Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nova Scotia Ice / Snow Storm 12 22 2013

Here's a video William made of the ice storm. At least the beginning. We got more ice and another foot of snow on Christmas Eve and after we shoveled everything and went to bed it snowed more so it was a very picture perfect White Christmas.

Here's what it looked like early Christmas morning... and then it got windy and snowed a whole bunch more. But the road got plowed out soon enough and our friend brought his snow blower over and dug out the driveway. It's always great to have a friend with a snow blower :) To give you an idea of the depth of the snow so early in the season, those little bushy things in the yard are the small cypress trees along our driveway and you can only see the top 12 inches in this pic. I'm not sure that at the time of writing this we can see them at all but it's going to rain tonight after it stops snowing so it will all melt down. It's going to be warm for a couple of days before the deep freeze sets in later in the week after New Years. Sure glad all the animals are indoors and that we have a nice warm house.

Sheep in the Barn by William

William made a quick video for his YouTube channel about our sheep so I thought I'd post it here. It is getting increasingly difficult with the freezing rain and deep snow we've experienced so far this year to get to our barn at the farm so with the help of a friend and her trailer we hauled the sheep down to the house at the bottom of the hill where we're living at the moment. Now all we have to do is shovel our way to the single detached garage to feed them. It previously housed sheep and horses so the owner doesn't mind at all :) Steve and the boys also spent a good part of yesterday rounding up the stray turkeys and poultry in the barn up top and they've moved down here also. It's way simpler to have them near a source of power and closer for water. No more carrying 20 litre jugs 400m across the frozen wasteland through a foot of snow, so as you can imagine Chris is very happy because it's his job. If you want to see more videos by William keep an eye on his YouTube channel at Willy B's World of Awesome where you can see the creative endeavours and terrible acting skills of our children and their friends, lol. Watch, share, like. Support young artists.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Winter is here

Nova Scotia is at that variable time of year when the short days can bring a mix of snow and frosty ground or windy warmer and wet weather. All of which bring challenges to farmers. On the one hand the warmer weather is nice if you can stay out of the wet and wind but it turns everything soft and muddy so driving around the farm is challenging. However the frosty ground is fine to drive on except the roads can be slick and there were a few times last year when it was tricky to get up the hill to even get to the farm gate. Of course on those days there were several feet of snow around too and it was January so the dead of our winters here. Our really wintery weather tends to settle in around Christmas and the worst is the end of January. Spring can be very variable with warm days one week and snow the next so a greenhouse is a great way of extending the season as I've written about before.

Our winter plans have to factor in our flock of sheep, our poultry which include laying hens and turkeys, and the pigs. Now the pigs are easy as they have been constantly escaping so the time has come to think about calling our friend Tim the butcher and having them processed. After their last break for freedom and a good roam around the farms near us, it was decided to call in the 'Dad' who simply blocked off their outside exit and confined them to the pig shed. No more pushing under the fence. They should be good there for the next little while. Then Tim will come do his thing and we'll be smoking bacon, making sausage and giving pork as Christmas gifts :) I want to make up a nice batch of English Bangers (sausages) and somehow deliver them to my father. It's only a problem because of the distance but I think it would make a great gift. We haven't made sausage since our last pigs were processed in BC and it was fun. I think we're going to stick with some basics recipes for breakfast sausage, bangers, mild Italian and maybe one spicy, haven't decided yet. But don't worry I'll keep you posted and have lots of 'how to' pics and maybe a video.

Most of our laying flock is now located underneath our back deck. Have you ever wondered what to do with that space? Well it's already got posts so we boarded and wired it all in and then covered the wire with 6mil poly to keep out a lot of the wind. Of course the roof is going to leak since that's what a deck is designed to do, and hanging plastic underneath can lead to pools of water that rip off the plastic. Your choices are to use a batten system in the undersides of the joists and make sure the water can run down and out without any build up, or plastic above on the top side of the deck. We don't use our deck in Winter so it's easy to just plastic the deck but it does make it virtually impossible to walk on as it's more slippery than ice. Trust me, I know!! I don't think there's room under there for the turkeys but we'll make it work.

The sheep of course love to be outside but they still need some protection from the harshest weather and the wind. Ours aren't a super hardy breed like the Swaledale and other hill breeds that live outside almost their whole lives, so we need some protection for them and it also gives us an easy place to keep their food and water. We've decided to move them into a single garage that's separate from our rental house but still in the same yard. It housed sheep previously so a thorough cleaning is needed but then it should be great. Just gotta move out the barrels of wheat and the oven and we'll be good to go. In the nastiest weather it will be great to have lights and power and to have them so close to hand. We'll get the addition finished and the mobile home ready for our family to live in over the winter and then move everyone, man and beast,to the farm in April. I can't wait to finally be on our own homestead full time!

Well I have to get going and start on the garage/barn. Have a wonderful day everyone!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Almost Moved into our temporary digs

Will write an update soon :) In the meantime we leave you with some 'pause' humour while you wait...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Apples in the Annapolis Valley

The heart of Apple growing country in the Maritimes of Canada is right here in our own backyard. The Annapolis Valley, particularly the area around Berwick, is absolutely chock full of orchards on both sides of the valley. The soil, sun and moisture here all combine to grow good crops of tree fruits and indeed the first settlers brought with them trees from Europe for their homesteads. Evidence of the long history can be seen in abandoned orchards of ancient trees and the amazing array of 'apples gone wild' that adorn many roadsides and hedgerows, including those at our farm. The apples have all returned to crab form but that's ok because they're still useful and the blossoms in the Spring are wonderful for man and bee alike.

The history of Apples in the Annapolis Valley (one of our sons thinks it's ironic that we grow apples in 'an apple-less valley') was firmly established by the 1700's and by the early 1900's the Berwick area was growing and shipping apples to Europe in enormous quantities. With the outbreak of war in the 1940's and the destroying of so many cargo ships they branched out into other manufacturing and storage ideas including sending Britain barrels of dried apples that took up less space and weight when being shipped.

Today the orchards send their apples to be stored for sale locally and you'll also find a good chunk of our inventory sold across eastern Canada for fresh sale or for processing into everything from juice to fruit leather. But for a lucky few of us, we can spend a lovely fall day in the orchard picking our own apples. Many farms offer U-Pick and the easiest way to find them is to drive around and look for signs. Of the maybe 12 listed farms in NS on the tourism website I know that there are maybe 4 times that many actual U-Picks and they're open for picking from Late August to the end of October depending on variety.

Yesterday Christopher loaned me his truck to go get apples for the pigs. A 700+lb bin of drop apples (found on the ground, too small to sell or bruised) for $50 is a good deal for me as a farmer, gets rid of something that's commercially unsellable for the orchard, and the pigs ADORE apples. I think that yesterday between the pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens and ducks they probably scoffed down the better part of 200 lbs in one day. It was amazing to behold and quite fun to watch them all crunching away. One of our ewes named Freckles got a sour apple at one point and you could just see the surprised look on her face and the saliva well in her mouth, lol. It didn't stop her from finishing the apple and getting a dozen more.  But fattening pigs and lambs on apples is a really nice way to produce great meat. We'll have lamb available next week and free range chicken too. And ours really are free range.

If you're looking to pick your own apples here in the Annapolis Valley you can visit a U-Pick or adopt a tree. This entails choosing your tree, having a sign with your family name on it placed below the tree, and then when the apples are ripe you can come along and pick. We adopted a couple of Cortland apple trees from Johnson's Stonehenge Farm just above Greenwood/Aylesford. It's $50 to adopt a tree and you usually get around 200 lbs of apples. It's so much fun to reconnect with nature in the fall as you pick your apples and take them home to be made into pies, crisp, sauce, dried and eaten fresh. Cortlands are good for that also because they are picked around Thanksgiving here in Canada so it's a fun family activity on the long weekend and will keep the kids busy while Mum is in the kitchen roasting up the turkey. The short drive (it's less than 10 mins from Greenwood) is worth it for the view alone because as you drive along Harmony Road you get a gorgeous view of the valley.

Another local farm is going to allow us to pick Spy and Ida Red apples at the end of October for our storage (both varieties are good keepers) for $50 per bin which is a fantastic deal. I'm very happy! Hopefully we will be settled in our new place by then and we can get a lot of drying and canning done. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime I'm off to drop kids off at the bus stop then helping a family from Church to move

Monday, September 9, 2013

Busy As A Bee This Weekend

We had a nice break in the weather on Saturday and so the shingling of the barn roof was begun in earnest. Despite having a roof jack give out and leave Jordan on the ground and Steve hanging from the ridge, it went well and the roof is now shingled except for the ridge cap. I'll get the shingles cut this week and then it's an easy job to nail them on. It does make me feel better now that the roof is water tight. We also got some siding on the outside of the barn, it's going to be a lot nicer in there this winter without so many drafts blowing through. And the siding is a project I can work on during the week without Steve being home. In addition to this we also got more painting done and so now it's looking like a home with actual furniture. It's going to look very different in a week once the kitchen is done and we got a great idea for kitchen counters from our friends Carl and Tina. I'll upload some pics once it's done.

The pumpkins are starting to colour up so the field is going to look awesome once the leaves have died down in a few weeks. As is usual for this time of year, we've had some cooler evenings recently but it's going to warm up significantly on Tuesday. It will be nice to not have to light the fire just yet. Besides, we haven't installed a chimney yet and then the cookstove needs to be put on a heat proof floor. So much work to do, so little time. And the electrical really has to be a priority right now, we're running out of time. Oh I'm SO GLAD that this will be our last move for a while, at least I hope so.

I should really get to bed. We had a great visit with my parents and our friend Russ tonight and now I'm ready for some sleep. It's a busy week ahead.

But before I go, I have a question for you. Who is better at pollinating, humans or bees? The reasons I pose this question is because there's a very interesting movie that just came out called More Than Honey. If you are an apiarist or just interested in beekeeping then it's worth a viewing.

"If the bees ever die out mankind will follow 4 years later" is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein. And it's something that I hope we never have to find out. All of mankind may not perish but the strain it would put on global food supplies cannot be understated. I'd imagine that at best we'd see a decrease in human population of 4 billion people as food prices rise beyond the reach of the poorest and most vulnerable countries due to a decrease in production of 30%. Yes, those people in the rich west would likely last longer but lack of food would affect almost everyone.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pasture Raised Meat and Produce For Sale

It's getting to that time of year when we offer sides of pork, chicken and lamb to our customers so that we can all get into winter with the freezer full. So just a thought...what can we get for YOU?

Delivery to Sackville can be arranged for $10. Local delivery free. Book now for late fall delivery.

We will be offering the following:

Eggs, available by chance. $ 3 dozen.

Pumpkins for fall decorating, pies and Halloween. Medium sized upto 10 lbs are $2 each. Large pumpkins upto 25 lbs are $ 4 each. Jumbo's will be $10. They are just starting to colour up in the fields but with the cooler temperatures coming I know that we'll soon be awash in a sea of orange happiness. I LOVE pumpkin pie!

Lamb, cut wrapped and frozen. $6 lb if you take a half or whole. $8lb for specific cuts. All lamb is anti-biotic and drug free. Free range pasture raised.

Pork, cut wrapped and frozen. $5 lb by the side  $7 lb for smoked meats like bacon and ham. Sausage may yet be an option we'll offer this year so keep checking back. Our pigs are pasture raised heritage breeds (Tamworth x Berkshire) and have had a happy outdoor life with their own little barn. Because of their mixed diet of pasture, grain and apples and carrots, our meat is lean and full of flavour. Definitely worth a try if you've never eaten heritage pork before.

Chicken, whole. $ 4 lb. Averages between 5-8 lb. Our unusual breed of chicken from France (the SASSO) is specifically bred to be able to live their lives outside and forage for a good deal of their own food. Our birds have absolutely free range (and they do) of 5 acres of pasture and they have a great time scratching around in the grass for treats or in the orchard devouring drop apples. These slow growing and super healthy birds have been a pleasure to raise and we'll be doing so on a much larger scale next year. Quantities are limited this year so order fast.

Turkey, whole. $ 4lb Our heritage turkeys exceptional flavour will ruin all store bought turkeys for you. Seriously, they are so delicious compared to the ones at Sobeys that it's hard to go back, lol. Raised naturally on pasture with barn housing for inclement weather, our friendly guys enjoy a great life exploring the farm and coming to see what we're doing. Turkeys are naturally curious and make a great addition to a farmyard. We're keeping back half our flock for breeding next year so quantities of Christmas turkey are limited for 2013. Please contact us to reserve yours.

We can be reached via our Facebook Page, Humblebee Farm or at

Here's a great recipe for Krispy Fried Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
3 beaten eggs
4 tablespoons oil

For the coating

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons paprika (don't skip this one, it adds nice flavour and colour)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper (black or white)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (doesn't matter the brand)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt


1. Sift together all the coating ingredients and place in a clean plastic bag. Coat each chicken piece first with the beaten egg, then with the flour mixture in the bag. Make sure you coat each piece completely with the flour to seal in the juices when cooking.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet. Brown the chicken in the oil slowly, uncovered. Once browned, cover the skillet and keeping frying on a very gentle heat until the chicken is fully cooked. Place a single layer on paper towels to drain out the excess oil.

3. If you don't want to fry your chicken you can dry roast in the oven but I like to spray on a little oil first or brush some oil onto the top of the chicken with a brush. This usually depends if I can find the oil spray bottle or not :)  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Am Blessed

It's a lovely cool Sunday morning. My husband is already at meetings at Church so I am just sitting here snuggled up in the sheets listening to my family around the house getting ready for the day and thinking about how blessed I am. I may not have everything I'd like in life. A few dollars in the bank would be nice and a septic system would also be helpful. But my children are healthy, my husband loves me and I live in a peaceful country where I can worship God as I choose. I can grow my own vegetables and raise chickens to feed my family. I can travel to the city and have fun with my children exploring the history of Halifax. I can visit with my parents and watch as they spend time with their grand children. Life is full of so many stresses for all of us that it's important to take a minute each day and be grateful for all the good things in our lives. Today I'm grateful for families and Temples.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Terrific Horse Property For Sale

I know that some of the readers of my blog are looking at relocating to Nova Scotia. Many people retire here and some are posted with the military or the RCMP. Whatever your reason for calling NS home, it can be a daunting thing to find a new home for your family, especially if you're moving with your equine friends. If you are moving to the Annapolis Valley with horses and looking for a ranch, read on!

Our friends Carl and Tina have raised their family in a lovely spot just outside Middleton, NS for several years now and during that time they've made some huge improvements not only to the house but to the property. Tina and several of her children are horsey people. So you know that their focus has been on providing a suitable place for their horses and ponies to call home. And now YOU could call it home, as they are offering the property for sale at $149,000.

Our family took riding lessons there and the riding ring is fantastic, even in the nastiest weather you can have a safe enjoyable ride. It's sand underfoot so never a problem with drainage or clean-up. There is a hge run-in and the property backs right up to the old railway (no tracks anymore) so you have literally miles and miles of riding trail available. Access is very easy, the property has 10 cleared and fenced pastures and also tons of woodland, 35 acres! It really is a horse lovers delight. Just back in your trailer, unload into the arena and then throw open the doors to the paddock! What more could you ask for?!?!

Tina has kindly given me a description and pics. Take a look and if you're interested please don't hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment, and I'll pass along your contact details. Or call me at 765-3819

A quick rundown of the property first.  We have 10 acres of fenced pasture, and an

additional 35 acres of woodland. There is a beautiful pond that never goes dry full of

goldfish, painted turtles frogs and lily pads.  There are flower gardens, raised veggie beds,

fruit trees and bushes, and many ornamental shrubs, including a huge lilac bush in front of

the house.  

There is an old barn on the property that we use for hay and equipment storage.  This barn

is conveniently located next to the road so you can drive your truck and trailer easily up to it

to unload your hay.  It holds 1200 bales in the loft, and depending on how much room you

need for tractor ect., could hold easily another 600 bales downstairs. 

The new barn is only 5 years old, and it is gorgeous.  It has a large tack room, 5 box stalls, a

60 ft run in shelter, and a 35 X 60 indoor arena with excellent sand footing. 

The house has 3 bedrooms upstairs plus a laundry room and bathroom.  The main floor

has a den, another bedroom, a large living room and a large eat in kitchen.  Both the living

room and the den have fireplaces, the one in the living room has an insert installed. There

is also a porch, another bedroom, and an office (playroom) and a bathroom on the main

floor.  The house has wide plank wooden floors, pretty much though out.  This house is

200+- years old, really don't know, but it has a lot of character.  It has a cement block

basement, which replaced the original stone one.  It has a "Wood Doctor" furnace and hot

water radiators (the beauty old kind) though out the house.  There is a large deck on the

back of the house that overlooks the backyard and 60 ft sand filled round pen. 

We are 13 mins  from the town of Middleton, and 10 mins from the horsey capital of N.S., Lawrencetown, that has an awesome old style exhibition.  There are miles and miles of trails as the back of the property is right on the old railway line, which, of course has the tracks removed and is used only as trails.

We are asking $149,900.

Are Oil and Gas Companies really trying to save the Earth?

Admit it, you've seen at least one advertisement in which an oil or gas company is telling us about how 'Green' they are. How they're working with us to save the planet. Everything from developing new technologies to recycling their office papers. But how much is real and how much is just a bunch of hype designed to distract us from the fact that these are billion dollar corporations making money from our dependance on fossil fuels? It can be really hard to figure out what's real and what's a smoke screen. Now don't get me wrong, there have been great developments and research done in alternative energies like tidal power here on the Bay of Fundy and wind power too. But not every project or idea is what it's cracked up to be.

Exxon's Definitely Real Ideas To Save The Planet by TheKidsTable

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Should Poor People Grow Veggies?

Apparently not if you live in subsidized housing the the USA. Despite efforts of Mrs Obama to grow a garden on the White House lawn and other urban growing projects designed to encourage community gardens, a small 4 year old girl and her disabled mother are being ordered to remove their little vegetable garden in South Dakota.

The story is basically this. The little girl and her mother live in subsidized housing as the mom is severely disabled. They live on a very meager budget as you can imagine. So to provide fresh vegetables for her child and some fun and practical gardening skills, they planted a small garden in their yard area. According to the USDA Rural Development Agency they are not allowed to grow a garden in landscaped areas of their rental. Can you imagine? Some of the most vulnerable members of society are being told they can't help themselves by growing vegetables by the very agency that's responsible for Rural Development. Surely a garden would qualify. We're not talking about a neglected weed patch, we're talking about a small plot outside their back door. The management company of their unit told them to remove it because the USDA has rules about these things. Rules. Not laws. Rules.

Yes, it does seem very heavy handed and it goes against what so many people are trying hard to promote like kitchen gardens and community food programs. My goodness it just seems to be one story after another this year about people having their veggie patches removed. It's silly rules like this that make me glad we're moving into the country in a few weeks, into a relatively liberal county. Of course there are rules to govern things like burning garbage and building homes, but they are willing to listen and the rules show a lot of common sense. What's that old saying? "There's nothing so uncommon as common sense". Seems like some common sense could prevail here.


They get to keep their garden! The management company have agreed to build some raised beds for use by all the tenants. That's a step in the right direction. Now if only more people could be encouraged to get growing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dietary Choices

 Many of you know that Steve is a Vegan and I am not. While our whole family eats a lot of veggies, some of us still love chicken and bacon. Among other tasty meat products. So I thought I'd give all you readers out there a chuckle by posting my rationalization for eating beef.

Do you think it's better to eat the grain or to feed it to cattle and then eat them? Food for thought :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Zucchini, Blessing and Curse!

Yes, It's that time of year when everyone who put a few dozen zucchini seeds into the ground is now scrambling to figure out what to do with the monstrous green giants in our veggie patches. Or yellow giants if you grew Gold Rush. If you're smart, you've been picking them when young and tender but no matter how much you look under the leaves there's always a few that get away and grow to enormous and hard skinned beasts. I found this lovely pic on google, that just says it all  :)

If you've left yours too long because you were busy or on vacation, don't despair. There are still plenty of delicious ways of using them in baking and for meals. Our family favourites are chocolate zucchini cake (omit the oil and add a cup of grated zucchini) or stuffed zucchini. This last one is super easy and can be made vegan or vegetarian. You cut your zucchini in half lenghthwise and scoop out the seeds inside. Next you fill the cavity with your favourite stuffing or even a box of Stove Top if you're not used to baking from scratch (my kids like the cornbread one). You then put the top back on and bake it in the oven until the zucchini is tender, usually under an hour. You can also wrap in foil if you like or if you are a microwave cooker you can wrap in plastic and nuke for about 10 mins. Today we're trying something different by stuffing it with the meat/rice mix we traditionally use in cabbage rolls. Here's the recipe:

2 cups cooked rice
2 beater eggs
2 lbs ground beef or ground pork
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup finely chopped onion

And the sauce that we're serving over the top of the slices of zucchini once it's on the plate :

2 tbsp brown sugar or honey
8 oz can of tomato sauce (or the rest of the can if you've taken out 1/2 cup)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Just heat slowly over medium heat and serve over your sliced zucchini.

Using up your surplus doesn't mean boring food, it means using your ingenuity and maybe giving some to your unsuspecting neighbours, lol. Just include a recipe and a ribbon and you've got a lovely gift. Enjoy the bounty of summer, it will be over before you know it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Canadian Drive-By / Random Acts of Kindness

How many times have you done something nice for someone just out of the blue? Has someone done something for you too? Isn't it a wonderful feeling? It's like the spirit of Christmas all year long.

In this often depressing, selfish and dreary world it's wonderful to witness those random acts of kindness that give us back our faith in the goodness of humanity. And today I've had a couple of different stories come across my desk I wanted to share. My friend Jean posted a video about her son just stopping to help someone stuck in a wheelchair and then another story about someone paying for a fee at an airport. I know that in years past I've paid for the person behind me in the line at Tim Hortons (coffee shop) and I've had people leave me small gifts anonymously. One Christmas we got a delivery of presents for our whole family dropped off by a man in a Santa Suit who could sure run while yelling Ho Ho Ho. See, there are good things happening in the World, you just need to find them or do some yourself.

Here's the video and the article link. Both well worth reading. Whether you are here in Canada or anywhere on planet Earth, doing something anonymously or selflessly is just a wonderful example to our children of the way the world could be if we put other people first. Kindness, it's learned.

Hardening off the Turkeys

It's time to think about making the move for the turkeys from the brooder out to the big world of the barn. So I'm heading over there in an hour or so to re-do some slatted walls that were originally only meant to keep sheep at bay. Since the barn currently has tools and half a loft of hay in it we want to make a small area for the turkeys that we can expand over time and keep them out of the rest of the stuff. The advantage of the barn is that it's fox proof and will help the turkeys get used to living outdoors while still having some protection from the extremes of weather. Right now they are still under the heat lamps in the brooder but we've been cutting back their heat gradually as their feathers come in and we're almost ready to turn the heat off completely.

Some tips for getting your birds ready for the outdoors:

--Get them used to the changes in temperature slowly by decreasing heat from 250 watt, to 150, to 100 and then 60 over the space of a couple of weeks. Then have heat only during the night if it's very chilly. Of course you don't start this process until they have feathers at 4-6 weeks.

--Make sure to use the same feeders and waterers to avoid any confusion for the transition time. Continue with the starter crumbles to make sure they have lots of energy to stay warm for the first week or longer if the weather turns nasty.

--If they have gotten used to going to bed when you turn on a light, consider having a light for them when they're moved. Keep the routine similar.

--Have good dry bedding ready for them to use and limit their area for the first week to a pen or other safe structure. Remember, turkeys and chickens at this age have suddenly learned the joys of flight and can get themselves into all sorts of interesting dilemmas if possible, so cover their pen on the top also. (Then you won't find turkeys peeping at you from the workshop shelves half way up the wall).

--Have a nice dry sheltered place for them to roost. Nothing gets chilled faster than a wet bird.

--And watch them. Pay attention to them and see if they appear happy, alert and drinking.

Our turkeys consist of a couple of little Beltsville White and some Eastern Wild x Broad Breasted Bronze. It's amazing to watch them grow and we're excited to see them explore the outdoors, they're so fun to watch! Turkeys are also amazing grazers and will forage for a good portion of their food if allowed to roam. Free-range turkeys, coming soon to Humblebee Farm!

Piggy Smile

What a great idea! A farmer from the Netherlands needed a way to keep his pigs cool and happy so in addition to a wallow (muddy watery pool) he added one extra feature. I'd say it's a hit!

Looks like fun for anyone!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Much Regulation is Too Much?

We're in the middle of a 5 year building plan at Humblebee Farm. Greenhouses, root cellars, mobile home renovations and eventually a cottage are all in the plans. And we live in a county that while it's getting stricter, is still pretty relaxed about things like strawbale housing and cordwood. Yes, both are approved in Annapolis County, NS. But despite the relaxed atmosphere and helpfulness of the people in the planning office, they still have basic things to abide by like the electrical code and Canada Building Code. But what if you want to do something different?
People find ways around the regulations by building summer cottages/cabins and living there year round. Or by building a 'garage' with a suite above and living there. For us it's a fine line between being honest and building what we want to build. My root cellar is a good example. I'm sure there aren't regulations yet about it, but what if I called it an underground house? Or my emergency shelter? Would structural requirements then have to meet current codes? I understand that codes are there to keep people safe but some of them are archaic and unreasonable. What's the recourse then?

Many other countries have rules about building your own home and let you do what you like as long as you're not building for others. I guess they figure you'll do a good job on your own house. And that's true. So many people these days cannot afford a conventional mortgage or the standard 3 bedroom house their folks grew up in. Houses no longer cost the equivalent of a years wages, they cost 5-10 years wages. And in the meantime people have to eat and feed themselves. I'm not saying that everyone should just be let loose in the woods with an axe and told to build themselves a cabin but if they have the know how and help to do a good job then I believe there has to be some way of letting a person build their own home on their own land if they want to.

You've probably seen internet pics of Charlie and Megan's house before because it's beautiful. And now that it's finished the local planners want it torn down. It sits on private property and the neighbours do not mind (it's his parents). So if you read the article I'm linking to and feel moved, please sigh the petition. All the pics on this blog today are from Charlie and Megan's home. Sorry the video format won't work very well with the blog template :(

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Forgiveness on a sunny Sunday

It's the August long weekend here in Canada and though it's not a Stat holiday in Nova Scotia, most people do in fact have Natal Day off work. So we have Steve home for an extra day! Yay! Hopefully we'll get lots of work done tomorrow. But as for today, we have lots of things to keep us busy from the animals, to helping our neighbours and meetings at Church. But one thing I'd like to share with you, since I'm trying to get back in the habit of sharing a spiritual message on Sundays, is how important it is to forgive people who wrong us.

No matter how wonderful and charitable we are, there are always going to be people in this world that hurt us. Some do it deliberately but many times it's unintentional. When we carry around the hurt feelings and the anger we're not doing anything against those who wronged us, we're just bringing ourselves down. So I'd like to encourage you to let it go. Let go of the frustration and hurt. Just learn the lesson and move one. It's a happier way to live your life, and I promise you that if you forgive others you'll feel better about yourself too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Baby Turkeys!

We got our new turkeys this afternoon and the adorable little guys and gals are in a brooder where they are warm and have free access to food and water. They will still need to be under heat until they are feathered out and have enough body fat to stay warm on their own, so maybe another month or so.

We have a few Beltsville White and two dozen Broad Breasted Bronze crosses so next year we'll hopefully be able to breed our own turkeys and spread the love for these fun and beautiful birds. They are smarter than their big meaty cousins and we've found they are healthier too. Here's what they'll look like in a few months.

 Ours will be out running on pasture with access to the barn for food all day. At night they'll be locked safely inside and have the use of natural perches. I'll be sure to take some pics as they grow. 

Well I've got to go check on them and then get some sleep. Have a good night everyone.

Why Be Self-Sufficient? Why Farm in Nova Scotia?

People all over the western world are leaving cities and opting for a quieter and simpler life in the countryside with a few acres and a dream of financial and food independence. It's true, and it's been happening for years. Back in the 70's it was the Hippies, then the 'back to the land-ers' followed by the modern versions of both. And here we are, in 2013 doing the same thing. Do I hate shopping at the grocery store? NO!! They sell chocolate! But would I rather raise my own food and trade with my friends and neighbours, of course yes. Not only for the health benefits but also because of the food security and financial savings. No physical savings though :)

So I'm wondering this:

What would happen if one meal you eat each week was raised in your own backyard? Just one meal. Hey everyone has to start somewhere.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Brilliant Movable Chicken House and Turkeys Are Coming

This is the best and most thoroughly thought out design for a portable coop that I've ever seen! So I just have to share it with you. I'm definitely going to build one like this some day, and if money was no object I'd buy one! Anyways let me know what you think.

We're gearing up for a lovely flock of turkey poults so I was out today checking on my brooder lamps and getting some nice bottom wire so I can have a warm, dry and secure brooder for my poults when they arrive which may well be this week. My little chicken brooder won't cut it size wise and you should never use chicken equipment with turkeys to prevent the spread of a nasty disease called blackhead. So everything like feeders and waterers will have to be disinfected and dried. These turkeys are going to form the backbone of my free-range flock and we'll hopefully breed our own poults (that's a baby turkey) each year. Yes, we'll have both meat turkeys for sale and breeding trios as we get going, at least with any luck. In BC we raised Nicholas White and Broad Breasted Bronze varieties with the whites being both dumber and bigger, but there's really something smart about a bronze or wild turkey and they're just hardier because they're not bred to grow at crazy fast rates. These ones I'm getting are a BBBronze cross so they should be good foragers and fun to raise. I Love turkeys, they really are a hoot!

We will be free-ranging our turkeys in much the same way we do with our chickens, except they'll also have access to the barn and a fenced field run. Turkeys are great foragers and also very curious so they are both fun to raise and profitable on pasture. Of course we'll still get them off to a good start using crumbled feed and heat lamps but once they are feathered and ready for the outdoors we'll raise them naturally on pasture and provide clean water and pellet feed inside their barn. Turkeys raised outdoors are far happier and healthier, and it fits in with the philosophy of ours that we should be stewards of the land and care for our animals properly. So our turkeys will be outside as much as they want during daylight hours and securely housed at night.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Free Chicken Feet Anyone?

Here's a funny pic and tweet I saw today. Oh my goodness, how amazingly far removed people are from the food they eat. I thought it was funny...and another lady was 'horrified'. Anyways, here's the pic.

But the very best part really is the response of twitter readers who realize that this is an over-reaction to say the least. This 'News' story actually made it around the globe and makes you wonder what the world is coming to when Monsanto can hire a private army and it's hushed, people die from war and disease or poverty all over the planet and yet a piece of chicken in a packet of chicken makes International headlines. this is such a 'First World' problem. Like breaking a nail or fighting with your teenager about what clothes to wear, or the temperature that we want the house kept at. Such frivolous things in comparison to wondering how you are going to eat tomorrow and keep a roof over your head. I count my blessings that I have a safe home and loving family. I may not have everything I would like but I'm doing pretty darn well!

Bees and CCD- Colony Colapse Disorder (or where are all the bees?)

I actually had a few minutes between chores and helping a friend move (thanks to the wonderful hard work of my 3 sons) to skim through some online news. Some gave me a chuckle and some didn't. I came across an interesting article about bees and thought I'd re-post the link here for anyone who is interested. We're all dependent on bees and their pollination of everything from our berries to the almonds used to make milk. I think it's time I took the tops off our hives and see how the girls are getting on, it's time for a new box or two I think.

The Book Of The Farm - Henry Stephens / Victorian Farm

All of my long time readers know that I love the BBC series Victorian Farm. Great watching for cold winter nights and for both farmers and history buffs alike. The series was so popular it spawned all sorts of other 'farm' shows including Wartime and Edwardian versions, all equally interesting an available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

But I wanted to write this little post to let you know that I've got you a real treat! One of the major sources of farm wisdom that's used ont he show is a book written by Henry Stephens in 1849 called "The Book Of The Farm" and it's basically a manual telling you what to plant when, how to care for your livestock and draft animals, basically everything you would need to know. Now you might be wondering what that could possibly mean to us modern day organic farmers in the technology era. And that's a fair question. So I have a question for you.

Is everything old new again?

In many cases it is. Interest in quality food and goods over mass-produced items. Organic and sustainable farming practices, natural remedies, observation of your farm and lands. All this knowledge and wisdom is out there for us to benefit from, especially with the use of google and other search engines online. I mean, here you are on your computer reading about a farmer in Nova Scotia Canada when you may be thousands of miles away. But what if your computer went away and you had only books? My goodness you could buy a lot I'm sure, but this book is really comprehensive. And better yet, It's FREE!

The original book came out in 3 different editions and was recently revised by the BBC and Alex Langlands so it's available in a nice keepsake version. But if you've got some storage space I'd recommend loading a copy into your computer and saving it for interesting reading and to see if there are ways you can improve your farming based on ancient knowledge. It's these handed down traditions in farming that make it so wonderful. Since the book has been out of copyright for many years it's available for a free download in many formats including

I'm happy to be like the farmers of old and share information with you all. I hear so many interesting comments and questions that I'm looking into finding a new blog host or a way to have a forum for discussion here online. Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We Got Our Permits!

Steve drew up a set of plans for our additions by hand and I submitted them for approval, fully expecting a call telling us what changes need to be made. But Lo and Behold, they said they were approved as is! Yay!

So construction begins Friday 19th July at 10am officially.

Funds are sorely limited of course so it will be done as money allows. Steve has 2 days off work and we'll be building the foundations and floors initially. Hey, it's a start! Then once that's been inspected it's on to walls, roof and electrical. So, things are happening!

The boys are keeping busy loading hay for me and making movies. Here's the link to William's latest project:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Building, Painting, Scrubbing

Here we are now into July and I haven't written a single word for months! I will now slap myself on the wrist as I'm sure many of you would like to do, lol.

Here's where we're at. The mobile home is on site at the farm and it's basically stripped on the inside (which is how we bought it). We're scrubbing it all out and then painting the walls and ceilings so we at least have a fresh canvas to start with as it were. The girls have decided that they will paint one wall light green (picture green grapes) and the opposing wall lavender. I'm not sold on the idea but I did manage to find some fabric for curtains that will allow them to at least pretend to coordinate, lol.  Anything is an improvement on a bad maroon paint job with forest green blinds.

William and Jordan decided on a light blue colour for their north east facing rooms and due to the special super durable paint we got it took a lot of experimenting in the paint store before we decided on the right shade. It's now officially named 'WillyBee Blue' in the computer. All the prep work is done, the base coat is finished, and as soon as a bad patch of wall panel is replaced I'm ready to put the final coat on. I expect there will be enough paint leftover to also paint the bathrooms. Some of our paint is recycled paint from LOOP, a Canadian company, and so far no complaints, and the rest is Scuff-Proof from Home Hardware. I don't know if they all carry it but it's very durable and scrubbable paint in a farmhouse is a big plus in my opinion. Especially with my children :)

It's a struggle to spend money wisely when renovating and our paint choices reflect that. We were able to buy our Scuff Proof for $25 per can instead of the usual $60 and LOOP paint at WalMart retails for under $16 per gallon. Sure it's only got limited colours, but since I was using it for ceilings (white) and as primer over maroon pretty much any colour would do. Their Butter colour also looks nice so I'm doing that for my living room. We'll see how it all turn out and if I want something different then no problem, I'll just re-paint!

The floor plans for the mobile additions are done and submitted to the County Building Officer for his approval, we should hear this week and then construction can begin! We have a plan for the cabinets we'll build in the kitchen and I hope that by the end of the week we will have at least the girls room finished and can move furniture in there, it'll give us some more room to work in the shed :)

I'll get some pics for you tomorrow and add them. For right now I have to get going, the boys are going to youth camp tomorrow and are busy doing laundry and packing. William starts his new job tomorrow and due to the cancellation of the Military doing Basic Training, Chris is looking for work again. Looong story, better left for tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beautiful Family Home For Sale in Greenwood / Kingston, NS

This home is now available for even cheaper and immediate occupancy! Close to schools and a wonderful layout for a family. Check out the listing, under $300k!

Our very great friends, the Wolfs Family, have just received a late posting and so they're moving from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan in 10-12 weeks. Consequently their beautiful 4 bedroom home is now on the market. It's priced at $319k although personally I think it's worth quite a bit more. SO if you're looking for a beautiful family home that is walking distance to schools and is in a lovely family neighbourhood, close to CFB Greenwood and all amenities in this lovely part of the Annapolis Valley,  check this out!

Justin, our realtor friend also has several other listings suitable for families moving to Nova Scotia. Good family neighbourhoods, nice comfortable homes, and Justin knows this area really well so he can give good honest and practical advice. He's a man with good morals and integrity, not a 'used car salesman' type realtor, so I highly recommend him. He's internet friendly and that really makes it easier if you need to arrange things long distance. So call Justin today and tell him Elizabeth sent you.

We're so sad that the Wolfs Family are possibly the nicest family you'll ever meet. If you have the great blessing to get to know them then your life will forever be changed for the good. We're going to miss them terribly but know that they'll be happy in Saskatchewan and their extended family will be so happy to have them closer to home. It's hard to live in the Maritimes when your other family live out west. But having said all this...we're still going to miss them. But we know one thing will always be true...

Friends For Life

What Teenagers Do...

William likes to make movies so it's not uncommon to find a crowd of boys including Chris, Will and Jordan all filming in the house on weekends. The latest installment went awry though when Will first got stuck in the window and then leaned on a bucket which broke when he leaned on it, destroying the bucket and cutting his arm. It was nothing serious, some scrapes and a little blood that quickly cleaned up. But for all the hours of filming they did, 2 minutes of blooper was what they posted to youtube, lol. I wonder if all directors have this problem? William's youtube channel is Pizzamanette if you're interested in seeing his work.

Take a look! See how supportive young men are to each other, lol.


It's Spring and time for the chicks to be basking under their heat lamps. We're ordering heritage layers this year from another local farmer. Why heritage? People buy heritage birds for many different reasons including their personalities, sizes, looks and traits such as broodiness. We're getting heritage birds that are hardy to our climate and who actively forage for a large part of their food. The ability to feed themselves is one thing we love about turkeys too, they'll spend a good portion of their day roaming around and eating bugs and grass and what other tasty morsels they come across.

To get ready for our fine feathered friends we have a bale of pine shavings on hand, chick starter crumbles (food), heat lamps with extra bulbs (always have an extra bulb on hand because you don't want to have it pop on a Sunday evening when the stores are closed), and suitable dishes. Having a draft free pen or box for them is important too because you must be able to maintain a temperature of at least 80 degrees, and maybe a few degrees warmer for the first couple of weeks. I've always found that their behaviour is the best indicator of happiness. If they're huddled under the heat lamp, then they're too cold. If they are around the edges, lying out flat or panting then too warm. But if they're happily eating, drinking and sleeping all over the place they are happy. Watching your chicks is the easiest way to tell. Mounting your heat lamp with a chain is an easy way to adjust the temperature also because you can just raise or lower it by a notch or two until the chicks are happy. Providing a stable temperature room for your brooder with good ventilation is also important. Some places like the garage can get much cooler at night than you think.

Chicks are less temperature sensitive than turkeys. It's always been my opinion that turkey poults are just looking for a way to die, especially in the first 2 weeks. Once you can get them past that then they're fantastic to raise, particularly the hardy heritage breeds. I can't wait to get turkeys again.

One tip for all chicks and poults is to use feeders that are on a small stand. Make sure they can still reach the food and water easily, but by placing them up out of the shavings a little you'll keep the water cleaner and avoid having shavings fill up the dishes. Chicks are very messy little things, especially as they grow, so try to raise them in an area that's well ventilated and that you don't mind getting covered in the inevitable chick dust, a fine mix of shaving, poop and feather particles that are not nice to breathe in. That's why raising them outside once the weather is warmed is such a good idea.

I'm off to go check on all the animals. Hope the nice weather forecast for today holds true. We're plowing on Thursday this week and fencing on Friday and Saturday so it's going to be a fun week!

Oh, if you are moving to Greenwood and looking for a lovely family home, I know of 2 exceptional houses that just went on the market. One is here in the subdivision where we currently live and the other is a gorgeous 4 bdrm on Acker Court in Kingston, close to the schools. It's gorgeous and because of a late posting notice (they found out last week) it's just hitting the market now, priced about $25k less than similar homes. It's gorgeous inside, trust me I've been in there a lot :) I'll link to it ASAP.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Just when we thought Winter was gone, we've got plus 7 degree weather and a snow warning with freezing rain forecast for tonight. But then hopefully that's the last of it. Spring is definitely here and the bulbs are up, but Winter just won't quite let go.

Our lambs and sheep are loving the ability to get out of the barn and stretch their legs as are the hens. We also had our 4 piglets arrive last week and we're getting them settled and used to us. They're a little skittish but quickly overcome their fear when fed, lol.

The mobile home should be arriving int he next 10 days to be set up and then the renovations begin and on the 20th we're having a bunch of friends from church come out for a BBQ and to set fence posts so we can give the animals all a safer place to roam about. Oh it's so busy around here!

For the coming year we're looking at selling produce in the farmers market as well as a small stand at roadside. But we need a serious amount of tilling done first and a local farm friend is hopefully doing that as we speak. I've got lots of seeds just waiting for warmer weather and then the fun begins...weeding! We've got plans to put in lavender, flowers, vegetables, some new pasture, a greenhouse, some cover and winter crops to feed the livestock such as mangels and kale, and of course we still need a garden to feed our own family. It's going to be a lot of work but I'd like to see if I can make a little money from my gardening this year to pay off one of the big projects like drilling the well or putting in the septic system.

Greenwood Mall has a small indoor Farmers Market each Thursday afternoon that we're going to try out as soon as we can, which given the weather is going to be at least 4 weeks from now. We'll have salad greens, radishes and possibly some tomato transplants available then.

For now it's just a matter of trying to keep all the projects organized and the animals happy.

Love to you all!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lambs and Flu

Well, all the lambs are born. And here's my report.

Freckles had triplets, 3 ewes
Dolly had triplets, 1 ram and 2 ewes
Sweetpea had twins, 2 ewes
Rambo is just lambs
Four had twins, 2 ewes

We lost 2 to white muscle disease caused by a shortage of selenium and now we have procured a bottle and the shortage seems to be over so that won't happen again. Next year I'll give my ewes a booster before lambing and we shouldn't have a repeat of the problem. I assisted with only one delivery because Dolly's first lamb presented breech, her second was head and no feet showing so we had to snag those to deliver the lambs shoulders, and her third came naturally and quickly. All the lambs except for Sweetpea's twins are black or brown faced and spotted to some degree because their father is a suffolk ram. You can tell he's got really good genes and the premium Suffolk stockyness because the lambs already have nice rounded bums and hind ends...nice meaty type lambs. I can see why Marc would spend so much money on getting a ram from an embryo all the way from England.

Steve has been sick in bed for 2 weeks now with the flu and for those of you who know him well, you know he's got to be really sick to stay in bed. He's basically been delirious and sleeping for 23 hours a day the whole time, poor guy. We made the trek into Kentville to see a Dr at the hospital but they're so overrun with flu patients that they just send you home and tell you to take lots of tylenol to take down your fever if you can. Not very helpful as we had been doing that for over a week already. But Steve actually slept through the night yesterday and this morning he's able to stay awake for longer stretches, so I'm happy. His fever is down but his cough is worse so hopefully he's clearing all that nasty stuff out of his chest and he'll be up and at 'em soon. I was really worried there for a while so I'm glad he's looking better and able to eat a little now too. Happy day!

I'm off to the barn. We moved our bottle fed babies out there the day before yesterday and they are doing just fine mingling with the other lambs and drinking from their bucket with the nipples on it.  My job now is to keep the bucket full of milk :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sheepish Pictures

Looks like they swallowed basketballs!

Rideau ewes eating hay with Freckles in the middle
 The sheep side of the barn. Here are a few pics of my lovely old ewes, hopefully taken just days before they lamb. Hear that girls? Any day would be nice, except we're in for another belting of snow and cold weather. Brrr! It's cold for the next few days and so keeping the water liquid and keeping out of the wind are the priorities. They've got loads of hay to munch and pellets for that added boost they all need this close to lambing. We switched to a sheep mash which it turns out they don't like (we switched because the feed store ran out of ewe pellets) but now we're back to pellets again and will keep the mash for the lambs to nibble when they're older.
The ewe in the back is  named Sweetpea, she's our friendliest ewe. That's Ram-bo in the front and she was named that because she's our most annoying ewe, always bumping the others around and she's the one I'm not certain is pregnant, maybe just a single.

Jordan, son/barn slave. Doesn't he look impressed to have his pic taken?
And here is my supply room looking the worse for wear. Time for a good tidy up again before I light that wood stove. In the spring once we're past the freezing weather I'll grind and polish this lovely old thing but for now it's function over beauty. The walls are just lined with plastic to cut down any draft and that ugly chunk of metal acts as a heat shield. The stove looks big but it's actually only about 16 inches across, it's a tiny room and a tiny stove, and it's time for a tidy up!
 Food and herbal tea. Just in case of a night lambing it's good to have a kettle and some munchies on hand. I've got a small pot and a couple of dishes so it's like camping really. I still don't have a bed or bench out there but hopefully that will be built today. I can always sleep in the hay in the meantime. -26 with the windchill today and tonight so staying out of the wind is a big priority for me and for the sheep too. I'm very happy Steve got the end walls finished and the soffits done.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

6.5 Acre Homestead For Sale

No, it's not mine, I almost wish it were. But I know of a sweet deal on a gorgeous little organic property in central south Ireland complete with 3 bedroom home. Now for those of you reading my blog in England you may not have considered Ireland, wanting to stick closer to home. I'm sure many of you are familiar with John Seymour the author and father of the modern Back To The Land Movement. At the time he wrote his most popular books he was living in Suffolk, England but development and skyrocketing prices saw him move his farm and school for self-sufficiency to first Wales and then County Wexford, Ireland in the 80's and 90's. So consider Ireland. Here's what I have to tell you about:

Price is reduced to only 133.000 euros/£115.000!

A quaint 6.5 acre property that was bought a few years ago by a couple who have been busy renovating the cottage from a dilapidated, uninsulated, old-fashioned house into a modern, comfortable and charming 3 bedroom home. The cottage is set in the middle of 6.5 acres and is surrounded by its own fields for lots of privacy and beautiful views of your own land. There is a private drive with 2 gates leading up to the house and no overlooking neighbours which is nice. However you're not in the middle of nowhere as you are close (about a mile) to the market town of Millstreet with all the amenities you'd want. The property itself is divided into 4 large meadows surrounded by mature trees and hedgerows. One field has a stream bordering it so there is a constant source of water for your animals. A young orchard behind the home has apples, pears, cherries and plums promising beautiful spring blossoms and later your own harvests of organic fruit.

For all the details about this little gem, the owners Ronan and Andrea have a comprehensive website at  and there's an abundance of info about the house, land, amenities, building codes and tons of photos. If you know anyone who would be interested in this property please contact Andrea directly via their website. They love their little place but have to sell due to health reasons and would love to see it go to someone else interested in owning a beautiful piece of country for growing veggies and fruit or raising livestock and horses.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No Lambs Yet

Well we've made it through the weekend and still no lambs. The last time I checked was 4am so you never know what's going to happen later today. The ewes are just about out of feed (lots of hay still) so I have to swing by the feed store in Middleton or Coldbrook and grab some more. The weather has settled back into normal Winter weather. It's lightly snowing and just below freezing, maybe -3. There's little wind though which is very nice. I console myself with the lack of lambs by realizing that it's beautiful and serene to be the only person driving up and down our road at 4am and seeing the newly fallen snow. Also, every day is one day closer to having lambs. I checked my e-mails from the previous owner of my sheep indicating that by the 12th he was sure they were bred which means lambs should be born by Feb 4th, that's today. They can't stay inside there for ever. But at least while they are inside there is less work for me as a shepherdess besides checking on them regularly. I'm going to work a little in the barn today making some individual pens, stocking up the firewood, and maybe building myself a small cot to sit/sleep on, then no matter when the lambs come, I'll be ready. Hope you all have a good day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How Much Do Sheep Eat?

You might be wondering how we feed sheep in Canada for the winter months when there's nothing for them to eat outside. There are several foods they can eat from fodder crops like turnips and kale to hay, haylage and pelleted food. Hay is the most common and in our area we provide a selenium and mineral salt block beside the water trough too. As the ewes get further along in their pregnancies they will need some extra grain and pellet to give them the energy they need for making milk and growing healthy lambs but we can't overfeed them either because it can cause lambs to be born that are too big and difficult to deliver. So since hay is the major source of feed, how much is enough? We leave hay out most of the time for them so they can eat it as they please but of course it's good to know how much you are going to need for a winter so that you can get that much made or bought in the summer. There's a formula you can use to work it all out.

Number of days feeding (be generous) multiplied by the total weight of the sheep times .04

Divide that by the weight of the bales gives you the number of bales you need.

Bales weigh between 35 and 120 lbs each so it's good to know how much your particular ones weigh. Don't let someone tell you that you need one bale per day...weights vary and you don't want to underfeed your sheep or any livestock that's depending on you for food. If you're using large round bales the calculations remain the same but I'd allow 10% more to account for wastage if you're not using a bale feeder.

Here's our calculations.  5,  200lb ewes eating for 150 days from 35 lb bales need 172 bales of hay for the winter. If the bales were 50 lbs then we'd only need 120. That's why it's important to know exactly how heavy your bales are and to make sure you buy the best hay you can, or make your own. Baled hay is a convenient way to store food and certainly more space efficient than loose hay. 6000 lbs of loose hay takes up an awful lot of room in a loft so bales are most common. We plan on feeding hay beginning in October and going through March with the sheep eating grass/hay in October and March but just hay for the colder months. The weather varies each year so you can never have too much hay in store. There are plenty of uses for old hay bales, animal bedding, gardening, compost, you name it.

A ewe needs about 4 lbs of hay for every 100 lbs of weight plus a half-1 lb grain in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy and nursing. For us that amounts to just a bit over a bale of hay per day plus grain so our feed costs for the winter work out to be $4 per day for hay, $2 for grain/pellet and of course you need straw for bedding and lots of fresh water. Our weekly average is probably $60 for food and bedding for the sheep and chickens. That cost will be offset by the eggs, chicks and lambs produced by our lovely ewes. Now that we have a barn with a hay loft we can buy our next years hay earlier in the year for probably half the price we're paying now which will save feed costs and if we build a rodent proof feed bin then we can get grain in bulk which is cheaper again. Something to think about if it saves us $600 in feed costs. I think we'll also plant some winter grazing crops like turnips and kale so they have some green stuff as far into the winter as they can manage which is good for their health and our pocket book. We'll see how it goes.

Oh What A Difference A Day Makes!

I've just gotten home from checking on the sheep. All is well and no lambs yet. The weather sure has taken a turn for the worst as we make our way into February. Right now it's 4:30am, the wind is still gusting to 70 km/h and there is blowing snow albeit not much. Snow is falling in some areas and not in others but it still means that driving up to Torbrook where the farm is can be a bit challenging. I'm going back to bed for a few hours before I have to check on the sheep again. Hope you're all staying nice and warm wherever you are. I like to hear the wind moaning past the house knowing that the ewes are all snug and warm in their barn and I'm tucked up in my bed. Time for some sleep. Goodnight.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wet, Wild and Windy

It seems so strange that a week ago I was complaining about the cold because right now it's plus 16, yes, PLUS! And my goodness it's windy! Consequently it's melted everything and there's water flowing everywhere. Before it cools down again I hope things get dried out so it's not too icy. At the farm there's hardly a speck of snow left but there is plenty of flowing water.

Meghan, bless her, thought that getting some fresh flowing water would be nice for the ewes so she devised a contraption to let her get water without getting her feet wet, blowing away, or falling on the ice. Yes I realize it looks a bit weird so let me explain. The toboggan is tied to the van to prevent it sliding away and she is using a clean shovel to scoop water into the bucket because apparently the shovel is lighter and easy to use. Did it work? Yes it did! One of the most important skills any farmer can have is the ability to improvise a solution to a problem. People don't always think of farmers as being particularly smart or creative and I'm here to tell you that you couldn't be more wrong. Every farmer I know can easily list 20 or more used for that piece of bale twine or string we all seem to have in our pockets. I like Meghan's blending of practicality and safety features in her water gathering project. Very funny yet effective. It was quite early in the morning so the light is pretty weak in the photos.

Given the strength of the winds today and yesterday I'm amazed that the tarps are still holding but they are, and I'm grateful. Steve got one end wall almost done and the eaves are now boxed in too which keeps the barn nice and warm inside compared to outside on a windy day. There's still good ventilation but no breeze blowing through as much as before. Very much appreciated by all of us who spend time in the barn. i put a gate latch on the side door so that we can latch the door closed more tightly and also open it from the inside. I should have used shorter screws though because they stick through a bit and when the wind blew I put out a hand to stop it and skewered the base of my thumb on a screw, OUCH! But at least now we can pull the door shut from inside and latch it tightly, and get out again which is always a bonus.

I was a bit surprised that Sweetpea hadn't had her lambs yet and she's really eating and drinking lots, they all are. The lambs put on a lot of their growth in the last few weeks so now the ewes are looking like they've swallowed basketballs! Sweetpea's udder last night was looking firm and round with her nipples sticking out so it shouldn't be long now and they're definitely starting to get a bit uncomfortable with such big bulky bellies. I'll see if I can get them to stand still long enough to take a photo.  It's not at all unusual for Rideaus to have triplets or quads so we'll see how it goes. Most breeds have singles or twins which works out well because with 2 teats they can feed twins but any breed with improved milk production can support more lambs and that's what ours will be good for. Older ewes are also more likely to produce triplets than younger ewes and this breed is known for larger groups of lambs so it will be interesting. One of my ewes has hardly gained any girth though and her udder is unchanged so I'm not sure that she's even pregnant sadly. Time will tell.

 Next year I'm going to have a plan in place that allows me to know when each ewe was serviced so that I know when to start increasing her feed and when she is due. Well, as much as any shepherd can know because these things aren't an exact science.

In addition to using pallets as dividers we've put together some wooden panels to use for making temporary walls and gates so that we can divide off the mothers and their lambs to have a bonding area for a few days and to make temporary pens for any bottle fed lambs. These are light weight and sized to allow a tall person to step over if needed. Now that out pallet pile has started to defrost I'm going to get the boys to help me stack them individually so that they don't freeze together again. This afternoon I want to make a trough for the sheep feed too. Keeping it off the ground is important for cleanliness and to prevent wastage which is more economical. Both boys write their last exams today and then have the rest of the day off and tomorrow too so I have slaves! Yay!

Well, time to pick them up from school. Hope you are all enjoying the last day of January.

Best Wishes!   Elizabeth