Monday, December 08, 2014

The Year Of The

Exactly.  What happened this year?  The well ran dry.

For the first time that anyone can remember our spring fed well ran dry.  It was an extremely dry summer with very little moisture following a winter with far less snow.  Nothing says work like having to truck water in.  And pack it to the animals.  It happened just as we were transitioning from mud to ice.  The well has made a comeback but we are still taking usage waste prevention measures.  Like " if it's yellow let it mellow ".  Next spring will bring the start of water year where we explore separating the house water from the animal and garden needs.  Eave troughs to collect any rainwater that falls for the garden.  Changing three toilets to the low flow type. The biggest project just might be a water line from our pond down to the barn connection.

 That's a whole lot of digging but we will be assured of water.  Hopefully a lot of snow and a wet spring will bring the water table back up.  I actually pay for water rights on a river I have never seen, that flows into our pond.  It flows underground now.

This year we switched to Orlop Bronze turkeys.

They have done really well.  Unfortunately coyotes managed to break into a pen and killed nine of them before Hurley the distracted guardian of the flock managed to give them the bums rush.  He even came back to the pen with one dead Turkey in his mouth.  He knew where that Turk belonged, and it was not in a coyotes den. Next year we plan on increasing the herd.  An avian flu disaster down at the Coast where we get our poults from might require us to get them from Alberta.

Ditto Meat Birds.  We tried a new variety this year, the Ross bird.

It grows phenomenally well and we had a couple of hundred processed by October.  Lesson learned this year:  As we use tractors and keep the birds outside in runs we need to have the last of them done while it is still warm.  I.E. only one run during the warm summer months.  This year is got very cold early and we lost a pile of them due to them smothering each other trying to keep warm.  A heater and tarp solved that problem but I don't want to have to heat the birds to keep them growing.  I want to free range my birds, not confine them to a barn.

We've enjoyed using our "New" old skid steer.

It's a real work horse that we depend upon to do the heavy work around the place, plowing the driveway, lifting logs and grain bags. Didn't much like starting in the -28 so we had to cover it, plug in a block heater and battery blanket.

We have piglets sprouting all over the place. We were hoping for a contract with a restaurant in Prince George but nothing has come of that so we are feeding a lot of extra mouths.

Were trying out different feed, as they seem to waste a lot of chopped grain.  And it will be a while before they can get any nutrients from the fields.  Going to do an experiment with sprouted grains to give the Chickens and Pigs some greens over the winter season.

The doggies are doing well and don't seem to mind the cold at all.  The do get to sleep indoors at night, but sometimes it takes a bit to coax them in.


Still, this time of year they don't get to snuggle with Dad unless they come indoors!
Stay warm.  If you don't know how to do some of our house cats will demonstrate!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spring has Sprung

I can tell 'cuz I have to have the truck in four wheel drive to get it around my driveway.

We are transitioning to Berkshires.  The Royal Pig.  Here are a couple of princesses having a late morning nap.

 Having found a plentiful supply of nice gravel on the property we built an all weather road to the loading ramp at the barn.  Had some scary moments trying to extricate the skidsteer from the late spring mud bog that was there previously.  Now, with the addition of a new gate customers can drive right up to the loading dock.  Makes loading piglets a whole lot easier.  Mind you with the P.E.D. scare down south and now back east in Canada we may have to re-think our bio-security procedures.
Of course any road bulding job requires a supervisor..
 The road goes to this loading dock.  This is just the graded underlay before the gravel was applied.  20 loads of gravel and a road that won't suck your gumboots off when you walk on it.  The skid steer can get supplies to the barn in a pouring rainstorm without getting stuck.  Ah, progress.
 We put a culvert in right where the wet area was so run off from the roof isn't a problem anymore.

I really like this old wagon.  Lord knows how old it is.  It was all hand hewn.  Was someones big work saver around homestead time I will bet.
 Not a great picture, but those are three eagles waiting for me to get out of the area so they can enjoy some cow remnants.

This is a gravel sample pit.  Nice angular gravel with sandy fines and very little clay.  I was grinning from ear to ear.  another 120 loads and the whole place should be nicely gravelled.

We have twenty turkeys and 40 layers in the incubator.  With another 100 meat birds coming todays job is to make a few more brooders.  I have been using 500 litre plastic containers split in half - I'll post that as I build it.

Hope your having a great day.



Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Foggy Hollow

We are having a very strange weather pattern.  It's deep January but the temperature is only around 5C ( 41F).  We've had over a week of fog.  The old timers say they have never seen anything like this.  The ice fog precipitates and turns the most mundane of objects into graceful art work. I think it is astonishingly beautiful.




The tree's become studies in black and white:


We're prepared for snow.  It's not really a bother.  But the warm weather causes our carefully plowed kilometer long driveway to turn into a sheet of ice.  Ice that at times has a film of water on it.  Treacherous.  I tried six times the other day in our 4X4 truck equipped with brand new studded winter tires to make it up a right angled hill.  I succeeded on try number six, and it was touch and barely go.

Today we've got some snow coming down. If it keeps up it will add weight to the already ice covered trees.  Fortunately the ice on the trees are crystals and not the thick sheets we had several years ago that permanently bent some of the birches on the edge of our South field. Our skid steer is sitting in the shop patiently waiting for a heater, and the snow chains to be re-tightened.  It's been out of action while I waited for some parts to be shipped from the other side of the country so I am very excited to get it back on the road.


 Especially so now that we have a six way grader blade attachment.  It has a scarifier blade edge on it.  That's a blade designed to cut grooves in the ice giving the road a bit more traction.

One of our 10 sows gave birth to eight healthy little piglets a few days ago.


Mom is taking very good care of them.  We didn't get her into a farrowing stall and she had them in the main barn sty.  We just put a fence up around her and all is well.  The other pigs are very curious and line up against the fence for a peak at the babies.

I am contemplating growing some oats, barley and pea shoots in the greenhouse to supplement the animals winter rations.  Spring time I want to have an acre or so growing to provide fodder for the meat chickens that will be kept in movable pens ala Joel Salatins  tractors.

Well I think my to do list is quite a bit bigger than my to done list so perhaps I better get at it.

Hope you take time today to notice the beauty around you.






Thursday, January 02, 2014

Reflections

It's been quite a while since I've updated this blog. It's not that I haven't been up to a few projects this year its simply that l been doing updating on various social media and not aggregating it in this blog.

We've just come out of our first cold snap- a couple of weeks of -20, with its usual pipe freeze ups. A trial run before the deep chill of late December through February. However,  I was reminded just recently that "only fools and newcomers predict the weather." We've been here coming on 10 years now,  so we're still newcomers.  I think it takes at least two decades before were living in the Blomquist place- but what the heck, we're not going anyplace.

I think there comes a time when a Homestead needs to make a decision about where it is going. We seem to have reached that point. Expand the farm,  or shrink it back to a hobby farm.  Our worry was that we wouldn't be able to sale what we could produce.  Thankfully, so far that's not been a big problem.

We've been doing a lot of research on the farming gig.  A lot of hoops to jump through.  Most of it, total crap designed to keep the small producer out of the game.  If I was the teeniest bit paranoid I would think it's all set up to keep food Co in business.

increasing the pigs mean more bedding . Fortunately hay was plentiful and relatively inexpensive. The most expensive was $3.00 and we scored a 100 bales for $1.00.  We picked up an old John Deere in good running order complete with bucket and it came with a good heavy disk and working baler. Were short a rake and a way to Whack it down from making our own.  We scored a hay elevator and could easily put the winters supply in the hay lofts.  This year we stored it outside 9 to a pallet and shift it with a Skid steer equipped with forks.   We've been making do with an an old Case Skid Steer but it needs a complete hydraulic rebuild so we replaced it with a newer diesel unit that came with a dirt bucket, 4 way bucket, a 6 way grader blade, log grapple, rototiller and a sweeper.   It will make chores and driveway maintenance a bit easier. 
We raised 100 meat birds. As you can tell we had lots of help from the doggies and didn't lose a single one to predators. We used the chicken tractor shown, but added another set of retractable wheels for ease of moving. The Cornish Cross's are an amazing grower. They convert half of their food intake to succulent meat. We raised two batches,  and left the second batch get a bit too big.  We dined on a 10.5 pounder for at least four meals!

The pig herd keeps growing.  We have three boars now.  Two Berkshires and Polka Dot our Duroc/Berkshire cross. 



 Right now he's on loan to a fellow farmer.  We have our doubts about Berkie, our two year old boar.  Does a lot of going through the motions but I think the big Yorkshire sows are just too big for him.  And he has something not right with his rear legs so we just recently picked up another boar who is a handsome 3 month old fellow.  Right now he takes over Polka Dot's den and yard just incase of any territorial trouble with the resident Berkie.  Besides we want to introduce him gradually to the other.  So in total we have Two berkshire boars, one Duroc/Berkshire boar, Five Berk gilts, Three Berk barrows ,Five Yorkshire sows and one Yorkshire gilt.  So that's a total of 17 oinkers.  Or as Jo-Ann likes to call them: Peeeegs.  That is, when their being well behaved! Otherwise a few adjectives get added on.  Our plan is to sale the yorkshire weiners come spring and make a whole lot of bacon, ham and sausage for the local farmers market.

This was our first year of farrowing our own piglets.  Great experience with some downer moments but I suppose that's life on the farm.


If were going to make any money selling them we have to lower our input costs and buying weiners at $85 and up just isn't cost effective. We are trying to lower our feed costs but that is going to involve a whole 'nother adventure: growing our own grain.  Next year were going to vastly increase the size of the gardens so we have Turnips, Spuds, Carrots and perhaps Mangles to feed them over the winter.  Of course that will demand a commercial size cold storage unit.  Were thinking a buried 40 foot container.

We tried some Turkeys this year. 

 Got them with the last set of meat bird chickens and kept them with them till about four weeks then moved them to their own enclosure. Generally it went well.  Lost one to an undetermined predator, and one, a big tom to a respiratory illness.  So were going to try some more next year - but were thinking of doing them in a turkey tractor.  Next week we're going to process the remaining  turkey hens as they are all destined to adorn someones Christmas table. 







Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Did The Cornish Giant Cross the Road

To get to the tractor!  Scratch for delectables, feel grass between their toes,  build up those drum sticks, fertilize the field - lot's of reasons really.  And they are all important to building a plump, chemical free, juicy, tasty freezer filling chicken. Need I say more?

Here's the Chicken Motor Home.  They quite liked the ride down the road, over the gate, and into the pasture.
The Chicken Tractor: the pile of wood is just waiting for the wood storage balcony to be built.

Always great to sit around and admire our handiwork after the project is done!


Last night we stood on the balcony transfixed with the light show surrounding us. Spectacular against a backdrop of dark purple. Great streaks of energy criss crossing in mesh patterns.  Walls of light.  The darkness punctuated by sizzling bolts seemingly giving Joseph's mountain some primordial shock therapy. Acupuncture by lightning.  A blood red glow low to the Southwest,  not the latest fire but an illusion created by a crescent moon peering through smoke. After the show- a drenching of rain.  The first real moisture in a month.  As I stood listening to the drumbeat of the downpour I could hear the fields soaking it up.  Almost a sighing of thankfulness after a month of no rain.

No reports of any new fires.  But there is a haze of smoke on the mantle of Joseph's Mountain across the valley.  The trailers are hooked to vehicles, only a precaution. But I may just buy a fire pump this week.  The backpack sprayers I have hanging in the storage shed are only useful for containing small fires and it's been several years since we've had to use those.

I am considering purchasing a T-9 Dozer from a neighbour.  He says it's very helpful around the garden and want's to build a direct road across our adjoining fields between our houses.  To make the daily coffee breaks more efficient.

A little paint and some WD-40 lubricant and it would be as good as new.

I love barnwood.  For one, it's wood!  No plastic.  It's reusable and it has a beauty all it's own.  Here's one of my favorite uses for it as window trim.


The top board reminds me of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night:


Interesting too, how we spend fortunes on paint to cover outbuildings to protect it from the elements.  Yet look at the patina on the barn logs after 70 years.  The logs are still sound.  I even saw a commercial product for sale in our local hardware that purports to do the same thing only quicker.

Hope you are having some starry nights.  It's the Perseids Meteor shower after all! Enjoy.




Sunday, August 11, 2013

Turkeys

Just finished the summer version of the Turkey Palace.  It's set in about a quarter of an acre behind a stucko wire fence.




They sure seem to like it.  Next year were considering a Turkey Tractor, a mobile big enough to cart over our pastures.

While Jo was in Britain some erstwhile volunteers and I whacked about 60 chickens.  Most of them Cornish Giant meat birds that we grew in a Chicken Tractor, ala, Salatin.  Thing I've learned:

Lots of help is required

Water temperature = 147 and it's critical

A prewash speeds the process


First time I've tried that on such a scale.  Went so well were about to do it again with another fifty.  Astonishing birds.  I have never seen anything grow so fast.  They are delicious also.  We had our first one three meals ago.  A nine pounder.  We let them grow a little large.  This was a load of hay, 100 bales that Brother Tom and I pulled into the yard.  It's waiting for the hay elevator to get a motor and some barn mods to make it into the loft.

It's been a busy summer.  And a hot one.  Last night it was 24C at midnight.  Pretty warm for these climes.  It's very dry also.  No moisture to speak of in a month.  This has caused the forests to be tinder dry and the sound of fire fighting bombers and helicopters have been filling the skys.  The smell of smoke is in the air, particularly at night.


Hope your having a great week.  We are trying to get all the work done before noon so we don't have to work in the afternoon heat.  Remember that around here, 32C is blistering to people who wear thermal underwear for six months of the year.

Hope your rolling in the daisies!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm Back!

Haven't been posting anything for a while.  A combination of moving to different technology - tablets and hand helds  and having my Laptop getting a keyboard replaced.  All nice and spiffy now. But the spell check is not working in Blogger so that should make it interesting.

Been wondering about the whole farming thing.  Attending a lot of of courses and reading the farmers messiah, Joel Salatin.  He's been an amazing inspiration.  Here's our new chicken tractor based on his design.  This one has adjustable trailer wheels cuz I was too lazy to build his simple lift and puller.  I will do that when I build some more tractors.  This one comes with a built in spilt feed cleaner!
    As you might be able to tell.  This lot's about ready for some processing.  I am getting an urge for baked chicken!  Had a couple of roosters fall prey to what I think was a fox.  Last night all the dogs and I slept out on the veranda to keep a watch.  Well, I tried to sleep.  The Doggies serenaded me all night long!  But no casualties.  I'm hoping that fox learned his lesson!  

Back later with more.  But right now theres five weiners that are squealing for apples!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Penned In



Back from a trip down south.  While I was away one of our Sows decided it was time to bring forth some new piggies into the midst.  So Jo-Ann, with the help of some friendly neighbours got to handle the event.



Fortunately, we've kept track of all the breeding dates of the five sows we currently have and can figure out when they should farrow.  Job last before I left was to get Peg the Pig into a farrowing stall we had built.  In a hurry we just screwed a pallet across the back of a stall to make a safe area for the little piglets.  Complete with heat lamp it makes a pretty comfy place with no danger of the Mom laying on the piglets.


We lost five of the litter of eight.  A pretty tough blow.  The cause seems to be that the piglets got away from the mom and got too cold.  The culprit is suspected to be too much hay.

Picking up from that tragedy we have been building new stalls with farrowing rails.  We're waiting for the next four sows to give birth and as their due dates come up we put them in farrowing stalls.  It's still plenty cold outside and there wouldn't be any suitable place for them yet.





The farrowing rails inside keep the piglets from getting squished.



The rails were made from recycled logs that we used for the pen in the 80 year old hand built log barn.  Reuse recyle.... that's our motto. And you can't beat the price.  Speaking of which.... can you believe it cost $15 in screws just to screw the thing together!?! 

This shows the piglet creep area at the back of the stall.  Mamma can see 'em, but she can't get at 'em.




This  is the 2 x 4 walkway over top of the creeps, so we can walk along the back without going into the pen.  They are removable.  We can lift them up and hang heat lamps down to warm their little butts.  Nothing says comfortable like a warm butt.


No butts about it!  Hope you're having a great week!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Snow Storm



It's April 6th and I am sitting at our kitchen table at 8:30 in the morning.  It's a struggle  to see the trees at the Southern edge of our front property due to a blinding blizzard.  This has been going on for two days now.  A couple of days ago we were congratulating ourselves over getting through another winter and planning on putting away the long johns, and how it looked like the balmy days were here again.  Plus 10 temperatures.  Mother Nature may have taken slight at being taken for granted.

The three bird feeders off the front balcony are filled with Juncos, their feathers all fluffed up against the driving Eastern snow.  It's only -5c but it seems a lot colder.  It's certainly long john season again.  For a while anyway.

The snow will put a bit of a damper on the pig feeder project.  I was hoping to get that done before my trip to the coast.

It was mud season a couple of days ago so I built a couple of pallet walks to the green house and barn.


I can never get enough pallets and the pictures will give you an idea why.  Jo-Ann even bought me a book on nifty pallet projects: Wood Pallet Projects by Chris Gleason, filled with inspirational ideas.  Keeping with my theme of recycle and re-use there isn't much that can't be built with a little ingenuity.

My four main recycle items are glass windows, tires, pallets and five gallon buckets.

The glass is perfect for shed projects and hot boxes.  We grow food and flowers in the truck tires.  Pallets are used from everything to walkways to furniture, and five gallon buckets are used for animal feeders and grain.

The house sure smells nice.  Filled with the wonderful aroma of dog food.


 Oh, I know, but this dog food is made with 100% organic beef chunks, some added pig lard, oats and barley. No crap.


 The doggies love it, and it's sure a lot better for them than the packaged cardboard, fortified with entrails and chicken feathers kibble that comes in those cool looking bags.

We save all our pork fat.  Jo-Ann makes lard from it.  Beat's Crisco hands down!


Hope you're doing well, and the snow shoeing is just for recreation!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bolting

The spinach, that is.  I've become resigned to the fact that I am unable to grow spinach in the green house.  Even in the winter time it gets too warm.  I planted spinach several weeks ago and when I checked yesterday it was six inches high and starting to bolt.  As I have suspected for a while now, I can grow tomatoes or lettuce in the same green house during the winter months but not both..

We've just had over a foot of snow fall in mid March.  And it looks like it's not over yet.  It's time to start putting plastic covers on the tire garden and melting the snow.  As soon as I can work the soil, perhaps in as little as a week, I can start planting spinach and lettuce outside.

I haven't been doing much on this blog as of late.  We have decided to become an actual, farm and so have been setting up our business.  Our Website is www.savoryfarm.ca.  We also have a Facebook page.  I have been astonished at the business it has brought in.  Hopefully we'll be able to fulfill all the requests for weiners and full grown feeders in a month or so.  It sounds like it's going to be a busy spring.

What is our operating philosophy to be.  Well, I've been reading a lot of Joel Salatin lately and talking with some local organic farmers.  That should tell you the general direction were taking.  The organic food market in B.C. is largely untapped and local organic suppliers cannot get enough B.C. farmers to supply them and are going as far east as New Brunswick to replenish their stocks.  That's the Atlantic seaboard.. Clear across the country.  Like shipping lettuce from New York to California!

The hoops to garnering a certified organic status seem prodigious at times.  A process that can take as long as three years.  We're hoping it won't take that long as the land we have, probably a hundred acres of tillable soil, hasn't been used for anything but cattle grazing for the last twenty years or so.

Anyway stay tuned.  It promises to be an exciting year.