May 30, 2017 FARM NEWS

The Monday morning garden view. A bit changed from previous weeks. Those are transplanted lettuces between the garlic plants. The leaf pile is getting smaller.

I have only been able to  post 2 photos here. Four other tries came up with http error for reasons that are quite unclear. They are loading extremely slowly and that may be a part of the problem.  So for this week at least go to our Facebook page for photos. Kirby or perhaps it is Devon Acres, I really have no idea!                      A somewhat less eventful week than last.  Much work was done in the garden with bed preparation using the horse drawn cultivator. A couple of beds of onion sets have been planted and partially mulched with straw and a half a bed of three rows has had lettuce transplanted to it. More trays of newly sprouted veggies are turning up in the outside area to await there turn getting transplanted out.

The horses are well. The team of Nell and Marta has been a little difficult as they can cause considerable trouble when harnessing.  Once harnessed they are pretty good.  The flies cause them much irritation and Marta especially will be moving around all the time even when the team is supposed to be standing.  Once under way with the cultivator though they seem to be alright. They really just need to be worked more regularly and some special training should be done to get them to stand still better and to back without spreading. More work will help all that.

Cows and sheep have all be pretty well behaved. There is now  a good lot of green and growing grass which is what hey especially like.  Contented sheep and contented cows will not be pushing at the edges and breaking fences.

The chickens are laying steady at a good rate though the ducks have dropped off just a bit. The new chicks and ducklings are also doing well. The ducklings are outside every day and have not needed a heat lamp for more than two weeks. They are a panicky lot though and will be to a gradually lessening degree your several years.  Ducks never get quite as docile as chickens. The chicks will need to get outside very soon but they, unlike the ducklings, will need confinement so as not to wander to much and get eaten by hawks, crows and cats etc.

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May 22, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning view of the garden. again this week not a lot of change is obvious

They are in their ready to panic mode. They all move together. the more upright ones are called runners but not so obvious which they are in this photo.

A week full of side tracks.  A flat tire on the manure spreader had to be fixed as we needed the spreader to haul compost to the garden.  It took a lot of time to get it jacked up and the wheel off, the locking pin was stuck and needed a bit of persuasion.  We drove the wheel over to Campbell Tire for repair and the next day at noon had to go over to fetch it.  They did a good job on a really old wheel and tire. Then rains kept us from drawing the spreader up the hill. And we had to spend two days finishing up the newest hen house. It was all kind of temporarily and weakly rigged and a raccoon managed to get in and nearly walked off with a chicken. Aerron heard the squawking and raced to the rescue. Just barely in time and the chicken survived.  But the hen house is now secure … for sure this time. We had an incident too when Aerron again responded to loud squawking at the front hen house and racing to the scene of the crime heard a loud crashing as a piece of wooden fencing was knocked down.  Whatever nabbed the chicken and knocked down the fence, had heard Aerron coming and, ditching its prize, our hen, and disappeared  down into the trees. With his flashlight, Aerron could see a pair of eyes down there. We’re guessing it was likely a lion or tiger escaped from the African lion Safari, a grizzly bear or … even more likely, actually quite probably; a coyote. This time the chicken died.  It was a chicken that had been inadvertently locked out and it was on the outside of it’s enclosure. Not a good place for a chicken as night falls. Easy lunch for a coyote. So we are being a little more careful to get all the birds locked up well before dark.

The tray of Chinese cabbage that we had in last week’s blog has grown considerably.

Newly germinated lettuce trays and the also growing woodpile in behind.

Chickens, ducks and Kari Bishop’s beehives.

And then it was way too windy on Saturday and way too rainy on Sunday.  We were still plugging away doing things but were somewhat restricted in what we could get done.  So this past week, when we should have been getting a lot planted, we didn’t. Going to have to be extra very busy this coming week.

Three little chicks, different breeds. Notice the heavily feathered legs and feet in the nearest chick.

Three little chicks, different breeds. Notice the heavily feathered legs and feet in the nearest chick.


Just a few of the chicks. There are 11 different breeds here of lots of differing shapes, sizes, leg and feather colours.

he four footed beasties; horses, cows, sheep, cats and dog are all just fine.  No unneeded excitement with them, and we don’t want any. Everyone is happy on pastures which are pretty good which is just as well as we are now out of hay.  This was a good wet week and we needed that as things were getting a bit dry, nothing near serious, but still a good soaking about once a week is perfect to keep things growing really nicely.  This year is so far a big improvement on last spring when it was much colder and was much drier. And it got much drier still as spring moved to summer.  Still a little cold so far but not too bad and will be alright if it keeps gradually warming.

The ducklings are all gathered beneath a young apple tree doing their preening, having a snooze and chattering amongst themselves.

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May 15, 2017 FARM NEWS

The Monday morning garden view and still a little hard to see any changes from last week.

The newest hens at breakfast. Apple trees in blossom in the background.

The spring planting is going along quite well.  We have not yet put a lot into the garden as mostly it has been too cold but what is in is growing well and there is a lot growing in trays.  The plants growing in trays are started in the house and yurt and moved into the green house, usually when they have their first true leaves.  When they are growing good the plants are then moved outside near the garden, slowly introduced to wind and sun and carefully grown until they are big enough and sturdy enough to be planted out in to the garden. Many of these trays are now outside and some are now ready for transplanting into the garden.

These are the trays with the newly germinated and rapidly growing vegetable plants. each tray is about 12 X 22 inches.

This is a tray of Chinese cabbage, O142 in the William Dam Seeds catalogue. These are the cotyledon or seed leaves. The first true leaves are yet to come but that will be quick.

These two trays have lettuce plants which are now sufficiently large to be planted out.

The catalogue number on these is 273, a white sweet onion with the exotic sounding name, Sweet White Wing F1. The F1 means hybrid, first finial I think it is meaning if we were to save seed from this we would not likely get much which was White Wing but be getting the parent stock instead.

Aerron has been using the horses on the single row horse cultivator to work up the beds in the garden for seeding and transplanting.  The horses have not been used, have not been in harness much, since the fall. They were pretty well behaved once hooked to the implement and working but as usual for them they made for a difficult time getting the traces hooked on the double trees. They do not back straight and do not like to stand still.  We need to work the horses more regularly and more often. But all that is ok. Much better to have horses as the power on the farm.  No noxious stench from the exhaust, horses do have their own noxious odours but quite a bit less harmful, they are pretty quiet when working and they set a nice pace. You cannot be tempted to work to long because when the horses are really tired and have had enough then they are going to tell you, they get to refusing to move, not doing things properly and stopping quite a bit when they’ve not been asked too.  They also need frequent breaks and this gives the teamster time to look about, contemplate things. A little slower than a tractor perhaps but then there are always ways, no matter how fast you are going. An older small tractor would come in real handy though for tasks needing the bucket at the front. Tasks such as loading manure or compost or, with a spear attachment, loading and unloading the large round straw and hay bales on the wagon. So we have for a couple of years been on the lookout for an older tractor, a Cockshutt 20, 30 or 40 would do the trick as would some of the smaller McCormicks, the Farmalls.

Aerron with the team. Photographed by his son William Kirby aged 6 and a half years. An excellent photo I thought.

We have made a huge dent in the wood pile compared with last week we have also stacked a good lot of it too.

We have gotten a lot of wood lately, branches and small trunks that needed to be cut to stove length and stacked to dry for a month or two then moved into the woodshed to finish curing for next or ideally the season after. So that is an ongoing lot of work that is far better done now than in the fall.  We should also be doing that in the fall for two seasons in the future … again, ideally. But the wood has been free to us and that is always good.  We also need to go to two of our neighbours to cut small trees and bring the wood back.  The truck is still not working so that must go in. The front tire on the manure spreader will not hold air for longer than two minutes so that needs fixing right away as we need it to draw composted manure to the garden.

Checking out the magnolia. Sniffing the flowers?

So no shortage of things to be done.

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May 8, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view. The car is there because of the muddy lane way. Lane is fine now but the ar will only move when it is needed.

The big news, likely with a lot of others, was the rains this past week.  Not very heavy but for a long time.  No damage was done to anything on our farm and with our height here and the hills, flooding is never an issue.  The roof on the new chicken house leaked badly in spots but the hens there were no more wet than the hens in the perfectly dry older house who decided to go out in the rain anyway. The ducks are oblivious, mostly, to any weather. The rain was good for getting the ground thoroughly soaked though it is likely it was anyway.  With last season still fresh in our memory we will not complain , yet, about too much rain.

Chickens in the morning.

We were not able to get much garden work done though once the rain stops and 24 hours have passed then we can often get in and work the ground. We went to William Dam Seeds and got our second lot including potatoes and onion sets. These will very soon go into the ground. With the very cold overnight, it seems we had little or no frost, but even colder, -2C predicted for tonight, we are very happy not to have any frost sensitive plants up and growing. We do have plenty of things growing in trays in the greenhouse and a lot of it can now be put outside to harden off and then soon planted out in the garden.

We managed, between rain showers, to get quite a bit of this wood pile cut into stove lengths. Now we need to pile it all to dry and get the rest cut up.

Last seasons Kale plants are growing a bit spikey as they will soon start to flower and set seed. Still good for eating.

This is, we think, a buff Brahma chick. It looks really nice and healthy, good size, alert, active.

Not sure which breed these three chicks are. They are blue/grey in colour

All the chickens, ducks, chicks and ducklings are fine. Some of the horses have been started on their pasture rotation, Cows have been out on pasture a bit and so have the sheep.  Most of the pasture is still not quite ready.

The team out on pasture.

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May 1, 2017 FARM NEWS

Ducks in the garden just hanging out doing a bit of preening

The usual garden view late in the day on Monday after all day rain.

Another variable spring week gone by.  Another week that I did not properly keep track of so once more a bit of an effort to remember what happened. Things continue to grow well. We have got many things planted though much more needs to go in. This spring has been much better than last as it is a little warmer and a little wetter so far.  The week has gotten a bit cooler following a very hot day which we are glad was only a one off.

The rhubarb is growing quite good and getting very close to being ready to harvest.

We took delivery of new chicks this week to add to the new ducklings from last week.  these are all old heritage breeds that at one time had a useful purpose. We would like to find a breed of laying hen that will produce well for a longer time and under more harsher conditions than the commercial breeds.  A chicken that lays well for 2 or 3 years, does well foraging and lays a lot of eggs fed whole grains and at the end of lay, after 2 or 3 years or more will have a good meat carcass.  This is why we are experimenting with 15 different breeds of chicken.

The garden is growing well but we still don’t have a lot in just yet. Many things are growing in trays as well and doing well and some things are nearly ready to be planted out.

Still a bit cool though warmer than last year and we d have adequate moisture so far this year too. Short blog this week.

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April 24, 2017 FARM NEWS

the usual Monday morning view. Looking more green each week.

A collard plant from last season showing very nice regrowth.

The weather now is definitely spring. Things are growing well. The garlic is doing very nicely, small lettuces are spreading new leaves, Korean mint growing well, spring onions are quite well grown and some collards are looking good too. Lots of the cabbage, broccoli, onion, kale and more are growing steadily in our greenhouse.

A Manitoba Maple flower and unfolding leaves


The cows and sheep and horses like this weather too and the cows and horses winter coats have begun shedding. Their pasture grasses are growing nicely now but it will still be two or three weeks before we can let them out on the pastures.

The new laying flock plus a couple of Barred rock roosters and two hens and a single buff brahma and a single barnevelder hen, all in the new chicken house.

A sleeping Kaki Campbell duck. Eyes open so as not to be surprised.

We have been busy too this week rebuilding and building chicken houses and fencing for chicken runs.  We got more day old ducklings at the end of last week and will be getting some day old chicks at the end of this week. These chicks are specialty birds kept for meat qualities and for their appearance. Some of these are also pretty good layers. They are a bit of a trial as we are looking for breeds of chicken that do well on whole grains and that can do well on an alternative to the standard or organic commercial feeds and which have a good lay rate for a longer time. These are mostly heritage or rare breeds of chicken.  We hope to find or to develop one or more of these breeds to do well under small farm, pastured, organic conditions.

Just a nice picture of two of the ducks

We are still accepting shares in our CSA program for the coming veggie growing season. Contact us if you are interested.


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April 17, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view. Still not a whole lot of difference noticeable from this angle.

The start of the new henhouse with the erection of the north wall which in a previous life was two long pallets.

On Monday we started building a new chicken house.  We needed an extra hen house so that we have a place to put new birds until the old birds are taken away and when we need to move a flock so as to clean out a chicken house with no chickens in the way. It is a modest structure built on bare ground, made with scrap wood, no floor, mostly wire covered walls and a chipboard roof. Lots of room for 50 or more hens. We managed to complete it enough to house the hens which arrived from Frey’s Hatchery on Tuesday. These are what are called ‘Ready to lay’ hens.  they are 18 to 21 weeks old. They are excellent layers of brown eggs.  They are now what are called pullets and the egg size is small. the egg size will be small for the next week or so and in about 6 weeks or so they will mostly be large sized eggs.  The eggs at this time though are of very high quality having firm whites and yolks of good colour and few oddities such as blood spots and weak shells.

The almost but now inhabitable, hen house.

New hens in their new house.

Work continues in the garden and seeding into trays for the greenhouse. The kale and the collards from last season are re-growing quite nicely.  The Korean mint is sprouting from the base of the old plants. The garlic is doing quite well too. The broad beans have not yet sprouted.  The ground has been too cool for many vegetable seeds to germinate. Spring rolls steadily on and the temperatures and day length steadily increase.

Last season’s kale is showing good regrowth and will be ready for picking in about three weeks or so.


Two little equine enjoying the warm morning sun.

he four footed beast here are all well. The new calf is growing good too. Must remember to get some pictures. The chickens are laying a little better each week with the Leghorn hens and the ducks both laying at an excellent rate. We have some new hens so we will be getting a lot of pullet eggs which are small sized.  Most of the older hens that are now laying the large and extra large eggs will be sent off so we will soon have soup hens. About half of the older birds will go to new homes.  The older birds are not laying at a good rate.  Some hens will not be laying any eggs at all and of those that are, they will only be laying perhaps 3 or 4 eggs per week instead of around 6. More of the eggs are weak shelled so there are more cracks and breakages. The older hens soon become very uneconomical.

The ducks at the duck pond. Ahh the life of the idle duck.

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