What we are up to: The weather continues to be, on average, more winter-like and
we are now in the winter chore mode. I am currently snarled in some long overdue paperwork and we are cutting and piling firewood in the woodshed. We did some minor repairs to the woodshed which had a number of broken roof poles but more repairs are required. We’ll get to those in due course but the
repairs made for now should prevent the whole contraption from blowing down. It is quite remarkable that even with the severe winds that have frequently buffeted our area over the past year, (is it just an impression or have the severe winds been more frequent this year?), our roughly made woodshed, primarily an A-frame wire lashed pole structure with a poly film covering, fared quite well. Being inside during a big blow could be a
little disquieting as the plastic flaps and ripples noisily and the whole structure bows and deflects considerably emitting all sorts of groaning noises, and even the occasional ominous sounding crack will be heard.
The Barnyard dwellers: Pretty much all the tree leaves have blown off now but there is still green grass to be found and if you are a grazing cow or horse you will find it and eat it. But it is not growing fast enough to keep up with the eaters so the eaters are rapidly running out of grass and getting more and more reliant on hay. The sheep still have the run of the pastures and the cows are still on a rotation, one day on one section, then one day on the next while the horse are rooted in the
same small pasture. The chickens have the same run as they before, about a quarter acre, which is generous, but they stick pretty close to their house when it is cold and especially when the wind blows strong. They are still scratching up the ground but there are few insects available for them now.
The Goose: Actually a
gander, he still has the run of the place but since about three weeks ago he has been sticking pretty close to his little house at the other end of our front lawn. He had been in the habit of working in the garden getting seeds from various weeds but especially the foxtail grass. One Thursday he was in the garden about 100 feet down a row. Aerron and young William were at the pick up shelter
not 50 feet from the end of that same row and I was picking tomatillos at the end of the sweet corn row, about 125 feet from the goose. Suddenly I heard a great persistent honking from the normally quiet bird and immediately looked up to see him flapping wildly, and entirely out of character, across the garden rows, then I seen the coyote’s head. I yelled
something, Aerron ran down the row towards the coyote and coyote released his tenuous grip on the goose and quickly beat a retreat across the garden rows and disappeared into the corn. All this happened in maybe 5 or 6 seconds. This was altogether too close when very small children are oft inclined to be wandering around the garden alone. We were careful before about
keeping the kids close but we will be even more careful in the future. We started off about 15 years ago with a trio of geese, one male, two females. It was some time ago now that we lost the two females to coyotes, nothing to be seen of them save a few feathers. We lost about 4 turkeys around the same time, all to coyotes.
Garlic: We have planted all the garlic except for a small amount of two varieties. In the accompanying photo the three row bed on the left is the Music variety introduced by Al Music in 1980. The centre bed holds three more rows with seven different varieties starting with some more Music, followed by Russian, Sicilian, Italian, Tibetan, Ukrainian and Salt Spring Island. The third bed on the right is the most recently planted one and contains six varieties; Israeli, German, Chinese, Unknown Ontario, Korean and an unknown variety. There are other names for these varieties and the names we know them by are really just the geographic origin. We will have to compare the harvested bulbs to known named varieties to properly identify them and to place them into their proper classifications such as Soft Neck, Hard Neck, Porcelain, Artichoke etc.
Eggs and Kale: We still have a constant supply of large, brown, pastured (but, sorry, not yet Organic) chicken eggs and sometimes even the occasional Muscovy duck egg. Still priced at a more than a reasonable $4.00 per dozen. The laying rate is less now in the colder weather and is much more variable. A lay rate of 100% would be one egg per hen per day. Our best lay rate was about 95% and the usual dependable rate was 85-90% and lately the rate has been down to about 60 to 70% with a one time low of just 50%. As I have mentioned before the lay rate is dependent on several factors among which are the number of daylight hours (artificial light added in winter to give at least 16 hours will do it), feed ration (need protein level of 17 to 18%), free access to clean water, warm draft free housing. These are probably the most influential lay rate factors. We keep a light on in their house early in the morning, well into the evening and when ever the day is cloudy and dim. Though we do feed them a proper lay ration we also let them roam free and they are going to get a significant potion of their diet from foraging for seeds and worms and insects. this is much better for the chicken’s health as is giving them some whole grain and not having a constant source of feed in front of them except for what they get from scratching. They do have free access to clean water but it also gets pretty cold in the winter. Their housing is pretty much draft free but is unheated and not insulated so this is not the best, but not too bad, for a high lay rate. Lots of Kale left and for some little while yet too and it is of real good quality and since we have had a frost, several now, the taste, the flavour is to be according to many, at it’s very best.