Friday, June 28, 2013

Gimme Shelter

Some photos of our locally produced dinner:

Last night's wraps had tomatoes, too. They're delicious - so sweet.

Nathan built the sheep a shelter to replace the temporary tarp that I'd put up. He claimed that it would be "at least twice as wide" as the current shelter.


He made it all nice and cozy for them by taking a non-proverbial roll in the bedding hay.

The sheep were very suspicious at first, but this morning they were all lying down in their new shelter.

New ewe still needs a name! We should probably come up with one today before our big group of weekend guests arrive...we don't want to end up with another "Ewean" or "Eweniqua" situation.

Ewean, who was originally the shyer lamb, now comes running over to me for scratches. 

Another day, another dead fish. We don't know what's going on; the water tests are all normal. 
This little guy survived in the quarantine bucket for another few hours after I found him on his side.

Ryan is still being weird. He has tried to climb into bed with us the last two nights (he never does that), and lies there panting, then runs off to sleep in his crate. He wants to be touching me at all times - including trying to climb through the greenhouse beds to sit against my legs. When I tried to get him to go outside before bed last night he jumped on Nathan's lap, shoved his head under Nathan's chin and hid.  He's eating normally and is full of energy. He got shocked by the fence two days ago - maybe it really freaked him out...or scrambled his brain.

He never puts himself under the covers. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farm Fare

We had our first fully farm produced meal a few nights ago! The roasted chicken was delicious and went perfectly with steamed broccoli, baked green beans and a big salad. We also ate the first few cherry tomatoes, sweet peas and raspberries this week.

I'm spending my morning tagging along with Fred, touring the town. The animals seemed to sense I was leaving for a few they all started having issues, of course. Ryan has an upset stomach or something - he wouldn't settle down all night and was panting a lot this morning. Another fish is dead even though ph, nitrites and ammonia levels all seem fine, and Denise seemed to be having a lot of trouble laying an egg this morning. Fingers crossed everyone is sorted out when I get home. Except the's too late for him, unfortunately!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Death on the Farm

Just as I was sitting down to write about the chicken slaughter, the power went out. I called hydro and they don't know why - they're working on it - but it means that the pump in the aquaponics turned off (so the water isn't getting oxygenated). I rushed outside after calling Nathan but one of the fish was already dead. Now the generator is on and the pump is plugged in. That fish was the first accidental farm death - pretty good considering we have (had) 17 chickens, 58 fish, 4 sheep and a llama.

I was going to comfort myself by baking a cookie with the dough in the fridge but the oven has no power (duh). I really hope the power comes back so that all of our labour from yesterday isn't wasted in the fridge and freezer.

An hour later and the power is back!

We did it: Our first chicken slaughter and butchering is complete. We killed our two biggest meat roosters and our landlord's buff roosters. I didn't actually feel as sad as I expected to - we killed the roosters quickly and it has been in my head since before they arrived that they are for meat. Tomorrow night we'll see how our free range, 'happy' chicken tastes. They ended up being over 4 lbs each at 12.5 weeks. We learned a few things during the butchering experience:

1 - when you're killing the chickens and dealing with the post-death convulsions, you'll probably get blood sprayed on you no matter how careful you are. Make sure you wash that blood off of your light blue t-shirt (..and face..) before you rush into the house to get the pot of hot water...where your visiting parents are eating their breakfast and pretending that slaughter 101 isn't happening outside.

2 - also pertaining to visiting parents, when you choose a location to perform the slaughter you should worry more about whether they can see you from the dining table than whether your other chickens can see you. Your other chickens won't notice. Your parents will.

3 - when you scald the chicken to make plucking easier, you actually need to keep the water at scalding temperature. Any cooler and plucking is extremely difficult and time consuming. The skin tears, the feathers break and you end up with a porcupine chicken.

4 - you will spend a lot of time bent over and plucking feathers so your table should be at a comfortable height for doing so...otherwise you end up hobbling around rubbing your back for the rest of the day.

5 - when you're poking and prodding the chicken trying to get all of the feathers out, any pressure on the carcass will agitate the vocal cords and cause the chicken to 'squawk' in a very disconcerting way through it's headless neck. The internet tutorials never mentioned that...

6 - when you grin at your boyfriend as you're wrist-deep, eviscerating a chicken and say "I'm actually having a lot of fun!" he may look at you strangely.

7 - don't freeze the chickens as soon as you're done...they'll be in rigor mortis. Not only will they be extremely difficult/impossible to fit in to freezer bags, the meat will also apparently end up tough. You're supposed to let them 'rest' in the fridge for 2 days. Oops. We will have to let the one that we froze 'rest' when it's thawed prior to roasting.

Abby and Ryan were happy to eat their share - the feet, kidneys, livers and hearts. I accidentally threw the gizzards away with the intestines. Lucy wanted nothing to do with the meat. If you look carefully here you can see Abby under the table with a chicken foot in her mouth.

Working at our too-low table.

Bagged and ready for the freezer (should have been the fridge). 

All in all the process went smoothly and I really am excited to taste this chicken.

Clearly the hens weren't too traumatized by the morning's events. They were very involved in helping Nathan jump start the mower. After a dead battery, a dead battery charger, no gas, a hidden 'safety' switch that was on, and an equal number of things wrong with the weed wacker, we finally got the lawn mowed.

Look - the first aquaponics cucumbers! Speaking of cucumbers, the pickled cukes are delicious - very garlicky and vinegary which I love.

The greenhouse is becoming a jungle.

Today I'm going to make Thomas a halter. He really enjoyed being brushed yesterday and wasn't interested in ramming me. I'm not sure if it was because of the brushing or because he only goes after testosterone...

I think Mother Clucker is looking in the wrong place for her new man. The worst part of the whole chicken slaughter was that we took Buff away from the hens. Maybe they'll choose one of the other roosters instead.

Yesterday was Ryan's first successful time moving the ewes! We let them out into a larger paddock behind the one they're in now, and after they'd grazed for 20 minutes or so I went in with Ryan and sent him out. He went around them and pushed them back through to their original paddock. Good boy! He lay down when asked and he was relatively calm (no barking, at least, and his tail was down) about it. 

Lucy went home with my parents but before she did, she had one last hurrah....chasing Zeb all over the place. That poor "guardian" llama looked like he couldn't believe he was running from an 8 lb terrier. Back and forth across the field they went until we finally got Lucy back...I guess she's feeling better after her toxic plant mishap!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Preserving: the Beginning

The farm stand is selling veggies steadily now - not very much, but at least a few things sell every day. Kale is the biggest seller - more than bagged baby greens, cucumbers or lettuce. Herbs seem to sell fairly consistently, especially after I started cutting them nicely and putting them in little bags with a damp paper towel to keep them fresh. Oh, and zucchini - it sells out every time it's out there. I didn't plant very many since I heard over and over about the beginner gardener who ends up having to give away bucket loads of zucchini. We only have 3 plants now and I wish I'd planted double that. It does take up a ton of room in the garden though. 

What we are overloaded with at the moment is cucumbers! They don't stay crisp for very long so yesterday I tried making refrigerator pickles for the first time. It was pretty easy, so hopefully they taste good. I just added dill (the flowering heads apparently taste the best for pickles), garlic, onion, pepper flakes, apple cider vinegar, salt and water - enough to cover the cucumber slices. These are slicing cucumbers and not pickling cucumbers so they might not end up as crispy.

With the less crispy cucumbers I'm making relish. So far I just chopped the cucumbers up (in my fancy new food processor) with some onion and the green mush is in the fridge with salt mixed in to draw out the moisture.

Tomatoes are ripening!

Yellow cherry tomatoes - they're neon yellow right now.

Good thing I love beans! They definitely need to be picked every day - the few that I missed yesterday got huge and tough. 

Yum - baked with soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic is definitely my favourite way to eat beans.

I shamelessly use baking to lure people to the farm stand...except Nathan and I ended up eating 99% of these ginger cookies.

I've been working on halter training Oprah and Thomas (through the fence). So far, so good - I can put loops of rope around their faces and heads while feeding them and they don't freak out. I'm going to make some halters this week. If Thomas is halter trained then at least he can be restrained if we have to check him closely for anything. We'll probably end up having to make a pen, too. 

The weekend is approaching quickly...survey your kingdom while you still can, mister...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thomas the Tank Engine

Yesterday while preparing for the evening arrival of the newcomers to the farm, I noticed that something wasn't right with Lucy. Normally she's full of energy and she likes to egg Abby and Ryan on to do this:

and this:

 Instead she was just lying down and she looked really out of it. When I realized that she couldn't stand up and was having muscle spasms, I rushed her to the vet. It seems that she has eaten some kind of toxic plant. We have no idea what, or if that's actually the cause, but the most important part is that she is better today than she was yesterday. Her pulse and temperature are back up to normal and she is interested in food. She's still at the clinic now (I brought her home last night to give her fluids here) and I'll go pick her up in a few hours. Poor little Lucy. 

Even with the Lucy illness we managed to get the fences, gate and shade shelter all ready for the farm's new arrival: Thomas the Ram!

He looks a bit different than photos of rams on Google images, but I guess this is just what Dorper x St. Croix rams look like.

Just kidding...we might use google for everything but we aren't *that* bad. That's Thomas' llama friend, Zeballos. He was sent along with Thomas since with his sheep friends gone (the woman who sold them to us sold her whole flock) he will be lonely. He could have lived with the woman's cattle but apparently they are too messy for him and he doesn't like to eat near them. Llamas choose one spot to defecate and then stick with that spot - they don't like to get dirty.  

This is Thomas the Tank Engine:

Like with any ram, he should never be trusted and you should never turn your back on him. His old owners told us that they only go in with him if they have to, and if they have their Border Collies with them, since he will respect the dogs.

As soon as they left - possibly before they'd even driven back through the gate, this happened:

That's Thomas, backing up to charge Nathan. The Border Collie is missing since he took one look at the ram, tucked his tail and ran off to go roll in some grass or something...maybe to eat some kale. Luckily Nathan is quick and he side stepped Thomas a few times before I sent in backup.

I think Abby will do a good job of keeping Thomas back if I go in to that paddock. When she went in there with Nathan and barked and circled Thomas he backed right off and stopped charging. 

Thomas demonstrating the "Flehmen response" when checking out his future ladies.

Thomas loves grain, too - but I'm only going to feed it to him through the fence. I don't want him to have any desire to approach me when I'm in the field with him. When he got impatient for more and started to ram the fence I walked away and came back when he had stopped. I *will* train this ram! You can see the new ewe in the background. She hasn't stopped calling for her lamb that was just weaned.

Handsome Thomas. Look at that mane! You can see that the lambs aren't exactly nervous anymore. I need to stop wearing flip flops in there since they get so eager they step all over my feet.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sneaky Veggies

I went to take some photos of the tiny bush beans that are finally growing 

 and when I looked more carefully I found these! Mmm green (and purple) beans with dinner - I like them baked in the oven for just a few minutes with sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. 

Then I was examining the cucumber plants to make sure that this wasn't happening again:

The cucumber on the right is a normal cucumber, off of one of our landlord's plants. The cucumber on the left is our first...and it was never a normal size. It started out growing that fat and when it didn't seem to be getting much longer or more normally shaped I picked it. It's on the stand right now but I'm guessing nobody will buy it so it will be sampled in our salad tonight. 

Anyway, I realized some of the vines needed to be tied up and when I did that, I found 8 beautiful cucumbers ready to be picked, completely hidden.

Just as I was writing this a lady drove up to the house to ask when we would have more eggs and to say she's been loving our veggies. We're only producing 4 eggs a day (...2 after we eat breakfast) until the chicks start laying in August.

I think we'll have some of our own chicken next week, though. These meat birds are getting huge. 

Don't worry, not you Dorothy.

These two boys will be the first to go. They're the biggest and they bite me when I top up their food.

Look at them next to Magpie!

I'm sure I'll feel sad after having raised them from chicks but at the same time, I know they couldn't have had a better life. Our friends Jess and Josh visited this weekend and they were laughing that the farm was like a chicken community center. The three separate groups come out of their coops in the morning and congregate in the same shady area every day, then they all split off to do their activities. Mother Clucker's morning activity still involves this guy:

He seemed to think my camera's shutter noise was a threat of some kind. Unfortunately, he isn't smart enough to realize that the neighbour's dog that got onto the farm and chased the hens was the real threat. He was off in the garage somewhere and did nothing to protect the girls (not that he could have done much). Luckily I grabbed the dog before any damage was done.

The sheep are getting so tame that taking photos of them is becoming difficult. I wanted some photos from far away of them in their paddock and I only managed to get this one.

The rest of the photos were "gimme some grain" close ups.

 Oprah lets me pet her now. Both lambs will coming running at full speed from anywhere when they're called and eat out of our hands. It's good that they're getting easier to handle since their ewe and ram buddies (and an extra surprise) arrive tomorrow!