Saturday, August 31, 2013

The New Coop

The first two pens are ready, and a little over filled. 

We have a couple of hawks in the area, and they've been targeting my hens- smaller and easier to fly off with than the meat roosters.  The numbers have dropped drastically.  We finished the first two pens yesterday, and moved all of the hens in.
Original rooster and eight of the original hens are in one pen right now.

The ladies like their new nesting boxes.  I hope that means we'll start seeing some eggs again soon.  They either stopped laying in the turkey pen or started laying wherever they happened to be.  One egg in three weeks.

Sexy rooster (no one mentioned that was not an M name) (he's one of ours) is in the other pen with 7 meat hens and 6 of our hatchlings.  We need to move the nesting boxes from the old chicken coop over for them yet.  Both pens still need roosts as well.

Once the other two pens are ready we'll choose two of the meat roosters to keep and divide the hens up, giving everyone more space.  I still have 6 chicks in the brooder as well, who will be moving in.  Hoping for hens!!

It's not quite what I had originally planned to keep, but it'll have to do.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Meats and Meals!
The boys rejected my choice of Bacon and Hammy (names we've used before) on the grounds that this is an M year, after all...  One castrated male (the bigger one), one female.

They're Yorkshire Landrace crosses.

Don't they look yummy?  Kind of cute, too, lol.  That's just dirt, they're all pink.

They've been raised on scratch grain and garden/kitchen waste.

I cooked them breakfast of oats, scratch grain, milk, and potatoes.  They said they'd prefer it cooled off, but after a few minutes they started munching away.

The fellow didn't sell my pigs to someone else after all.  He delivered them last night- in the dark.  His helper was impressed with our pig pen and making plans to build two for sows at his place next year.  They figure we need to go about a foot higher though.

Despite the pouring rain today, they seem happy.

School starts next week, Tuesday for #3 AND #4...  We won't be homeschooling any more.  For now, anyway.  #1 and #2 go back on Wednesday.  So, I will be a full time farmer, on my own, for the first time EVER...  Scary, lol.  I'm going to take the first week to get back into practice milking- #1 does most of the milking now- and then wean Monsoon and Maureen...  and put them out in the pasture.  We'll keep Murphy out as our relief milker, and because he's so much thinner than the other two, and the majority of the milk will be turned into BACON!

Mmmm...  BACON!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pig Pen

Step One:  Cut down a small forest.  We're using poplar for this project, partly because it's heavy when green, and partly because there was a good sized stand close by.

Step Two:  Lay out logs, fattest to thinnest, and fat end to thin end, in a rough square.

Step Three:  Measure shortest log.  Use this to determine the where to notch the wood.

Step Four:  Notch the logs, fitting the bottom together snugly and tight to the ground.
Step Five: Nail logs together.

 Step Six: Notch and adjust subsequent rows. These don't need to be as snug.

Step Seven: Notch and cut doorway.   It's not high enough to hold a goat yet.
Beware of goat. 

Step Eight: Build door and frame. Attach.  Add supports for front wall.
Maybe now?  No goats?

View from the back
Location:  Across from the turkey pen.  Still on the trail around the yard, close to the turkey pen for water, close to the garden for scraps.

Still to do...

Step Nine:   Attach wire around top. 

Step Ten:  Lay poles for roof. Cover part with tin for shade and shelter.

And then: Await arrival of pigs. I've got a line on a kijiji ad.  Maybe...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The first of the tomato harvest.

I noted last year that the tomatoes really started ripening after I picked the first green ones off before a frost warning.  This year I started pinching off the suckers at the first of August.  Yesterday I picked the first green tomatoes, just one of the bigger tomatoes from each of the bigger plants.  I noticed I already have one tomato (still on the plant) that's starting to turn orange.

These will sit in the window on the plant stand and hopefully ripen slowly, while giving the plants the message to mature the tomatoes still out on the plants.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And to Answer That Question

What am I going to eat this winter?  We certainly won't starve...

Nothing of particular interest here, just my freezer storage list.

I cleaned out all 3 freezers yesterday- four counting the top of the fridge.

In the little freezer in the house, before cleaning...

14 store bought butter
16 home made butter
(30 pounds of butter fills a milk crate)(we've been eating almost all home made since I bought Mildred)

22 roast beef (how the heck do I still have 22 roast beef???)

2 ham
1 brisket
1 beef stew
7 celery ends (for soup)
1 yellow bean
1 porkchop
1 steak
4L tomatoes
2 pkg balogna
3 bags turkey stock cubes

In the entrance way freezer...

10 store bought butter
1 roast beef
1 small ham
5 steaks
6 pkg balogna
5 pkg bacon
5 back bacon
8 fish
21 bananas (I guess I should bake more)
5 rhubarb
5 pumpkin
1 cottage cheese
8 cheese slices
1 single bag milk
2 bear steak
1 corned beef
6 ground beef
1/2 chicken thigh (the magical disappearing package)
3 sausages
1 polish coil
1 tenderloin
15 frozen juices
5 pkg sandwich meat
14 pkg weiners
10 doggy stew meals
And an assorted basket of veggies- broccoli, beans, turnip, dandelion buds, cabbage, etc.

Out to the garage...

2 roast beef
2 lg hams
3 yellow beans
12 green beans
1 broccoli
1 steak
17 bananas (I should probably stop buying bananas)
1 turkey
12 rhubarb
3 pumpkin
15 doggy stew

And finally, above the fridge...

5 celery
2 yellow bean
1 strawberry
1 saskatoon berry
10 bananas (ok, enough with the bananas already!)
2 blueberries
1 rhubarb
2 venison stew
1 pepperoni
1 bag turkey stock cubes
1 beet green
2 hot pepper
7 partridge
1 bear steak
1 polish coil
1 pickerel
4 frozen juice
2 weiners
1 bag mesophilic culture cubes
2 doggy stew meat
3 full bags of crust for stuffing

After defrosting and reorganizing, I think I have a handle on the situation.  In terms of meals...
25 roast beef + leftovers
5 ham + leftovers
1 brisket
3 stew
1 porkchop
10 steak
4 balogna rolls
5 back bacon on buns
8 fish
1 turkey + leftovers
1 corned beef
6 ground beef
7 partridge
3 sausages
2 tenderloin
8 hot dogs

...for a total of 100 meals plus leftovers.  Without butchering anything.  I made space for at least 30 chickens in the garage, and I can stuff a few more into the other freezers. 
The chickens enjoyed picking through the ice from the freezers.
 I'll have to buy some ground beef, and maybe some steak next spring, but I don't think I need to butcher a cow this fall.  A pig would be more than sufficient.  The big item missing is doggy stew meat, but a pig would provide enough bone and scrap to get the dogs through the winter. 

So, next order of business...  build a pig pen, then buy a pig.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Growing Up

Minuet is growing up!  Her feathers are coming in.

She also had her first overnight visit.  The three of them slept outside in the turkey pen.

I was leery to leave her in the turkey shack overnight, after the way the chickens attacked the ducks.  All went well and the three of them were fine bright and early the next morning.

Now, since the turkey shack is somewhat crowded by the ever growing bodies, I leave the turkey shack open overnight and let them all sleep in the pen if they so choose.  It seems that they themselves are their own worst enemies this year.  The little meat roos have started cock fighting in the past few weeks.  Locking them in at night has caused a few deaths.  Leaving the turkey shack open overnight gives them the extra space they need to settle their disagreements without anyone being trapped.

Leaving them out at night also allows me to toss their evening feed in amongst the raspberry bushes in their pen.  They're starting to make some progress thinning out the bushes now.  Still, it will probably take a few years of chickens in the turkey pen to get them cleared out completely.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fencing, Firewood, and Clean Up

The south roadside corner of the pasture has had this little thicket growing since before we moved in.
It was mostly alders, with a couple of pine trees and a poplar or two.  The critters made their own pathways through the tangled mess, munching and scratching and enjoying the shade.

We cut a couple of the pine trees down for fence posts, and I noticed in amongst the alders, a mess of baby pine trees.  From about 8 inches to three feet high, there's a little forest trying to take root in this corner.  The bigger pines have sprouted up substantially as well in the past 6 years.  There should be enough fence posts right there to finish the repairs on section 3, and start on the following section.

I'm cutting back the alders, making space for the new little pines to take over.  Without having to fight for sunlight and nutrients they should sprout up much quicker, straighter, and stronger.

Alders are a bushy little tree with a common root.  They sprout up and overtake clearings in the woods in no time, it seems.  They never get more than three inches thick, and then the stems start to rot.  There's always new growth though, so it's a constant battle to keep them cleared from trails and clearings.  They also tend to wind their way through the fence wire, stretching and breaking it as they grow.  I'm cutting them out of this area, taking a few small pieces of firewood from the larger stems, leaving the tops to decompose amongst the pines.

The Littles load the firewood in the trailer while the Bigs dig post holes and work on the fence.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pasture Outline

To answer Linda's questions yesterday, I walked the pasture and wrote down all the measurements in paces. Converted to feet the pasture is a little over 12 acres. I've always guessed it at closer to 25 acres, so that was a bit shocking.

I drew a new map closer to scale. It's a little off because the graph paper only gives you so much area to work with. The pasture is nearly 750 feet square- a little shorter on the east (road) side, a little longer on the west side.

Black is the existing fence. Blue is what I would like to finish this year. Orange is what I would like to finish next year. The little notches are gates.

Most of the sections are a little shy of an acre, at 36000 square feet.  Some are a little bigger, up to 50400 square feet.

The outside fence is 4' high woven wire, with 12"x6" holes. About half of it is on wooden fence posts, the road side and around the barn, and the other half is on metal t-posts. It's about ten years old. There's at least one strand of barbed wire at the top all the way around and two or three strands in problem areas. There are cross poles in problem areas as well.

The problems with this fence vary from post to post. In one spot there's almost 20 feet between posts, because I live on the Canadian shield. There's a rock between the posts, just below the surface, that's over 10 feet long. There are lots of big rocks in lots of places, which makes spacing fence posts rather irregular.

Where there aren't big rocks, the east (road) side of the pasture is on sandy soil, while the middle is on clay, and the back is sand again. 

We also get a lot of snow. Some years you can barely see the fence posts over the top of the snow. That's not really a problem, since the animals don't want to wade through it anyway, except around the barn where they pack it down all winter long. All of our replacement posts around the barn are at least eight feet high, with extra barbed wire strung as needed.

Being under snow so much of the year weakens the wire and causes it to rust. It makes the fence posts rot much faster too.

Section 2 and 3 inside fences are both three strands of barbed wire. Section 2 also has the beginnings of cross poles between posts. We're working on adding additional posts and poles now.

As we move on to new sections they'll be wood posts and cross poles, with a strand of barbed wire on top.

The over all plan will allow one acre per cow/horse (not counting Mildred, who will only over winter with the herd).  I have no idea if that is above or below the recommended number of animal units/acre for our area.  Quite frankly, most people around here just feed hay year round.  I don't plan to try squeezing in any additional cattle- with a minimum of 6 months of winter- that's a lot of hay to buy, regardless of how much grass I have to rotate them through in the summer.  I would just like to not have to start feeding hay in August.

View from the south west corner of the pasture towards the barn.  It's a long walk.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Great Escape

It was no surprise to see Sharlotte out of the newly repaired pen.  Behind her though- that's Toothless.  Apparently he's still small enough to squeeze through barbed wire.

All is not lost, however.  The trouble maker is still trapped.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Herd and Pasture

#2 is back from camp.  We gave him a nice easy job to get him readjusted to farm life- go out and wrangle those calves.  I have to say, Dorie's calf, Majesty, (in honour of the royal baby, lol) is one tough little cookie.  She fought him tooth and nail, dragged him across the yard, kicking the whole way.  To his credit- he never let go.  To his detriment- he took a few scrapes and I'm sure he'll be bruised and sore for a few days.

Round two went better, with Mindy's calf being much smaller and younger.  They're both tagged now.  Then it was time to flip and castrate.  Um...  er...  I don't think we'll be castrating that!  The little one is a girl.  Her working name is Mugsy, for the moment.  I don't love it, but she doesn't seem to mind.

We worked on the fence again yesterday afternoon.  The little 'cow proof' zone, a bad spot in the corner where the alders have been growing through, and the section beside the chicken pen where Toothless broke through in early spring to get to Mildred.  Guess what happened while we were working.

Mindy and Sharlotte escaped!

Seriously- I need to shoot that cow.  They didn't wander far, and were back fairly quickly.  Mindy fed Mugsy, then we drove the lot of them into the cow proof section.

This morning, everyone but Sharlotte is still in there.  That doesn't really surprise me though.  There's still a bit of the inside fence line with only three strands of barbed wire, and Sharlotte is still small enough to walk through it.

So, we now have four cows- Dorie, Mildred, Mindy and Nelly, and four heifers- Sharlotte, Maureen, Majesty and Mugsy.  I still want to keep a heifer from Mildred, but otherwise, I think we're at our limit.  Unless, of course, I do shoot that cow.  That'll give us 10 full grown cattle to overwinter, including the bull.  That will at least double our hay consumption starting winter 2014.  Which means, by fall of 2015, these girls have to start paying for their keep.  Up til now, we've just been a hobby farm, raising our own meat, growing our herd.  We are about to embark on the journey of becoming 'real' farmers.

Next fencing job will be to repair and cow proof the next section, to move them into in a couple of weeks after the grass has had a chance to grow a bit. 

A little sketch of the pasture as is.  Section 2 is where the cows are now.  Section 3 is the next section to repair.

I messed up from the chicken pen.  Ignore the lower line.  The barn side really shouldn't be as wide as the open side either.

And here's a sketch of the eventual plan for the pasture.

Section 3 will be split into two sections, and I forgot to draw in the gate between them.  That probably won't happen this year though.  I'd like to get the dividing fences between section 5/6/7 and 12/11/8, and then the fenceline between 12/11/8 and 13/10/9 done this year, along with the far side of section 1.  That would give me 6 sections to start next spring.  Of course, I've had this planned for two or three years now, and it never seems to happen.  Still, the dream of being able to rotate the cows through grazing areas lives on.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Menu

 What am I going to eat this winter?

Mindy had to calve this year, live and healthy, to save herself.  This is her fifth year at our farm, 6 years old, and the first time she's produced.  Most farmers would have disposed of her long before now.  She just calved, she's off the menu.

The other option we had planned was to put Toothless on the menu this fall.  He was supposed to be big and mean at 2.5 years old, so after breeding season, he was supposed to go on the menu.  He is getting bigger, but his temperament is pretty good, except when one of the girls is in heat.  He stays in the pasture, and he's fathered 3 calves.  So, while he may taste delicious, he really seems to be worth keeping.  His daughters won't be ready to breed until 2015, so I don't need to get rid of him yet.

We also have a replacement bull issue.  Steaks only fathered one calf, Sharlotte, at 1.5.  Murphy or Monsoon, whichever I keep as Toothless' replacement, will only be 1.5 next fall.  Old enough to technically get the job done, but I really don't want to go back to a one calf year.

I could butcher whichever one of them I decide not to keep, but they're not that big yet, which seems kind of wasteful.

The girls are also off schedule.  Dorie should rebreed for another spring calf, but Nelly could be bred now, after losing her calf, making for a very early baby next year, along with Mildred who may be knocked up for January.  Toothless never tried to get back to her after that first incident, and she hasn't shown any signs of estrus.  And now with Mindy calving in August, she shouldn't be rebred for a few months.  If we butcher Toothless, Murphy or Monsoon won't be old enough to take care of business. 

I could buy a steer or yearling bull to butcher.  But I paid a lot of money for Steaks.  And honestly, he didn't taste that great.  He wasn't bad.  But he wasn't Casper.  Even though Toothless is a Holstein cross, he's a whole lot sleeker, solid and muscled than Steaks ever was.  Steaks arrived scrawny and never really put on any weight.  There are no feed lots around here, so I expect anything I buy to be grass fed, but still, there was something just not right about him.  I don't think I want to spend that kind of money just to put something in the freezer that may or may not meet my standards.

I could get lucky at the auction and find another pig for a steal.  I truly feel bad for whoever brought her in, they sure didn't get what she was worth.  She did feed us well though.  But that brings me back to the same issue I had in the spring- no pig pen.  And I'd need to let a pig live here at least a month, just so I'd know there were no drugs in her system.

And of course we have the meat birds.  They'll provide many meals this winter.

I didn't buy a moose tag this year, after losing Dad.  I could still buy a calf tag, but I don't think I'm emotionally ready to go moose hunting.  And of course, that doesn't give us any guarantees.

Bear season just opened.  I do have a tag.  Still no guarantees.

Grocery store?  What a concept.  I could buy meat this winter.  Oh!!  I COULD buy meat this winter.  There's a bison farm not far from here, and every time I drive by it I think I should really go and talk to them and give it a try.  This could be the year.

And then there's still partridge season coming up too.

For now, I guess I'll start by taking inventory of the freezers.  I'm late getting them cleaned out this year anyway!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stay of Execution

Fences.  They get old.  Posts rot.  Wires break.

We put in new posts.  We patch wire.  We add cross poles.

Still, we have a problem. 

She breaks the fence over and over and over again.  She calls Nelly and Sharlotte out to her.  She wanders off.  She eats the neighbour's flowers.  She hides in the bush.

We fix fences.  She comes home.  She breaks them.  Again.

We decide to try cow proofing one little section.

We add more posts.  Tighten barbed wire.  Start adding cross posts.

We'll trap her there and feed her hay.

Or she'll escape.  Again.  And laugh at us.  Taunt us.
 She'll return late at night, stand in the yard, mooing and whining.  She'll make us go out and chase her around in the dark, because just walking through the gate back into the pasture where she obviously wanted to be is just too easy.

I had enough.  I know that section isn't quite ready yet.  And I know it's still too hot to let her hang before butchering.  But I swear, if that damn cow gets out ONE MORE TIME...

And then, last night.  Not once.  Not twice.  Three times she got out.  Three times she stood in the yard whining.  Twice we chased her back in. 

And then...  The third time... 

Husband noticed something else moving in the dark.  Something small and dark.  Something else chasing her.

All stop.  What is that?
Can you see it?  Dark.  All I see is dark! 

Husband and #1 shoo it in the pasture behind her.

This morning.
 She's still in the pasture.
Small, but no umbilical cord.  Looks like a boy from a distance.
Papa said I wasn't allowed to take a closer look.  Husband and #1 will look after the details this weekend.  You know, IF they stay in the pasture...

In my defence, I did mention to #1 a week or so ago that she was bagging up.  I figured she was either about to calve or had already calved in the bush somewhere, and probably lost it again.  In my stupidity- Daddy did say last year- if she calved in the bush she'd keep breaking out to get to it.

So...  Mindy will not be butchered for escaping one more time.  Mindy will not be butchered this fall.  She's raising a calf now.  Mindy is off the menu.

What am I going to eat this winter?

Friday, August 9, 2013

The New Chicken Coop

The add a room was our first major construction job.  In August 2009, before I started blogging, my Father-In-Law came to live with us.  My Mother-In-Law had fallen, broken her hip, not enough bone density to walk again, diabetes, dementia...  She was accepted into a nursing home, he wasn't.  The nursing home would take all of her money, leaving him unable to pay his rent.

Our house is much too small for permanent house guests- 3 bedrooms, 3 closets, 6 people.  We set up a bed in the livingroom for him.  It was cramped to say the least.

However, the summer before we had helped Mom and Dad build an add a room on their trailer on the corner of our property.
This was their cabin in the woods, before they bought the place next door.

We had some building experience, and we had room, so we decided to build FIL an add a room as well.  The first step was to get the trailer in place, and set up logs around it for the foundation.  The logs had to be BIG and solid.  Then levelled off.  We enclosed our trailer inside the structure to add insulation.  Windows  and doors were framed in.  We built around the propane tanks, keeping them and the trailer hitch on the outside of the building.
Press board sheeting was used on the roof, not quite in time for winter. 

Press board sheeting was put up for the exterior walls.  Windows and doors were installed.

Construction moved inside for the rest of the winter.  We installed the floor.  We insulated.
We put up vapour barrier.
Press board walls for the interior.  A partial wall was built in around the inside side of the trailer, leaving the windows exposed for light and heat.
My Dad built the wood stove and delivered it.  We used four 2'X2' patio stones for the floor, and a piece of tin siding for a heat shield.
Spring came, and we went back to work outside. 
The boys and I laid shingles, while Husband cut a hole in the roof to install the chimney.
Chimney in, flange tarred, no leaks...  Heat!
A little deck, a little porch.
Paint and firewood.
We added the firewood lean-to.
And then filled it and cleaned up the yard.
FIL moved in, using the trailer's propane heater as soon as the weather was bearable.  My interior pics seem to stop there.  Husband installed lights, electric sockets, wiring. We painted the inside.  #2 put up interior wood panelling.  Husband added a pipe and fan to blow hot air under the trailer.

We did all of this while Husband was still driving long haul, the Bigs weren't very big yet, trying to run a farm, looking after FIL, bringing MIL home on the weekends...  And less than a year later FIL went to live with one of Husband's brothers.  Six months later, another brother.  He's in an old age residence now.  MIL passed on February 7, 2013.

At first it just sat there.  What were we going to use it for?  A guest house maybe?  We don't have that many guests.  We thought about tearing it down.  That's too much work.  Eventually it became the playroom-
pool table, dart board, air hockey table, card table.
It was great until the insurance company decided that they wouldn't insure the home made stove.  Then it was pretty useless most of the year.  So it sat there.

And then I got an incubator for my birthday.  And now I hatch eggs.  And I have big plans for more eggs next spring!  And now it's a construction zone again.

We removed the chimney and patched the roof with a sheet of tin.

We took out the wood stove, heat pipe and fan, and ceiling fan.  We started building pens!
Mouser has moved in, and has given it her approval.  She's not crazy about the loud noises from saws and hammers, but she's happy to be out of the cage and loves climbing up the side of the pen.

We thought about removing the trailer, but it would be a lot of work.  The plumbing froze and split when FIL was with us, four windows are cracked, the floor is rotting, and the roof leaks.  Where are we ever going camping in that?  For now it will remain in place as storage. 

The back section (in the pic above Mouser) will be divided into two pens.  Then there will be a small pen on the wall side in front of the window, and a larger pen from there to the door.  The trailer side will have one large pen in the corner for turkeys.  There will be a walkway down the centre and to the trailer door.

Nesting boxes will go on the walls, with brooder boxes above.  The brooder boxes will hold each batch of chicks when they come out of the incubator. 

The geese and ducks will spend the winter in the old chicken coop, with the cement floor.  Geese and ducks are very messy. 

The four pens in the new coop will each have 1 rooster and 4-8 hens.  One will be a meat rooster with meat hens.  One will be a meat rooster with new hens- my incubated chicks.  One will be an incubated rooster with meat hens.  The last will be current rooster with mixed meat and laying hens.

Most of the old laying hens will be going to the stew pot.  I'll take one out at a time and put them in the new pens to figure out which ones are actually laying eggs.  They'll be the keepers.

The turkey pen may not be used for turkeys this year.  I can't tell yet whether they're toms or hens.  I only have seven of them, and for this to work, I'd like to have two toms and five hens.  If they end up not being a suitable mix for breeding, I'll use the pen for another batch of chickens.