Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy new year!

This is just a quick little post to say a huge thank you to all our readers and fiends for your support and kindness over the past year. 2016 promises to be a year of tremendous growth for us and we hope you'll spend a little time with us each week following our adventures. 

From all of us to all of you, have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Winter Snows

I awoke at 2:30 this morning to the deep hush that you only get when the Earth is blanketed in new fallen snow. It started yesterday and has been snowing lightly ever since. It's not a lot yet, maybe five inches or 13cm. It's hard to tell looking from my window. But it's enough that everything is well covered in a layer of white and it's reflecting the starlight and waning moon so that it appears much brighter outside than it has in months. I always find the darkest winter nights are those with no snow to reflect the light back. This means that it's officially the end of gardening season and the beginning of planning season, although we are still hopeful that if it warms up a little we might get some turnips out of the garden that are buried under the snow right now. The snow will actually insulate them from the cold drying winds that cause so much damage to plants. Having a layer of snow is actually good for your perennials. 

Planning for a CSA and market garden happens on an ongoing basis. Rotations, sunlight, pests, soil characteristics and fertility, all these facrors and more go into our decisions on which crops to grow and where the following year. We also have the considerations of the tunnels and greenhouse for starting early crops and seedlings too. It's becoming quite a complex thing to manage it all. So I'm writing it all up on paper initially but it will soon be transferred to a series of spreadsheets so that we can plan and monitor our progress and production. The week that it will take me to get it all sorted out will be worth it in efficiency in the growing season. It also means I can order seed ahead of time and that's important for crops that we grow a lot of and for our grafted tomatoes to ensure we get the rootstocks and varieties we want. Popular items sell out fast and I don't want to be left in April scrambling for seeds. 

Just because it's winter doesn't mean there's nothing going on here except paperwork. We are growing wheatgrass for a new customer. Lenna of In The Raw Sprouting Centre in Porters Lake has ordered a weekly supply of 10 pounds of fresh wheat grass for her business and we're happy to do that for her. As you know it's something we've done before and so as we speak the seeds (sometimes called wheat berries) are putting out little roots as they germinate. Once they've had another rinse in the morning they'll be ready to transfer to the soil trays for growth. Lenna is expecting the usual New Years rush of people who want to improve their health so we will be starting with a larger initial batch and then settling into a regular delivery schedule that will continue year round. Wheatgrass is pretty easy to grow indoors so we have space set up that's got the right temperature for the most part and we use clean food grade plastic trays and organic potting soil. Lots of other growers don't use soil, but wheatgrass is one plant that really does well in a soil medium. I'll take some pics of our methods once it's light outside. 

The rush of kids visits and dinners is over now and we're eating turkey leftovers. Yum! It's a good way to load the kids all up with root veggies we have stored for winter. Meghan is going to stay with her brother in the city for a few days which will be a nice break for her. She's leaving today. And Steve is back to work as usual. I think he's home again on Thursday and we're going to friends for New Year's Eve. Other than that it's just a quieter time at the farm. Having said that, it's 3:49 am right now and one of the roosters out at the hen house just started crowing. It wasn't a one off either, he's regularly warbling away every twenty seconds or so. And I can hear the ducks gently chattering too. Oh, now one of the Roos in the greenhouse beside my bedroom is joining in. With any luck they'll realize that dawn is hours away yet and go back to sleep. If I'm awake in the middle of the night like I am now, I always keep my bedside lamp off so as to not wake the Roos. I don't mind the noise and in fact I'm so used to it that I'll sleep through the pre-dawn racket. But the sound carries down the hill and along the river somehow and spreads over the neighbourhood. Our rooster named Gargle was famous for miles for his distinctive crow. Oh, the ducks are muttering curses at the moment and heading for their favourite spot under the house. That means either there's a predator about or Jordan's let the dog out to pee and she's scared them. Either way the yard is now quiet again and all I can hear is the gentle breathing of my sleeping family and the occasional crackle of the fire in the kitchen. I put a couple of logs on at 3 to keep the stove warm so that when Steve gets up at five to get ready for work the house will still be warm. The wood stove is our only source of heat and since its small it requires more regular filling than a larger stove does. But it's the perfect size for our little trailer and with good dry wood and a box fan that blows up the narrow hallway, it keeps the house warm. Our woodshed is now moved to be outside the back door and is expanded in capacity. We could probably get 6 cords of wood in there and still have a wide walkway but we burned less than 3 last winter and we  aren't expecting to burn more than that this winter. I let the fire burn low when it's just me at home and overnight so unlike a modern house the temperature fluctuates quite a bit. But that's okay with me. It just means warming the oven if I want to rise bread or planning ahead and warming the kitchen. 

Well I'm going to try and get some sleep. The roosters are all quiet again so it seems like a good time. Sleep well my friends!  

Here's a pic of the unfinished side of the woodshed. The other two sides have recycled metal sheets we salvaged from our friends shed that got some damage in the hurricane last year. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas!!

How was your holiday? The weather here was absolutely gorgeous. Plus 15 and sunny. So we took some time this afternoon after we'd eaten to go into the garden and do some measuring. It's easier to plan now than when there's feet of snow on the ground. We looked at the most level spots for greenhouses and walked through areas we can put into production for next year. It was a good afternoon. 

This morning Steve got the roof shingles nailed back down that came off in the wind and he fixed the greenhouse roof and wood shed too. It's the end of December and we have about 80% or more of our wood left. The rule used by the older farmers hereabouts is that on Groundhog Day in February you should have half your wood and half your hay. That covers you for a late wet spring or a really cold March. 

Well it's been a fun day of chores, kids visits, home grown food and lots of games. All I really want to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep reading the seed catalogues. 

I hope you all had a lovely day and that the rest of your weekend is relaxing and filled with joy. 

All our best wishes, The Faires. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Still green in December

We've had a lot of wind and rain but so far not a lot of snow. Last year was the same and then we got five metres of snow in six weeks. So folks around here are a bit nervous the same thing will happen again. In the meantime the poultry are enjoying their freedom. Here are a few pics from around the yard including the ducks, some spinach and beets still growing and even our turkey Tom showing off and his new wife whose feathers are growing back nicely on her neck although it does look very spiky right now. We should call her maleficent. Despite having been repeatedly frozen and covered in snow and ice the greens are still good. Just more evidence that young green leaves can withstand freezing temps better than older ones and that we can grow things in Nova Scotia even if December as long as they're the right hardy vegetables. It's all part of the season extension plan. 






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fruitcake and Carols

  Yesterday evening the kids and I piled into the car and headed down to The Heart of The Valley which is a long-term care facility (nursing home) in Middleton. We met up with a couple of dozen adults and kids from church and went to the various wings singing in our joyous but non-professional way and we spent a little extra time with Ethel who is a member of our congregation but has not been able to attend for many years. She's such a cute lady and loves her visits and having the children around. We had an age range there from Mazey who is a few weeks old to our own seniors in their 60s. The teenagers (ok my teenagers) were instructed to help coral the little ones who sometimes take off and it all worked out really well. Everyone had a good time and we enjoyed some cookies made by our girls youth group (called Young Women).  I always take the kids out for hot chocolate too but this year we got frozen lemonade instead.

   Kate woke me up early this morning to help with baking. She is doing a fundraiser for CAPS which I think stands for Companion Animal Protection Society. She and two other classmates are doing a bake sale outside a grocery store this afternoon so we are baking giant cinnamon buns and snicker doodles to sell. The buns are out of the oven now and so the house smells divine. I will pick her up at school after lunch and we'll go to the bake sale.

   While the kids are at school I'm going to get some fruitcake made. Normally I'd have done this in November but time didn't allow so today it is. It still gives me time to brush it down at least three times before giving as gifts or eating it. That's the torture of fruit cake, it's best eaten after brushing with alcohol for a few weeks to get the moist dark cake but it's so good you just want to eat it now.

   Anyways I have my Grand Marnier now so today is the day! I took a photo of my bottle and my husband mentioned that it looks like I bought a five gallon jug, lol. Perspective changes everything! It's a 200ml bottle. That's all I need for my baking as I don't drink. But I thought I'd show you the pics for a chuckle. Don't worry, I had just gotten home and lit the stove do its not hot at all. Have a wonderful day everyone. The weather today is wet and windy so I'm happy to stay home where it's warm and dry. 


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chicken Run Follow up and Pics and Christmas Begins

  Good morning! Well, we've been keeping pretty busy here a the farm. My laptop broke again but Jordan generously let me borrow his so I could do some writing and catch you all up on what's new. Some people are saying they can't read about the chicken run so here goes again, with pics this time.

Zakk felt really good about helping chickens
  Our chickens from the Chicken Run (rescue of battery hens) went well. By the time we got the poor things home they'd traveled about 200 km in cardboard boxesand it was dark outside but it was a good time of day to introduce them to a new home. We put them all in the prepared barn with good food, fresh water and heat lamps because we expected that they'd be used to a controlled environment and would perhaps not have all their feathers. As it turns out, their body conditions weren't too bad but they did look terrible. Many had toenails over an inch long and huge bald patches from constant feather picking. Other things we learned quickly was that they spooked very easily, didn't know how to drink from a water pail, and couldn't jump of hop onto a roost.

Kate helping unload the truck
   It's been a few weeks now since they came home and they're just about ready for roosts now. Their muscles have been getting stronger and more coordinated and they are finally learning to sleep sitting down instead of standing up. They are now much less skittish with people but the funniest thing is seeing all their feathers growing in. The way feathers grow is a little spiky tube leaves the skin and once it reaches a predetermined length it opens up from the tip. Consequently the chickens are currently covered in fuzzy down and an array of spiky feathers. Their combs are now more red and less floppy. They look hilarious, but so much better than the first day they arrived and I can't wait to see how they look in another couple of weeks once all their new feathers are in. At that point I'll adjust their diet so their protein is a little less and there's less corn, they can go onto what is closer to a normal chicken diet.

You can see how pale their combs were and
the state of their plumage on day 1.
  Their food is one of the things we planned ahead of time. I knew they would be stressed and potentially hungry and dehydrated when they arrived so we pre-mixed their ration and filled the feeders. The water has stress-aid added, it's an anti-biotic free form of gatorade for chickens and animals that has vitamins and electrolytes. The kids laughed because it's even the same colour as orange gatorade. After a week of the vitamins they are now back to plain fresh water. Their food took a little more thought and math. We bought soy meal which is 48% protein, cracked corn which is 9% and regular chicken mash which contains 16% protein. Knowing they'd need the corn for warmth and the higher protein I mixed a garbage can full at the ratio of 1 corn, 1 soy, 3 lay mash for a finished protein content of 21%. We've been adjusting it slowly with the idea of eliminating the corn, we just put it in there because corn produces a lot of heat as it's digested and it's easier to heat a chicken from the inside than heat the barn to 76 degrees. Soon I'll have them just down to 18% once they are done laying and taking a well deserved rest. We don't have any supplemental light in there and are now down to 6 eggs a day from 100 chickens. Once Spring comes and the days lengthen I'll have lights on for them in the mornings and they will start laying again. At that time they will be on a regular lay pellet for food, be able to forage outside, and I'll give them some crushed oyster shells for added calcium.

Pretty bald, but not the worst by far, many
had large bare patches of reddened skin.
  The battery hens have been joined by a small flock of barred rocks including a rooster and are all getting along very well. There are no more than the usual pecking order squabbles, we ended up losing 2 of the rescue hens who we noticed right away weren't doing very well, but at least they got a week of peace and freedom, and they're learning how to be more normal chickens. The hens have room to fly around, scratch through the bedding, explore the barn, eat and drink whenever they like, and learn how to be normal chickens again. This week their covered run will be finished and on nice days they'll be able to venture outside onto the grass covered ground for the first time. I will likely have to build a small ramp unless I can see that they're all able to jump back over the sill of the door. There is a very heavy duty clear tarp over the top of the south facing run and I'm going to finish the sides in plastic sheeting. This will allow me to use the structure for a greenhouse in the future, should add a little warmth to the barn on sunny days, and will keep the grass growing longer so they have a nicer outdoor play environment. Having the barred rocks is helpful because they're used to being outdoors and will teach the other hens by example.

  Well enough about the chickens. We got a larger trailer for Chris to live in when he's home. We bought a chevy trail blazer to fix up and use as a farm vehicle, and we're now into the season of Christmas parties. Last night we had our Dinner with the Grinch at church and it was a lot of fun. Good food, good friends, and amazing clothes and hair! lol. We delivered some meals to shut-ins afterwards and later today I'll reduce the leftovers into soup and stew meat. For Christmas I'm doing a lot of baking as usual but I'm also celebrating our British heritage by making dark fruit cake and I made a big batch of steak and kidney pie filling that I'm going to make into pies this afternoon. I have some cookies to make for the grandkids and then I need to get their packages mailed tomorrow. It's less than 2 weeks until Christmas so I must get them on their way.

  Well that's all from me for this morning. If you get busy and don't have a chance to read again before the holidays, Happy Christmas! I hope that whatever you celebrate you have friends and loved ones around and feel the joy of the season.

              Elizabeth

















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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Chicken Run and a Catch Up.

I was reminded yesterday that it's been a very long time since I'd written an update and since today I have about an hour to spare I'll let you know everything that's new at the farm.

Good morning! I've missed writing to you but with the regular growing season things can get a bit busy and I seem to simply put off writing until days and weeks go by and I realize you must think I got eaten by the turkeys. So here's a month by month account of what we've been doing.

September saw the kids back to school, Jordan for his last semester as  he will be graduating early, and Meghan started band. After much testing and deliberation she's playing the trumpet which is great because she likes tooting her own horn and we own a trumpet so we don't have to pay for the rental. It seems to be going well, and I have to say that listening to a beginner trumpet is much more pleasant than listening to beginner violin or bagpipes :)  I think August or September was when we found a kitten in the ditch and took him in and named him Apple because he was found under a crab apple tree. He's growing into a lovely cat and is a good mouser. I took him down to the chicken barn last week and he was in and out in less than a minute with a nice fat mouse. I'm going to make a small ladder that goes to the loft so he can hunt up there too.

October was the month I went to BC to see my friend Deanna. Her GoFundMe info is a few pages back. She's still fighting strong and had the boys again this past weekend. It was so hard to leave them, I miss them a lot. I've known Kasen since he was very little and the other two boys were born into my arms practically. I got pneumonia and bronchitis while I was away and again when I returned home so I've been joking that I've spent more money on medications in the past month than I did in all the 12 years prior. Everyone in the house got quite sick, even Chris who was stationed in New Brunswick, with the notable exception of Kate who had a 2 day sniffle and that was it. October also held Thanksgiving and marked the end of our first Farmers Market season. And what a way to go out! We had a huge gift basket to give away, lots of sales, and people were already sad that they'd have to wait until December to see us again. First frosts happened as they always do but our beets and some of the garden greens were still doing well in the garden.

November came and went in a bit of a blur. You'd think that with the market over for the season things would calm down, but they merely changed gears. We could have sold so much more last year if we'd only had the production so we took out our goal sheets and sat down to make plans for the next five years. We always work in a plan that looks forward five years and then adjust it as needed. It's normally what we do January 1st each year but given that we knew we were going to look at expanding it meant applications, research, planning, more research, and lots of phone calls to experts.

One of the big capital investments we want to make next year is a greenhouse. But last year, as you know, we got over 16 feet of snow. Many greenhouses collapsed and farms lost their livelihood. So we needed to make sure that we understood how to mitigate the potential collapse, check out the different engineering and styles of greenhouses, and then find a manufacturer in Canada who understood the demands placed upon a greenhouse in the Maritimes. In our case the problems are wind shear and snow loading. We're now working closely with Multi Shelter Solutions to arrange for the greenhouses and tunnels we'll need for the future. They've been lovely and to help out the community garden they're giving us free shipping if we take a tunnel and greenhouse at the same time. Which is a $500 savings. It allows us to get the tunnel for the community garden and have the greenhouse operational for starts early and to get some early crops in the ground. As you know, we always have a supply of seeds on hand so there's no waiting for orders to arrive and in fact Veseys catalogue is now out, yay!

Novembers two biggest happenings were our visit to FarmWorks gentle dragons yesterday (fantastic!) and The Chicken Run. I'll talk about the Chicken Run first. As you probably know most of the worlds chickens used for commercial egg production are raised in confinement. In the case of Nova Scotia, your eggs are likely coming from one of the farms associated with Egg Producers of NS and their hens are raised in cages. These are known as battery hens. 4 hens to a small cage is the norm and this makes for the most economical way of having chickens. There's not a lot of room needed, you can stack chickens multiple cage units high, there's no bedding material just the wire of the cages. and the only other things needed are water and food. Eggs are laid, roll out of the cage for collection and are then washed, graded and sent to your local supermarket. It's one of those things that we tend to put out of our minds as humans, that our eggs that are 30 or 50 cents cheaper than at the farmers market, cause suffering to the hens.

Now you might wonder how I know this and you've often heard me say to look at the results and then judge for yourselves, right? Well we had the opportunity thanks to a local chicken rescue, to re-home some old (old by commercial standards means 12-18 months) laying hens who were destined for slaughter. They've reached the peak of their usefulness and now are considered 'spent'. What they really mean is it's not worth it economically to feed them any more. Which is fair enough. Eggs are a controlled commodity and therefore big business. What that means for us smaller producers is something entirely different though so when Beckie Penman and I had the opportunity to get some of these layers for $1 each, we agreed that we would.

I'll be adding lots of pictures to the end of this post so go have a look, but I'd like to tell you about their behaviour their first night home, right out of the box. The hens were very wobbly on their feet, there are a few suspected broken wings and there are a couple who look so injured and shell shocked that I didn't think they'd last through the night. They have trouble walking due to their massively overgrown toe nails and the fact that they've never been able to really walk around much or stretch their wings since they were chicks. They are used to being huddled together in small spaces and so we have some corners of the barn set up with wooden slats over it to provide 'protection' and a sense of security for these newcomers. It's helping to prevent piling and panic. We found that talking consistently and quietly has helped, we move slowly in the barn when collecting eggs, and we  simply don't rush so we have time to observe them properly, especially any birds that are isolating themselves in the corners.

They came home on Friday night and by Saturday afternoon we'd collected 3 or 4 dozen eggs. They just lay them wherever on the floor, consequently I stepped on at least a few hidden in the litter. Today is Tuesday morning so they've been here now for a few days and so far we've had no casualties. There is still some picking going on and a pecking order being established, and our poor naked chickens still look naked, but they're much more mobile, exploring the barn, eating well (the feed amount eaten each day is increasing) and drinking their special water that looks like orange Gatorade according to my children. I explained that it's full of electrolytes and vitamins to help them recover from the stress so in effect it is like Gatorade for animals but without all the sugar. I mixed a special feed for the chickens taking into account that they need some extra heat and protein to re-grow feathers and muscle mass and get their strength back. Their bodies aren't in terrible condition, they're just basically bald, pecked and don't have strong muscles. Their diet consists of soybean meal, cracked corn and lay mash and it's balanced at 23% protein. As they regrow feathers and become more lively I'll be reducing that and introducing pellets. But one thing at a time. They're eating and drinking well now and it didn't take long. All you really need with chickens is someone to lead the way and they'll all follow. The hardest time for them was learning to drink from a regular waterer instead of the nipples they'd used previously, but they seem fine now. I put the food not too close to the heat lamps and thought there would be a pile of chickens three high in that corner but instead they are now content to scratch around, explore, peck the walls and door, eat and drink whenever they feel like it, and they're getting used to the shorter days and cooler nights. We leave the red bulb heat lamps on at night but of course we use natural light and that means instead of the 76 degree barn with 14 hours of artificial light they're now getting a chilly unheated barn (except the lamps) that the sun shines into and warms up the shavings on the floor but only for about 8-9 hours a day. We're 3 weeks from the shortest day of the year, and while I can definitely add light to the barn, I want them to moult and take some time off from laying. They've earned it.

Our plan with the hens is to gradually let them gain some strength before introducing them to any of the other chickens. We want them to have the ability to jump, fly a little from perches, have some colour return to their combs which you can see from the photos look like giant floppy combs drained of colour. Even in the past couple of days the colour has improved and some are standing more erect. I'm not 100% sure why but maybe the higher protein diet and vitamins. I'll get more photos as time goes on. In the early Spring I'll have introduced the other young hens I've raised this year and  they will all be ready for an increase in light to get them laying again. The hens will have what was the sheep pasture last year and it's a good size for a pasture raised flock. It's also got the barn ideally located in the centre and we'll rotate the sheep onto a different field next year. The turkeys will be down by the river. I have arranged for egg grading so now I can sell to restaurants and stores if I want since obviously I'm going to have a lot of eggs, and we're applying for a commercial turkey licence so next year will be very poultry focused in the fields down near the river.

This week we're going to be doing nail trimming. Some of the nails on these ex-battery hens are over an inch long and that poses several problems for the hens. It's going to take us a while to trim the feet of nearly a hundred hens but with some extra help I think we should be able to get the first trimming done in one afternoon. It will need to be followed up with another trim in a month. The reason we can't just trim them all it once is that the chickens can become very unbalanced by such a bog change, but more importantly that the quick (the blood vessel inside the nail) grows to an unnatural length as the nail grows and to cut the nails too short could cut into the blood vessel. We don't to stress the birds and more that they've already been, so using a bright light to see where the quick is will help us avoid cutting them by accident and it will shrink back as the nails get shortened. Once the hens are allowed outside in a few months their natural scratching behaviour will keep them short for the rest of their lives. We rarely have to do anything to the feet of our other birds because they free range but the turkeys we got a few weeks ago both came with scaly leg mite so that is something to look for in birds you buy or are given. It's easily treated but takes time.

Yesterday we were able to meet with some of the good folks at FarmWorks. What a great organization! It's a partnership effectively, between investors and local food businesses from primary producers like us (farmers) all the way to restaurants and processed food manufacturers. The goal is to both keep investment money in the local economy and to increase food security for all Nova Scotians. As you well know, sustainability is something we're very interested in and we're ready now to take our farm from our little self-sufficient holding to actually making a living. I really want Steve here more than he is now. And it would give us the opportunity to diversify a little into the bakery. Ah well, one job at a time. It's better to do one job 100% than two jobs half as well. FarmWorks is super interesting so I'm going to ask permission and then tell you more about it tomorrow if that's ok.

Well friends, my hour is up. Time to put another log in the fire and go play with my new kitchenaid mixer that Steve and Chris my son got me for Christmas thanks to a 40% off sale and a $50 rebate coupon I had. I'm feeling very blessed!

Love to you all. Stay warm, healthy, eat your veggies and do something nice for a stranger this week would you? Even if it's just buying a coffee for the person behind you in line in the drive-thru.

Pics to follow: technical difficulties

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Apple Butter, Pumpkin Butter, Yes, it's Harvest Time.

Autumn is definitely here. On the east coast the seasons turn slowly compared to other places we've lived and nowhere is that more evident than here in Nova Scotia. It's easily been a month or more since the leaves began losing their summery green glow and revealing the colours underneath of gold and red, but now I'd estimate that we're at least 25% of the way there and each morning as the frost melts off the leaves the subtle march towards Winter continues. Now is the time of mists and apples. Harvest.

Due to earlier than expected frost the garden was put to bed early this year. Some things like the beets and herbs are still fine but if you even whisper the word frost near basil it'll shrivel up and die. I'm going to lift a few of my bigger plants and get them trimmed and potted indoors but apart from that it's really the time of year that we rest from our labours, examine our success and failures, and plan for the coming Spring.

Oh, and of course it's apple season again!

We sold almost all of our Gravensteins this year at the Farmers Market and we'll probably sell about a quarter of our Cortlands but the bulk of them will be saved for eating fresh, for apple butter, and for sauce and pie filling. Just the thought of it is making me hungry.

Have you had apple butter and pumpkin butter before? Not everyone makes or knows how to use it, but it's like a smooth apple sauce that is spiced. It's great on toast as a spread or even dolloped on top of your oatmeal for some sweet and spicy goodness in the morning. Today's the day for the first batch of apple butter and I'm now blessed to have another crockpot after the incident last year where Jordan melted my base. Note to self: Do not let children turn on the wrong ring and walk away while your crock pot is sitting on the cooktop. Luckily the crock itself is still fine so I can use it in the oven.

You can make apple butter on low heat on the stove but I've found the best and easiest way is to use the crock pot or slow cooker method. You can't accidentally scorch the bottom as it thickens and it can cook overnight which means you wake to a delicious smelling house in the morning. Plus if you cook overnight it frees up more time during the day for other things like canning your apple butter or peeling more apples, lol. Here's my recipe and please note, you can substitute brown or golden sugar or honey in quantities from 1 cup to 3 cups. Obviously 3 cups of sugar per 3 pounds of apples is incredibly sweet. I can double this recipe and still have it fit in my 7 quart oval crock pot. Apple butter slow cooked in the oven or crock takes on a more evenly caramel colour than the stove top version I make, even using the same recipe. It can also vary depending on the variety of apples used. For a truly gourmet butter, mix a combination of sweet and tart apples and one cup of honey to sweeten. Really, whatever apples you've got will work.

CROCK POT APPLE BUTTER 
Approximately 3 lb. fresh apples- Cortland, Bramley, Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp etc.
1-3 cups sugar, white or brown
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cloves
Dash of salt
3/4 cup water or fresh apple cider (or even frozen juice if you have it)
 
Fill your crock pot 3/4 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples. Sprinkle the honey or sugar over the apples and mix together. Mix the spices and salt into the cider and pour over the apples making sure it's all mixed nicely.  Cover and cook on low setting overnight or until the butter is of a thick, spreadable consistency.If apple butter has too much liquid, remove lid and cook on high until thickened. Stir often as butter thickens to prevent scorching.
Store in refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Freeze for longer storage. You can get longer storage by canning using glass jars and the usual 10 minute hot water processing method and leaving 1/2 inch head space in the jars before boiling.

Other tips I can give you from our farm experience are that you're going to want lots of this to give as gifts to family and friends, get your kids to do some of the picking and peeling, and invest in an apple peeler, they're fun for the kids to use and get lots of peeling done quickly without wasting a lot of fruit.

Ok I'm off to peel Cortlands. They're just coming into season for the next 2 weeks but since I'm going to be visiting friends and family on the west coast I need to get all my processing done in the next week. Nothing like a little bit of pressure to get the work going!

Happy Harvest to you all.

Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Helping a Friend in Need

I know it must seem that I do not love you any more, dear reader, but I do. I've just had an awful lot on my plate recently and for the past 6 weeks I've had various parents visiting, a market to run, kids, farm, family responsibilities and one of my best and dearest friends is dying thousands of miles away and I'm struggling to help her as best I can until I can get there in person October 15th. It's so frustrating!

I've got lots of things to tell you about but for now I'm just going to leave you with a short story of how amazing my friend Deanna Scrafton is and hope that you might consider making a small donation to help her out, she really is one of the most loving and caring people you'd ever meet. Just click on the link below to read a very brief summary of why Deanna and her kids need your help. And thank you from the bottom of my heart if you are able to donate. If you cannot we totally understand and ask that you'd remember her in your thoughts and prayers and share her story.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hot Humid Weather & Whitewash

It's the perfect weather for blight to start in the potatoes and tomatoes if we get a couple of damp days. Sheep farmers also call this maggoty weather. Keeping an eye on them is a priority too. But it's so miserable to be out there in the blazing sun and the heat.

Once it cools a few degrees we've got some property maintenance jobs to be done. Paint the tractor, whitewash the insides of the coops and barn, compost and shovel out the barn, put the rain cover on the barn extension and then we have a greenhouse to build. This in addition to baking and running a market, and growing veggies. Yikes! Over the coming winter I'm going to have a good think about how to streamline some of my projects. For example we're eating less lamb so I'm going to re-think my sheep situation. I sold some already.  And if the market keeps on being busy I'm going to focus more energy there.

But for now it's shaping up to be a wet and stormy weekend. We'll see. I thought it's a good time to shovel the barn out and give the whole thing a good thick coat of whitewash. The type of whitewash I'm talking about is the chalky, indoor style wash that's great for keeping bugs and germs at bay. The Amish use it to keep things sanitary inside their barns and it's simple to make and apply. I've heard you can use a sprayer but I'll just probably brush it on in two coats. It doesn't leave things sparkly and shiny but it does lighten up the walls and because it's so alkaline it doesn't provide a nesting space for insects and kills germs.

So how complicated is whitewash? It's not. There are hundreds of recipes but for smaller projects that are indoors, ie. chicken coops and small barns, I love this recipe.

Mix together in a bucket:
1 gallon warm water (4 litres)
2 pounds salt
Stir until salt is dissolved. Then add-
7 pounds hydrated lime and stir until it resembles lumpy pancake batter. It'll thicken a bit over time so you can add a little more water as needed.

Make sure it's hydrated lime and not garden lime or quick lime which is very caustic.

Now hop to it and brush that stuff on every wall, nook and cranny you can find. It'll dry to a powdery finish and if you get it on your skin or clothes it will just wash right off. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Just Checking In

It's a crazy week. My ex is here, the kids are having a rotten time, my parents arrive tomorrow and my adorable husband is fleeing on Thursday to go visit our kids out west. It's insanity here at the farm! But what can you do? It's been very hot so hopefully tomorrow will give us a little rain and some cooler temps. Gotta run. Hope you're finding time for fun this summer!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mid Valley Farmers Market - Up And Running!

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you all over the past month and a bit. Organizing the new farmers market has taken much longer than I thought it would. We held our first market on Saturday and it was amazing! We learned a lot about planning and organization and have a plan in place to improve each week. Do you want to know what the biggest problems we had were?

First,  crowd control. Actually it was more of a parking issue. We had so many people at times that the road got blocked and people were parking all over the place. Our solution for this is to move the vendors back further onto the grass to provide for a wider parking area. If the crowds continue to grow we'll have to mark out parking areas. There's lots of grassy space, we just need to encourage people to use it. Too many customers, what a problem to have! We appreciate all the community support, you guys are great. Please check back each week to see what's new and bear with us as we work out the kinks.

Second, lack of coffee. Vendors like us who get up early need coffee! Getting up at 3am to dig potatoes so they're fresh for you and to bake makes for one heck of a long day! And now everything is in place to just turn on the brewer as soon as we get there and have a pot ready within 20 mins. Our Bunn brewer has a large water tank so it takes a while to heat up. Plus I forgot my grounds until the second trip (silly me) so I kept everyone waiting.  On the subject of coffee, North Mountain Coffee in Berwick have agreed to donate us coffee each week which is terrific! Plus I hear that North Mountain coffee is delicious according to everyone who had some. I don't drink it personally but it's easy at the market to find other vendors who will sample it for me :)  We paired it up with wild blueberry muffins and cinnamon buns and it was great. As the cooler weather gets here I'm sure Meghan will do even more business. And thanks North Mountain for the coffee and the donation to the basket, the winner was thrilled!

A few of our vendors didn't come as scheduled for whatever reason but we're still accepting applications and hope to grow the market over time. If you're interested in finding out more just send me a message to managermidvalleymarket.com  We had a good turn out and sales were much higher than expected for all vendors except the coffee. We have a great little group of regular customers forming and we're available rain or shine because we've got the community centre booked until mid October and we can move inside if the weather gets crummy.

Look for the produce to change as the seasons change. Apples are beginning for us in September with our main crops of Cortlands available in October. Lettuces and peas will start to reappear as the weather cools and tomatoes and peppers should be available this week for at least one of our sellers. Yum!






Saturday, July 18, 2015

Announcement and Farmers Market Update

Well the paperwork is in order and all the inspections are completed. We're now officially:



And to make things even better it's raining now :) After a couple of hot dry weeks it was getting really tricky to water such a large garden, so basically half of the garden got watered once and the rest of the plants just had to take their chances. This nice wet weather should be good for putting on some leaf growth so I'll get out there between showers with some fish fertilizer too. The plants will just love all that nitrogen! We're still about a month behind as far as production goes and the hot weather means we can't get things like lettuce and spinach re-planted for a month or so yet. I'll keep trying though. 

It's time to start the winter vegetables this coming week so that'll be fun, and we have a new wwoofer named Ceylin so I have some help. It' going to be a wet week so I'll have to get creative with the work. At least the weeds will be easy to pull out.

 BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!

Our Farmers Market for the Greenwood / Kingston / Middleton NS area is getting off the ground at long last. We're going to call ourselves the Mid Valley Farmers Market and our first day open will be Saturday August 8th from 9am-1pm in the Wilmot Community Centre on the #1 Hwy. We have so much work to do up front though it's ridiculous. Luckily Sue and Beckie have got my back and are helping out with all sorts of stuff. We should have more details next week. If you're interested in being a vendor just send me an email and I'll direct you to our website which should be up and running soon or google our facebook page which should be up tonight.

Ok it's been a really long day so I'm off to bed now. Enjoy your weekend!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Turkey Bobble Head

A post from June I forgot to publish, oops!

Today is the last day of school and the kids last half day of freedom. Now it's nothing but chores and weeding for six weeks! Okay well maybe we'll do some fun stuff too, but weeding is high on my list. And here's why. Can you see the difference between the garden rows and the lawn? No, me either. Time to weed!

video
In addition to our lambs having trapped themselves in the chicken tractor last week, the other animals are providing hours of entertainment. I drove home from church on Sunday and Steve was already in the yard, he left a few minutes before I did. And despite the fact that it's raining he was playing with the turkeys. I don't know why they let him carry them all over the place and play with their non-bobble heads, but they don't really seem to care. He's special for sure, lol! He thought I was taking a photo of him but actually I took a short video, too funny! It's been popular on FB among our friends.

Well there you have it, our week or weirdness.

We planted the pair of pear trees and today we're planting haskap bushes. We have a few different varieties so hopefully next year we'll get a few berries to try. Yum!! DOUBLE YUM!!

Writing for an Online Magazine - The Mulch Question

As some of you know, I've been writing for an online magazine. Since the articles I'm going to submit are the things I'd usually write about for this little blog of mine I'm going to give you a sneak peek of the articles for this week. Here's my first, and I'd appreciate any feedback.


Straw vs. Hay Mulch - In the battle to control weeds and add fertility and improve the water retention of your soil, is one really better than the other? Well in a word...Yes!

Let's start at the beginning. What is the difference between straw and hay or are they essentially the same thing? Many people think they're identical as they're both often tied into square or rectangular bales but a closer look reveals that they're actually quite different. Understanding these differences may help in your decision of which material better suits your gardening needs.

Straw is the stalk of a cereal crop such as oats, barley, wheat or rye after harvesting has removed the seed heads. Usually a big machine called a combine harvester will come along into the field and in one smooth operation it chops off the top portion containing the grain and sends it in one direction for processing then cuts the straw and collects it until a bale sized block is formed and then it's automatically tied and drops out of the machine back onto the field for later collection. In many parts of the world straw is seen as a waste product, a secondary by-product of the cereal crop, and is sold for practically nothing. But where I live in Nova Scotia, Canada it is actually more expensive to buy straw than it is to get hay because not much straw is produced locally and what we have is quickly purchased for animal bedding. We just don't have the climate for mass cereal crop production.

Hay refers to grass that has been cut while green, dried and then made into square or round bales. Hay is used mainly for feeding animals when no fresh grass is available and it provides bulk and fibre to their diets as well as sugars and nutrients. The best hay smells sweet and if you took a handful and got it wet would still look like grass. Straw almost exclusively has a uniform yellow colour once it's baled and just a hint of smell whereas hay bales can look like a greenish coarse grass, fine grass, or even flowery and weedy grass, it entirely depends on what plants were cut and dried to make them. The quality can vary hugely depending on the skill of the farmer making the bales and the quality of his hay fields. Getting the hay dried to the optimum level so that it's not crumbly but is dry enough to discourage mold growth is very important as it quickly starts to compost if it's damp and composting hay bales have been known to heat up and start barn fires.

So now that you know the difference between straw and hay...why choose one over the other for your garden? I mean it's just mulch right? The benefits of mulch in a garden cannot be overstated, and if you're reading this article I assume you already know how terrific it is for controlling weeds, providing walkways, and helping the soil to remain cool and moist longer in summer and insulating it in colder weather. Mulch creates a micro climate over your soil by essentially acting as a blanket to protect it from the harsh drying effects of the sun and wind. All mulches perform this action including our straw and hay, but did you know that other mulches used around the world have included wood chips, bark, shredded leaves and even rocks? Yes, rocks. The inhabitants of Easter Island recognized that mulching prevented the wind and rain from eroding the valuable topsoil so they used volcanic rocks spaced out on their fields as a lithic mulch to slow runoff and wind erosion. But I can't imagine most of us deliberately placing rocks in the garden, can you? I know that in my own garden I'm constantly doing the opposite because every year my garden seems to grow a new supply of rocks.

Surely some of these mulching methods work better than others wouldn't you think? Do some work better in areas of wind or rain? Are some better suited for slopes? What about availability? These are all questions you need to answer for yourself and then experiment and see what actually works for you. Planning is a huge part of having a successful and productive garden over the long term. You should choose the location wisely taking into account the sunlight, type of soil, and the climate. But in reality most of us just have to use whatever we've got. Not everyone has 20 acres and can pick the perfect spot. So let's just say that you are growing in a typical home garden and the mulches you can most easily and economically get are hay and straw.

The Pros of Straw
Straw is a terrific insulator. The hollow stems retain air and their chopped light fluffy texture allows for easy spreading. In fact the principal uses in the US over the past 200 years have been for animal bedding and for insulating walls in homes (or building straw bale houses) and for covering the ice in ice houses to act as the insulation so the ice is available for use during the summer. When used in a garden it also tends to remain lighter and fluffier than hay and keeps a beautiful golden appearance for quite a long time. The surface remains dry even as the lowest layers touching the soil begin to decompose. Have you ever picked strawberries in a field? Almost certainly there was straw around the bushes and it gave you a good clean place to sit or kneel that felt soft and cushioned.

The Cons of Using Straw
Straw can be expensive depending where you live and you may not be able to grow it yourself. Straw can also act as a home to rodents because of its fluffy texture and has a higher tendency to blow away in strong winds when it is first laid unless you try very hard to pack it down. Straw does add some bulk to your soil but is mostly cellulose and fiber left over after the plant put all it's nutrients into the seed heads that were harvested. Consequently it adds fewer nutrients back into the soil when it decomposes and soil borne bacteria tie up available nitrogen for longer to break down the tougher stalks. Because straw is fluffier and makes less direct contact with the soil it takes longer to decompose, which is both a plus and a minus. If you want to add nutrients it's a minus but if maintaining a cover and walkway is important then it's a plus. Weeds are more easily able to push through a straw mulch from the bottom due to it's fluffy nature, but blown in weeds also won't land in a moist environment so they do not sprout. You can counteract this effect of weed push through by weeding and putting down some newspaper before laying the straw mulch and then using a thicker layer, perhaps 8 inches thick or more, to provide a darker environment that most weeds simply don't have the energy to get through.

The Pros of Hay
Hay is readily available and it's possible to get a scythe and cut your own if you have a grassy area on your property. You don't need to bale it just cut it, let it dry, and then fork it into your wheel barrow and wheel it over to where it's needed. Even long grass clippings can function the same way as hay because they're essentially the same thing. Hay left over from a previous year is often considered garbage by farmers who want to feed their animals the most recent and more nutritious hay and consequently it's sometimes available for free during hay season in the summer. You can find it by looking at your local online advertisement site such as kijiji or craigslist or by asking your farming friends. Hay contains a variety of grasses and legumes plus often clover and other flowers including both the leaf and stalk and so the plant nutrients are all there. When hay decomposes it adds significant nutrients to the soil to increase it's fertility and it adds a balanced ration of NPK as well as all the trace minerals that were contained in the plant. Hay tends to lay flat and pack down so it decomposes fairly quickly and has more of a sponge effect than straw does which means that in heavy rainfalls it buffers or slows down the amount of rain that soaks into the soil to help prevent erosion and leeching of nutrients. Because hay packs down the weeds from underneath get smothered and die very quickly, but weed seeds that blow in can sometimes sprout, especially in an older hay mulch which is very damp.

The Cons of Hay Mulch
Hay mulch has more of a tendency in moist parts of the world to harbour slugs and snails so you need to keep a good eye out for them and have a method of removal although it generally doesn't harbour mice as it's too dense. Hay takes on a packed and spongy texture that holds water so sitting or kneeling after wet weather is likely to still see you get a wet bum. It holds moisture allowing seeds on top to sprout (which is why hay bale gardening is such a great thing) but if you're trying to suppress weeds do you want this? And often the hay itself contains seeds that will sprout once they get wet so you could end up with a living pathway until the dry weather dries out the topmost layers of your mulch again. As hay decomposes it is broken down by various bacteria and other organisms that all use nitrogen, the same for the decomposition of straw. So what happens is that they get a new food source (your hay compost) and the bacteria multiply rapidly which depletes the soil of nitrogen. As they run out of food they die and the nitrogen is once again available for the plants to use, so planting directly into a hay mulch without any supplemental nitrogen source available probably isn't the best idea.

So now that you know more about hay and straw as mulch, which one are you going to choose? In a perfect world the solution is to use both. A thick layer of hay mulch on the bottom where it will decompose and act as a spongy reservoir for moisture topped off with a few inches of straw that will be a dry layer preventing blown in weeds from sprouting and giving you a lovely dry golden walkway. But we don't all live in a perfect world do we? We're just trying to make the best of what we've got, and that's what makes a great gardener or homesteader, the ability to problem solve. So I'd suggest that if you have a choice of only one type of mulch that you use hay simply for the fertility it will add to your soil. But as all practical gardeners know, you use what you have or can easily get. Why pay money for straw if a local farmer will give you hay in July for nothing? If you can get it free but don't need it all at once then simply put them out by your garden, throw a tarp over the bales and save it for next year, and if it gets a bit wet and starts to compost itself it doesn't really matter, it's all going in the soil in the end anyways and the pile of bales can act as a wind break while it waits to be used.

A garden is a living, breathing thing. It evolves from year to year and as gardeners we are the stewards of the fertility that is in our soil. It depends on us to pay attention and make sure that we don't take out more than we put back in. After all, we want our gardens to feed us for many years to come and to be places where we can teach our children and grandchildren the mysteries of growing their own food too. Gardens are places where families and communities come together to work, talk and visit so we should try and make sure that in addition to teaching the value of work that we also find pleasure in being outdoors. Planning the best method of mulching your garden is important not only for fertility and moisture retention, it will significantly lower the amount of watering and weeding you have to do which in turn increases your enjoyment of your garden and is better for the precious water resources that are becoming scarce in so many places. As a fellow gardener I encourage you to try new things and experiment with mulches to see what works for you. But most of all, have fun in the garden!


So what do you think? Send me a comment.



Friday, July 10, 2015

Certified

It's the height of summer here on the farm. The days are hot, the evenings are still cool but getting less so with each passing week, and the weeds and garden are growing at a phenomenal pace. Weeding is a daily task now, as is picking beetles off the potatoes and other plants. It's time to break out the DE or diatomaceous earth and sprinkle away. I might try misting it too but I'm not sure it won't just clog my sprayer. I'll let you know.

Well, apart from one inspection that still needs to be submitted, we are now certifiable! I know I know, you though we were already :p  But seriously, we're now


I'll write more about it later. And watch for my first article to come out in Grow Your Own Groceries soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lamb Trap

They got caught. Now looking sheepish.
Our chickens and turkeys are all raised out on pasture. As such, they spend the nights in a movable house called a chicken tractor. Now ours aren't fancy by any means but as it turns out they're lamb proof. And here's how we know.

Yes, those are the not smiling faces of some of our lambs who decided it was a good idea to raid the chickens feeder in search of a nice snack (no they're not allowed to eat chicken food because of the copper content). Upon entering the chicken tractor they knocked down the piece of wood that holds the door up and essentially shut themselves in.

We came home to hear bleating coming from over but the woods and thought the lambs were up in the trees where we couldn't see them. Then we saw Jordan taking pictures of the chicken tractor and thought it was weird. Well now we know why, lol!

One hen to rule them all, and in the pen, hide them.
Silly lambs!

Trapped! Lambs in a chicken tractor.



















Lots has been happening at the farm so I'll need to add an update tonight after I'm done weeding and driving #2 son to prom and back. Hope you're all having a terrific summer and that you're staying on top of your weeds.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Farmers Market

One of our lovely roosters decided he would start crowing at 4am this morning. How lovely! And wouldn't you know it, as soon as he had me fully awake he went back to sleep. So here I am researching and compiling ideas when I'd rather be sleeping. I'm going to try typing for a while and then see if I can't get back to sleep for a couple of hours.

The idea of a Farmers Market isn't new. Every single city or town I've lived in or near has had one. St. Albert was probably the most amazing, Calgary has a couple, Courtenay has a lovely and well established market as well that serves the surrounding area, and then we moved to Greenwood Nova Scotia and nothing. Well there are markets in Kentville, Bridgetown and other towns further out that are lovely but who wants to drive for an hour? Greenwood does have what it calls a Farmers Market inside the mall on a Thursday from 11-2pm but it's definitely more of a craft market than a place to buy locally grown vegetables.

So what do you do if you want a local market? You start your own! In collaboration with several other area farms I'm looking for a good location to start our very own Saturday morning, outdoor market. There's a lot to do and organize behind the scenes from attracting vendors to finding a suitable location and then deciding how to advertise, organize and get it up and running.

The locations we've considered are in Greenwood area, Kingston, Wilmot and Middleton. I've got a list and later today I'm going to make some calls and see what might be available for rent and the services available. The big considerations are location, parking, accessibility, size, bathroom access, and if power is available for a fee. Other factors include level ground, a covered area and a children's play area.

We're meeting on Monday to discuss this and invite you all to attend and give us your input. We're seeking ideas for vendors, producers, location, how long we'll be open every year, you name it! There are loads of little things to decide before we even move beyond the planning stage. The meeting will be held at the Big Scoop Restaurant in Middleton. For an invite please message me on the blog or check our contact tab above for our email address. It's also an opportunity to meet some of your local growers but seating is limited so please reserve a spot. We'll no doubt have a much larger meeting in the near future in the evening so many more people can attend.

Well it's 5am. The sky is getting lighter now so I'm going to try and snooze for an hour. Hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday, and thanks for your interest in and support of small farms like ours!

And watch for some news regarding our organic certification to come soon :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Contest Winner Announced!





After putting all your names in a bowl and giving it a good shuffle and stir I closed my eyes and drew.... Anonymous! Lol, I'm not kidding. But I see that you signed your name as Phil so if you'd contact me please I'll be happy to deliver your plants or mail your prize. The back-up name that was drawn should 'Phil' not be able to accept was Aja.

Thank you all for the support and the ideas. I really do appreciate them very much. Now I have a whole bunch of great ideas but not enough time to write them as I'm so busy farming. Isn't that always the case? As a thank you to all who helped. I'd like to give you a free plant. Just email me and we'll get together.

It seems like only yesterday I was doing a contest for the 10,000 page view. Now we're heading towards 300,000 page views. I should plan another giveaway!



Monday, June 8, 2015

Why I plow my rows parallel to the road.

I'm sure you've all had the experience of driving and seeing perfectly straight rows of crops or trees, all even and tidy. It's a stunning sight. But now one we have at the farm. We're a beginning teaching farm so I'm less worried about straight rows and more worried that people learn and have fun. Consequently, I plant all my rows
parallel to the road so that nobody knows how wonky they are but me. Here's the view from my bedroom window, they're are a great example. One of our wwoofers was learning how to use the single plow on the ride-on tractor and as you can see, they got better with each row, lol. The straight rows do actually serve a purpose. They're used for controlling run-off after a storm of for ease of tilling and weeding. But mine are straight enough and I'll keep letting people learn how to plow on the ride-on tractor. Even if my rows do look like someone was attacked by birds while driving, lol!

We're past the first full moon in June so now we're safe for above ground crops. The rows of potatoes pictured above should be covered in little leaves in another week or so and the beans, peas, carrots and other veggies will poke their first leaves through the soil so it actually looks like we've done work. There's a faint green haze all over the fields right now but I know it's just the annual weeds making themselves known. It will soon be time to get the hoe out and go to do battle. I still have a lot of planting to get done, and successions to plan. The tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse need constant care and re-potting too so there's never a dull moment. I think the next major crops to get in the ground are the melons, squash, carrots and marigolds, tomatoes and peppers. Maybe some cucumbers too. Oh, and Kerwin from the feed store gave me a huge sack of half rotten seed onions to salvage so I'll get as many of those planted as I can too. Plus I'm working on the flower garden at the moment as well. Too many chores, not enough time.

Right now I have to head out for a community meeting so I'll sign off for the day. Hope you're all having good weather.

Emergency Sale of Sheep

A farming friend of ours is in a real jam. Her husband suffered a traumatic injury that required him being airlifted in to VG Hospital and he's still in the ICU. Consequently she needs to sell her small, healthy flock of sheep as quickly as possible because she's driving into the city every day to the hospital and will have to provide home care at some point too. She can handle the poultry no problem but the sheep are needing a new home ASAP.


She has 4 lovely sheep.  Two north country ewes, a mix breed ewe and a North Country/Isle de France ram all two years old (just), not yet sheared yet due to the wet weather.

Photo is
of them having walked over the fences to steal from a round bale in March. Big meaty sheep who have thrown big butted lambs which is why the Isle de France makes such a good ram or terminal sire for those in the know. The north country cross adds a lot of hardiness to the lambs too, making them perfect for our rugged climate here in the Maritimes.

Located in Hillsvale, NS near Rawdon so it's pretty central to a lot of people in the city and the Valley. She would like $800 and they're definitely worth it. The ram is worth more than half that amount I'd think. This pic taken in March is them munching in the yard. I'd definitely recommend their farm as having happy healthy animals so I'd have no problems at all buying from them. I simply lack the cash, and thought I'd offer you guys a great starter/booster pack for your flock. The sooner they can go to a new home the better because as you can imagine it'll be just that little bit less stress. So if you or anyone you know is looking for a starter flock or to add some new blood to a mixed flock and you want good meaty bums on your lambs, definitely email me directly at humblebeecanada at gmail dot com and I can give you more details or put you in touch with the owner directly.


Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mutton - The Unsung Hero of Hill Farms

My family is from the north of England. They grew up poor and worked a hard life down in the mines for generations. But talk about hardy people! (and short!) Even the farmers there are extra rugged and are often out on the fells with their sheep in all weather just making sure everyone is ok. If you ever get a chance to visit the Yorkshire Dales or other hill country you'll see lots of sheep and they're again out in their natural environment helping to maintain the beauty of the countryside through their grazing. They really are a wonder.

In our house we love making lamb stew, curry and even sausage. I've written about it before if you want to search for it. And we use our mutton the same ways we use lamb and find it delicious. Mmmm sausage! But in much of the west the thought of mutton is almost as repulsive as eating horse meat. Despite the fact that in most of the rest of the world it's very common due simply to availability. It's the same with goat meat. Many young people have just never tried it and their grand parents remember the horrid canned sheep meat produced during WWII that they had to eat because there wasn't anything else available. Why the sudden cull of sheep and other livestock? Because during the war the government couldn't import all the food it had previously relied on so they ordered all available acres of farmland ploughed up to produce grain for human consumption and for growing flax for rope and parachute cords. There simply wasn't the space to just let cattle graze.  It was more efficient and vital to feed the people than the animals and so the sheep who had shaped the rural landscape were canned up and fed to the hungry troops who after eating it day in and day out, often cold and without any seasoning, came to despise it. Despite a history of being eaten the World over we suddenly had a generation who grew up eating chicken, beef and pork with turkey for special occasions. All mass producible meats. And goose, rabbit, duck and lamb were off the menu.

I think other contributing factors were women in the workplace in large numbers who didn't have time and energy to cook large elaborate or time consuming meals and consequently a desire for cheap and easy to source ingredients from a grocery store instead of the garden and their local farmers market or farm gate. If you think about it, the 'super' market that we're all familiar with today really didn't exist before WWII. Then you had the green grocer (veggies), the butcher (meat and fat) and the dry goods store (fabric, flour and other staples). People also grew their own produce and kept a few hens for eggs and that was normal. We were connected in a much more intimate way to our food and it was 'slow food'. I know it's trendy now but back then that's just how it was. Macaroni and cheese involved actual cheese and an oven, not a box. Children knew how to shell peas and where to find the potatoes in the cellar. I'm not advocating for a return to some imaginary idyllic way of life but anything we can do to connect with our food, especially for our children I think builds both a sense of belonging and self-worth when you can grow some yourself. Being self-sufficient and learning to grow and cook even one meal a week all by yourself is a wonderful thing! A very tangible and life sustaining success.

If you grow lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes (maybe you won them in the contest announced yesterday) and raised 4 hens who lay you eggs, you're well on your way to a Denver omelet with garden salad. That's a family supper one day a week that maybe took 2 hours in total labour and was fun too. We call it 'chicken TV' when we sit and watch the hens just going about their lives doing the things chickens do. So how hard would it be for you to do something like that? I'd love to be able to help people set this kind of thing up and it's so easy! People use them as therapy for their children so why doesn't every family have one? It builds a sense of responsibility and confidence and connectedness to nature that so many of us lack.

Growing herbs is also cheap and easy. If you have them in pots that fit on your windowsill it's possible to cook with fresh herbs all year round. And you can dry your surplus for those recipes that dry herbs work well in. I'll confess I was sneaking leaves of baby basil in my greenhouse the other day and that flavour burst in your mouth is SOOOOO delicious! Especially after a long winter without. I can hardly wait for that first batch of pesto.

Well I'm making myself hungry now so I'm going to get dressed and head out into the greenhouse to re-pot some seedlings. They go on sale soon at the Country Store in Middleton this week as soon as I get my stuff together and get them delivered and labelled.

Have a wonderful day. I'm picking up bees this evening so I'll let you know how that all goes. Maybe there will be some pics of us hopping around if a bee gets inside our suits lol.








Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Stampede!! And a Contest.

No, we're not going to Calgary in July, although it would be great to break out my hat and boots for what amounts to a 10 day Stampede party each summer. Gosh I miss that!


We had a stampede here at the farm and consequently a death. Graphic pics follow so be warned. Sorry if you're reading this blog for the first time and this is the introduction you're getting. Stick with us! We said we'd be honest and let you know the good and the bad things that happened, well this would just be one of those accidents. I think our wwoofer is a little traumatised by the whole thing.

The escape artist black faced sheep we have called Houdini got out again, and when the guys opened the gate to get her back in the field, the other sheep got out. Sheep milling around in a small area is never a good idea, and with basically 44 hooves running and stomping around, you just know someone's coming off worse for wear. Usually it's my toes. Well, poor Frosty the rooster was found dead when the sheep went back in the field after eating my roses to stubs (bloody sheep!)

Eulogy for a Rooster.

Poor Ol' Frosty. He was a good Rooster.
Frosty lived a good and adventurous life free-ranging here at the farm from the day he hatched until Monday afternoon. He was one of the original roosters who survived the great cull of '13 by hiding behind the woodpile until the butcher had left. He survived again in '14 by being the only 'nice' rooster and gained the name Frosty for his refusal to enter the coop at night and thereby getting frostbite one cold blizzardy February day when we couldn't catch him. He was friendly, loved his ladies, and we'll all miss his gibbled walk and strangled cries as the sun rises each morning. Love you Frosty, have fun in Heaven! We'll miss you buddy.


Today is another pouring rainy day. It's steady now but was absolutely chucking it down earlier when I was out. It's hard not to get wet. The ducks loved it this morning but by noon were safely back in their house enjoying the dry bedding I'm sure. The stream/pond is back so they at least are enjoying a paddle in the yard whenever they want until it dries up again.
Sausages in Batter on the stove.
Watching them root through and dig up bugs and beetles is fascinating and also somewhat gross as they snort mud and water out of their nostrils. I think the rain is supposed to stop sometime tomorrow which is great because I've got several dozen raspberries I'd like to plant in the garden as well as peas and lettuce. The soil will have cooled down again with this wet weather so I'll have to wait a week or more before I can get beans in just in case they rot in the soil. It's the same with corn, you need warmth so that they sprout before they just rot out. I'll probably aim for a dry week in mid June for beans and corn. Then I'll underplant the corn with squash once the corn is about 6 inches high. If you plant at the same time the squash have a tendency to smother out the growing stalks so I'm just giving the corn a little bit of a head start.

It's cool in the house, being a high of 8 degrees today, so I lit a fire and cooked lunch. Toad in
Comfort food on a cool wet day.
the Hole! Yum! For those of you who aren't English, this would be sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter. Now making this in the oven is a snap. Bt since I still don't have a working oven I decided to try it on the top of the woodstove. And it worked after a fashion. I heated the stove up first for an hour, used a lid to keep the heat in but it fogged up a lot so I vented it regularly. After all was said and done it worked but wasn't as puffy as usual, it was delicious, and used no electricity. I just served it with gravy and lots of carrots. We were so happy to have a nice warm lunch and be sitting in the warm kitchen that I totally forgot to take a photo of the finished product before we scarfed it down. It was cooked enough, but only half puffy and not browned on top. Still delicious though as evidenced by the fact there's not one crumb left over!

It's at least dry in the greenhouse where the chicks are hanging out suntanning under their heat lamp. I've got my tomatoes about a third potted and ready for sale and the rest I've been procrastinating. It looks like I'm going to have extras so I propose a challenge to you all, my lovely readers.


Contest closes June 6th, 2015. But feel free to comment anyways :)

Write to me and tell me the 3 most important things you have learned, or 3 things you would like to learn about homesteading and I'll enter you in a draw for a dozen of my best plants. Peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. Sound like a good deal? Now I realize that many of you will read this after the end of June and I'd still love the feedback. Or if you win and live far away (hello New Zealand and India!) I'll send you seeds so you can grow your very own plants for next season or a gardening book. I know some countries don't allow me to mail seeds. I'd love to meet fellow Annapolis Valley Farmers as well and also get some more ideas of what you'd all like to hear about. Life at the farm can sometimes be just more of the same old same old so you're helping keep me inspired. Either comment on the blog or email me. I can't wait to hear form you!
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