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


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 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.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seed Planting Season

I started the seed planting season yesterday! I went up to the greenhouse, and planted mega seeds. I told Elliot I would probably do about 20 flats (each flat holds 96 seedlings). I ended up doing over 40. I just couldn't stop! My cousin lent me her manual on SPIN farming (Small Plot INtensive), and now I am all over-enthused. My theory is this: I can't make the sales, if I don't have the product! I am just going to grow as much as I can cram into my gardens, and keep cramming stuff in until I make the sales I need to.

This time, I planted leeks, a few onions, mesculin, several different lettuces, spinach, lavender, tarragon, italian parsley, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  I will go up about every 2 weeks to plant more. And more. And more. :-)

I also planted my fava beans outside this week.

Does this mean it's spring??!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

What's New in Poultry!

I am trying very hard to teach myself a valuable lesson. The lesson is this: If you have a good plan, STICK TO IT. Don't be a dumbass, panic, and move away from the plan!
I had my awesome chicken/poultry plan this year. I had arranged to get all my chicks and poults in at the same time, so I would only have to brood once. Smart, eh? It would be, if I stuck to it!
Lately my eggs have been selling like hotcakes. I've had to tell people no. I hate telling people no!! So, I panicked and got Amanda to put 20 eggs into the incubator for me. THEN, I realized... DUH, they won't all be hens! So I upped it to 40. At least they are dual purpose...
So, in about 2 weeks, I will have 40 chicks coming. It is too cold out, so I will have to start brooding them inside. Ugh, smelly! Then, I realized I still need to build my new coop out in the pasture, so I can move my other laying hens out there, and let the one coop regrow and recover before I put new chickens into it. I've got my work cut out for me!

About a week and a half ago I moved a bunch of my Dorking hens into the coop with my 2 new roosters, so they can start fertilizing eggs. I plan on putting a bunch of them into my new-for-me incubator and hatching a bunch. I will hopefully sell a few, and keep some for myself.
A couple of days ago, the roosters started trying to kill each other. I actually thought one had died yesterday, but he was just playing dead until the other left him alone. So, I put the poor loser into the duck pen, so he could recover. I went to a heritage turkey meeting yesterday, and they said that 3 males was the magic number. 2 would kill each other, but if you had a third, it would be enough of a distraction, that the fights wouldn't get so out of hand. When I have enough males, I will try it. I would really love to get some fertile eggs happening!

My muscovy ducks are starting to lay already! I've had over a dozen eggs now. I will have enough to start selling the odd dozen soon, then I will start harvesting them and put them into the incubator. I am hoping to get a lot of use out of this incubator! I can't wait to use it!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Too much to do, so little time to do it...

I have been having a huge struggle lately, just trying to fit everything into the day that I need to do. For the last three weeks or so, I have been operating on overdrive. Go go gogogogogo... Every moment of every day seems to be filled up with appointments, or work, or gardening, or work, or errands or work. I haven't had time to even sit down and watch the tube much. This is supposed to be my 'relaxing' time of year, so I can recharge my batteries for the spring season. I am not recharging very well right now. I am downright exhausted.

I was able to get a load of soil last week. This is my fourth load of soil I've brought in to the farm. I will need one, maybe 2 more truckloads, then I'm DONE. I will just keep building it up with compost and manure. So, in addition to all the meetings and appointments and other things I've been doing, in my 'spare' time, I've been making more raised row beds. Hay, manure, soil, more hay on top. That's my recipe!

This week, things should calm down a bit. The dog boarding is on slow motion right now, so that should free up some time to get some good gardening done. I hope. Just looked at tomorrow's schedule... it's full, too. Sigh. I need some downtime soooon, or it will be too late!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Still the Magic Rat...

I came home last night from an agricultural meeting to find my RatZapper had finally caught something! I was so excited!  The little red light was blinking away, and I thought I had finally won the battle...
I checked the trap. The bait was gone, and nothing was in the trap. GRRRRRRRR!!!! I couldn't believe it! Nothing traps this blankety-blank rat!
So, I thought maybe the batteries I put it in were bad or something. I put in brand new, fresh batteries, and some new bait (I am using chicken feed now) and reset the trap.
Today, I have caught 2 mice. It's not the rat, but I do feel like it's a step forward! Two less mice to chew up the inside of my house. Yay! Not a complete victory, but definitely satisfying nonetheless!

Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!