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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April 10, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual weekly garden view and little has changed in this area since last week.

Forsithia in bloom. One of the early flowers and food for hungry bees.

The past week has been pretty good weather wise though the days with rain or snow meant we could not get too much done. We were working away at getting seeds into trays, we got a start at seeding broad beans into the garden, we spread a good bit of straw mulch on the garlic and fall planted onions, and did some repairs and improvements to our laneway. We picked up the season’s seeds from William Dam Seeds near Dundas, the most of the seeds anyway.  We still need to get onion sets and seed potato as well and they are on order from Dam’s. There are a very few other things needed still from other seed suppliers.

The garlic beds with the strawberries to the right. Partially covered with straw mulch, a little bit moved by the wind.

A nice looking Barred Plymouth Rock hen, though I’m not so sure that she is actually a good egg layer.

It was thought that the bees needed an additional supply of food to get them over this short time period before there are lots of flowers. A feed bucket.

All of out animals from chickens to horses are quite happy with this weather.  The bees have been very busy too and as more flowers bloom they are going to be even more busy. We’ll need to get the horses in harness soon to bring up compost to the garden and to work up some of the garden with the single row horse drawn cultivator. Hopefully this week coming we’ll have enough good weather to get a lot more done. There is so much to be done now and so little time.  Everything needs to be done at once.

A yawning Leucan being quiet lazy in the warm spring morning sun.

Just a short blog today.  Much too busy all week to make notes and hard to keep track of what we’ve done.  Seems to have been quite a lot.

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April 3, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual Monday morning garden view. The bags are full of lawn and flower bed rakings I’m sure and appeared yesterday. I think that we might thank John for this. I must ask as it could have been someone else.

It would seem that spring is finally here. It is now reliably above the freezing mark though for sure we will have set backs, below zero, frosts and perhaps snow but it will all be very short lived and it will steadily get warmer. So on that premise we are charging ahead getting the garden prepared.  We are getting seeds this week and serious planting will then start. So there is now an incredible amount of work that needs doing during the next two weeks.

A collards plant one of many that survived the winter. They are a biennial so likely a flower stalk will soon shoot up. maybe we’ll get a good harvest of leaves before then.

Things have been growing. Just watching the bees for a while will reveal a lot.  They have been coming in with pollen on their legs, lots of it from lots of bees. This means that there are lots of flowers out there. Most of these flowers are not very obvious, being small inconspicuous and the plants are small too.

The little white flowers not yet opened for the day. These are on that fine plant for salad greens, chickweed.

One of the garlic beds growing quite good but needing to be hoed and mulched.

The garlic in our garden is growing really well now.  It is up looks very strong and needs to now have a lot of mulch.  a pass with the hoe will be needed first as there are plenty of weeds germinating. The Hugel culture beds are a bit behind where we’d like them so much work to be done there too.

The ISA/Leghorn flock out in their run. A bit of sun and a pleasant temperature.

Snuffling ducks. Not sure what they snuffle for but probably the snuffle up anything that the come across.

Chickens and ducks are liking the weather.  The chickens are outside nearly every day. They are kept in only if it is cold and rainy now and since it is mostly going to just be cool and rainy the doors now will probably be opened every day from now on regardless of the weather.  The ducks door has been opened every day no matter the weather. The ducks seem to be happy to go out no matter what though sometimes on the coldest windiest winter days they would retreat back inside for a short while.  the horses are nibbling the short bits of grass that are trying to grow and do like to stand and snooze in the warm sunshine.  We have the cows inside while we get fences in order and the grass grows a bit, and the same for the sheep.  No more new lambs to report and the calf is still expected at almost any time.

Leucan out in his pasture trying to find enough spring grass to eat so he can still call it a pasture.

Many wild birds around, large numbers of Robins; ridiculously huge numbers of Starlings; several, more than 4, Killdeer, often calling late at night; Turkey Vultures; Red Tail Hawks, several varieties of Sparrow; Crows, a dozen or so seem resident to the area; the occasional Raven or two; Canada Geese of course, but three weeks ago saw the last of this spring’s Tundra Swans with a single bird hooting her way along on a westward course.  There are many other bird species not noted but those were some that have caught my attention.

A Robin high in the Hackberry tree. They are often out in the garden looking for insects and worms.


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March 27, 2017 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view at just a little past Monday morning, just past noon in fact. Looking very much the same as it has for the past few weeks

The weather is steadily, if rather slowly, getting a little warmer each week.  Lots of mud around all this past week but it is drying up now even though it has rained.  We have been cleaning out a chicken house and putting the litter on to our Hugel beds in the garden. A Hugel bed is a bed for planting into that is prepared with sticks and even small logs being buried in compost, leaves and other not yet broken down organic material and all mixed with garden soil and covered with mulch, in our case straw.

The makings of a Hugel bed. Very much a work in progress. Wood ash pile in the right foreground bag of leaves, large branch needing to be cut into pieces and everything needing to be placed into position and tidied up.

One of our ducks just floating serenely on the ground and dreaming of a nice big pond and making sure that I don’t get too close.

The chickens seem quite fine and are mostly laying quite well although a couple of our very dark egg layers have not laid a single egg in nearly two weeks and our main layers are down just a little bit too. It is likely that all of the hens will lay better as the weather warms and green grass and other plants start to grow and of course as the insects reappear.  the ducks and our Leghorn chickens (the white egg layers) are proving to be the best.  The 14 hen ducks lay 12 or 13 eggs a day though they will drop back 2 or 3 eggs when the weather turns colder. The 9 Leghorns though will lay 9 eggs a day for 5 or 6 days in a row after which it might drop to 8 for a couple of days then it is back to the 9 again. Over the past 14 days there were 9 days with 9 eggs and the other 5 days were at 8 eggs.

One of our Leghorn hens. Leghorns are white egg layers. Nothing to do with the colour of their feathers but ear colour is usually an indicator. White ears on white egg layers and dark ears on brown egg layers. There a very few exceptions. This hen is a little bedraggled and dirty. Not sure what she was doing to get in that condition.

There is nothing like a good roll to satisfy that itch. This is Marta, one of our Belgian mares, one half of our team of work horses.

The horses, cows and the sheep are all just fine.  The lambs are still coming, another born Saturday night and they are all doing well.  A cow is due to calf at any time now.  She looked like she was about to drop her calf last night so likely it will be borne today. This lot, our four footed friends are going to start getting very anxious for green grass very soon but it will likely be mid-May at the earliest before they are on pasture once again. The bees are busy buzzing about on these nicer days.

And this is Nell, Leucans mother, looking quite well filled out and still in her winter coat. The horses are just now starting to show signs losing their winter coats and soon it will be coming out in handfuls.

Not too much work done in the garden or the greenhouse the past week. Too cold. We are still boiling down maple sap but with the warmer days and nights forecast the sap low may soon end. Gardening work will start in earnest this week.

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March 20, 2017 FARM NEWS

The usual garden view at noon today. Looking pretty drab and not too spring like. and old and wet today.

As you may have  noticed winter returned last week. Our lane way got impassable for a while and still is for a few hours when the ground thaws in the sunshine. There is not any frost in the ground though so that is a good thing.

Three of our horses. just hanging out. they have not had to do any work for a while now but anytime soon we’ll need them on the garden cultivator.

More lambs have been born but a young ewe died in lambing. No lamb either. She had hemorrhaged while beginning the birth but could not finish pushing the lamb out. We very seldom lose a ewe in lambing. It is almost always a lamb that dies shortly after birth and usually because it does not get enough mother’s milk soon enough.

This is Nugget, our Ameracauna rooster. Ameracauna hens lay a green/blue egg and we have some day old chicks on order from Performance Poultry, arriving at the end of April.

A Barnevelder Rooster who delights in chasing Nugget.

The chickens and ducks were off their lay just a little bit seeming to be reacting to the cold uncomfortable weather though the one lot of hens, the ISA, were laying better during the earlier, much colder, even more uncomfortable weather.  Our Leghorn hens were unfazed by the weather though as they laid one egg a day each for 6 days and the 7th day one hen took the day off and we only got 8 eggs. When the weather is nice, either above freezing or no wind or a moderate wind and sunny, then the door is opened and most of the hens spend a good part of their day outside. The ducks will go outside every day no matter what is happening but if it is really bad they too will go back in for most of the time.

A Buff Orpington hen duck. we have more ducks on order too and they arrive here about April 21.

Our Red Silkie rooster strutting around all by hisself far from the rest of the flock.

The sap bucket is hanging from a spile on the sugar maple tree beside our house.

Nothing at all done in the way of gardening this past week.  We should get more seeds and do more preparation work but it seems that we found too many other pressing things to do and gathering maple and walnut sap and making syrup has taken a lot of time.  The sap was not running for most of the week but we managed to catch up on our backlog of stored sap. Boiling down on the top of our woodstove is slower than using the apparatus especially designed for the job.  But a sap evaporator costs a bit more money which we don’t yet have.  Maybe for next season.  It seems that the sap run will go for a while yet according to the weather forecasts. Household repairs were at the forefront this week too and the major project of rebuilding our electric range top has now been finished and is ready for the hot season when we will not be running the wood stove.  Repairing the facia at the back of our house and evicting the nesting birds is another high priority thing to get done.

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