March 19 FARM NEWS AND HAPPENINGS


The usual Monday morning view of the garden. A brilliant sunny morning too.

Just a random shot out over the north facing slope still with a good bit of snow in the shadow and the woods on the other side of the road. This 25 acre parcel has come up for sale and we are trying to think of how we can rescue this bit from development. Two arable fields at the top and 6 or 7 acres of wooded land.

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REMINDER THAT WE ARE NOW TAKING MEMBERSHIPS IN THE VEGETABLE COMMUNITY SHARED AGRICULTURE (CSA) PROGRAM FOR THE 2018 SEASON. LOOK AT THIS WEBSITE’S “OUR CSA PROGRAM” PAGE ON THE MENU BANNER FOR MORE INFORMATION AND CONTACT US AS SOON AS YOU CAN OR IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS.

The weather this week was a small set back for us as the cold, below freezing nights and the around or slightly over the freezing mark days means a lot of slick with mud surfaces and keeps us from doing much at all in the garden. We would like to finish up a lot of the preparatory work for spring planting and seeding. If the soil is dried out enough we can mark out grooves in which to later sow seeds and place transplants into. We would also like to put in place as much straw mulch as we can.

Leucan, foreground and his mother Nell, just soaking up the warm morning sun.

We did manage to spend more time on preparing our hotbeds but that has moved along a little more slowly than we’d like. There is a lot of work involved. We have brought most of the manure and straw for the beds up from the barn. That was a major effort. The manure should be uniformly wetted, piled and left for three days, replied and wetted were needed and left for another days and the procedure repeated once more. This gets the straw and manure mixed together somewhat evenly, breaks up clumps, brings in air and gets the bacteria really reproducing and eating and thus generating a lot of heat. That is the ideal method and the preferred but we have just done a single re-pile and wetting and will do it only one more time when we have the outer retaining boards in place. Once we have that done we’ll cover the whole with glass and have blankets also on hand to cover up over night to retain heat if we think it needed. The hotbed will eventually be four feet wide and over twenty feet long and we can add to the length anytime it seems necessary.

Looks a real mess, and it is, but this is our hotbed under construction. A 3/4 front view.

End view of the 4 foot wide hotbed under construction with a couple of retaining boards in place.

The animals continue to flourish and the last few lambs were born. No new calf yet. Horses do like the nice warm sunny days and so, of course do all the chickens. The chickens and the ducks continue to lay well and the lay rate continues to increase. So much so that we are considering soon to send the older flock along with the extra roosters, to ENS Poultry Processors near Elora for slaughter. So we will then have a bunch of end of lay hens for soup chicken and some year old roosters as roasters. These will not be the usual young roasters and will best be appreciated by our friends from Nepal and India who prefer this age and size of chicken for meat.

A ewe and her lamb in the out door area. She bolted back inside just after I got this photo.

The ewes with their lambs are ok at the entrance but arenot about to come outside while I’m there

Feeding time is any time you’re hungry. When you are a lamb.

Wednesday is the 21st, the first day of spring, the vernal equinox where we have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours when we don’t. From the 22nd onwards then we will have of course gradually increasing day length. More hours, potentially, barring excessive cloud, of sunshine. The migratory birds will soon be here in large numbers. Barn swallows in about another 30 days, Killdeers anytime now, various birds of the northern forest on their way through. Robins have been heard and seen, Trumpeter Swans are mostly passed through. I saw a flock of geese passing over head this morning on a compass heading of about due north. Not sure who they were but think maybe Cackling goose. The local Canada geese have begun flying in pairs over the last week or sow so they will likely be setting on eggs soon. Many signs of eminent spring.

Some of the main flock of laying hens out foraging in the trees. a bit of shelter from the light but cold wind and still in some nice sunshine.

The ducks on the waddle to inspect the garden for tasty morsels.

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March 12, 2018 FARM HAPPENINGS


The usual Monday morning view on a gloomy this morning.

The usual garden view in the snowstorm last week

The weather has more or less stayed the same for about the last two weeks. Up around or above freezing during the day with some days quite nice, warm and sunny but temperatures well below freezing overnight. But it still has been good for us as, except for a muddy driveway which occasionally is impassable, there has not been too much snow to slog through and the cold is not so bitterly deep. And the daylight, the day length, is now much longer.

The horses in last week’s snow

Everything is going along much as before. Horses still I the same spot wishing the grass would grow. Cows are inside for now, no new calves. Sheep too and many lambs have been dropped. Aerron has been quite busy cleaning out the barn as well as looking after the new lambs. When the lambs are born the mother ewe is sheared on the belly so the lamb can easily nurse. Aerron also separates the ewe and lamb from the rest of the flock for a few days so as the lamb will have a good unimpeded start.

Ducks at the snow bound duck pond

The duck herd/flock this morning. Not nearly so much snow today.

A sink full of eggs, freshly washed, the whites are Leghorn eggs, the ivory are duck

The chickens are doing just fine and the egg lay rate has come up quite nicely though the specialty birds are somewhat lower.

Some of the fancy chickens where there are far too many roosters.

A whiting True Blue rooster

A nudder hansum dude.

A Buff Orpington rooster

Blackbeard !

A Buff Orpington rooster. Same photo as above. Though I try, I cannot get rid of the repeated photo. WordPress is strange sometimes!

A really nice looking Buff Brahma rooster.

We have started a hotbed hallway between the house and the barn as a place to germinate vegetable seeds. So far just a squared off pile of manure and straw but which will be framed with boards and covered with glass and have straw piled along the sides for insulation. It is about three feet deep, 4 foot across and initially about 6 feet long but will probably end up to be about 20 feet long. It is already heating and it has not been turned or completely wetted through. Lots of work to do there yet. The manure is wheel-barrowed up hill from the barn so that in itself is a lot of work.

The start of the hotbed, about 12 feet long now and 4 feet wide.

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March 5, 2018 FARM NEWS


The usual garden view. Still snow around from Thursday and lots of mud but a garden otherwise little changed over the past three months.

The muddy laneway is looking a little like it did last week. The mud is not deep if driven on but the lane way does get pretty carved up and it is doubtful if a car would get up this rise. Likely just spinning the drive wheels as the car bogs down.

Monday last, the 26th of February, was a fine day. Sunshine, a light breeze and reasonably warm at about +4º C. The laneway is still a bit muddy so we are not using it. Just one trip in partway to move some wood. Had to get the car repaired. New brake pads and disc on the left rear as the older pad had split and jammed. New parts on the front suspension also on the driver’s side. Car now has no rattles at the front end and no more quirky feeling in the steering. New lamb born late this afternoon. Doing ok so far. Monday was also the first day for sightings of flocks of Tundra Swans on their migration route. Three separate flocks were seen and since then flocks having been going over every day. We think that it is a little earlier than in previous years. A golden eagle was sighted a few miles west of us a day ago. We would really have liked to have seen that. No swans sighted since Friday.

Nell and Marta and Leucan in the far background are certainly happy for the sunshine. The horses have just started to shed their hair. Not much yet but in another month will becoming off in fistfuls as they are scratched.

I searched for some new sprouted green something but the best I could come up with was a bit of grass and periwinkle I think it is, growing near the wall and this in a sunny sheltered spot.

The garden and lane were drying up nicely until the snow dump of Thursday evening last. Now back to overnight frozen ground and muddy afternoons. Spring has been delayed. The sun the past few days has been quite good though and it does make it easier for us to go about doing our usual daily chores. Everyone is happier for this. Chickens, ducks, peafowl, sheep, cows and horses. And yes, dog and cats too.

Our only Silkie chicken, a red roster. We started out with about a dozen Silkies total, hens and roosters but over the course of two years they qietly disappeared. We saw none leave and we strongly suspect a hawk that would hang around a get the chickens all worked up or possibly an owl early in the evening. The hawks don’t usually take the larger birds though.

A three year old Black Copper Marans rooster. He is a pretty good looking bird except the feathering that should be on his feet and legs has nearly all disappeared. He is at least twice the size of the Silkie.

We will start seeding into the veggie starting trays very soon now. We do have to be a bit careful as our seed growing area is not that warm, we have to provide supplemental heat for germinating, and our greenhouse is unheated but we can keep it just above freezing at this time of year.

This Plymouth Barred Rock rooster , with his two hens, is larger still. He is also a very good example and we hope to save and hatch eggs from these two hens. They too are all three years old and so are good hardy birds and the offspring should mostly inherit this.

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February 26, 2018 FARM NEWS


The snow is all gone and the ground is even starting to dry. Almost ok to go out and walk around doing work.

The muddy laneway is slowly improving. Drove in today but some parts were still frozen.

The flooding Grand River did not affect us at all since even though we are only a little over a quarter mile from the river, we are about 80 feet, maybe more, above the river. We were pretty wet from the rain and the lane way has been too muddy to use, but this has been but a minor inconvenience to us. We did not have silt laden river water pouring into our houses. We did not have to evacuate and endure hours not knowing how things would turn out. We did not have to worry if a dike might fail or be topped allowing flood waters to possibly sweep our houses away. In Cambridge, Brantford, Chatham and other communities along swollen southern Ontario rivers, some flooding did occur, and though serious, it came very close to being much worse.

We are now moving into the last part of February, the last part of winter. We are very likely to have a good bit of wintry weather ahead before spring does finally claim it’s hold on the land but very little more of the real bitter cold weather and deep blowing snow. It is now more like a snow fall today and mostly gone by afternoon or the next day at the latest. We can almost get out into the garden again and continue the work abandoned late last fall as the winter settled in. We will be able to spread manure and compost on the garden beds and to spread thick straw mulch to hold moisture and keep the weeds from germinating. In a day or two we will be doing this garden work and soon, once the frost is well out of the ground a heavy rainfall will keep us out only for that day. We are on deep sand do we are well drained and can always get on to the land much earlier than if we had a clay base.

Two of the Leghorn hens. Looking a little scruffy still but they were worse looking earlier, probably in a molt.

The Leghorn hen beside the Plymouth Barred Rock rooster. The dark bird is a Marans hen and the red-brown hens are the ISA hybrids.

The chickens are increasing their lay rate gradually and the ducks have again started to lay eggs. They stopped laying the last day of December and started again on February 19. They had near 7 week winter holiday. The flock is only laying 2, and just today three eggs, each day but we expect that by mid march we will once more be getting nearly two dozen eggs a day from them. They are excellent layers. The Leghorn hens are over two years old now but have started laying at the good rate of 5 eggs daily from 7 birds. That is a better lay rate than any other of the breeds of chicken that we have. The Leghorn eggs are almost always large to extra large sized with good strong shells and excellent interior quality and of consistent nice shape too. They are white eggs though and most of our layers are of shades of brown varying from lightly tinted eggs through different hues of pink, terra cotta and rich red-brown to the Marans hen’s dark chocolate colours, but we also have a good number of hens laying good quality blue, green and green-blue eggs. We can often put together a very colourful carton of eggs.

The 3 week old calf with his mother behind.

A calf portrait

Horses, cows and sheep are much liking this milder weather and will soon be getting very anxious to get out on nice fresh green grass. It will likely be well into May before the pastures are ready for grazing. The new calf is now over a month old and another will be here soon. Lambs have also been born over the last week or so and it is very good for them that the weather has been so mild. We are all getting really anxious to have an early spring.

This lamb is about three weeks old now.

With his mother.

Three lambs with three mothers. The ewe in the centre is not panting but is just bleating.

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February 19, 2018 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning view. Still a good lot of snow on the garden. The anticipated rain has not yet come.

The weather is becoming a little more spring like though there have been a few really cold nights, down to -17 one night, -15 another, but one day had a high of almost 6.  We are into the last half of February so although the next two weeks could be cold we may well be over the worst of winter. Next week is forecast to be mild with some overnights staying above freezing and no nights below -5.

Ducks doing there thing. Wandering out a little more now with the better weather.

Two Barnevelder roosters, Whiting True Blue hen in front with a Black Australorp hen behind.

The melting snow along with a bit of rain made for small streams of water running through the fields. Not so much yet and probably just over half the snow has gone but the laneway is often too muddy to use. Still a good blanket of snow on the garden which is good and it is still too early to do any garden work. The snow seems likely to all be melted away over the next week. It will then be too muddy for a while depending on the amount and of the combinations of sunshine, rainfall, temperature and snow. Likely we will be able to do more garden preparation beginning with the first week or so in March. Much to be done there.

Silver Laced Wyandotte hen

Another Whiting True Blue hen. The plumage colours are quite variable.

Ameracauna Rooster and behind is a Black Australorp rooster

The chickens are laying a little better the last couple of days. Egg production seems directly related to the chicken’s comfort. When it is sunny and around the freezing mark the chickens can poke around outside especially if there is some ground with no snow and the winds are nil to light. The chickens are quite comfortable and happy and egg production increases. Happy comfy hens lay much better.

A dozing Nell.

Leucan was dozing until I came along.

Everyone likes to be able to stand around soaking up warm sunshine, chickens, ducks, sheep , cows and horses. They will all be at their happiest when they can once more graze on new grown pasture, with all the insects buzzing.

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February 12, 2018 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view. Under a heavy blanket of snow with a thin crust of ice.

The hut with the red sex link hens and the Barnevelder chickens. They are not coming out in spite of the sun. Maybe a little later.

If you have been considering being a part of our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program then read our website page  “Our CSA Program”. This is the time when we are doing our most to plan the vegetable garden for the coming season and need to know as soon as we can how many CSA members we will be growing for. Contact us by e-mail as soon as you can.

The three work horses

The biggest event this week was the self re-positioning of our stallion Leucan.  Since the summer he has been pastured separately from the two mares, along with the old mare until she died late summer. His pasture was within sight of the mares pasture but not immediately adjacent. This allowed him to be able to see them but allowed us to pull out the two mares without having to deal with him. The miniature horse and the donkey are pastured far enough away that Leucan cannot see them but the two mares can. Tuesday morning early the miniature horse leaned over a low section of his fence and went over entirely. If he was to have explained it he would have said that he was merely leaning over to examine something when he accidently fell over. We are not sure what exactly happened so we’ll accept his explanation. I first became aware of it when I heard, from my spot in the house, Leucan calling and saw him racing about his pasture. Rushing outside to check on the suspect cause, the two mares, I saw them also racing about their pasture and the mini horse running about in there too. The little guy would get chased by the much larger Belgian mares. It took a little doing but shortly we nabbed the mini and led him back to his paddock and secured the fence where he went over. Everything seemed fine but the mares were still a little too excited and Leucan was way too excited and later in the day was running about the mares pasture and soon got in with them. We got him out and left him in a small paddock alongside the mares. He soon broke wires on the pastures and he ended up way off and the mares over near the mini. This happened a couple of times as the mares wre none too keen on having him with them. We eventually established Leucan in with the mares who after a day stopped chasing him about and generally accepted them in their space though he was chased off piles of hay and would often move to another . Four piles of hay widely separated in the pasture solved that problem and by Sunday things were calmer and a new normal is in place. The good thing about this is that perhaps he will breed the two mares come spring time and that will be a good thing, just what we want.

the miniature horse Georgio where he belongs.

Otherwise the week was more of the usual. Splitting and burning fire wood takes a lot of time each day. The other major chore is looking after all the animals. No new lambs yet so that has not compounded things but the recent snow falls are making getting around a little slower and needing more effort. We had to shovel a lot of snow to keep the drive way clear as well. Three times already. The chickens are still not laying near as well as we’d expect and though they had been increasing their lay rate for a couple of weeks they have now stopped that increase. The egg laying seems to be directly linked to the temperature, the amount of sunshine and the winds. This means that the chickens egg lay rate is directly related to their comfort and happiness. Chickens are comfortable and happy when the temperature gets above or close to zero Celsius and are even more happy and comfortable when their is a lot of sunshine and no wind. They seem to need all three things in combination. One further aspect of their surroundings that affects egg laying is snow. A lot of snow keeps them from going too far from their doors but when there is no snow or they can access some bare ground then hens are out scratching and searching for food and are then of course happier still. So the chickens, just like us, are now really looking forward to the end of winter and the coming of spring.

A blue Cochin rooster testing the cold morning snow

A Whiting True Blue rooster with a Buckeye hen facing him. The Buckeye chicken, along with the Chantecler is the most winter hardy of the chicken breeds.

We have been researching the feeding of laying hens for small flocks and for sustainability and organic production. This means developing sources of alternative feeds and cultivating various forage plants in the chicken pastures that have specific nutritional benefits for the hens. This means we need to be sure that our hens have enough amino acids, vitamins and minerals crude fibre and protein and whatever else is needed for them to be able to maintain themselves and lay a lot of eggs. The numbers have been very well known for about a century and the sources for all this as well. it is a matter of sorting it all out to apply to our situation; our management style, our growing conditions and the climate. we’ll also have to be watchful of how a changing climate may make the growing of some things to be difficult or impossible.

 

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February 5, 2018 FARM NEWS


The usual Monday morning garden view taken around the noon hour. Nice sunshine, a few centimetres of snow and cold.

A very nice looking ISA hen well into her second year, coming up to her third in April, likely laying good, nice feathers, well covered, clean undamaged comb and wattles, bright eye, good conformation.

Romeo, our peacock. He could not keep his head still so getting his photo was tricky.

We completed and sent off our order for day old chicks from Performance Poultry of

This one is for others to figure out and caption.

Carrying Place Ontario. Carrying Place is a little spot just west of Trenton. We will be getting breeds with exotic sounding names such as Exchequer Leghorn, Blue Andalusian, Spangled Russian Orloff, Salmon Faverolle, as well as more mundane names such as Ancona, Delaware, and Red Caps. The chicken breeds we are getting originated in the U.S., Italy, Spain, Russia (or perhaps Iran), England and in Canada. The Canadian chicken breed is the Partridge Chantecler which was bred in Alberta and admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1935. It was bred to be similar to Brother Wilfred’s original White Chanteclers accepted to the APA’s standard in 1921. The Partridge Chantecler originally was to be called the Albertan and the partridge colour was bred in so as to be less conspicuous when ranged in the open. We are acquiring small amounts of these various breeds because we are looking for a chicken that can do well under our conditions and  management and will lay in excess of 200 eggs per hen per year, preferably closer to 300 and will have a good weight and good quality meat as a roasting fowl at the end of the lay. We are wanting a hen that will continue to lay well in the second or even third year, at least for 500 days. The first season should have a lay, as mentioned, of from 200 to 300 eggs per hen per year and in the second season should be around 150 eggs per year. We would like to see something like a 95 % lay rate at age 25 weeks declining to about 75 to 80 % after 70 weeks and perhaps 50 or 60 % by about week 120. Chickens begin to lay eggs at about 21 weeks. To obtain what we want will require a lot of careful record keeping and careful breeding. This is work enough when one is working with a single breed so the work is multiplied when we have several breeds. We will rapidly eliminate most of the breeds within a year or so and the work will then be a lot less onerous.

A Marans rooster. Slight frost bite to his comb but it still is quite impressive.

This Barred Plymouth Rock rooster was hatched here and is also quite impressive.

We are still working on our seed lists and will have to start getting together our planting soil and our seed trays and when the weather, at least the temperature improves to above the freezing, then we will also have to finish equipment repairs that were not completed in the fall. We need to finish buildings as well; our CSA pickup shed, a toolshed, possibly the woodshed, more small chicken houses, repairs to our dwellings and more. Seeding into the wooden trays will begin in March, the actual date depending on the weather. Planting and seeding directly into the garden is very much weather dependent but some things can tolerate poor conditions. Poor conditions for seeding include cool temperatures, cool and wet soil and not much sun.

This is the initial frame for our veggie shed. It is barely begun. A lot more work has to be done come spring.

The laying flock and the ducks are faring quite well as the days continue to lengthen and we get some warmish (around the freezing mark) temperatures. They will come outside if it is sunny and warm but don’t like cloudy and cold or if the wind is blowing.  They also wander a lot farther when their is no snow. They do like to scratch and poke around looking for interesting tidbits of food.

The red-brown hens are the ISA hybrids and the white hens are the Leghorn breed. They are up to the south facing wall as when the sun is shining bright like this it does get nice and warm there.

Horses, cows and sheep are doing just fine. No lambs have arrived yet but are due soon, as is another calf. We have not had a time to work the horses at all since the early fall. We really should take the time to harness them soon and get them gradually used to working so that when we need work done they will not be a problem for us.

Nell and Marta standing soaking up the sun at opposite sides of the pasture.

Still busy each day splitting firewood and keeping the stove going nice and hot. We have a lot of wood still not yet in the shed but what we do have in the shed should keep us until the end of the heating season which, though, can run until into May if the spring is cool.

 

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