January 15, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view on this a rather gloomy overcast day.

Everything is going along well and it is nice that we are having some warmer above freezing weather. The chickens and ducks roam around more when it is sunny, above freezing and the winds are light. Horses and cows are also much more comfortable too standing dozing in the warm sun. As of today there are 9 weeks and two days until March 21, the vernal equinox, spring. Hopefully the weather by then will more closely match the earth’s position in the solar orbit.

The ducks have had breakfast and have dumped as much dirt in their water as they could manage and now have settled in to a long siesta . They stay very close to this area not going beyond where the snow turns white. The duck house is just to the right side edge of the photo.

A nice looking Ameracauna (whose hens are blue egg layers) rooster. Note the prominent white ear.

They are a colourful bunch of birds. These are the clean legged group. Ameraucanas, Barnevelders, Welsummers, Buckeye, Buff Orpingtons and Silver Laced Wyndottes.

The daily work continues. These days Aerron is cleaning the barn, an enormous task. We are bringing more wood into the woodshed as hour pile in there is dwindling with the constant feeding of the woodstove when it is so cold. Interesting that the yurt though thinly insulated, or maybe because it is thinly insulated, warms quickly when the stove is fired first thing in the morning and often gets warmer even though the fire is not stoked and soon dies out for the day. A direct contrast to our house which is reasonably well insulated though a bit drafty but in which we struggle most of the day to get the temperature up to what the yurt attained in about an hour. We need to yurtify the house.

These are some of the feather footed group. Cochins and Brahmas

The warm weather days have made for a muddy lane way but this is a little better than shoveling snow. Great ruts get frozen in place if we don’t rake them out before it freezes.

Nell and Marta at breakfast.

The annual Guelph Organic Conference is on at the end of the month, in about two weeks. We shall try to go this year but we’ll see what weather is forecast before committing ourselves to the trip. It is always a useful time where we can take in some workshops and roam the trade show. Always something to be learned that can be tried to see how it works in our situation.

The line of Russian kale is on the right still intact whereas the two rows of green kale to the other’s left is now just bare stalks for about a quarter of the row as the rabbits have been coming overnight for a favoured meal of kale leaves.

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January 1 and January 8, 2018 FARM NEWS

The usual view of the garden on the afternoon of January 10 ’18. A warm but overcast day, with rain threatening.

We have had to combine the past two weeks as there was just too much going on last week

The garlic slumbers under all that snow.

to publish a blog and this week we are very late too. But here it is.

The insulated wrapped and snow domed bee hives slumber on.

The winter time duck pond is a pretty tiny affair. Needs filling three times a day.

Bitter cold, with the temperature on Sunday December 31 being, according to the environment Canada weather station a quarter mile down the road from us, as low as -24 C at around 7 am. It was quite cold all week and made it difficult for us to get water to the animals. But the last three days have seen a reprieve that is very nice and the rain was a lot less than expected. Aerron has a pretty good system at the barn to keep the water from freezing but for the chicken coops and horses their water is drawn from the house tap outside. To avoid freezing the hose must be carefully drained when finished. We have to gauge the amount of water given out so as the waterers do not freeze solid which generally means that they should be emptied every night. The difficulty comes with all the extra work lugging buckets around and thawing out frozen waterers without breaking them. Takes a lot more time. And then we get cold feet and cold hands. That’s when it is time to go huddle over the wood-burning stove in the kitchen.

Nell at the salt block buried in the snow.

Marta stepping quickly along towards the hay pile.

This was the furthest that these hens ventured. The younger birds at the other hut are more keen to venture out.

Cheerful chowing chickens? They were in no hurry to go outside.

Now that the holiday distractions have come to an end, we will be doing a lot of planning for the 2018 season. The 2018 seed catalogues are out and we’ve been trying to figure out what we will be getting. We have some seed saved from last season and some of seed varieties we get are the same every year. But we are always looking for something perhaps a little different or a variety that seems to promise an improvement. We get small amounts of new varieties to trial under our conditions. Always fun and we sometimes get something useful.

The peacock, a han’some devil he is.

Detail of de peacocks tail.























As we settle into the routine once more, with holidays behind us, we will be able to get things, like this blog, done in better time.

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December 25, 2017 FARM NEWS

The garden under snow at about 11:00 am Christmas morning.

The kale is still quite edible even though frozen and partially buried in the snow. The plants and leaves though are gradually showing signs of increased dehydration

The straw bales waiting to be spread on the garden are looking kinda like some enormous baked goodies with piles of icing on top.

During this past week leading up to today, Christmas day, not much extra work was done. The usual daily chores of feeding and caring for the chickens, ducks, sheep, cows and horses always takes two to three hours a day. It takes more time of course if we do extra cleanout or need to put down extra litter or to do repairs. Frozen water in buckets is a problem once again as temperatures get down to – 10C and lower. Trudging through snow makes for extra work and extra time and the deeper the snow the more difficulty. Summer time is so much easier. and quicker.

The ducks are the only poultry coming outside these days. They come out about this far around a feed trough and their duck pond and they’ll go poking around to the back of their hut too. They mostly just sit there in the snow, feet tucked up and heads tucked behind on their backs, one eye open.

Nell and Marta. Not much bothered by the cold with thick winter coats and at the time some nice warm sunshine.

Lots of travelling this week to visit relatives living one to three hours away and of course the extra trips for gift buying and for all the little things for Christmas dinner. But the William Dam Seed catalogue arrived last week so that is a sign of a coming spring. The winter solstice has passed bringing us closer to spring. Only two and a bit months left of the potential for the real cold stuff and then we are into March for a time when we must restrain from planting too early. Much planning to be done, but we’ll not think of that for the next week. We are still in holiday mode.

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December 18, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view done once more on a Tuesday.

One big birthday celebration for Heather this past Sunday.  All through the year we have quite a few birthdays to celebrate. Each a very good time.

Waiting for breakfast on a rather dreary December Tuesday morning. But at least, for December, it was warm.

The days continue to be occupied with keeping all the animals well fed, with splitting and with bringing in firewood and keeping the stove well fed.

The thaw allowed us to dump the big lump of ice from the duck pond. The ducks splash around and there gets to be quite a mound of ice.

Keeping water bowls and tubs free of ice is also a real challenge and we have to be very careful to drain the hose after use so as we don’t have to spend a lot of time thawing it.

The chickens were not going out at all in the very cold weather and sometimes we would not even open their door. But once it is above freezing some of them do like to wander about.

We are starting to look at seed catalogues and plan and dream about all the vegetables that we’ll plant next year. We are always trying to find vegetable varieties that perform a little better and that are maybe a little more unusual or perhaps are a little better nutritionally.  Maybe we can get some Horseradish, Mangels and Sugar Beets for next season.

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December 10, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view … on a Tuesday, today. Not sure why it came out so dark. it wasn’t that early.

The Team. Tails to the wind and waiting for breakfast.

Not too much to report on happenings over this past week. We did manage to get a lot more firewood stuffed into our woodshed. Much of what was trundled in was rounds and branches so there are a lot of pieces that need to be split and the branches need to be cut to length on our table saw. Our chainsaw is not running properly. It seems that there is a fuel blockage somewhere that prevents it from running at full throttle or with any load. We’ll have to take it somewhere as we don’t have a proper warm spot to do the work. Nor the time.

Inside the woodshed. Looks like an unruly jumble but we do actually have it well organized.

Because it has gotten to be well below freezing now both day and night, the garden work has finally come to a halt. We’ll still be able to do some spreading of straw mulch when it is not too windy but none of that has been done all week.

The sheep on pasture a week or two back. Soon to be buried beneath a blanket of snow.

The fancy chickens in the nests laying eggs

In the photo above of the chickens in the nests: in the top row from left, Buckeye, Ameracauna, Ameracauna. Middle row, Buff Orpington, Ameracauna, Buckeye. And in the bottom row, Buff Orpington, Buckeye, Buff Orpington.

Leucan and chickens this past week.

Blackbeard, an Ameracauna rooster.

All the animals are doing well though we still are working on finishing details of their winter quarters. I’m a couple of days late with this blog so I can report that as I write this there has been a good 6 or 8 cm of snowfall overnight and the wind has become quite strong an gusting over the past hour early this Tuesday morning. So that will make for uncomfortable working today and will mean that it will be harder to heat the house.

The hay bales at the barn, some covered for protection from rain and snow.

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December 4, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view of the garden done on a Tuesday.

A good amount of work was accomplished over this past week. We did some of the winterizing of the chicken houses and made repairs. We have gotten a small supply of straw into each house to make them all more comfortable. We spread straw over more of the garden as well. we are about 3/4 finished that one section where onions, leeks and broad (also known as fava) beans will be planted in the spring. We really are just about out of time to do this. Our straw bales are all outside and the outer layer is quite wet on each of them. This means that when the freezing weather comes Wednesday evening then they are going to be frozen on the outside and this will be difficult to remove, We’ll try to get that outer layer peeled off from a few bales and push them up on to pallets and maybe get something over them to keep the rain and snow off. We have brought a lot more wood into the woodshed too. These are rounds, cut to length but most needing to be split into more convenient sized pieces for burning. We do all wood splitting using axes or wedges and sledges. So this is a little slow. Sometimes with a large piece that has some branches it won’t split and we’ll use the chainsaw to cut into stove size. Even with these seemingly unsplittables, sometimes if we persist and split off tiny pieces we can get them whittled down to size.

The horses were feeling a little frisky today. Not sure why. They do this every now and then for no apparent reason.

Marta was on high alert yet there was nothing out there that I could see.

It’s a good thing that she does not do this sort of thing when we have her in harness.

Marta getting in another run. The wind was strong and the horses would hear strange noises and with all the leaves gone and far off branches moving in the wind, the horses with their rather poor eyesight would be seeing boogy men.

The critters are well. Everyone has been liking the recent weather. It has been warm with a lot of sunshine, though the sun is at a pretty low angle and is short lived at this time of year. And the wind has been nil to light. A couple of afternoons were spent working in a sunny sheltered end of the garden and heavy hats and coats and sweaters were not needed. Also was able to wear nice light running shoes instead of the heavy tiring big clunky boots. The chickens and ducks roam outside a lot and do a lot of scratching and poking about.

Mulching is nearly finished at this area. Same photo approximately as in last week’s post.

Some of the duck herd just waddling around doing their thing.

We have to go through December and January without too much garden work being done but by February we a really will have to get working very hard at getting ready for spring planting.  But those two months will see us busy cutting and splitting firewood, doing what building we can and perhaps doing some 2018 season planning.

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November 27, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual garden view on Sunday afternoon. Everything is looking pretty drab this time of year. Need a nice bit of snow to spruce things up a bit.

The garden beds which we have been preparing for spring with compost, leaves and straw mulch.

The Kale is still looking good.

A Whiting True Blue rooster.

The difficult question each week is; “What happened over the past seven days ?”  It would, of course, really help if I was to write down things as they happen each day, but I seldom do because I seldom remember to. But I do know that each day at least one and some days two wheelbarrows full of compost are brought from the barn up to the garden and spread out along the beds being prepared for next springs planting. Aerron then uses the wheel hoe with the moldboard attachment to mark three furrows the length of each bed. This gives a furrow to plant seeds or to transplant into and also incorporates the compost into the soil. Once the winds abate a bit we’ll then spread leaves thinly over the beds and cover with straw as mulch.

Leucan is looking really good with his nice thick winter coat and lovely long tail.

The weather continues quite mild and is quite good for us. Not too much rain so as to turn garden and laneway to mud and not enough frost into the ground to cause any difficulties for us. When it is windy it can be quite cold on the hands and we are only using light gloves so far. The weather is also kind to all the animals. Chickens still mostly are going outside every day as do the ducks.  The sheep roam all over now and are quite happy; cows are being kept at the barn until we can set up their overwintering area outside. Horses are already outside with the sheep.

A Barnevelder rooster

The hens, duck and chicken, are still laying eggs at a pretty good rate except for the oldest flock who are now down to between 30 and 40 % of what they were laying at their best. The main flock is down just a bit on laying but then they are a little more stressed perhaps as their quarters are not yet fully winterized. The youngest flock, the special, fancy hens are mostly laying pretty good still. Must remember to figure out their percentages. This flock is divided in two, feather footed and none feather footed. The feather footed which are heavier birds are not laying very much at all. The blue egg layers, the Ameracauna and the Whiting True Blue, are laying quite well.

The hens out scrounging.

Still enough work for us to do each day but the days are still getting shorter and we do like to work mostly during the daylight.

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