Friday, January 31, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Girls

I forgot to write about our new hens! These girls are "hyline browns" and they're just over 3 months old. This means we should have 2 dozen eggs a day once everyone is laying this summer! We ordered 6 pullets...and..I'll let you count and guess why we now have one called "Freebie". 

They were raised in a barn and when they were first let outside, they just stood around looking all shocked. We're now in week 3 and they're finally livening up and running around.

We also have 2 more now additions! Well, the farm does - we just pet them and feed them. This is Lady and her man-friend hidden behind her is Diego. 

The two pregger cows went to their owner's property to calve. I wanted to see the calves here! Oh well, we'll have to go visit. Here they are getting used to the turns out that calling them into a smaller paddock with grain worked better than chasing them. Who woulda thought?? ;) 
(picture 3 men chasing a cow for an hour around 5 acres...and then the next day 1 girl with her bucket of grain catching both cows on her own...brilliant work, I tell you). 

Chickens: trailer trained. Except that when the cows were finally locked into the trailer, Speckles had to be rescued since she ended up inside too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Life is Good!

We have officially entered the 21st century.

This, my friends, is a dishwasher. You may have seen or even used one of these before. We spent a good 10 minutes watching it do its magical work yesterday, in awe.

Goats don't care. Goats just wanna cuddle in the sun, eat, and cuddle some more.

Friday, January 17, 2014

January Chores

We've gotten into an easy routine with our winter chores. First, let the chickens out, fill their feeder and check their water. This morning I had to dust them before letting them out since we found mites on Zebra Head. He and his two favourite fat ladies sleep on the floor of the coop for some reason (there is plenty of roosting space!) so I think that might be why the three of them have a lot more mites than the others. I dusted as many as possible but we'll go more for control of the mites than eradication.

Dorothy is pissed off about being grabbed and dusted this morning.

Next, put the chicken feeder in the goat yard, give the goats some grain and lock them out of their barn/yard and onto the rest of the farm. That's the easiest way that we've figured out to keep the goats out of the chicken food. The chickens can easily get under the gate into the goat yard to eat. We dragged the summer sheep shelter into the middle of the farm so that the goats have shelter if they want it during the day. 

Then feed the horses and cows their 2 bales of hay and check their water. The goats and chickens like to help with this part.

After that, it's time for a quick egg hunt. The chickens each seem to have their favourite nesting spots, and most of them are deep in the hay....except for Squishy, who first goes up on a wooden shelf in the goat barn and knocks everything off of it in a frantic nesting attempt, and then runs to her good old toolbox (she has to fly over a 5' wall to get there) to lay an egg in a pile of screws and nails. She is a strange one.

Magpie's secret nest. This looks like a better spot than a toolbox.

Then the sheep get their hay and grain (which they remind you about wanting the entire time you're doing other chores). Thomas tries to push the girls out of the grain tray but Oprah has a technique of eating the grain while lying on her knees to keep him from pushing her away. Zeb needs his own dish because he's a gentleman.

That usually takes about half an hour, and after almost 10 months here doing the chores is still enjoyable. 

When I was done that this morning I went to cover the quarter of the orchard bed with plastic. Our landlord wasn't a big fan of us doing the lasagna method of preparing the beds because it uses newspaper as a ground cover, which I guess can be bad. I didn't read about it, I just took his word for it. So instead we're using cardboard on the soil with a layer of animal bedding on top, and then covered to help speed up the decomposition of the hay. I think we'll just use that quarter as a test patch and not bother with the cardboard on the rest of the bed. I'm curious to see how much it helps to cut back on weeds.

This is how the soil looks underneath the cardboard and hay. That's a lot of roots....and that means a lot of weeds...

Saturday, January 11, 2014


No news is good news around here! All animals are alive and well and we haven't seen that hawk around...and yes, we're still knocking on wood. We have almost all the maples tapped and we're doing a few more tomorrow. We probably have around 15 L frozen (sap has to be frozen or boiled down after a few days or it goes 'off'). We have learned to not buy any buckets from the dollar store. I went to pour 10 L of sap into a jug and the entire bucket cracked and the sap poured onto the ground :( Today we checked out a maple syrup farm nearby. They were so nice and helpful (we thought they might want to guard their maple syrup secrets) and we got some better ideas for how to tap the trees. We're going to put multiple taps in the bigger trees and drill smaller holes to start. Apparently after about a month the trees will heal the hole that you've drilled so you have to drill a slightly bigger hole and put a new tap in. 

Our plan for today had been to work on preparing the future veggie patch in the orchard. It has been tilled in but I'd like to try the 'lasagna' method of preparing it from now on. It's basically what we did with our little outdoor garden bed last year...but on the large scale. We'll put a layer of feed bags or cardboard or newspaper down over the whole area, and then a bunch of manure/compost/animal bedding and then a layer of mulch and straw. Apparently this does amazing things for the soil as it all decomposes. More importantly, though - less weeds!! Having less weeds than last year would be amazing. I can't even imagine tackling that many weeds in an area as big as we'll have in the orchard. It would be impossible.

The reason we didn't get out there to work was because of the big wind and rain storm last night. It continued pouring all day and the farm was a mess this morning! The path down the centre of the greenhouse was flooded with about 6" of water and most of the fields are halfway to becoming lakes. The chickens were not impressed - they look so funny with their scraggly, windblown feathers and they spent most of their day complaining from inside the coop. The goats didn't even want to come out of the barn at all. They lay on their hay stack all cuddled up ...but were still happy to eat the pine branches that I offered them. 

Some of the chickens prefer to drink out of the dish instead of their waterer.

We're starting to get more eggs again! For the last 2 months we've been down to 3-4 a day but now we seem to be up to 6 or so. 

The main man himself.

We let the girls back out of the greenhouse. They kept trying to escape - I guess they like the risky life. Just stay away from hawks, Speckles!

Nathan finished both the brooder and the chicken tractor for our future broiler chickens. We're thinking of starting in mid March, when the nights aren't as cold anymore (they'll live in the greenhouse with a heat lamp). We'll try 50 broilers and see how we do. We've had a lot of interest so far in pasture raised chickens.

We'd also like to add 6 or so more laying hens (since out of those 6 chicks we got in July we ended up with just one hen, Gus). Oh, and pigs are definitely coming - 4 Berkshires in the spring. So much planning to do! We'd better start looking through the seed catalogues...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Maple Syrup

We ended up with about 7 L of sap today! Some of the trees that we tapped literally sprayed sap out as soon as we drilled the hole. 

This is what we started with - looks just like water.

Halfway through - starting to become darker and sweeter.

And the finished product! Not very much syrup...but it's so so tasty! Next time we'll wait until we've collected more and then boil it outside on the fire. 

Get Tapping!

We tapped a big leaf maple tree a few days ago to see how much sap we can get (it only has to be boiled down by 50 to get maple syrup...). The last two nights have been very frosty and yesterday afternoon and today will be warm and sunny, which are apparently ideal conditions for sap to flow. 

Our very simple and inexpensive setup: a polypipe joiner, a short length of plastic tubing, a freezer-size ziploc bag to collect the sap, a grocery bag and a nail to hang the outer bag on. 

We checked it this morning and the ziploc is about a third full! I guess we're well on our way to....a teaspoon of syrup! It's a start :) We're going to tap a few more today.

The goats like to help us with everything. They stick closer to us on walks around the property than the dogs do!

No signs of the hawk around, tap on wood. Maybe Hawksley the scarecrow is helping - Ryan and Abby are still convinced he is real... Ryan hangs out next to him and nudges his wooden arm occasionally.