Friday, June 21, 2013


Miss Mildred is out loose.  She likes to follow me.  She likes to follow me as I weed and pull grass for the birds.  She likes to eat beside me as I work.  She likes to steal out of my bucket instead of picking her own!

Then she follows me to the turkey pen.  She whimpers as I take my bucket to the birds.  Have you ever heard a cow whimper?  It's like a moo crossed with a sigh.  I tell her to pick her own.

She guards the garden gate while I work.  I won't let her inside without being tied, and she keeps breaking things when she's tied.  So she stands outside the gate and waits for me.

kymber nailed it.  Good dog!

Little Maurine in her pretty new yellow halter.  She hates it.  The boys got new halters too, but they had halters before, just bigger ones now.  Maurine was halter-less and thought she was special.  She has no idea how special she really is.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Perennial Bed/Fake Hugelkultur Update

This was the front of the perennial bed last year, after weeding, adding wood and composted manure around mostly established plants.

This year, same bed, so far.  It's been badly neglected this spring, but I am working on it.
 I am mulching with bark and wood chips from the basement floor as I get things weeded again.  Weeds are still easy to pull in the beds, and getting easier in some spots.

The asparagus in this bed is much thicker this year and providing us with regular treats- not quite enough for a meal, but definitely getting there.  The lupins are getting ready to flower.  There's a patch of pennyroyal that survived the winter, no sign of the thyme yet.

Jacob's Ladder seems well established, about to flower after the long winter.

Rhubarb is coming along nicely.  It must be double the size of last year, and I think it tastes sweeter this year.  Almost ready for the second picking.

Speedwell well established, spreading and flowering already.

This grassy looking plant- I think it was here before I arrived- is flowering this year.  No idea what it is.

Canadian Columbine is well established.  This is a northern native plant, transplanted from the woods.

It's flowering between the branches of the forsythia.  The nearly dead forsythia.  Not that it's really dead, but 6 years or better without pruning has not done it any favours.  I think there were only two branches that flowered this spring, and the centre of the bush is dry and brittle.  I'll be pruning it back significantly this year.

Another surprise.  What is this?  I think it must be a native plant.  It's growing alongside the columbine, where I had transplanted another native plant that didn't survive.  I think the root or seed must have been in that soil.  It's cute, whatever it is.

And behind it, a strawberry.  Probably a wild woodland strawberry (small, sweet berries), but it seems happy here.

A bit of branch got buried under last year's compost and seems to have taken root.  A new bush is coming up just a foot away from the old one.  I'm undecided yet whether to leave it there, try to move it, or remove it.

Still lots to weed, mulch and discover.  I bought a few herbs at the nursery that will be going in.  None of my perennial seedlings that I started this year have survived to be transplanted.  Some strange looking plants are growing in the side bed where I added seed last year.  I haven't found my notes or attempted to identify them yet.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Getting Motivated

The Bigs put up the temporary fence between the chicken coop and the barn.  That's Toothless behind the fence, looking much prettier and much less evil without his winter fur.  He has a bit of an attitude right now- Nelly's in heat.  Overall though, when none of the girls are in heat, he's still pretty much a big baby.  I'm reconsidering butchering him this fall.

This is where we'll be digging down to the water pump.  You can see that it's still a muddy mess.  The water to the coop has been shut off in the basement for over a month now, and this area still hasn't dried out.  The plan for now is to dig it out, then cap off the pipe where it splits off to the barn.  Hopefully that will solve the problem.  We'll have a better idea once it's dug out.  For now the critters will be kept at a safe distance, and the boys will have a safe work area.  Well, except for the goats, who have yet to meet a fence they can't go over/under/around or through.  I won't be surprised to find a goat or two in the hole from time to time.
Mary Jane and Max

 The calves are doing well on pasture, Mildred, and 4 bottles per day.
They like to sleep in the original turkey shack (it was here before we bought the farm), so I guess my plans to tear it down are on hold once again.  It's not really a problem, just an eye sore, although it does contribute to the snow build up on top of the hay lean-to. 

Mildred seems to be part goat as well.  It seems we were spending more time catching her and putting her away and patching the fence than we did even with Casper.  We now have five strands of barbed wire on the yard fence, better gates, and a cow who still gets out and wanders four or five times a day.  She doesn't wander far, and isn't hard to catch, and was actually at the point that we'd find her grazing in the backyard or the ditches, tell her to get back in the yard, and she'd put herself away. 

The yard grass was getting pretty short, so we tried tying her out in the back yard on a stake.  First she broke her halter.  Then she broke the lunge line.  Then she pulled the stake out of the ground.  Every time she broke free she had had enough of the long grass and was on her way back to the side yard to feed her calves.

Finally, the other day as we came back to the house with a load of firewood, she was out in the ditch.  I drove past her, parked my quad in front of the wood shed, and put my chainsaw away.  I was about to go and get her when she walked up the driveway to see what we were doing.  She stood there eating the long grass in front of the wood shed while we unloaded.  I pushed her out of the way a couple of times (she was blocking the door), and kept talking to her as we unloaded.  We left her there when we finished, and watched her put herself away about fifteen minutes later.  I didn't think we'd ever have a friendlier cow than Nelly, but it seems a milk cow has a very distinct personality of her own.

At that point I gave up.  She isn't going anywhere, at least not for long, so what is the point of trying to keep her fenced in?  We opened up the gate, so now she is free to wander.  She goes in the backyard, or out by the garden, eats her fill, and returns to the hay lean-to to chew her cud.  With the side gate open she is staying out of the ditches, which is probably safer than when she was sneaking out, so, so be it.

I still want to finish the fence from the edge of the turkey pen to the corner of the yard, and put gates across the driveways, to try to discourage her from going out on the road, but for now I'm giving her the freedom to mow the lawn as she pleases.  Over night she still gets locked up in the chicken pen.


The last batch of chicks I incubated are doing well.  They've doubled in size.  I was out of chick starter when they hatched (the larger birds are on a mix of cut corn and duck grower, along with all the weeds and bugs they can eat).  I took equal parts corn, oats, barley and ground them up in the magic bullet.  I added some pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, and oatmeal.  They're doing well on it, along with a handful of weeds every day.

Notes from Daddy
Grease is cheap and easier to apply than fixing mechanical parts.  A trailer hitch is a ball joint and ball joints need grease.  I greased my quad today, including the trailer hitch.  I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing, so I just gobbed grease on anything that looked like it should have it, or used to have it, or might rub. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Garden Update

 I'm still moving in slow motion, just puttering enough to keep myself busy, without any real goals or ambitions for keeping the family fed this winter.
 Greenhouse One has a mixture of tomatoes I started from seed and some I bought.  I had trouble with the seedlings this year for various reasons.  The biggest plants are only about 8 inches tall and not very thick.  With only 12 weeks left (84 days) until fall frost date, I'm not expecting much from them.

Peppers are crisscrossed with the tomatoes.  All but two are my own.  They did better as seedlings, but then, just days before they went outside, the tray was knocked over by a dog.  The labels scattered and I don't have a clue which peppers are where.  Two of the peppers I brought in the house last fall survived the winter and are in the right front corner now, still in pots.
Between the tomatoes and peppers I scattered companion seed, and then just fluffed the soil a bit with my fingers.  Onions, radishes, carrots...  there may have been something else, I don't remember.

Cucumbers are just starting to come up in the centre, along with a couple of sunflowers.  I'm disappointed in the sunflower germination, so far anyway.
 I changed the growing plan again.  This year I planted about 2-3 feet around the outside, along with two feet down the centre.  Technically it should give me about a two foot walkway on each side, so we'll see if it still becomes a jungle.
 Greenhouse Two also has the centre line of cucumbers and sunflowers.  Bad I know, same spots as last year.  Greenhouse Three and Four are on hold for the time being.

A few carrots overwintered, so I left them in to see if they'll go to seed.

I planted short rows from the outside wall to the first log- brassicas.  Two or three types of cabbage, some broccoli, cauliflower, kale...  Notes are kind of non-existent this year.
I haven't done anything on the other side yet. The weeds are healthy though.  I have one tray of mixed seedlings left in the house that I think I'll put in there.
The garden looks more like a hay field than a garden.  In fact, I'm planning to tie Mildred in here to clean it up somewhat.  Then I'll toss buckwheat seed, as about 2/3rds won't be planted this year.  I put in 6 rows of potatoes, 4 rows of beans, 2 rows of beets, and two rows of peas. 

I put some strawberries in on the new hugelkultur row, not enough to fill it, but those seedlings weren't great either.  I might buy a few more plants if I can find them.

The first hugelkultur bed still sits mostly empty.  There is some garlic.  No signs of life from the potatoes, beets, or mangels I had left in it for seed last fall.  If I get ambitious I might plant some brassicas in it.

No squash, no pumpkins, no melons, no corn...  I hope I made the right decision.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The New Batch

I hatched 6 this time. One has a splayed leg though, and didn't make it.  Not great. I checked some of the remaining eggs to see what might have been. They were pretty stinky.  I think at least a third of them had started developing.

I bought enough eggs from two neighbours to fill the incubator, along with the eggs I had from our hens. That's 41 eggs in and six chicks out. 4 are from our hens, 2 from one neighbour, and none from the other. Both neighbours had washed and refrigerated the eggs before I bought them.

The water dried up a couple of times due to neglect, and one egg had cracked at some point, leaving lovely cooked rotten egg stench and whatever germs behind.

So all in all, five is pretty good I guess.  I will try again in a couple of days.  I want to get another dozen or so eggs from the neighbour whose eggs hatched.

A week or two ago, I moved the other chicks out to the turkey shack.  Bad idea.  At least one of the dogs got in when we went for a load of hay.  I'm sure it was a dog, as there haven't been any foxes before or since this year.  There were two dead chicks laying on the floor when I got back.  Not too much damage.

Except...  the terrified chicks were all piled in the corners.  When I finally got them calmed down and spread out, the dead pile was pretty high.  Then we lost a few more overnight, probably from internal injuries.  In the end, we lost 48 birds.

Dogs were all tied up for a few days afterward- mostly because I couldn't stand the sight of them- and reinforcements were made to the pen.  We used fence post staples to fasten logs to the bottom of the wire all the way around the pen.  It'll keep the dogs/foxes from lifting up the fence and going under, at least until they decide to dig.  We put rocks around the base of the turkey shack to discourage critters from digging their way inside as well.

Since we've had so much trouble with dogs and foxes over the past five years, we've decided to take drastic measures.  We are now llama shopping.

I've been reading lots, but I'm still pretty fuzzy on what to do with it when we find one.  Everything says they have heightened sensitivity to dogs and coyotes, but not all make good guards.  I have no idea how to pick one out.  I considered a livestock guardian dog, since I know much more about dogs, but I'm afraid the pack mentality might take over and I'd end up with a chicken killing livestock guardian dog. 

All I know for sure at this point, is that I want a young one to start with, 'cause the only contact I've ever had was when the neighbour's adult male broke loose and came to visit.  He snuck up behind me in the driveway and scared the tar out of me.

I'm slowly getting back into routine.  I planted a bit in the greenhouses, and just potatoes, peas and beans in the garden.  I want to put in a couple rows of beets, and then I think I'm done for this year.  I harvested the chives and set them to dry.  I picked the rhubarb and made a batch of juice.  Asparagus is coming in slowly, so I check it every couple of days.  The boys picked about a billion dandelion flowers and I plucked them all and started two new batches of wine.

The boys are keeping me busy, with year end stuff at school and cadets.  I volunteered to do some web design for the cadets as well.  That's going really well.  It keeps my mind off things for a while.

Busy with Mom a lot.  It's hard to leave her alone.  We have lots of work to do at her place too, but it's harder there.  She's started coming over to our place on her own now, by quad.  She doesn't drive.  She goes with me to drop the boys off and pick them up on their various adventures.  We're managing, I guess.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my last post.  I won't be going back there to reply.  Those of you who've lost a parent know what I'm feeling.  It's such an immense pain.  It helps to know I'm not alone, that you understand.  It also makes me feel like such a bonehead for all the stupid things I must have said to people in the past.  You just don't know until you know.  And if you don't know, I hope you don't find out for many, many years to come.  Just cherish the time you have.