March 23, 2015 Farm News


The week over week view is showing only small changes from last week but is a change for the better.

The week over week view is showing only small changes from last week but is a change for the better.

The vernal equinox has passed a couple of days ago and here we are well below freezing at night and even a touch below during the daylight.  An unanticipated set back for sure.  Just delays getting rid of the last remnants of snow and keeps the frost in the ground longer.

Last week Aerron heard Tundra Swans but could not see them, it was dark, and on Saturday we sighted two separate flocks each flying in exactly the opposite directions, one of about 10 birds and the other perhaps 30.  I wonder if they are later this year.  Have seen and again heard a single Killdeer flying about and an American Robin too was heard.  No sight nor sound from them since early last fall.

Nell, Leucan and Marta soaking up the warmth of the morning sun on a cold spring morning.

Nell, Leucan and Marta soaking up the warmth of the morning sun on a cold spring morning.

Still hope to get something, maybe Broad Beans into the ground the first week of April.  We made a voyage to William Dam Seeds near Dundas on Saturday and got a good quantity of the seeds we need and will have some flats, some trays, sown in Onions and Leeks sometime today.  they will have to be germinated in the house and even there it will be difficult to get a good bottom heat for the soil all the time.  Always a major problem with no simple easy solution.

The cow on the right is Tippy, due to calve about any time now.

The cow on the right is Tippy, due to calve about any time now.

All us animals are well.  Two lambs, twins born on the weekend are doing well.  Several losses of lambs this year.  Poor nutrition likely due to poor hay and insufficient grain supplement was a contributing factor though we suspect that much more than that is going on.  The Shorthorn cow Tippy is due to calve anytime now so that will be nice.  Good if she waited another week for the weather to warm a bit.  She has been looking imminent for a few weeks now though has not made much of an udder yet though even that is not a sure sign of anything.

I t is a cold morning but the front of the coop is out of the wind and sunny.

I t is a cold morning but the front of the coop is out of the wind and sunny.

Maple syrup making is still a big thing.  Always large 4 pots on our stove and big pots and a large pan on Maggie and Aerron’s too.  Total made so far is but 2 and 3/4 litres.  No sap flow for the last two days as it has been too cold.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 Farm News


The usual heading photo is quite a bit different from the photo of the same spot just last week.

The usual heading photo is quite a bit different from the photo of the same spot just last week.

No sledding on the lane way this week.  In last week's post we put in a photo of Gabriel and Devon just about to start another sled run.

No sledding on the lane way this week. In last week’s post we put in a photo of Gabriel and Devon just about to start another sled run.

I’ll post a few days earlier this week.   The weather has greatly improved from February and the work of running the farm has gotten much easier.  We have now laid a hose over the ground to water the cows and horses and don’t have to worry so much about it getting frozen.  It usually warms enough during the day to thaw the pipe if it goes below freezing at night.  Today, Tuesday, is nice and sunny, but only a little warm and their is a good gusty wind blowing strongly out of the north.  The pipe may actually be frozen in the odd spot that has had no sun.

The tree tapping gang inspecting for a spot to place taps, or maybe they are just having fun.

The tree tapping gang inspecting for a spot to place taps, or maybe they are just having fun.

Two of the Manitoba Maple trees with two taps per tree. Aerron just behind one of those trees is tapping a third.

Two of the Manitoba Maple trees with two taps per tree. Aerron just behind one of those trees is tapping a third.

The temperatures have been right for getting the Maple sap to flow and Aerron has tapped quite a few trees.  We tap quite a few Manitoba Maple as well as the Sugar Maple since we have far more of the former and the end product is the same no matter which tree the sap comes from.  We got our first buckets of sap on Sunday, others of the tree tapper crowd may have gotten some much earlier but we were a little late in setting taps this season.   We think that until now the sap flow has not been very high anyway.  Aerron will also be tapping a few Black Walnut trees so we can try Walnut syrup to see how it might compare to the highly popular Maple syrup.  Today, Tuesday, was the start of the boiling down process which will be carried out, for as long as the sap flows, on our two wood stoves.  We do our ‘sugarin’ in the kitchen with no problems other than it is difficult to find room to boil the kettle to make coffee, never mind to find enough room to set out 2 or 3 pots for making supper.

Four pots with Maple sap, the coffee press near empty, the kettle in a cool spot, Marie's coffee cup full but mine is empty. The wood stove is humming along quite hot.

Four pots with Maple sap, the coffee press near empty, the kettle in a cool spot, Marie’s coffee cup full but mine is empty. The wood stove is humming along quite hot.

I heard, Monday afternoon,a Killdeer calling.  Didn’t see the bird, just heard it the one time, the first time this spring.  Always surprised how early they return each year.  Have not seen the Tundra Swans yet, they should be by any time now.  I think that in past years they have been by even earlier. We usually hear them before we see them. Really nice to be talking about all these spring things.

All the ducks and a few of the main flock ISA hens out in the sunshine with the ducks snuffling through the water bowls and puddles.

All the ducks and a few of the main flock ISA hens out in the sunshine with the ducks snuffling through the water bowls and puddles.

The hens really like this spot at the foot of the polar tree.

The hens really like this spot at the foot of the polar tree.

The elderly team just enjoying the sunshine out of the wind.

The elderly team just enjoying the sunshine out of the wind.

The snow continues to disappear and in it’s place is a lot of very soft earth which is of course churned quickly to mud with too much traffic.  The frost is still in the ground in most places so we have a long way to go before we can think about preparing any ground in the garden. Lots of ice still around so the footing can be a little precarious in spots.

More of the special chickens with a Red Silkie hen at front, two Barnevelder hens in the middle and a Dark Brown Leghorn hen in behind.  Notice the white ears on the Leghorn and on the Silkie.  these are indicators of white or nearly white eggs.

More of the special chickens with a Red Silkie hen at front, two Barnevelder hens in the middle and a Dark Brown Leghorn hen in behind. Notice the white ears on the Leghorn and on the Silkie. these are indicators of white or nearly white eggs.

Three of the Special chickens.  From the left are a Barnevelder hen, a Red Silkie rooster and a Black copper Marans hen.

Three of the Special chickens. From the left are a Barnevelder hen, a Red Silkie rooster and a Black copper Marans hen.

Black Copper Marans Rooster.  Grey lightly feathered legs. Welsumer hen in behind.

Black Copper Marans Rooster. Grey lightly feathered legs. Welsumer hen in behind.

Barnevelder rooster. Clean yellow legs.

Barnevelder rooster. Clean yellow legs.

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March 11, 2015 Farm News


The usual weekly garden view.  A real noticeable change from the same spot just last week.

The usual weekly garden view. A real noticeable change from the same spot just last week.

This is more spring like weather for sure.  Though the fields are still very much snow covered, a lot of snow has disappeared and there is even some bare ground showing through here and there.  We have been getting up and down the laneway though later in the afternoon, when the temperature has gone above freezing, the snow gets quite soft and car tires do sink in quite a bit and tires don’t have near as good a grip. The temperature here on Wednesday morning early was 2.7°C and it hadn’t gone below freezing all night.  The sun is shining brightly too, so coats and even sweaters are being discarded, carefully though, so one can grab them if it cools down or gets a little windy.

The hay sled is also great for sliding down hills and the lane is still snow covered enough o make it a good run.

The hay sled is also great for sliding down hills and the lane is still snow covered enough o make it a good run.

He was not getting out so when the sled was loaded with Hay for the cows it had to be piled around him and he rode out to the field and back.

He was not getting out so when the sled was loaded with Hay for the cows it had to be piled around him and he rode out to the field and back.

A spring time tidy up is now underway as the snow retreats and uncovers things forgotten since the fall. We’ll soon have to start a few machinery repairs if we can. There are three things needing work first, disc harrows, cultivator, transplanter/furrow maker and we do have to come up with some sort of seed bed preparation tool pulled by the horses.  Likely a modification to something we already have lying around.  We have to get rid of more snow first but then soon after we can begin working ground in preparation for seeding.

The garlic should be poking up through the straw soon.

The garlic should be poking up through the straw soon.

All the sheep, cows and horses are doing fine though we are not doing so well with the lambs this year.  The poultry are fine though and the egg laying is getting up to about the maximum that we could expect, both from the chicken and the ducks.

Will be seeding some things into trays any day now, then spring will truly be here.

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March 4, 2015 Farm News


Looking out over the garden from the usual vantage point and it is getting pretty monotonous week after week with little change except for the contours getting smoother as more snow accumulates

Looking out over the garden from the usual vantage point and it is getting pretty monotonous week after week with little change except for the contours getting smoother as more snow accumulates

The harmonious hen house from inside

The harmonious hen house from inside

Waiting patiently for breakfast but the sun is warm

Waiting patiently for breakfast but the sun is warm

Definite improvement in weather though only in the temperature department and the improvement has not been great so far.  But at least the temperature finally made it briefly and slightly above freezing Tuesday night.  The “great storm” of Tuesday was somewhat less of a problem for us as we got the vehicles to the end of the lane at the road before the lane became impassable and the cleanout of he lane is going to be much easier.  I am writing this Tuesday evening late and Wednesday morning so We have not yet tackled this latest laneway plugging snowfall.  I was able to make my Tuesday egg delivery rounds this week even though I was out at the height of the storm, late in the afternoon.  I was pleasantly surprised and very pleased that the pickup truck handled very well on the snowy roads, even on up hill grades with no snow tires and only two wheel drive.  Two back ones too though there was about 300 pounds of concrete tile in the back, over those two wheels, to aid traction.

Maybe in about a month we will start to see a green haze appearing over the crown of the tree as buds swell in spring's warm sun

Maybe in about a month we will start to see a green haze appearing over the crown of the tree as buds swell in spring’s warm sun

We have ordered more chickens from Frey’s hatchery in St. Jacob’s through Sinden’s Feed store in Burford.  There are two separate orders.  If our order is confirmed then we will get 60 Barred Rock pullets, ready to lay(about 21 weeks old), on March 24 and on either April 7 or April 21 (some confusion over which date) we will get 40 started Rhode Island Reds, pullets, 7 weeks old I believe, which means we’ll have to keep them another 14 weeks approximately before they lay eggs.  In practice the flock will not be laying at a good rate (32 eggs a day from 40 birds) until they are about 24 weeks old and still at that age they will be laying pullet eggs which are small to medium sized.  Does mean more eggs though. We have to do some careful planning to find enough area to have them pastured and we need to be able to rotate them about, 4 weeks here, four weeks another spot and so on until they are back to the first area again.  The amount of time off an area  will be determined by how fast the grass recovers after a trashing by a flock of voracious chickens.

The cold comfort of a dog's life.

The cold comfort of a dog’s life.

Soon too we will be able to get the chicken and ducks outside.  They will all be very excited about that.  Even more excited when they can find some grass again, a place to scratch and scratch. We’ll also be setting eggs from our special birds and we will be using the Silkies as our setters, our little incubators and that requires a fair bit of work constructing their housing.  An individual little brood house and grassed yard for each setting hen. We be the excited ones if it all works and a bunch of little chicks are hatched.

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February 27, 2015 Farm News


The usual view of the garden on Saturday morning.  Hopefully this will be the maximum snow cover.

The usual view of the garden on Saturday morning. Hopefully this will be the maximum snow cover.

I am very very late in posting this week’s blog.  The intention has been to gradually move the blog publishing day from Wednesday to Monday but for the last two weeks it has bee moving in the opposite direction. Apologies to anyone who came looking and found new ’til today.

The special chicken's hut on a cold Saturday morning.

The special chicken’s hut on a cold Saturday morning.

The special chickens at the open door taking in the warm morning sunshine. This is a little Silkie hen .

The special chickens at the open door taking in the warm morning sunshine. This is a little Silkie hen .

The main flock of chickens and the duck house nice and tightly closed up and warming just a bit in the sun.

The main flock of chickens and the duck house nice and tightly closed up and warming just a bit in the sun.

This has been an extraordinary week.  So much has been happening and not happening.  The intense cold continues and makes for more difficult times for us in accomplishing our daily routines of feeding, watering and observing all our animals.  The cold has made for a small reduction in the eggs laid and though it is small I was rather thinking that we would e having a small increase in the number of eggs being laid each day.  We have to contend with the occasional frozen egg too, especially the duck eggs as the ducks often lay their eggs just anywhere about the hut and they lay very early, well before I’m out there.

Notice the narrow trackway through the snow to the left side.  This is the path that the rabbits have beaten to the Kale starting at this end and eating their way down the row.

Notice the narrow trackway through the snow to the left side. This is the path that the rabbits have beaten to the Kale starting at this end and eating their way down the row.

Saturday February 28 and I've just uncovered some nice Kale that will go into a real nice dish of Potato and Kale spiced up with Garlic Black Pepper and Ginger.

Saturday February 28 and I’ve just uncovered some nice Kale that will go into a real nice dish of Potato and Kale spiced up with Garlic Black Pepper and Ginger.

The temperature will begin to moderate as we move into March and the days continue to lengthen as the sun rise ever higher in the sky.  It is remarkable even now that on a cloudless day, the increase in the amount of energy reaching the surface of the earth here, over the amount a month ago, is really noticeable by just standing in the sunshine for a few minutes.  The air the past while has been coming down from the arctic and temperatures are what you might expect up there … a whole lot colder than down here.

Marta, Leucan and Nell soaking up the warm sunshine and patiently waiting for their breakfast.

Marta, Leucan and Nell soaking up the warm sunshine and patiently waiting for their breakfast.

The snow on Monday along with the wind meant that our laneway was drifted for long stretches and this made for a very long lasting dig out on Tuesday and on into Wednesday before the lane was clear enough to get vehicles out.  Pretty much 3/4 of our lane way needed clearing.  This meant canceling the egg delivery route to Burford on Tuesday and with all that needed doing and firewood collecting and cutting as we ran very low over the weekend; we still have not got Tuesday’s eggs delivered and it will go missed this week.

A young cow at breakfast in the warm sun.

A young cow at breakfast in the warm sun.

Thursday afternoon was when I had a short presentation, a brief 10 minute talk, to a small audience at Laurier university, gathered to hear the discussion regarding the question, “Can Poetry Help Out on the Farm?”  The panel presenting was myself and the Writer in Residence at Laurier, poet Sonnet L’Abbé.  A beekeeper was unable to be there so Ken Paradis, professor at Laurier and the events moderator, filled in a bit as his family had kept bees.

Looking south up the valley. not likely to be such  a snowy scene in a couple of week's time.

Looking south up the valley. not likely to be such a snowy scene in a couple of week’s time.

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February 19, 2015 Farm News


Looks about the same as last week but with more snow on the ground and it is still falling.

Looks about the same as last week but with more snow on the ground and it is still falling.

This is getting a bit monotonous each week:  reporting on the very cold temperatures and their effects.   At the farm the temperature bottomed out at -28°C that one night and we had a freeze up of the supply pipe to the toilet in our house.  Aerron thawed the pipe quickly by holding it briefly with his hand.  The water supply to the barn has frozen but this has happened somewhere along the buried line coming to the barn, likely as it passes beneath the barn wall.  The tap in the barn,  the downpipe and the horizontal pipe going under the wall from the inside were not frozen.  We can’t really do much about this now, without spending a bundle so we’ll just leave it until the temperature warms enough that it will thaw on it’s own.  So long as we have temperatures regularly around -15, -20 and similar, then we are going to be without piped water to the barn.  Until then we water the cows at the large stock water tank up at the garden, that is the pasture that they are overwintering in.  The water is drawn to there from our house by partially filling two large containers on the sled and pulling the sled the short distance, all essentially on the level, to the tank.  The cows use about 6 to 8 of the 16 litre buckets each day.  We water just once a day as any attempts to do more will just result in the second lot just freezing solid.  Same thing with the horses which are watered from the hose at the house.  The hose is then laid out on the hill to drain, still connected to the outside tap.  This only freezes if I don’t take care to ensure that there are no dips in the hose where water can collect.  In addition Aerron carries two or three more buckets of water to the barn for the sheep and the donkey, on the sled again and I take a couple of buckets to the chickens and ducks over the course of the day.   So the whole procedure takes a lot of time and makes for quite a bit more work.  But spring is coming soon.

Canada geese and Belgian horses in a snow storm.

Canada geese and Belgian horses in a snow storm.

The herd of Cattle beasts waiting for Aerron to open the gate.

The herd of Cattle beasts waiting for Aerron to open the gate.

Marta

Marta

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Leucan, that's his mother Nell in the previous photo.

Leucan, that’s his mother Nell in the previous photo.

There is a nice amount of snow but this has not caused too much trouble for us getting in and out of our laneway.  A couple of times a car has gotten stuck and needed some work to get it extricated, but usually we just charge through what little drifting occurs and after several cars have passed over that area the snow is nicely packed and easily traveled over.   It is sometimes a little difficult walking around and especially snow if we are walking offthe beaten path.

A snowy Yurt scene.

A snowy Yurt scene.

The chickens are laying well and the ducks have settled at around a dozen eggs per day.  This is quite good considering the cold weather.  We have kept the chickens inside almost every day.  The door is only opened on a sunny, still air day with temperatures right around freezing, otherwise the hens all huddle at the end of the coop opposite the open door.  We are getting about 2 minutes of extra daylight each day now and that is also keeping the egg production at a high level  and in of course longer days are going to eventually get it warmer.

A bowl of Marans eggs, the very darkest ones

A bowl of Marans eggs, the very darkest ones

Same bowl of eggs with one of the eggs from the main flock added to the upper left to show the contrast in colours.

Same bowl of eggs with one of the eggs from the main flock added to the upper left to show the contrast in colours.

Another look at the different eggs, and the dark ones are the Marans.

Another look at the different eggs, and the dark ones are the Marans.

My humble prediction, my long term weather forecast, is for the rest of February to be cold but just a little less so than the past two weeks with the temperatures gradually trending upwards so that by the first of March we will be having temperatures  fluctuating around the freezing mark.  The last two weeks of March should see temperatures regularly around +5 to +10 or maybe a bit more and by April we should be regularly around + 20.  We will also start to get more snow and then quite a lot of rain through March.  Remember: March showers bring April Flowers and it dries out in May.

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February 12, 2015 Farm News


The garden view looking very ungarden like.

The garden view looking very ungarden like.

It has been a usual week here, not a lot to report. We are just plodding along as best we can in a colder than usual February, getting our myriad little chores done as quickly as we can.  Finding and cutting firewood and looking after horses, cows, sheep, goat, donkey, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and one Indian ring-necked parakeet …  are the duties that keep us most occupied. The extra time involved is all due to cold weather and snow.  It is bit of a struggle keeping water containers from freezing and the best solution is to water only as much as needed and to immediately dump any that is left since by the time that anyone is going to drink the left over water it will have frozen or will be far too cold for drinking.  Better to water second and third times though usually when this is attempted, no one wants it anyway, so practically we need only water once each day. Feeding the cows and horses outside is just and effort to haul out the hay.  We use a large sled pulled by hand and it works well and is far easier and faster than carrying hay from the barn on a fork.

The old team's sprouted oats and barley, beet pulp and alfalfa pellets all soaked in water, in the hay sled and on the way to Wimpy and Marie. bet that at first glance you thought these were just a couple of muffins.

The old team’s sprouted oats and barley, beet pulp and alfalfa pellets all soaked in water, in the hay sled and on the way to Wimpy and Marie. bet that at first glance you thought these were just a couple of muffins.

The chicken house all closed up for warmth on a very nice and sunny but very cold Thursday morning.

The chicken house all closed up for warmth on a very nice and sunny but very cold Thursday morning.

Chickens are now laying very good.  We are consistently getting 85 to 90% from the hens.  I do suspect that there are maybe 5 or 6 hens that are not laying at all or at the most quite infrequently.  I should do vent checking but it is a whole lot of time involved as I don’t do it much I’m not all that good at it.  We would ideally have all the hens banded so we could easily identify them too but they are not.  So keeping everyone separate is a problem.

Some of the hens in the relative comfort of their house.

Some of the hens in the relative comfort of their house.

The lane way after cleanout, not much snow here really. And a week laterit looks about the same.  Most of what is seen here was removed by the horses.

The lane way after cleanout, not much snow here really. And a week laterit looks about the same. Most of what is seen here was removed by the horses.

Not many photos this week.  The camera batteries have been replaced with new rechargeables.  The older ones were just too old and would not hold a charge longer than it took to tell me to ” Change the Batteries”.  But it is just too cold to walk around with bare hands holding a cold camera and taking a lot of time fussing over getting just the right photo.   And of course I am really late with this post for, I think it is, three weeks in a row.

Buffy on the porch soaking up the winter sunshine.

Buffy on the porch soaking up the winter sunshine.

 

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