Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gratitude- Year 2012 in a nutshell

Winter on the farm
 As the Christmas holidays approach, we've started to do a lot more reminiscing about this past year for us. As many of you know, this was only our second year doing poultry, our first year with turkeys. It is also our very first year on our own farm. In a few words: amazing, but tough. Being very honest and upfront, we will openly admit we probably took on too much in our first full-on farming year. We did the very, very best that we possibly could in an effort to farm responsibly and raise you the best quality birds that we could, alongside our grain and herb production.

The grain is a lot lower stress than the poultry for a variety of reasons. It was also immensely successful this year!! It's our third year doing the grain, so we feel a lot more comfortable with it. Day to day its much less work than the poultry. It helps that we had just a stellar crop of grain this year. We might not have said that enough or made it clear enough, but wow, creamer crop!! We're giving about 1.5 kg's to every shareholder every other week. It feels really good to know we did so well in one aspect of the farm, despite the losses we saw in our turkeys. (Really goes to show why diversification is so critical!) 
Daniel swathing Red Fife

John Mills and Daniel unplugging the combine!
Ducks enjoying the grass
We do everything we can to provide the best lives for all living creatures, be it  the bees and bugs or the poultry and other creatures on the farm. Compared to growing grains or vegetables,  when something effects their well-being it is a truly emotional experience.  It's also not as emotional- the wheat can lodge or we can have a lot of weeds, but that's nothing compared to facing death and disease in an animal.The birds were looking really good, except that we still lost too many turkeys, even after our high hopes after thanksgiving. And based on the advice of a local poultry vet, we were forced to decide not to butcher any of our own turkeys this year for sale because of the disease problems we had this year mixing the turkeys and chickens. Then the night of December 8th a large owl got in our barn. The donkeys, trouble makers that they sometimes can be, have learned that if you just push hard enough, the hook will come loose on one of the doors and they let the owl in while they helped themselves to some grain. It killed many chickens until Daniel chased it out of the barn through a door the next morning. On the other hand, ducks have been our saviors this year as we have lost almost none all year long and their growth rate was fantastic. We are loving our ducks!!

Mike Kozlowski and Daniel mixing some concrete foundations
As we reflect on this year, a major theme is coming to our minds. Gratitude. We have seen so many generous people come forward, making it possible for us to do what we do. You hear old-timers talking about how farming communities are all about support- coming together, helping the neighbor who's barn burnt down by combining his crop for him. You hear all kinds of stories of friends, families and neighbors supporting each other in times of need. We have seen that this year in our own lives. And we cannot thank these people enough!! It is encouraging, and it keeps us going in those rare moments when we feel like quitting. These people also literally make it possible for us to be here- literally! So, we want to thank-you all from the bottom of our hearts for being the amazing people that you are. From family that helps us repair water leaks in the house and install electrical friends and shareholders that come out on a Saturday to help us weed or build John Mills, whose partnership keeps us afloat, and provides resources that we could not have done without and his friendship and belief in us....thank-you John!!...our neighbors that made sure our dog came home safely when he ran away and that bartered with us and went out of their way to help cultivate our friends who barter with us and show the support they do....we could go on and on.
Kyle Lawrence helping us build our first hoophouse!

Rik helping with the horseradish sortng
 And last but not least, our shareholders.We thank you so much for your support this year. We know we would not be here without you! We understand that as shareholders you put a tremendous amount of faith in us, putting money into our hands so early in the year and that God-willing the season goes well and we provide you with food at the end of the season. For this year we did our absolute best, and as we have said before, we have learned so much this year!! We had a lot of success, and many challenges as well. It can only get better from here on in.

We have many plans to for the 2013 season, and are constantly planning and plotting on what we can do differently, better. What new things we can introduce, what things we should scale back on. Ultimately, we hope to put a little bit more flexibility into our poultry CSA system, in addition to scaling back from what we did this year to give us a chance to fine tune the system with less stress.

In regards to things we're adding...We've also decided to offer a vegetable share for the 2013 summer season to Red Deer, which we're very excited about. More details to come on that in the new year!

On that note I will bring this blog post to a close. I started to feel like this blog toast was sounding like those over-the-top wedding toasts. But we really wanted to take a minute (or so) to express the overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the support we've received from all our friends and family this past year. Like we said, in two words, this year has been tough and amazing. Which is probably what we can expect from the farming life in general. And really, we wouldn't want it any other way. At the end of the day, the hard work makes everything that much more rewarding!

Desiree wishes you happy holidays as well!

So, thanks so much to everyone. We love you and thank-you!!!We wish you lots of peace and joy in the upcoming holidays. We hope you can in turn find a sense of gratitude for your friends and family that make your life what it is.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crusty Seeded French Bread Recipe

This is a really nice bread, studded with lots of seeds for flavour and nutrition! This recipe will yield fairly dense loaves, but feel free to play with the fife wheat to white flour ratio. If you are new to baking with whole grain flour, I would suggest doing half/half fife wheat and white flour.

A note on white flour! I like my bread on the denser side, just like the way it used to be. Many people are not used to this though, so it might be best to slowly transition yourself into using less and less white flour until you become used to heavier bread. That being said, my favorite option for white flour is something called Soft White Wheat. It is a type of grain that when ground produces a white flour. The beautiful thing is that it is ground from the whole grain, so it has all the nutritional benefits of whole grain flour but is a very light flour. Actually, you know that all-purpose flour you buy at the grocery store? Back in the day it actually literally used to be a blend of soft white and hard red  flour (for example, the Red Fife is a hard red wheat). If you can't get soft white flour, try to get organic, unbleached all-purpose flour. Unfortunately, even though this kind of flour will be organic and great in that sense, it will most likely not be heritage. As you know, our Red Fife grain is heritage, meaning its more easily digestible because the genes have not been altered unlike modern wheat's. So, if you are eating Red Fife for health reasons, you might just need to stay away from most other wheat flours.

Crusty Seeded French Bread. The 2 on the left were baked free-form, the one on the right in a bread pan

Crusty Seeded French Bread
(originally from Simply in Season cookbook- altered by Anna Chappell)

5 cups Red Fife
1 cup organic soft white or all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp organic cane sugar, or honey 
1 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp of any combination of fennel, pumpkin, sunflour, ground flax, poppy seeds
Mix together in a large bowl, or in kitchen aid-mixer if you have one

2 1/2 cups hot water 
1 Tbsp organic olive oil
Gradually add. Mix well. If needed add more flour to make a soft dough...knead at least 10 minutes. I leave mine in the kitchen aid bowl and let it knead for up to 20 minutes. You want the dough to have a soft texture and stretch nicely (take a piece and pull on either side of it with your fingers. If it just breaks, it needs more kneading. If it slowly pulls/stretches apart its ready!)

Place a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth, let rise an hour or until doubled in size. (Draft-free, warm location is ideal). Punch down and let rest for 20 minutes. Divide into 3 equal parts and shape or place in a greased bread pan. Make 4-5 diagonal slices on top of each loaf with a serrated blade.

1 egg
1-2 Tbsp of any combination of seeds
 Beat egg and brush on loaves. Sprinkle seeds on each loaf. Let rise until double. Beake in pre-heated oven at 400F/200C for 20 minutes. (To check done-ness knock on bottom of loaf. A hollow sound means its done!)

Take a picture and share with us via email or our facebook page! And Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Cook Heritage Poultry

Slow and Low is key!!!

The way we raise our birds (free-ranging naturally slow-grow growing heritage birds) means they are leaner, with more muscle. The meat will also be darker than that found in a superstore chicken. 

"Studies have shown that Heritage Poultry contains less fat and more protein than the traditional supermarket birds. Let us be clear, we are not against animal fat!  We are not offering a "low fat" bird, per say. The difference is the fat content in our chickens has the correct OMEGA 3 to 6 and lipid ratios, compared to the supermarket alternative whose OMEGA 6 values far exceed the OMEGA 3 content. You can see evidence of this difference in the deep yellow color of the Heritage chicken fat that is representative of mineral and vitamin content"
  ( )
Our birds are much more flavourful, and you'll find that as long as you follow our cooking recommendations (slower for longer) that the bird will be moist and incredibly tender and flavourful. The way it should be!
This is our personal favorite way of preparing a duck, chicken or turkey.

Use a heavy cast iron dutch oven (with the lid on- no vents). In a pinch you can use a roaster, if you don't have a lid, with aluminum foil placed over top and then tightly pinched all around.  This ensures a moist and tender bird.

Rub the chicken/duck all over with a bit of oil, S+P and any seasoning you desire (garlic, paprika, sage, thyme, rosemary...) and then place it in the dutch oven, breast side up

We often put brown rice in the bottom with the normal ratio of fluid (stock is best), and you can throw in chopped root veggies, whole onions and garlic too. 

There is no exact science to the kinds of herbs and seasonings you should use on your bird. We believe in using what you enjoy and not being afraid to experiment with different combinations. 

Place in pre-heated oven and cook SLOW AND LOW at about 300 F for 1 ½ + hours depending on size (after 1 1/2 hours check every 15-20 minutes with a thermometer- when the internal temperature reads 160 F, it's ready).

If desired, remove the lid and broil it for a few minutes to brown the skin on top. Everything comes out moist, tender and smelling wonderfully of herbs! Delicious!

What do with left overs: 

Day 2:

 Use remainder of the meat and flavourful broth/gravy to make enchiladas,shepherd’s pie, soup. 

Meanwhile, cover the carcass and other bone scraps with water, some onions and seas salt in a large stock pot.(Can also throw in scrap vegetables- celery etc) Simmer for two to three hours and you have a beautiful, nutritious broth. Just strain it in a colander to de-bone.

Day 3: Either freeze the broth, or use right away to make soup, cook rice, etc

Three delicious meals from one bird!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Edible Flowers: Adding beauty to your meals

It's summer, and the gardens are starting to burst with colour! Did you know many colorful blooms are edible? Yes, there are edible flowers!
Just a handful of flowers from our garden that are edible: Calendula, Johny-jump-ups, Bachelor Buttons, and Nasturtiums

  And not only are they beautiful, they come in a range of flavours, from refreshinlgy cucumber-like flavours, to sweet and licoriceey to spicey and peppery. This range of flavours means a range of uses.

A gorgeous Calendula bloom: to use remove the petals and only use the petals for eating (unless making a medicinal salve)

 Flowers as a garnish: 
 Here are some ways of using edible flowers to enhance your meals. Nowadays its all about getting food cheap, making food fast, and then gulping it down without much thought. I think there should be more reverence in our daily meals. Slowing down your hectic schedule in life, in small ways, goes a long way for your quality of life. Like putting flowers on your salad as a garnish. Such an unnecessary thing. And yet, the value is priceless. Beautiful. Tasty. Taking the time to enjoy a beautiful salad, garnished and tossed with extra flavor and prettiness.  And really, it's so easy (wait till you take a salad garnished with flowers to a potluck- sure to be a crowd wowser!)

Ever made pesto? Nasturtiums spicy, peppery flavour makes for a flavourful and colourful pesto.
 Nasturtium pesto on a snadwhich, garnished with borage flowers

Here is the Nasturtium Pesto Recipe: 

Chop the blossoms ( it takes a lot!) then added olive oil, some yogurt, minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, a dash of salt and pepper and some chopped pine nuts.

Stir into cooked noodes, or spread in a sandwhich. Infinite uses!

Flower Butter is another interesting way to incorporate flowers into your meals:
 Chop a handful of flowers and stir into softened butter. Can add salt or onion, garlic powder. Place in a small dish and chill. 
Tip: Use savoury flowers like Nasturtium, basil, oregano flowers. 
This flower butter looks like it has confetti in it. Looks beautiful spread on toast. Place a spoonful on steamed vegetables or a baked fish. Lovely!!

*Warning*: Not all flowers are edible- some can make you sick.  If you are harvesting your own flowers do your homework to make sure you are only harvesting edible ones. Do not use flowers if they have been, or if you even think they might have been, sprayed with pesticides, or herbicides.

Here are some links about which flowers are edible:
Edible Prairie Flowers Only a small list at the bottom of the web page, includes other info on other edible prairie plants

Visit our farmers market booth in the summer! We will be selling our edible flowers that have been grown all-naturally and harvested that day for freshness. For the summer of 2012, we will be at the following markets (subject to change in the future- please check our website or email us for more info) :

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's ugly but tasty! What to do with that horseradish root...

Fresh horseradish root may be unfamiliar to some people. If you ended up with some of this gnarly, white, slightly beige coloured root, and are not sure what to do with it, here are some ideas.

For those of you who love that white, spicy paste that you get at the grocery store called horseradish, you are in luck. It's made out of this root and its twice as spicy if you make it yourself! here's how:

1. Clean root if necessary, peel it
2. Grate root or put it on a food processor and blend till smooth (can use a couple spoonfuls of water to get it going)
** please note that horseradish while processing has a stronger effect on your eyes than
chopping onions!! Work in a well ventilated kitchen or even outside if possible**
3. If you like things hot, wait up to 3 minutes then blend in some white vinegar until you have a desirable consistency. If you prefer things mild, add in vinegar just after pureeing ( or if you simply grated the root, pour vinegar over it in a jar)
4. Put in clean jar, close lid tightly and store in fridge. Should keep 3-4 weeks like this. If you want to be extra awesome, tape some not see through paper around the jar because this will prevent light from degrading the heat.

Some other great ways to use horseradish:
1. Grate raw and eat on sandwiches
2. Scramble grated root in eggs for an extra kick in the pants in the morning
3. Add zip to stews and soups
4. Add to Bloody Mary's
5. Grate and add to roasted vegetables

Don't grate or chop root until you plan to use it because cutting or damaging the root diminishes the flavour

Enjoy! Id love for you to share your own ideas of how you used your horseradish in the comments section of the blog!

Don't forget, we'll have our all naturally grown horseradish available at our farmers market booth for much of the summer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Farm Updates

 Poultry shares are sold out, and we still have grain shares available. Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far! Its been an exciting second year so far!

As we mentioned we are a little bit behind birds. Everyone that is a confirmed poultry shareholder will be getting their shares. A couple things have just set us back a little bit, so the share deliveries will be later than scheduled. We free-range, so of course we expected some problems with predators, it does come with the territory unfortunately. For that reason, we purchased donkeys almost as soon as we moved onto our farm. Apparently our donkeys are too friendly, and we still have had a couple coyote related losses. Our latest farm addition, Joey the Border Collie, should further help reduce our losses. Joey is proving to be a hard working, calm and obedient companion so far that strategically pees on important trees, fence posts, you name it.
Ducks love grass and being out and about from dawn till dusk

Joey settling in, he's a rescue

We also had some hatcheries fall through on us, so of course we were left scrambling to come up with those chicks some other way. We've been steadily hatching since January, and we have also sourced some more chicks from other hatcheries that still meet our standards somewhat. You can read further about our hatchery dilemma here. A long-winded issue that runs deep for us.We love hatching our own birds. It gives us the ability to breed for high-quality birds, it is such a pleasure and hoonour to be a part of the process of bringing little ones into the world. We also know how they were treated and what they were fed from day 1.
An Appleyard duckling we incubated ourselves

Brahma chick, hatchery stock

Buck-eye chicks all in a row, hatchery stock

The grain is coming along nicely. We got it planted so early, with that early, early warm weather we had. Perfect! We've had tons of rain lately, but it seems like we've had a good bit of hot spells in between.  The heat is that saving grace with all that moisture.Grain deliveries will be beginning in November as planned.
wheat in 2nd week of May, already 2 inches tall

Daniel built these A-frames recently to have our chicks out on grass sooner. They need that extra protection, since new chicks are vulnerable. They love it! We put them in, and after about a day of settling in and getting used to the new surroundings they are out on the grass in the sunlight, foraging, mock fighting and doing all the natural things that chicks like to do.
New A-frames, more on the way!   

That's it for now, thanks so much for checking in!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tasty Cracker and Yummy lentil dip recipes

I realize its been a while since I have shared a recipe. I recently made this cracker and some lentil and roasted onion dip for a potluck. Everyone seemed to really like it, so I will share :)

I really like this cracker bread recipe- it's actually a type of pizza dough that I just rolled really thinly, and then pressed seeds/nuts into the top. You get a more crisp cracker if you roll it thin and more of a bready cracker if you don't roll it as thin. Whatever your preference is!

The recipes are as follows:

Tasty Crackers

2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/3 c warm water


31/2 to 3 3/4 c all-purpose flour (I did a mixture of our homegrown hard red wheat and soft white which is sort of like all-purpose, and I bet all whole wheat would be pretty tasty too- also I imagine you could leave the flour to soak overnight, WAPF style and then continue with the recipe)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt

Mix by hand, or on low speed for until ingredients are mixed. The knead for for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer bowl to lightly oiled bowl and cover with damp towel.  Let rise in warm, draft free place until doubled in volume (not such a big deal if making crackers)

Preheat oven to 450F. Roll out dough on counter (sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking) until the dough is 1/8" thick. Transfer onto oiled baking sheet.

At this point you can sprinkle toppings like sesame, poppy, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, etc. I pressed them into the top of the dough with my fingers after I drizzled a bit of olive oil onto the dough. (this should help the seeds adhere to the dough). The recipe also says you can brush melted butter or beaten egg onto the tops of the crackers instead of olive oil. Score lines into the rolled dough using a pizza cutter to any size you like. I did about 1 x 2' squares roughly.   Bake 6-9 minutes until golden brown.

Lentil and Roasted Onion Dip

2 c  red lentils
2 medium onion
1 bulb garlic (as in, several cloves)

Soak the lentils in 3 cups water for a few hours. Meanwhile, cut the onions in half, add the garlic drizzle with oil in a baking dish, and broil at 425 for 45 minutes.  Next, rinse the lentils, add fresh water. Bring to a boil, turn down the simmer gently for 20 or so minutes until lentils are soft. Drain and let cool.

Put onions and lentils in food processor.

Add about:

 (I didn't measure these ingredients, you could just roughly add what I suggest and then keep taste testing so that the dip suits your preference)
 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
 2 tsp garlic powder (if you didn't have fresh garlic)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. 

Variations: Add roasted eggplant instead of onions, skip the cumin, coriander and  use fresh basil in combination with the rest of the seasonings, use roasted peppers instead of onions or eggplant...

Enjoy the dip spread on your delicious crackers!

Also, don't forget. We are a small farm in Bowden, Alberta. We grow heritage grains, (wheat, rye, barley). If you are interested in purchasing flour, or whole grains from us we do a share program where you can sign up to receive deliveries of grain that was stone-ground in small batches. For more info on our grain shares (as well as our pastured poultry shares, and naturally grown herbs) please visit our website!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's summer..or spring!!?? And our new open-air coops

The bee's are buzzing, chickens are excitedly cackling as they find worms in the dewy must be spring!! Or anyone else confused about this weather? 21 above one day, snow the next.... For the most part, we have had more nice days than not. Not only do the birds enjoy rummaging in the grass, they also love suntanning and relaxing too!
Anna's bantams Mimi, Momo, Esmerelda and Lily, foraging in the green grass

Huey, snoozing like a happy duck in the sun
All this warm weather also means more work outside.
Daniel working hard while I take photos :P
Our guardians also are inspectors, making sure our coops are all up to snuff

The photo that the Donkeys are in reveal the page/chicken wire than Daniel tacked all around the coop. It is buried 6 inches into the soil at the bottom- this is to prevent night time predators from digging their way into the coop. The last photo shows the finished coop (more like finished-ish). It still needs a few more doors and things done inside it- nest boxes, breeding pens etc. We have decided that chickens benefit more from having extra ventilation than from too much insulation. We will be keeping our birds in this coop year-round.
The open-air coop

We`ve already retrofitted one building to look like this, with the south-facing wall completely comprised of page wire.  So far it has worked really well. The air ALWAYS smells fresh, even when the birds have lived in there for a month. Nothing is dank or smelly. This is due in part that the birds spend all day ranging outside. But also due to the fact that the fresh air is circulating at all times, keeping everything fresh. No stale air, no build up of moisture or rot. (When the birds roost at night, they actually poop A LOT). Additionally, we have seen absolutely no illness in our birds. The dank air and nitrogen build up is more often than not the cause of respiratory illnesses and other diseases in traditional insulated coops and crowded barns. With our system, we haven't had a single sneeze, sniffle or swollen eye. This makes me feel really good about what we are doing.

You might ask, but what about the winter? You do know we live in Alberta, where -20 is common? We are very aware of that. You have to know we care very much for the well-being and comfort of our animals. That being said, we have specifically and carefully chosen the chicken breeds that we raise with one specific factor in mind- cold hardiness. Our Chanteclers, light Brahmas and Buck-eyes are all known to handle winters very well. They have the tiniest, flattest combs and wattles, so in turn they don't normally get frost bite. Frost bite is the most major concern when it comes to over-wintering birds.
A Comb by Any Other Name:Comb types: (A) single, Plymoth Rock; (B) pea, Brahma; (C) strawberry, Malay; (D) cushion, Chantecler; (E) walnut, Silkie; (F) buttercup, Buttercup; (G) V-shaped, La Fleche; (H) rose, Hamburg.

 As the above image shows- D show the cushion comb that Chanteclers have. See how it is small and flat against the head? This means it will not get frostbitten. Any of the ones, especially image A or F show a tall comb with thin fleshy appendages- these are extremely susceptible to being frozen off, causing discomfort to the birds. We also raise the buck-eyes and Brahmas which have B, called a pea comb, also a small flat comb against the head.

 Second, a concern that many producers have is not even to do with the birds, its to do with the eggs and water- both of which can freeze in the cold temps. We have decided we would rather lose a few eggs, but then have a very low-input system for raising our birds, where we feel they also have a higher quality life. Also, its not a big deal to change out the water when it freezes. We visit the coops anyway twice daily at least, to check in on the birds, feed them, etc. The  savings (no building to heat, easier construction) and most importantly the fresh air for the birds outweighs any other cons that we have thought of.

In order to partly compensate for the lack of insulation, we will put a barrier of straw bales around the inside of the coop which will provide a little bit of insulation as well as more protection from the elements (wind mainly). We also plan to construct insulated nest boxes, both for the added comfort for the bird, and to prevent the eggs from freezing.We will keep you posted on how this works out- it's a little bit unorthodox, but that's how we roll.

We also have 200 chicks and 100 turkeys showing up in the next two weeks. These, in addition to the ones that we have been busy hatching out since January, will comprise the shares for the fall of 2012. We certainly have our work cut out for us. These little guys will first go into a heated brooder, and then when they begin feathering out, we can also have them out on the grass. We know of people who have little chicks out on the grass from day 1, and we really would like to do that- but it kind of depends on our time and supplies available if we can accomplish that in time or not. Otherwise, we will use our barn for now and work on an outdoor set-up for the future.
Some Buck-eye chicks

Thanks so much for reading, until next time...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cold Frames, Friends and bliss!

 Its been a few weeks of farming bliss, seeing the warmth of having friends that are as excited as we are now that have a farm, figuring out our routines as we do chores, slowly working on our ever-growing list of projects. Many of which are going faster due to friends generously giving us their time and energy to help us. Thank-you, you know who you are!!

Last Saturday we decided it was time to build our cold frame/high tunnel to house our potted herbs for the spring, and also our  entire "baby" crop Basil for the summer (Basil can't handle the cooler evenings here in AB). We had a handle on how to build something like this- previous experience building metal high-tunnels for John Mills at Eagle Creek Farms as well as some theoretical knowledge. Well, we can give ourselves a pat on the back (I think)! Along with help from our friend Kyle we managed to complete a tunnel, complete with 1 door (sort sags a bit...) and 1 ventilation door in the back (which may not exist yet...) but it is pretty much done! And it seems reasonable sturdy too. It was a surprisingly hot, sunny day (20 C above) and so we got a lot of sun! Between the hot sun, a beer and a wee bit of dehydration we felt pretty good! Ha!We can call it a very productive and wonderful day.

Skeleton of the tunnel

Wood supports added

Finished tunnel covered with greenhouse poly and a door in front and back ends

The fun continues...between trying to get dinner served for my hubby on time (well, on time is a great exaggeration) and farming stuff I have also been able to do some work on our garden.

 The previous owner took great care of his property...everything was raked, well-weeded, and he was also an orderly sort of fellow... straight rows in his garden beds, a clump of tulips at each corner of the deck...don't get me wrong- I appreciate gaining possession of a clean yard, but the whole effect is also fairly boring. This just means I have a clean slate to work with- this appeals to creative me very much! First thing first, a herb garden near the kitchen is in order. So far I have dug up a good chunk of dirt next to the deck, right nearest to the kitchen entrance. Daniel left one morning from a lawn and came back that evening to a minor excavation! Ha! Digging up boring lawn is one of the most liberating feelings :) I adore it...honestly, it's entirely possible that I dig up lawns purely based on my need for that feeling of liberation....well, that and the added effects of a much more diversified flower/veggie/herb bed, water retention in the diversified plant matter, increased insect populations (namely butterflies and bees!), and so on and so forth. It's going to be a lot of work, I realize this- especially after 2 days have gone by because other things have demanded my attention. And still the half dug yard waits for me.

The boring undug yard- the grass looks a little sad cause its spring and not all the grass is green yet

Partially dug herb garden, same view as above photo. The left edge will actually be another path (like below) and then the rest of the grass on the left will also be dug up

First little brick path through the right side of future herb garden

It doesn't look like much, I know.  It will get finished and look beautiful, in time... The problem is patience. Patience is the single most virtue I lack and which is most needed when it comes to gardening. My recent interest in "pinterest" (don't get me started, a friend told me I absolutely needed to try it out, as it turns out, I like virtual pin boards... I do in real life, so I guess it's not a far stretch to...virtual.... pin board?) oh right, so I'm all on fire researching  creative and grounded garden ideas- from creative things like hanging mirrors in the garden to reflect light around (cool,right?!) to more grounded ideas like sheet mulching to get a garden going.... And I have all these dreams germinating of what this little herb garden and all my other gardens will look like...images of cottage-ey mature plants spilling over rock borders... (pinning all these images on pinterest of course) And then I look at my just flipped sod....bare earth...will I have the patience to see this through? We'll see. I do live the process though, as impatient as I am. Soon I'll just plant some herbs in that gorgeous, rich soil.

Maybe one day the herb garden will look like day!

The beauty about all of this is accepting the process it seems. Sure I want an amazing garden in the end, but the process, work and years of tending are what is the important part. Collecting and adding unique perennials, herbs and other plants to the garden, watching them grow. Making and finding unique treasures from the forest, 2nd hand stores, antique shops, and finding special places for those treasures in the garden. And of course the learning along the way, understanding lifecycles, plants, insects, nutrients, how everything is connected... becoming a better person (ie, gaining patience!).

I am only slightly, ok a lot, overwhelmed by the tasks ahead. Something that keeps me sane though is, well first Daniel. Truly he is a rock and carries much of the weight of the decision making, financial planning burdens. And secondly, the fact that the best you can do is take things ONE day at time (and use chalk boards, to make lists and prioritize!) ok I think I'm done now! oh ya, enjoy yourself, everyday! Take pride in the work you do, in the things you accomplished THAT day.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

First week in the farm

The good life, that's what this is. It's sounds cliche, but this is what I've dreamt about since I was little. Life on the land, growing your own food, hanging laundry on the clothesline, heading down to the barn every evening and morning and give your bunny a cuddle, water and feed the birds (and sometime soon milk the goats!!).

This first week we had Daniels parents staying with us. They took a whole week of vacation time to give us a hand. Mike's expertise has been saved us a lot of trouble and us standing there scratching our heads saying "gee, hmm, guess we'll google it!". Mike has converted our bath tub into a showers, set up electrical thing a ma bobs (yep, that's what they're called) in the barn, helped hang a clothes line (that's proper and taught), build fences, convert things, build doors, the list goes on!

We successfully converted on building into a coop that all our birds are now in, including the ducks, chickens and turkeys. They're all very happy. First we're teaching them where home is by keeping locked on the coop for 4 days, then we can let them out. During the day they 'll go wherever they darn well please, and at night they'll come home to their safety zone the coop. We've cheated actually and let them out and about a bunch already. All the birds wandered around exploring their new yard.

There is white fencing around the yard that the birds are in, but this fencing is only to keep our two donkeys contained. Yep, we bought two mini donkeys at the odd and unusual on sunday. Our friends Wilma and Devina spent the afternoon with us. Their names are Desiree and Sally. Sally is due to have a foal sometime mid-summer, which I'm so excited for!!
The birds still go under, through and over the fence to range through the trees to the easy or the pasture to the south and the west.

We feel so lucky and happy to be on this beautiful property. It's been very well kept, and yet old, weathered treasures of barn wood and metal wheels are to be seen.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Our farming milestone

We got the key, the farm is now ours. Daniel and I have been in a heavenly state of bliss all day!!
Today isn't actually move in day, since Daniels whole family comes down tomorrow and we'll be moving everything then. Moving is the easy part. Getting our farm ready and set up for all our birds etc is the hard part!

Daniels parents are coming down for the week, which is so amazing! Mike will be able to help build things- since we need to be ready right away for our turkeys that are coming soon, have somewhere to put our chicken flock that we currently have at johns, etc. perhaps purchasing a donkey or two, since we decided they would be our best option for instant protection for the chickens from the coyotes and other predators. And Mel will help us settle into the house and make sure it's clean ;)

Daniel and I did another walk about on the property to assess our plans and things we'll want to prioritise while his parents are here to help. Sssoooo many things to do. We're really getting excited. At first both of us felt pretty overwhelmed. I especially, just looking at all the buildings and fencing, what paddocks are first it was difficult to picture how we'd make it work and what we'd all use different parts for... Like, we could put the chickens here, but then what about the ducks? And one day we might want goats in here (the barn)? Is this a good spot to potentially milk goats? Oh, but those fences are in the way, do we move all the fencing? And so on :)

It's a thrilling feeling once it's starts to all come together. The more time we spend around the buildings and talking about our plans, assessing layouts etc, the more we see how everything will actually integrate with our ideas, future plans. We now plan to do a "Plein air" type of a chicken coop in a large building that used to be a hay storage building, we think. The more we learn the more Daniel and I believe chickens are very hardy and actually benefit from fresh air. Although our chickens will truly free range during the day, we'll be locking them up at night, mostly to protect them from coyotes. The coop will also most importantly offer the birds protection from wind/exposure in winter time. So that's project number one. Get chicken coop and duck coop ready!

Here we go!!