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!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seedy Saturday/Sunday success

Hello dear readers, mom, and friends!

Well, it's been a busy two weeks. Last week we did seedy Saturday in Calgary, which was SO busy and an incredible success! And this week we were at red deer for seedy Sunday. Not as busy, but we were still glad that we were there. We had a chance to connect with many shareholders and people new to gardening and experts alike. So many things that I'm looking forward to. Seed saving, planting the veggie garden and adding beauty and bees to the property with many, many flowers. SO many flowers. I love flowers and trees and shrubs! Like I've said in previous posts, everyday I find something new to look forward to everyday on our farming/local food/seed saving/heritage promoting and loving lifestyle!!!

Seedy events are foundational to the gardening and local food and farming community. They provide an opportunity for people to exchange the seeds they have personally saved, or perhaps received from a friend. These seeds will often be rare, unique and specifically suited to the local climate they were grown in. And, perhaps most special of all, they come with stories. One lady at the seed saving event was so thrilled about the colours she had selected for in these ice plants she had been growing for years and I ended up buying them purely based on her excitement for them! Often seeds have been in a family for generations and the seed owner will tell you about the russian grandmother that brought them over and things like that. Of course we were selling our herb plants at these seedy events, which aren't seeds, but all the same we were proud of the quality and selection of our plants. People are always happy if we have done the work of starting plants for them.

Daniel is developing a passion for seed saving and would like to make that a goal for our farm. He wants everything or close to it grown from our own seed and to also provide these seeds to others in the area. In the past we have saved a handful of things, and it's really fun. Tomatoes, borage, wheat, peas... And honestly I have never hesitated to help myself to random flower seeds when I might see them in a public garden or a park. It's fun!

What do you like to save?

Ps that's our booth at seedy Sunday. We were sharing it with our friend, Mike Kozlowski from Steel Pony Farm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The greenhouse and a Recycled tray for seeding

Its spring, and we are busy tending our seedlings we have had in the greenhouse since march. Many of you might be thinking of getting some things started, such as tomatoes, hot peppers or other longer season plants. This recycled egg carton is a simple idea, just for fun, especially for the home gardener who doesn't want to spend a lot of money on plastic trays. Who has lots of eggs trays sitting around? That's what I thought, so here's my idea:

Take an egg tray
Poke holes in bottom, I used a screw
Full up with potting soil
Seed in each egg spot
Cover lightly with soil, water and label
And presto!

A cheap (free essentially) and re-usable (or bio-degradable if its cardboard!) plant tray! We sees 1000's of plants, so we do need to buy plastic trays for our farm. But we reuse them every year, even if they're broken.

The greenhouse is a double polly hoop house built by John mills at his farm at eagle creek farms. We're renting space from him to house our starts.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's spring and some good news!

Seems like I say this everytime I write a new post, but its been a busy spring. We are busy hatching chicks, turkeys and ducks, planning for our move to the new farm and what else...attending seedy staurday/sunday events, continuing our grain deliveries and telling people about our meat and grain shares (that are still available!!)

We've had lots of eggs in the incubator, and under a muscovy hen. The past two weeks, we watched many chicks hatch, including one turkey.

Its an amzing process, to watch a chick hatch. First, they make a little pip- their very first craxk in the shell that begins this long, difficult process. Then, over the next hour(s) they continue to work at and crack a ring around the shell...until, that crack widens. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of some of their feathers as they heave and wriggle to push apart the two halves of the shell.

First pip

Within minutes of hatching

And then they push it all the way open and their little, wet, heaving body unfurls. They often start wriggling right away, fighting to stand and totter around aimlessly. And chirp hello to the world.

3 exhausted chicks in incubator

Chick and turkey

In the next few hours they begin to dry, and they begin to look like a real, fluffy fuzzbut. At this point we can remove them from the incubator to a brooder where they can mature for a few weeks.
Straw bale brooder
Plus just today we saw two ducklings peak out from under the muscovy mother. Wow, she's been sitting on thos eggs very tightly, not even budging for a second for us to see whats under her! But we managed to catch a glimpse of two that peaked out from under her!

Look for the ducklings peaking out!

As many of you know, we have bought a farm. Our move will be happening in two weeks and we are packing packing packing. And I am really bad for sorting stuff as I am packing (I have a 2nd hand store box, a to consign box, recycling boxes, throw out boxes of course...) makes everything a bit more time consumuing! But we're so excited. Every day I find more things that I am really, really excited about. There are the big reasons: we now have permanent land to make our plans and raise our animals, grow food and live a much desired life of self-sufficiency. Then there's the small things. Thinking about where to put in the veggie garden. The deck that we can BBQ on. Where in the yard that we'll have the fire pit to have fires and watch the sun set over the pond. Being able to build things, have a work shop.... Planting fruit trees and flowers. Getting goats to provide meat and milk in addition to the other animals. Soooo many things to look forward to that are making my heart feel like it'll burst out of my chest.

Oh ya, GOOD NEWS!! We have found loacally grown, all natural, SOY-FREE feed for all our birds. We are so thrillled about this, and we know it is an important consideration for many people who are concerned about the diet of our birds, so we want everyone to know. We will be day-ranging our birds year round, and supplementing their natural diet with this feed. Day ranging is basically free-ranging. They have unlimited access to the spruce-sheltered pasture and then at night when they return to the coop we lock the door to protect them from predators.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How do we Become Sustainable?

I was just reading an article in the February 2012 Acres U.S.A. magazine by Jim Adkins, where he says this:

"...think about this, if you are dependent upon a company to send you baby chicks every year because you cannot reproduce your own flock, is your flock of poultry sustainable? Absolutely not! If these genetic companies producing turkeys and chickens would ever go away, you will no longer have a flock of birds."

Now, he is talking here about commercial breeds and hybrids, turkeys so large breasted they can't even mate anymore and chickens so scientifically inbred then crossbred a certain way that its impossible to get the exact same results yourself. It's pretty easy to see his point with these birds, but what about what we're doing?

This year, we were content to buy our chicks from hatcheries as long as they weren't commercial hybrids, figuring we could take our time and hopefully one day we'd have enough birds to do it ourselves. We were being pretty casual about it I think. Then, out of nowhere Rochester hatchery destroyed their entire flock of heritage Bronze turkeys due to a biosecurity issue! Then they replaced them with the same hybrid bronze that almost every other hatchery in the country sells. As hard as I tried, I could not find any way to replace them from another hatchery. We did end up settling for an in-between, a bronze that grows a bit too fast for our liking but at least isn't a hybrid. These will be our Thanksgiving turkeys this year.

For Christmas this year, we decided to shoot for the stars. We are going to try to hatch every single egg that our lone Narragansett hen lays this spring, we're going to buy hatching eggs from small breeders all over the country and if we're still short, we're going to buy every heritage turkey poult (as long as it's a meat breed) that we can find from local breeders in May. If we do it right, we might be able to reach our goal this year, while keeping enough breeding birds around to do it 100% ourselves next year. We're going to do the same thing with our chickens and ducks. We were already prepared to do all our own ducks this year, and we are bringing in lots of chicks this year form hatcheries and breeders, and this fall we'll pick our breeders.

Are we sustainable now? No, but I think we can be sustainable next year.

One thing this has done, it's reinvigorated my urge to grow all my own vegetable and herb seed too...maybe 2014?