Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Update as of Mar 14:

We have now sold(or have spoken for) half of this season's shares.

Hello Everyone:

We have sold about one third of this season’s shares.  Contact me soon, as past experience suggests that sales come in waves and we can fill our quota quite abruptly.

I am now getting a lot of interest in the internship position.  I had a good interview last week and am in the process of arranging another in the next week or so.  I have also been fielding questions from a few potential candidates.

If I do not have an intern for this season, I have a plan B ready.

I'll reduce the amount of field at the new location to prepare for 2020, and use the old Stittsville location for potatoes, squash, and kidney beans in 2020 - three crops that require little supervision and take up a lot of field space.

Meanwhile the work is still on-going here...

With pigs out for the season, we are now starting to prepare for chickens.

We are making inquiries with chick suppliers about two breeds:  Dominique’s and Buckeye:

The Dominique is an American breed that was bred in the 1850’s.  By 1950 it was thought extinct, but a few flocks were discovered being preserved by some small farms and a breeding program to increase the strain started in the 1970’s. 

These are cold tolerant birds suited to free ranging.  The indistinct pattern of their feathers is thought to add camouflage protection from aerial predators.  They have a calm disposition.  They are most suitable for egg production but can serve as a meat bird as well.

The Buckeye is an American breed developed in the 1890’s by Nettie Metcalfe. 

These are very cold tolerant birds – even in winter - and suited to free ranging.  They have a calm disposition and some can become quite friendly.  They are most suitable - exceptional, according to some - for meat production, providing a very dark meat and especially full thighs.  They are also acceptable egg layers.

(Source:  Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds – Storey Publishing 2007)

To prepare, we have been pricing fencing and chicken supplies to augment what is already here.  The hutches will need some slight improvement as we will be using them a bit differently than how the previous owners did.

The more that I learn about raising chickens (books, suppliers, neighbours and other farmers in our neighbourhood) the more I wish we could have pigs this season – one less learning curve and a lot less effort.  Pigs are very easy to care for; chickens require a little more effort.  Like so many other things in agriculture, choice is a privilege and not always available.

Another crop I am looking into are yard long beans. 

These are also known as asparagus beans and Chinese long beans – I have found a few other names as well that seem to relate to the same subspecies. 

Despite the name, they are usually about a foot and a half in length.  I had a request a few years ago for them – with a little more growing space now, we can start growing a small quantity on a request basis.  Let me know if you are interested.

The next post will be about all of the investments we have to make in 2019 that won't start to show a decent return until 2020...one of the risks any farmer (or entrepreneur) has to make in order to grow.

Talk to you later,


Monday, 4 March 2019

Hello Everyone:

Another week and with it some good news and some bad.

The good news is that the onions are sprouting very well.  Parsley, green onions and celery are now sown.  Sweet and hot pepper seeds are next on the list of spring nursery planting.

The bad news is that there will be no piglets this season.  The supplier I had selected (another small scale farm here in Lanark) had two litters this winter and only one piglet survived.  This is a disappointment for us, but much harder for our supplier.  I assume they were probably depending on several piglets for themselves this season.   

Determined to have animals of some kind here, we are now looking into either chickens or ducks.  Long term I want to raise ducks but for this season perhaps it might be easier as the place is already set up for chickens.  Not that there is much difference, but with a lot of goals for this season, the path of least resistance might be wiser.  

One of the hutches has nesting boxes for for up to eight hens, with a door at he back of each box to make retrieving the eggs fairly easy (hens have sharp beaks).

I am getting some more interest in the internship for this season – including two calls today.  If you are interested, check out my Farmlink posting.

Thank-you to the customers who are returning for another season.  I have considerably decreased the customer base this season, so if you are interested, please contact me soon.

OK, now that this place is cleaned up a bit, time to start planning...

One of the practices that my mentor Tom instilled in us was how look at the entire farm when organising the layout and use of buildings and infrastructure.  In particular, setting up the farm around how the work flows from seed to sale.

I started by looking at what the farm has already, using the DIY ethic (learned in my RnR career) of using what you have.

We have the following buildings:

The Wood Shed:  This building is closest to the house, within reach of the electrical outlets.  It’s south facing door provides a lot of light, it has a good work surface, and it’s mostly protected from snow entering.

Aside from storing our source of heat (firewood) it has plenty of shelving for temporarily storing everything we have found here at the farm – garden tools, fencing and lumber.  Now that one table is clear for work space, I can use this for messy work such as repairing a grow light and cutting lumber for building projects.

One of the reasons why I chose this spot to use as a temporary work station is it is close to most points on the farm I’ll be in the next couple of weeks.

The Drive Shed:  Much larger, a good place to store machinery such as the tractor and riding mower.  It has three bays without doors, and one bay completely enclosed.

The bay with doors has a table that is suitable for working with machinery, such as the tractor carburetor that I cleaned last week.  Given that this is where most of the machinery tools, gas cans, etc were kept by the sellers, seems to me the best place for this sort of work.

The bay adjacent to the “machine shop” would then be the ideal place to park the tractor and mower. 

The bay at the opposite end of the Drive shed is where much of the lumber is stored.  With that in mind, the remaining bay would be ideal for wood working. 

The Hexagon:  Until we build a permanent nursery for the farm (I am exploring the possibility of starting work on an in ground nursery in the next couple of years), I will be using the first floor of this building as our nursery.  It is insulated and has ample power, lot’s of light from south and east facing windows, and with the root cellar below, some temperature moderation for the winter (keeping heating costs lower) and summer (allowing cool air from below to keep the room cool enough to germinate lettuces in).

The cellar will store a lot of our produce, but it will also provide an ideal space for a few other tasks.  It’s concrete foundation will keep out most mice (and all larger critters) and being dark and having a stable climate, is ideal for storing seeds. 

The cellar still needs some work.  An electrical outlet is required down here for a fan to circulate air (to prevent mold growth) and a small heater to keep stored food from freezing during the coldest part of winter.  A light fixture or two would also be helpful.

The top floor of the Hexagon  is currently storing everything that is in the way for the time being.  As the year progresses, I anticipate that this will become the production office of the farm – where all of the seeding schedules, bed maps, journals etc are displayed and stored. 
The stair to this floor is quite narrow, so I will have to build a desk up here. 

This floor also needs an outlet (for a heater and probably a power source for the computer) and a pair of light fixtures.

The A-Frame:  Being close to the growing fields, I originally wondered if this was a good spot for the nursery, but have since decided that it is ideal for livestock (in the bermed cellar) and all of the equipment they require (on the main floor). 

This building is a bit far from the rest of the farm buildings.  I hope to get some independent power out here, the A-frame roof is south facing so therefore ideal for a solar panel. 
There is a fenced area here to prevent animals from getting at the bee boxes.  The fence needs a lot of work, so this will be a priority for this season.   

Also worth noting, the seller said that the original dug well for this farm was just below the A-Frame.  If we are able to rehabilitate it, having a solar panel out here would allow us to install a pump, thus providing an efficient source of water for the animals.

Two other items that come with the farm, a pair of portable chicken coops.  These can be transported (albeit, one with a bit of difficulty) to any spot on the farm.  

This is helpful as both livestock and the land benefit from having the animals rotate across different areas from week to week. 

Where these will go is still a debate, but probably in the vicinity of the A-frame.

There are a few structures at the old farm that will eventually be dismantled and moved here over the course of the year.  I anticipate that the prep station and hut for the ice fridge will wind up rebuilt as an improved prep station and a farm gate store.

With a spot for guest parking just inside the driveway, proximity to the growing field and shade from the willow tree, this site seems to be the best spot for both structures.

The drawback is that the willow and the neighboring tree make a nice gateway into the growing field.  This is a less practical consideration, but aesthetics need to be taken into account as well, if I am to learn anything from my mentors Tom and Allaine.

They put much effort into building a high tunnel behind their house.  Despite the fact that the house was situated on higher ground than the tunnel, they found that it interfered with the dining room view, so they took it down and placed it elsewhere.

Some of this work will have to want until the snow is gone, so I can better see what my options are...raw material for yet another post!

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Hello Everyone:

As I write, the big storm rolls into Eastern Ontario…is this March arriving like a lion?  If so, it suggests an early spring.

News for the past week – the onion seeds have been sown in the nursery and the first seed order placed. 

Next on the seeding list are the leeks, parsley and celery.

If you are intending to purchase a share of this season’s produce, order soon.  I expect there will be a smaller customer base this season while we go through these growing pains.

I have received my first inquiry about an internship…if you are interested in getting a well rounded introduction to small scale agriculture and access to a ready to go starter farm, be sure to contact me soon at the phone number or email address below…

We have lived through our first few weeks here without mishap.  The house is mostly settled into and work has started on the outbuildings, starting with an inventory of the items left behind by the previous  farmers.

Old farms have a way of collecting tools, supplies and spare parts.  Ours is not quite as cluttered as some that I have seen.  The previous owners had indicated a few items of interest to us, but there were still a few pleasant surprises. 

The woodshed contained a mess of old tools, such as some bed rakes, spades, and shovels.  

I was especially thankful for the great number of buckets – something I always seem to be short of.  One of these was full of various irrigation and hose connectors, nozzles, and sprinklers for just about every application one could think of.  

A rack of shelves (looks like a pan rack on wheels from a bakery) held an array of shears and other implements for use in tree maintenance.  An expected find was the great length of unused electric fence wire and tape; better yet were a pair of spare fence gate handles.  Not expected was the supply of hay bale twine.  If I use this for tomato and cucumber staking, it’ll last part of a lifetime.

Two buckets are partially full of either some hard packed ash from the wood stove – this could be used as a soil amendment as it is full of potassium – or maybe it is unused portland cement from the construction of the root cellar foundation.  Either material could get some good use here.

The drive shed is bigger and likewise had more (and a few larger) items.  It dates back to the original farm on this property.  There is a very old tree saw in here that probably dates from the original farm.  

In addition, the previous seller left a riding mower (which needs new tires) and a walk behind tractor (which I purchased from the sellers) that has attachments for both a snow thrower and a tiller. 

This is where a big supply of lumber is stored: 2x6’s for building a stairwell in another construction and for making shed sill plates.  2x4’s for improving a few of the sheds or making repairs with.  Cedar boards for building a new shed. 

As well, there are more buckets, hundreds of feet of hose and irrigation tubing, bee boxes, a child’s sled (useful for hauling all this stuff around while I organise the various buildings) and a box of cassette tapes that went to the township share centre after a quick perusal to ensure there were no collectible titles.

As for tools and supplies, the big finds were two chainsaws plus a third chainsaw apparently being used for spare parts, a pry bar, an ax, and several cans of carburetor cleaner and other greases, gases and goops for a variety of machinery chores.  Most useful, a heavy table for doing machine work on.

The A-frame was one structure I was quite interested in, as it is situated close to the growing fields.  Having not had the opportunity to see the cellar portion of this building, I was able to shovel in and break the ice dam holding the door shut. 

Not much in the cellar, other than it was noticeably warm (being bermed into the ground on three sides) and having an earthen floor – ideal for allowing ground heat to escape to the interior.  This room is divided by a barrier that will allow for two types of livestock, or separating a jealous drake and hen from the rest of a flock.

The upper floor has a lot of gear for honey making (some of which is already spoken for and some of which we inherit with the farm.  Here is also a sink (a little too small for my needs) and a food dryer (I’ll try the tomatoes with it this year).  A wagon suitable for holding seedling trays shall probably get a lot of use here as well.

The most notable outbuilding on the property is what we call the ‘hexagon’.  A six sided structure two stories tall with attic and cold cellar.  More bee supplies, such as a couple dozen kilo jars, more tools for woodworking – including a battery powered drill and a very nice carpenters square which I suspect the seller didn’t intend to leave.

Now that the sorting cleaning, and inspecting is done, I am turning my attention to planning how I am going to use these buildings and some of the surrounding landmarks…raw material for the next post.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Update January 31st:

Hello everyone:

We are here.  Our internet is on.  Our new phone number is listed below.

We arrived in Lanark, bringing our little load of worldly stuff, a lot of ideas and plans and a whole lot of cold air and snow.

We may own the property but the house is ruled by Cayley.  She gave her final word on our being here after about two days by selecting a new piece of our furniture as her own.

According to the sellers, she is a good mouser.  Considering her pouncing speed and the sharpness of her claws, I'd be inclined to believe them.

Now that the house is mostly unpacked and roughly organized, I've started work on the first outbuilding. 

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to 2019...I hope this season is a fruitful one for all of us.

This will be a big year for us, lots of learning curves and plenty of work.

I’ve spent a lot of time considering various scenarios and have finally settled on how to proceed.  There are a number of variables that will affect how this season’s production plan will unfold, so I am leaving plenty of room to adjust our plans.

Please find more details on the “How to Buy a Share” page.

Agriculture always has its share of unknowns, I’ve learned to live with these over the years and thankfully some of my past careers gave me a bit of experience with this as well.  I can say I am looking forward to getting through this period of time in which there are a few more variables than usual...until then thank you for your patronage.

I have reserved two piglets, but "mother" has to successfully deliver and wean a big enough litter - we are at the end of the waiting list.  If pork is available, it will be ready in late fall and purchased separately from the produce basket; customers get first opportunity to purchase cuts.

Shiitake Mushrooms:

Two weeks ago, we were at the new farm taking a tour of the woodlot with the sellers.

During that time, we found that there were oaks and a source of year round water.

These are two of the ingredients required to grow shiitake mushrooms.  I have since sourced the inoculation plugs and equipment needed to inoculate the oak logs, AND a local farmer eager to share their experience in this endeavour.  If all goes well and I can get a suitable quantity of chicken wire (to keep the squirrels and chipmunks from eating the mushrooms) then we can start to provide the fruits of the forest in about two years...

This would be the realization of another wish I have had since doing a workshop on shiitake mushroom growing during my internship.

If you are aware of anyone in the Ottawa area who is interested in this model of agriculture as a potential career; forward them the following link to my advert on the “Farmlink” website below.  My listing is under the heading “Certified Organic Starter Farm Opportunity”.  If you look on “map view”, our listing will appear under the tab near Munster.  If you look on “list view”, our listing will appear near the top of the first page.