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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February 5, 2014 Farm News


The usual garden scene. Compare to last week's shot of the same spot.

The usual garden scene. Compare to last week’s shot of the same spot.

The recent heavy snow fall gave us a good reason to get the horses hitched to the snow dump to do some snow clearing.  We harnessed Marta and Nell allowed the colt Leucan free to follow the other two to the harness area and then on the way back up, when we got to the gate, he was locked in with the older team, Wimpy and Marie, the first time we have separated him from his mother.  A minute or so of nickering then the mare Marie stayed with him and that seemed to calm him down and all the while the team was working, he happily ate hay with the others.  Nell and Marta, with a bit of difficulty, were hitched to the snow dump to clear the snow from our laneway.  they were anxious to go nd would not stand calmly most especially Marta.  They worked well though, no problems, except that they did not want to stop for a rest and any attempt to do so had them shuffling, wanting to get going.  Aerron, who was doing the driving, after a while took them out to the end of the lane and onto the road to turn around and come back into clear the lane.  I watched them, noticing that Nell was stepping very carefully, very short steps, and I did not actually look at Marta but it seemed from the corner of my eye that she was stepping longer … then, in the blink of an eye Marta slipped and went down … not hard, but right down on her haunches and directly on the wooden pole which, under 1800 pounds of horse, snapped into two pieces. Marta went down but was up immediately. Aerron maintained control with out any great difficulty but it was somewhat difficult to drag the snow dump off the road and out of the way beside the laneway.  Got that done and the horses were unhitched, snow clearing with the horses finished ’til we can repair or replace the pole.  No one was hurt and the horses though a little rattled calmed down quickly and it ended well.  A broken but repairable piece of equipment and horses not in the least injured. Leucan was quite happy to see mum and auntie come back.  we were pleased the way the horses handled. They need more practice, but they’ll be o.k.

Marta waiting for more hay.

Marta waiting for more hay.

Nell.

Nell.

We had cleared two thirds or so of the lane and we finished the rest on Tuesday with shovels.  Our exciting adventure for this week. The chickens have stayed inside this week. Mostly I keep the doors to the hen house closed but even when open the hens stay put but stay away from the door.  The best thing about the chickens staying inside has been the very good egg laying rate over the past week.  It is about the best egg laying rate that we could expect.

The lane way after cleanout, not much snow here really.  Most of what is seen here was removed by the horses.

The lane way after cleanout, not much snow here really. Most of what is seen here was removed by the horses.

Ducks and chickens at the open door.

Ducks and chickens at the open door.

We are feeding the chickens mostly the commercial layer ration which contains a lot of corn and soybean  but we are also giving them whole grains, usually wheat that have been sprouted for about 7 to 10 days.  This gives them a nice green leaf about 1 to two inches long as well as the berry.  We also give them vegetable scraps and trimmings.  All this gives them needed vitamins along with the necessary protein for egg production.  The grain also gives them fibre which makes the hens much healthier too.

The special hens house after the big snow fall.

The special hens house after the big snow fall.

The door was open for a few hours while the sun shone and when the ducks heard me coming back they all came out to see what was up.

The door was open for a few hours while the sun shone and when the ducks heard me coming back they all came out to see what was up.

So we believe that their diet and  the comfortable (all things are relative) chicken house, are making for happy, healthy productive hens.

Nell and Leucan after the big snow.

Nell and Leucan after the big snow.

 

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January 29, 2014 Farm News


The garden on a sunny Wednesday January 28th afternoon.

The garden on a sunny Wednesday January 28th afternoon.

It has been cold the past while as you probably know.  The usual challenges with frozen hoses and bucket, but only when things are not drained properly or water is allowed to stand in the containers, outside, after everyone has had their drink.  And I did a bit of that this week.  The fix of course is to take hot water from the house and pour it over inverted buckets to get the lump of ice to drop out, and it usually works quite well and to stuff the frozen portion of a hose in a bucket and pour hot water over it until water runs free.  Sometimes too much of the hose is froze and the whole length has to be brought in to the house and left until thawed.

The Kale is looking a little bit worse for winter wear.

The Kale is looking a little bit worse for winter wear.

Never to mind.  Spring will be here shortly.  Or maybe not!

Mother Nell with Leucan turning his behind to me again.

Mother Nell with Leucan turning his behind to me again.

The horses are coping well with this weather.  The older team still looks older and the gelding is still not up to weight; but, he is slowly looking better, he is slowly gaining weight and once the weather warms his condition should improve dramatically.  Right now the both of the older horses get sprouted oats, alfalfa pellets, beep pulp pellets, vegetable trimmings and vegetable extract from juicing.  All this soaked in water and they get a large tub of this twice a day.  The new team and the colt are looking just fine in their shaggy long winter coats.

Leucan is looking quite spiffy in his shaggy winter coat.

Leucan is looking quite spiffy in his shaggy winter coat.

Marta, looking very good but not much like she will foal soon.

Marta, looking very good but not much like she will foal soon.

The dogs and cats cope well.  The livestock guardian dog, the Maremma, stays at the barn with the sheep and the cows.  There are two cats at the barn and four well fed fat cats at the house.  So long as the cats stick close to house or barn or to us, they’ll be alright.  We have lost several cats in mysterious circumstances which implies COYOTE !

Marmalade lolling about in the warmth of the January sun

Marmalade lolling about in the warmth of the January sun

Our Oldish Tom cat Whitey.  As you can see; he is all white except for some black in front of the tip of his tail.

Our Oldish Tom cat Whitey. As you can see; he is all white except for some black in front of the tip of his tail.

The Maremma looking very Maremma like.

The Maremma looking very Maremma like.

Does a Maremma look a bit like a white wolf.

Does a Maremma look a bit like a white wolf.

This Maremma is a good family dog that looks on strangers with a lot of suspicion.

This Maremma is a good family dog that looks on strangers with a lot of suspicion.

Chickens are a bit up and down on the lay.  They are probably affected by the cold.  They have several times been shut in all day as it was too windy or cold for them to go outside.  If the day is sunny and cold and not too much more windy than a stiff breeze, then I’ll leave their door open.  If they stay inside still then I’ll close up the door to keep the temperature in their house a bit higher.

Inside the hen house at feeding time.  They dive right in but the ducks pay no attention.

Inside the hen house at feeding time. They dive right in but the ducks pay no attention.

Quacker boxes really like to be outside when it is sunny and sorta calm. They stay out pretty much the whole day.

Quacker boxes really like to be outside when it is sunny and sorta calm. They stay out pretty much the whole day.

 

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January 22, 2015 Farm News


We have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks developing the 2015 farm brochure and we finally finished it this past week.  This sets out some “policy” for the farm for the rest of the year and the Brochure contains several important changes to the CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program that is our main concern when planning for the new season. The brochure is available at the  Our CSA Program page.  I will try to include it as an attachment to reminder e-mails that I’ll be sending out to all of last season’s CSA members as well as those who have contacted us during the year asking if they can join the CSA for 2015.  If you are interested and don’t get an e-mail then contact us.

The weather has been kind to all of us at the farm over the past week.  Melting snow froze to ice here and there but no problems for horses or cows in getting around.  Maybe more of a problem for us humans as our driveway has a lot of ice cover now.  Still, nobody’s vehicle has slipped off to the side or had any trouble driving out and no one has slipped and fallen when walking.

The special chickens, Barnevelder rooster with a mix of hens.

The special chickens, Barnevelder rooster with a mix of hens.

The little bit of sunshine has the chickens going outside quite a bit.  They like that there is a lot of bare ground about to investigate.  There will be weed seeds and other interesting stuff for chickens all around.  They don’t seem to be too much bothered by the just below freezing temperature though wind would push them inside.

A sample of eggs: from the left, the first four eggs are from the ISA hens. The variation in colour is typical though most are closer to upper left. The large, large egg at lower right is an unusual size, not many of these.  The middle four eggs are from the special hens.  The darkest one at lower right is a Marans, the top two are likely Welsumer and the bottom left likely a Barnevelder.  The four on the right: top two are Silkie, off white and the two whiter than white are Leghorn.

A sample of eggs: from the left, the first four eggs are from the ISA hens. The variation in colour is typical though most are closer to upper left. The large, large egg at lower right is an unusual size, not many of these.
The middle four eggs are from the special hens. The darkest one at lower right is a Marans, the top two are likely Welsumer and the bottom left likely a Barnevelder. The four on the right: top two are Silkie, off white and the two whiter than white are Leghorn.

The brochure is done so now we will go back to looking at seed catalogues and planning for planting.  We do the same basic planting each year but we things change, better, improved vegetable varieties become available to try especially if a favourite  disappears from catalogues or something new promises some improvement that we may have been looking for.

Much other planning needed, many repairs still to be done, new stuff budgeted for,

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