Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chickens, chickens, chickens

The following is a few 'learn from my mistakes' poultry -raising stories. I had all sorts of adventures in chicken farming this year. From ravens eating my eggs, and killing over 16 of my laying hens, to having a couple of disasters in raising meat birds. Sigh. I hate blogging about my mistakes. There just seem to be so many of them! Then again, if I don't put it down, who will learn from my bungles?!

My laying hens were crap this year, as I think I have stated before. I have about 40 hens, and for the last few (several) months, I've been getting anywhere from 0 to 3 eggs a day. Yet I am spending way too much money buying feed for the buggers. Grrrr. Arggg.
This week, things seem to be finally changing. This morning, I got 10 eggs... I seriously don't remember the last time I had ten eggs in one day! Of course, now they will start laying like crazy, and I've lost almost all of my egg customers. Hopefully I will start getting a few more of those again soon. I am ALMOST finished paying off my egg share clients... it has taken me so long to do this. I have three dozen owing right now, and then I'm done with the obligations... so I hope I don't start getting stuck with a zillion eggs all of a sudden!

Meat chickens did pretty well this year, for the most part. I am slowly getting some regular customers for those, plus I give away some (my family all got roasters for Christmas) and some away for barter. I still haven't gotten to the point where I actually make any money on them. My last batch was a bit of a disaster, though. They came in much later than I expected. I had decided to keep them for 10 weeks instead of 8 and see what kind of difference it made to the size of the birds. Yet, somehow, they never really grew and I couldn't understand why. When I took some of them into the processor, I found out. (I have a new processor, and I really like the facility, and she is super knowledgable about the birds). The bottoms of the poor birds feet were burned from ammonia. I always do a deep layer system when raising my birds, so I only have to change the coop once after each batch. This has so far always worked for me, but this time it backfired. Because it was so late in the season, and wet and cooler, the hay heated up, burning the little chickens. So, they decided they didn't want to grow anymore. I feel really bad that I didn't figure this out on my own, but I never thought to look at the bottom of their feet! So, now I am doing a shallow layer system and cleaning out their bedding each week, which is time consuming, but some of the birds have started growing again... yippee! They will be going to the processor very soon in the new year. My freezer is starting to look empty! Then, for this coming year, I will know better!

I also had a couple of turkey disasters. Of which I was a complete dumbass, and didn't learn anything the first time, so had to fail a second time before I figured it out. Dork.

Anyway, what happed was this: the little turkeys arrived, really healthy looking, eating and drinking. After a couple of weeks, they still looked really good. All of a sudden, one would die. No warning, didn't look sick, just... dead. Then, another. The next day, two would die. Then they would be ok for a few days, and I would think whatever was wrong had passed. Then, poof! Another death. This just kept going until I only had a few birds left. Three of them were kind of gimpy, and one of their legs was crooked. Two seemed to be ok. After about 16 weeks, the gimpy ones just gave up and died. So, stupidly, I had fed them this whole time. I was left with only 2 healthy birds.

In typical Kelly fashion, I decided it was a fluke that they all died (after all, I was doing everything the same as last year, and I had been super-successful then....) so I got a second batch to try again. The same thing happened. I tried doing some research online, but didn't find anything then. I also contacted the breeders, and they had never heard of whatever was happening to my birds. I asked some other farmers, and no one knew what I was talking about.

Grrrr! Arrgggg!!!

Anyway, since then I did some major research... I don't want to fail again next year! There are two possibilities. One, a calcium/vitamin D deficiency. Which means the feed I have been getting was changed slightly from last year to this one, and now doesn't have enough vitamins and minerals in it, OR, it is a genetic thing, and I'll have to change suppliers. In the spring, I am going to try one batch from my regular supplier, and put a supplement into their water, see if that works. Otherwise, I will have to change suppliers. I have lost so many turkey sales this year...I had to tell everyone I was sold out. It was such a bummer. This poultry raising thing seems to be taking me a long time to figure out. Am I the only one who learns so slow? Do other people have disasters, too? Or am I the only dumbass out there.... !!!?

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Hire

Time to update on my new hire, Heather.
It was a big, big decision to finally decide to hire someone on a regular basis. I've been thinking about it for over a year, but never felt like I could afford it. Then, after I burned myself out this past year, I decided I couldn't afford NOT to. I will just find a way to make it work! She is now working for me every Saturday, and will possibly also work Wednesdays as well in the summer when I go to the farmers' market. After I had hired her, and before she had even worked a day for me, I felt a huge weight come off my shoulders. I instantly started to get more energy, and start to get some things done around the farm.

Then, her second day working for me was the day I went to the mainland for a flyball tournament. Now, usually when I go to a function, I sit there all day and check my phone for scary messages... did anything go wrong at the farm? Are the dogs ok? Did anyone escape, or choke? Worryworryworry! That Saturday, I just sat back and enjoyed myself. I barely even checked my phone! I didn't worry, even once. It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling to know that I had someone intelligent and reliable and responsible watching the dogs. Heather has worked at a doggie daycare before, and is quite good at reading dog body language, plus the dogs all respond to her really well. My dogs adore her!

Since that day, I haven't really 'taken a day off' again, but I HAVE been able to work around the farm, getting projects done, knowing that Heather was looking after the dogs, they were safe and happy and getting lots of exercise. Soon, if the weather is nice, I will start going for hikes again. Get myself and my dogs back into shape, and just learn how to enjoy myself again.

Whether I take a day off, or get projects done around the farm, I am pretty certain I will be wayyy more productive around the farm, so will hopefully get more crops planted, which equals more moulah!

So far this fall, the weather has been really, really mild. We've had some cold, frosty nights, but mostly it's been drier and warmer than any fall since I've been on the farm. I've gotten craploads of stuff done (even before Heather!)
I've collected leaves from anyone who would give me some, and put a big layer on most of the garden beds, I've been working on collecting cardboard and expanding the gardens (this is a SLOOWWWW process) and have built a few more garden beds. I bought a used portable car shelter, which will be soon converted into a greenhouse, almost finished building a new turkey shelter (I just need help getting the roof on), starting building a new kidding house for the goats (they might be preggers, so could have babies Feb/Mar), built two new compost boxes, planted 3 new fruit trees (orchard is ALMOST done!!), plus a zillion more things I can't remember right now. All in all, I think this has been my most productive fall to date. It feels so good getting all this stuff done! My next big project (besides the greenhouse) is working on getting some deer extensions up on the fence. I went to harvest some kale the other day, and found that the deer had munched every single, solitary leaf on the property. And there are several hundred kale plants. Bastards. I really need to get that worked on before I start planting more crops. Spring is just around the corner!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stuck in the Elevator

So, I've been starting to get my Saturdays off. I've hired a girl named Heather. More about her later!

Two Saturdays ago, I went over to the mainland, and went to my first flyball tournament in over a YEAR! It was super exciting. I got to race Kybosh on a team for the first time ever.

And to think, I almost didn't make it...

This isn't a farm story. But, I found it rather amusing, so I am blogging it anyway;-)

I got up super duper early (at 3:30 am, if you must know), peed and fed the dogs, and drove off to catch the 5:15 ferry. Got on the boat without a hitch, climbed out of the car. I was kind of groggy and dazed. Right outside my car door, was the elevator. Now, you must know that I NEVER, EVER take the elevator on the ferry. I always take the stairs. In my whole life, I haven't once taken the elevator. But, it was right THERE.... in front of me. Another guy had already done the hard part and pressed the button to open the door. All I had to do was walk in...

So, I took my lazy ass into the elevator. The guy that was in there said he couldn't see the buttons, so I did the difficult job of pressing level 5... main deck. Up, up we went. Then we rumbled a bit. Then whirred. Then something crackled. Then, dowwwnnnn we went. Back down to the lower car deck. Hmmmm.... Interesting! So, I pressed the button again. I heard a whirr, then nothing. So, I pressed another floor. Nothing. Then, I pressed the 'door open' button.
NOTHING!
It was at this point that a slight panic was building in my gut. I wasn't freaked out about being stuck in a tiny elevator with a strange man, I wasn't freaked out about being in a tiny space. What freaked me out the most was the fact that I might MISS FLYBALL! I madly pressed buttons. Nothing happened. I then thought of all the TV shows where people get stuck on the elevator, and they alway have to wait to get rescued.

Screw THAT!

So, I jammed my fingers into the door, and pulled with all my might. Did the man on the elevator try to help? NOPE! He had literally just stood there looking like a dumbass the entire time.

I pulled, and made a bit of a crack in the door. Then, I lost hold and the door closed. I tried the open door button again. Nothing. I have been called stubborn more than once in my lifetime. This is one of those times when being stubborn was going to pay off for me! I jammed my fingers in the door crack again, and pried with a new determination. The door opened.... we were FREE!!! I have never been so happy to see stairs in my life.

Lesson learned: never, ever take the elevator on the ferries again. Stairs are good for you, and definitely the safer way to travel!

I then went on to have one of the best flyball days ever. So worth all the panic!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

22 Sleeps...

Only 22 more sleeps until the winter solstice! Then the days will start to get longer again. Not a moment too soon... this dark crap is getting to me. There are just not enough daylight hours to get everything done I want to!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life and Death of Peckerhead

I think I told you I got several heritage chicks in this year from my friend, Amanda. I got a couple of Light Sussex, and some Blue Orpingtons. They all grew up over the summer. The sussex were so friendly! One of them, every time I would walk into their enclosure would hop up on my shoulder for a ride. The first time he did it, it scared the living crap out of me. I squealed, of course!
After that, I got used to it. Mostly.
Everytime I would move in a way the bird didn't like, he'd peck me in the back of the head. OUCH! Little bugger!
So, of course I named him PeckerHead;-) You routinely peck me in the head, you don't deserve a pretty name!

As they all grew up, I realized that both Sussex, and and most of the Orps were roos. Of course! Wouldn't you know it!

So, I ate them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm Back....!

Ok! Ok! I've been getting trouble from all over for not blogging lately. To that, I say SORRY! Personally, I can't believe so many people read this silly thing;-)

I have a LOT to catch up on, and will do so gradually over the next little while.
First, to let you know why I haven't blogged for a while!

My CSA shares finished in mid-October. I did 18 shares this year all told. Last year I did 5, and really didn't think 18 was all that much. For some reason, the workload from 5-18 shares didn't just triple... it seemed to rise exponentially. I felt like I was picking veggies for 50 shares. From about mid-August on, when the shares got bigger, it was taking me almost 2 days to pick, clean, package and bag everyones veggies. At the same time, the dog boarding biz was super busy, so all I did was work from dawn to dusk. I got tired, and cranky and just plum burned out. I would just finish one week, then I would have to start picking again for the next. Plus teaching dog training classes. I just didn't have the energy for anything extra, it seemed. It is mid November now, and I feel like I am just recovering now. Honestly, I don't really think that the shares alone were too much, it was the combination of everything, every day, all the time. If I was JUST doing farming for a living, I think I would have handled it just fine. But, the dog boarding is what pays the bills, so I must plug on for another year or two until I get the farm up to snuff. Next year, I am only going to do 10 shares or fewer. I think the other problem I had was delivering 10 of the shares to Nanaimo each week. That took a lot out of me, too. I would just go to one location, and everyone would pick their bag up from there, but I had to rearrange my doggy day care schedule, and then drive for 2 hours. So, the other decision I have made is to ONLY do local shares. Even if I only sell 2 of them, but they are local, it won't take so much out of me. Instead, I may try to go to a local farmers' market on Wednesday of next year. It will help to raise awareness and build some clientele for the farm.

Oh! But good news! I have decided to bite the bullet, and hire someone regularly for Saturdays from now on. Sooooo, starting next Sat, I will be having the day off!! I am so excited... it's been about 3 years since I've had a regular day off. I don't even know what to do with myself! I needed to do it whether I can afford it or not, just to keep what sanity I have left;-) It will all work out, right??!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Size Matters??!!

So, I just have to mention this. I find it really quite extraordinary. Goat balls are HUGE. I actually had to call the breeder to see if what was hanging underneath poor Trouble was normal or not! Seriously, goats must have the biggest ball to body ratio of any farm animal I've seen yet. I keep thinking he has an udder back there. Must be hard to move, with all that flopping about.

Just sayin'
I mean, seriously... LOOK at those things!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Crazy Weather

Oops... I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. Sorry, folks! August has been super, super busy. I know I sat down several times to write, but immediately got distracted with something, and never got anything typed.

The weather is crazy this year. Personally, I've liked it. We had a few odd days of rain, which helped immensely, but the nights never actually got warm. The days were perfect... not too hot, not too cold. Funny thing, though - as soon as Sept hit, we are suddenly having a heat wave! Nights are balmy and warm, days are hot enough that I have to turn the AC on for the dogs in the afternoon. Heat doesn't really bother me, but when the dogs are starting to pant indoors, I will turn it on for them!! This was when I expected it to 'cool down'. Mother Nature, keeping me on my toes!!

The farmgate stand is doing.... ok. It was never going to be my 'get rich quick' scheme, so I knew going in the sales wouldn't be phenomenal or anything. My goal is to sell $10 a day for each of the 4 days a week I am open. Two weekends ago, I made it! It was awesome. A few people came and emptied out the fridge. Then, last weekend, no one stopped by. I didn't even see anyone looking! Sigh. I know it will take time to work up to a point where it actually pays for itself. So, last weekend I went to the Crofton Farmers' Market. It was the first time I've gone to any market. The market itself is the suckiest one EVER, but it's local, and my goal was to try to raise awareness for my little stand. I made a whopping $54. Whoohoo. But, I got to tell quite a few people about the stand, so hopefully it will start to catch on. Then, this week, I went to the Chemainus Farmers' Market to check it out. It is much, much bigger, and it runs on a Wednesday, so easier for me to get to. I put in my application for next year, and my plan is to go there every week. Gotta plant lots of veggies!!!

I had a very pleasant surprise when I went out into the field today to feed the chickens and goats. I kept hearing a lot of cheep-cheeping from over the little stream. When I peeked over to investigate, there was one of my easter egger hens (a light sussex mix) with a big brood of chicks! There are at least 10 that I could see. So, if these babies can be raised without getting eaten by the frickin' ravens, I will have the start of a self-perpetuating flock of chickens! Which means I won't have to buy any more chicks again!!! Super exciting. It also explains a lot, though. My hens haven't been laying well at all lately. My egg collection has been very, very inconsistant. BUT, if some of the hens are brooding nests, it would go a long way to explaining where all my eggs have been going!

Both my MamaDucks are brooding nests right now. They are such good girls! They both laid their eggs in the shelter  I built for them... the one that the ravens so far haven't figured out how to get into. MamaDuck1 has only 3 eggs under her, but MamaDuck2 has at least 10 eggs. So, I should hopefully get one more batch of ducklings before winter sets in. I will have a great start to the breeding season next year, and will be able to sell lots of the drakes for meat. I actually have a waiting list for them! I really enjoy my Muscovys. There are easy and friendly, and quiet and they forage quite a bit on their own, so don't cost me a bundle in feed. My first batch of 5 muscovys have been loose in the field now for about a month, and doing awesome. The females (there are 2) are pretty much fully grown, and the males look super healthy and will be come dinner sometime before Christmas for me. The second batch of 10 are in an ex pen out in the field, and are growing like crazy. They are just starting to get their adult feathers, and as soon as they do, I will let them out to forage as well.


I have recently become foster mom to 3 Indian Runner ducks. They fell off someone's truck last week, and the SPCA didn't have any way to deal with them, so they are staying here for a while, until either someone claims them, or I find them a new home. Worst case scenario, I keep them, and sell their eggs. Although, I have no idea if I have males or females, or some of each. Apparently they are prolific egg layers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Good Things and Mileposts

So, I feel like I've spent too much time whining lately. This is my "I'm grateful" post. My head is screwed back on straight, the future looks bright, and there are some really good things happening at the farm these days.

First of all, even though I'm watering like a demon right now, we've had some rain this summer (one day in June, and one day in July) but it was enough to make a HUGE difference in the well. It is still FULL!!!! It's really a joy to go peek in it, and there is water almost to the top, even though I've just been watering for two hours straight. Most people are complaining about our weather this summer.... I think it's been just perfect. Not too hot,and enough rain to keep the well full.

Second, and this is really cool... I keep all my grocery reciepts, and have since I moved to the farm. I like to know how my grocery bill is coming down, and by how much. In June, my bill was just over $22. Yep, you heard it right! $22!! Most of that was chocolate;-) July, it was closer to about $50, as I had to get some staples like olive oil and balsalmic vinegar. All I can say is WOW. What a great feeling! I am so much closer to becoming self sustaining.
My little ducks are doing well. The first 5 that were born are huge, and they will be big enough soon to let them out of the ex pen and into the field to forage without worry of ravens eating them. Of the second batch of 11, one of them was weak and died, but I still have 10 really healthy little ducklings in my bathroom.

I've been through 3 different incubators, had failure after failure with breeding chicks, and pretty much gave up. I put a bunch of eggs in my latest incubator a while ago. You are supposed to turn the eggs three times a day. I did it ONCE the whole time. I kept forgetting to unplug the incubator, assuming that this batch was doomed to be a failure, too. Much to my surprise, I had four little chicks born a couple of nights ago! I was astounded. Three of them are Dorking crosses, and one is a pure dorking. So, now I am stoked to try it again! I may try one more batch this fall, and even try to remember to turn them regularly, then I'll do more in the spring. I have also given some eggs to my friend Amanda to hatch out for me, thinking I was going to fail again... so hopefully I will have some more Dorkings come along. It would be nice to breed my own Dorkings instead of having to buy more chicks each year. Plus, I'm hoping to have enough that I can sell the babies, and make a bit of extra money to help pay for the feed.

Next, I am grateful for all the people who have come into my life to offer so much help and support. This week, my friends Dirk and Nicole deserve a mention. They are the farmers in nearby Lantzville, who the town wants to shut down... just because they are growing veggies instead of having an annoyingly perfect lawn. There are a lot of people out there that hate veggies! Anyway, Dirk and Nicole have helped me immensely. They are always there to answer the zillion questions I have, inspire me to work a bit better and harder, and sell me lots of seed garlic at a skookum deal to help me get my numbers up, so maybe I can make a profit next year. They also gave me a bunch of seed potatoes to plant now, so I will have a second fall crop.

That's the all the good stuff I have time for today... more coming!

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Babies!!

Just went outside for a minute, found a raven on my duck enclosure, chased him away. Looked inside, and what do I see? At least two baby muscovys just born! They must be recent, as they were still damp. Whoohoo! I am so excited! I was actually almost ready to give up on MamaDuck2, as she's been brooding for a very, very long time. I thought the babies were due over a week ago. What do I know??!!

The last batch of Muscovys are doing awesome, too. I've had them in an ex-pen in the field for over a month now, and they are growing like crazy, and getting adult feathers. Another couple of weeks, and I'll probably let them forage in the field. When they get too big for the friggin' ravens!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Business With a Plan....

I've now been through the process with my biz coach. He is forcing me to think outside the box a bit. I've come up with a really good business/farm plan for the next year. BUT, we all know from my blog posts that farming rarely, if ever, goes to plan! So, I am using it as more of a guideline. Some goals to reach, some timing I need to practice.
My success next year depends on two things. One, I need to expand the gardens like crazy. I will need to double what I have now. To do that, I need 2 more loads of soil, and lots and lots of cardboard. I think I may finally have a line on the cardboard, and I am going to start booking solid with the dog boarding, so I can make enough money to get the soil. If I can get it this fall, and work on building the gardens all winter, I will be a head of the game, instead of just catching up like this year.
The second thing I really, really need is my greenhouse. I am planning for a 20 x 100' structure, with a seed starting bench down one side, and a large crop growing bed down the other. I will be able to start my tomatoes, etc early next year, so I will be ahead. I also won't have to drive to Nanaimo every week. I will save a lot just in gas! With the crop growing beds, I can grow things like mesculin and spinach all winter long. Sales 12 months a year! It would give me such a leg up!
The challenge arises when I try to figure out how to get my greenhouse built. I will need to make between a 5 and $6000 investment. Soooo, how the hek do I do that? That's where the 'outside the box' thinking comes in. It was suggested that I get some investors. The plan is this: get some really awesome people to prepay and prebuy their veggie CSA shares NOW for next year. In return, because I have all this amazing greenhouse space, I will be able to have a bigger selection, bigger bags, and start earlier in the year. I would need 15 investors to do this. It was also suggested that I put this money into a separate account, so if I only get like, 2 investors and can't go ahead with the greenhouse, I can give them their money back. The only problem with this plan is the fact that I am wayyyyyyyyyyy too shy to ask for people to give me money in advance, so I am just doing this blog post to put it out into the universe, and see what comes back to me. !!

In the meantime, I am going to go ahead like my greenhouse is already being built. I am going to get an electrician in to bring up power, so I can plug in soil heating cables, and then I'm going to get a foundation down as soon as I can. Then the universe will know I am serious about it, and just give me my greenhouse:-)

I have been starting fall crop seeds like crazy the last couple of weeks. I should have (so far) about 1000 kale plants, 400 cabbages, 400 purple sprouting broccoli, and various mesculin and lettuces coming up. I still ask myself, though... is this enough? I think I need to plant more. And more. I seriously don't think I can plant enough right now.

OH!!! I am ready to open my farmgate stand! Dom the HandyMum came over the other night, and helped me move/hang my gates, AND then she found me a free fridge! I got it delivered yesterday, cleaned it all up, and then just plugged it in this morning. I will stock it this evening, and then I should be all ready to open tomorrow morning. How exciting is that? I will be getting some signs up in the next week, and when that is done, I will really start advertising it around town.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fellow Blogger

A fellow blogger wrote the following post. She puts things a bit more... eloquently than I do, so I asked if I could copy and paste, to help spread the word. She said yes!! Plus, she takes pretty pictures:-) This is a link to her blog...

http://www.traceyjacksononline.com/2011/07/food-the-way-its-supposed-to-be/

FOOD THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE


After the war the big super markets were the thing, they stood for all things American. They were new big, new, shiny, clean and full of everything, much of which has proven not to be good for us. What we didn’t know was that our milk, meat and chicken were filled with hormones and antibiotics. Preservative laden packaged foods that OK – some tasted pretty good, it’s hard to beat Rice a Roni or Sara Lee cakes, but the additives like salt, sugar and fat have proven to be deadly. We also did not know that much about the the farming in this country. We didn’t know it was owned and regulated by big business. It was not the mom and pop farming of yesteryear. But in fairness those were times of bigger is better and doctors smoked cigarettes in front of you.

But we have since learned that getting our food from the land without the middleman of the packager, and the big companies is a much better way to go. The growth of small farms and farmers who farm without harmful chemicals and take their food to small Farmers Markets the old fashioned way has been a great gift to America and those who have access to them.

The new film Farmageddon shows us how these people and their livelihoods are being threatened and if the monoliths of the food industry have their way they will not exist.

I think there should more small farmers and that they should be given tax incentives to make their food more affordable and available to a wider swath of the population. I think instead of trying to snuff them out we need to help them, and in turn help ourselves.

Many of us are lucky and have Farmers’s Markets all around us. The food looks and tastes better and it’s amazing how creative and inventive people are getting with their products.

Saturday Lucy and I took a trip to the local Farmers Market, when we left she said – “We have to do this every week.”



So you have to peel them and wash them, takes a little more time but worth the effort.



What's better for you - these or the instant ones in a box? Plus look at those colors.




Everything just looks and tastes better.



I'm not a chard lover, but it's a super food and this is so pretty I'm willing to give it another shot.



Lucy is not what you would call a vegetable lover, but she was eating cucumbers raw with the special salt we found.



Donna McCue of Fat Ass Fudge has a great product and a sense of humor



They always have pretty flowers.

There is a new film out called Farmegeddon. It is getting great reviews and was edited by Cob Carlson who edited Lucky Ducks for us. Cob has been involved with the natural food movement for decades.

http://vimeo.com/16513455



Farmageddon – Movie Trailer from Kristin Canty on Vimeo.



Kristin Canty is the Director/Producer of Farmageddon; The Unseen War on American Family Farms. She is a first-time film maker, small farm advocate, fresh milk drinker and a mom. One of her children was ridden with multiple allergies and asthma as a pre-schooler, and when medications couldn’t help him, she found that raw milk helped him recover. Since then, she has tried to buy most of her family’s food directly from local, organic farms. When Kristin learned that farmers and co-ops all over the country were increasingly getting raided by the government, she set out to make a film about it. She hopes that when people see it, it can change the tide of public pressure so that our government stops harassing and adding costly burdens to our small, organic farmers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Promises, promises...

The weatherman is teasing me again with the promise of rain....
Wed
70%

Thu
70%

Fri
70%
Issued : 5:00 AM PDT Monday 11 July 2011

 A few showers beginning late this evening. Low 14. Tuesday Showers. High 17. Wednesday Cloudy with 70 percent chance of showers. Low 13. High 19. Thursday Cloudy with 70 percent chance of showers. Low 13. High 18. Friday Cloudy with 70 percent chance of showers. Low 13. High 19. Saturday Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 12. High 20. Sunday Cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Low 12. High 22.
 
What do you think? Are we going to get a gorgeous summer rain???!!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Barter System

Yesterday, I got one step closer to opening my farmgate stand. I have been using the barter system a lot lately, to get things I may not otherwise be able to afford. This particular man built me a lockbox and welded it onto my farmstand in exchange for doggie daycare. It looks awesome! Then, I've been giving fresh veggies to the local 'Handywoman' all spring, so I now have a nice, big credit with her... as soon as she comes back from Disneyland, she is going to install my gates for me. I also have traded chickens for hay for the goats, so I won't have to buy any feed for them all winter. It has really helped to cut down on a few expenses. I had a HUGE, unexpected bill last month, and I still haven't recovered from it financially, so it's nice that I can still keep working on projects around here. Now, all I need is a decent used fridge... would be nice if I could find a nice barter for that, too;-) If not, it will be a bit before I can buy one. The second I do, I will be able to open the farmstand. I can't wait for that.... I've actually had people who have heard the rumour that I will be opening one, and they have been emailing me asking when is it going to happen??!!! Things are starting to look wonderful in the garden. Tomatoes and zucchini's are forming nicely, so I should have lots of extra stuff to sell soon.

I've been feeling quite down of late, after losing so many crops to slugs and deer. I thought I had planned perfectly for my shares... I planted double what I thought I would need, but because I had so much damage, some crops I lost 80% of, or even more. As a result, my shares have been smaller than I had hoped. The selection hasn't been bad (better than last year!), but I've only been able to give people smaller portions than I had hoped. This bothers me a LOT, as I would really like people to sign up for a second year! Anyway, I contacted my old business coach that I had when I was in the BusinessWorks program. He really helped me then. I asked him if I could hire him back on for an hour or two consultation, so I could start thinking things through a bit more clearly. I have been so busy feeling sorry for myself, I haven't been doing much 'right' thinking. Anyway, this guy is so awesome... he said when I am 'wildly successful' we will work something out as payment. I guess he could sense I was skint or something. We have been going through the process... basically building a better business plan (which I had actually done a lot of the groundwork without even knowing it) and planning for slugs, deer, weather, and for getting my timing down on my crops and chickens. It has really helped me to get my spirits back up. I was kind of feeling like a failure for a while there. I am not 'there' yet, but I am developing a pretty good plan for my future. And, the epiphany I had yesterday was that my future starts NOW.... not next year, or the next. So, I am getting busy again, planting my fall crops. I am planting over 10x what I did last fall. If I have space, I will do even more. I need to get my quantities up, up, and up. 
I also ordered more meat chickens. I pretty much sold out of the batch I just had, and want to work on my timing, so I will always have a batch coming up. I'm pretty sure if I plan right, I can have a new batch every 3-4 weeks. I know I can do 4 weeks with the spaces I have, but I would really, really like it if I could do every 3 weeks. The next month or two will tell me that. When I get this batch in, I am going to order another batch straight away. Feels really good, having a plan. I think I just need more practice at this farming thing... I am determined to succeed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weatherman, You Suck

It's been over a week, and we STILL haven't gotten the promised rain. I gave up on waiting, and have gone back to watering for a portion every nite. Bleh. It's so boring! I just keep thinking of all the other, better things I could be doing. Then again, I guess keeping the plants alive is a good thing;-)

Muscovy ducklings are doing well. They are growing like crazy. As soon as they are too big to fit through the bars on one of my ex-pens, I am going to put them into the field during the day. I can cover the pen with some plywood, so the ravens don't get them, and it will be so much better and healthier for the little guys. MamaDuck #2 is busy brooding her nest. Last I counted, there was at least 8 eggs in there, so hopefully I will have some more babies in a couple of weeks. I estimate they should be born sometime near the middle of July.

The goats are mostly doing well. Everyone should have a couple of goats! They are way too much fun. I love it when I call them, and they come running with their floppy ears bouncing away. It really is the cutest thing. Larry (the wether) is not doing as well as the others. The other three are fat and robust. Larry is not. I've dewormed him, as we think (hope) that is the problem. He is really skinny, and not very active. The others play and romp, while Larry just lays there chewing his cud. He is eating and drinking well, which is a good sign. They were all dewormed about 10 days ago. I will do it again in about another 10 days. Hopefully little Larry will perk up. Soon. I am worried about the little dude.

My meat chickens are doing well. They didn't grow as fast as they usually do. Turns out, I was ordering the wrong feed for them. Nothing bad, just not as much protien as they need. I changed the food about 5 days ago, and I can already see a difference in their size. I am taking half in this Tuesday, and half in next Tues. All are spoken for... Yay!! I am going to order another batch right away, and do a third the middle of August. Next year, I think I can work it so I do a batch about every 3-4 weeks, so I keep having that new crop coming up. I am being very serious about how to make more money from my farm now, and need to practice getting my timing down. I crunched a bunch of numbers, and I discovered I make no money whatsoever on my eggs. No wonder they sell so fast! The ravens have now gotten 16 of my laying hens this year. ALL of them are the hybrid layers. My Dorkings and other heritage mixes seem to have the intelligence they need to run when a bird comes a calling. So, as these hens go, I will not replace them. If I can't find a way to make money from the eggs, I will gradually reduce my layers to the point where I just get enough eggs for me, sell a doz or so a week to pay for the feed, and concentrate more on the meat birds. Look at me, being all businesswomany!!

I've been super busy the last couple of days getting all my fencing in for my new farmgate stand. It's mostly done now... I just need to hire someone to come and help me rehang the gates in their new places, then find a good used fridge, then I can open for real! It should be timed right, actually... for when my bumper crop of tomatoes are ready. The cherry tomatoes and my early girls should be starting in the next couple of weeks. Nothing better than a fresh tomato from the garden! Hopefully, I won't eat them ALL, and I will be able to save some for my CSA shares;-)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rain, Rain, Glorious Rain

We actually had an amazing rainfall a few days ago. Really, really helped to relieve my stress level. It even penetrated the ground about 2". We are supposed to get more rain today and tomorrow, and even though almost everyone else is complaining about it, I am ecstatic! If we get one more good rain, I won't have to water for at least a week or more. My tomatoes and pumpkins at the back will be soooo happy. Because I haven't had to water for a few days, I got so much work done. I planted about 400 pepper plants, and almost all my tomatoes. Out of 1200 tomatoes, I only have another 80 to plant, and those should get done today. Yay!!!!! I love it when I get stuff done!

Something important to note: this is the first June in three years that we have a decent rainfall. The last two summers, we've had a drought for over 3 months... June, July, Aug. This will be such a nice change! I am trying to get as much planted as I can before the rain starts. I am just blogging while I wait for a dog to arrive;-)

New Arrivals

About 2 weeks ago now, one of my Muscovy ducks had six little fuzzy babies. They were so adorable! MamaDuck was doing a terrific job of caring for them, off they would waddle around the field, foraging and exploring.
Each morning after they were born, I would hear a bunch of ravens over by the field at about 5 am. I am getting really, really PISSED at these ravens lately! The first morning I heard them, I was so afraid they would eat my babies, that I went running outside in my ginch and a t-shirt, screaming and waving my arms at the darned birds. Thank goodness I don't have any close neighbours... I can't even imagine how insane I must of looked! They flew away, but came back the next day. And the next. After the babies were about 5 or 6 days old, one disappeared. I just KNOW it was a raven! So, I ended up scooping all the babies into a bucket and put them into the brooder in my bathroom. MamaDuck was so sad! I felt so bad for her. If I had the room, I would've put her with them, too.

The babies seem to be healthy. They are eating well, and growing. They are still fuzzy and adorable. I do wish they could've grown up on the pasture, though... I just keep thinking it would have been sooooo much healthier for them. I am going to build another enclosure for them in the field soon, so they can go outside, and be safe from the ravens. Like I need another project!

The good news is that I have completed quite a few of my projects for this year, so my list is actually getting a bit smaller for once. My next project is to finish my farmgate stand. I had originally wanted it done by June 1st, but that didn't happen... I just didn't have the funds to get it done. I have been slowly collecting materials, though, and now have everything I need to get working on the gates and fencing. All I need after that is a fridge, and I am done! Hopefully by the time the tomatoes and cuc's are ready, I will have it open.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

OUT with the hose!

Well, watering season has officially begun. We haven't had any significant rain for almost a month now. We really could use a good downpour! My two water holding tanks (they each hold 250 gallons) were full several weeks ago. Now, one is completely empty, and the other is half way empty. Already. I really expected them to last at least until July. I use the water mostly for watering livestock and dogs. Amazing how fast it goes! Really puts into perspective how much water we go through on a daily basis.

I dragged all my hoses out last week, and took them down to my new garden by the storage shed, wayyyyy down at the end of the driveway. Hooked everything up, crawled under the house and turned the water to the field on.  My plants were desperately needing some moisture. When I made my way back down to the hose, almost no water was coming out. CRAP! I think there is a leak or something down the pipe somewhere. It is buried in the ground, so almost impossible to figure out where it might be. Just in case I did something wrong, I crawled back under the house, to see if maybe I had turned the wrong tap or something. I had done it right.
I proceeded to have a minor meltdown about then. I burst into tears. I have been working literally 16 hours a day, planting and making gardens, and trying to get everything done. Having no water for the 150 tomato plants, the 50 sunflowers, and the 30 Snackjack pumpkins I have planted in the back bed just all of a sudden seemed like too much to bear. I screamed at the universe for a bit, then said some very bad swear words, then crawled back from under the house, and got busy again. There is not a lot of time to sit around feeling sorry for yourself on a farm. No matter how hard things seem at the time, you just have to pick yourself up and deal with it.

So, now my ritual is this: everytime I have to go open or close the gate, I fill up my watering cans and lug them down the driveway, and water a few plants each time. I really need to find a better plan, as this won't do when it gets really hot. I've covered everything with hay to help hold in the moisture, but pumpkins and tomatoes and sunflowers are all really water hungry plants. It will be easier next year, as the hay and mulch I put on this year will start to compost, and hold in the moisture better. It only sucks the big one this year, as the bed is brand new, and there isn't enough organic material in it yet.

Sigh.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Perfect Day!

Today was the best day. Even though I had to take a trip up to Nanaimo, mow part of the lawn, and go pick up hay, I still got craploads done. I only have 2 boarding dogs at the moment, and both are regulars, with whom I've done 'garden training' with, so they can come out and play with my dogs while I am working in the gardens. They have been trained to not go zooming through and over everything. I managed to plant over 200 tomatoes (only 1000 to go...), some cuc's and some zucchini's. I did a bunch of weeding and slug picking as well. Even though it was supposed to rain today, it ended up being sunny and gorgeous out. I feel energized. I just kept doing 'one more thing' all day. For the first day this year, I had the energy I had last year. Not sure if it was because the weather was nice, and it is finally warming up, or what, but it felt GOOD!!
It also gave me a good taste of what life might be like if I made enough money from the farm that I didn't have to do dog boarding anymore. Even though I worked super hard, the day was calm and relaxing. I was able to take a few breaks and do some training with my dogs, and have a play session with them. Sometimes, I just get too busy with everyone else's dogs to do even that. I had the little goats out eating grass, and my dogs out with them for about an hour in the middle of the day. My dogs completely ignored them. They were so good! It was funny, though... Maggie was sniffing around them, looking for goat candy, and she came up next to Trouble. Trouble thought this was too close for comfort, and butted her in the side. Did she ever jump! She gave him a bit more room after that! This is the kind of thing I envision for my future here on the farm. Having my dogs out with me while the goats eat the grass and weeds, and the ducks eat slugs in the garden, and I can just do what I have to do without having to worry about waiting for people to drop off their dogs, or pick them up, or having the dogs zoom through the garden and smoosh everything. It's such a nice, peaceful, calm picture. I am now reenergized to work even harder to make this picture happen sooner rather than later.

Next week, I get my CSA payments. I have planned what to do with each penny I get. I have an appointment to get a hitch on my car, so I can use my utility trailer, get another load of soil, go pick up more cardboard, get a side of pasture raised pork for the freezer, take the dogs for a long-awaited vet visit, and finish my farmgate stand. To name but a few things listed! Nice to get a bunch of this stuff done. Next year is going to be so much easier! I will be so far ahead by then, and not so many projects to have to do. Can't wait!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Falling Behind....

Argh!! I'm falling behind in everything lately. My blogging, my advertising, my planting, definitely my housework;-) Dog boarding has been insanely busy again, just slowing down now. When I have lots of dogs, they take up so much of my time and attention, I just can't seem to get anything else done around here. I am barely keeping up with the daily chores - feeding and watering the chickens, goats, turkeys, mowing the lawn, etc. I am just so tired. I don't seem to have the same energy I did last year. There have been moments when even I think I've taken on too much. (I get lectured about that all the time by my friends). Then, I think.... if I didn't do any dog boarding, and was just able to spend 8 or 10 hours a day in the gardens, would I be able to make enough money to pay the mortgage and the bills? I'd like to think I could, but I'm not willing to just forget about the dogs to take the plunge... yet. I have set a few more lofty goals for this coming year, and if I can accomplish them, I think I will be able to just live off what I make from the farm. My first goal is to finish getting the gardens built. I still have about 3/4 of an acre of land that I need to cover in cardboard, then make my lasagna beds. The second goal is to make enough money from my veggies (outside of my CSA shares) that I can get a nice big greenhouse installed. I want one that is about 20' by 100'. Then, I will be able to grow mesculin and spinach and whatnot all winter long. I think then I can grow enough to pay the mortgage. And maybe even take a day off now and then. I think I am just burning out at the moment.

I got my meat chickens and turkeys in at the beginning of May. I have had terrible luck with my turkeys this year. You always expect to lose a few, but out of 20 'regular' turkeys, I only have about 12 left, and out of 12 heritage turkeys, I only have 5. The heritage I am super sad about, as I was planning on keeping some to breed for next year, so I don't have to keep buying them. They are not cheap! The 5 I have remaining are looking good now, though. Hopefully whatever got them has passed. The chickens look good so far, though. I've already had orders for a few, and I haven't even advertised that I have them yet. I do have to raise my price a bit, though, as the cost of feed has gone up. Substantially. Sigh.

My little goats are doing fantastic. I LOVE my little goats! They are super friendly now, and love to visit anyone who comes over. I take them out on the leashes as much as I can to eat grass and weeds, but it's never enough with the dogs around. My dogs accidently met them when they were tied out. I forgot they were up by the fruit trees, and let my kids out... they barked for a bit, then settled into it, and all got along great. Kybosh was the biggest pain, as all she wanted to do was herd them. Poor Ky... I have to find a way to afford herding lessons for her! She needs an outlet. OH!! I have also got an order for my first two baby goats for next year already!! I am going to breed them in December, so the kids will be born next May. Two of them will be going as pets to a friend of mine. Yay!! I honestly don't think I'm ready to sell any for meat yet. They are just too cute for that!

Ravens are still giving me trouble. I also had an eagle kill my Cochin rooster, so the dream of breeding them is done. I am going to stick to chicken breeds that have the instinct to run away when a bird of prey comes. No more stupid birds! My muscovy ducks have been trying to brood nests, but the ravens keep stealing their eggs, too. Yesterday, I built a shelter for them out of pallets. I THINK it is raven-proof. I got my white female in there, with my second-pick drake. My first pick drake was too slow, and didn't get in this time! No sex for you, buddy. You snooze, you loose. So, my hope is that she will start laying again and get broody, and hopefully have some muscovy babies. My other female is brooding a nest out in the field. I just found it this morning, and there are at least 6 eggs in there that haven't been stolen yet, so I am just leaving her... maybe she'll be lucky, and the ravens won't find this nest.

The gardens are looking good, what there is. It has still been too chilly at night to plant any warm weather stuff yet. I planted a few tomatoes, and a few lemon cuc's, but that's about it. I check the weather about 50 times a day, to see if it has changed and is going to get warmer. This morning, it did change! At the moment, it looks like tonight may be our last chilly night, then tomorrow night will be up to 9 c. So, tomorrow, I start planting. This climate change thing sucks. Our summers may be hotter, but they are getting shorter and shorter. I've never had to wait this long to plant tomatoes before. The good news is that everything I grew in the greenhouse looks fantastic, so hopefully I can get it planted super soon!
Other than that, my mesculin, arugula, kale, etc is looking amazing. I have started selling the odd bag of it. I am still planting more, though. You can never have too much mesculin! I am hoping to have my farmgate stand ready to go in the next 2 or 3 weeks, so I will be able to sell more of it then.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

I have the greatest news ever! Over the last two and a half years, every time a chicken has escaped, Reckless has killed it. Sometimes before I even know there is a chicken out there. It was always a quick death, however. He is a very skilled predator! He has probably killed about 10 or 15 chickens during that time.

I have been working with him using positive reinforcement techniques. The more I use these techniques, the more I see the value in them. Anytime we were out in the yard and a chicken got loose, I would call Reckless to me, and give him a yummy treat reward (of which I pretty much always have in my pocket!). It gradually got easier and easier to do. This actually gives the dog a CHOICE of whether to go kill the chicken, or come to mommy. A couple of weeks ago, I had not one, not two, but THREE chickens escape all at the same time. Reckless saw them before I did. He stood there, and shook like a leaf. He wanted to go get that chicken so bad! He turned to look at me for direction, and I told him he was such a good boy, and gave him a jackpot reward (about 5 treats in a row). That was it! He then and there decided that killing chickens wasn't so worth it after all, and I can now let him in the field with all the ducks and other fowl, and he just sniffs around. I am so proud of my boy! For those of you who know Reckless, you will probably get what an accomplishment this is. He is a high-drive dog made up of whippet, border collie, and 3 separate terriers. All high prey-drive breeds.

Which brings me to the farming part of the story.

Over the last few weeks, I have had ravens coming in and stealing my eggs in the field. Then, my neighbour called me and told me he saw a raven come down and kill a chicken! I expected that of a hawk or osprey, but not a raven! Then, that week, ravens (or something) killed about 7 of my chickens, and ate ALL my eggs. This kind of thing can be really devastating. It makes you wonder why you ever wanted to be a farmer in the first place. It is so hard and harsh sometimes!
So, both Reckless and Kybosh observed me screaming and yelling and chasing a raven each time I saw one. They very, very quickly learned what I was upset about, and now all I have to do is say 'RAVEN', and off they go, zooming towards the bird of prey, and chasing it off! It is really cool and fun to watch, actually. And the best part, now that Reckless is no longer a chicken killer, I can open the gate to the field, they will go chase off the offending bird, not harm any of my livestock, and come zooming back to me. I now have four fully-fledged farm dogs, who are helping me make my living now. Gives me goosebumps, it is so wonderous!!

There was an osprey in my field also the other day. It was friggin' HUGE. It was down, harrassing my muscovy ducks. Another minute or two, and I'm sure he would have had one dead. So, I called my two awesome doggies, yelled 'RAVEN', and off they went chasing that osprey off. Then, I freaked out a bit, as Reckless is about the size of a duck, and that osprey could really drag him off, too, if it wanted. Luckily, nothing bad happened, but the bird sat in a tree, and watched me for hours, seeing if we would leave the scene so he could get one of my fowl. Bad bird! My only real defense is to be outside every minute possible, so I can send the dogs after the birds. Harder if I have to go out anywhere. Those birds are sneaky. So, I've been keeping my field chickens in their coop in the morning, as this is when they lay most of their eggs, and letting them out to forage in the afternoon and evening. Turns out they have been laying way more eggs than I have been giving them credit for. They were just laying them all over the field, and the ravens were picking them off. So with this new routine, I have been getting between two and a half and 3 doz eggs each day. Which is what I should have been getting all along! Maybe they will actually pay for themselves now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Naughty Little Goats

Oh, dear. What did I get myself into this time??!!
The little goats are very, very proficient at escaping. First, the naughty pony let them out. I was able to herd them back in without too much trouble. That was their first day.
The second day, they escaped two times. The first time, I couldn't figure out how... then I discovered they could fit in behind their shelter... there is about 6" between the shelter and the fence. The little buggers were squeezing out there. So, I quickly piled a bunch of branches in there, thinking that would stop 'em.

Nope! They got out again. So, the next time I found an old pallet and shoved that in the gap. That stopped them!
Then, the next day, they pushed their door back open... I kind of have it blocked off, so they could run in their little play area. I guess they think their play area isn't good enough, so they just pushed the block open and ran willy-nilly around the field, bleating and kicking up their heels.

Two days later...

Ok, I think I have those babies licked now! It's been two whole days since they have escaped. Yay! They are becoming friendlier and friendlier. I make everyone who comes over visit the goats. Doesn't matter if they WANT to see the goats... it's kind of a rite of visiting the farm;-)
The girls, Lily and Star are by far the friendlest. They learned very quickly that I often have a bit of grain with me, and they come running when they see me. Trouble is getting there, too. I am slowly beginning to pet them when they are eating out of my hand, so they get used to touch. Larry is STILL the only one who hasn't eaten out of my hand.

Two days even later....

Had a GREAT goat day today! They haven't escaped in quite a while, and even Larry has eaten out of my hand today. I couldn't get down to flyball practice today due to a road closure, so I decided it was time to start leash training the goats.
I put a leash on both Lily and Star, and got a little dish of grain, and led them out and into the yard. The boys just followed leashless. As soon as they were out, I just dropped the leashes and let them go to it. They were so happy! They ate lots of grass, and a few leaves and brambles. I only kept them out for about 20 minutes, but I was very surprised at how much they could chow down during that time! I thought it would take me a while to get them back in, but all I had to do was grab the dish of grain and call 'Here, little goats', and they just followed me back into their house. I gave them a grain treat, so they would enjoy coming back in. It honestly took me less than a minute to get them back inside. Whoohoo!
They are so funny... they are being good and quiet out in their pen, and the second they see me anywhere in the yard, they start bleating and calling out. We are starving! Pay attention to us! I am actually starting to enjoy the little guys. I know I have a big learning curve ahead of me, but I think it's mostly going to be a fun learning curve!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gardens

We finally had three... count 'em... THREE days in a row without rain. What a treat! It is supposed to start raining again tonight, so I made certain the last few days counted. I got as much gardening in as I could. I carted load after load of compost and soil, and finished my big bed down by my storage unit. I lost count after about 20 or so loads. I was so exhausted yesterday morning when I got up, I could barely move. Not used to working so hard! I finished the bed completely today, including planting it with mesculin and kale. Then I put slug bait around EVERYTHING. Later when it warms up, I am going to also plant lots of sunflowers and pumpkins back there, too. Nice and hot, and out of the wind. Should be perfect!

New garden by storage/farmgate trailer

Hard to see, but there are the little mesculins and lancinato kale that I started in the greenhouse planted here
Since that wasn't quite enough, I carted more compost and soil and started working on my other beds, too. I had to make these nice days count! Mainly the ones that I'll be planting my hot weather stuff in... tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, cuc's, etc. I need to get on it, as I just planted all these crops in the greenhouse earlier this week. I will be doing more next week, too. I need to make sure I have enough space for everything!
Today was easier, though. Even though I was tired and sore, it wasn't near as bad as it was yesterday, so I am hopeful that I am getting back into gardening shape.

New Arrivals!

The long awaited day finally arrived. Jody delivered my little Boer goats today! I had started off by wanting two little female goats to help me eat all the grass and weeds around here. I ended up by getting four... oops! How the hek did that happen? I couldn't resist the little buck, Trouble. Then, Burley died, so I needed to get a wether to keep Trouble company when I had to separate him from the girls when they are having their babies next year.

I am going to have little goat babies next year!!!!!!! The thought of this makes me so excited! These little goats are my first non-avian livestock. I feel like a real farm now! The little kids already had their first adventure. I had put them in their little house I made for them so they will learn that it is their 'home' and it is a safe place. Not long after, Kybosh, who was sitting on the front porch (surveying her world) started barking her fool head off. Ky doesn't bark very much, so I usually pay attention when she does. What do I see, but all four of the little goats crunched up by the gate in the field! The pony had gotten the door open somehow, (to steal the hay, the little piggie!) and the goats bolted. Thankfully, they were relatively easy to gently herd back into the house, safe and sound. I put a big 2x4 jammed up against the door. Not certain if it will keep the naughty pony out, but it was the only thing I could think of. I also strung some electrical fencing across. This will keep the horse out, but I don't think the naughty pony has any respect for it. Plus, it's not charged, so that probably won't help much!
Tomorrow, I will lead the little kids into the mini field I have ready for them, so they can get some fresh air and play a little.
Boer goats - first herd arrives April 9, 2011

Larry - the little wether

Lily

Star

Trouble - little breeding buck. Doesn't he just LOOK like Trouble??!!
It was funny when I was visiting them, though. The two flightiest ones at Jody's were Trouble and Star. Yet here, those were the two that came right up to me and ate grain out of my hand. Lily tried, but she was too nervous, and Larry, the wether - who was by far the friendliest one at Jody's - wouldn't come anywhere near me! I will spend more time with them tomorrow, and see if we can make better friends. I want to get these ones super friendly, so I can handle them easily.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Old Enemy....

For those of you who followed me on my adventures last year, you may remember my nemesis the Slug. The Slug is back, in force. I planted 96 gorgeous little lettuces last week. I have 4 left. They got devoured within a day or so of being planted. BASTARDS. Oops, sorry! What language! If you heard what I was saying in my head, you would probably drop dead from shock;-)

I started hand picking the little buggers again, with the plan of feeding them to my Muscovy ducks. The naughty Muscovys rejected them! Muscovys are supposed to love slugs! I was very disappointed in that. So, I filled a bucket with water and a bit of dish soap, and started drowning them again. Makes for good compost, if nothing else. I also went and bought Safer's slug bait. Lots of it. About $120 worth so far. I hate doing it, even if it supposed to be dog and eco-friendly, but I have to, or I will lose every crop I plant. I have sold 12 CSA shares (YAY!!) and I need to make certain I have lots of yummy crops for them.

I am off to the greenhouse today to plant more lettuces and mesculin, plus start on my warm weather crops - squash, zucchini, cuc's, melons, etc. It is hailing right now, but I have been promised that spring will be here any time now....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One Project Done... only a Zillion more to go!

I am happy to report I have completely finished the new chicken coop! I spent over an hour the other night, moving all my laying hens into the field. I did a count as I moved them. I have 47 hens! I didn't realize there was so many.... and this doesn't count my Dorkings! It took me four trips with a dog crate and the wheelbarrow in the dark to get them all moved, but they are all safe and sound and getting adjusted to their new digs. The first day was hard, as they all kept running wayyyy up to the fence, flying over, and getting chased by dogs. I kept going into the field to give them more food inside the coop, as it was ME they were following out. The chickens see me as a source of food, and follow me everywhere.  I used to think it was cute, now it's just annoying.
Yesterday was better. No one got attacked, and the chickens mostly hung out in the field.
The only other difficulty I've had is with the horse and the pony. They keep shoving the coop door open (even though I put a huge rock in front of the door) and putting their heads in to eat the hay and the chicken feed. They are such little piggies! I haven't quite figured out how to keep them out of there yet. They are moving to their own property soon, so will only be here for another week or two, anyway. Although, in that time, I may go broke with them eating all my chicken feed.
New Field Chicken Coop. Looks ramshackle, but it's really very sturdy.
Here are my easter eggers, finally out of my bathroom and in their new digs! They are doing really well outside, and seem to be thriving.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Sad, sad day

Today is a sad day. My goat, Burley (who came with the property, and has been here since I took possession) died last night. The last few months, I could tell he was winding down. I think all the rain and wet we've had this year may have speeded up the process. It was just too much for the old feller. I just spent the last hour attempting to bury him. This is very, very difficult right now due to the fact that it has been raining nonstop for weeks (at least it seems that way) and the field is just thick, sloshy mud. Every shovelful of mud stuck to the shovel, the hole was filling with water as I was digging, it was wet and slippery, and just plain hard to do. I didn't bury him as deep as I wanted, and I'm just hoping the critters in the wild don't make me pay for that.
THEN, to top it all off... as I was dragging poor Burley to his resting spot, I spied Dumbass. Dumbass used all his lives up, and something got him last night, too. Poor Dumbass. I just knew he wasn't long for this world. So, he went into the hole with Burley.
Sometimes farming can suck. Someone told me once that 'if you have livestock, you have deadstock'. I am beginning to see that this is a very true statement.
Now I'm getting more goats.... I am feeling a bit trepidatious about this right now. I feel like I am a bit cursed with goats right now. Hopefully, it will be different when I can raise them from little babies.

RIP Burley

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Building in Progress...

After all that planting yesterday, I still had some energy left, so I started working on my new chicken coop again. I was procrastinating this part a bit, as I really wasn't certain how I was going to do it. I had already placed the lower level of pallets, and secured them. This time, I had to put up the upper layer, so the building will stand about 8' high. The pallets were heavy, and unweildy. By the time I had manhandled the first two pallets up on their ends, and screwed them into place, I was sweaty and shaking like a leaf. Part of the shakiness was from exhaustion, the other part was from some adrenalin from trying to get the pallets up on end, line them up, balance them, and secure them all by myself. I was terrified the entire time that a pallet was going to land on my head, then that would be the end of Kelly! I would be lying in the field unconcious, and no one would know I was there. EEEK!

By the end of the evening, I had raised 4 pallets, and secured them. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. I have 3 more to go (if it ever stops raining again!). Then the roof. Oh, I have no frickin' idea how I will get that roof on! For one, my ladder is too short. For two, I am terrified of ladders. I can happily go up 2 or 3 steps, then I freak out. It's not a fear of heights, it's a fear of ladders. They are rickety at the best of times, but with no one to hold it tight while you try to lift a big pallet or plywood over your head....
Well, you get the idea.
I need help! I hate asking all the time for help. I feel like I've asked enough favours lately, but I'm pretty sure it's the only way to finish this thing. Sigh. I will have to cajole someone into coming over for a building party soon!
I need to get it done.. the chicks in my bathroom are outgrowing their brooder, and I have no place to put them until I move the other chickens into the field.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Start of Spring

What a great day it was today!
I got up early, exercised all the doggies, and ran up to my greenhouse to plant. I planted all my peppers (6 different varieties) and a few tomatoes, plus some new varieties of kale that I didn't have last year, and a few other assorted things. I watered everything with EM, and was happy to see what I fertilized last week with my compost tea looked FANTASTIC! I was actually going to bring a flat of lettuce home with me to harden off, and plant. But I forgot. Gee, that almost never happens;-)
Oh, well... I'll grab it next trip.
The weather was so warm when I got home, that I decided it was time to start planting in the garden beds, too. I planted 2 beds each of carrots, peas and beets, and half a bed of radish. The peas I tried an experiment with - I just broadcast them over the bed, then covered them with a loose layer of hay. That's it! It was so easy! I am REALLY starting to get into this no-till method. I've only been doing it for less than a year, but already you can see a difference in the soil, and the size of the earthworms. I've never seen such big, juicy earthworms ever! They are humungous!! Oh, and the weeds.. I mostly have buttercup in my gardens - looked smaller and weaker than they did last year. I am hoping I am making it harder for them to make a living, and they will slowly die out.
It is a bit harder to sow little seeds like carrots and beets. You have to pull the resting hay off a little row, then sow your seeds. I am wondering something, though.... the last 2 years, I lost my early crops due to a late, extra cold spring. This year, I am hoping that even if it does get cold, all the composting hay and organic material will help to keep things a bit warmer... would be nice! I checked the weather report before I planted.. it is supposed to be showery, but warm all week, which should give the little seeds time to germinate before we get a frost again.
It felt so good to get out in the gardens again and do something constructive.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Waiting for Spring!

I am impatiently waiting for spring to arrive. However, I am certainly not bored while the wait goes on! I have so many projects on the go right now. I am working on my field chicken coop, and have done as much as I can while I wait for someone to help me get more much needed pallets. The good news is that what I have put up so far... is still standing!! ;-) It's a miracle, I tell you. I am not known for my building skills. I had to change my plan for the coop at the last minute. I put some of it together, then realized it was going to be wayyyy too small for all my chickens and ducks, so I expanded it before it got to late to do so. So, now I need almost double the pallets than what I needed before.

I also got a load of gravel to help temporarily repair my awful driveway. I am busily moving wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow full into all the humungous potholes. I had a guy out to give me a quote on fixing it permanently. I have to get proper ditches built, then resurface it. It will only cost me about $2000.
Guess I need to sell ALOT more veggies this summer. OUCH!

I am also busy making more garden beds. This is a slow and ongoing process, as I need to get a cardboard base down to kill the weeds first, before I add compost and soil on top. My friend John picked up a big bunch of cardboard for me yesterday, and is going to get a bunch more for me in about 2 weeks. Then, good news.... another friend of mine found me a utility trailer for my car! It is the back of a truck, and has a canopy for it. It will cost me $100, plus whatever it is for a hitch. I am THRILLED! This will save me from having to annoy all my friends for the next few years everytime I need something! I can use it to take my turkeys and chickens to the processor, to pick up hay for my gardens and chicken coops, for bringing home my little baby goats, and for picking up cardboard. To name a few uses! This will be a very well-used trailer!

I have been up a couple of times to the greenhouse. Planting, planting, and replanting. The mice and the birds are doing a number up there. I put out traps, and so did Elliot. He caught one mouse so far. Hopefully we will get more of the little buggers! All my pretty green shoots got snipped off at the quick. I've had to replant my spinach three times so far, and a few other things. A bit frustrating.
I fertilized my healthy green shoots with my homemade manure/compost tea today. Will hopefully make everything big and strong.

I bought two new fruit trees today. A Red Haven Peach tree, and a Fuji apple. I only need four more trees, and my orchard will be complete! I need 2 more apples, 1 pear, and 1 plum. The pear and the plum will be easy, but the two apples I want I am having a hard time finding. I figure you only plant these trees once, so I might as well get the kinds I want!

Dog boarding has been insanely busy of late. Last year, this was my 'slow' time. Not this year! I am going crazy. The dogs keep me so busy, I sometimes find it hard to find time to do all my farming duties. Sigh. Oh, well. At least it is paying the bills!
I joke that the dogs are getting in the way of my farming. I guess it's just growing pains, and it will settle out in the next few years.

I named my other two Dorking roosters last week. We all know Bully, the boy who is shooting blanks. Then, I had the 2 roos that I raised this past year for breeding. Well, one of them beat the bloody crap out of the other. The winner's name is Bloody Monday. The loser is Dumbass. I swear that bird has a death wish. He keeps coming out into where the dogs are. I can't believe I've been able to save him so many times! Then, if he's not trying to get eaten by a dog, he flies back in with Bloody Monday, who beats the crap out of him again.
That's why his name is Dumbass.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Of Winter and Spring

This weather is seriously starting to tick me off. It is STILL bitterly cold and snowy and everything is a frozen wasteland. I could've sold several bags of kale this week, but couldn't because you can't pick it in the freeze. It just turns to mush. I could be making the big bucks on my garden! Actually, any little bit helps... it will get me faster to my goals.
I finally made it up to the greenhouse today... for a whole hour. That's all I had time for. Of course, everything was frozen up there, so I couldn't water my seeds or put my EM on anything. I am going to try again in a few days, if this weather would ever break! I totally expect these chilly temps in January, but it's almost March! March is spring!
I did get a few seeds planted. 3 flats of Walla Walla onions, 3 flats kale (both red and green) some green onion, stinging nettle (yes, I am growing nettles ON PURPOSE!!)  kohlrabi, cilantro, and some more lettuce. I also had to replant all my spinach, as it seems some naughty little birdies ate what I had planted 2 weeks ago.
My cabbage and some of the lettuce I planted last time is HUGE! If the weather was nicer, I would start hardening them off, and planting them out! I am going to wait until this cold breaks a bit, then move them into a cooler greenhouse, then it won't be long until I can put them in the garden. Everything I am planting is getting a dose of mycroizzial fungi and EM, right from the beginning. I can't wait to see what kind of difference it makes in the overall health of my plants.

I also got my little chicks in today. There are 34 of them. They are all different colours. I can't wait to see what they all turn out like when they are older! I have them in my bathroom right now. This should help to push me to get my new field coop done soon, so I can move these suckers outside as soon as I can. Not looking forward to the smell! The good news is that I will have more layers by July.

My incubator is all heated up and ready for some eggs. Again, I just have to wait for a break in the weather so I can grab some eggs and start incubating!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snow Day

I had big plans for today. I had actually wiped my calendar clean, and rescheduled all my daycare dogs, so I could go up island today. I wanted to visit my little goats, and mostly I wanted to go start a bunch more seeds in the greenhouse. I don't deal well when a wrench gets put into my plans. It takes me a long time to assimalate and adjust.
It was cloudy this morning, and cold like it's been all week. I had all the dogs out running around first thing, and suddenly there was a flash of light. I thought maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me... I couldn't really figure out where it came from. Almost a minute later, there was a huge boom of thunder. Then it started to snow. Just a few flakes at first, then more and heavier. Sigh. I won't drive when it's snowy out - I just don't want to take the chance that it will get worse, and I won't be able to get home again.
Anyway, in the last couple of hours, we've had about 2" worth. Not as bad as Victoria... they woke up to about a foot of snow this morning. Ugh.
I know it's still February, but I want spring! I am hoping this is winters' last blast. I thought I had planned this day so perfectly, so I wasn't going to be all rush-rush. Now I have to figure out another day to plant seeds. I was also dying to get up and see the stuff I planted last time, see how it is doing.

So, I am getting an unexpected snow day. I am mostly just lazing about, reading a book, doing some laundry. I plugged in my new-for-me incubator, in preparedness of putting some Dorking eggs in there soon.

Some cool things happened yesterday, though. I had a client of mine talk a friend into bringing me some scrap lumber. It is all pieces of plywood. Nice pieces, too! They will be perfect for helping me build my chicken coop and goat shelter. PLUS, my friend Amanda and her hubby helped me to get a truckload of pallets. I am going to use those for my shelters, too. FREE;-) Just my price. I will have to get a few nails and 2x4's to finish the job, but my expenses just went wayyyyy down with these materials. As soon as the white stuff melts, I will get started on the chicken coop. Can't wait! All of a sudden, I will have more work outside than I know what to do with. Hope the weather improves soon, so I can get started!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Controversy....

Well, it looks like I opened a can of worms on my last post. I always post my blog to my facebook page, as some of my friends read the blog, but are not official 'followers'. The following arguement ensued. It actually went on a LOT longer than this, but I will spare you the cat fight! I realize there are always going to be different opinions on any new legislation that happens, but here are my reasons I don't want to have to tag and do paperwork on each and every animal I have:

1. I HATE being micromanaged. I won't even get my dogs tagged with city tags. They have tattoos, and a tag on their collars with my phone number on it. Why the hek does the government think they need to track my dog? It's annoying, and so BIG BROTHERISH, I can't stand it. This is my own personal beef, and has no bearing on any real issue!

2. We need to encourage more small farmers, not make it harder for them/us. I live on a very large island. Only 4% of our food is actually grown here. 50 years ago, it was closer to 90%. If there was some disaster (earthquake, tsunami, etc) which are very real worries here, as we are right on the 'ring of fire' earthquake zone, there is only enough food in the grocery stores to feed everyone for 2-3 days. That's it. Then what? People starve. Small farmers and people who have their own gardens will save the day. We can always hope there will never be a disaster such as this, but look at Haiti and Chile recently. People are starving and dying. Doesn't it make you think a bit?

3. I honestly don't think tracking and tagging animals on small farms would change anything. They track beef cows, and there are still outbreaks of listeria and salmonella. ALL FROM FACTORY FARMS, not from small farmers! The lady below who is arguing FOR tagging farm animals doesn't farm. She doesn't garden much. She gets a friend of hers to raise her chickens and turkeys. Does she think she is exempt from all the paperwork that will ensue? She doesn't have to work full time or run her own business to survive. Some of us small farmers do. Personally, I don't have anyone supporting me. I do everything on the farm here myself. I love it, and wouldn't change it for the world, but it is HARD WORK, long hours, and I don't need more put on my plate.

I'll shut up and stop ranting now. Promise! Fun goat and chicken adventures to follow....;-)


 Person #1 holy shit that is scary stuff. If I had to document each and every animal on this place - where does it end? You want me to tag my aquarium fish too???? Jeez la weez! Feels like the gov't is always trying to crush the little guy :(


Person #2 okay so I took a look at your blog and I have to agree with some of it... especially the tagging of your animals. I realize that it is another expense, but honestly how much is a little tag? and in all reality it is no different than your... dogs getting tags. If one cannot afford it then maybe they should consider not having all the extra animals. Everything comes at a cost, and you have to do it the right way.

and as long as you are able to do it yourself... then it shouldn't be to too bad once you get yourself established and set up.

And with all the things that have happened in regards to salmonella and beef recalls... I think the consumer has the right to know where it came from. And if tagging it is the only way...so be it.

As for going after the big guys that are raising their animals in different ways than yourself... it will never go away. Eggs will always come from crammed in chickens and beef will always come from cows on conveyor belts. It is crappy... but that is what life has been like for years... it will never stop. That doesn't mean it is okay... but it is what people know.

And the last thing... people can't always afford to eat the healthy way... so when we we talk about financial burdens, it is not just the farmer, but what about low income families? Everyone deserves to eat the way that they can afford.

Just my two cents...


Person # 1 again:
I disagree.
The issue is not only the cost of the tag, it is the time it takes to take animals, not to mention the paperwork involved. Keeping a record of an animal is easy - we do it here. We don't tag them because, unlike large scale faci...lities, I know my animals just by looking at them. This would likely require a transfer of ownership each time the animal is sold. Again, paperwork. I can afford to feed my chickens. I feed them nutritious food every day. I talk to them, feed them veggie scraps, lovingly collect their eggs, and praise them for their good work in laying me that egg. Who are you to say I should have less animals because I don't think extra paperwork is necessary to keep my animals healthy and the food they produce nutritious? Even if I DID register/mark/tag/record my animals, It likely wouldn't put an end to any health problems suffered by the general public.

As Kelly says, the recalls are from LARGE scale productions, not small scale farmers. Have you noticed - lysteria outbreak from MAPLE LEAF FARMS, salmonella from LILYDALE. We are Not seeing in the news headlines: "small scale farmer has salmonella outbreak", or "farm-raised eggs kill thousands".

If people can take the time to go to to farmers markets, they will likely find the produce cheaper then at walmart. It hasn't been grown in China. I shop for produce regularly at Red Barn market or Russel farms, or at Crazy Dog Farm. I am happy with the produce, and happy with the price, and I am operating on a minimum-wage part time job as I put myself through 4 years of school.

Yes, there will always be chickens crammed into cages and beef grown in their own shit, that doesn't mean I need to raise that animals under those conditions, nor should I be treated as they are.

And, FYI cattle are already branded and ear tagged before they can be butchered at an abattoir or sold at an auction. Therefore, they are already recorded and the government CAN track where they came from. So far, it hasn't helped. We still have outbreaks of this and that and the other thing.

All in all, I will continue to raise my own food just the way I see fit so long as my animals are happy and healthy and live a productive life. They don't need to be monitored by the government for that to happen.

Oh, and I dont have tags for my dog, either.

Me: One of the joys of buying food from a small, local farmer is that you can go to the farm, see HOW and WHERE your food is raised. Make certain you are satisfied with the conditions the animals are raised in. You can ask questions of the farmer. You can't do that with factory farms. You have no clue where or how that animal is raised.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Eye-Opening Meeting

A few weeks ago, I went to my first Cowichan Agricultural Society meeting. (CAS for short). What an eye opener that was! There are things that are going on behind the scenes in our wonderful country that people need to know about, and we need to get informed about. Yet, most people (myself included) are not even aware we need to be aware!
The two things that really stand out to me are these: 
1. The government, in all their wisdom, wants to start metering the water we take out of our own wells. I get that we all need to conserve, and watch how much water we are using. The last two summers have taught me that much! BUT, as a farmer, we make so little money as it is, now we have to not only PAY to have the wells dug and maintained, but then have to continue to pay for what we need to make a living? There is also some other issue to do with selling water rights on your land to another user. I have forgotten the details of that, but it didn't sound so friendly, either. My take is this: we need water to survive. If you are in the city, and the city has paid to get water to your home, then paying for what you use is acceptable. Water is a necessity of life. We need it. The government does NOT own the groundwater. The people as a whole own the groundwater, and we should have a say in how it is used.

2. The government also wants to track each and every animal we have on our farms. I can understand a bit, as there have been problems with egg recalls (salmonella) and beef recently. These recalls have originated with those so called 'farmers' who have feed lots, and caged birds. I've never heard of a person getting sick or dying from a home-grown, healthily raised animal from a small farm. Tracking each and every chicken and duck would put even more financial pressure on the small farmer, more paperwork, more time, when really what the government needs to do is crack down on the business' that raise their animals in an unhealthy way. Caged chickens that barely have enough room to turn around in, and cows crammed into a feed lot, being fed unhealthy corn and living in their own feces. It seems to me that the government needs to separate feed lot operations from the small farmer, and have different rules and regulations for both. It just doesn't make sense to lump us all in together.

So, I ended up joining the CAS, and will be attending every meeting I can get to throughout the year. I feel a growing need to get informed, and maybe even be a voice for doing what is right, and taking action for raising and growing our food in as a natural and healthy way as possible.

I sort of feel like my life may be turning in directions I have never even considered, and being informed of these issues can only help me in my new farming way of life.

Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!