DECEMBER 9, 2019 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view on Sunday afternoon. The weeds are getting to be beaten down lower each week. Still a lot of food in there for birds, mice and spring time insects.

The weather continues to be a bit mild. The ice and snow from a week ago has come off the trees but there is still a good bit on the ground. Not much of a problem though. Work continues here as usual. Wood stored in the wood shed is split into pieces small enough for the woodstove, enough each day for the day’s burning. Aerron looks after the animals at the barn twice a day. He has to feed hay and water the cows and sheep. He also waters and feeds the horses who are outside in a pasture to the north of the garden. I do the rounds of the chicken, duck, turkey and peacock flock twice a day feeding, watering and collecting eggs twice a day. It is my job to fed the cat herd twice a day and do my best keep the skunk from getting in the food.  Aerron looks after the dog.

A jumble of a wood pile with some recently added pieces all needing to be cut to length and stacked

Nell, I think it is, just standing around in the relative warmth. It was sunny a while before and there is still a bit of a weak sun. A light breeze though, so still felt chilly to me.

The ducks park themselves outside but not too far from the duck house. They will stay outside for most of the day no matter what. Usually. But sometimes it will get just too cold and windy for even them and they will retreat inside.

Some of the cat herd in their favourite gathering spot in the wood shed.

All that keeps us busy and then there are all sorts of little chores that are done each day either for the garden, for the poultry or the other animals, or for our homes. we are have been doing planning for the nest seasons plantings of vegetables, berry bushes, shrubs and trees. Still a few bits of useful greens partly buried in the snow.

The remains of the past season’s Swiss Chard. A few small leaves are still perfectly fine. We’ll harvest them tomorrow.

Some small cabbage plants are still available for eating though we’ll have to trim off a lot of frost damaged leaves.

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DECEMBER 2, 2019 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view at noon on Sunday, yesterday, after the ice storm. Not so very much ice for us. This jumble of weeds will still have some seed that will feed birds, mice and voles through the winter and insects in early spring. Then we’ll work it up and plant potatoes here.

The cedar tree at the corner of the lane way just down from the CSA pick up area is leaning in all directions under the weight of the ice and snow. The cedars do this and worse but seldom do the branches break and come spring you’d never know what had happened over winter.

Quite a lot of work was done this past week. The weather was good, and though sometimes cool, we did have some pretty nice days for a late November. I should make  more of an effort to take photos of work that we do all through the week rather than just before I publish this blog. That would also help me remember what happened.

The trailer pulled by the Farmall 100 tractor and loaded with wood from along the driveway. Most of this wood is perfectly dry and just needs to be cut to length and split. Some just needs splitting, some just needs cutting. Mostly spruce and maple here.

The Farmall tractor waiting. Snow blade also at the ready.

We spent time again bringing in wood with the pick up truck and with Farmall tractor and trailer. The woodshed is now jammed with a pile of cut to length wood hastily piled in a heap. We’ll work through it as we split with axe, wedge and maul and make neat piles but for now it is in out of the weather.

The wood has mostly been unloaded from the tractor and some of the longer pieces have been cut to length. All this and much more was cut up and put into the woodshed.

We had a load of hay delivered. Just 8 bales with about 26 more to come next week some time. This may get us by until March but much depends on the quality of the hay and we don’t quite know that until we have opened up a bale. Hopefully all cows, sheep and horses will think it fine.

The horses, the two mares with the young stallion at front and way back can be seen, just below the mare to the right, the white miniature horse. A few days before the ice.

Some of the hens of the one heritage chicken flock. They are huddled for warmth on the floor at a comfy spot. I have kept the door closed the last few days. Unless it is calm and the sun is shining then they will not go out anyway and the open door just lets in cold air.

This is the water pump in the house basement. The blue cylinder is the water storage/pressure tank and the white cylinder is the hot water tank. The water pipes from the well come into the house through the basement wall and can be seen at the entry point just to the right of the top of the blue tank. The vertical pipe just to the right of the blue tank is the one inch pipe which has been disconnected at the tee and the white coupler, further to the right has been installed to connect that one inch pipe directly to the house water system, bypassing the pump which is the darker blue piece at lower right. There is a shut off valve, the red handle, in the line to the house system. The vertical pipes extend upwards a bit so as to be sued for putting water in when we prime the pump.

It took us three days this week, including several trips to the hardware store for plumbing bits, to get water running to the house. We have been without running water for a very long time. We replaced the old water pump in our basement but could not get the thing to work properly. We have had 3 water pumps in our 40 plus years in this house and it has been a fairly simple straightforward procedure; remove the old pump, connect up the new, prime it, fiddle a bit and done in an afternoon. This time the new pump just would not run right. We spent days fiddling with it and it did run a bit for a while but also it did not sound right and did not respond to adjustments made. I should have taken it back. Instead we bought another, an expensive but really reliable one, one we should have bought in the first place since when we are in the growing season the pump can run a lot; sometimes the whole day and most all day for days in a row. But then we ran into a new problem. At least we think that it was new and different problem from what we had with the cheaper new pump. It would come on after a short while even when no water was used and the cycle time got shorter. This meant there was a leak somewhere and the leak was getting larger. We couldn’t find it. New foot valve, dug down to the buried pipes running from house to well at both ends looking for a leak. Could find none. All the while we were extraordinarily busy with gardening and all the other usual things and could spend little time working on our plumbing problem. Months passed but with the end of the season we had a bit more time. We decided that there might not be enough time before winter freeze up to do a proper job so decided on a fix. We have two pumps and two separate systems drawing water from this same well. One for the house, located in the house basement and one for the yurt located at the well. The fix was to connect a pipe from the line running from the pump at the well to one of the two lines running from the well to the house and by pass the pump in the house. This would mean the pump at the well would then supply both house and yurt. Easily within it’s capability. This was straight forward but of course plans changed as we did the work and extra trips were made to obtain parts not planned for. In the end it has worked and we now have running water in the house.

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November 18 and 25, 2019 FARM NEWS


The Monday November 11 morning of the usual garden photo. It is mid morning and the snow had been coming down lightly for a while.

Same photo a week later. Temperature this Monday morning got up to about 5C

I missed a posting last week. We have been very busy doing all kinds of little things. nothing big accomplished but we are getting work done. Unfortunately we have hardly made a dent in the pile of awaiting work.

A typical jumbled pile of wood. This lot is not as cured as some others though we will extract a lot wood here that was dead wood when cut.

Firewood is still a major consumer of time and will continue to be so. We have all the wood we need for the winter but it needs to be gathered up, properly piled, as much in the woodshed as possible and as much of it split ready for the stove as we can get. It is all pretty dry though the wood outside has a bit of dampness to it that will soon leave. Most of it is cut to length but a good amount does need the chainsaw. we try to get most of this up to the woodshed where we can use the electric chainsaw and so no need to suffer the fumes and noise of the gas saw.

We’ll sometimes use the bow saw on smaller pieces but that is pretty tiring and takes more time. We have a couple of trees that need to be taken down and some trees that need to be limbed. All Manitoba maple, Acer negundo, that are close to the house and to the yurt.

The straw bales still sitting here. The hay bales that Aerron fetches are the same size, most going to the barn but enough here beside the garden for the horses. Garden hose still needs to be coiled up a put away.

Aerron has been taking the pickup truck to our neighbours a couple or three times a week to bring home large round hay bales, one at a time. Our hay delivery guy has not been able to get here yet with a full load (about 14 bales) but will likely come on Thursday or Friday. And last night Aerron went into Brantford a little way and scooped up 194 bags of leaves, those large paper bags designed for leaves and garden debris.

There are over 200 bags of leaves here stacked along the manure pile. We’ll spread these on the garden as mulch or work into the soil. We won’t empty the bags yet otherwise some of the leaves will blow away.

The other side showing the long row of manure composting away. We’ll cover with straw to keep the top from drying too much.

We laid down some plastic belting for a pathway. The wood guys gave it too us, it was surplus from somewhere and would have gone for recycling or just as garbage. It’ll make the pathway less muddy.

Some of the vegetables still in the garden. not much but we can draw small amounts for meals. This in spite of last week’s snow.

We have found the tractor to be very useful. We repaired a little trailer that at one time was a snowmobile trailer and hitched to the tractor. It is very useful as it is small and very low to the ground. We have used this to move the chicken food that gets delivered to the end of our laneway, straw that I bag up and distribute to the hen houses and moving wood, especially real large heavy rounds from along the laneway to the woodshed.  Without the tractor we would have moved all this with the little wagons the wheelbarrow or maybe the truck. the truck means heaving the stuff up and climbing up sometimes to set things right but with the low trailer it is much easier. The tractor/trailer combo made things quicker and saved a lot of labour. Tractor photos next week.

 

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NOVEMBER 11, 2019 FARM NEWS


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The Monday morning usual garden photo. It is mid morning and the snow has been coming down lightly for a while now .

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 From our house looking down the valley mid Monday morning during the snowstorm.

Remembrance Day today and I always on this day each year think of my father in the RCN in WWII, my maternal grandfather gassed in France in WWI and invalided back home in 1916, my great uncle Arthur who served with the Canadian army in France in that same war. My great uncles Harry Nuttycombe and William Kirby died in France during WW I. My Dad’s best friend from West Brant, died when his ship HMCS Regina was torpedoed in the channel in 1944. I knew only my Dad but I remember the others. And many more.

Monday: Spent a lot of time trying to get photos posted to last week’s blog. I often have difficulty loading photos and it seems likely that the problem is that there is too much data moving around in the evenings as this is when I have the most trouble.

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There is nor too much left in the garden and this is some of it. Small immature cabbage and cauliflower that will be good to harvest for the leaves.Enter a caption

Tuesday morning the photos were loaded without a problem. We got another bed of three rows of garlic planted in the ground and covered ready for the straw mulch. The final bed has been prepared and the three rows marked ready to pop the garlic cloves in. Snowflakes were seen very few and very briefly late in the afternoon. The first that I have seen this fall. Last week in another sign of late fall, Aerron saw a flock of about 30 trumpeter swans pass over on there southbound migration to overwinter on Chesapeake Bay. We see very few swans on the fall migration but many flocks are seen during March as they fly northwest.

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Looking over the completely planted garlic patch filling up with snow.Enter a caption

Used the tractor to bring the chicken food in from the end of the laneway. We hooked it up to an old trailer that we had laying about for several years unused. We dragged it out, oiled up the ball hitch, set a piece of plywood on the flatbed frame and were ready. It was not until we had the load on that we could see that both tires were completely flat. One tire split when we tried to pump it up. tub e seems fine. We’ll see if we can find a replacement pair of 7.00 – 16 tires, the wheels should be alright. We finished planting the final bed of garlic late in the afternoon with a snow/rain mix falling lightly. We now will start spreading on a light covering of mulched leaves and the straw mulch. Hopefully we will have a great garlic harvest next summer.

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Nell with tail to the wind. The other two horses were on the other side where there was more shelter from the wind but Nell seemed to be happy enough here. The horses are getting a ration with cracked corn to help them out a bit with the cold.Enter a caption

We were back at trying to fix the water supply problem to the house (also this supplies water for the garden, chickens and the horses) but the leakage site can still not be determined. The search goes on. We used the trailer with the flat tires to move some straw. The side walls on these old tires are strong enough to take an appreciable weight before looking too squished out. We bought a pair of new wheels and tires for the other old trailer that we have, it once was a snowmobile trailer, but have not yet got them on. The wheel nuts are a bit rusty and it will take two of us and careful tapping on the wrench to free them up for removal. Meanwhile they get a daily squirt of oil.

This lot of chickens is huddling in a corner both to get out of my way as I bring in food and water and to keep warm and away from the east wall which is a bit drafty. I kept their door closed for the day as they won’t go out and an open door will just cool down there house even more.

Winter it seems is here now though it is quite likely that we’ll have more days in November and even into December that are once more above freezing. But of course that may not be the case at all. I have not yet heard any forecasts for what the winter might be. Spring seems a long way off from this point. The snow has been coming down nearly all morning and the forecast is for more all the way into tomorrow. It is light but it does accumulate.

 

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NOVEMBER 4, 2019 FARM NEWS


 

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The usual garden view and if compared to just two weeks ago the advance of fall and the coming of winter is evident in all the dead vegetation in the foreground and the increasingly bare trees on the fence line in the background.

 

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The cats prefer this cardboard box on our front porch at the door, to what I’d have thought was a better shelter in the woodshed.

This week past was the first full week when we did not have our CSA members coming out to the farm on Tuesday and Thursday to get their vegetable share. It seemed a little odd as over the previous 22 weeks we had gotten used to our weekly conversations with the CSA members coming to get their share of vegetables. We do have a large amount of work to do here that has been put off for a very long time as we have been so busy farming all season long. Things like gathering up more firewood and storing it in the woodshed to keep dry, doing an enormous amount of long delayed repairs to our homes, repairing the driveway, repairing chicken houses and the barn, building new moveable chicken houses, a pick up shed, an implement shed, a garden tool shed and a roadside farm stand for the in season vegetables. And winter is likely but  a few weeks away.

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Two Black Copper Marans hens, the hens that lay those really dark chocolate brown eggs, but just not at this time of the year. I have been feeding the chickens inside now because of all the rain and wind. On a nice sunny day I will put most of their feed outside.

We have not even yet mentioned the garden work that should be done now. The only thing that really must be done now, in the next few days, is to finish planting the garlic. Two beds left and it is just a matter of finding the time and going at it. about 2300 cloves of garlic need to be stuck firmly in the shallow trenches marking the rows, carefully covered with earth and if there ids time carefully mulched with straw. The straw mulching is the most time consuming work.

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The three garlic beds, nine row of garlic to the left, are done and are awaiting the application of the straw mulch. the bed in the centre does not yet have the garlic cloves planted in it and the bed to the right, the final three rows for the garlic, have yet to have compost spread and worked in , rows marked and garlic cloves planted.

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The truck has a load of compost that is being spread on the prepared ground for the garlic. The straw bales will be spread on the garlic and we’ll likely need all three to do the job.

We had two major problems this past season and they are the perennial ones. There was not enough time to do what we wanted and we did not have enough water to irrigate the garden when it got dry. I’ll not discuss the water problem at this time but leave that for another blog. To help with the lack of time problem we  bought a small garden tractor. This will allow us to do small short time jobs which are frequent and which are not the best for using the horses to do. It takes at least a half hour to fetch and harness the horses, sometimes near an hour and at least a half hour to unharness once finished and if the job only takes 10 minutes to do then with horses but maybe an hour to do, labouriously of course, by hand, then we don’t harness the horses. Much of our work is like that. the tractor that we bought was not our first choice but was cheap enough and seems to be in real good shape though lacking in the cultivating implements that would be much used. We can fudge up something or buy those separately. It is an International Harvester Farmall 100 built between 1954 and 1956. It weighs between 1800 and 3000 pounds depending on what wheel weights are used. We would like it to be as light as possible.

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Delivery day. Aerron driving the newly acquired Farmall 100 tractor up the driveway on arrival here at the farm after driving the tractor the 8 miles from where we bought it in Burford

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The blade came with the tractor and though we don’t really need it will come in handy for a few jobs and for clearing snow. The seat is tipped back so as not to accumulate water. We got rid of that odd little wooden step just in front of the rear wheel. The front grille is dented in but we can fix that with a little effort.

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This front view shows one of the most interesting and valuable features of this tractor and all the Farmall Cub, A, Super A and 100 series tractors. the engine if offset to the left and the driver’s seat is offset to the right so that the driver has an unobstructed view of the ground that the tractor is going over. this is really nice when cultivating or seeding and that is exactly what this tractor was designed and used for. It is a great little tractor but the horses are quieter, and less noxious and more fun. they react when one talks with them.

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October 28, 2019 FARM NEWS


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The usual morning view is little changed from last week though more leaves are off the trees.

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The pick list for the last week, Tuesday October 22 and much the the same for the 24th.

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Two Blue jays at the sunflower heads. The jays, finches and starlings have pretty much eaten all of the sunflower seeds from the standing stalks. Nothing for the winter there except for a small amount on the ground which will be mouse feed and a few will escape being eaten and will sprout in the spring.

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And still there are a few very small battered sunflowers giving a bit of colour. Each week I expect that I have seen the last.

The usual week for one last time this season as this has been the last week for the CSA pickups here at the farm. This was week number 22 For 22 weeks during this growing season just ended, our CSA sharers have been coming on either Tuesday or Thursday or another day if things happened on pickup day, and collected that week’s selection of vegetables that were ready. So every Tuesday, very seldom Wednesday, every Thursday and most Fridays and Saturdays we would be harvesting vegetables and meeting with those who came to pick up their CSA shares. Except for Thursdays it would be just the two of us spending part of the morning and all the afternoon gathering the veggies and readying them for pickups starting from 4 in the afternoon. But each Thursday, but for the last three, we would have Marc helping us the whole day.

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Three beds (3X3=9 rows) of garlic are already planted and covered and one more bed is in and partially covered. On the right side there are two final beds being prepared.

For the next while until the ground is too frozen we will be dong a lot of work in the garden. We need to finish planting the garlic, we need to ready ground for planting potatoes and cover them heavily with straw mulch, we need to prepare as much ground as we can for spring planting (to help save time in the spring so as to hasten spring planting) and much more. In addition we have some very important and long put off work to be done on our homes. There is a lot to be done there. Then there is the matter of cutting, splitting and storing our firewood supply for the winter. We are way behind on that since though the middle of summer is an ideal time to do it we are always far to busy farming to get any firewood done at all.

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These are white beets. They are small still and may not have enough time to get any good size. But we will pull them and use them even if they are very small and the tops of course are a real nice green.

This was an interesting growing season for us. We were somewhat delayed at the beginning, got a bit of a late start, the weather got drier and drier from June 1 onwards, the nights all summer long were mostly somewhat too cool and days were nicely hot. Rains did not arrive usefully until September. We were not able to plant all that we had intended.

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The chickens are thinking that this is pretty fine weather and are really not to keen on the approaching cold.

In spite of all that we had good harvests of the many vegetables that we did plant and harvest and we were able to do that over a good long while … 22 weeks.

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OCTOBER 21, 2019 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden little changed from last week.

The horses. Misty morning around 7°C with a bit of sun and little wind. going to be one fine fall day.

A wheat straw bale sitting in this years potato area. Next season this will be where we grow the chard, spinach, carrot , beet, turnip, pea, radish, cilantro, basil, dill, and more.

The weather this week was very nice though we also had our coldest temperature overnight when it got down to -1.4°C at the usual coldest time of between around 4 and 7 in the morning. But then we have had mostly somewhat warmer nights with the temperature in around the 5 to 8°C range and the days have been at 20°C at least twice. So this was pretty good for mid October though not unexpected. We have had mid Octobers when there has been snow so we are doing good this year.

Looking down the valley, quite misty in the distance and the tree leaves are now well coloured and not a lot have fallen.

This week we cleaned chimneys and fired up our wood burning stoves for the first time this season. The cleanout of the stoves and chimneys takes a whole afternoon. I also dropped a length of the stove pipe behind the stove and had fine black soot everywhere. That meant a lengthy cleanup.

Starling are in large flocks feeding here in the potato area on seeds I presume.

The garlic planting with 9 rows now done and about 9 more to go.

The garlic planting got slowed though we have gotten another three rows, one more bed, planted and covered. In last week’s post I had mistakenly said that then we had three beds finished. Not so there were only two finished. As this is written there are now three finished and a fourth is nicely prepared for planting with at least two more to go before we are finished with the garlic. we would also like to get the straw mulch down on the garlic rows too. that in itself is a lot of work as it has to be done carefully so as not to put very much at right over the planted garlic but to put the straw on as thick as possible everywhere else around the rows. This is so that the ground can heat a little better in the spring and also so that the garlic can easily push up through the soil and not get trapped by a mat of straw. We have 5 garlic varieties; Music, Italian, Persian, Russian, Israeli and some various unknowns.

Tomatillos and onion on the table for the CSA pickup.

We had a nice selection of vegetables on the table for our CSA members this past week and we will have more for this week coming. This will be the 22nd week that our vegetable sharers come to the farm to pick up a supply of vegetables. We are pleased that we have been able to go so long with a goodly amount but a little disappointed that we did not have several vegetables that we had planned to grow. We shall do better next season.

There are still a a dozen or so very small sunflowers in the garden and each week I think there will be none for the next week.
Notice the little beetle on the flower.

This sunflower seed head has been completely emptied by the birds.

The sunflowers mostly have a seed head on which is very popular with the finches, bluejays and starlings and probably others too.

The chickens are staying where they belong … out of the garden.

 

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