FEBRUARY 16, 2020 FARM NEWS


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

One of our loyal rat and mouse catchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FEBRUARY 3 AND 10 FARM NEWS


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

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

I missed a posting last week.

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

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

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

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

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

This silver laced Wyandotte hen looks quite different.

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

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

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

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

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

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JANUARY 27, 2020 FARM NEWS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JANUARY 20, 2020 FARM NEWS


Sunshine, snow and a -15C Monday morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leucan plodding through the snow.

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

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JANUARY 13, 2020 FARM NEWS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 6, 2020 FARM NEWS


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

The same scene yesterday afternoon. Quite a change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DECEMBER 30, 2019 FARM NEWS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pile of newly delivered ash for firewood

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

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

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

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