The usual Monday morning garden view. The small patch of grass is a bit greener.

The perennial onions are coming along quite well and all th dead plant material should be cleaned up somewhat now.

We have not yet done too much in the garden as the weather has been less than ideal. We must now though get a start at direct seeding peas and broad beans. Any sooner than this would have ben too soon. The forecast this week is not so different from previous but there is a small rise in the forecast overnight temperatures and their is plenty of rain. There will likely be a weak sun often which will warm things so this week should be a good week to plant. But won’t know for sure until after the week is past. always thus. We also have to get in and clean up all the perennials, onions especially, mints, stinging nettle, and whatever else we can find growing. A lot to do now.

These seedlings are still at the seed leaf stage. The first leaves are the cotyledons. The first true leaves will soon appear

We now have a good number of trays with vegetables seeds germinating or up and growing, cabbages, kales, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, celery, parsley, leeks and lettuce. And much more to be planted.

Same plants different angle. Until true leaves come it is difficult to distinguish among the coles; cabbages, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli etc. Mustard seed leaves look the same too. these are kale and there are a few true leaves just starting. these should go outside now but it is just a little too cool.

Grass is slowly growing, stinging nettle has some harvestable stems in the sheltered spots and overwintered onions are slowly growing. The rhubarb seems to be little changed from last week.

The rhubarb has not grown much since last week

The cape feathers on these hens is so finely detailed

The chickens and ducks are laying better than ever, especially the ducks, and we have a real good supply of eggs.

Not anything growing in this area. The chickens are happily scratching around in the debris, weeds, dead grass, and the Jerusalem artichoke patch

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April 8, 2019 FARM NEWS

The usual garden view on Sunday morning. Everything still looks a bit drab, no change for now.

The day time temperatures continue, on average, to slowly increase. We have spent a good bit of time this past week in rough splitting firewood, poplar and black walnut, as we were given 4 pick up truck loads freshly cut.

Newly split and piled firewood near the house and woodshed.

This is almost all walnut. Carefully stacked so that wind, cats and kids cannot easily knock it down.

We have seeded a few more trays of vegetables but have held off seeding anything directly into the garden. Probably this past week would have been to cool for anything to germinate in the garden and there is the danger of an overnight freeze damaging newly sprouted plants. The first things to go directly into the garden will be peas and broad beans, favas. The overwintered onions are greening up and the rhubarb is showing.

It is a little difficult to discern here but this is Rhubarb just poking through and starting to show a bit of green. It will be a few weeks yet before we’ll have fresh stewed rhubarb and rhubarb pie.

The chickens and the ducks are laying more eggs now. The number of eggs being laid has nearly tripled since mid winter for the chickens and the ducks stopped laying altogether for a few weeks. Some of the chickens are very poor winter time egg layers and some lay none at all from about December through until now. We have several breeds of chickens, but only three are really excellent egg layers. All the others are either from good to poor. The excellent egg layers are the ISA  and the Loehman, which look identical, both being reddish brown in colour with white under feathers, and the White Leghorn which is an all white, light breed of hen laying a large white egg. These three breeds of chicken have hens that are each capable of laying well over 300 eggs in a year. A poor egg layer will lay less than 100 eggs and a good layer will lay something like 250 eggs in a year. Under ideal conditions. The lay rate is affected by many factors including the protein level in the feed, they need at least 17 % digestible protein, the amount of food, plenty of water, access to outside, stress of various kinds including cold and heat, number of daylight hours, as well as the breeding. Certain breeds and certain lines within the breed are not good egg layers. The photos are of some of the heritage breeds of chickens that we keep. We have 6 or 8 hens of each of these breeds. They are kept for may reasons other than the ability to lay a lot of eggs, including temperament, size, colour patterns, egg colour, egg size, hardiness, duration of lay, as a meat bird, and just because they are fun. We are trying to breed a hen that can lay at a good rate for from 3 to 5 years.  The first photo is of a selection of the eggs that we are getting. I try to make up each dozen eggs with varied colours.

This is a selection of the eggs that we are getting each day. The darkest brown ones are the Marans, the single white one is Leghorn and the blues, no greens here, are from Whiting True Blue or Ameracauna. The medium brown are the ISA or Loehman, there is a single small one, several of the heritage breeds are laying these small eggs and notice the pink egg down at the bottom outside between the two blue eggs. The speckled egg  beside the pink one is probably a Barnevelder.

This is a Marans hen which is a layer of the darkest brown, sometimes almost chocolate coloured, eggs. They are large docile hardy birds but lay no eggs through the winter.

A silver laced Wyandotte hen, She lays an off white, or very light brown egg which tends to be medium or small in size.

A Buff Orpington hen. Lays a small to medium off white egg.

A Leghorn hen, an excellent layer of large white eggs and a long lived bird as well. That is a Barnevelder hen behind her.

A Whiting True Blue hen, a layer of large blue or blue/green eggs. Not a good winter layer.

A Welsumer hen, a layer of terra cotta coloured medium to large sized eggs. Not a winter layer either.

A Barnevelder hen. She lays a dark egg but not near as dark as the darkest Marans. Also not a winter layer.

A blue Cochin hen, a layer of light brown small to medium eggs and also not winter layer. a rather poor layer.

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April 1, 2019 FARM NEWS

What a contrast to the same picture last week. Even today, the photo was taken on Sunday, there is still a lot of snow as the day was sunny but still barely over the freezing mark.

Looking down the lane towards the road at untrampled snow

A busy week in which we spent a lot of time trying to get our long, long, planned roadside stand built. All that we have accomplished, after a lot of hours work, is basically all the material assembled in a pile but not yet put together. I would like to say that the assembly will go quick but with the time taken so far I’m not optimistic we can get it done fast. But maybe if … Hopefully we’ll have some pictures of a near completed structure by next weekend. Photos this week were all taken on Sunday after the snowfall. Winter’s last hurrah we hope.

Along the north side of the sunflower stalks.

The sunflower stalks from the south side. I cannot decide whether this or the previous is the best photo. I like them both so here they both are.

The weather was good for a while but winter came back pretty heavy for the end of what has been a pretty wintery March. Not sure how much this will delay our garden vegetables or even if it ultimately will. We will see we will.

Along the north side of the sunflower stalks.

Pots of maple sap on the woodstove being boiled down to maple syrup. Still room for coffee cups a kettle and the coffee pot and still space for another pot. The two lumps on the open spot at the left on the stove top are two pieces of steel that are heated on the stove then popped into my winter boots to warm them.

We have been sugarin’ all week boiling down maple sap on our kitchen woodstove. Only about 10 taps set this year and all were in the Manitoba maples, Acer negundo. except one in a sugar maple, Acer succharum. The resulting syrup is the same but perhaps more sap will be needed from the Manitobas than from the sugar maples in order to get an equal amount of the finished product, maple syrup. In previous years we have put in over 100 taps and had to fetch sap from trees as far away as a quarter mile to the south and to the north of our house, all carried back in 20 litre buckets. A lot of work, a lot of time, lot of boiling down and a lot of moisture steaming up the windows in the house.

Just because this looks so nice.

The ducks have just been let out. The chicken’s doors were kept closed. They don’t like the cold.


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March 25, 2019 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday view of the garden. The ducks think that this just perfect for them. Tis area is showing to be very much drier than it was a week ago. In another week, maybe two, we should be starting to see a bit of a green haze as grass and broad leaved plant begin to grow and tree buds swell.

Marta is a fine looking draft horse. She should be in foal and there should be a foal on the ground soon if she is. that would be nice.

The first few days of spring have been pretty good, meaning that the temperatures have been a bit above freezing during the day, though since overnight temperatures have been from -2 to -9°C, it is still rather a bit of a wintry first run at spring. We are also getting some sun now too and that, along with the warmth is drying things  up and melting the last of the snow and ice. Some spots remain frozen. Under the straw mulch there will still be a little bit of ice.

The honey bee hives with their blue winter wrap are in the background and in the fore the chickens are really having good time in the dust bath holes.

A black-copper Marans hen checking out a speck on the ground. Never know which speck might be a tasty little morsel.

The chickens especially have been liking this weather as they can poke around pecking at this and that. We let the ducks roam pretty much everywhere they like and will until we start to plant things. We can’t let the chickens into the garden as they scratch things up too much and are fond of digging some pretty big holes at times to make their dust baths.

There was the birds, here are the bees but we don’t have any butternut trees. Have black walnut though and they are close. The bees were quite active from a couple of hives while others looked discouragingly inactive.

In a spot where there was no mulch the garlic has been poking through and starting to show green. The onions not pulled, not harvested, last fall are starting to grow and show more green. We can harvest these as onion greens early on.

A freshly filled tray ready to have 4 or 5 maybe six groves put in the soil length wise and seeds dropped in the grooves. A little soil sprinkled on top, pressed down and then we wait. The tray rests on a heavy wire mesh through which we screen the well composted, years old manure to  fill the large black tub with real nice fluffy black soil. Add water to the seeded trays and that is all there is to it except to wait.

We got started at seeding vegetables into trays. They will be germinated in the house and then moved outside, probably into the greenhouse, once they have true leaves. The first vegetables to be seeded into trays indoors are kale, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, leek and onion. Peas, broad beans, and maybe cabbage and collards can anytime now be seeded directly into the garden. They’ll sprout when they figure the time is right.

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The usual Monday morning view of the garden is looking very much more spring like.

Another week closing in on spring. Yesterday and today are the equilux, Because of our latitude, 43.40893 North, we don’t actually have equal day and night lengths on the equinox but a couple and three days earlier and that is known as the equilux. The sun crosses the equator, at which time the sun’s rays are exactly perpendicular to the earth at the equator, at 5:58 in the afternoon our time on the 20th of March. Day after tomorrow, Wednesday. As I understand it anyway.

The mud froze overnight but by the time this photo was taken it had already begun to thaw in thaw in the sun. we will not use the lane way until we can drive in without making ruts. And just last week this was the skating rink.

The weather has not been the best and that does not really benefit us too much. Because of the weather we have not yet been able to repair our greenhouse. The weather over the next few days looks much more promising though. The nights are still going to be a little below freezing, the days will be in the plus region, not quite up to, but close to, 10°C and with a lot of sunshine and no precipitation. At least the most recent forecast is promising that to us. We’ll see we will. Plenty muddy these days.

This flock out enjoying the warm Monday sunshine are our heritage flock including our green/blue egg layers.

The horses in a typical position on a warm sunny Monday.

The chickens and ducks like it when it is warm, around the freezing mark, sunny, if their door is sheltered from the wind and in the sun. Chicken life is then great. The horses and cows will soon start to shed their winter coats, not quite yet but soon. The horses especially like to stand and soak up the warm sunshine. The sheep and lambs will be real happy to get out on fresh pasture.

There were three crows but I could not get a photo close up and this was the best I could do. These crows are resident over winter but I think that others do go south for the winter.

The returning migratory birds are a reassuring sign of spring. Flocks of Tundra Swans have been passing through. A Red winged Blackbird was spotted. At least two Killdeer have made an appearance. A rare sighting was of a Peregrine Falcon passing by the barn low and slow. Starlings and Grackles are making noises and looking for nesting spots. Those are the ones that we’ve noticed. I was unable to get any photos though. Just a crow and the Praying Mantis.

This Praying mantis egg cluster is high up, (about 7 feet, it is a small shrub), in a young Redbud.


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March 11, 2019 FARM NEWS

The usual garden view.
The car is parked here because it makes for one less icy hill to climb.

We are now just nine days away from the vernal (spring) equinox which is calculated to occur at 5:58 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time on March 20. But day light length then is 12 hours 8 minutes and 24 seconds, not 12 hours. On March 17 though, the day length is 11:59:32 and, on the 18th is 12:02:29 because of our latitude. These dates are known as equilux, dates when the day length and night length are approximately equal. The equinox occurs when sun’s rays are at right angle to the earth at the equator, when the sun crosses the celestial equator. Cosmological stuff. All very interesting and useful too.

Looking down a very icy driveway. Needs a good sunny day.

No sense in not putting all that ice to good use and it made pretty good skating.

Winter has been hanging on fiercely up until just a few days ago. We have had some pretty cold days and one night with a minimum of -20°C which was right down there with the coldest nights through January and February. But it has a warmed a bit but just barely above freezing. The temperature yesterday, Sunday, got up to about +3°C with a lot of wind following on a good amount of over night rain. So a lot of snow has disappeared but in doing so has revealed a lot of the ice from several weeks ago. It is going to be slippery walking for the next couple of days until we have some sun and get temperatures back over the freezing mark.

The door to this flock’s house was kept open all day but eventually the chickens started to huddle at the end away from the door. It wasn’t too bad inside but no one was going out so we closed them up. The two dark hens at the front are Barnevelders, the red hens are ISA Brown or Red sex-link breed and back in there are two White Leghorn hens. Two roosters in the back too.

A few of the ducks at their feed and water. The rest are inside.

The chickens have been laying more eggs and have had a slow but unsteady increase over the past 6 weeks. The ducks, which had been laying but 1 egg a day, sometimes 2 but also sometimes none; suddenly increased to 6 on February 28, 7 on March 1 and from March 3 on have been laying 9 eggs each day.

Lunch time. This black ewe is not the mother of these twins. She lost hers and the twins mother has no milk.

These two are twins. The uniquely spotted little ram lamb is noticeably larger.

A lot of lambs have been born since the first one on February 13. Aerron is chief shepherd and has spent a lot of time, including many a long night (until 2 in the morning sometimes), looking after new born lambs and their mothers. This is a bad time of the year to lamb. It is too cold but these sheep have evolved to lamb at this time of the year though in a warmer climate. For us lambing is far more successful in May when the ewes can lamb outside so we are not keen on the Easter lamb market. In order to have the ewes lamb later we should be keeping the rams separate from the ewes until October.

The mother ewes and lambs. We get a few black and black spotted lambs each year.

Four of the older lambs. They are doing very well and are all about 4 weeks old now.


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March 4, 2019 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view looking very much the same as it has for much of the winter.

It is a fine but cold morning, -11°C at the moment, was down to -15 overnight, thin overcast with sometimes a good bit of sun, and light wind. But this is March and the forecast for the next 5 days is for continued cold well below freezing, even in the day, but up to zero for Sunday. So a little bit unusual for this month.

Looking down at the wood piles. The little pile in the centre of the photo is too green still and needs to sit longer to dry out.

Our wood supply is probably enough to get us through the heating season which will likely run right through to mid-May. But a lot of the wood is still piled outside and that does it no good. Once we do get it in, split and piled, it dries quite good though not too quickly.

Leucan and his mother Nell just waiting patiently for breakfast. they still have a little bit of hay from last night still.

The chickens are still holding up well though one of the 3 year old Welsummer hens has died and our single Bourbon Red turkey has died. We have no idea why, though we always expect some deaths, and when we keep hens to an older age within a large flock (still less than a hundred birds), the rate of loss is going to be somewhat higher. No idea what is considered a normal loss.

This is Blackbeard, a fine looking rooster with the unusual black muff or beard. Looks like a fake glue on.

This is a good looking rooster, one of the lighter Mediterranean breeds the hens of which are excellent white egg layers.

No spring planting yet though soon we will have to plant some things into trays. the cole crops, kale, cabbage Brussels sprouts and broccoli, along with lettuce are among the earliest things to be planted.


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