Monday, August 22, 2011

No sugar, just spice

Our neighbour has an apple tree that is so old it's a wonder it is still producing apples.  The apples are a pale yellow colour, and best used for apple sauce.  Their texture is dry and full of fibre, which doesn't make for great eating but does make for pretty amazing applesauce.

Thankfully, they allow us to take as many apples as we want each year.  The catch is, we can only take the ground apples.  My 80-something neighbour tells me that the ground apples make the best applesauce, and while initially I didn't believe her I have now realized she is correct. When they ripen to the point of dropping they are at their sweetest, and make a divine sauce.

It takes a little bit of pre-work, as I am opposed to insects in my sauce.  So I cut open each apple, removing cuts and insects before washing them.  Once washed, they go into the pot to boil their way to sweet delicious goodness!

The results are worth the time over the steaming hot stove on a warm August day. Come January, I will be thankful I made the effort.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A change of scenery

All you could hear was the soft clunking of the crates as we loaded them into the back of the truck. It was one of those dark end of summer nights, almost cool enough for a jacket.  The moon was so bright there was no need for flashlights, and we worked with quickly with a quiet sense of teamwork.

We felt like prohibition outlaws, secretly working under the cover of the night. But there was no chinking of brown bottles, just the cooing and clucking of the hens.

We were moving 49 pullets from their temporary home in the garage, to the new custom built coop.  It was quite a task, as you have to catch a pullet in the dark.  Chickens don't see well in the dark, and will hunker down in one spot. This makes it easy to catch them and load them into crates. When I say "easy" I specifically mean "easier than catching them in the light where they squawk and panic".  It is challenging to find them in the dark - but we managed.

Now the task at hand was to place a drop of Ivermec on each hen before releasing her into the new coop.  Again, it's easier to work in the dark as the hens remain calm - so by the light of the full moon we gently held each pullet and administered the Ivermec.

I wondered as we worked what they were thinking. Their entire life thus far was within the confines of one of our garages. Surrounded by snowshoes, camping equipment, and a wall full of garden tools.  Their new reality will be an open air run - with views of pastoral fields and the chorus of the crickets.

With the last hen perched carefully in the new hen house, we softly shut the door and for a moment we stood in the barnyard gazing at the moon. The frogs were in full orchestra, and the air smelt like fall.

Their whole world had just changed.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Baaaa....aaadddd news

The sheep are ready for pick up.

We are not ready for the sheep.

This past few months has been a blur of to do lists, unexpected tasks, and loads of visitors.  All of this has put us way behind schedule.  We had hoped by this point in time to have the back pasture re-fenced for the sheep. Currently it is a split cedar rail fence...not suitable to hold in ewe lambs! Nor will it keep the coyotes out. 

We had also hoped to complete our barn conversion. Our plan is to build a new shelter for the remaining two cows, and then move the hay into the "cattle" barn.  That would then allow us to retrofit the hay barn for the sheep.   We have handling runs to build, lambing pens to create, and have to build hay racks and feeders. 

We haven't begun any of this.

Why does it always seem that winter is just around the corner, and we are nowhere near ready?

I adore the guests, but I do sometimes think they have an idyllic view of "farm life".   My mother spent some time with us, and now she truly understands that once we hit the ground running at 5:30AM, we don't stop - as we are in a race to beat the seasonal clock. 

Winter is coming.

More importantly, the sheep are arriving! Hopefully we can delay the pick up until the first week of September - which will give us the remainder of this month to get some sort of temporary housing in place.

Now if only I could get those visitors to work, we may just meet our sheep deadline!  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Coop Update

The grain silo conversion is almost complete, and should be ready for the hens to move in tomorrow.  It's taken quite some time for us to finish this coop - we had to get the hay in, there were visitors from overseas - but at last it's going to be done.

I white washed the interior today, in the hopes that the whitewash will prevent mould growth in the winter months.  It didn't turn out as white as I had anticipated, but I can live with the results.  We still need to find a window or two for the silo, in order to allow more light and air flow. 

It's hard to see the red door, but it is directly in line with the exterior door in the photo below.

We used one inch hardware cloth, as we find chicken wire doesn't stand up to the raccoons. We still need to have the sand delivered for the run area - and we need to put wire mesh down underneath the sand to keep predators from digging in!

The hens will have a great view of the creek pasture. Once we get the electrical in tomorrow, I can get some photos of the inside. We still need to build the nest boxes, perches and figure out the watering system. One day at a time right?

And finally - me! Tired, covered in dust and lime whitewash and wearing my pink tool belt.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What the duck?

We haven't had the best of luck with ducks. The last group that we had relocated to the neighbours farm, likely due to the fact that the fox kept lurking about our barns.  They were Indian Runner ducks, and never did really bond to us - in fact they ran from us just as they ran from the fox. Despite my best efforts, the Indian Runners never felt at home here, and so they moved.  They are now happy as a pig in a poke, on a great big pond with an island in the middle.

We said "no more ducks".

So how is it that less than a few weeks later, I find myself with this fellow?

He is most definitely a duck. My better half reminded me that we were not going to get anymore ducks. I nodded my head, as I fed the duck broccoli.

I explained that the duck was given to us by someone who didn't have acres of green fields for him to run about in, nor did they have a creek for him to splash in.  How could I deny the poor duck that opportunity?

Some time later, I found my better half sleeping on the couch, with the duck nestled in the crook of his arm. 

It seems the duck is staying.