Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Troutpocalypse and Ticked Off

Happy Monday!

Well it was another busy weekend. Our fish arrived but there were a few kinks getting them set up and happy. We seem to have solved the problems by adding a couple of air stones and covering the pond with a pallet to provide both shade and protection from the dog and her drinking habits. She literally scared them right out of the pond. By the time we found them they were clinging to life but Steve did manage to save a few. The dead fish went into the chicken pen so that at least they weren't totally wasted. And this morning there were a few more which made me pretty angry and frustrated but now I'm pretty sure there is something hunting them. I can't imagine why they would jump out of the pond and then make their way 6-8 feet away. I'm going to cover the entire tank with a cover that goes all the way over and see what happens overnight tonight.

Also, a yucky discovery this afternoon was a new mole on the top of my arm, a mole with legs. Yes, my first embedded tick of the season. I've managed to get them all just brushed off so far but I must have gotten this one yesterday so it had all night and morning to decide a good place to stop for a snack. The first thought with a tick is always 'I've got to get this thing off ASAP' and so there's a small irrational bit of panic. Well, I grabbed the dish soap and a clean cloth and covered it in the soap before placing the cloth over. After a few minutes that seemed more like 20, I was able to get it off and take a pic. Now it's floating in a bottle of citrus cleaning solution until it's dead and relocated into the compost. But just thinking about it still gives me the willys. Bleuch!! Just to creep you out too I'll post a photo. The blue on the cloth is the soap. The brownish red stain is, well, you can guess. It didn't leave too big of a hole and I covered it with some Melagel so it'll heal faster and keep out any infection. The tick wasn't very swollen so it can't have been there long so I'm sure I'm fine for not getting Lyme disease.

There's a good steady rain falling so I'm using up a batch of sourdough starter and making bread. The rain will be good for the garden and that means tomorrow I'll be able to go plant some more in nice damp soil. In the meantime I'm stuck indoors and working on stuff so it's good because I have lots to catch up on.

Well, our fish experiment has so far been a complete failure. Due to people knocking off the air supply hose and the water hose being left on, we have effectively managed to suffocate all but a meager few of our trout. It's a very sad disaster, and not one I will repeat this year. I may go down to the brook and catch some wild trout but we'll have to see how I'm feeling about the whole thing later today. I think I'm just going to work on fencing today and planting. It's pretty depressing. I think I'll go empty our composting toilet as it needs doing anyways. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Getting things done feels great.

Today we got a whole bunch of the yard cleaned up, scrap wood burned and out of the way, and the straw bale house for the sheep is no longer needed to William and Meghan (with a little help from Kate) got them all moved down beside the compost pile. We located our humanure and regular compost piles as far away from the house as practical and far enough away to keep down any unpleasant odours but we shouldn't be getting any anyways.

The bugs have gotten pretty bad. I think they all hatched at once hungry and desperate so no matter how much I spray on insect repellent, I'm still getting bitten. It's very annoying! Reminds me of a song you might like about the black fly.

Anyways I'm pooped. I'll write tomorrow hopefully.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Sheep Are Naked!

Alix taking the wool off a ewe
3 grown men vs. ram
 Here are some of our photos from shearing yesterday. It was such a wonderful day for it and not too many bugs. Of course the sheep now look really slim and bony without their thick winter coats.

Tyrone our Cotswold Ram before his trim
It never fails. No matter how late we shear the sheep we're almost guaranteed a cool night or a wet one and last night was no exception with temperatures getting down to the freezing mark. Seems to be Murphy's Law. But they're sure happy to be able to scratch their skin and not be so hot in the afternoons. The lambs did look at them a little strangely though and Tyrone our ram decided it was a good time to try courting these new ladies which was less than acceptable to the girls, lol. They didn't take long to all calm down again though so everyone's happy. Although it was down to the freezing mark overnight it dawned sunny very early and it's already in the low teens now at 10am. so it's a perfect day for gardening. I plan on getting out there in a half hour once the dishes are washed. A couple of the kids are home today so I have some extra slave labour.

Tomorrow is another big day in our family. Jordan turns 16 so he'll be able to learn to drive and start dating if he wants to. I think that tonight we'll have a BBQ and cake because Steve will be home and then we'll let Jordan decide if he wants to do anything on the weekend with his friends. So we'll have 3 boys at home all able to drive soon. Scary!

I spent a good amount of time with my companion planting charts designing our vegetable rows for this year and I think I've got it all done now. So all that remains is to get planting. I've got to get my peas and beans in but I think it's still too cold for corn. I might try it and see how it goes though over a small area. If it doesn't sprout then I can just re-plant. But corn and beans really don't like cool soil. Cabbages, lettuce and peas of course like cooler weather so they're good. A garden always involves quite a lot of planning because so many factors affect them. Temperature, light requirements, and maturity dates. It really is worthwhile taking some time to plan your years growing and including your different successions as the seasons change. It helps with knowing when to start transplants and what plants will shade others in hot weather, which ones will take a lot of water and which will take a lot of fertility or put nitrogen back into the soil. Anything that helps you out is a blessing.

So now you know what we're doing this week I have to get going and get to work. Have a wonderful day!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mothers Day

Yesterday was Mothers Day in Canada. And here at the farm it was a reasonably productive day. We started out with breakfast in bed for me consisting of a fried egg sandwich, a toasted bagel and juice. Yum :)  The we were off to church for the remainder of the morning. After we came home and had lunch we decided to take advantage of the good dry weather to get some planting done and  William had fun on the little garden tractor. He got 2 furrows plowed and he and Jordan got about 200 feet of potatoes planted. We planted Superior because they're supposed to make really good new potatoes for summer eating. I can't wait and I'm sure they'll be good for our market stand too. The girls and I planted at the other end of the garden where it's a little rockier on our more sloped area. We put in 75 strawberry plants, 20 raspberry canes, a black currant bush and a rhubarb plant. We still have to get the remaining strawberries in and the apple trees too but since it's dawned cool and damp this morning I'm thinking we'll wait until it's dry again tomorrow. Besides, I have enough work to do indoors and I'd like to get the rest of the garden planting written down so I can stay a bit more organized this year. If it warms up then maybe I'll get the boys out into the old pig pen with the tractor to pick rocks and then give it a dig over. It'll make a great greenhouse area for tomatoes in summer and lettuces in the cold weather.

Steve and the boys got the inside fence of my garden changed over from electric to wire mesh because the electric just wasn't working to keep the animals out. Last year the pigs ate all our potatoes and the sheep are reasonably insulated against the shocks so that's not good either. So far the mesh fence is working, but only as long as the gate stays closed. Chris came home late from the drive-in movies, parked his truck on the driveway and then went to bed. We awoke this morning to honking because our sheep had gone exploring on the road and were nextdoor eating the grass at the churchyard again. I got them back with a bucket of grain and shut the main gate, but I'm thinking I'll have to come up with a way of fencing the sheep on the back of the property so this isn't an issue. When we have WWOOFers come this year I'm thinking fencing will be a priority. It's be nice to have an area around the house that's animal free so I can plant flowers and walk around without needing boots.

Hope you are all having a good growing season so far.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sunny Spring Day in May

Well despite the cool overnight temperatures for the past few days it's been sunny and warm in the afternoons. Spring, I hesitate to say it, is finally here.

So what are we doing at the farm at the moment? Well, apart from the ongoing construction we're settling back into life as usual. The kids have school, Steve and Chris have work, and gradually life is returning to normal despite our still having no septic or additions. Steve and I are sleeping in the living room, The kids each have a bedroom or trailer, and we have a composting toilet in our bathroom beside the washing machine. So far it's working well and as long as the vents are properly connected there's no smell to speak of. It'll only be a few days before it will be emptied for the first time to go to a maturing compost pile in the garden to finish the process and then it's straight back on to the flower gardens and trees.

The water in our well ran very muddy for a few days and the settled into a slightly hazy colour but now seems fine. I think we've worked out any sediment issues. We're going to put a filter on as well but we've been blessed to find that unlike our previous place there's no iron showing in the water and so hopefully our white clothes will stay white now. I guess time will tell how the well works but so far we love it. The pipes are still running above ground but soon Steve will bury them and I won't have a 200 foot ditch running across my pasture. Before winter we need to build a cover for the pump and well head too so that it's insulated in the winter cold.

All our lambs have their tails done and are happily running around this morning. They range in age from 1 week to 7 weeks and are so fun to watch. It's truly the best sign of Spring to see lambs playing in the grassy fields. Beethoven, our sickly little lamb, still has his moments where I think he's injured or not doing well and the next day he's bouncing along with the best of them. He's growing at a good pace so I think he's going to be fine. But I'm very happy with one lamb in particular. I'm not sure he's been assigned a name yet but he's a magnificent looking ram lamb. Long straight back and sturdy legs, he's all muscle and proud attitude already at the ripe old age of 4 weeks. I'm seriously tempted to keep him, especially if continues to grow at the same rate. He's not as friendly as some of the other bottle lambs but he's a fine example of Cotswold Rideau cross.We're in a 'B' year so his name will probably end up being Brutus or some such. I think Bastion might be good for him too. His colour is sort of fawnish at the moment so it will be interesting to see what colour he matures to. His mother is white and his father is a black Cotswold. He's got golden brown legs and an off white body at the moment. If I can get him to stand still I'll see about getting some pics today.

Our friend Perry popped over and tilled our garden for us. It's approx. 100x300 feet so not a bad size for the main crops. 30,000 sq ft though is a lot of weeding if it gets away from us so we have some help coming for the summer and we're mulching where practical too. Our sweet potatoes will all be planted under black plastic and I'm tempted to do the same with some of our other crops too that are hard to hoe around. We'll see. The plastic is expensive and is one more thing I'd have to tidy up and recycle at the end of the year so I'd like to use it as little as possible. I'm going to plant the strawberries with straw and mulch the peas with straw too I think. I guess we'll make use of what we've got here at the farm.

This afternoon I want to pick the rocks out of the area the pigs cleared last year and then get a greenhouse up. We'll see how that goes with boy help. It'll be good to get the tomatoes in the ground. Many of them didn't make it through the move, having been left outside overnight but we can start again. 

I'll check in later.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eastlink Internet Complaint

I just have to give this rant about Eastlink because of their appalling customer service to us. There's nothing I can do about it as there's basically only one service provider here in NS (unless you live right in the city and can get Bell). For the past few months we've been paying for Internet 40 so you'd think we were getting nice fast speeds but we usually got 4Mbps, not even close to 40. And yes, we know to disconnect every other device from the network before testing. They tweaked the equipment from their end but the best we ever got was about 15 Mbps and it lasted a half hour before reverting back to it's old ways.

'No Problem', I told the kids and my husband. 'When we move everything up to the farm we'll get proper internet again'. There are often 6 of us on the computer at once. The kids stream Netflix, Steve and I are working online or doing research or blogging, so it's busy. We know that. Which is why we ordered a business bundle to handle our business traffic as well as our day to day computing needs. So we call Eastlink 3 weeks before we need service (they asked us to give them a week to 10 days notice) and find out that a site survey was done last September and that they want to charge us over a thousand dollars to hook us up. WHAT?!?!? The lines run right on the poles along the front of our property and their big pole mounted switch box or whatever it is is a few hundred feet down the line, I can see it from here. So after trying to explain this to a rep. and getting nowhere fast  I asked them to check again and for the survey guy to call me. He does ( 2 days after not coming ot our appointment because he was too busy) and says no problem, it'll be a couple hundred dollars to run the new line from the pole roadside into our building. GREAT we think, let's go!
Fast forward to April 23rd. We get our contract from Eastlink signed and try to fax it back. No joy, their fax won't receive so I just email it back to the rep. Finally we think the ball is rolling. Only it's not. He sent the info to the 'engineering dep't' and is waiting to hear back from them. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. A week goes past and still we haven't heard. We move and still no phone or internet. This is not good for business.
It's now May 6th. We just got emails yesterday saying that we've been approved and they will be another 3-4 weeks getting us hooked up. Seriously!?!? I was absolutely livid and fired off 3 nasty emails to my rep and to the company. Still waiting to hear back, not that I think it will do much good. So it looks like we could potentially be without any internet for another month. And what really gets me is that we asked them to call us on our cell and let us know and they didn't. They just email knowing we can't check it ofter because we don't have internet. We can't speak to a live person because their chat service is only for their residential customers. And their technicians came yesterday and were working not 200 feet from my place, it's like a slap in the face. Sure, come here and work only don't hook us up while you're at it.

Very frustrated and going to complain about it until I get some satisfaction so watch out Eastlink! Bottom line, go with Bell or Telus over Eastlink if you can. If you have to get Eastlink make sure you're getting what you're paying for. In Greenwood they charged us for Internet 40 but their infrastructure only allowed for 20 so they were charging us for something it wasn't possible to get. It's like leasing a luxury BMW and then finding out you're getting a perfectly functional Kia hatchback instead. I am not at all impressed with their service.

This concludes my rant for the day. 

UPDATE: We were finally hooked up yesterday, May 27th. It seems to be working well except for a short range but that may have to do with the location of the wireless modem. We'll tweak it.