Archive for July, 2010

Broiler Chicks Discover Grass

July 22, 2010

The mobile chicken pen in its starting position

July 22, 2010

3 1/2 week old chicks in their new mobile home

July 18, 2010

Lunch: a selection of fine farm foods

July 18, 2010

Cory in the rushes by the pond edge getting a little drink

July 18, 2010

Huck Finn (alias Will) on his raft in the pond - very refreshing!

July 18, 2010

View of garden from the upstairs: buckwheat on the left

July 18, 2010

Things are growing in the coldframe!

Hot Summer Days

July 18, 2010

Farm Update

1. I’ll continue writing in point form to get the information out and save long narratives for the winter months!
2. Gem’s torn shoulder has healed up perfectly and she’s back to her usual silly self. The latest goat challenge is Nessie’s teats: they are covered in lumps which the vet reckons are benign tumours. One of them is infected and I’m trying to clear that infection up without drying up that side. So these days I’m milking Nessie into two containers: one from her clean teat which goes into the bucket and one from the bad teat that goes on the compost heap. Nessie is doing quite well, considering the discomfort of me squeezing an infected teat. The hard part is keeping the infected area open so I can irrigate it and hopefully clear up the infection. My vet sister-in-law, Nina, said after a while tumours can lose their blood supply and then infection becomes an issue. Perhaps we’ll have to bite the bullet, have another vet visit and get the tumour lopped off.
3. Still looking for hay but have another couple of leads.
4. Veggies are doing well and we are eating greens, broccoli, garlic scapes and potatoes almost every day. Just planted the winter brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, rutabagas) and they are growing quickly. There’s a bit of flea beetle now but not enough to worry me.
5. Potato beetle still in large numbers and still picking off larvae. Strategy for next year: plant as early as possible; plant one row/bed to reduce plant density and ease of travel for larvae; mulch with straw to encourage beneficials and make it more difficult for adult beetles to climb back on plants after they’re knocked off; spread potato beds around the field rather than plant in blocks. With more area in potatoes, hand picking of larvae will be impossible but if we are able to walk up and down rows once or twice/day, knocking larvae off the leaves, we should make some impact. Mulching will also help conserve moisture and faster growing plants will better resist beetle damage.
6. We’re seeing some 3 inch long zucchinis now. Also a few tiny cukes are forming. Soon we will be overwhelmed but for now, the appearance of something not just green and leafy is exciting!
7. Tomatoes doing well and fruit is forming. Will seeded alfalfa on the last coldframe bed along the inside. We didn’t have time to cultivate or dig it so the alfalfa’s deep tap root will do the digging for us, plus fertilize the soil.
8. The buckwheat and chickling vetch are up and growing like crazy. I haven’t pulled vetch up to check for nodules yet but will when they’re a bit bigger. Unfortunately the vetch that was seeded on the early planted buckwheat beds germinated but were killed by hot weather. I’m sure some will survive under the buckwheat canopy but not as many. This area will get priority when we spread goat compost next year.
9. Will is looking around for contractors to do our excavating for the steel building site. We’ve marked out the site so now have a picture of where it will be on the farm. We are extending the cement slab to form a veggie wash area on the east side of the building and will bring water to this area from the well. This area will be the central washing and irrigating point on the farm.
10. We plan to experiment with dryland farming in our field #4 (1.8 acres farthest from the buildings on our ENE side). We are irrigating from our well and will need to be very careful with water, so will plan to grow unirrigated crops – garlic, potatoes, corn, beans, peas, fava beans, sunflower, small grains, green manures – in this area. If we have a wet spring, we may put some early brassicas here as well just because brassicas are challanging to fit into rotations. We have enough land for next year that we can sacrifice high yields for more conservative farming. Also, less irrigated crops are more nutrient dense and flavourful than those plumped up full of water. One of my theories as to why Glen Valley Organic Farm’s carrots (all veggies, really) are so delicious is because we are always tight on irrigation water so plants get the bare minimum they need to survive.
11. Had a lovely time with my sister and her kids on their NB visit. Now by brother and his family are here and visited the farm last night. Young Sam and his sister Allie are both into sitting on the tractor and Allie, especially, loves the animals. Sam and Brian fished in the pond last night and caught one of the oldies, this one a large, scarred fish (Charlotte?) who was released afterwards. Even though I love to eat fish, I think I’m happier catching and releasing these particular fish. They are getting pretty big, though … maybe we’ll be ready to eat some more next year!
12. My aunt and uncle, Bert and Peter and Bert’s sister, Auria, and their grandkids came by for a farm tour last week. They loved playing with the goats and the goats, of course, love the attention! Now, this group didn’t just come, have fun and then go, they also put in a good solid hour of weeding! With all hands on deck we managed to take on an area I’d let get out of hand and cleaned up weeds around the cucurbits, potatoes and fava beans. I was pretty impressed with them, all young to teenage girls, and I think they enjoyed themselves too. They know, of course, that they are welcome back any time!
13. The hummingbirds are back in full force and this time they brought their young with them. The feeders are buzzing and humming with this year’s new hummers and they are always entertaining to watch. My mom has been keeping me in hummingbird syrup, which I greatly appreciate, as the little voracious monsters consume over a litre/day! Mom also put in a hot, sweaty hour helping me weed the sunflower patch – am I lucky or what?
14. The broiler chicks are growing like mad and we were doing really well for losses until two days ago when some hungry rats got into the pen. We lost 4 that night, bringing our total mortalities to 5. They should be going out into their mobile pen in the next day or two and they will be much better protected there. One large chick has a big rat bite on its head but it seems to be doing all right. I sprayed blue wound spray on it and the other birds seem to be leaving it alone. We’ve better rat-proofed the pen but need to do some more proactive control: traps mainly since we can’t use poison. I will try and construct one of John’s famous bucket traps and see how that works.
15. We had a visit from a soil specialist last week and had a good look at some of the lower layers of our soil profile. We looked mainly at the uncultivated parts of the property so we’d know where to go next when we want to expand the operation. Interestingly enough, we found a good sand and gravel layer below the topsoil in what looks to be the lowest part of our farm this side of the rail trail. It was drier there than farther up hill where a natural spring or two is probably keeping it a bit boggier. So when the time comes to plough up more land to expand (due to high demand for our wonderful veggies!), we’ll know where to go. He also gave us some advice on simple drainage techniques using the mouldboard plough and also planning our perennials to allow for frost movement. I realize the dynamics of frost are something I know nothing about, frost never being a huge issue for me in BC. Another interesting topic to study on those long, winter nights!
16. The dress rehearsal for our fiddling appearance at the World Juniors in Moncton is this afternoon. I am one of 100 fiddlers who are part of the game’s opening ceremonies Monday night. I have been practicing walking and playing (and smiling – eek!) at the same time and hope I don’t do anything silly like trip and fall or bump into someone! It promises to be lots of fun though the security around it is quite intense – we wear special bracelets which we put on for the dress rehearsal and don’t take off till after the opening ceremonies. You can imagine what my bracelet will look like after a day of farming! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll just blend into the crowd, dirty bracelet and all.
17. Our small leafed linden tree is in flower now and is buzzing with every kind of bee and other pollinating insect. I really appreciate the thought that Anne and Paryse (the previous owners) put into their landscaping of this property: every tree or bush flowers at a different time in the season and they all feed the bees. Fireweed is in full bloom and the goldenrod – initially hated because there was so much of it but now I appreciate its contribution to the ecosystem – is also flowering. Lots of frogs in the pond and the frog chorus started up last night at 8:30 on the dot.
18. I think the Australorps are one male and two females (I think!) because one is definitely developing more comb and wattle than the other two. There’s no appreciable difference in size between them, though, so its really hard to say. One of them has been practicing his crow at 5:30 in the morning, though the “cock a doodle doo” isn’t much more like a “craaaaack” right now!

Well I think that’s all I can think of for now. Talk to you all again soon!

July 5, 2010

Handling those happy bees

July 5, 2010

Ross Conrad, the natural bee keeping guru