Monday, December 28, 2009

Frikin' Turkeys

Well, Christmas day has come and gone. My plan for the morning was to sleep in a tiny bit, exercise dogs, and then just laze around and do not much of anything on Christmas. Thanks to the frikin' turkeys, I barely got even that done. When I got up and let the first group of dogs out, they all ran to the neighbours fence and started barking and obsessing on something... it was one of my damn turkeys! It had flown all the way over the trees and the fence, and was squallering in my neighbours yard. Upset that he was separated from the rest of the flock. So, back inside with all the dogs, who needed a big run BAD. I got some food to entice turkey lurkey to the fence. That part worked. He came closer. I knew from experience that he wouldn't be smart enough just to fly back over the fence- for some reason, they always have to go under... I found a stick and propped up a bit of the fence, and put some feed in front of it, then stood back to give the turkey some room. Well, that dork walked up and down the fence for over an hour, squeaking and calling to his turkey brothers, almost going under the fence a thousand times. I was seriously ready to just go get one of my dogs to jump the turkey and put ME out of my misery! It was exhausting, trying to entice him back under that fence!
Meanwhile, the poor doggies are all locked inside, dying to get out for a pee and poo and a good run!

Finally, he scoots under the fence. I couldn't believe it after all that time! I was astounded that he figured it out! Then, of course, he flies into the nearest tree. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this... I was soooo close to just giving up! I decided to hide myself, so the turkey would feel more free to come near the coop. That worked quite well, and he leaped out of the tree and waddled to the coop, where I then came out of hiding and opened the door and herded the damn thing back in. All told... over 2 hours. No rest time for me that day! I finally got to let the poor dogs out, where they went nuts, venting all their energy. I have pretty much made the decision to get rid of these turkeys, ready or not. They are just too much trouble! I am going to call the processing place right after new years, and get them booked into the first appointment I can. I refuse to be herding escapees all winter long!

The next day, I lost one of my new laying hens. She escaped the coop (which is easy for them to do, they just usually don't, because of the dogs) and a dog got her. She was pretty mangled, but died very, very quickly. No pain for her! I unthinkingly buried her, but now that I think back, maybe I should have put her in the freezer... I am not used to this farming thing, and really, what a waste of a perfectly good chicken! Hopefully, I'll know better next time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chickens and Eggs

I have been procrastinating catching all my new hens and moving them up to the egg laying coop. I was freaked out from trying to catch the males last week, and I no longer have a houseguest, so had to do it all on my own. The younger hens have been starting to give me a few tiny little eggs of late, and are ready to start laying regularly, and I knew I wouldn't be able to procrastinate much longer. So, last night I grabbed the biggest dog crate I had, and went out with much trepidation to move the chickens. My heart was beating a million miles a minute, I was so nervous about doing this!

As it turns out, female chickens are WAY easier to deal with than the males. They just sat there while I gently picked them up and put them in the crate. I didn't even have to close the door behind each one- they just sat there while I gathered up all the hens! No flapping, no screeching, no scarieness at all! I crammed them all into the crate, then dragged them bit by bit up to the permanent coop. I put them in with the older layers from last year, but left them in the crate overnight. Early this morning, I let them all out together. I was expecting alot of fighting and screeching with the two groups, but they seem to be getting along quite well! I have noticed the odd little arguement, but nothing major. What a relief.

Three more days, and winter solstice is here. As the days start to get longer, my hens should start laying more often. I now have 24 layers, so as time goes on, I should get between 1 1/2  and 2 dozen eggs each day. More than enough more myself, and I will be able to start selling them again, and make enough money to pay for their feed. Yay! Something worked out! Can't wait to start collecting my eggs every day!

Damn Turkeys

I was getting ready to let all the dogs out for a really good run this morning, peeked out the door, and what's just outside?? Seven damn turkeys! Somehow, they had burst open the door to their coop, and were happily foraging on my lawn. Looked cool, but somehow I didn't think it would last with 6 or so dogs coming out to play...

Of late, I have become an expert at herding turkeys. If you take it slow and steady, and don't rush them or freak them out, they will walk in the general direction you want them to. It took me about 15 very patient minutes, and amazingly, they all went back into their coop. I am seriously considering not doing turkeys next year. Who know a stupid bird could be such a pain in the ass??? Or, alternatively, I may try some non-heritage variety. I don't like the idea as much, but with my lack of building-a-decent-coop-skills, it may be the way I have to go for now. I spend ALOT of my time rescuing or herding escaped turkeys. Even when I think I have the coop all perfect, they seem to find a way out....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Snow

Our first snow arrived 2 days ago. Lasted a day, then rained like crazy and it's all melted already. Typical of the island! Plus, it's the kind of snow I like- doesn't last long! I am hoping like mad that we don't get a repeat of last year where we had 3 feet of snow on the ground for over a month. People back east may think that's wimpy, but I live on the island because of it's typical mild winters... although, we haven't had a true mild winter in quite some time now. I think we are due!! Oh, and we are also due an early spring- last spring bit the big one!

It hasn't stopped raining since the snow the other night- it is torrential again. I am already cabin-feverish. I am just dying to get out into the garden. I am trying to do some indoor projects- Christmas baking, making soup stock from the chickens, and I tried my hand at making my own salsa with the remainder of my Roma tomatoes. The salsa turned out ok- I just made up the recipe- I made 21 jars, and then put them in the freezer. Some will go into my Christmas baskets that I'm making for my family, the rest will feed me for a while. The only thing really missing from the recipe was the fact that I couldn't seem to find any hot peppers... salsa really needs some spice to it!

Kybosh exiting the agility tunnel in the snow. Snow is Fun!!

I have also been going over my seed catalouges making up my orders for the spring. I am ordering WAY too much, but my enthusiasm this time of year is hard to control- I have no outlet for it! I am getting some things in that I have never grown before, so I can hopefully have some surprises for the CSA members in the summer.

Oh! Good news! I applied for my farm to be Certified Naturally Grown, and recieved confirmation last week that I succeeded! The only thing that remains to be done is sometime in the spring/summer, there will be another local farmer coming to check my farm out and do some soil testing, etc. That should be interesting, and hopefully I am doing everything correctly! I decided to go the CNG route instead of the Organic route, as it is WAY more cost efficient (by donation) and WAY less paperwork. With C Organic, you have to document every seed and every crop you grow, which is too much for a small farmer growing multiple crops- it is more for a larger farmer growing one or two crops. Plus, I have to admit, I don't really like anything government regulated- I think it's too much red tape for something that should be relatively simple.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chickens in the Freezer

I had a harrowing night the other night catching the damn chickens so I could take them to the processing place. Everyone tells me that chickens 'sleep like the dead'. Not mine! Somehow, my chickens are the only ones in the world that stay awake and alert ALL night long!
I tried going out at 10 pm to get them put into the dog crate for transport. I grabbed one, and he squealed so loud it scared the crap out of me and I dropped him and ran. I am SUCH a baby;-) Then, I set my alarm for 1 a.m., and tried again. Luckily, I have a houseguest staying with me, so I got him up to come out and help. The chickens were a bit less anxious, but still squealed and screamed and flapped about. I decided I was absolutely not getting up to try again, it was now or never. My friend held the crate door closed, then opened it quick when I shoved a chicken in there, then closed it again quick so they wouldn't escape while I caught the next one. It took me about 15 minutes to catch 11 roosters. Got up super early the next morning, took them to the plant, and by the end of the day, I had a bunch of yummy roasters in my freezer. At the time, I wondered if it was worth all the effort, but once you taste a home grown chicken, you realize it was soooo worth it! I've roasted one already, then I am going to make some soup stock with a couple more. These chickens will feed me for quite some time!
I do wonder if I should raise a different breed, though... ones that maybe are a little easier to catch??!!

I had also tried to catch one of the turkeys to take in. There is one that isn't looking all that great, and I was going to put him in the freezer, too. No such luck. Turkeys are SCARY. Not sure how I am going to get them all packed when the time comes... EEEEEK!!!

Other than that, I haven't done much around the farm lately, as it has been so freakin' cold, the ground has been frozen, and I haven't been able to do much. It is supposed to warm up later this week, so I hopefully will be able to start working on my projects again.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mmmmm, Garlic!

We have had a few really nice days this week, and I have been taking advantage. I planted a third bed of garlic... this makes about 300 plants for next year. I have made two new berry beds- one for the thornless blackberry, and one for a second row of blueberries- these ones will be Elliot. I am ordering a heat matt for propagation, and will be able to take lots of my own cuttings this winter from all the berry and grape plants. This is a bit slower than just buying them, but WAYYYYY cheaper!

There is a big hollow spot right where I want to put the next 25 garden beds, so the other thing I have been working on is filling it up with lots of compost. This is a very time consuming project, as the hollow part is about 100' in diameter. I have contacted a few landscapers, and asked if they are ever in my area for them to drop off their yard waste and tree chippings. I have had good responses to this, and some not-as-friendly responses. Hopefully people will start to bring me stuff... soon! I guess I can't expect much over the winter, but at least I am getting the word out there.

Friday, November 20, 2009

State of Emergency Flooding

NORTH COWICHAN, B.C.: NOVEMBER 20, 2009 The mid-Vancouver Island municipalities of Duncan and North Cowichan have declared a state of emergency and issued evacuation orders due to extensive flooding that began early in the morning on Nov. 20., 2009. Several streets and fields are underwater, such as this area near Lakes and Beverly roads.

This was in the Times Colonist this morning.... and I thought my driveway was bad! I am now considering myself lucky that a wet driveway is all I have to deal with. At least my little house is above ground, and won't flood.
I tried to go into town today, and 2 out of the 3 exits from my farm were closed due to flooding. I picked up some supplies, so when we get more RAIN, (tonight), I should be ok for a while... at least I won't starve to death. One MAJOR advantage to living on a farm- there is almost always something around you can eat!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rainy Days on the Wet Coast

So much RAIN! I know I promised to not complain about the rain after the dreadful drought this summer, but this is ridiculous! Roads are closed due to mudslides and flood, it just keeps coming and coming. Making up for lost time, I guess. It's not supposed to stop raining even for a minute today, and rain is in the forcast for the entire week. They are not even predicting any sunny breaks. Doesn't mean we won't get any, but it's bleak out there. I took a bunch of pics this morning- my driveway is a new river, my existing stream is a torrent, my little root cellar is a great doggie swimming pool. Even the dogs don't want to go out much. My house is wet and muddy from little doggie feet going out to pee, then coming back in soaked 2 minutes later. The weatherman is predicting a change by the end of the week... flurries and snow. Not sure which I prefer. I just mostly want it to be spring again!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Learnin'

Last week, I went up to my long lost cousins home, and we made our tomato basil soup, mostly made from ingredients from our gardens. It was delicious! I brought enough home for 6 full meals. While up there, Cousin L (I never know if I should put people's names into these things... is there a privacy issue?? Comments are welcome on this point!) introduced me to a fellow farmer. This was one of the most fasinating people I have ever met! He does organic gardening, and was the first person to introduce CSA to the Island, way back when. He gave me an amazing tour, and showed me different techniques for doing my gardens... now I'll have to rethink alot of what I had planned! and how he gets all his compost- he just calls up all the local landscapers and arbourists in the area, and they just come by and drop off all their compost for him. They get rid of it faster and cheaper, and he gets free compost! It's so simple... why didn't I think of that?? lol! He also gave me some Jerusalem Artichoke to plant in my garden for harvest next year. The whole gist of these ramblings is that I learned ALOT, I met someone who is successful at doing what I want to do, and it got me hugely revved up for doing my gardens this next year. I was revved up anyway, but now it's at super-revved status! I ran home, planted another bed of garlic, got a bed prepared for the JA, and started making new and improved plans for my little farm. Tomorrow, I plan on getting over my shyness issues, and want to start calling landscapers in the area, let them know I am a convenient drop off spot for their garden waste.

We had a really, really sharp frost the other night that knocked off my peas. I knew it was a long shot with them, and they were SO close to being ready. Next year I will have my timing down, and I will get a good fall crop. It's not a total waste, anyway- I got lots of yummy pea shoots from it, plus the foliage can either feed the chickens and turkeys, or make good compost. Either is a good thing!

I have pretty much decided not to do pigs next year. I want to put all my energies into my gardens, so I think the piggies will have to wait until the year after. At least there is no shortage of things to do around here!

I have been doing some layering with the cascade berries I was given last fall. I only had 3 plants by the end, but now I am getting my numbers back up. I've got about 6 plants now, and by spring, that should almost double. I hope to be able to get some more beds ready by then, so I can really work on expanding the berry patch. I am going to do the same with my thornless blackberry, so I won't have to buy any more plants... I'll just make my own.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Tonight I felt like having a salad... so, I just walked outside and picked one. I just LOVE being able to do that! This time, I put some pea shoots in it. It was delicious! My peas are forming pods, but I don't think they'll be quite ready before the first cold snap hits. If I had been able to plant them when I should've planted them (about mid August), they would have been ready just on time for the weather to turn. Hopefully next year the water situation won't be so dire, and I can get my fall crops in on time.

I have been doing lots more research and planning for becoming a CSA farm. I am so excited about doing this, but really nervous, too. So much to think about. Will I have enough of everything? Will I be able to sow my crops at the proper times so I always have a good selection to go in the bag each week? Will the deer eat everything in sight, and ruin everything I've worked so hard for? Will I be able to get enough beds in this winter, so I have room for everything I've planned? Will the weather cooperate, even just a little? My brain is swimming...

The weather has been nasty this week. Not cold yet, but RAINY. All that rain we needed over the summer arrived in the last 2 days. It has been torrential. My root cellar (which is almost 2' deep now!) has become a swimming pool. My driveway is a river. My stream is a flood. My lawn is a big mushy swamp. You get the idea! And there is more to come over the next few days. We need the rain, but maybe not all at once???!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Seriously... NEVER a dull day!

Another adventurous day on the Crazy Dog Farm. I have two VERY active dogs boarding right now, so sometimes I let them out together before I let the other dogs out, just to burn off some of their extra energy. This was what I did the other day. Eddie and Bella were racing through the stream that runs through the property, when Eddie suddenly goes ballistic. Both he and Bella are trying to get something in the water. At first, I thought it was a duck. It was an otter. The poor thing was absolutely terrified. I called the dogs, and Bella actually came, but Eddie was in too primal a place to respond. Then he got bit on the nose, and it was finally possible to grab him. That poor little otter didn't know what he was in for when he started to pass through the property! I'm pretty sure he won't be back anytime soon. It was kind of cool seeing one so close up, though. They are such amazing animals. When they are not biting you on the nose;-) !!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Putting the Farm to Bed for Winter

Well, it definitely feels like fall these days. They are even calling for flurries next week. When I heard that, I realized I was dragging my feet- time to put things away for the winter. I packed up all my hoses and put them away, mowed the lawn for the last time, have been busy trying to finish my hedge before it gets cold- I should be able to finish that tomorrow. I harvested all my Roma tomatoes... there was a bumper crop of those! I wasn't sure what to do with them all, but thanks to some helpful advice, I am blanching them, cutting them up, and freezing them for later. I am also going up to my cousin's soon, and we are going to make a big batch of tomato basil soup from all our garden ingredients. I am sure looking forward to tasting that!!! I also got my garden cloches up and done- they are covering a bed each of cabbage, mesculin mix, spinach, and broccoli. Hopefully, I will get salad from this for most of the winter.

The turkeys were driving me crazy- almost every morning, they had broken their 'roof' of the coop (just some netting) and some had escaped into the chicken coop. Almost every morning, I had to get them back into their own home, and fix the roof. I finally found my left over stucco wire (which I was saving for another job later) and decided it was time to use it. I put two rows of it over the turkey house where they were escaping. It took quite a while, but I am happy to report it's been a week, and no more escapes! Whew. I was so worried they were going to fly up into the trees, and I would never be able to catch them!

The coolest and best news is...... I sold my very first CSA membership already! I really wasn't expecting anything until after the new year. The people who know what CSA is, are really behind it, and support it fully. Just a matter of educating the public! I still have lots of research to do on CSA's over the winter, and a tonne of work in the garden, putting in all my new beds and such, but I am excited and looking forward to it all!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holy Cow, What a Day!

There is never a dull day on the Crazy Dog Farm! The day started out regular enough. Exercised the dogs, went for groceries. When I came back, I started letting dogs out and heard a cow mooing. Thought nothing of it, except that it sounded like my side neighbour may have gotten a cow...

Nope! It was me! Then, I discovered not one, but TWO cows wandering around my yard, munching and pooping away. The dogs were extremely well behaved. A couple barked at the cows, but came back no problem when I called them. Then, they just pretty much ignored the cows. I knew the cows came from my back neighbours yard, and found out they basically just pushed the fence over, and made themselves at home. They couldn't get back, because the fence was pushed the wrong way. Silly cows. I phoned the guy who owns them, and let him know they were over visiting. When he got here, it took him a good two hours to get the cows back in his own yard. The first one went in fine, but the second one was the most stubborn beast I have ever seen! She was just NOT going to go back! I guess there's so much more better grass here at the Crazy Dog Farm!!

From the looks of it, I will be spending most of the day tomorrow scooping up cow patties. Holy, moly, cows poop alot! At least it will make good compost!
I had so many other things I wanted to get done today, and couldn't get anything done because I was too busy mananging dogs and cows. The only thing I did was to dig 10 holes for some more hedging, this time at the front fence. Alot of deer come over there, and I want to get that part covered asap. Still have to clear a bunch of bush, and dig more holes, so I hope we have another nice day coming up soon! Today was gorgeous.

At least today taught me that it will be feasible in the future to have a cow of my own. Not for a year or two, but it can be done!! I just need stronger fences;-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Other Happenings

About a week and a half ago, my chickens FINALLY started to give me eggs again. So far, I am only getting 1 or 2 a day, but at least I won't have to buy them anymore! They started laying just after one died. I have no idea why she died, and I was sorely disappointed. She didn't give any signs of being ill or anything. I took a day off, and when I came back, she was laying there, stiff as a board.

So much for taking a day off!!

We had our first hard frost last week. Then it warmed up again. I am hoping it will stay warm enough for my peas to develop... they are soooo close! If I had been able to plant when I wanted, they would have been ready just on time. Hopefully my water situation will improve next year.

I am starting to plant a Leylandi Cypress hedge on the west fenceline. In about 3 years, this will become deer control. Over the next 2 or 3 years, I will be planting a good portion of the fenceline, one step at a time. If the deer can't see in, they won't come in, and a hedge is much, much cheaper than a new fence. I planted 21 last week, and 36 today. I have 18 more to go for this year, unless I have a fit, and get more to plant... if it stays nice for a bit longer, I may do just that! The hardest part is clearing all the wild roses and brambles off the fenceline before I can even dig my holes. It's hard work, and my hot tub just died, so my recovery time may be a bit slower these days!

I have also been working on putting manure in all the garden beds, in preperation for spring. Already, I can't wait for spring... I have such big, big plans! I have decided to become a CSA farm. This stands for Community Supported Agriculture. People buy memberships into your farm, then get a nice big bag of fresh naturally grown produce each week of the growing season in return. It's nice, because the farmer gets paid in advance, so the possibilities of expanding the farm faster increase. I am only going to do 3-5 memberships the first year, just as a trial, and so I don't take on too much. This will give me an idea of how much to grow, and of which crops.

Discouraging Days

I haven't updated for a while. I got very discouraged a bit ago when a 'coon found my coops, and killed 2 chickens and a turkey. Since, I have been able to fix the chicken coop so the coons most likely can't get in anymore... at least, I hope. The turkeys are a whole other problem. They have never ever gone into their coop at night, they prefer to roost on top of it. I can't herd them in, I can't even entice them in. So, I can't make them safe. I really don't know what to do about it. They are getting big, too! There is one that looks especially tasty, and I hope I get the opportunity to try one of these heritage birds! I think the only reason they haven't gotten another turkey this week is the fact that the puppy can't seem to hold it for more than 2 hours, so I am up regularly with her, and go check on the turkeys every chance I get. At this point, I am just keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New project

Well, I forgot to list a couple of projects for me to work on this coming year. One, I need to dig out a root cellar. It sucks having all these groceries, and no where to store them! My other project is to build another 25 or so garden beds. That will bring my total to 50. It should give me enough for my own groceries, plus more to sell at the farmers' markets, and out my driveway. I have been putting a few tomatoes, cuc's, etc, in a cooler out at the end of my driveway the last little bit. I make a dollar here, and two dollars there. Enough to be encouraging for next year when I have eggs and groceries to sell. Easy enough way to make a bit of pocket change for myself.
I started digging out the root cellar last week. I know this won't be a quick job... I am just doing a bit at a time, so I preserve my back. I am doing it the old fashioned way, with a shovel. I can't afford a back hoe to come in, and I can't wait another year for a root cellar. Oh, well... there is definitely a certain satisfaction in being able to say "I did that all myself". I took a few ground-breaking pics, which I will post as well. The cellar will be 8 x 10' big. I don't know how deep it will end up being yet. I am just going to dig as deep as I can, and then build the walls up with straw or hay bales, and cob the outside. The roof will be post beams, with a tarp on top, then covered with hay bales OR sod. I haven't decided which yet. I have placed the cellar about 60 or 80' from the house, under some trees. I am hoping this will help to keep it cooler in the summer, and more temperate in the winter. This whole project is a complete experiment... cross your fingers it works out!!
I also had a big honkin' cheque from a client a couple of weeks ago, which has allowed me to purchase a load of garden soil. I have been working on topping off the beds I had to skimp on last year, as well as making my next blueberry bed. I still have some bberries that need to be planted, that I haven't been able to for lack of somewhere to put them! The ground is now ready, I am just waiting a couple of days until there is rain in the forcast before I plant them. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately, but not right for planting. I don't want to have to do too much watering, if I can avoid it!
I also bought a bit of fall rye today, to put into some of the fallow gardens for the winter. I sowed some of it today, but haven't watered it in yet. I will probably do that tomorrow. I feel really good about how much I've got done around here lately. I only have time because business is a bit slower now. I guess you just can't have it all!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Big Day

This is a big day for me. This is my first year anniversary on the farm! I always said that if I could make it a year, I could make it forever. It was a hard year financially, but I think the worst of that is behind me now. I am so excited for this next year! I got alot done this year, but not as much as I would've liked. This year, I will be able to do even more. In my plans for this year is to: raise a couple of pigs
double the amount of gardens I have to 50 beds
install beds for more berry plants
build root cellar
plant more fruit trees
raise my own chicken poults 'from scratch'
learn to can my own food
make a funky lavender fence around the gardens for dog and deer control

OK, well that's all I can think of for the moment. I think that should keep me pretty busy, along with my business to run, and all the little daily projects I have to do. All of this will rely, of course, on how much moulah I make! I guess I'd better get busy!
All in all, this has absolutely been the best year of my life, and I look forward to seeing how my little farm grows and develops over the years.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Well, this post is to welcome the newest arrival at the Crazy Dog Farm. This is Kybosh. She is a farm bred Border Collie. I got her to train up and compete in the dogsports- Flyball, and Agility. I think I may do some herding with her, as well, so if I ever need it, she can give me a hand on the farm. You never know when you may need a herding dog! She is 8 weeks old today, and has been with me for several days already. She is TOO CUTE for words! The surprising thing is that I was expecting another really naughty dog like Reckless, but so far she has been really well behaved. She mostly sleeps through the night- only the occasional foray outside to pee, but no screaming in the crate, which is sooo nice! Maggie and Boom are putting up with her quite nicely, and Reckless the puppy hater has even stopped growling at her already. Those two haven't been introduced yet. Recks seriously hates puppies, so I am just taking my time with them. I am making Reckless lay down in front of her crate, and rewarding him for looking at her and not growling. It is going surprisingly well. I took the two of them for a pack-walk today- no introductions, just walking down the driveway and back, and he didn't growl at her once. You could see him look at her once in a while... he's just not sure yet. When we go for a walk together, and he offers play behaviour, I will know it is time to introduce the two. Or, when he realizes she's a girl, then he'll just think she's sexy;-)

I planted my first grape plant today. It's an Interlaken, which is a green seedless grape that ripens earlier than most varieties, so I should get some grapes even if our summers aren't that great. I am hoping to take some cuttings off of it in the spring, so I will have even more grape plants. I am planting them all along the back fenceline, so they will have the dual purpose of offering me some additional privacy from the mobile home park in behind me. I also want to plant some Concord, or some other purple grape so I can make my own grape juice and jelly.
Again, I made a little raised bed for it, so it won't drown in the winter. It's alot of extra work, but will be worth it in the end!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Did I say I wanted rain? Holy, moly, it's coming down in a monsoon right now! Torrential. We need it, BAD, but the rain is not really soaking into the ground- it's just sluffing right off, because the ground was caked so hard. Hopefully, it will be enough to start filling the lakes and rivers around here, and maybe replenish my well a bit!

Yesterday was so great... mama hen took baby chick outside for the first time. She is teaching her how to forage. The little baby is soooo cute, and does everything her mama does. She is healthy, and growing well. STILL the only baby, though. I guess I won't get any more now, so I will just be grateful for the one I did get!!

I have pretty much decided to raise a couple of pigs for next year. I really wanted to stick with the heritage breed thing I've been doing, so researched pig breeds like crazy the last week or two. I decided on doing Berkshires, and raising them on pasture. The nearest Berkshire breeder is in Alberta, so I emailed them to find out about prices, etc.

I knew a heritage pig would be more expensive, but I really was not prepared... a little piglet costs $400!! When they are grown, you will get approx $650 of meat from them, so if you include feed and butchering costs, you will make no money whatsoever. The second possiblility is getting a bred sow. She will have between 5-10 piglets, and selling two of them at the end would recoup what I invested into it, the rest would be gravy. I like gravy! The thing is, am I prepared to build a larger enclosure for the extra hogs, and will I be able to afford feed for that many for a sixth month period? I plan on growing a lot of my own feed for them from the gardens, but I will need to supplement with some commercial feed, to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. It's alot to think about. Thankfully, I have given myself time to figure it all out- I don't need to make any decisions right now!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A New Day...

The most exciting thing happened while I was sleeping last night... the first baby Dorking chick was born on the Crazy Dog Farm! Yesterday, I told mama bird that she had two more days, and I was taking her off the nest. I guess she believed me! The baby is a female, I'm pretty sure. Hopefully, more will be born in the next few days! I put out a saucer of water and some chick starter, for when the baby starts feeding.

I have sooooo many questions, though. Like, do I leave the babies with mama for her to raise them? Or will the other chickens try to hurt the babies? Should I be removing Bully from the coop? Will he leave them alone? I guess all I can do is try it. I'd just hate to lose the baby now that she's actually here!

Will post pics later today.

I learned some things about turkeys last night. With chickens, they put themselves to bed at dusk, and then I can go close the coop, and keep them safe from 'coons and such. I just assumed turkeys would do the same. When I went to close the coop last nite, it took me several minutes to find them, all bundled in a pile in the grass. I got worried that a 'coon would get them, so waited until I thought they would be asleep, and tried to catch them. I caught the first few ok, and put them in the coop, but then one of the Bourbon Reds attacked me! Flew, screaming into my face. It was terrifying. I screamed like a little girl. EEEEKKK!!! At that point, I decided that if the 'coons got them, it wouldn't be so bad.... I ended up with 5 birds inside the coop, all safe and sound, and 3 outside all night. Dumb birds. Tonight, I will just leave them where they are, and hope for the best. I wonder if this is normal behaviour? I thought they would want to go into the coop and roost up high. Now I am REALLY worried about catching them for when they go into the freezer. Chickens sleep like the dead, and are easy to catch in the middle of the night. If turkeys are not... I could be in deep, deep trouble.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Homemade Stuff

For the first time in my life yesterday, I made a pie. From scratch. Actually, I made two pies! A blackberry, and an apple. Both picked from my own back yard. I'm not sure if it was because of all the effort that went into these pies, but they were seriously the BEST I've ever had. Maybe because the fruit was picked just an hour or two before baking? Who knows! Now that I've made them, I'm really not sure how to eat them myself. I think I am going to pawn some off on a friend tomorrow, who is helping me out. Pies are good for all sorts of things! Next time, I am just going to make tarts. They are little, and I can just take one out at a time for dessert, and won't have to worry about the rest of the pie going to waste.
I would like to thank my new friend Amanda, who came over and taught me how to make a pie. Kind of sad when a young 20 year old knows more about homesteading projects than you do.... lol! Anyway, thanks to her the pies turned out lovely, with a nice crust. The blackberry pie was a bit on the sweet side, so a little less sugar next time. I am going to try to make some apple/blackberry tarts in a few days... an experiment. Sounds good...

I also made my first-ever blackberry jam a couple of weeks ago. I did the freezer type, so I wouldn't botch it, and it turned out great! I am just now trying to finish off the store-bought jam I have, so I can get started on the home made stuff. I will never have to buy jam again! I've already found a huge difference in my grocery bill. It's gone down by about $150 a month. Imagine what will happen when I really get things going!!

Turkeys Day Out

Well, I FINALLY finished the turkey coop today. It really shouldn't have taken me so long, but it always goes back to my old problem... not enough moulah! I just needed a few more supplies, but needed to get paid first to do that. Anyway, it got done, netted roof and all! The little turkeys are so happy, having dust baths, and foraging in the weeds. They have been cheep-cheeping all day. It is almost 8:30 at night now, and they are still cheeping away! They are way louder than the chickens.

I have taken pics of the turkeys and chickens. They are both about 6 weeks old now, and doing fantastic. I have been talking to other people about their chicken and turkey experiences, and the more I hear about the losses and troubles people have with their hybrids, the more I am glad I chose to do heritage breeds. The one and only downside to a heritage is the fact that they take a bit longer to mature. Big whoop. I think it makes up for it just by having no fatalities to speak of. Hybrids seem to die on people left and right.

I am still trying to plant a few crops for fall. It is getting a bit late now, but if we have an indian summer, I will still get some veggies out of it! I am hand watering every day. STILL no freakin' rain. I am getting tired of watering! I just do a few beds everyday, so I don't put too much pressure on the well. I've now planted a bed of spinach, and one of beets. Worst case senario... I lose a few seeds that I planted.

Now that my turkey coop project is finished, I am working on my next projects. Today, I outlined an 8 x 10' space where I want a root cellar. I will probably be digging that out for the next century or so! I can't start digging until we get rain, and if it proves too hard, I will be forced to hire a back hoe to help me. I really want to do it the old fashioned way, though! More satisfying that way! I am going to do a hybrid type cellar, dig down as far as I can, then build it up a bit above ground with hay bales, and cob it. I've seen similar projects, but no one seems to report on if they work well or not... I guess we'll see! If nothing else, I'll have a new funky tool shed, I guess!! It's funny how on the farm, even if something doesn't work out, you find a use for it anyway!!
I also have plans to build a funky fence around my garden beds, and then plant lots of lavender around it. I am hoping that this may help to deter the deer, but if not, it will look pretty regardless! With the added benefit of helping to keep the naughty dogs out of it. Maybe. I hope. We'll see. !!!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

I had my first day off in a long, long time yesterday. It was much needed, and I had tons of fun!

I was all rejuvenated, so I got to work today. Over the last few days, since we had that little bit of rain, I was able to crack the surface of the soil, and have been working on digging post holes for the turkey run. It has been a long, slow process. One foot down is a clay hard pan. I was trying to dig holes 2' deep. I would have to pour some rainwater down each hole, and wait for hours and hours for it to perk down and moisten the clay. Then, I would scrape off a bit of it, millimetre by millemetre. Felt like it took forever. Then, a surprise. About 16" down, I hit something. At first, I thought I misjudged, and hit my electical cable. I can't imagine how awful that would have been! But no, it was TIRES. I'm not sure if they are down there for some purpose, or if my property was built on a landfill... scary thought! Anyway, needless to say, my holes didn't get any deeper! I got the fence posts in (these are 10' tall- I wanted to build this coop 8' high). Then, a trip to Rona. I swear, I keep the local store in business all by myself, I have spent so much money there! I got a roll of stucco wire, and hinges and a latch, and a few other sundries. Came home, and got the bottom 4' of wire up. The amazing thing is that when I came home, the fence posts were still standing! I thought for sure they would've toppled over;-)
I built the door, and hope to hang it tomorrow, and get up the top 4' of wire. I will probably have to buy a second roll to get this totally finished. Then, I just have to put netting up over the top (which I think will be tricky), and I'm done! The turkeys should be able to start coming outside in the next day or two.
These heritage breed turkeys FLY. When I was at the breeder's, there were turkeys 60' up in the trees, roosting. It's amazing, really. You always think of turkeys as too fat to fly!

The chicken poults came outside for the first time today! They only came out a few feet- they are still to 'chicken' to explore much yet. A few more days or a week, and they will be all over that run, foraging like crazy. Hopefully, I won't have to feed them as much, as they will have alot of bugs and weeds to eat.

My hens stopped laying for me a couple of weeks ago. I miss my eggs like crazy. Funny, before the farm, I almost never bought eggs. Now, I feel like I can't live without them! One of the hens is broody again, and I'm just leaving her there. Maybe she'll give me babies. The eggs I put in the incubator didn't do anything... AGAIN. I though there was a couple that might hatch. I have to admit, I am quite disappointed by this. I don't want to have to buy more poults every year! It would be nice to get some of my own going.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Farm Dogs

Currently, I have three farm dogs. They definitely did NOT start out that way. When I bought the place, none of the dogs had ever seen a chicken, goat, horse, or any livestock for that matter. They all have quite high prey drives, and I couldn't see how this was going to work...

For the first month or so living here, the dogs went nuts. The youngest, Reckless, had never had a back yard, and the two older girls, Maggie and Boom-boom, hadn't had a back yard for about 6 years... since Boom was a puppy. They couldn't contain themselves. They were wild children. I had to mostly keep them on a leash, because they would run so far and so fast, I never could tell where they would end up! Reckless obsessed on the goats, and thought they would be great fun to chase, and he's so little, he could scoot under the fence whenever he pleased. I despaired regularly, wondering how to make them into proper farmdogs that wouldn't chase the livestock, and make my life hell.

All of a sudden, one day, they settled. Maggie and Boom were first, being older and wiser. They now just trot around the farm with me, 'helping' me plant, and feed the chickens. I never have to worry about them anymore. I am no longer worried about them leaving to go exploring- they know this is their home, and no longer want to leave. I never have to have them on a leash anymore.
Reckless has calmed alot. He is not perfect yet, but is getting close to it! He still has the occasional escapade, when he gets into the chicken coop, and almost kills a chicken, or gets into the horse and goat field. The good news is that he is no longer interested in chasing the horse and the goats, he just wants to eat poo. And, he only gets into trouble once in a while when I have not been able to spend enough time with him.

Maggie is my little helper. She is part Lab, and loves to retrieve. If I drop a tool or something, she will run over and pick it up and hand to to me. It is very cute, and she loves to feel useful!


Well, it is trying to rain again today, in fits and starts. It is a real rain this time, and if it lasts more than five minutes, it may actually do some good. This is the last rain we will get for at least a week, so I hope it rains good while it lasts! It is giving me a bit of hope...
Maybe I will be able to do laundry and dishes again one day...!!

I was so excited to pick my very first canteloupe from my garden today! Who says you can't grow melons in the Pacific Northwest? To all you naysayers out there... na na na na na!! It was delicious, and I have a bunch more coming! I bought a little plant start on a whim this spring, and put it in one of my tires. The heat from the tire really made it grow like stink! This winter, I have GOT to figure out where to get a bunch more tires. There are so many things I want to grow that way... watermelon, honeydew, zucchini, more squash varieties, and pumpkins. What I can't eat or sell can go to feed for chickens, turkeys, and pigs. I can just see in about 3 years time, I will be so self-sufficient here, and my fruit trees and berries will be starting to bear fruit. I just keep thinking of how to build that root cellar... I have some ideas, just not sure if it will work until it's done!

I bought my fenceposts for the turkey coop yesterday, in anticipation of the ground softening up soon. The turkeys are doing very well, and the first 3 I got are pretty much ready to start coming outside. There will be alot of work to be done around here in the next week or so!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Well, fellow followers, I am getting trouble already, because it's been two whole days since I posted last. Well, to be honest, it was my sister who complained, (thanks for the support, sis!!), BUT as she signed the post in our famous family tradition - by calling me a name that should not be published on a public forum - I have chosen not to publish the complaint. Everyone else out there might get the wrong idea. Regardless, I decided I'd better get off my butt and let you all in on what is happening around this crazy farm.

It's been trying to rain here since yesterday. The operative word is TRY. We've been getting that crappy, misty drizzle that really does no one any good whatsoever. After it rained for 4 hours yesterday, I decided to start my fall planting, in the hopes that we will get a good rain very, very soon. Plus, if I don't do it now, I will lose my window of opportunity, and nothing will mature before it gets cold. When I dug into the soil, the rain had only penatrated about a millimetre into the ground. NOT an exaggeration. We need a REAL rain!! A torrential downpour, to make any sort of difference.

I turned the beds over, and planted one bed of walla walla onions (which I just read somewhere do better and are sweeter if you let them overwinter- this will be a total experiment), and 4 beds of little marvel peas, one bed of little sweetie peas (these are the snap variety) and a bed of mesculin mix. This should give me fresh salad almost all winter. When it gets cold, I will put a garden cloche over it, to extend the season.
I still have some more beds I want to plant over the next week, but there's only so much a gal can do in one day;-)

Tomorrow, I plan on introducing you to the farm dogs, of which there are 3 (currently, anyway!). There is a story I need to share about one of them, though.
Recently Boom-boom, my husky-collie mix was coming in with a stained green face. For 3 days in a row, her muzzle and around her eyes was green, green, green. I couldn't figure out what was doing this. What was she getting into that would stain her green? She is a very quiet, sneaky girl, so I had to spy on her to figure it out.
As it turns out, she has been going into the garden, and helping herself to all my tomatoes while they are still green! No wonder I haven't been getting many tomatoes! And I was blaming the deer! My dogs all have learned to harvest themselves- they pick their own blackberries, peas, and strawberries. Little did I suspect they would like green tomatoes! Naughty girl!

I picked myself enough blackberries the other day to make myself my first ever batch of jam. I am just going to do the freezer jam this time, because from what I can tell, it is pretty difficult to botch that up! When more berries are ready, I am going to try making some 'real' jam, with the canner. I've never canned before, so this should be interesting! I'll let you know how it turns out!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Well, the turkeys and Chicken Little both got introduced to their respective flocks last night. Everything went very, very smoothly, and no one got beat up! I now have 3 Bourbon Red Turkeys and 5 Slate turkeys. 3 of the Slate are about 3 weeks old now, the new ones and the BR's are about 2 weeks old.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fruit Trees and Berry Plants

I have also started an orchard. So far, I have 5 fruit trees and 1 hazelnut tree. When I am done, I want to end up with 4 trees each of cherries, apples, plums, pears, and at least 4-6 hazelnuts. Right now, I have 2 cherries- an Aaron, and a Sweetheart
1 apple- Shamrock
1 plum- Peach Plum
1 pear- Highland
1 unknown hazelnut
These poor fruit trees I bought at a closing out sale about 3 years ago, and have been in pots for all that time, moving from place to place with me. I planted them before winter set in last fall, so by next year, I am hoping to get a bit of fruit from them! I had 7 cherries off the Aaron this year... VERY yummy. I had a few cherries off the Sweetheart, too, but I am not too crazy about them.

I am also starting a berry patch. Right now, it is very small, but I am going to add to it every year. I have 10 Blue Crop blueberries, 1 Elliot blueberry, 1 Black Satin thornless blackberry, and planted underneath are Quinalt and Totem strawberries. My hope is in the next few years, I can expand this to 100 blueberries, 60 blackberries, and 60 raspberries. Oh! I almost forgot... a friend gave me some Cascade berries to try. Out of 10 transplants, I ended up with just 3. I don't really know what these are, but am willing to try something new! Plus, I've never met a berry I didn't like!

You may wonder why I am doing the berries, fruit trees, and all gardens in raised beds. First of all, the drainage in the winter around here sucks. If I didn't use raised beds, I would lose everything I planted. I also like the fact that the raised beds warm up earlier in the spring, and are a bit easier to weed. The only downside is the cost of putting them in. But, I guess once they are in, I will never have to do them again, so that's not too bad.

More Crazy Days...

Well, the day started out pretty funny. I had a client coming to pick up his dog this morning, and he got so distracted looking at the goats and the horse that his car ended up in my ditch! He had to call a tow truck to get him out.

Yesterday, I worked very hard, and got the turkey coop all shingled and guttered, and put a rain barrel under the gutter for water (STILL waiting for that first rain in over two months...). I also finished dog proofing the second chicken coop, the 30 Dorkings I have in there are almost ready to start coming outside. Maybe another week or so?
Then, I harvested all my onions. I know it is too early to do this, but with my water situation, I am trying to harvest what I can before it goes rotten. This saves me from watering it, too. Next, I will have to do my potatoes. I am putting off harvesting those as long as possible, as I want a decent sized potato, if at all possible! Now I need a root cellar...

A root cellar will be one of my major projects for next spring. I will probably get it dug out at the same time as I get a grey water tank put in the ground. That way, next year, I won't have to worry about water as much. I will save all the rain water from the roof of the house for the garden.

I started getting my first little Early Girl tomatoes this week. And sweet million tomatoes. I just eat those like candy. I am still hand-watering these, as I hope to continue to harvest off those for 2 or 3 months still. The weatherman keeps promising me rain, but he never delivers!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thinking up a title is too hard for me today...

I got my little turkeys yesterday. That was fun! I got to see the farm where they are raised, and was introduced to 4 different heritage turkey varieties. I saw Narragansett, Ridley Bronze, Bourbon Red, and the Blue Slate. Funny, I realized when I got there, that I had NEVER seen a grown up turkey before. Just in books and on the internet...
The breeder, Margaret, is a world of information. I just love the farming community. Everyone is so helpful, and more than willing to share their knowledge with others, and they don't even charge you a consultation fee!
I only ended up getting 5 more birds. That makes a total of 8. Two less than I'd hoped for, but it will give me the experience I need to do more next year.
I really, really need to get the run built SOON. The poults are going to be ready to go outside any minute now, but if it doesn't rain soon, I won't be able to get the fence posts in.... not sure what my plan B is, but I think I'd better come up with one soon!

I have been absolutely exhausted the last few days. Partly because of blood loss from the quadrillion mosquitoes that have erupted from nowhere the last week or so, and partly because my business is booming right now. This is definitely a GOOD thing, but I didn't know keeping 9 or 10 dogs all happy and exercised was going to take it all out of me! I have had my share of challenging dogs lately. Then again, there is nothing I would rather be doing, so I guess I should stop whinning about it!

When it cools down tonight, I am determined to finish my turkey coop- I just have to put a gutter on, and shingle it, so if/when it does rain, my little turkey-lurkeys won't get all wet. I have put the new ones in a dog crate in the coop to begin with for a day or two. I am hoping I can get them all introduced without any fights going on.

Chicken Little is also making his way back to the flock today. I couldn't stand his stinkiness inside the house anymore, so I put him in the chicken coop, still inside his dog crate this morning. I will keep him there for a day or two, as well, then put him in with the flock at night when they are sleeping, and see how it goes. Wish Chicken Little luck! I don't want him to get beat up again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Workin' workin' workin'

Today was MUCH cooler, so I worked on scooping up all the horse poo in the field, and put it into my garden beds. I am putting in 3 wheelbarrows full of poo into each bed. Today, I got two beds done. That's alot of poo!! The weatherman is promising me rain in a few days, and if it really does rain, I want to be ready to turn the soil in my gardens, and get to planting my fall crops. I still have 8 more beds to add poo into, but will have to wait until the horse gives me more. Never enough poo to go around;-)

Tomorrow, I get to go to Saltspring Island to pick up the rest of my little turkey poults. My first three are still doing very, very well. I will take some pics when I get the whole brood together. The breeder said she also has 4 Bourbon Reds for me! So, I guess I will be doing 2 types of heritage breeds. That is exciting! Then I can see if there is a difference in taste and meat quality. And size.

I also need it to rain to soften up the soil so I can dig some fence posts in for the turkey run. I haven't been able to do that yet, the ground is like cement. The way those little turkeys are growing, I will need to get this done sooner than later!

Chicken Little

Well, Chicken Little is surprising me! I thought for sure he would die the other night, I stressed him out so bad, and he was bleeding so much. He was quiet the first night, but by the next morning, he was cheeping away, and eating and drinking. He seems quite active, too. I checked out his neck this morning, and you can barely tell anything happened. I am going to give him a couple more days to recouperate, and then see what I can do about reintroducing him to the flock. I will have to do this very carefully! Maybe now that he has exclusive access to his food and water, he will grow big and strong. I'm not sure why the others were picking on him, if he was weaker, or if he had a little injury to begin with. I'll probably never know.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Adventures and MisAdventures

So, big adventure on the farm today. Once, I read that the word 'adventure' meant something bad that happened to someone else, but seemed exciting to you. Yep, that about sums it up.
First, a little background. Last week, I took in a dog to board- I'll call him Timmie to protect the innocent. He is from the ministry of children and family services. I said I would care for him until his family could get sorted out, or until they could find a new home for him. This dog obviously comes from a home where he had the run of the place. He thought he was King. The first couple of days I had him, he tried to bite me when I put on his leash, refused to sit, and basically acted like a bad-ass. I wouldn't back down, and have been working hard on earning his trust and respect.
He is the only dog I have boarded so far that I keep on a leash outside in the yard. Most of the dogs I board love it here, and love and respect me, and therefore get alot of freedom. Not Timmie. So, everytime we go out, he is on a 20' lead.
I'm out with my two girls, and 3 other regulars, and Timmie. We are exercising, and having a good time. Suddenly, I hear a terrible commotion from the chicken coup with all my new little poults in it. I tie Timmie up quickly, and rush in to see what was going on. Well, all the chickens are beating up on one little chicken. I know if this continues, he will die. He has a big hole in his neck. I get in there, and after alot of flapping about and squacking, I catch the little guy. I come out of the coup.... and notice Timmie is GONE. Crap is the first word I say. Then, when I spy him bootin' it down the driveway to the gate, I said a whole lot of other bad, bad words.
This guy is DETERMINED to go. I can tell. I tried the happy calling, to see if I could cajole him into coming back. Nope, not a hope in hell. So, I start running. My gate is pretty secure. I haven't had anyone escape yet. But, this is a little dog hell-bent on running. He tries 3 times to squeeze under the gate, meanwhile, I am running as fast as I can down the driveway. Have I mentioned my driveway is really, really, really long???? And I don't run that fast....
He gets out. Some more really bad words come out of my mouth. I have 5 other dogs trotting around me, so happy that we are running! I get out the gate, lock it behind me, and tell the dogs to STAY, and hope that they will....

Now, I am running, running down the road, WITH A LITTLE CHICKEN STILL IN MY HAND, trying to get this damn little dog. He turns around, looks at me coming, and scoots into the woods in my neighbours yard. I tear down the driveway, and cut him off. I am sure the only reason I caught this dog is the fact that his 20' lead got caught on a branch. My lucky day. Hahaha. I get the dog, and he, with this poor little bleeding chicken still in my hand, walk back to the yard. You can't imagine my relief to see all my wonderful dogs and boarded dogs just sitting there, waiting patiently for me to get back.

By this time I literally have sweat pouring into my eyes. It is hot, about 30 c or so, plus the adrenaline rush, plus the running. I can barely see. The dogs are all inside the yard, and notice I have a chicken in my hand. Yummy! Stumbling down the drive, making sure all the dogs listen to me, and don't try to rip this little chicken out of my hand, well, that was another adventure. I found an empty dog crate, and put Chicken Little into it, then Timmie goes into his crate. He needs a time out.

I have just set up the poor chicken with feed and water. I have no idea if he will survive or not. You can't say I didn't try....

I am going to drink a gallon of water now, and put all the dogs away for an hour, so I can recouperate. I need a moment.

Timmie will have a leash on every day until the day he goes home.
Which I hope is soon. I don't need another heart attack.

The Goats

When I bought my farm, it came with two goats and a goose. The goats were a male and a female, named Burley and Thistle. The goose was just Goose. I wasn't sure about the histories or anything about these goats, but found out they were rescues, and were at least 10 years old. Not sure how long a goat lives??? Anyway, Thistle died that first winter, just before the Big Snow came. Unfortuately, I have no idea how or why she passed.

Anyway, soon after, the Goose became VERY territorial, and wouldn't let anyone near 'his' goat, Burley. I knew that goats need to have a little friend to play with, and figured I would have to get a new goat at one point. Somewhere in here, I rented out my pasture for a horse, Review. I seriously couldn't have found a better horse for the property than him! He is friendly, and extraordinarily tolerant of all the dogs that are in and out of here on a regular basis. Even if one barks at him, he just stands there and gives it the 'look'.
The owner of the horse helped me to find a new little goat for a friend for Burley. This little guy is about a year old, and came with the name of Franklin, or Frankie. She also helped me to find a new home for the terrorist Goose, after he bit her husband in the back. That was scary! The goose went to a really nice home, with a girlfriend goose, and a big pond, and is apparently very happy there. It took a while, but now Burley, Frankie and Review are all best buddies. Frankie is a brat, and very cheeky, and you can quite often see him climbing on Review's back. Review is the boss of the field, though, and is quite good at keeping them all in line.

It is a huge bonus to me that I now have access to all the horse manure Review can give me... wonderful stuff for the gardens!!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Turkeys

Since I was successful in keeping my chickens alive, I decided this year to also do some heritage breed turkeys. I was just going to try about 6-10 birds, to see how it went. Originally, I had wanted Bourbon Red turkeys, but as it turns out, I was too late to get any of those. So, my breeder on Saltspring Island suggested Blue Slate. They are also a heritage breed, and a rare breed. They have different colour variations within the breed. I got my first 3 little poults in on July 14. They were 2 days old. Any minute now, I should get the email that says the remaining 7 poults are born, and I can go and visit Saltspring to pick them up. I wanted to visit the breeders' farm, just to see how she sets everything up, and see what more I can learn about raising turkeys!
So far, my first three are doing really well. They are growing like stink, and have already started to fly!
Originally, I was going to raise my chicken and turkey poults together in the same coop. Then, I found out that chickens can possibly carry a blackhead disease, which is lethal to turkeys. All of a sudden, I found myself having to figure out how to build yet ANOTHER coop on a tight budget. I will have a bizillion coops built by the time I am finished here... lol!
I couldn't figure out how to build a coop this time. I didn't have a shack to convert. Luckily, one of my wonderful dog boarding customers dropped by, and we got to chatting, and he offered to come and help me turn the old kid's play fort into a coop for me. In exchange, I would give him a nice, big, juicy turkey when they are ready just before Christmas. I LOVE the barter system! Anyway, Jamie came over and did an amazing job with the coop- built me a roost and everything! So now my little turkeys are all snug in their new house with no danger of contracting the blackhead disease. I still have to build a run for them, but I think I have a couple more weeks to get that done.

The Well

Uh-oh.... problems with the well. The other night, while watering the garden, the water ran out. I've been trying to go really easy on the well, and only water one or two gardens at a time, but even that was too much for it. It replenished itself within about a half-hour, but it still makes me crazy-worry. I am on the verge of harvesting my first tomato, and would really like to be able to keep a few crops going. If we don't get a good, solid rain in the next week or two, I won't be able to sow my fall crop, either. I was really counting on those crops to get me through the winter.

I have future plans on installing a grey water system into the house, and will redirect all my grey water, plus all the rain water from my gutters into a big cistern that I hope to have buried in the yard. Then, I will be able to use that water during these drought times. It was going to be my two-year plan, but I am going to start costing it right away, and will see if there is some way to get it installed next spring. Even if I can just save the rain water for now. I have garbage cans under the downspouts at the moment, catching the rain (when we get it!), but it's not even close to being enough. I use all the water in the cans within 2 or 3 days after a good rain. It JUST barely covers my patio plants. Isn't even close to helping me with the gardens.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

more on the gardens....

So, to make my garden beds, I took a 4 x 10' frame, 10" tall, and layered newspapers or cardboard down underneath, to keep the weeds from coming up. I then put soil (and sometimes manure) in, and basically planted.

Things I learned: #1- put a WAY thicker layer of newspapers and cardboard down. What I did helped, but the really tenacious weeds came through anyway.

#2- when putting landscape fabric down between the beds, make sure you have mulch or something to cover it up instantly, or the fabric gets shot to hell, and the weeds and grass take over everything.

#3- always put a nice, thick, juicy layer of manure under the soil. The more organic material, the better!

I worked really, really hard this spring at putting landscape fabric down between all the beds. My plan is to get bark mulch in for the pathways, and it will make it look pretty, too. Now, I will have to do it all over again. I am posting some pics of my garden today. We are in a drought period, and it is bloody hot. 36 c today. (for you yankees out there, that's 108 F). This is NOT NORMAL for the Island. The weatherman is predicting this extreme heat from here until forever. Maybe it just feels that way. I can't believe I am saying this, but what I wouldn't do for a huge rainfall right now! So, hopefully this helps to explain why my gardens look so sad and dry. And the grass is taking over all over the place. I need a cow to come mow it all down!

The Garden

My garden.... I have such big plans for this part of the property! I spent non-rainy days all winter building 25 4 x 10' garden beds with 2 x 10" lumber. I hand cut all the lumber, as I don't have a skill saw or anything else yet. I planted lots of crops, most of which did not do well due to the cold, crappy spring we had. The dumptruck load of soil I bought was supposed to have compost and chicken manure in it. Well, maybe it did, but the first beds I planted grew like crap. The later beds I planted, when I had access to horse manure, grew astoundingly well. With those beds, I put a layer of manure down, then covered it with soil, then planted. Everything I planted grew gangbusters in those beds. Peas, potatoes, and white onions. Currently, I am working on putting lots and lots of manure into the harvested beds, in preperation for a fall planting. If all goes well, I should be able to do most of that in about 2 weeks time. My constant worry right now is water. I have a shallow well, only 14' deep. I was told it was a good well by the previous owners, but were they watering 25 garden beds in a heat wave? Probably not! Every day, I worry I will run out. I pryed the top off the well the other day. I can see water, but I have no way of knowing how deep it is, or how it is replenished. Does anyone have a really big stick I can poke down there to measure the depth?? lol!

I am planning on putting in another 25 beds this winter. IF I can make enough money to buy another load of soil, and the lumber to make the beds! I would really like to be able to sell at the farmers' markets next year, and make some extra cash.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where to start?... with the chickens, I guess!!

I did a ton of research before deciding which breed of chickens to get. I had a few prerequisites- they had to be heritage breed, they had to be dual purpose, and I would prefer it if they were on the endangered or critial list according to Rare Breeds Canada. I ended up choosing Dorkings, partly because they are a beautiful bird, dual purpose, they can raise their own young, they have an amazing history (dating back at least 500 years) and the clincher was that they were friendlier and more docile than most breeds. I thought that was a great thing for a first-time chicken raiser! (They still freak me out, though!) Anyway, I recieved my first 18 birds just after I moved in last Sept. I kept them in my office at first with a brooder light. They outgrew their first rubbermaid home in a matter of days. So, I fashioned them a little bit bigger cage with chicken wire. Holy, moly, do those little birds smell in the house! It wasn't long before I was desperate to get them out of the house. First, I had to make them a coop, so the dogs wouldn't get in and eat them! I scrounged as much free materials as I could (remember, I was unemployed, and frugal was the word of the day!) and turned the little shack on the property into a chicken house. I made a double-dutch door with scraps of plywood, but had to purchase some hinges for it. Even though it was getting cold, and the little birds weren't fully feathered yet, they were going OUTSIDE, even if it killed them. Seriously, the smell..... Ugh!

Needless to say, they survived! Success! While the birds were in their little shack, keeping warm, I spent days and days putting in scrounged up fence-posts for a run, and had was even able to scrounge up some wire for the fencing. The birds ended up with a run that is about 900 sq ft. I think I managed to do most of that first coop for about $50 or so.

The birds were growing like crazy. The roosters were starting to fight over the girls. I discovered I had 7 pullets (females) and 11 roosters. So, I got busy making a second coop out of the old little building the previous owners kept pot-bellied pigs in. I was able to scrounge a few more fence posts, but had to resort to purchasing 2 rolls of stucco wire, and a few more fence posts for this coop. This one was expensive... ended up costing me a bit over $200. You would think wire would be cheaper!! As soon as it was up, 10 of the 11 males got moved into it. I kept one male, the biggest one, to service the girls. What a lucky boy! I've named him Bully, because he's always bullying the girls and getting his way with them.

22 weeks after I got the chickens, the 10 males went into the freezer. No, I didn't butcher them myself... I got a local butcher to do them. Not ready for that. Not sure I ever will be.

The hens started laying in Feb/March. The eggs are a white/cream colour, and a medium size. I have really learned to rely on always having fresh eggs around. I eat them for breakfast, use them for baking, and put them into my home-made deer control with garlic to spray on my veggie garden. LOVE having fresh eggs all the time! I have also been selling them for $3 a doz- I won't get rich, but the birds are now paying for their own feed. What could be better than that?!

About a month ago, I invested in a used incubator. My hens were refusing to go broody, and I wanted a larger flock. I need more eggs to sell, I never have enough, and I want some more roasters to go into the freezer for the winter. I tried incubating 24 eggs. Nothing. After 21 days, no babies were born. My sister came to visit, and was braver than I, and broke one open. Turns out, the eggs weren't even fertile. So, either my Bully is shooting blanks, or I am doing something wrong. Just don't know what yet.

So, I bit the bullet, and bought 30 more poults about 2 weeks ago. They are all healthy and thriving. The amazing thing about heritage breeds is the low death rate. When you get hybrid birds, you can always expect you will lose about 10-15% of them in the first few days of their lives. My heritage birds? Out of a total of 48 birds, I have lost none. I admit that I am quite proud of this fact!

Wouldn't you know it... a few days after getting the new hatch of birds, one of my hens goes broody. I let her brood for 5 or 6 days. Then, I start thinking... maybe this hen knows something I don't? So, I took her eggs just yesterday, and put them into the incubator. Maybe something new will happen... you never know. There are 16 eggs in there right now. Will keep you updated! Keep your fingers crossed....

Monday, July 27, 2009


So, I have been on my farm for about 10 months now. Ten of the scariest months of my life. Shortly after plunging in and buying the place, I lost my job. EEEK! Now what? Well, mostly I starved all winter. I wasn't able to find a job that would pay me enough to keep my little farm. So, I decided to start making a living from the farm. I opened my own business, doing dog boarding and doggy day care. Dogs (of which I have 3) are my first love. So, what better than spending my days playing with lots of them? I have also started 25 4x10' raised garden beds, and have plans to put in at least 25 more, with the idea that I can grow extra veggies and sell them at the local farmers' markets. Two days after moving in, I got my first 18 Dorking heritage-breed chickens. These are a dual purpose chicken, and very rare. It is estimated that there are only 100 or so of these birds in all of Canada. More on these later! I have been selling their eggs, and plan on raising more to sell the roasters, as well. Since I was successful in keeping those alive all winter, I have also decided to raise some heritage turkeys. I will be getting 10 poults in, and will keep 2 for my own freezer, and have already pre-sold all the rest. Maybe I should have done more??? Well, I am busy enough for the moment in my first year here!

Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!