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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January 9, 2017 FARM NEWS


There are no photos for the blog today.  I just have not had time for them. Hopefully I can get some up tomorrow.

We’ve had more very cold weather.  Frozen eggs, frozen water pipe, frozen water troughs, frozen (well, almost) toes and fingers.  But there are now only about 60 days until reliably milder weather and about 75 days, or about 10 Monday morning blogs, until the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Not so much snow the past few days but plenty of cold to drive the frost deep.  The plus to less snow is less shoveling, and though we do only the absolute minimum snow shoveling anyway, blowing and drifting snow can cause a lot of shoveling.

We have gotten in more hay over the weekend and with this hay we will now likely have enough to do until everyone is back out on pasture. That could be as early as the first of May, more likely the middle of May but if it is a cold spring like last spring then it might be closer to the end of May before there is enough growth on the pastures to allow grazing.  We do rotational grazing with the cows and horses. They will be on a particular pasture for from one to four or even five days before being moved on to the next.  The number of days on a pasture  depends on plant growth and the size of the particular pasture. But for now we are still feeding out hay and are going through a single 4 X 5 foot round bale in a little over two days.

Everyone from chicken and ducks through to cows and us is doing fine, coping with the winter mostly.  We have been very busy over the last week getting firewood into the woodshed and we now have a pretty good, though far from adequate, quantity of wood. stockpiled.  On Tuesday we pulled a tarp over the wood shed so as to effect a repair to the myriad small holes and   large gaps that had accumulated in the original 6 mil plastic cover.  The new used large tarp covered the shed very nicely and there were no longer any holes.  We did not quite finish the job. We needed to secure it all along the edges but we had it weighted down good on three of the four edges and it was getting  dark so the job of finishing was left to the next day which dawned so very windy that the tarp just blew off.  Still have not yet got it back on.  Snow and rain are forecast for late Monday night so we had better get it back on.

 

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January 2, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view. today is just above freezing with a light east wind and no clouds

The usual Monday morning garden view. today is just above freezing with a light east wind and no clouds

HAPPY NEW YEAR.  The last week of 2016 was pleasant enough for this time of year.  It certainly could have been a lot worse than it was.  We don’t do nearly as much work over the holidays though we did get a lot of wood into the fire wood shed over the past week. There has not been too much else happening, except that we did get another load of hay delivered and when we get just one more, that should be enough hay to see us through until everyone goes out on fresh pasture in the spring, probably early to mid May.  We observe grass growth to determine when the sheep cows and horses can start going through their pasture rotations.  But May is a long time off, four whole months, about 120 days, quite a bit of hay.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale.  Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale. Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

We did find time this week for some spring planning.  We need to figure out what seeds and plants we need to buy and of course the quantities. Mostly for the seeds the question is; which of the many different varieties should we choose?  We do save a good bit of seed but we are always trying a new variety of something that promises to be better in some way; perhaps better resistance to disease, better yield, better under certain growing conditions. But sometimes when we grow that better promise, it just does not perform as expected since our methods and growing conditions are different.  So for that reason we may grow several better promises to see which one might be best for us.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale.  Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

The three kale rows are to the left but notice how the snow has drifted and is deeper just to the right of the kale. Leaving something in the garden like the kale is good for trapping snow and for making the snow cover deeper.

It has become more and more apparent that the rate of species and habitat loss has been accelerating.  It has been for some time but the rate at which this is happening is greater and more apparent.  Some species have done very well. Canada Geese, Raccoons, Grey Squirrels, Coyotes and Turkeys are good examples of species that have thrived over the past several decades.  There are many others too but at the same time other species have declined or even disappeared locally.  The Grey Partridge (a European native to be sure) and Grouse, are no longer seen.  Monarch butterflies were very rare this past season and it is possible that we will not see them come back.  There are many fewer insects of all sorts.  This is all directly attributable to habitat loss and to pesticide use. The worst aspect is the great loss in grassland and woodland.  The grassland is plowed under for corn in the main with large amounts in soybeans and more in cereals seemingly mostly rye and wheat.  Fewer beef and sheep farms on pasture and almost no conventional dairy farm puts the cows on pasture any more.  Pastureland, the grasslands are no longer as permanent, and the acreage has shrunken dramatically.  This is all the needed habitat for many insects and birds as well as mice, voles and rabbits for predators such as hawks and coyotes. Then there are too many homes going into woodlots.

One of the more successful species, I think. A trio of sparrows but I'm not sure which kind. They stay around the chicken house to eat the chicken food.

One of the more successful species, I think. A trio of sparrows but I’m not sure which kind. They stay around the chicken house to eat the chicken food.

Our single Ameraucauna chicken, a rooster. His name is Nugget. The hens of this breed lay a blue egg.

Our single Ameraucauna chicken, a rooster. His name is Nugget. The hens of this breed lay a blue egg.

We are considering a move to agroforestry, an old method of agriculture experiencing a bit of a revival.  Agroforestry means many more species of trees, much smaller fields bordered by trees in wide hedgerows. Many but not all of the tree species have uses for humans such as for fruit, nuts, firewood, and lumber.  The trees and everything else growing in the area around them can be used for pasture for cows, horses, sheep and goats which when used correctly are of benefit to the plants as well as all the fauna living there from tiniest of organisms, fungi and bacteria up through insects and small mammals and various birds.  An ecosystem quickly evolves.  These wide hedge rows would be great areas to run chicken flocks too.

062We need to move towards that model and we will make an attempt.  We will be budgeting to plant more fruit and nut trees and fruiting shrubs.  It will take a lot of work to get it all established and growing well. But we are pretty small.  Perhaps we could become an example of how things could work.

 

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December 26, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view.  Compare this photo to the heading photo in previous weeks blogs

The usual Monday morning garden view. Compare this photo to the heading photo in previous weeks blogs

The past week running up to our customary Christmas fest yesterday, was even more hectic than usual, with all the preparation for the big meal and gift giving on Sunday, added to all the routine work that must be done each day.  The weather though has not been too bad and has not made our work exceptionally difficult.  We do all our work without any power.  We move hay to various spots for the animals either carrying a bundle on a fork or on the sled or when their is no snow, with the wheelbarrow.  Water is pumped (electrical pump) to the barn and sometimes has to be bucketed a short distance to a water tub from the barn or from our house. So when it gets cold and snowy or rainy or icy, then it is more difficult.  Cold is probably the worst as then we have to contend with the possibility of frozen pipes or buckets and water troughs and sometimes walking surfaces get icy too. But work was relatively easy last week.

This lot of chickens more than any other like to venture out and peck at the ground. but even they will after a short time just stay inside.

This lot of chickens more than any other like to venture out and peck at the ground. but even they will after a short time just stay inside.

The chickens are well though somewhat affected by the cold and last week was also better for them.  The lay rate has dropped off somewhat however, likely because the hens are under a bit of stress from the cold weather and then, from that, a somewhat reduced water consumption.  The Barred Rock and the Rhode Island Red breeds are once again showing their disinclination to be good winter egg layers and this is very unfortunate as these two old heritage chicken breeds were once very good all year round egg layers. The breed lines that we have gotten have not been properly maintained.  More attention should have been paid to selecting hens to gather hatching eggs from, by getting eggs from older hens that were proven layers and from good hens that weighed enough at the end of lay to make a decent roaster.  Also the mortality rate in the Barred Rock breed is alarmingly high and since the other chickens in with them are mostly ok this would seem to be genetic too, as is the propensity to lay a lot of eggs.  These hens should lay around 250 to 280 eggs per year.

Leucan waiting patiently for breakfast.  He actually still has a bit of last night's hay that has not been finished.

Leucan waiting patiently for breakfast. He actually still has a bit of last night’s hay that has not been finished.

The 2017 seed catalogue from William Dam Seeds arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  We’ll have to start thinking about our seed order for next season. We have to get an idea what seeds we already have and what we want to plant and make up orders ready to be sent off when we get the money to pay for them.  We should also be budgeting for the purchase of various fruit trees, apple, pear, cherry, peach, nectarine, plum and also nut trees of various kinds, Carpathian walnut, hazelnut, pine nuts and more.  We also have to plan for getting day old chicks as eventual replacement laying hens.  So many catalogues to look at and ponder and drool over and a lot of work to narrow down our selection so that it will be affordable and not so ambitious that we cannot get it all into the ground.

The long thin kale line in an otherwise snow filled garden

The long thin kale line in an otherwise snow filled garden

We’d welcome any suggestions as to what anyone would like to have us grow or for any other suggestions on anything we do.  A bit of criticism can be very useful and helpful to keep us relevant.

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December 19, 2016 Farm News


The usual Monday morning view of the garden. A good deep snow covering on the garden.

The usual Monday morning view of the garden. A good deep snow covering on the garden.

The three Kale rows are getting to be more and more covered in snow.

The three Kale rows are getting to be more and more covered in snow.

The week past was quite trying because of the weather.  Lots of snow plugging up our laneway and strong winds blowing it about though surprisingly the drifting did not seem too bad.  Then on top of all that it was very cold, still is today and predicted to be so again tomorrow before thing warm up a bit. We therefore had to burn a lot more wood to try to keep the temperature up but that is difficult with the wind and cold especially at night.

Devon and a snow 'flake' down at the barn helping Aerron.

Devon and a snow ‘flake’ down at the barn helping Aerron.

A little over a week ago Aerron was working covering the garlic with leave mulch and compost.

A little over a week ago Aerron was working covering the garlic with leave mulch and compost.

We have not been able to do any more work spreading compost or straw mulch on the garden because of the snow.  Today we had 14 of the large round bales of hay delivered and put into the barn so that is a good job done. We were nearly out of hay so it came just in time. We’ll likely need another 30 bales to get all the hay burners through to pasturing time which will be sometime in May.  Just when in May will depend on how cool or warm the spring turns out to be.

The four little kittens are  not so little now.  the are on the front porch in the sun out of the wind and arte very warm there.

The four little kittens are not so little now. the are on the front porch in the sun out of the wind and arte very warm there.

All the animals are doing alright though the chickens are a bit stressed by the cold and the egg lay rate has dropped off  a little bit from what we’d like. We have been keeping their doors closed all day and night this past week because of the cold, wind and the general gloomy days.  None of the chickens want to go out and the open door just cools the hen house down even more.

From the left; an older ISA hen, a grey Silkie rooster and a Barred Rock hen at the feed bucket.

From the left; an older ISA hen, a grey Silkie rooster and a Barred Rock hen at the feed bucket.

We have had to deal with frozen pipes and a frozen hose that was not drained. All thawed out now but frozen pipes are a real nuisance and make a lot more work for us.

Leaucan at 2 1/2 years old is a good looking well proportioned horse though he will be a little smaller than we'd have expected.

Leaucan at 2 1/2 years old is a good looking well proportioned horse though he will be a little smaller than we’d have expected.

 The ducks out swimming in the snow.

The ducks out swimming in the snow.

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December 12, 2016 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view is pretty snowy this week. What a difference from the same photo just last Monday.

The usual Monday morning garden view is pretty snowy this week. What a difference from the same photo just last Monday.

This week’s blog will be short.  We managed to take advantage of the mild weather last Monday and Tuesday getting much garden work done and also a good lot of firewood in.

The Kale plants partly covered in snow.

The Kale plants partly covered in snow.

Aerron used the horses on the single row cultivator on Tuesday afternoon preparing beds for planting into on the south end of the garden. If we get a chance we will put compost on the beds during the winter and spread a covering of straw mulch. Aerron unhooked the horses from the cultivator and re-hitched to the wagon just as it was getting dark and it had by that time been snowing for more than an hour.  He started the horses with the wagon to the barn only to encounter the shut gate which he’d forgotten about. He figured that he’d keep the line on the ground at the side of the wagon so as they’d be handy if the horses should start forward when he opened the gate.  They did start forward of course and Aerron was able to grab the lines with no difficulty and he hauled back on the lines to stop the horses so he could get back on the wagon. We have however been snapping the lines into the big ring on the bits and not on the levers and there are no curb chains.  So hauling back as hard as one can causes little discomfort to the horses.  They’ll stop if they please and at this time it was not in their pleasure to stop. But even at that had Aerron been able to just keep tugging firmly on the lines he could have stopped them but the ground was slippery and he was just sliding along on his heels and eventually flat out. He very soon let go of the lines and the wagon, empty and therefore quite light, went over his legs with the back wheel and the horses continued on under their own control, wagon in tow, to the barn and the hitch and harness up spot more or less in line with the lane coming down from the gate where this had all started. So horses and wagon were perfectly fine and Aerron got away with just a very sore leg and a nasty little cut that has pretty much now healed ok. The number one rule for that situation; do not park your team so as the face the barn; was ignored for the sake of expediency but could be said to have been justified as they got down to barn quicker than otherwise.

The ducks don't seem to mind the snow too much.

The ducks don’t seem to mind the snow too much.

The chickens are all inside though the door, upper right, is cracked open enough to let them go out.

The chickens are all inside though the door, upper right, is cracked open enough to let them go out.

Marie and Leucan standing waiting for the morning's hay.

Marie and Leucan standing waiting for the morning’s hay.

Since Tuesday the weather has been quite cold and probably about what we should be expecting for this time of the year. This has made, for the first time this fall, permanently frozen water hoses to the chicken houses and necessitated carrying buckets of water a fair distance.  But we are getting used to that now so all is well.  The animals fair well. The horses outside are not on slippery ground with the heavy snow on Sunday so they’ll be fine.  The chickens have pretty much stayed inside for the last three days and for the one flock the door was not even opened as the wind was too strong and would have cooled the house down too much with the door opened. Water in the chicken houses is not freezing yet.

Nell is also just waiting for breakfast and the snow has started to come down heavy again.

Nell is also just waiting for breakfast and the snow has started to come down heavy again.

SPRING IS COMING. We just have to get winter out of the way.

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