Sunday, July 28, 2013

Elderberry Season

We went out and picked our first batch of elderberries for the year the other day.  I was a couple of days late, as the birds had already eaten more than their share!  Dad found this particular patch of elderberry bushes in the woods last year, and didn't even tell me about them!  Lol.  Mom let the cat out of the bag after I stumbled upon them myself.

These bushes are out in the sun, the area they're in far less overgrown than where I usually pick, and probably a good two weeks ahead of my usual patch.

Red elderberries grow in this area. 

You can still tell that they're ripe when the stems turn from light green to purple.  We snap the stems off the bushes and toss them into a five gallon pail. 

Back at the house the whole pail goes in the freezer.  The bucket gets a good shake a few times a day, which knocks the frozen berries off the stems.  After a few days, cleaning is a breeze.  I'm sure I'll have close to three inches of just berries in the bottom of my bucket, with more to pick soon.  They'll make about double the batch of elderberry wine that I made last fall.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

More Fencing

The back field is a bit overgrown this year. All those dry beans I threw out here last year must have done some good, despite not producing for us.  Several attempts to convince Mildred to graze back here have led her to go visiting the neighbours.
A gate across the trail to Mom's place was the first order of business.  Of course, that merely slows her down.  As she wiggles through the trees munching away.
We started nailing poles to the trees, creating a crooked little fence around the clearing.

Meanwhile, Mildred, the calves, and the kids are munching away.  The grass is pretty high here- three calves and two kids in this picture.  If they haven't eaten it all by the time we're done construction, I may bring the horses down for a few days as well. 

And, of course, we're still collecting firewood from the tree tops and dead fall as we work.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Greenhouse Update

#1 and #3 helped with some repairs to greenhouse #2 yesterday.  #3 wanted to try using the staple gun.  He's finally got enough strength to get the staples all the way in!  We put up a couple of extra cross pieces to staple the plastic in place.  They were actually supposed to go in last spring, after using the greenhouse as storage the first winter, but we never quite got to it.

We're back to sweater weather, after a refreshing rain and cold front blew the heat and humidity away.  We had been going through 30°C and up, with humidity bringing the temps up to 40°C +.  Crazy hot for this part of the world.  Now we're back down to high teens and low twenties in the forecast, with a low of 5°C overnight for the week.  I admit the humidity was getting to me, but this extreme flip seems a little uncalled for as well.

Inside greenhouse #2, the cukes are coming along nicely, a nasturdium is flowering, and the kale survives.  There are a few baby cabbage left that the calves missed, but that's about it.

Greenhouse #1 has the opposite effect- only one cucumber, although it does have a sunflower nearly 5' tall.  The tomatoes and peppers are all flowering, and there are lots of little carrots, onions, and radishes interspersed amongst them.

The first green tomatoes are even making an appearance!  Funny little side note- I left the 'dead' (never germinated) tomato pots sitting on the plant stand in the house, and for some odd reason, three recently sprouted.  What am I supposed to do with three 3" tomato sprouts in Canada near the end of July?  lol
 And here we have #3 feeding Murphy (blue halter) while Maurine tries to convince him she needs a bottle too.  Now if I ever needed proof that breast is best- there it is.  Maurine is almost exclusively Mildred's calf- just one bottle for bedtime these days.  While poor Murphy hasn't nursed in months.  He looks great for a bottle baby, don't get me wrong.  He's growing well, he's gaining a bit of fat, he's healthy and energetic.  He's just downright scrawny compared to her!

Fence repairs were done, but now need more work.  One of our posts was a bit too thin, I guess, as they bowled it over last night and made another escape.  At least they were kind enough to tell me now, rather than waiting until the middle of winter.

Blueberries are not looking as good as I had hoped they would be this year.  It's early yet, but there just don't seem to be a lot of plants with green berries now.  I think they may have dropped their berries in June, having so little rain at that time.  I'll still get enough for at least one batch of wine, it'll just take a bit longer picking than I had hoped.  The plants that do have berries are big and juicy, which helps a lot, just a lot more walking this year to find them.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trails and Travels

The trails were looking more like a hay fields than trails, so Husband ran the Bush hog around last weekend.
The trails are looking much better now, and Mildred is appreciating the fresh hay delivery that the boys are raking up for her.

The 'culvert' roadway over the ravine has been eroding away over the years.  It wasn't bad enough to warrant a complete makeover just yet, but it was getting a little too narrow for our liking.  The boys, Mom, and I, cut down a few trees, filling the washed out side with tree tops and branches.  We laid logs across the road, extending over the washed out end, then Husband covered them with a few buckets of composted manure.  It's a work in progress, that will need to be repeated over the years- somewhat of a continuous hugelkultur mound.  The logs allow the water from the spring run off to seep through, without completely washing out the roadway on top.

I ended up making two batches of strawberry jam, using some of last year's homemade crabapple pectin.  I had to cut the sugar down- actually, I added more strawberries after adding the sugar- because it was so incredibly sweet.  Fresh, ripe, pick-your-own strawberries make a world of difference!

And we're back to fencing.  Dorie and her crew were missing yesterday morning.  They casually came sauntering up the driveway around 11am, like it was perfectly natural to let themselves out for an early morning stroll.  She had Mindy, Nelly, and Sharlotte with her.  Toothless was alone with the horses in the pasture.  She took her new calf along too, but she didn't come back at the same time.  Dorie called her back an hour or so later, and the boys managed to get the skittish wee thing through the gate.

#1 replaced a couple of rotting fence posts.

The Littles helped nail the fence back in place.  I unfolded the sections wrapped up accordion style.  We only got the road side done yesterday, so we'll probably be working on it for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, Mildred and her crew broke into the garden and all but demolished my peas!  The boys get the blame for that one though- when the gate is not latched securely she just pushes it open.  Previously it only had to keep out goats, who haven't been as determined to gain entry.

The blueberries are just starting to ripen.  Raspberries look a couple of weeks behind schedule this year.  I'll soon be busy picking, canning, making wine and jam.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wake Up Call

I'm a bad farmer.  Or at least, I'm having a bad year.  A couple of days ago while watering, I said to Dorie, "You fat cow, when are you going to have that baby?"  She just gave me one of those looks.  Little did I know she was probably thinking, 'Hey, stupid, I did that last week...'

So yesterday I looked up through the window as I was washing dishes.  A little yellow dog ran through the pasture chasing Nelly.  I washed another dish.

Wait a minute.  We don't have a little yellow dog.  The little yellow dog disappeared.  Paw prints were found of dogs tracking or chasing a bear from the tack room to the woods.  Smitty came home without a collar.
The other...

I looked again. Little yellow dog in the pasture. Cindy is tied up. Little yellow dog has a white tail tip. It must be a neighbour's dog. I headed outside.

I yelled to the boys as I walked out the door.  They're just about as deaf as me.  I yelled again as I kept walking.  By the time I was close enough for them to hear me, I was also close enough to see.  "Get that dog out of the pasture!" changed to "How long has THAT been living in our pasture?"  #1 looked up, confused.  "That little thing beside Dorie."  I said.  "Holy crap", says he.  Then he was off to investigate.

#1 got close enough to look him over.  He claims it's a boy anyway- I'll wait until I get a better look.  Toothless was in a mood, so I didn't go in to see.  #1 took a squirt of milk- no colostrum.

Dorie brought him right up to the fence for me, right between the other cows.  He snuggled right close beside her.  She ate some fresh weeds from the garden.  He wandered off- right into the barn behind the horses.  She didn't fret and they didn't move. 

I'm guessing he's a week old already, since she's brought him out of hiding, and he's running and kicking and playing.  This morning they're all out grazing, followed by the little brown dot.

Thinking back, all I can remember out of the ordinary last week, was Sharlotte mooing incessantly for a couple of days.  I kept checking her water, asking her what was wrong, telling her to go and play.  It never even occurred to me to check on her mother!

Looking back further- I really think Dorie stole that baby!  Sharlotte never snuggled up to her the way the new one is.  In fact, she raced back away from Dorie in those early days.  This one is definitely Dorie's.  Man I love that cow!  She thinks I'm weird when I try to hug her though.

In other news...


 Husband took the boys fishing, and they finally caught some fish.  17 pike- 6 meals.  Yum!
 Afterwards I sprayed the seams on #4's boat.  It's been leaking just a little since Grandpa gave it to him when he was four years old.  I watched the flex seal infomercial a couple of times last winter and thought I really ought to try that.  Then I couldn't remember the name of it, so I went googling.  One site I found was a review site, and in the comments somebody posted something like, "I can't believe they're making all that money off of rubberized automotive undercoating..."  $6 a can at Canadian Tire, no waiting for shipping.  We haven't had it back in the water yet, but it's held up well in the rain, not running or anything, not gooey to the touch.

 The birds are eating me out of house and home.  They're currently going through two bags of feed in about 6 days- one cut corn, one turkey grower.  They still have lots of raspberry bushes and other greens in their pen, and I'm picking four buckets of weeds for them almost every day.
The days I miss-raining all day- the little carnivores attack the ducks over night.  We fenced off a corner of the shack for the ducks but they hated it, and some of the chicks would fly over top with the ducks trapped inside.
I decided to move the little chicks into it instead.  It gives them a fairly safe haven to get away from some of the bigger birds.

The ducks have a barrel outside for now.  We haven't had any fox problems this year, so far, so I figure they're safer outside than in the shack, at least until their wings grow in.

I think the bears may have eaten the foxes.  Last year you couldn't go anywhere without seeing at least tracks, but often seeing the foxes themselves on the sides of the roads.  This year it's rare to see tracks.  Bears and moose seem to be everywhere this year.  Mama bear, who lives on our property, has three cubs.  Papa bear (the really big one) has been seen three times on our side of the creek.  And we have a young one (2ish) sticking pretty close as well.  Papa bear usually chases the young ones off, but this one seems persistent, telling me there is a lack of territory available this year.

#2 left for camp on Saturday.  He won't be back until mid August.  I miss him like crazy.

The boys and I racked and bottled the apple and elderberry wines last week.  The apple finally tastes somewhat like wine- enough so that I managed to swallow it instead of spitting it back out.  It was supposed to be a quick, ready to drink in 6 months wine, but I think it's going to take closer to a year.  The elderberry doesn't taste as much like elderberry jam now, a bit bitter, but I think it will age well.

No chicks from the last batch of eggs in the incubator.  I left the thermometer out, thinking that someone was playing with the temperature since I had to constantly adjust it with the previous batch.  The thermometer got broken at some point- why leave it alone on a shelf?- so this time I'm using an indoor/outdoor digital thermometer that tracks the low and high for the day.  It appears that my incubator is either temperamental, or the unstable temperature in my house really affects the temp in the incubator.  Either way, I'm back to fiddling with it regularly.

Cows and goats broke into the garden- Mildred!!- so it appears that I only have three bean plants left.  I'm going to put in more seed, but I doubt that it'll have time to do much.  The beets are coming along nicely, and the peas are flowering.The Russian banana potatoes are doing well, the rest are spotty.   Greenhouses are coming along fairly well, although something was in greenhouse #2 and devoured half of the cabbage.

Mom and I went strawberry picking yesterday (opening day here in the north!), so today I'll be making a big batch of jam.  It's raining, so I think a vanilla cake with a strawberry topping is also in order.  And a roast.  I'm already sick of summer food.