Friday, August 31, 2012

Once In A Blue Moon

Now of course this has nothing at all to do with the moon turning blue, lol. At least not unless a volcano is erupting in your neighbourhood or perhaps a massive forest fire nearby. A blue moon occurs once every 2 or 3 years, and is simply when you have 2 full moons in one calendar month. The lunar cycle is of course 12 cycles plus 11 days in one of our calendar years, meaning that every 2 and a bit years we have 13 full moons in a calendar year.

This years blue moon occurs tonight, Friday August 31st, 2012.

And now you know where expression "once in a blue moon" comes from, meaning something that doesn't happen very often.

Lamb Recipes

Don't panic all you vegetarian readers, this is not about cooking lamb, lol. It's some recipes I have for FEEDING lambs, and I wanted somewhere to keep them all together in preparation for lambing next spring. I'll explain why later.

For scours: Mix 1 teaspoon of powdered Slippery Elm in a 1/4 cup of water. Shake this up and feed 3 times a day for 4 days.

Homemade Colostrum Recipe

3 cups 750ml cows milk.
1 beaten egg

1 tsp sugar/glucose
1 tsp cod liver oil (laxativ


1tsp castor oil
1 egg
600ml milk

Ok, now to explain. Colostrum, the very first milk animals make, is loaded with antib
odies, minerals and vitamins that are essential for healthy babies of any species. But if you have a sheep that has a bad udder, has mastitis, has triplets or for any other reason you find yourself with an orphaned lamb, you must feed 140ml of colostrum replacer (or the mix above if you are desperate) every 4 hours for the first 24 hours. After that you should use a commercially prepared ewe milk replacer. It comes as a powder and it's like making a giant baby bottle really. Lambs should be fed from the bottle with the nipple facing downwards so that they have to strain their necks as they would nursing from their own mother. Lambs need to be fed at least 4 times a day initially and then you gradually increase the amount and decrease the feeding frequency until you are ready for weaning them. The transition to grain or pasture can be done while still bottle feeding regularly. But more on that after Christmas.

A note though: It's always bet
ter to try and get 'real' colostrum if you can.

Our new sheep ar
en't arriving until the end of Sept. by which time they will have been bred to a handsome suffolk ram. This will give us some mixed blessings.
++ 5 ewes saved from the slaughter house for at least another year (they are good producers with bad udders)

++ Apparently all have multiples, so we'll increase our flock size quickly.

- - Bad udders means that they might only be able to feed one or maybe two lambs on their good sides but we won't know for sure until they deliver. It means we will be feeding lambs by bottle and that's a lot of work.

- - Seeing as how they are bred this early in the season, we're going to be lambing in horrible weather. I usually try and breed later in the season, after Halloween, so that my lambs are born in warmer Spring
weather of April. These poor darlings will be conceived during September and making an appearance in February when there is no green grass yet and it's still bitterly cold. We will have to have a nice draft free barn for them that's set up with a source of heat and water so as to make lambing easier for the ewes and to have a place we can raise the bottle babies. Plans are already under way for all these things though so don't worry. And it wouldn't be the first time I spent the night in a barn lambing during a blizzard.

It's a choice I have made, to have sheep that are cheaper and in the long run will produce better lambs due to excellent breeding, but I'm going to be bottle feeding possibly a dozen lambs for at least a couple of months which is a lot of work. Time to get one of those fancy lamb feeders!

There are all sorts of designs for lamb feeders but the cheapest and simplest to use are lamb size nipples (calf ones are way too big) that slide over the end of any pop bottle. You can use smaller bottles to start out and then increase to the larger ones as your lambs grow.

I'm thinking that 2 of these buckets might be a good way to go. But I bet they're expensive :( Still, if you have healthy lambs to show for it then it's worth it. Once my lambs are ready to become mothers in 2 years then I hope that lambing will be a much smoother affair and we won't be raising any lambs by hand. After all, the best place for a lamb is with it's mother.

We're off to the city tomorrow to have some family time and dismantle a shed (soon to be barn). Sounds like a fun weekend doesn't it? It's going to be a busy one at least. Before we leave town we have chores, fencing and cleaning to do. I really should try again to fall asleep, it's 4 am on the button right now. Almost time to get up :) But before I go, here's a video you might find humorous.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Drought in the US means higher food prices

When we lived on the west coast of Canada we were used to having drought conditions in the summer, but what if you're not used to it? Nova Scotia has had a very dry summer, the rivers are the lowest in recent memory (50 years) but the one on our property still maintained a good flow even though the water was shallow. We've talked to other local farmers who say that they don't have irrigation equipment. To spend $30,000 or more for used pipes and pumps doesn't make sense on a small farm scale when you might only have to use it one year out of 10. It's a decision that everyone has to make, to irrigate or not. For us, it's not really a question. We are still looking at drawing water from a dug out beside the river if needed but otherwise we want to work with mother nature as much as possible, The rainfall here historically is about 1 inch a week, or enough to support healthy plant growth. The lawns don't typically go dry and crispy, it stays green all summer, even in the heat. But it makes sense that for growing vegetables we should have a back-up source of water for livestock and irrigation purposes. A combination of water collection from metal roofs and ponds is our plan.

Here's a video from the BBC that will explain a little about conditions on the mid west and why we can expect corn prices and therefore livestock feed prices to continue to rise.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Pumpkins Are Attacking!

Yes, the end of summer is upon us and so the pumpkins are putting on a lot of growth in both gardens with some vines reaching close to 25 feet, it's crazy! As the weather cools and Autumn comes upon us the leaves will yellow and die and the fruits will turn from dark green to their ripe orange colour ready for pies, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. I love pumpkins and squashes, they're so easy to grow and can be prolific, especially zucchini. Luckily for us, we love them all and eat them regularly as both veggies and dessert.

We broke ground at the property today. Well, we officially started our first project, leveling the ridge along the roadside so we can drive in without scraping the undercarriage over a gravel hump. Chris also used the mower to cut me a couple of lines for the fence so that we can fence off a small area for sheep. We left the posts there as it was dark and will return tomorrow to do the hard work of pounding the posts 18 inches into the ground. Once the posts are in it's just a matter of attaching the fencing wire. Sounds like it will be cooler and wet tomorrow so we'll not have to worry about sunburn. Wish us luck!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Phew it's HOT!

Like many other people in Canada, and indeed in the northern hemisphere, 2012 has been a very warm year. Record droughts, corn crops lost, water restrictions as plants dry up and's been hard in many places. Nova Scotia has been very warm with less rain than usual but our rivers, streams and lakes are still ok. The water levels are definitely dropping but so far nobody seems too worried. We did get some rain last week which was good for the lawns and veggies but the heat continues.

Say Cheese!

I know I've sort of fallen off the radar recently. Summer has a way of doing that to a farmer or indeed just anyone with children and a busy schedule.

First we had 2 visits from my Dad and Janet came once, then Vicki and Corry came for 3 weeks and now Brian (my ex) is here for a few days visiting with the kids. So it's been a whirlwind summer so far. We've eaten all the green beans in the home garden and are ready to start picking more in the big garden. We also harvested cantaloupe, cucumber, tomatoes (cherry and large) and zucchini this morning along with a dozen eggs. We've found the hiding spot where some of the chickens are hiding their eggs. They must be laying later in the day because otherwise they'd be inside the houses.

Tonight I'm working on a few days of backlogged milk by making cheese. Yes, you heard right, cheese. Soft like ricotta or cream cheese, fromage blanc is a basic unripened cheese that's dead easy to make at home and doesn't require any fancy ingredients except for some cheese cloth.

Here's how you do it:
Heat 1 litre (quart) milk to 175 degrees or just as it starts to simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add 1 cup of active culture buttermilk (or yogurt), stir to blend. Add 2 tsp. lemon juice of white vinegar and stir. The milk will curdle, if not, add more lemon juice or vinegar. Let stand for 10 mins then ladle the curd out into a colander (strainer) in a sink lined with 3-4 layers of cheese cloth. Drain for 5 minutes. Next gather up the sides of the cheese cloth and tie them together. Tie the whole bundle to a spoon handle and suspend over a deep pot or bowl for 30 minutes to drain the whey. Untie your bundle and voila! Cheese! Now mix in 1/2 tsp salt and any other flavourings you like, squish into a mold or bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 12 hours-5 days. Serve like cream cheese or ricotta. Excellent on crackers if sprinkled with ground pepper.

I always quadruple my recipe and use 4 litres of milk at a time, adjusting the other ingredients appropriately. I'm 5 minutes away from unwrapping my latest batch and getting ready for some sleep. I will let you know how it turns out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Garden of Eatin'

It's that time of year when we're gearing up to make cheese, preserve fruits and veggies, and eat as much fresh produce as we can. Kate has been out picking beans every day this week and looks set to continue for a week or two yet. Our beans at the main garden are just flowering now and will come on as the beans here in our small garden finish. Potatoes are ready for digging as new potatoes, and we're over run with zucchini as usual. Thank goodness we like it so much!

The corn at the house looks to be a total dud but the tomatoes and beans have done well. Conversely at the other garden it's making lots of nice leafy greens so radishes do not make roots, just leaves. Maybe once the weather cools. We're getting in there today with the tiller and a shovel and fork to take out potatoes and then cut out any weeds before we till it again for our cool weather crops and potentially a poly tunnel greenhouse. Depending on the weather we could look at having our first frost in 4 weeks bt it may also be 8 weeks until it really starts to cool down, so even with the decreasing daylight we have time for some fall crops to get in the ground. Beets, turnips, peas and salad crops are going in this weekend in the space taken from the potatoes.

Remember we planted some store bought Jacobs Cattle beans just to see if they would grow? Well grow they did! There are now bean vines running amok among the pumpkins and anywhere else they can. Next year I'm going to have to build a really sturdy fence for them. Here at the house the scarlet runners are making beautiful flowers and little beans are just starting and the surprise squash plants look to be buttercup so we'll have plenty for our storage room. I love squash, it makes the best pumpkin pie and is great simply roasted. And we apparently have pumpkins going crazy with their massive vines trailing all over the place and basketball sized green pumpkins forming among the beautiful flowers and green leaves. One of the plants died because of what looked like a white powdery fungus so I sprayed the plants with copper sulphate solution, the same as has been used by grape growers for hundreds of years, and the other plants seem fine. I suspect it'll be ok for at least a few more weeks now that it's warm and not so humid but once we get into cool and damp fall weather I shall spray again just to be safe. And yes, copper sulphate is considered ok by organic standards.

In the greenhouse the tomatoes are still growing vigorously and setting fruit. The cantaloupe, melons and cucumbers are setting fruit too but the eggplants haven't really done anything as of yet. Same as the ones in the garden at home...I'm obviously missing something they need. Oh well, this year always was an experiment to see what would grow and we've learned lots. Now we need to make notes and plan for next year. One thing that did surprisingly badly was peas. I think the soil at the house isn't good for them and the weather has been too hot, so I'm going to do a fall planting and see if I can get mature peas before the weather gets too frosty. One thing about fall veggies...they are way sweeter than their summer cousins so it makes the risk worthwhile.

Our straw bale garden is doing well now but didn't do well at first because of the heat and because it was SO DRY! It was impossible to keep the bales watered properly. Now that they've decomposed a bit more the tomatoes have re-rooted and gotten a good foothold and are thriving, I just wonder if it's too little too late but they are flowering so we'll see. It's all going to be up to the first frost whether we make sauce or green tomato relish. I've got the other row of bales ready for planting and am going to try lettuces this time.

Our next batch of chicks is set to arrive Sept 11th. We got both meat birds and day old laying hens with the idea that they can be raised outdoors in a poly tunnel greenhouse for a while and we will butcher meat birds before the weather gets too bad and the other layer chicks will be feathered out and have a nice new coop by that time.

My camera is on the blink so I'll get some pics taken this weekend with Steve's phone and add them for you guys to see.

We had lots of fun with Vicki and Corry visiting us for 3 weeks and got to see some beautiful places. We miss them. But now it's back to the daily chores, laundry and weeding. Hope you're all still with us as we move into fall gardening and making building plans.

Chocolate Beef: You Are What You Eat.

I know, what a strange title for a blog post. But I came across an interesting and yet disturbing report about cattle growers using candy to feed and fatten livestock. Why you might ask? Well, as you all likely know, 2012 will see a drastic reduction in the corn crops available due to droughts in the US and Russia, and given that a certain amount of corn is ear marked for bio-fuel and other commercial uses, that leaves less corn on the market for cattle feed and human consumption. Therefore, grain prices will rise, livestock feed prices are rising already in anticipation of the shortage, and the end product...meat...will have a higher price also.

Where this increase will be evident is is the price difference between factory farmed meat and small producers. Currently it costs me a little under $28 for 50 lbs of grain for the cow which makes it 56 cents per lb. Flour for human consumption is now an average of 68 cents per lb locally by comparison. Commonly touted statistics tell us that it takes 7 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of meat on a cow. That's misleading in that it takes 7 lbs of FOOD including hay, straw chaff, minerals and vitamins, grain, by-products etc to produce 1 pound of meat so obviously they are looking for ways of producing meat with the least amount of cost for the food. In order for a producer to put that steak or chop on your plate for $2 per lb, their costs for feed have to be less than 15 cents per lb to make a profit and in some cases they are looking for feed at 5 cents per lb. There are other costs involved in producing meat such as transportation, vet care, processing etc but the really flexible one for producers is feed.

Since my feed is costing me more than commercial guys can buy it for, and since my other costs are more per head due to my small numbers, my meat obviously sells for more at around $4 per lb. But they have a good natural diet of grain and grass, the chickens eat bugs and veggie scraps from the garden, it's just a more natural way of doing it.

So how do commercial producers find such cheap feed? Secondhand Chocolate.

No seriously, before you leave this page thinking I'm a crackpot, watch this video. Cows have been fed all sorts of interesting things in feedlots to get them to fatten faster. So why not chocolate? It's working at fattening humans all over the world...why not our cattle too? Follow the link below and then feel free to comment.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Prince Edward Island

We just got back from PEI and a whirlwind tour. It was great and as soon as I can gets pics uploaded I'll write you a full report about all the fun we had camping. But for now it's time to let the chickens out :)