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.