shank on the right.

Aerron continues to bring from the barn pickup truck loads of manure  for the corn and vine areas. All that needs to soon be spread out evenly and worked in. He’ll soon be bringing up the well rotted, the composted manure, to be put on other areas of the garden.

A very nice looking Buff Orpington rooster feathers blowing in the wind.

It would save a lot of time and effort if we had a loader tractor for this job. We have a 1947 Cockshutt 30 that we want to put a loader on. We know of a loader in Brockville that is for a 30 we have no way of getting it here. It is in working order and at a good price too.

Chickens wondering if I might just have something they’d like.

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APRIL6, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual weekly garden view photographed later in the afternoon of Sunday

Because the corona virus pandemic is still a huge source of concern we are discouraging anyone from coming to the farm for the next while.  We are not properly set up for sales at this time. That will have to wait until we have our roadside stand up and running which will be a week or more away. Keep watching this weekly blog, which I try to have posted by Monday evening at the latest, though sometimes I am days late, and we’ll have the latest on our situation here.

These are the rows of garlic which survived the winter really well and is now growing quite vigorously. Garlic crop should be a good one this year. We’ll try to get a straw mulch on when it is grown a little taller so as to be ready for when the hot weather comes and the rains are less frequent.

The weather has as you know, has been very nice and spring like. We are still at the in between, with lots of preparation work underway but nothing started in the garden yet. There are a lot of wild greens coming and the garlic and green perennial onions are doing well.

Dandelion will soon be ready for harvesting and as usual there is a lot of it. A real nice spring green for salads and to gently cook just as you would spinach.

This is the wild lettuce which will be large enough to harvest in a few days. This like dandelion is a bitter green but when young like this not so much. Mix with something else, do it up in an egg omelette or have it with a tomato sauce and the bitterness is not noticed.

The radicchio is coming along nicely

On Saturday we went to our neighbours to look at a set of cultivators for the tractor. These were not complete. We still needed the lift arms, which are a substantial part of the entire mechanism. We had found a set of cultivators on Kijiji so we arranged to get those and went on Monday. That was an entire afternoon’s outing as they were located in Vienna, near to Port Burwell. Price was reasonable and he was very helpful to us in providing much information on the setup and use of the cultivators. We are still trying to get these fitted to the tractor then we’ll have to do work with them in the garden likely with much adjustment until they work to our satisfaction.

Some of the bits for the cultivators. It will all become obvious when we have it installed on the tractor.

Aerron moved the horses to another pasture on the east side of the house. They had been on the same large area all winter long so as the grass is starting to grow it was past time to move them to  a smaller area and allow that winter pasture to recover and grow.

The he perennial green onions and chives are coming along nicely.

These spring bulbs were planted last fall and will gradually increase in number over the years. They just look nice in the early spring. Some colour for the drabness of winter which is still everywhere.

Chickens and ducks are still slowly increasing the number of eggs that they are laying but not yet recovered to their maximum though we expect that will happen soon. They are all older hens so their lay rate is going to be less than in their first year. The older heritage breeds whose lay rate declines substantially in the winter are much better layers than the special hybrid chicken which though they lay large numbers in the first year, substantially decline in second and third years and are generally a less robust healthy chicken. Laying large numbers of eggs in the first year seems to be somewhat detrimental to their life expectancy. But the chickens really do like this nice spring weather.

The hens are outside nearly all the time now just searching around for morsels of food or digging up a dust bath in a warm sunny spot.

A nice looking rooster staed between me and his hens. Not aggressive just more curious.

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March 30, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view on Sunday. a very nice warm but windy day. The clouds were quite stormy looking but little rain in the afternoon and temperature was a very high +18C.

Cat and a crocus. No reason except that it is sort of interesting and there must be some tale for telling here. There is a tail for sure.

The corona virus pandemic must be foremost in our minds and actions still this week and for a good many more weeks to come. We are mostly staying isolated at home here on the farm. Thursdays and Fridays we deliver eggs leaving them on doorsteps, knocking at the door or ringing the bell  and retreating a safe physical distance with payment by money at the step or by e-transfer. Much better than having anyone come to the farm at this time of year and this stage of the pandemic. This will change as we start putting out vegetables at the roadside stand and as we start having CSA vegetable pickups at the farm. We will then have to work out procedures to ensure that everyone maintains social distancing as I’m sure that much of these precautions and mitigation efforts will still be in force by June. That is but two months away. Nine weeks.  Sixty three days. I wonder what the world will look like then?

We need to have a little bit of fun. A result of efforts by William, Gabriel and Aerron. I leaned my back against this bale today sheltering fom the high winds. I could feel the bale jiggling slightly from the wind.

In the meantime a lot of work needs to be done and we still have not been able to seed though it does look much better now and we’ll be sure to get something going in the garden in the next few days. In addition the stinging nettle, rhubarb, wild lettuce and dandelion will soon, maybe as soon as two weeks but likely a little longer, be ready for harvest. Our first greens which will sustain us well into June.

These are perennial onions which are growing quite nicely now and will be harvested by breaking off individuals from the cluster for use as green onions.

This is one of the cabbages planted last fall. Most came through the winter and are growing back nicely. we’ll likely have to harvest them early as they are going into their second year and may realize it.

Also coming in the garden are some things from last season. The perennial onions are doing well and should be ready soon. Some of the cabbages planted late last fall are coming and may be O.K. to harvest young in a few weeks.

The chickens, outside sorta being chicken hiding from the wind but running up when I came ’cause a hen never knows what goodies people might throw out to them

This rooster waled along with his hens, head up and alert all the while as his hens looked for tasty morsels on the ground.

The chickens and ducks are doing well and the hens are starting to lay a little more again. They had shown a spurt in numbers laid a couple of weeks ago but then leveled off in numbers and showed no increase for a week and there were a large number of broken eggs. The ducks though have shown a slow but steady increase. Ducks are so much more reliable than a lot of chicken breeds. We have been collecting the chicken eggs more frequently to avoid breakage.

Pretty little perfectly formed flowers giving needed colour to the winter drab that still pre dominates.

This was the only spring bulb that has come up so far that is not yellow.

Well into spring now, the spring bulbs have begun to bloom and we still have about three ewes left to lamb with about 10 lambs running about now. There are two new calves under two months and a third due within weeks. The cows and sheep will have to stay inside for another month at least, until the grass is ready for them. We did not have a suitable outside area for them this spring. the horses are still out on the area they were wintered on but will move any day now to a smaller area and stay there until the pastures are ready. it is far more important to have the horses outside than the cows or sheep as they much more  easily run into problems with dust from hay when indoors. Our horses are always fed outside, hay on the ground not in feeders. When we give the horses a grain supplement to help them through the coldest part of the winter they get it in small shallow rubber containers again to keep dust breathed in to a minimum.

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MARCH 23, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view early on Monday after an early spring snowfall. This disappeared quickly. Looks nice though and it was not too cold and there was no wind.

The first thing to be talked of is the Coronao virus and how we will be affected and how we are going to change to accommodate things such as physical distancing. We expect to have some vegetables to be ready for sale at our roadside stand as early as the first weeks of April and vegetables ready for the CSA to begin at the end of May. It is only about 60 t0 70 days away when sharers will be coming to the farm for veggie pick ups. We have to work out just what we will do, perhaps we will have to deliver for at least some of the while or work out a carefully planned schedule of pick ups at the farm so as not to have more than one at a time getting veggies. That should be something that we can work out easily enough. Thing change quite rapidly. We are all well so far.

We are still taking on more CSA sharers for the 2020 CSA vegetable season. Small share $400.00. Large share $700.00. Small working share $200.00. Large working share $350.00.

The tractor is under the plastic at the right foreground. The blade is still on the tractor but no longer needed and will come off so as we can put the cultivators on.

Spring was set back Monday morning as cold air along with a snowstorm has left a nice covering of snow here. The temperature  slowly rose and was -0.2°C at 8 a.m. on it’s way to a forecast high of +5°C. It has been a bit cooler this past week with at least two nights very cold at around -7 to -9°C and day time temperatures at closer to zero than we’d like.  All this means we have been burning through a lot of firewood to keep the house and yurt warm. The side effect of this is that we use less electricity as cooking is done on the woodstove instead of using the electric, but produce more air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter and small amounts of various not so good for us chemicals. We run the stove hot for a very large percent of the time so we do usually, probably, have a more efficient combustion. And so long as wood growth stays well ahead of wood burning then we are neutral in the production of CO2, I think, though this really amounts to a carbon offset, unless we are growing enough to take from the atmosphere the same amount of carbon that we put into it over the course of our heating season.

We still have not yet begun planting. No seeds yet directly into the ground though if next week warms and dries a bit we’ll do that. The first seeds to go in will be lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other greens. We’ll try some radish and turnips though they are a bit of a gamble because of the root maggot. Flea beetles can devastate some of the cole crops such as kale, cabbage, mizuna and other Asian greens. we’ll also seed some summer squash, zucchini and the like and though they do need well warmed soils the seeds will be there ready to go when it gets warm enough. That is the plan anyway.

The dwarf apple trees that we planted last spring along the gaden edge at the driveway can be seen in the middle foreground along the right as a line of sticks each with a bamboo pole to mark where they are and to provide support if needed.

The orders for trees, shrubs and berries has gone in and we are now waiting for a pickup date. The sooner the better. There are a lot of trees to go in and they need to be planted as soon as possible.

Chickens in the snow .This was over a week ago and they just huddled at this spot for quite a long time.

The chickens are mostly liking the somewhat warmer weather.  The egg production has been up a bit though we expect that it will go up quite a bit more as the weather warms over the next few weeks.

Hay delivery earlyTuesday morning. This should give us all the hay we need until the grass has grown enough to feed all the herbivores on the farm.

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MARCH 16, 2020 FARM NEWS


The garden late in the day on Sunday. My car parked their as the lane and ground nearer the house is soft.

I’m starting to write this blog late Sunday evening and am having difficulty getting my photos loaded so this post may eventually go out with no photos. My trusty Canon camera of the past 11 years has in untrustworthy fashion, quit, and until I can either get it repaired or replaced then I have to rely on a phone camera and the photos e-mailed to me so I can load them to my computer. There is a little patch cord to connect camera directly to computer but nothing happens.

The chickens really like to get out in the sun and warmth and the recent much better weather, even though cold at nights has seen a big increase in the number of eggs that the chickens and the ducks are laying.

The e-mail with photos are not gong through apparently because of traffic on out internet service provider Silo wireless. Hopefully sometime it the night the photos will go through and then in the morning I can begin the process of loading the to the computer then to this post. Writing now on Tuesday I can report that the photos did come through on the e-mail late in the morning yesterday and I was able to load more yesterday quite quickly. But other things have since gotten in the way and now here it is, mid-afternoon Tuesday. Corona virus takes up a little time. I’m in that small proportion of the population that is most vulnerable, is most at risk, so it behooves me to pay attention.

The cutting and stacking of firewood continues. All of this wood is for the next season.

But the farm goes on, spring marches closer though the weather the past week and projected into next week, seems to be a bit stalled in following the calendar.  Days sometimes in the high plus single numbers then the nights still getting well below freezing. Still spring arrives at 5:37 a.m. on the 20th, almost three whole days from now. Still all the other signs are around us, spring bulbs poking up here, snow drops in the most unlikely spot, no more Tundra Swans, they have been gone past us on their way to Manitoba for about a week now. Killdeer heard last week, a sure sign, lots of other bird species returning. The coyote a lot more interested in take out chicken dinner the last while, Pups no doubt under development  and due to appear soon.

Where the tractor is now parked was a pile of lumber but now nicely cleaned out and the ground scraped. after this photo some of the wood in the previous picture has been piled to the right side of the tractor.

We will soon be able to start working in the garden, just a little too soft still though if we can do something with just hand tools we could maybe get a row or two of some early vegetables planted, lettuce, radish, spinach, broccoli, things that frost, which is bound to come again several times, will not much affect. We’ll see about getting the tractor fitted with cultivators so that we can prepare one or two rows as we need them. We need to get a bucket loader for our Cockshutt 30 tractor to move stuff, dirt, bales, manure but the only one I can find so far is in Brockville and we have not figured out how to get it here. Aerron still frequently brings a daily load of manure to the garden though lately soft ground has frustrated that work several times.

A few snow drops have popped up in one of the planter boxes at the CSA pick up shed area.

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MARCH 9, 2020 FARM NEWS


The garden view late on the Monday afternoon. Everything looking a little drab in a bright sun, and a lot muddy.

On Monday morning last at 8, I went to the emergency at the Brantford General hospital (BGH) because of chest tightness and shortness of breath, which had been getting steadily worse over the previous week. The system eventually spat me out and I was home by 4 p.m. on Friday having been diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation and prescribed a blood thinner and a beta blocker.  The care given was first class, the entire staff from cleaners to doctors was professional, courteous and caring, Even the food was perfectly fine. Whether or not they cured me is another thing and only a little more time will tell me that. I feel a lot better but still sometimes have some of the same symptoms that sent me to the emerg.

Looking up the muddy drive, next season’s firewood pled either side.

Looking back down the driveway to the firewood piles and the woodshed beyond.

However the farm went on with Aerron shouldering all the burden of keeping up the supply of firewood, taking care of the poultry and daily coming to check on me in the hospital. Marie started the fire in the mornings and kept that woodstove  fire going all day, looked after the cats and the parakeet in addition to keeping the house going. The weather has been warming and this Sunday was the warmest in a while, maxing out at +10.3°C and still at +6.6°C at 10:00 p.m. Todays forecast is for+12°C with sun (as of 8 a.m. it is +6°C) and then we get into a few days of rain.  As I finish this I notice that Environment Canada has the max recorded today at +14.1°C. Though temperatures are not to be quite so warm, these temperatures, along with the rain, will be sufficient to rid us of any lingering frost and the good bit of mud we are already dealing with will get worse long before it gets better. The truck and tractor will remain parked and no manure, straw of wood moved around until the ground firms up.

The muddy, impassable lane way at the pickup area. The little guy’s car looks to be mired. Today’s warmth, sun and wind dried things up a lot though.

There have been a few lambs born and the two new calves are doing well. Everyone is very anxious to be out and the warming and increased day length are going to make the cows and sheep all that more anxious to be out on pasture. That will have to wait until the grass gets some good growth and that is not likely to be until mid May.

The morning flock at breakfast. The roosters alert as always and cluck clucking away so as to get hens to come see their wonderful food find

The overwintered perennial onion are just imperceptibly starting to green up.

We had submitted the order for trees, shrubs and berries with Whiffletree Farm and Nursery a couple of weeks ago and the quote has come back. We need to make a small adjustment to our order then that is done and we’ll get our trees likely sometime in April. They will go into the ground as soon as we get them, no delay, they are bare root. In order to be ready we’ll start preparing planting holes as soon as the ground has firmed up a bit. Next week? Some seeding of vegetables into trays in the house will start this week. Just a few things, kale, broccoli an early cabbage variety. We can clean up last season’s chard as a large part of it appears to have survived the winter and is now looking to grow back. The perennial onions will also need to be cleaned up and trimmed back and some can soon be transplanted. The rhubarb bed needs cleaning up and a bit of well done compost spread on it. We can also seed some lettuce into the garden just as soon as the ground can be walked on. We’ll get some other things in as the ground dries and warms and begin to work on the various structures here, a roadside stand, the pond, repairs to the house, the CSA pickup shed, an addition on the yurt. The ‘Get-things-Done’ list is long.

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MARCH 2, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual weekly garden view this time taken Sunday afternoon because with rain possible Monday, I did not want to get wet and cold.

The same view at the height of the snowstorm. The change is what one mornings slight warmth and sun has done.

A cold week is now behind us and the forecast looks to be a lot better temperature wise. We have had a few inches of snow on the ground and the winds have been quite strong for the last thee or four days. This of course makes it seem much worse and it is much harder to heat the house and the yurt. Even getting close to 20C is a cause for celebration. We are going through our wood supply pretty quickly but will slow up a bit as the temperature warms and winds are near calm.

Nice looking stacks of next season’s firewood with perhaps the last of this season’s snow.

Aerron was able to go last week to Whiffletree Farm and Nursery and to Silver Creek Nursery to them the lists of trees, shrubs and berries that we are wanting. It is a substantial list with a substantial price. Not sure of the cost as there will be some discount for quantities and they have not yet got back to us with their quote. Most of what we are getting will be fruit trees, mainly apple, peach and cherry. We try to list it all in a future blog, once we know for certain what we will be able to get. In addition to these trees we will be planting quite a few other trees that we have growing around here or that are given to us. Trees such as various maples, walnut, hackberry, mulberry, red bud,oaks, all small seedlings, most of which pop up from seed blown in or brought in with leaves. This is an enormous amount of work which we’ll want to be doing just as soon as the ground can be dug, the sooner the better so that the trees can get well established before the dry weather comes late May or early June. We also would like to get that out of the way before we have to start planting and seeding in the vegetable gardens.

Aerron, last spring, hauling water to the newly planted trees along the field edge, getting a little push from a little helper.

This is our great Agroforestry project. Agroforestry can be described as a land use management system in which shrubs and trees are grown around or among crops or pastures. Our aim is to provide a very large number of different species of trees and shrubs and perennial herbaceous plants so as to get significantly varied biodiversity. Many of the plants will be food or medicinal plants but many too will be there just for diversity to provide habitat for any number of different bird, animal and insect species. This is a very long term project which will take us several years just to get established in place and then several decades before there is much maturity to it all. But within a couple of years we should be harvesting a small amount and within 5 years should be harvesting some significant amount from the likes of apples, pear, peach and cherry along with the many varied berries. Eventually we will get lots of edibles; fruit, berries, nuts, leaves, bark and root; wood for lumber and firewood; and even parts of some plants for fibres and dyes.

We plan to plant this area with wide rows of trees, shrubs, berries and perennials. There will be 7 or 8 rows, about 40 feet apart, running from left to right in this photo from the end nearest to the trees in the distance.

Initially we will be pasturing our chickens between rows of new planting and as we continue on will pasture cows, sheep and horses as appropriate. For all of these, including the poultry, we will have to fence off the area where trees, shrubs and berries are grown to avoid damage from scratching and browsing. The animals and the pasture will benefit from the reduced winds and increased shade and lower temperatures all resulting from closely spaced rows of trees. We could even take off hay from a pasture.

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FEBRUARY 24, 2020 FARM NEWS


The garden scene at 12 noon today. Lots of sunshine.

Another fine week gone by. Yesterday’s temperature got to +7°C, positively tropical. Yet not a few days ago the daytime high was -6°C following on a low of -12. The forecast is for a cool down to well below freezing, starting Thursday and on for at least the following four days. Today’s forecast high is for +8 , = 5 as I finish this post and all the chickens are outside having a great day.  Not sure if all this warm weather is a good thing or not though I suspect that since we are having some real cold times then no harm will be done. Should the weather stay at around +5 and above for several days, perhaps a week or more then there is a good chance that some buds will be fooled into opening and even some blossoms might start to appear. A subsequent freeze up could then do real damage.

The chicken and turkey flock behind our house in the warm sunshine. No wind either.

The roosters are being a bit competitive.

The chickens manage the cold weather OK but of course much prefer the warmer temperatures. Egg production has dropped significantly the last couple of weeks. But, as spring gets closer, as average temperatures edge up and as day length increases, we are confident that the hens will gradually lay more eggs each day. Chickens are pretty happy when the sun shines bright and it is nice and warm.

The chickens around noon today and . . . in the next photo . . .

same place a couple of days ago, our resident coyote came looking for chicken dinner only to be disappointed once again.

We have two new calves that are doing well and some new lambs too. They’ll be out on pasture as soon as the grass is well up and growing but that is not going to happen until mid- May. Meantime, stuck in the barn at least until sometime mid-March when we can let them out into an outside run, maybe a small bit of sacrificial pasture, where they’ll stay until going out on to fresh growing pasture in May.

Two bales at a time usually. Aerron uses the steel bar, plunged into the centre of the bale, to turn the bale so that it can be rolled in to the loft.

Two of the plastic wrapped bales parked in the loft along with one of the regular hay bales. The amount of hay in each bale is about the same but the bale wrap process squeezes the bale smaller.

Hay delivered today, 13 bales wrapped in plastic. That should get us through to the end of March. We are not so keen on this way of doing things, the use of the plastic; however they happen to be cheaper and the quality of the hay will probably quite appealing to all the livestock. We’ll be careful not to damage the plastic too much when removing it so that we can reuse it elsewhere. Bill was able to drive his skid steer tractor with the bales up the hill to the back of the barn with no problem.

The winter has been mild enough that so far a good number of the Swiss Card plants fro last summer are still alive. We may have a small harvest of chard later in the spring.

A trip planned today to both Silver Creek Nursery and to Wiffletree Farm and Nursery from both of which we will be getting fruit and nut trees. Aerron and I will be doing a grafting workshop at Silver creek in May. We have grafted before with some success but it will be good to learn from someone who actually knows what he is doing. Planning for the great , long term agroforestry project is pretty much finished for now.

The hill from the road up to the barn this morning. In spite of the muddy appearance it was quite passable.

A lot of time spent getting out the mid-winter farm newsletter finished and sent out. This was a reminder letter as well to all those who had been getting a basket of veggies each week last season, our CSA program members. We are looking for more people to participate in the coming 2020 CSA. Get a share each week of the garden harvest. The season is about 22 weeks long starting late May and ending with the end of October.

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FEBRUARY 16, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning photo. Lots of sun but temperature was only about -6C.

One of our loyal rat and mouse catchers

We were up to the usual things this week past. A lot of wood splitting, a lot of firewood burning in the woodstoves and a couple of real cold days. We are getting a bit of a pass so far this winter and there are not too many weeks of winter left. Still we do have more winter to come and it is entirely possible that some of this remaining winter could turn out to be pretty brutal. Hopefully though, the winter will finish up having been a pretty mild one.

Our resident coyote at around 8 this morning  This one has been coming, to check for stray chickens, nearly every morning and today, 17-02-2020, came a second time at around 11 a.m. The coyote chased the chickens and I chased the coyote. No chickens were taken. Coyote says there’ll be a next time.

The coyote comes back I think every morning. Nice to see him when I do. He has not gotten any chickens yet, I’m not going to let them out too early. The hens are still way down on their lay rate, they won’t start laying lot better until the weather gets dependably warm and the grass begins to grow. Mid-march?

A close up of Ms Whiting True Blue Hen. That is a blade of grass that she has firmly clenched in her beak.

These two hens are the same breed, Whiting True Blue. You would not know it from their appearance. Same general body shape but different colours in feather and legs and the blue feathered hen has a nice muff which is lacking in the brown hen. These hens lay a nice sized blue or maybe green, egg.

The spring planning has become long and drawn out as we get seed and plant orders together. We’ll make a trip to place our order for trees this week and hopefully the vegetable seed order will go in as well this week. We spent time yesterday measuring the garden. We have to do this to get the rows even and so that each of our seven little gardens is roughly the same area. Still more measuring to do. Agroforestry as we are planning to do requires careful planning as it is a long term project and once trees are planted we don’t want to be trying to move them.

The horses are waiting for their feed and scavenging scraps right now.

Horses, cows and sheep have come through the winter well. Two new calves born over the last couple of weeks and new lambs are just starting to come. Doing ok so far.

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FEBRUARY 3 AND 10 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning photo taken today about noon. Warm, about +2C and sun and cloud with a light wind. Snow is melting.

The same usual weekly garden photo taken last Monday, February 3. Still a bit of wet snow not melted yet but lots of mud though it was not deep.

I missed a posting last week.

Morning Glory, sweet Corn and Sunflower in our garden 2 Augusts ago. My brother Douglas liked his flowers but more so I think his citrus trees. But he was in Pensacola Florida.

My older brother Douglas, died January 30. He was 78, six years older than myself. Doug had lived in Pensacola Florida having retired from the U.S. Marine Corps many years earlier. We communicated by e-mail on occasion, more often in the past few months as Doug was researching the Kirby family and was showing me some of the results of his hard work. I last saw and spoke with him when they were here for Thanksgiving in 2017. I have many fond memories of growing up with my very popular older brother. The wonderful and exciting things that he and his friends would get up to. I miss him. It has taken me near two weeks to write this. Doug  leaves his wife Kathleen and a daughter, my niece Donna, both in Pensacola.

This Manitoba Maple branch was broken in a storm some weeks back. We’ll cut it up for firewood for burning next or the following winter. The branch just above the broken one is badly split nearer to the base and will be taken down as well.

As for here on the farm it is the usual. We plod along each day trying, out of the confusion, to get the daily chores done and to get ready for spring. Winter’s end is now not far off, a matter of maybe 4 weeks if spring is a bit early, and there is still so much to be done.  We still must get our vegetable seed orders sent off, we must send out reminders to all of our last season’s CSA participants (as well as to anyone else who we think might be interested), that we are getting ready for another growing season and that our CSA will be running again much as we had done the season passed. Work in the garden has been ongoing with the spreading of manure/compost on the areas of the garden that will be seeded, in late spring, into sweet corn, maybe dent and flint corn, and into winter squashes, summer squash cucumber, melons and pumpkins and any other of those sorts of vines. Our vegetable garden is divided into seven equal sized areas: the first area is this year to be in  cucurbits, squashes etc. as mentioned; the second area is to be seeded in corn; the third area has alliums, the garlic was planted here last fall and onions will be seeded in the spring; the fourth is mix of many things, lettuce and other greens, carrot, beet, pepper, eggplant, beans, peas and more; the fifth area will be dry beans, wheat, oats, chickpea, flowers including the sunflowers, and more; the sixth area is the cole crops including cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower; and the fifth is all potatoes of several varieties. Next season (2021) everything is rotated such that what was growing this year in area 1 will be growing next year in area 2 and so on with area 7 this year growing in area 1 next season. The only things that are not rotated are the tomatoes, groundcherries, tomatillos and wonderberries as there is some evidence that these things will do better if grown continually in the same spot and we’ll be into our third year of doing this. We are adding more fruit and berries this season and some of this will be in rows in the garden along side the veggies. more on this latest project in future blog postings. We are slowly adopting to the agroforestry model.

Posing for her portrait. All the different breeds of chicken have their distinctive features: feather pattern and colours, eyes, beaks, wattles, combs, ears, as well as personalities and within breeds each hen is a distinguishable individual.

This silver laced Wyandotte hen looks quite different.

And this hen is different again. Look at more hen photos in the previous blog.

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The previous week on a real nice warm and sunny windless day. Hens out investigating whatever. And enjoying it.

The chickens have been going out a lot as the weather has often been quite to their liking. But today, even though there was little to no wind, the sun was out a lot and the temperature was about plus 2C, there was too much snow for the chickens to go out far. They stuck close to the door if they went out but mostly they just  stayed inside. It was and eventful week this past week. A coyote nabbing a hen but dropping her, dropped eggs, frozen eggs. It is always exciting.

Having missed out on chicken dinner the coyote keeps returning early each morning to see if we have slipped up again and locked out a hen or two overnight. this photo was snapped from my kitchen window.

We’ll be giving this website a thorough overhaul and updating which it is long overdue for. This will happen as I find the time to do it. Meanwhile much other things are in urgent need of completion. But stay tuned and check here each week and I’ll try to get this blog posted no later than Monday evening.

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JANUARY 27, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual weekly view of the garden taken this morning. A gloomy morning but the temperature is about +1C and there is but a very light wind and no precipitation.

Another quite mild week and we are nearly into February.  This means about 5 or 6 more weeks, possibly a little more, of real wintery weather is quite likely. The wet days this week usually kept the hens inside but most days there were breaks in the rain and even some sun. Wind was mostly nil to quite light so the chickens were often happily out and wandering all over. Some days they will come out and just hang around near the door but when it is nice they all venture out and wander far.

A Grey Cochin rooster with two Golden Laced Wyandotte hens in the background.

Our Broad Breasted Bronze tom turkey looking quite magnificent. For a turkey.

An ISA or Loehman hen, they are very similar breeds. These are a common commercial breed used for their high egg production.

We were at the Guelph Organic Conference on Saturday. Aerron went while I stayed at home. Four workshops done: ‘Economics of Transition and Maintaining Organic Production’;  ‘Ecological Maintenance Principles for Established Orchards’,  ‘How to Harvest and Prepare Perennial vegetables at home’,  and ‘Moveable Greenhouses and Tunnels- Protecting Your Investment’. All these were deemed to have been well worth the time attending.  Aerron also talked with several of the exhibitors at the trade show.  So although we are quite familiar with all these things we get different perspectives with much valuable information obtained and several contacts were established which is always useful.

A Russian Orloff rooster. An old hardy breed originating in Iraq/ Iran.

Another more to the side view of the Orloff so as to be able to see more the shape of his unusual comb.

The cleanup at the barn continues with Aerron removing 9 to 10 heaped wheelbarrow loads of manure in the pickup truck box and transporting it to the garden each day. None Saturday though as he was away all day. The manure, which is partially composted but which also has a small amount of fresh manure, is going on the garden areas where corn and the squashes will be planted in the spring. The manure will be tilled into the ground as soon as possible in the spring using the tractor and the horses.

There are a very few, very small spinach plants with a partial covering of snow.

We are still spending a lot of time on researching, planning, going through catalogues and making lists of what we need for spring planting of vegetable seeds, shrubs and trees. Information from the Guelph Organic Conference was useful and very important in helping us draw up our plans. We’ll finalize our plans in the next week or so but will likely be constantly revising them up until we actually put things into the ground.

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JANUARY 20, 2020 FARM NEWS


Sunshine, snow and a -15C Monday morning

The same scene the previous Monday afternoon as the snow continued to fall. An hour after this photo it warmed and started to rain for a short while.

Last Monday was spent doing a whole lot of things. Firewood splitting and hauling from woodshed to yurt and house was a user of much time as always. With the new calf having been born a week or two ago we now have quite a bit of milk. We made a batch of yogurt on the weekend and three batches of cheese Monday. The cheese we make is quite quick to do. Four or five litres of milk in a pot are slowly brought up to 190°F, held for a few minutes and then taken off the stove, we are using the woodstove since it runs full tilt all day. Then we add about a tablespoon of salt, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and trickle vinegar in while stirring until the curd forms. The curds are drained in cheesecloth then put into the cheese press and the screw given a slight turn to tighten every few minutes for about a half hour to an hour and then the cheese is dumped out onto a plate ready to eat. We did two this way with the second having garlic and herbs mixed in. A third cheese was also made but the curds were not pressed but used just as they were. The whole process to make a single cheese takes about an hour to an hour and a half.

The pot of milk heating on the stove, 180°F and heading for 190.

The cheese is in that white cylinder being pressed. It was scooped from the pot with the slightly dished ladle into the screened colander lined with cheese cloth, in this case cheese plastic, to drain most of the whey and then dumped into the press to have more whey squeezed out.

Three cheeses: the loose curds at the top, the plain white cheese an the left and the flavoured with garlic and spices to the right.

Tuesday was a productive day. Aerron took the pickup to get three free bales of hay from nearby. Two in one trip, one the other, good hay, horses seem to like it. Another truck load of manure from the barn to the garden and a trailer load of wood moved with the tractor. The tractor started well even though it was minus 4C. It did help that it was sunny and the tractor was under the plastic protective layer so it was warmed just a little bit. We spent the rest of the late afternoon with the gas chain saw cutting a lot of ash wood into stove lengths and throwing it into the back of the pickup. We did have to do some work on the chain saw before starting though. The day before it had stopped working. So Monday before starting the air filter was thoroughly cleaned. It was thoroughly plugged with fine sawdust. The chainsaw was smoking badly though and would not idle. Spark plug was cleaned and the gas tank refilled and it ran fine, no smoke. We must have miscalculated the amount of oil put in the gas, but we finished just before dark and parked the full truck near where the wood was to be piled the next morning.

Wednesday was another full and busy day. The truck was unloaded of it’s wood and the wood carefully and neatly piled to just sit there and dry for use next heating season.  The chicken food was brought in with the tractor and trailer and put away into bins. Aerron moved a lot of wood boards for the floor of his storage shelter again using the tractor and trailer. The fruit trees that were planted last spring finally got there protective wraps so that hungry ice and rabbits will not be able to chew away at the tasty bark.

Eleven different varieties of dwarf apples with the spiral plastic wraps installed to foil the mice and rabbits.

Thursday was spent washing up eggs as that had not been done at all for a whole week. But we still did spend time doing wood collecting and splitting.

The ducks in the snowstorm, but not so cold, right around freezing. They were happy enough as usual.

The ducks this morning at -15 but no wind and warm sunshine. As equally happy as they were on the previous snowy Monday.

Friday we made another push on gathering ready for the fire branches and other wood and filled the woodshed again. We made sure all was covered up and secure so as we’d not lose anything under a blanket  of snow and of course Saturday it did snow staring around 7 a.m. and continuing all day. In the afternoon it did warm considerably and was a bit above freezing. It rained foe a brief time then went back to snow. Sunday was a fine day. Aerron got a load of manure up to the garden every day. The truck handled well in the snow when loaded but it was a little difficult getting the lightened truck out of the garden after the load was dumped. For us, the big storm was not so big and we were not inconvenienced by it at all. The cold is the worst for us and though several days last week were above freezing, even with some sun, it was the cold not the snow that was most difficult for us.

The horses in the snowstorm. They can often end up with a thick layer of snow on their backs insulated from melting by the hair

Leucan plodding through the snow.

This Monday, today,  was a bit chilly at -17°C as of 8 in the morning. But there was no wind at all and the sun was shining brightly so it did not seem so bad. As usual for these cold days we kept the chickens inside to keep the chicken houses warm but the ducks were perfectly happy to be out. The ducks go out and stay out whereas one or two or three chickens may venture out for a very short while then no more.

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JANUARY 13, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden. Not very much changed, only the overnight light snowfall.

The ducks have given me three eggs a day now for the past three days. I’m doing something right for them. Just not quite sure what it is.

The chickens, unlike the ducks, do not like to go out in poor weather. Today is alright though and they will poke around outside to see what they can find.

Another winter week that has looked much more like a week in spring. We had a huge splosh of rain for two days and one day with a maximum temperature of +13°C  The rest of the days were quite good though as far as temperature was concerned. This is always very helpful, even with the heavy all day rains. Much more comfortable for us, the poultry and all the other animals. But it is winter and February is still near three weeks away so we should keep up our guard. Typical February winter could descend upon us still.

The horse Lucan to the right with his mother and aunt watching me to the left.

We are still quite occupied getting our spring and summer garden planting plans in order and at the same time we are planning for our agroforestry planting as well. In addition to that we are still getting much delayed and needed other work done on the farm. And the cutting splitting and moving of firewood is ongoing.

The partially built CSA structure has been more or less this way for two years. It really needs to be finished with a sound roof.

This is where the corn will be seeded in the spring and this is where the partially composted manure is being piled.

Part of our planning is for new structures and the completion of the building for our CSA pickups. We are this week doing a bit of long delayed and much needed work on our homes. Aerron has done some repairs to the barn and each morning that the ground is not too soft Aerron will load the pickup truck with manure from the barn to go to the garden. So we are still rather busy.

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January 6, 2020 FARM NEWS


The usual view of the garden this morning at about 10:30. Nice bit of sunshine, about -1C and a good wind from the N.W.

The same scene yesterday afternoon. Quite a change.

The relatively mild winter weather continues which is really quite agreeable. Everyone is pretty happy with it from horses to chickens. The only real difficulty for us has bee the mud and that is just a nuisance and causes no problems. We are just careful to watch were we drive vehicles and remember to clean our boots before going into the house.

But this was how it looked just a few days ago. That is water and mud.

We have worked quite a bit on firewood cutting a lot of smaller branches to stove length and piling them and moving and restacking the large blocks of Manitoba maple (Acer negundo) that were along the driveway. Some of these new stacks are this season’s firewood and will be covered with a bit of plastic or something to keep the pile more or less dry.

The large pile of wood on the left has now been moved and replied. The one on the right still needs to be moved.

This pile is ash wood that should sit and dry for a while. There is more to be cut and stacked on top of this.

We have been continuing to plan for next season, looking at seed and plant catalogues and drawing garden and farm maps to try to determine where we should plant what. This is  because we are going to plant a lot of trees, shrubs and berry bushes over the next several years and we need to figure out where all of this will go and what species will be planted where. We need to make our lists and make our budget based on our projected earnings for the coming growing season

This is spinach still holding up I the garden and looking quite unaffected by the cold. ice and snow. These leaves though are quite tiny but we still gather and use them in meals.

We will be planting large native trees such as oaks, maples beech, sycamore, hickory, white pine, walnut, cedar and other native trees; fruit trees such as apple, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, and cherry: nut trees such as the walnut mentioned, our native black walnut, butternut, northern pecan, hazel, pine nut trees and more; shrubs and bushes of all sorts mainly raspberry types but also things like New Jersey tea. Amongst all this will be low growing herbaceous perennials; wild garlic, mints, strawberry and plenty of flowering plants.

The horses are in the pasture to the north of the garden where we plan to plant the large native trees.

Some of the fruit trees and perennials and smaller shrubs can go into the garden but the larger trees will go along fence rows and in a smallish pasture just to the north of where we now have our vegetable garden. A long term project that we only got going with the planting of about a hundred trees last spring. Stay tuned.

The chickens really like to get out and scratch around when there is a bit of bare ground, a not too cold day and there is little to no wind. Chickens will be pastured in rotation in the area with the large trees.

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DECEMBER 30, 2019 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view a little earlier today. The camera settings have been reset so that the field of view is wider, the photo following is the same view with the previous camera setting

This photo was taken yesterday before I figured out the change to the camera settings. It took me 4 months to find out how to make the change.

The big event here over the past week was, as elsewhere, Christmas. Preparations for the meal here on Christmas day, when we had 16 of us for noon time dinner, along with some last minute buying of gifts and meal items, took the better part of the three days leading up to the 25th. Our Christmas gathering and gift exchanging is always an enjoyable time.

Much the same photo as last week but a little clearer and our vehicles parked out here so as not to sink into the mud further down the lane.

The traditional mid-winter celebration of the return of the sun and the beginning of a new year makes for a time of even more intense planning for us. We are now under pressure to plan the 2020 vegetable garden, search through several vegetable seed catalogues for new and different varieties of vegetables and get ready to order. We also have to think carefully plan on our agroforestry plans. We are planting more trees, including large trees such as oak, hickory, beech, sycamore, pine, cedar, black cherry, maple and smaller trees such as hazel, apple, peach, sweet and sour cherry. We’ll also plant more shrubs, blackberries, and other fruiting bushes. These will be planted in and around the vegetable garden. A row of dwarf or columnar apple and pear will go into the garden but the larger trees will go into rows just to the north of the garden and areas along property lines and field edges. The rows of large trees will be varied species with smaller trees and shrubs also interspersed with those large trees. The area between the rows of trees will be for pasturing livestock or poultry or even for growing crops; potatoes, corn, wheat, oats for example.  It cannot happen all at once. This is a project that will take several years to complete since there are a lot of trees to be purchased, planted and cared for and that will take a lot of time. The number of trees that we will need will be a large expense too. So plans for this are coming together. we got a start last year with the purchase of about 50 fruit trees and berry bushes. This spring we will again plant mostly fruit trees because we do need to realize an income from this and the income from apples, pears and peaches will also  help offset the costs of other trees. But, again, it is a very long term and on going project.

The ducks are just a little happier today as it has stopped raining, there is a bit of sun and it has warmed to about + 8.

The reasons for moving to a more agroforestry kind of farming are many. Probably the most important reason is so as to provide more habitat and food and a diverse flora for as much of a diverse fauna as we can. Trees and shrubbery will also have a positive benefit to our microclimate on the farm by breaking the winds and  by moderating the temperature during all seasons. This will be of benefit to the vegetable garden as well. Agroforestry will provide us with a bit of fodder for cows, sheep and horses and fruits and nuts for us and wildlife. We will eventually be able to obtain firewood from coppicing and pollarding of trees and some lumber as well.

The pile of newly delivered ash for firewood

A calf born this week doing just fine, lots of milk now for the house. We moved a lot of wood into the woodshed and moved more from the end of the lane to near the house with the tractor.

We drove the tractor towing the light trailer with a big load of wood across the garden instead of down the lane so as to avid large ruts in the driveway. Over the garden itself was OK but along the garden path the trailer wheels, not the tractors, sunk deep. Good thing it was not in the garden.

So that’s the news for this week. Mid-winter/Solstice/Christmas celebration, calf, firewood and planning for the 2020 season.

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DECEMBER 23, 2019 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view this very sunny and mild morning of December 23.

Looking down the laneway it can be seen to be still quite snow covered and it will be interesting to see what it looks like by the end of today

The penultimate post for 2019 and it is a lovely sunny morning as I write this, with the temperature about +3 and forecast to go to +8°C by sometime later this afternoon. The rest of this week is also forecast to be pretty mild with lots of sunshine even over Christmas. We will have to worry more about a muddy lane way than snow removal. Very nice to have so much sun at this the darkest time of the year with the day length down around only 9 hours. The solstice is past, this is now the new year, though not by the calendar. It is by solar measure though.

It think that the Chard is finally finished off. Up until the last snowfall I was able to gather a few leaves for my egg omelette.

Aerron has been bring manure t the garden daily with the pickup truck and unloading it in the garden here.. I thin k that it is squash, pumpkin and cucumber planted here next spring.

The week has been the same as preceding with the routine livestock and poultry being twice daily fed and watered, firewood being brought in, cut and split. Aerron has been cleaning up the woodshed which was quite an unruly jumble of wood and tools. We have a lot of wood on along the driveway that we will bring to keep it from getting buried under snow and constantly wetted. Each day Aeron has brought a truckload of manure from the barn to spread on the garden. each truck load is about 10 wheelbarrow loads.

Nell and Leaucan.

The horses, sheep, cows and poultry are fine. Most of the chickens are quite enjoying the fine weather and like to wander around eating weed seeds and whatever else they can glean from the snow.

Last Wednesday ready to load two weeks worth of chicken feed, corn for the horses and dog and cat food. Still a bit sunny and light wind but the sky to the north and north-west was getting increasingly dark.

There was a bit of snow over the past week but nothing to give us any problems. The wind was quite strong the one day and that made it quite cold, but mostly the weather was pleasant enough for mid-winter. A short post this week with not so much to say and so much still to do.

I’d finished loading and took more photos and the wind picked up with heavy snow fall just starting. Fingers were getting quite cold as I had to remove gloves to operate the camera

The fully loaded trailer parked and waiting to be unloaded. The tractor battery then died and the tractor could not be restarted until we got a new one two days later.

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