Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A New Obsession

I think I am becoming obsessed with chickens. I keep wondering how many coops I will need to build before I am satisfied. I have 4 now, and will most likely need 2 more by spring. Not a good sign!

My girlfriend Amanda offered out 3 baby chicks for free. I see that FREE word, and I jump at it... doesn't seem to matter what it is. So, now I have little baby chicks in my living room, because I have no place else to put them. I don't know what will happen when they get too big for the brooder. I had better come up with a plan... SOON!! I am amazed, though, that the dogs haven't even tried to eat the chicks yet... not even my naughty boy, Reckless. I guess they are getting used to having chickens all over the place!

Then, my other girlfriend heard about a pair of Cochins up for grabs. Somehow, I found myself saying 'yes' to those, too. I don't even know why! Cochins are a bit rare, but they are more for pets rather than utility. They don't lay a lot of eggs, and are a bit scrawny eating. The only thing redeeming them are the fact that I've had someone offer to buy babies from me next year. The male had better be fertile!

I've also ordered  2 more varieties of heritage type breeds from my friend Amanda for next spring. Light Sussex, which are dual purpose, and soooo pretty. ( I stole the picture from your website, Amanda... please don't sue me;-)

I think I also ordered some either Lavender or Blue Orpingtons... can't remember which now. Both varieties are dual purpose, so at least I will be able to make use of both males and females.

Sigh. So many chickens, so little time. And space.

On another note, I harvested a bunch of sunflower seeds and roasted them yesterday. I had planted my sunflowers so late this year, I really didn't think I would be able to harvest any of them. I've never had home-grown seeds before. Are they EVER so much better than the crap you buy in a bag! What a difference! I am definitely planting WAYYYY more next year, so I will have enough for shares, and enough for myself to roast and munch on all winter long.
I accidently harvested one of my Snack Jack pumpkins, too. I picked it up to see if it was ready, and the stalk just snapped. Does that mean it is ready??? Anyway, my job tomorrow is to open it up and see if the seeds are any good, and roast them up, too. The pumpkins themselves are super-cute and little.

I am still making my own ginger beer. I made a giant batch about 2 weeks ago. It was the worst batch EVER. I ended up throwing it down the sink it was so bad. I know what I did wrong, anyway, so hopefully it won't happen again.
This week, I made apple. It should be ready in a day or two. I've really missed having it to drink the last couple of weeks, though.

The sun has come out to visit.... guess I should go think about getting some actual work done around here!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Update on Chickens and Turkeys

I keep forgetting to update on my chickens and turkeys!
I got 25 Cornish giant chickens and 10 white turkeys in last month from a new hatchery that I haven't tried before. They were the littlest, wee-ist little birds I have ever seen. Some of the turkeys were DOA, so out of 10, I ended up with 4. Out of 25 chickens, I still have 20. They are about 4 weeks old now...  almost half way through their lives. They seem to be doing quite well, though, and are eating me out of house and home. Yesterday, I started letting them out of their brooder, to explore outside. It has been sunny and gorgeous the last couple of days, so the little guys won't get cold. I hope!

The heritage Blue Slate turkeys I got in June are doing AMAZING. I have had them on a special 'heritage' feed almost their entire lives, and I'm pretty sure it is making a huge difference. They seem to be very close to the size my last batch was when I got them processed... only they are just half the age. I will probably get them done in Dec or Jan, depending on when I feel like eating a turkey;-)

The new Dorkings I got in from my friend are also doing well. When they are ready, I want to put each one in a coop with about 5 or 6 females, and see if I can get some fertile eggs from them. If I could start breeding my own, I would be that one big step towards self-sufficiency... I wouldn't have to buy chickens anymore! Plus, I could sell the babies for $7-$10 each, and maybe make a bit on the side.

I got a bunch of new egg birds wayyyy back in April? I think. They are JUST starting to lay. A bit. I feel like I have been feeding them for free for a very, very long time! I can never keep up with demand for eggs. I always have more orders than I can fill. 3 of my egg shares that I sold finish in about 3 or 4 weeks, so that should lift some of the egg pressure. Need more eggs! I put a light into the layers coop until about 10 pm each nite, so I hope that is going to help bring up production again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Chores

Well, I have been planting my head off, and I think I can see the end in sight...

Except I forgot to leave enough empty beds for all the garlic I plan to put in.
My plan is to at least double the garlic I planted last year. I kept a bunch of the biggest, bestest bulbs to replant this fall. I hope to have at least 600 of the Galiano garlic, plus I've ordered some Russian Red, and some Yugoslavian. Yugoslavian is my ultimate favourite garlic, and you have to order EARLY. Last year I tried to get some in early August, but the garlic growers were already sold out. This year, I ordered the day the catalogue came out, and should be getting my shipments any time now. I didn't order a lot of either variety, but I will keep saving my own seed from each year, and should be able to sell a few, and then double my inventory each year.

Anyway, I have almost finished planting all the seed starts I did... a bit later than I had hoped to get things in, but so far the weather is co operating with me. It is still really warm out, even though we are getting rain on and off. I hope this warm lasts a while longer! It's nice to enjoy it without having the constant worry about water.

I think the best thing I did this year was the mulch. I got the idea from Ruth Stout. She was an old gardener who gardened into her nineties using mulch and more mulch. People would come for miles to drive by her gardens and watch her at work.
But this is mainly because she often gardened in the nude.


Anyway, I digress...
A client of mine just loaned me one of her books. The principle is simple. Plant everything in mulch. Keep adding mulch. There were several crops of mine that were doing just lousy, so I covered them with a bunch of hay, with the intention of replanting with another crop, and within a week or so, BOOM! Little green plants started to pop up all over, when I had completely given up of ever seeing anything. EVERYTHING is planted in mulch now.
I am making more garden area as well. I keep collecting cardboard. Lots and lots of cardboard. I am putting it down over the pasture, then putting a row of hay, then putting yummy horse poo on that, then some soil (mostly to keep the dogs from eating the poo!) then another layer of hay. By spring, it should be nicely composted, and perfect for planting all the crops I have planned. And I have a zillion crops planned. I am excited for spring already!! I am already eagerly anticipating the fall run of seed catalogues, so I can start deciding what to grow, and which varieties to try next year.

I really want to take a bunch of pics for the blog, but my memory card ran out of room in my camera. I need to remember to go buy a new one soon. I like to take pics each year in Sept, so I can see how things change and progress over the years. I will get more pics soon, I promise!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Little Note about Peas

My little note about fall crops of peas is.... DON"T DO IT!!
All the books I have read tell me to plant a second crop of fall peas. Last year, I planted too late, and I ended up with chicken feed and compost.
This year, I planted on time. What the books don't tell you is that fall peas go straight to the starchy stage. No sweet, succulent pods this time of year. They are baaadddd.
The moral of the story... don't believe everything you read, and don't waste your time, money, or pea seeds for a fall planting.
Just plant lots and lots in the spring, so you will have enough year round.

And that's all I have to say.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall is here

Well, it definitely feels like fall around the farm these days. A lot has happened, and I haven't been keeping up with the blogging as well as I should have. My bad.
At first, it was soooo frickin busy on the dogboarding end, that I could barely breathe. Now, it's so slow, I am entering panic stage. I am trying hard NOT to panic, but sometimes it just sneaks up on me.

When I bought this farm, it was because it was my dream to live off the land, sustainably, and grow my own food before I was 40 and I got too old to enjoy it.
Last month, I hit the big 4-0. EEEEKKKK! What a scary thing! I only feel like I'm about 28, so now I tell everyone that 40 is the new 20, and I am still young. Which I feel young, so really I guess that's about all that matters.
The Universe was a big meanie to me on my birthday, however. I was lucky enough to get stung by a wasp the day BEFORE my birthday, then again on the day OF my birthday, then AGAIN ON THE DAY AFTER my birthday. I couldn't believe it! My arm and leg all swole up, and the only reason it didn't get worse was that I was at home when it happened, and was able to get benadryl into me within moments of getting stung. I was not impressed!
Honestly, this farm was the absolute best thing I have ever done. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the life, and how every day is an adventure, and you never know what is going to happen, or what challenges you will face. The finances are still scary at times, but if I think back to 2 years ago when I bought this place then immediately lost my job.... I've come a lonnngggg way. At least I don't cry every night, wondering how I am going to pay my mortgage. I will never starve, as all I need to do is go into my backyard, and pick some veggies. I am learning how to preserve food the traditional way, and I even cook proper meals for myself. Cooking is NOT my thing, so this is actually a big step for me! I am learning all about keeping chickens and turkeys, and researching into having pigs and maybe a milk cow one day.

Ooohhh, I want a milk cow sooo bad! I am on a cowshare, so I get raw milk each week from a lovely little Jersey, and it is so delicious. It is never enough for me, though! I make my own butter and yogurt from it, and will be trying cheese when I have more time on my hands. I keep thinking about getting my own little Jersey, but if I did that, I wouldn't ever be able to go to another dogsport function again. That little cow needs to be milked every day, twice a day. I am considering having my own cowshare, but done a bit different. If I could find 4-7 people who want fresh, whole milk each week, and we all go in on the cow together, then each one of us will milk once or twice a week. I think this is a fantastic idea, because we would all share in the expense of the cow, and I could make sure I got weekends off milking to go have some fun;-) My only major stumbling block to really going forward is that I am afraid I will get someone who doesn't take the milking seriously, and forgets... then the cow really suffers. In the meantime, I will keep planning and collecting names for interested parties.

My well went very, very dry a few weeks ago again. It was dry for over 3 hours. That was by far the longest time it went dry. It was scary. Luckily, it started raining the very next day, and the well is full again. It is astounding to me how much water I use just irrigating the gardens. When it filled up at the beginning of August, I thought I was set for the rest of the summer. I had a week off watering, which was wonderful, then it was hot and dry again, so I had to start up. The well was depleted in a matter of 3 days. It really puts the whole water thing into perspective, and I have to make it my priority to always be conscious of how much I use. Even in the winter when we have 'lots'. I FINALLY got one of my water tanks hooked up to the downspout, so when it rains again in the next day or two, it will fill up. I am going to use that for the livestock on a regular basis. I'm not going to take from the groundwater as much anymore! The best thing I did with the gardens is the hay. It saved me hundreds of gallons of water... and hours of watering. Now, I am just automatically planting everything in a hay or mulch. If I start now, by next spring it will be starting to compost, and should be even more water efficient.

On Sunday, it will be my second anniversary on my little farm. What a landmark! And, to top it off, my Aunt and Uncle are coming to visit. I haven't seen them for 15 or 20 years. They used to have a 20 acre farm in Victoria, of which I spent alot of time on when I was just a wee one. I had such wonderful times and memories of their farm! I'm certain this is why I wanted a farm of my own so bad. And I'm pretty certain I can blame my dog obsession on them, too! They had border collies - they were working dogs, and so amazing and smart. I remember they had puppies one time, and oooh, did I want one of those bigtime! My parents were wise in not letting us have a BC on a city lot - that poor dog would've been bored to death. But, my obsession grew from there, and got me to where I am today. Dog obsessed, and farming! I can't wait to see them and catch up on fun times, and have someone to talk to about my two favourite topics... dogs and farming.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting Down and Dirty

Well, things are really easing up on the dog boarding side. Now I'm back to panicking about money again. As time goes on, the panic times should be getting shorter and shorter.

I have had more time and energy to get back into the gardens, though. Yay, for that! I really missed it when I couldn't get out there on a regular basis. I've planted beds and beds of onions, lettuce, spinach, mesculin, kale, chard, purple sprouting broccoli, and cabbages. I planted peas, too, but only one or two of the beds I planted is doing very well. The others.... not sure. They may have gotten eaten by birds or sowbugs, or rotted, or something. Regardless, the seeds went into the ground and disappeared. So, I am going to replant with some more of my spinach, chard, and lettuces. I've planted about 10 beds in the last few days, but still have a zillion starts to transplant still. I need to have better time management next year, so I can get everything in before fall really hits.

Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!