March 6, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden. Still looking pretty wintery bleak.

The usual Monday morning view of the garden.
Still looking pretty wintery bleak.

Another week closer to spring and though sometimes the weather has been very spring like or better, it soon slips back to being a bit wintery, a bit too cold.  The Killdeer are still around, making their calls while flying about just this morning.   The Tundra swans have been going through over the past two weeks and that is a sure sign of spring weather. Another large flock flew overhead, again this morning and I was able to get some nice photos.

The Tundra swans high overhead this morning on  about a 300 degree heading.

The Tundra swans high overhead this morning on about a 300 degree heading.

We have been very occupied with making maple syrup.  Aerron has about 50 taps or more in place and we have tapped some Black Walnut trees as well.  Hopefully we’ll get some syrup from the walnuts so we can make a comparison to that from the maples.  It is reputed to have a good flavour.  The past few days have been too cold for the sap to run but today’s temperatures are predicted to be about plus six so we’ll likely get some sap.  You ‘ll need approximately 40 wine glasses full of sap to get one wine glass full of syrup.  The other 39 wine glasses full will have been boiled off as water vapour, some of which condenses on our cold windows, but most of which just goes into the atmosphere.

The Walnut forest with several trees, all black walnut, tapped for their sap to make into walnut syrup.

The Walnut forest with several trees, all black walnut, tapped for their sap to make into walnut syrup.

The chickens are liking today as it is pleasant, warmish, very light breeze, sometimes a bit of sun and they can go outside.  When the wind winds cold, I keep the doors shut for their comfort. They would otherwise all just huddle in some sheltered corner of their house.  The ducks are something else again, sometimes being perfectly happy to all hunker down outside in an expose spot with wind howling and the temperature minus a whole lot and snow whipping past them.  Other times they will instead hole up in their house.  They have started to lay eggs again and are laying at a pretty good rate already after only 5 days.

Our backyard chickens. The bird closest is an Ameraucana rooster with a Barnevelder rooster at back left, and several ISA hens and the darker hens are Barnevelder too.

Our backyard chickens. The bird closest is an Ameraucana rooster with a Barnevelder rooster at back left, and several ISA hens and the darker hens are Barnevelder too.

A Black Copper Marans rooster with three ISA hens.

A Black Copper Marans rooster with three ISA hens.

The ducks quakerating around the old water hole which is a small bucket hidden in amongst them.

The ducks quakerating around the old water hole which is a small bucket hidden in amongst them.

The horses, cows and sheep like to lay or stand in a sheltered spot out of the wind and soak up what little sun there might be.  A few more lambs have been born and though we lost a single last week the others are alright.

Leucan, our three year old stallion eating his hay.

Leucan, our three year old stallion eating his hay.

We have not had any progress n the garden but that’s ok for now.  Still need to finish up the green house so it is ready for newly seeded trays of vegetables and herbs and that wil come very soon.  We don’t want to get too far ahead and not be able to transplant when we need to. Winter is marching steadily towards spring.

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February 27, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden looking a little less wintery.  The car parked there as going further was just too muddy.

The usual Monday morning view of the garden looking a little less wintery. The car is parked there as going further was just too muddy.

The astute observer before 9:20 Monday evening would have noticed that I had posted the date as September 27.  I have no idea what I was thinking. The very warm weather the past week has us thinking more and more about the coming spring. We still have so much to do and now, not a lot of time to get things done.  Getting Maple trees tapped for collecting sap took a lot of time as did the boiling down process.  The collecting of the tree sap is so far not too time consuming as all the trees that we’ve tapped to date are fairly close by.  Most are the maples, Acer negundo, yer common everyday ubiquitous Manitoba maple.  Makes perfectly good Maple Syrup though needs more boiling as the sugar content of the raw sap is, on average, less than a sugar maple, Acer sugarness. We don’t have a sugar shack or anything similar but simply boil down sap in large pots on our wood burning cook stove.  It takes a lot longer this way but the stove is going anyway and the heat is in the house.  The humidity level can get pretty high at times, but we can make some claim to not using any electricity or fossil fuels in our operation with the exception of extra water used from our normal to do extra clean up.

Two pots of boiling sap sharing stove space with my coffee and pancakes. The pot on the right was empty.

Two pots of boiling sap sharing stove space with my coffee and pancakes. The pot on the right was empty.

All the various animals are fine.  Two twin lambs born last night and we did lose one new lamb last week that died unexpectedly.  It was weak from the beginning.  Chickens especially like this weather as they can all go outside without having the chicken house get too cold.  We close up the doors just as soon as some start to huddle inside out of the draft in the corners.

The door is open and most of the chickens are outside but this lot decided it was better here and some are up in the nesting boxes.

The door is open and most of the chickens are outside but this lot decided it was better here and some are up in the nesting boxes.

We will begin seeding veggies pretty soon.  The first will go into trays to be grown for a good while in the unheated green house so we can’t get going too early.  Once the weather starts to remain mostly above 10º C at night and warmer in the day, we’ll seed a few vegetables directly into the garden starting with the fava beans

The kale looking very winter worn.  But most is still perfectly fine to eat.

The kale looking very winter worn. But most is still perfectly fine to eat.

Since the beginning of the week we have seen several flocks of Tundra Swans flying over. Seems to us that they are just a little bit early.  We have seen and heard the Killdeers as well.  Starlings are busy nest building.  Sure signs of an impending spring.

Starlings.  The only birds I could photo this morning. Could hear the Killdeeer calling but no sin of tundra swans.  Crows kept eluding the camera.

Starlings. The only birds I could photo this morning. Could hear the Killdeeer calling but no sign of tundra swans. Crows kept eluding the camera.

 

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February 20, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view. The snow has gone, the sun shines bright, the mud is quite apparent.

The usual Monday morning garden view. The snow has gone, the sun shines bright, the mud is quite apparent.

This week’s weather has been very pleasant for us and we are much more easily able to get more done.  There is still a good little bit of frost in the ground and it is not yet all out.  A rain with warm temperatures will get rid of what frost still remains.  The downside is that it is now very muddy and will be for another day or two by which time it is predicted to rain.  So likely we won’t be rid of mud any time soon.

the chicken house on the left and the duck hut to the right with the bale of straw between them.  A warmer view than the same view posted last week.

The chicken house on the left and the duck hut to the right with the bale of straw between them. A warmer view than the same view posted last week.

We did some detail work to finish up the green house attached to our house so it is now that much closer to being able to hold all the trays with seedlings growing in them.  But that will not happen too soon as we don’t want to risk having to hold plants too long before setting them out in the garden.  Not too much before March first.

Nell and Marta waiting for more hay and liking the warm sun.

Nell and Marta waiting for more hay and liking the warm sun.

The animals are liking the warm weather of course and we have finally been able to let the chickens out all day with out fear of cooling the chicken house too much.  They are also steadily laying better as the weather warms and the day length increases.  Some of the older hens do not lay well at all during the winter.  We have to do a lot of culling to find out which hens are not laying eggs.  There are some in the older group.  The older hens do lay the bigger eggs though they are often then more fragile. We are giving them crushed oyster shell as a calcium supplement so that may help.  The ducks have adopted to the new location of their duck house without any problems.  They should start laying eggs again soon as there is now a light on in their house and day length increase is also important to trigger their egg laying.

Chickens at the feed trough. The white hens are two of our nine Leghorns, the very prolific white egg layer. Nine leghorn hens have laid nine eggs each day for the past seven days.

Chickens at the feed trough. The white hens are two of our nine Leghorns, the very prolific white egg layer. Nine leghorn hens have laid nine eggs each day for the past seven days.

We will start to work in the garden in earnest once the frost is out and the ground has firmed up.  The spreading of straw mulch and composted manure are going to take a lot of time and that is what is needed along with working the soil and preparing seed beds.  We are suddenly overwhelmed once more but as it is still only mid February everything good grind to a halt with the return of winter weather.

The twin lambs with their mother.

The twin lambs with their mother.

She is checking. Yep, they are all here.

She is checking. Yep, they are all here.

Giving mom a kiss?  No just checking to see if it's mom.

Giving mom a kiss? No just checking to see if it’s mom.

There are two other reminders of spring coming soon.  Twin lambs were born last week, no more since, but these two are doing well.  The sap has started to flow and we began boiling down a small amount yesterday.  We only do a small amount of maple syrup each year as we do not have many maple trees.  Some of the trees that we have tapped in the past are on the river bank and it is very difficult to get to these and even more difficult to carry out a full ( maybe 15+ litres) pails of sap. We also tap Manitoba maple as well as he Sugar maple and that work s alright.

A single tap on the sugar maple by our house. Not the usual sap bucket, this is actually a stainless steel dairy bucket.  Most of our sap buckets plastic.

A single tap on the sugar maple by our house. Not the usual sap bucket, this is actually a stainless steel dairy bucket. Most of our sap buckets plastic.

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February 13, 2017 FARM NEWS


Overcast , just below freezing, light wind, a pleasant day though. The usual Monday morning view of the garden.  Still frozen.

Overcast , just below freezing, light wind, a pleasant day though. The usual Monday morning view of the garden. Still frozen.

The old horse Marie to the left being harassed by the young stallion Leucan.

The old horse Marie to the left being harassed by the young stallion Leucan.

Tuesday was the rainy, warm day.  Not too much of a problem for us though the roof on the one chicken hut leaked a bit and there was a flood in the corner of the other hen house.  The chickens do a very good job at tracking the moisture well beyond where it came in.  Some extra straw thrown down made it much better. The biggest problem came when trying to drive the car out as there was a thick layer of snow that was perfectly fine for driving on when still well frozen but of course with all the rain the car tires just mushed right through and could not grip and shovelling and a bit of sanding was needed.

The opossum eating scraps and cat food from the kitchen compost bucket.  He looks quite well filled out, well fed, lots of cat food, nice sharp teeth and those are both his front legs. He was unmoving and quiet.

The opossum eating scraps and cat food from the kitchen compost bucket. He looks quite well filled out, well fed, lots of cat food, nice sharp teeth and those are both his front legs. He was unmoving and quiet.

After taking the compost bucket away.  Our old cat 'Whitey' has been sleeping in the box on the left and has been there the whole time just ignoring the goings on around him.

After taking the compost bucket away. Our old cat ‘Whitey’ has been sleeping in the box on the left and has been there the whole time just ignoring the goings on around him.

It has been a week of interesting wildlife sightings. Earlier in the week an opossum, a resident here, and often seen, hurried off from eating the cats food at our front door when I went out. I try not to leave the cat food dishes out too long at night so as not to be feeding the opossum or even a raccoon as happened last winter.  This is quite a large plump opossum that appears to be well fed.  Then on Thursday early afternoon we saw two fox in the pasture to the east of our house not 100 feet away. we were inside. One was significantly smaller and darker in colour and followed the other. the other was normal fox size and barked a couple of times as if calling to the smaller one.  Last week a single fox was spotted in the neighbours corn field to the west, at dusk, as the chickens were being shut up for the night.  On Friday evening about 9:30 Aerron spotted a single coyote sitting on the field lane down the hill to the east of our house.  He was sitting watching the two horses, the two mares Nell and Marta. The horses are in no danger from coyotes and the coyotes around here would not likely even consider  horses for potential meals.  Some coyotes with maybe more wolf genes might be inclined to do so but coyotes and wolves will go after the easiest caught prey.  Mice and rabbits first and foremost. But one more opossum incident on Saturday evening when I photographed one obstinate opossum eating cat food again on the porch at the front door refusing to move without some gentle persuasion from the corn broom, kinda gently swept away only to return searching for more cat food an hour later with another opossum..

The kale is looking really drab now but some leaves are still quite useable.

The kale is looking really drab now but some leaves are still quite useable.

The great ice storm for Sunday morning turned out to be a bit of snow and a bit of rain, pretty much no freezing rain. We got quite wet when we moved the duck house at around the noon hour.  We levered it up on to a set of wheels, hooked it to the Honda Pilot and dragged it carefully up to beside the hen house where we manoeuvred it into position with pry bars and boards for sliding it on.  Much better spot and now we’ll put in a light on the same timer as for the chicken house lights.  Hopefully we can get the ducks back to laying eggs again soon.

The duck house newly repositioned is on the right, the large straw bale covered  at centre and the chicken house to the left. The chickens door is shut, they won't much go out yet, might open it after lunch but the ducks door is open and the ducks are still inside.

The duck house newly repositioned is on the right, the large straw bale covered at centre and the chicken house to the left. The chickens door is shut, they won’t much go out yet, might open it after lunch but the ducks door is open and the ducks are still inside.

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February 6, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden

The usual Monday morning view of the garden

Last week was the first week, the first Monday since January 2 of 2012, that I was unable to post our weekly blog.  We had so much going on and it took me until Wednesday to get the photo upload problem sorted out. It was really vey simple.  The slot on the computer which takes the SD card from  the camera in order to upload photos was damaged by spilled coffee. Yes, I know, I should not have let me near the computer with a cup of coffee. We were lucky.  There was no other damage.  Aside from the SD card slot the rest of the computer is functioning as usual.  The solution was to buy a card reader that conveniently plugs in to one of the USB ports on the computer.  Quite simple.  Works fine.  Back in business.

The ducks preening and just enjoying a fine though somewhat overcast day.

The ducks preening and just enjoying a fine though somewhat overcast day.

It has, as mentioned, been a busy week.  We did a lot more firewood gathering and a lot more planning for the upcoming CSA and veggie growing season.  Things just seem to take a lot more time than expected.  We have finished up with making changes to the CSA for the 2017 season and are now prepared to accept payments or down payments for CSA vegetable.  Look at the page on this website; Our CSA Program for more info or contact us.  Send an e-mail. We are still drawing up lists of vegetables to get for planting and looking at what shrubs trees and berries we should get to begin the agroforestry method of agriculture.

Leucan on a pleasant day just doing nothing

Leucan on a pleasant day just doing nothing

The animals are all doing fine.  The weather, though a little cooler these past two weeks, has not been all that bad.  Not much rain or ice and just a little snow, nothing to make getting around difficult, no need to shovel any snow, so that is always nice and with the amount of snow that we do have the sled slides nicely when we use it to bring up firewood.  So much easier than carrying by hand or using a wheelbarrow and not enough to justify going to the trouble to harness the horses and hook to the wagon.  We really should do that just to  get the horses doing something. If the horses are not harnessed and used regularly and fairly often, then they need extra work to get them relearned again.

Last season's Kale rows are now looking pretty drab

Last season’s Kale rows are now looking pretty drab

 

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JANUARY 23, 2017 FARM NEWS


I am unable to load new photos to the computer so no photos to this blog until I get it sorted out.

A wet, wet week.  Pretty much no sun at all and lots of fog and sometimes a rain or drizzle. Everything has stayed wet nearly all week and things have been getting quite muddy.  This is nice though as warm is better than cold as far as us and all the animals are concerned.  We are all much happier for it.  One drawback to the fog though is that dark is now really dark. Normally if I’m out after dark there is no problem seeing but with the fog it was so dark that I needed a light to avoid walking into things.

The chickens have been going outside every day this week though sometimes we have delayed letting them out until after most of the egg laying has been completed.  This because I suspect they had laid the odd egg outside.  I did not find any but the number of eggs is almost always lower when the hens are outside.  We have ordered various breeds of chickens as day old chicks from Performance Poultry of Carrying Place near to Trenton. Chicken breeds with names like Silver laced Wyandotte, Black Australorp, Blue Andalusian, Ameracauna, Buff Brahma and Buckeye.  Very small numbers of each but a large enough number of different breeds that we will be able to compare the egg laying and meat growth  to get an idea which breed is the best for our situation, our growing conditions, our way of doing things. There are different coloured eggs in this mix too. Should be very interesting. We are also getting more egg laying ducks so our duck loving friends will be happy, once the ducks start laying again.

We were also able to get a new cover on our greenhouse this week. A 20 X 25 foot single sheet of 6 mil plastic perfectly covered all but a three foot wide bay at the one end and we’ll use the narrower 6 mil roll to finish this off. Once the top cover is in place we can set about cleaning up the greenhouse and sealing all the various spots were air is leaking in.  It is hard to keep the temperature up enough for germinating unless the place can be made near air tight. One thing that we need to do is to decide how we are going to provide bottom heat for the seed trays in order to speed up and to have reliable uniform germination of the seeds.  There are a number of little tricks to use in the design for bottom heat,but some of them are a bit suspect from the safety standpoint.

Still much to do and by next week we also must have all the changes to our CSA structure for 2017 in place and a note sent out to all previous CSA members as well as those who have expressed interest. The new CSA information will also be posted on this website at the CSA page.

 

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JANUARY 16, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view, snow all gone and looking quite spring like.

The usual garden view, snow all gone and looking quite spring like.

The Kale is now looking rather poorly.  too much wind being the main culprit .

The Kale is now looking rather poorly. too much wind being the main culprit .

This past week has been pretty good weather wise and for a time we have had warmth and little wind and have been pretty comfortable.  The animals do well, the chickens have been outside almost more this week than during all the last half of December, the horses appreciate the sun’s warmth as do the cows and sheep though the latter have been inside a bit more than usual lately.

Some of the hens inside on the roosts and some in the corner in the sun.

Some of the hens inside on the roosts and some in the corner in the sun.

Leucan having breakfast and thinking it's a fine day.He'll not like the prospect of rain later in the day.

Leucan having breakfast and thinking it’s a fine day.He’ll not like the prospect of rain later in the day.

We managed to get the replacement cover on the woodshed and it is firmly in place this time and should be able to stand up to everything short of a hurricane.  this will be of enormous benefit as we’ll have more room for wood both for lumber and for firewood and hopefully enough room for doing some woodworking too.  It is all very temporary as we intend to take it down when we can next year or the year after and erect a more roomy, better built structure with a more durable cover.

The herd of ducks

The herd of ducks

We have been looking at seed catalogues to try to get seed orders sent off as soon as possible.  we may need some seeds for seeding as early as next month but most seeds can wait until March before being planted. We have also been looking at what to get for poultry having in mind various chicken breeds for replacements and for different eggs and also to have some birds to be raised for roasters, chicken, duck and turkey.  Not a lot, we have to really figure out how much room we need for all of this and where they will all go.  we do have some big ideas.  We have mainly been looking at what Performance Poultry of Carrying Place, a wee hamlet just to the west of Trenton, has to offer and also Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs.  Both of these places are very reputable places to buy poultry from.  Frey’s has day olds, started birds and ready to lay hens while Performance Poultry has only day old chicks. Both places have chicken, turkey and ducks and I think guineas though we are not looking to get guineas.

Cats in a bush.  No birds there.

Cats in a bush. No birds there.

We have also been looking at moving more towards a permaculture farm and to agroforestry.  This is something that we have always been wanting to do but just have not been able to do with the pressing needs of the day to day and preparations for each seasons harvest. The amount of grass, hay fields and hedge rows in rural Ontario has been steadily decreasing.  We would like to plant more trees of many species, with nut trees and fruit trees being predominate and with various berry bushes and lots of wildflowers.  All this means a considerable financial investment from us even when we are doing a relatively small area.

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