Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brave New World

The little chicks have been moved to the winter coop.  They seemed a bit unsure of what to do with all that space!

Meanwhile, out in the turkey shack, the hens are hiding their eggs.  Not now girls!  I need another batch for the incubator!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's a Girl

The cows were all out in the back yard mowing down the lawn. Except Mindy. Mindy was missing. What mischief was she up to now? #1 went looking for her.  He found this.
That little brown spot in the trees.
 Cute, isn't she?
 Following mama.
 Out of the trees.
 Up by the barn.  Finally, she gets some milk!

She was probably born on Sunday morning.  Mindy appears to be mothering well.  Baby is small, but walking and nursing well.

So- Mindy calved in June this year.  I think that cow is determined to drive me crazy. 

Last year she calved mid August, far too late, and the calf was lost to winter weather.  She had to have rebred right away to provide us with a June calf.  I was expecting another late August or September calf.  I was thinking that I would butcher her after she calved and take the calf to auction.

Now what?  She hasn't escaped at all this year (knock on wood), and she had a June calf.  If she rebreeds right away again, that should put her right on schedule for May next year.  And if she's not escaping and causing trouble, there's really no need to cull her.

And she had a girl.  The only girl this year.  Keep her?  Eat her?  Sell her?  I'll have to think on it a bit.

For now she needs a name.  Starting with the letter P...  Suggestions?

Monday, June 23, 2014


On June 20th. :(
My beans are frazzled.

Radishes are a little damaged, but they'll recover.  Everything else looks ok.

Mom's beans, right next door, are fine.


I was wondering if it might be because the pond is close to my garden.  Husband thinks it's because Mom has some trees close to her garden.  Mom's yard is also on a slope and there's about a three foot drop maybe fifty yards away.

I need more greenhouses.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I like small square hay bales.  Husband and the boys use the tractor, and put out 2 or 3 large round bales at a time, usually enough to last a week.  Then I am on my own through the week.  I don't use the tractor.

I like small square bales because they are easy to manage- handy for a single person to toss over the fence when we are out of hay.  Unfortunately, they are harder to find in these parts (a lot of work goes into picking up and storing all those bales), cost more, and are more complicated to store.

And then the goats, who never stay where they belong, get into them and make a mess.  Or it snows, (it always snows), and they freeze into solid lumps- turning convenience into a waste of money, time and energy.

Last year we didn't buy any small square bales.  Husband and the boys worked harder making sure there was always enough hay in the pasture.  And if there wasn't- I worried all day until they got home, expecting angry cows to break out and high tail it to the neighbour's.

Sometime through the winter, I watched War Time Farm (again).  This episode, where they attempt to create silage from sugar beet tops, which the cows ransack, and then try creating silage from nettles and weeds made me ponder.  I did some reading on silage, and found this video.  Well that's certainly easier than building a silo!

We often rake mom's yard after cutting, because her grass gets so thick and long, it's almost like mowing a hay field.  I thought to myself that I might experiment with the excess that the critters don't eat right away.

Winter passed, spring arrived in all of its glory, garden went in, fencing began...  It was on the back burner.

And then, as I weeded yesterday, I thought, why not?  The birds aren't even eating a 5 gallon pail of weeds this year (there aren't so many of them), and the cows don't need the weeds right now, since they're still working on mowing down the yard.
After filling two buckets with weeds from the garden, I went looking for garbage bags.  Except, as soon as I entered the house I saw a feed bag filled with recycling.  Because feed bags are plentiful around here, they tend to be put to all sorts of odd uses.  And then I thought, 'I wonder...'

On closer examination, I decided the cat food bags were suitable, more plasticy and air tight.  I gathered a bunch, along with some string, and went back to the garden. 

It takes about 2.5 buckets, or 12.5 gallons of weeds to fill one feed bag.
 Then I sat on the bag, twisted the top, and tied it off. 

Mom called, with weeds to be picked up from her place.  We ended up with four feed bags stuffed with weeds in just one day.  Since it involves so little extra work (bagging and tying), and may be a huge cost saver this winter, I plan to continue.  I mean, what's the worst that can happen?  I might have to compost it next spring.  Well worth the effort in my books.

For now we're storing them in the old coop, until the cows finish in the side yard so I can clean out the hay lean-to and fence it off to keep the critters out when they're back in that yard later in the summer.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Remember that last batch of eggs?  Well it seems at least some of those girls were in with a rooster.

The first egg hatched 2 days early, on the 16th.  I heard the first chirps from the incubator in the morning, then quickly moved all of the eggs out of the egg turner tray.  Within two hours the first chick was out.

By evening, three more had made their appearance.

The morning of the 17th, another pair.

These eggs weren't 'due' until the 18th.  How did that happen?  Well, I thought I might be having some trouble with my egg turner.  Nothing hatched from the first two batches this year, and every time I looked at the incubator the eggs always seemed to be in the same position.

After the new hens arrived, I cleaned out the incubator, scrubbed everything down well, and put the egg turner back in place.  I left the egg turner plugged in while I was collecting eggs for this hatch, and conveniently stored the eggs in it.  It seems the warm spring weather combined with the motion was enough to give these chicks a head start.

All but one of the early chicks was very light yellow.  Fingers crossed for more chanteclers!  The odds should be pretty good, since all of the other hens should produce coloured chicks, except the meat hens mated with the meat roosters might hatch out light coloured rooster chicks.
One of the chantecler chickens

When the 7th chick hatched on the morning of the 17th, I moved the four driest fluff balls into a box right beside the incubator.

They won't be there for long, but I want to keep them close so the ones still in the incubator, and especially the ones still in the eggs, can hear their siblings chirping away.  This helps the unhatched to know that mama hasn't taken the clutch and abandoned them.

By bedtime, we were up to 11 chicks, so I moved two more into the box.

One hatched overnight, and the last one hatched the afternoon of the 18th.  Sadly, we lost one little one last evening.

 So, an even dozen.  12 adorable little balls of fluff.  They'll be moving outside to the 'winter' coop soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

To Make A Short Story Long...

I think it was two years ago this fall, that a group of Mennonites started buying up land in our area.  Lots of land, mostly between our town and high school town.  How the early arrivals survived that first winter I don't know.  They were hard at work early last spring though, plowing acres and acres of former pasture and hay fields.  More of their kin arrived.  Huge barns were built here there and everywhere, almost over night it seemed.  Buggies became almost commonplace on the highway.

Rumour has it, these Mennonites might be from Kitchener-Waterloo area (where my granny's people lived), or from Aylmer.  I haven't asked, so I don't for sure.

Last summer they opened the Railside Country Store.  I would drive by it on the way to high school town, on one of the back roads, and I would think to myself I really need to go check that out.  Alas, my timing was never good, and I never went in.  Then the township decided to close an old bridge on that road, making it shorter for me to take the highway around, and I stopped passing by the store.  Out of sight, out of mind I guess.

Last weekend we decided to take the plunge and return to solar electric fencing.  We used solar electric when we lived down south.  Despite all of our fence repairs and construction last year, I looked around this spring and see myself in the exact same position this year.  Broken posts that need to be replaced, Fencelines still waiting to be installed to divide the pasture.  Pasture grass way too short.

The thing that pushed me over the edge though was the yard fence.  Few of the posts remain standing now.  The grass was getting really long- long enough that the goat became invisible when lying down.  Long grass is a safe haven for bugs, and the mosquitoes were atrocious.
I needed to get that cut.  But I don't cut.  I am philosophically opposed to cutting grass when I have hungry cattle who would love to take care of it for me.

I pulled the solar chargers out of the workshop and stuck them on posts to see if they would charge.  Husband fiddled with one and got it working- fine except the wire ends were corroded and had to be replaced.  The other is more complicated, but will probably be fixable.  The old wire we had saved was a tangled mess and had been spliced together so many times it wouldn't run a good current.  We had some posts and insulators, but needed a few more.
So off we went to the flea market (also our feed store) but they didn't have what we needed.  So we thought we'd go and see what that Country Store had to offer.  Alas, it was closed.  We went to Southern City, an hour and a half to the closest TSC.  We got what we needed, and even managed to hit a sale.  Sunday afternoon the lawnmowers were hard at work.

But that Mennonite store was still on my mind, they're much closer, but I'd never been in, so didn't know what they had for sale.  We decided to drive over and browse.

It's wonderful.  And funny.  They sell natural honey (but not local), huge cheese blocks, eggs, and grass fed beef.  Salves and creams, sewing and quilting supplies, quilts, aprons, bonnets, hats and boots.  Chicken feeders, waterers, horse dewormers, cattle meds, and all your basic farm store supplies.  Hardware, knicknacks, fencing, seeds, and so, so much more.

And they sell these.
These gate post holders were on the fence when we moved in.  They work great-big and solid, and they allow the gate to swing in either direction.  From our first winter here, 7 years ago, I have been looking for another set.
 I wanted to lift the gate higher through the winter.  Even with plowing, the snow pack builds up and we get to the point that the gate can no longer be opened or closed, and eventually ends up just leaning there, chained to the post.
Now we've got dual settings for the main gate.  Little things make me happy.

I'll definitely be going back to browse again.  It's nice having the Mennonites in the area.  Feels more like home. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Greenhouse #3

Construction is mostly complete!  It still needs a door, but with only one goat roaming this year, keeping her out of the garden hasn't been too much of a hassle.

The 20' wide plastic leaves me about a foot high on each side.  In retrospect, we should have draped it over from side to side, but for this year it will work out well.

Nothing but vines inside.  They'll all creep out under the plastic as they grow. I had pumpkins, far north melons, and watermelons getting a little crazy in the house.  Now they've got room to stretch out and enjoy the summer.

The view of the three greenhouses together- and the 'hay field' surrounding them.  This section of the garden wasn't used much last year, and hasn't been tilled this year.  The twitch grass is running rampant again.  If only I could get it to grow like that IN the pasture.  Sigh.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


The new girls have adjusted to a life of leisure with ease.  They're laying an average of four eggs per day, which is better than I expected of them.
I figured they'd be older and not laying so well, but they nearly filled the incubator in a week, and they're providing breakfast once a week.  The chanteclers cleaned right up, and although they're more timid than the other girls, they're doing fine.  The nearly bald little red hen has a mess of new quills across her back and should be looking lovely in another week.

The turkey pen is even starting to sprout some greenery, other than the raspberries, which it seems, will be back in full force this summer.
 My little goslings are growing like bad weeds and almost completely feathered.  They still follow me and 'talk' to me.  They tell me every morning that they want to go out and play in the garden.  They've been banished since the peas sprouted, and are not happy about it.

Gackle is still trying to raise her own brood, averaging 5 eggs per week.  She's getting kind of vicious when we try to take her eggs now.  She bit #3 and made his finger bleed.  I laughed at him.  Not nice, I know, but wait for her to go for a walk!

The roosters aren't fighting so much now.  One seems to be the boss now, while the other mostly hangs with the chanteclers. No blood or serious injuries.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Winter was LONG and EXTREMELY HARD this year, but seems to have gone out like a light.  We had only three frost days after the snow stopped, about 2 weeks of spring, then jumped into summer.  It's been hot, but I've been enjoying it.  A few days of rain have brought the blackflies out in droves.  Even that has not yet deterred my eagerness to be done with winter.

I planted the greenhouses over the weekend.

Greenhouse #1 got the brassicas this year.  Cucumbers and sunflowers down the centre again (pickling).  Onion seed scattered through the rows on the side.  Apparently I forgot to start cabbage inside, so I bought a little 4 pack, and put in a row of cabbage seed.  I'll have to see how it works out with a late start.The albino (sugar) beets went in as seed.

The tomato seedlings that survived were small, so I bought some jetstars and beefsteaks.  I bought seedling trays with those moss/weeve trays in it.  Total pain to keep watered.  I bought Sweet banana peppers, cherry bombs, and long slim peppers.  What can I say?  I was in the garden centre and I couldn't help myself.  Straight Eights in the centre, onions and radishes scattered on the sides.  I bought two pots of dill and planted one in each greenhouse, along with almost all of my remaining seed.  The dill hasn't done well the past few years, so I thought I might as well dump the seed.  If it doesn't grow I might as well buy new next year.

The garden is mostly planted, and the peas are up about three inches now. 



Carrots, radishes
Beans-vanderpol 6 weeks, radish

Swiss chard, lettuce

Romaine, sunflower, green beans

Green beans
Green beans

Green beans
Green beans

Green beans
Green beans 

Of course, the weeds are up before the veggies...  #4 planted the green beans, and I honestly didn't think I had that much seed left, so I guess we'll see how it works out once they come up.  The rototiller broke before #1 finished tilling, so I'm a bit behind schedule.  It's fixed now, but not tilled yet.  Beets, corn, another tray of kohlrabi (what was I thinking?!), and a few odds and ends to go in yet.  I don't plan to plant any potatoes this year.  At this point anyway.  I'll see how much space I have left.
I haven't planted anything in the hugelkultur bed yet.  It needs about 8 inches of soil dumped on top of it.  Like a fool, I did not leave myself enough space to drive around it, so I'll have to wheelbarrow it in. 
Greenhouse #3 is under construction.  Barely started, really, but started none the less, which is good, since I still have pumpkins, melons, and watermelons to transplant.

Manure from the barn/pasture clean out is going around the original greenhouses.  I'm pretty much out of space in the perennial bed, and since that space is generally wasted, I figure it'll be a good spot to add more perennials next year.