Weather and Kale: Steadily and progressively colder from week to week now. Compare this heading picture with the same spot photographed a week ago and then with the previous two weeks. There are distinct differences from week to week, with this weeks snow making the difference more noticeable. We moved the machinery a
bit too which makes quite a change in the looks. I have not had a chance to work on the potato diggers which are number one on the list of items up for repair, but will make an extra effort this week setting aside a few hours to get something useful done. Unfortunately we have to work on the machinery, outside where it is now, as we have no workshop available. This is
alright but far from ideal, it
would be nice to be able to use a wrench without wearing mittens. Back to the photograph, notice that the kale still looks pretty good. It should stay this way with a gradual deterioration as winds dry the plant over the next couple of months. Some of the Kale though will still be perfectly fine come February or perhaps even March, it depends on the weather and how well the rabbits fare
elsewhere as when they find food harder to get they are going to discover the kale. They will then start at the end of the row and nibble their way along, day by day, eating all the leaves and even the stout central stem. The Kale that survives into spring (which should be every plant that
the rabbits don’t eat to the ground) will sprout new leaves and grow again, then send up flowers and
produce seed. All the while the leaves will be fine for eating. Sometimes a plant that has been eaten to the ground or that has been cut back and tilled under will never the less start to grow again. Kale is quite resilient. The ideal situation would be to have our Kale, along with some other suitable vegetables, grow in a tunnel, a hoop house, under plastic. Semicircular, usually steel
tubing, is spaced out along the row to support greenhouse plastic with the height being sufficient to walk, preferably upright and not hunched over, alongside the plants to tend plants and harvest leaves. This right up there near the top of the list of things that we need. Right there on that same list is the shed to house and work on machinery.
Chickens and Eggs: Chickens are not much keen on the cold weather. We open their door but when it is cold, cloudy, snowing or raining and especially when it is cold and windy they will stay inside. They will venture out a little way but only for a bit and then retreat to the relative comfort of their
house. On a very cold day with little wind and any amount of sun they will stay out, wander around mostly sticking to the sunny spots and do their usual scratching for food. In the winter we do have to pay more attention to keeping them well fed, twice or three times a day but it is better for their health if they do not have food in front of them all the time.
Gets them to empty their crop. We also have to feed them more variety and provide them with some whole gain as well as the lay ration crumbles. We will give them a bit of hay on occasion and they regularly get to pick through the contents of our compost bucket; vegetable cast offs and trimmings. That should keep them well but we do observe them closely
and will give them the occasional vitamin and mineral supplement if we suspect there might be a deficiency looming. Calcium is important for the laying hens in order to make good sturdy egg shells and we can usually do this even without resorting to the oyster shell commonly given to them. The egg laying rate varies between about 60 and 80 per cent now pretty good
considering conditions,. but we have had a broken egg or more in the one nest for the last 4 days, broken and eaten. Not good. The nest has been cleaned, not soon enough and that by itself may do the trick but I’ll also for the next few days gather eggs several times during the day. What is likely happening is that since it is better inside than out and there is not much for a hen do inside, except to sit on a nest, then a lot more than the usual number are going to crowd on to a nest. The same hens go to the same nests. Even though we have several nests available for them the hens always lay their eggs in the same two nests. The shoving and pushing and pecking that then goes on is hazardous to any eggs already there. This is when a little fresh hay or litter is needed on the floor of the hen house, gives them something else to do and hens live just to scratch at the ground.
Horses and Cows (and a Bull), Sheep and a Goat: These are now in their overwintering spots though the sheep and the goat will continue to venture far and wide when the weather is o.k. and the snow is not too deep. They are all getting their full allotment of hay even though the sheep and goat are getting a bit of grass on pasture. It will be really good for the sheep and goat if we continue to do this for them over winter. We feed them twice each day, morning and night. Our hay is in the large round bales which we unroll in the barn, usually on the threshing floor, and then walk however number of forkfuls is needed to them. When the sheep wander they will usually go right to the horses hay and that is fine with the horses. It is a bit tricky when the wind is very strong as it wants to blow the hay off the fork as we carry it out and then blows the hay around on the ground. Their is usually a spot where there is quite a bit of protection from the wind so we will walk the hay to that area. this is often quite a walk. When it is my job to take hay out I will usually use the wheel barrow, loading it up real high then pulling a rope down tight over the load. The wheelbarrow can be pushed fairly easily over some surprisingly deep snow. It is not too often around here that snow conditions defeat the wheelbarrow but when that happens we resort to using a sled.
Other Stuff: Have a look at the website of the musical ensemble Arcady which is doing several Christmas concerts in the area through December (I think at least two in Brantford). They are at http://arcady.ca. Also keep checking our Facebook page which is at Facebook.com/devonacres. I post there two or three times a week.