January 25, Farm News



A rather gloomy morning but at least compared with the previous two weeks we can see a lot more bare ground.  Looks more like end of December.

A rather gloomy morning but at least compared with the previous two weeks we can see a lot more bare ground. Looks more like end of December.

Monday January 18:  What I do:  At least what I did that day.  One day is seldom the same as the next. After feeding and watering the chickens and ducks, I finished writing the weekly blog then went outside to get a few photos for the blog, added the photos and posted.  Blog work probably took an hour and a half.  It took longer than usual as I was on the computer for quite a while trying to sort out why I could not find a file in the documents folder of the computer.  Got everything in quite a mix up then after a while there it was.  Kinda just reappeared out of nowhere.  Got the truck ready then down to the barn with it and after several attempts on the slippery slope leading to the loading dock; we got the truck in place to load up four lambs to take to Willie’s Meats just northeast of St. George.  We got the lambs loaded and that took a while to figure out which was going and then to catch them.  When the lambs leave the property CFIA requires them to have ear tags in and we had a fairly new applicator tool and new sheep tags, but, the tags were not fitting properly, and though we got three, in the lambs ears, one per lamb, we could not get the fourth one in after 4 attempts.  The tags appear to be just a little too long for the tool.  Frustrating.  We left and went to Willies to find no one there.  But having previously talked with Willie I felt confident in being able to just unload them into the outdoor holding pen.  Willie would find them. Out of the truck they went, all four.  Willie and the CFIA can figure out the one with no tag.  I would go on for a while giving my opinion of ear tagging animals but I’m not one for rants.   We left Willies and when on the usual route looking for skids for firewood.  Got a nice load.  Spent a lot of time today in the truck.

Some early morning mutual grooming before breakfast.

Some early morning mutual grooming before breakfast.

We kept the Rhode Island Red chickens along with their roommates, Silkies, Barnevelders, Black Copper Marans and our special birds, inside today in an attempt to get them to lay their eggs inside and not hidden around outside.  This lot at their best could lay about 30 eggs a day, maybe between 40 and 50 on a good day in the summer.  But today they laid but one.  They will lay a bunch more though it will take a few days of keeping them inside.

The barred Plymouth Rock hens through the open door.  They look a little like they are uncomfortable, not sure but I will close their door right away should it get windy.  Hope for some sun, they'll really like that.

The barred Plymouth Rock hens through the open door. They look a little like they are uncomfortable, not sure but I will close their door right away should it get windy. Hope for some sun, they’ll really like that.

So that was more or less what I did on Monday.  I would have kept it up for the whole week but I am not disciplined enough for that.

The rest of the week was sort of routine.  We do have a sort of routine.  Started to sort through our lumber/firewood piles, to separate the two and get the firewood cut up.  Doing a lot of seed catalogue looking this week.  Always takes a lot of time to sort through these catalogues as there are so many interesting plant varieties available.  Seed sellers of course always portray everything in the best light and it takes a bit of knowledge and reading between the lines to interpret what they have to say, and sometimes it is what they don’t say that is important.

This is Marta looking rather good.  The horses would really like some sun too.

This is Marta looking rather good. The horses would really like some sun too.

Everyone, the animal population here, as well as the human inhabitants, are doing pretty well still in spite of the winter weather.  The horses have been on a good daily ration of grain as well as their hay and the extra bit of protein and energy the oats and corn provides is getting them in a very good condition. The cows and sheep are still looking quite good too. The chickens are always getting their maximum in the way of diet.  Laying hens need a 17 or 18 % protein ration as a requirement to keep them laying.  The feed we give them is a balanced ration and has enough of all the vitamins, minerals and al the other stuff to keep them well fed.  We also supplement that with any greens we can get them and when the weather is better and no snow covers the ground, the hens will be out scratching the grass for whatever else strikes their fancy and fills their wants.  They have wants as well as needs.

 

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January 18, 2016 Farm News


The usual garden view gets to look more and more winter like as January ages.

The usual garden view gets to look more and more winter like as January ages.

A lot of last week was routine.  Searching out and gathering firewood for the home fires.  All of that wood had to be carried into our woodshed, cut to length then carried into the house and the yurt.  There were the daily rounds of feeding and watering all the four footers as well as all of the feathered two footers.  We had to gather eggs frequently since when it was very cold and windy we risked frozen eggs if they were left too long. We did have several this week.  The chickens still wander where they will, even in the cold winter, looking for new spots to hide their eggs, though not so often as when the weather is fine.  We are going to keep the worst offenders, the breed known as Rhode Island Reds, locked in for a few days to attempt to break them of the habit and get them accustomed to laying eggs in their chicken house.  In the cold and the windiest weather, the chickens do mostly tend to stay inside.  Some of them will stay inside nearly all the time anyway but there are others who seem to get outside as much as they can.  Often though, when the wind is blowing hard, and the temperature gets to well below freezing, the chickens will mostly huddle as far from the open door as they can get.  Door is best left closed on those days.

Nell and Marta just trying to get by. Nell, on the right, is having a good backside scratch on the tree branch.

Nell and Marta just trying to get by. Nell, on the right, is having a good backside scratch on the tree branch, and Marta is getting a forehead rub from the same branch.

Still spending a fair bit of time preparing for the upcoming growing season.  We have to list what seeds that we think we’ll need, what we will trial, and try to figure out just how much we should plant.  It takes searching through many catalogues looking at old favourite vegetable varieties, reading about new, interesting and enticing ones, then we have to decide what to go with and what to just let go.  We will get the majority of our seeds from William Dam Seeds near Dundas, Ontario.  They are on the internet at  http://www.damseeds.com   Have a look at their website and their on line catalogue.  There are dozens or likely several score seed purveyors in Canada alone.  Most of them are a good read with lots of interesting, and in some cases unique, plant seed varieties listed.

All but two of these chickens are a breed with the rather utilitarian name of Red Sex-Link, from Frey's hatchery in St. Jacobs. The hen on the far right is a white Silkie and a bit to the left from her is a little Bantam rooster.

Seven of these chickens are hens of a breed with the rather utilitarian name of Red Sex-Link, from Frey’s hatchery in St. Jacobs. The hen on the far right is a white Silkie and a bit to the left from her is a little Bantam rooster.

Short blog this week.  Must learn to note things as they happen so as to be able to recall when it comes to typing it all up.

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January 11, 2016 Farm News


The usual garden view. A very nice day, though lots of sun very cold and windy. Minus 10C

The usual garden view. A very nice day, though lots of sun very cold and windy. Minus 10C

The heading photo at the usual spot is showing much the same picture as last Monday and the conditions are similar.  Just colder and a lot windier.  We had a lot of ice around last week. Really it was mostly a frozen crust on the snow, but it was making it rather difficult to walk round.  Horses, cows and sheep were alright as they had either weight or pointy feet to break up the frozen crust. But then of course when it warmed everywhere it became muddy if traveled on to frequently. For the first time since last September our laneway became impassable due to mud but we made huge grooves and a real mess of it before giving up.  Now though, we are, like everywhere else, quite frozen up again so at least we will be able to drive in and out.

Windy and sunny, could be better.

Windy and sunny, could be better.

The animals are doing alright in this weather, a bit, or a lot uncomfortable at times but pretty healthy for it.  The horses have all put on weight since the fall when they were a bit underweight.  A regular ration of crimped oats and corn is helping a lot.  The chickens seem alright but the egg laying rate has been quite variable and consistently so though the tendency over the past few weeks has been to fewer eggs being laid. Not really sure just why, as they have had plenty of light to give them their 14 to 16 hours of light each day and their quarters are reasonably comfortable. The changeable weather is not likely too good for them and especially the wet though we do keep them inside when it is really bad out like today.  We have been extra careful to make sure that they have clean water all the time and plenty of food.  It is a good thing for them to run out of food completely at a few times a week and to go hungry for a couple of hours but we are not doing that now figuring that they need extra just for body maintenance. They are outside as often as the weather allows. Very cold and wet and very windy are conditions for keeping them shut up.  Especially for the flock in the more exposed location.

These will park themselves out where the wind is howling and snow is falling or even in freezing rain. any weather is nice weather for ducks.

These will park themselves out where the wind is howling and snow is falling or even in freezing rain. any weather is nice weather for ducks.

We got the William Dam Seeds catalogue in the mail this week so the 2016 growing season is now begun.  We’ll be planning which varieties to get, counting out the seeds we have saved and planning the garden layout and the work to be done. We’ll have to try to do more repairs to machinery and tools as the weather warms in March. We likely won’t have much if anything actually seeded into trays until at least mid March at the earliest.

These will park themselves out where the wind is howling and snow is falling or even in freezing rain. any weather is nice weather for ducks.

These will park themselves out where the wind is howling and snow is falling or even in freezing rain. any weather is nice weather for ducks.

We have to see what changes if any that we need to make to our CSA structure.  We may have to increase the share price but not certain yet,  we may decide to get some meat chicken chicks and some turkey poults t o raise up for the fall, so that will require some careful planning and much work to make ready housing and pasture area.

The kale looking alright still though we have picked most of the leaves there are still a lot there. Quality still fine too.

The kale looking alright still though we have picked most of the leaves there are still a lot there. Quality still fine too.

Hopefully the winter will be generally mild. We have had enough precipitation though rains, once the ground has thawed in March, will be very useful.

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January 4, 2016 Farm News


The usual garden view on a very cold but sunny Monday morning. A little bit of snow, ducks at their house to the right.

The usual garden view on a very cold but sunny Monday morning. A little bit of snow, ducks at their house to the right.

This was another week of holiday doings but somewhat less so than Christmas week. The lengthening days are definitely noticeable now and it is better for us. Stumbling around in the dark is no fun.  That is, of course, why they invented flashlights and we do use them, though sparingly, so it will be nice when 12 hours of daylight roll around. More daylight allows us to do more too.

Four of the 4 x 5 hay bales on the parked wagon with another four on the ground.

Four of the 4 x 5 hay bales on the parked wagon with another four on the ground.

Our one big accomplishment this week has been to bring some of the large (4 foot by 5 foot, or in the popular parlance 4 X 5) hay bales to the farm. These bales were down the road about a mile or so and we decided on using the horses to go get them.  Normally we can put four of these bales on the wagon but because of the possible slippery conditions on the hill leading down to the barn, we decided that three would be the most we could manage safely on the slippery hill.  Further consideration made us decide to drop one bale at the top of the hill from each load and then go down the hill with just two bales.  So at around 800 pounds per bale the load going downhill would be around 1600 pounds and then there is the not inconsiderable weight of the wagon itself. The horses have to hold back all of the weight on hills as the wagon has no brakes at all.  I should devise a scotch block affair to put under the rear wheels but even this simple device is pretty complicated in use and we don’t have the time to work it up properly. As it was, on Sunday, bringing the last loads down the hill, the horses were sliding on the hind feet, but only a bit and they were still in control. But that is uncomfortably close to falling.  For the very last trip we did load 4 bales but have left the wagon at the top of the hill to wait for a better day.

The colt Leucan and the old mare Marie doing a little bit of mutual grooming. These two were not doing any hay drawing work.

The colt Leucan and the old mare Marie doing a little bit of mutual grooming. These two were not doing any hay drawing work.

The horses were very badly behaved and quite unexpectedly so, though after several trips up and back along the road, they were at the end, much better behaved. The problem was that they would not stand well, especially when being hitched to the wagon and this makes a dangerous business of what should be pretty routine and easy.  We did nearly have the wagon wrecked on the first attempt. We managed though, unhitched them each time then walked them away when the wagon was being loaded as the tractor doing the loading seemed to be unsettling to them too.

The Kale rows on January 4. Kale still perfectly fine though the leaves are small.

The Kale rows on January 4. Kale still perfectly fine though the leaves are small.

Aerron’s dog McKenna died this week.  She had been diagnosed just 26 days earlier with cancer of the spleen.  There was not much that could be done except to give her pain relief medication and to be with her and comfort her, especially near the end. Dogs become part of the family and are always missed when they are gone.

Other things happened too but can’t remember in time to write it all down. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

 

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Farm News: December 28, 2015


This is the sort of thing that we like to look forward to seeing, Onions, Broad Beans and more Onions and lots more just out of view both sides.

This is the sort of thing that we like to look forward to seeing, Onions, Broad Beans and more Onions and lots more just out of view both sides.

Once more a bit late with the posting and this the last one for 2015. Oh where did the year go? Well in fact, with all that has happened over the past year, (it seems so long ago now that it was cold late December of 2014), the year was well spent. We had more CSA members than we have had before. I have had to try and sometimes succeed at remembering more names than I have ever had to before. I have met and gotten to know more interesting and likeable people in addition to those others that I’ve come to know over years previous.

The Onion harvesting gang in July. The younger ones were very helpful, the very youngest not so much.

The Onion harvesting gang in July. The younger ones were very helpful, the very youngest not so much.

We felt that this was one of our most successful years growing vegetables.  We were able to offer a good variety each week and able to mostly, but not always, have a good amount of every vegetable on the table.  There were some regrettable and spectacular failures.  The sweet corn was one. The peas were not the best.  Only one planting of beans and half that did not germinate because of the cool spring weather. The Broccoli mostly did not put on any large main heads, likely, we think, because of the near microscopic sized pest, the Swede midge which munches on the growing tip of the plant. We did get lots of nice side shoots though few of those reached the sizes that we would normally expect. Then there was the near total loss of the main potato crop, though the early dug spuds were quite nice.

An August view of the garden looking through the grape leaves

An August view of the garden looking through the grape leaves

But the things that did well more than made up for the things that we struggled with. Those early spuds, the small sweet corn, and more.  We had many positive comments from many of the CSA members throughout the season that were quite reassuring and inspiring as well. We always worry quite a bit that we have not done enough.

The seasons promise not yet in the ground. Listen to Stan Rogers great piece; "The Field behind the Plow."

The seasons promise not yet in the ground. Listen to Stan Rogers great piece; “The Field behind the Plow.”

This week was a lot of time off with Christmas.  Today we harnessed the horses for the first time in more than two months, hitched them to the wagon and trotted them off down the road to our neighbour more than a mile away who has some hay for us. Turned out that since we did not get there  in the morning as we said we would, being delayed getting everything together and having to deal with reluctant then really antsy horses, our neighbour left before we arrived and we came back empty.  Never to mind though as it was a good exercise and probably best, since the horses were not at their best, that we did not have the wagon loaded down with 3 or even 4 of the large 4 X 5 round hay bales.  What are they each, 800 pounds, maybe more? A very heavy load requiring horses to be doing exactly as we ask!

Some of the seasons promise when September rolled around.

Some of the seasons promise when September rolled around.

The photos this week are all from the past year. Reminder shots of the season gone by and of the new one yet to come.

The end of January just last year and though cold there was still not very much snow. We have some of this tonight.

The end of January just last year and though cold there was still not very much snow. We have some of this tonight.

A very happy New Year to all from all of us at Devon Acres Farm.

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December 22, 2015 Farm News


The usual garden view on Tuesday morning. Rather bleak looking but warm and no rain so far.

The usual garden view on Tuesday morning. Rather bleak looking but warm and no rain so far.

In case you have not been by this is what we look like from the road right now.

In case you have not been by this is what we look like from the road right now.

A whole day late with our blog this week as I completely forgot about it until early in the evening.  Most of what happened here the past week was the established routine of cutting firewood, burning it, watering chickens and ducks, horses and sometimes cows, feeding chickens, a second time feeding and watering the chickens and ducks and sometimes a third time too when we close them up for the night, and, each time in to the hen house, we gather eggs.  A welcome break from the routine was that we did some Christmas visiting and a Grandchildren’s Christmas concert plus a classical music concert in Simcoe. Twice as per every week , we did our egg delivery route.  Evenings have been very busy.

Early, well about 8 a.m. , and the horses are still lying down. Very warm 10C  at this time.

Early, well about 8 a.m. , and the horses are still lying down. Very warm 10C at this time.

Chicken and duck hut construction continues at a much reduced pace as little time was available for that this past week. The weather has been, as you are likely fully aware , unless you are in a tropical paradise somewhere, mostly very nice.  Especially as regards the temperature. Two nights were below freezing and some water hoses and taps were frozen because we forgot to drain them.  Nice warmish weather is returning for the next while so that will make our lives easier.   There will be some rain and of course mud goes along with that but so far this year our laneway has been passable.

This portion of the laneway can get very muddy very quickly but so far this season it has been just fine.

This portion of the laneway can get very muddy very quickly but so far this season it has been just fine.

 

 

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December 14, 2015 Farm News


The usual garden view on a pleasant Monday morning December 14. Unchanged since last week.

The usual garden view on a pleasant Monday morning December 14. Unchanged since last week.

The unusually fine weather continues though somewhat less fine now that it has turned a little damp.  Still we have no complaints.  We have not noticed any signs of any plants breaking dormancy, that is any plants that are starting to think that this is spring.  That would not be good.  If a tree started blossom or to leaf out it would be vey hard on the tree if the temperature dropped and the flowers and leaves were killed off by the cold.  The tree would likely survive and new flower and leaf buds would form but his would put a lot of stress on the tree and make it less able to cope with subsequent stresses from weather, insects and diseases.

The duck hut, a work in slow progress.

The duck hut, a work in slow progress.

The construction projects to build a new duck hut and a new hen house continue, albeit a trifle slower than we would like.  The ducks new house is agonizingly close to completion.  We also need to construct a fenced outdoor enclosure for them to turn into a muddy mess.  They are ducks after all.  Their new quarters is intended to be readily moved though using the truck or the horses for the move will likely be required as the thing is going to be quite heavy.

Leucan. Just waiting to get into some mischief.

Leucan. Just waiting to get into some mischief.

The livestock is all doing well and this warm weather is quite beneficial to them.  It is a lot harder to keep cows and horses in really good condition when the weather turns very cold and the snow accumulates and the wind blows.  None of that so far.

A Marans rooster I think, doing his rooster thing.

A Marans rooster I think, doing his rooster thing.

Our farm dog McKenna who hangs around when we are in the garden working has been unwell of late and a Veterinarian’s examination has determined that she has cancer of the spleen.  The prognosis is not good. She will stay here, no practical treatment is available, and we’ll just make her comfortable with painkillers and pay close attention to her diet and try some things that are said to be of use in slowing or even stopping the cancer, though none of these fixes claim to get rid of the cancer.  McKenna is not eating near as much as she should sometimes and has lost weight.  We’ll do our best for her.

031036We are now pretty sure that we have observed ravens here.  The Cornell university e-bird Alert has noted several times that Ravens have been spotted in Brant County, all of them on the northerly bounds I think.  Aerron and I spotted what we thought might be ravens last summer  but were unsure.  Just two weeks ago I spotted flying over the garden area 5 or 6 crows clamouring away as they chased what appeared to be at a glance , two other crows.  Except that the two other crows were twice the size of their attackers.  I took this a s proof positive that the two pursued were actually ravens.  I tried to see the larger bill and the different tail but the distance and their quick flight made that impossible.  The size difference alone should be enough.

This is a crow on sentinel duty in the poplar tree. A raven has a noticeably more massive heard and bill and a wedge tail not rounded and twice or so the size.

This is a crow on sentinel duty in the poplar tree. A raven has a noticeably more massive head and bill and a wedge tail not rounded and twice or so the size.

How things have changed in the past 50 years or so.  As a child here in the 50’s and 60’s we did not see ducks or Canada geese, no turkeys, ravens, coyote, beaver, opossum or otter, and few deer.  They are now all here, most in abundance.  We would see foxes, lots of ground hog (the eastern Marmot),  grey partridge, grouse and ringed neck pheasant.  These are very seldom seen anymore.  It has been more than 4 years now since I have observed a grey partridge and much longer for the pheasant and decades for the grouse. The marmots live on in tiny numbers here and there and usually the only evidence for them is the hole in the ground and a mound of fresh earth. Cannot remember how long since hearing a marmots warning whistle.

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