Archive for May, 2010

May 26, 2010

Rainy day activity: shucking beans that came all the way from BC

May 26, 2010

Our garden with the first transplants

May 26, 2010

Wild strawberries in flower

Previous Post

May 26, 2010

Apple tree flowering in the forest

May 26, 2010

How our farm looks now - the greens of spring

May 26, 2010

Feeding frenzy

May 26, 2010

A quiet moment at the feeder

Planting has begun!

May 20, 2010

We are moving towards the end of May and the chokecherries, serviceberries, wild strawberries and apples are flowering. There are many old apple trees on the property that up until now, blended quite nicely into the woods. Now that blossoms are visible, I’m excited to see lots of trees that could be rehabilitated if they produce nice apples. I’ve ordered some apple trees from a nursery in Ontario, all heritage varieties of a zone 4 persuasion which are also storage apples (Belle de Boskoop, my all time favourite, being one of them). I find I prefer apples in the late fall and winter after having spent the summer gorging on fruit in season. Since melons and cantelopes can’t be frozen or otherwise stored, the only thing to do is eat them until you can eat no more! However, there is nothing more enjoyable in the middle of winter than an apple that has sweetened in storage.

The trilliums are blooming now as well and there is a beautiful specimen with dark, almost purple, leaves and a lovely pink and white flower growing in one area of our woods. I’m watching another plant to see what sort of flower it develops – it looks like it may be an orchid and lady’s slippers are one of my favourite flowers of the woods. Mosquitoes and blackflies are out in force so I wear my bug shirt and don’t linger much on my walks with Cory. Blackflies are bad on the farm, as well, and I’m hoping that this is their busy season and that they’ll disappear (or at least diminish) soon! Cory met his first porcupine on one of our walks the other day. I looked up from examining a plant (red elder or common elder?) to see him doing his bouncy “let’s play” act with a very large porcupine that was just in the process of turning around to fill him full of quills. I called Cory and, fortunately, he came immediately. I think the porcupine’s reflexes were a bit slow, perhaps because it was out in daytime and they are usually nocturnal.

Will is away for a week in Ventura for his step-father’s funeral. I was sad to hear that Ron had passed away – I had met him when I visited Will’s family last year and really liked him. He was a very interesting man: a medical doctor, farmer and, more recently, a psychologist (sorry, maybe psychiatrist, I get them confused). He had recovered from polio when he was a young man and led an active life but in recent years had developed post-polio syndrome. I’m glad that Will is able to take some time to be with his mother at this time. This is something we are planning into our farming life: the ability to leave the farm if family or other important needs arise.

You all saw the photos of coldframe construction. Well it’s not quite completed but is well on its way. Will managed to attach the boards that will hold the plastic and roll-up sides, plus has framed in one of the ends. Hopefully after another week or so after his return we’ll get it covered. We received our fancy rotovator last week and have been tilling up a storm. It does a beautiful job though it requires everything the small Case tractor has to offer in order to till down 6”. I don’t think we ploughed deep enough so there is a bit of primary tillage going on with the rotovator now. Once we get the beds set up, though, it will be easier going. I planted potatoes, broad beans and transplanted all the brassicas yesterday and the day before. I have a bit more tilling to do and then will transplant all the alliums plus plant the onion sets. I’ve never grown onions from sets before but thought I’d try some, just for fun. I’ve also potted up the tomatoes and some of the peppers, though ran into a bit of a snag with the pots: they don’t fit the trays that came with them! They’re a product of Canada, too, and I’m very disappointed with what our industry has managed to do badly!

We have a new addition to the family: three young Black Austrolorp chickens. They are meant to be two pullets and one rooster but we’ll see what they develop into! They are a nice breed of chicken: dual purpose, early maturing, good egg layers and gentle and calm. I’ve always wanted to have a flock of heritage dual purpose birds for eggs and, though I don’t know how feasible it will be to get 200 Austrolorp chicks for a laying flock, we’ll see. These girls will produce eggs for us until we get organized enough to have a commercial flock on the farm. I’ve been looking at pastured poultry, too, and want to try to raise one flock this summer. There are some really good pen designs on the ATTRA website and I think I will build an 8×8’ pen which should hold 50 birds to maturity. I would do just one flock this year, mainly for our own chicken supply plus some for loved ones, but also to manage our lawn a bit better: mowing grass just doesn’t work for me! I think it would be interesting long-term to coordinate pastured poultry with green manure rotations in the veggie fields: if one acre is taken out of veggie production each year for soil building and pest and disease control, then poultry could be pastured on it to make some money from the land as well as all the other benefits chickens offer. The 8’ square pen is small enough that I can move it myself and, for this year, there is a potential loop down alongside our driveway and around the house that should keep the birds fed until maturity. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find organic feed for them but we will see.

I’m in the process of making cheese now (the rennet is in) and am doing about two batches/week these days. The gouda cheese is turning out consistently good, which is nice because it also ages well, not becoming too dry or too stinky, and it means I can make lots of cheese now (when there’s lots of milk) which we will eat over the winter. The goats are well though Gaia managed to rip a hole in her hide the other day. I was finishing up goat chores before heading to Mom and Dad’s for dinner, when I noticed a large gash in her side. It wasn’t deep, just the outer layer was cut, but it was big and gaped widely enough that healing would be slow and painful. I’ve never stitched up a living thing before but have seen it done, so reckoned it was worth a try. I phoned my parents for advice (Mom was a nurse) and Dad came over with a curved needle from Mom’s collection. The needle turned out to be too big but it was good to have him here anyway to help hold the goat while Will held the light! I ended up using a needle and thread from the sewing kit (plus pliers to pull it through) and it worked like a charm. I’d cleaned the wound really well and sprayed it with iodine and decided not to inject an antiobiotic unless I saw signs of infection. Well, the stitches are still in (I’ll take them out after 7 days) and the wound looks really good. I taped a bandage over top to protect the stitches but it only stayed on for a short time. Then I used duct tape to hold some gauze in place and that lasted much better. Gaia is fine and was kind enough to not obsess on trying to remove the duct tape or rub or chew on the stitches! I’m going to get myself a suture kit to have on the farm for future stitchings, though I doubt I would attempt stitching anything really big, or really shredded or really deep. These situations would call for a vet. However it’s nice to know that I can save us the $80 on these small injuries!

May 14, 2010

A big day: a select group of highly skilled coldframe construction specialists gathered at Windy Hill Farm to start building the coldframe

May 14, 2010

Action shot of the construction team at work