Thursday, 20 June 2019

Hello Everyone:

It's been so long since I have written that everything is bigger, bushier, and bolder than it once was.

The chicks were small enough to hold as many as three at a time, covered in down, and uttering the quietest of peeps.













About two weeks ago, they started to show an awareness of the world outside their nursery.  Some tried jumping up onto the edge of their pen, others pecked at the plastic walls and peered out at us while we cleaned their water and feed containers.  Feathers started to appear on their tails and then their wings.

Their peeping got a little louder, and they played a curious game with one another - choosing a particular wood shaving and then chasing whoever had it around the pen until it was dropped or grabbed.














Now their peeping is louder and only the smallest buckeye chicks play the wood chip tag.

The (black) Dominiques - all female - now spend much of their time up on the roost.  They grow a little quicker and have likely become a little less frivolous.

In a few days the entire flock will be transferred to their new home - the A-frame shed out in the field.








This building housed chickens at some point in the past.   Over the past week, I have sterilized the interior, moved in some of the equipment purchased and or cleaned back in the spring, and run a water line up to the shed.

A few small details still need to be seen to before it is ready.  According to some of the literature left by the previous owners, chickens like to have multiple roosts to choose from.

Over the summer, I hope to re shingle the roof, install a sink, and insulate the shed for the winter.








By the time I get around to this, the chicks will be grown up and moved once again to a hutch to roost and brood in and a six hundred square foot outdoor enclosure.

Our plan is to overwinter the Dominique hens and one of the Buckeye males in the A-frame.

As for the rest of the Buckeyes?  This breed is known for it's large thighs...






New digs.  The chicks were placed in boxes and moved, and ordeal that resulted in a lot of alarmed chirping and peeping.  Within a minute or two of arriving, the chicks quieted down and started exploring their new surroundings.

By breakfast time the next day, most have figured out that their is even more to the world outside of their enclosure and try leaving as we enter the pen to refill water and feed troughs.








One of the most difficult challenges this season is the number of tasks that need to be finished at the same time.  Many of these tasks need to be completed in stages, so every day I am faced with numerous half done jobs while I work on the routine work of the day.

This past week, I completed several of these  tasks.  It feels great to hammer the final nail, click on the last line of electric fence, sow the second of two seed potato successions.





One of these pressing tasks has been completing  fencing.

I am employing a pair of Large Black breed pigs to start tearing up and fertilizing the field where I hope to grow crops in the next three to four years.  

They arrived last week and were contained in a two hundred fifty square foot enclosure while they were electric fence trained - a process which usually takes about two or three days.  






Here they had almost everything pigs require for a healthy and happy life...plenty of forage, shade, water, a straw filled shelter, and a big bowl of mash every morning.

What they lacked was more space to roam.  Whilst they set about exploring their new surroundings and getting used to the new routine, I put the finishing touches on the rest of their field.  This electric system is larger and a little more complex than what I have used in the past, so it naturally took longer and required more trouble shooting.

The new fence charger demands a little more respect from me as well.




Finally, I was able to get the last section of line working satisfactorily and the extra layer of training fencing came down.  I spent about half an hour trying to coax the two gilts to cross into the newly opened up pasture, but they were still too spooked by where the fence used to be to cross into an area of rich grass and herbaceous plants.

When I checked on them in the evening (with their snack of treats), I saw they had made their first forays into the new pasture.




More new arrivals...our first bee hives.  Julia brought home the two "nucs"  - bee keeping jargon for the boxes containing the nucleus of a new colony - last night as I raced to put the finishing touches on the bee yard electric fence.

The yard of the house is now fenced (though a gate and a few other details still need to be built or installed).  An additional line has been run around the hives as a second line of defense.

The page fencing and electric lines are augmented with some metallic rattles to further dissuade bears.  





The nucs contain several frames of honeycomb.  The frames are gently placed into the new hives and left open for the rest of the bees to find their way into their new hive.

After the first flush of spring flowers and blooming trees, a period of time follows with relatively little flowering -  a period of time known to beekeepers as the "dearth". 

The previous owners (also bee keepers) have planted some perennials that have a delayed bloom time, such as poppies and comfrey.





The nearby pasture and meadows have plenty of late bloomers as well:  devil's paintbrush, daisy's, and buttercups.

Each hive is supplied with a jar of sugar water.  This allows the bees to get a quick supply of food while they map out the area.





Within an hour, Julia reported that the bees were circling the hives (their mapping forays) and both colonies had guards standing hind out at the entrances.  One of only two species I can think of that takes this particular defensive posture.





The other arrival at the farm within the past two weeks were the mushroom "spawn" plugs.  This is a time sensitive project, the spawn must be inserted into the nursery logs within days of arrival.  The nursery is located deep in the woodlot near a shallow stream.  Mosquito territory...




While all this is going on in Lanark, the farm in Stittsville is growing the produce.

 Astro arugula, the variety we have been growing since 2011.

There are two other types I will be planting this season.  I trialed Surrey variety last year and found it better tasting though a little slower growing.  Out of curiosity, I am trialing Esmee variety arugula this year.








Best looking and yielding spinach since early 2016.  Five days ago, this looked like a write off, I assumed I had not thinned it out in time.  I am curious as to why the two middle rows of spinach are larger than the two outermost rows.  

Last fall, weeks before we found the new farm, I was considering not doing a very much vegetable production.  We concentrated on finding land and only a small portion of the field was prepared for spring.  

As plans changed this spring, less land was immediately available for the the first seeding and transplanting.  I had to be inventive as to how to fit all of the produce into the field.




 Better late than never...the squashes are in the process of being transplanted.  To ease the transition, I place row covers over the seedlings for the first week or two to provide protection from the sun, wind, and pummeling rains.

There are two schools of thought as to how to treat young seedlings.  One is to protect as much as possible, to allow the plants a head start before being exposed to all of the stresses they will encounter from weather and insects.






The other approach is to expose the plants to everything they will experience right away, on the assumption that this will make the plants stronger - kind of like teaching to swim by tossing into the deep end.

I take the middle route.  When I have the time to do it, I protect the plants as much as possible.  When I am pressed for time, the plants get the harder treatment.




One way to interplant...in the bed on the right, zinnias are placed between squash plants.  The zinnias grow up while the squash grows outward.  This is an experiment I have tried for the first time this season.

To the left of the squash and zinnias are a bed of romano beans and amaranth.  When the Amaranth is finished, the next succession of romano beans will be planted.  As the first succession of romanos finish, another round of amaranth or some other leaf will be planted.







So many seedlings were lost this spring in the nursery due to damping off.  I suspect I ran the temperature too low.  The first lettuces were some of the casualties.

The next successions of lettuces are on the way...greenleafs, mini red romaines, and reen romaines.







First potato to emerge...Linzer Delicatesse...a variety of fingerling sourced from Ellenberger farm.   This picture makes my mouth water.








The garlic is growing very well despite the damp weather at the start of the season.

The leaves with yellowed tips are the oldest leaves on the plants.

At the start of the season, I try to encourage the bulbs to sprout their first leaves by pulling the straw off during the day and putting it back on at night.  The third or fourth time I did this, the first leaves had already started to emerge.

If they had emerged by growing through the straw, the leaves would have had time to adapt to the increasing amount of sunlight.



Instead, the first pale leaves were abruptly exposed to the full sunlight and received a sunburn.  Those leaves carry the memory of that experience, indicated by the yellowed tips.




First garlic scape developing.  This is a good gauge as to how the production season dates have differed from previous years.

Usually, the scapes are a few inches longer by now, and ready for scape harvest by the first week of July.  Based on what I am observing here, I am anticipating another week or so later than usual.











 Amaranth seedlings.  These will require a couple more weeks to grow.


















Spinach and chard.  With such a late start to the season, path mowing has been set aside to get beds prepared, seedlings transplanted, and seeds sown.

The drawback is more shade for the plants at the edge of the bed, which I suspect is why the two outermost rows are producing smaller spinach plants.

The first day I had time to mow, the draw cord on the mower snapped.  Despite being the first time I have replaced a broken draw cord, this was easy enough to fix until I got to re-installing the spring...





 Even Cayley knows that there is no time to sit still!

















The next post will be in the mushroom nursery...beyond the boundary of our farm...beyond where the little cars can drive...









Saturday, 25 May 2019


Another update as of this afternoon...they're here...


The black ones are Dominiques, the light ones are Buckeyes.

The red tint is from the heat lamp















A quick update:

The garlic is growing well.  The earliest plants to emerge have some tip burn, possibly from water stress or perhaps a little sunburn from when the straw was removed from the first shoots.














Welcome to the team!

Minnie is helping out this season.  She is hoping to take on the farm as Whitsend transitions out.

Surface cultivating is a technique that suppresses weeds quite effectively.  More efficient than weeding full grown plants.















Pictured faintly are the spinach plants germinating.  It appears that the germination rate has been fairly successful.



















We transplanted about one third of the tomatoes today.  For this bed, we have undersown the first succession of celtuce.

.







The seedlings are still quite young, so a little added protection is provided by the row covers for the first week or so.  It helps break the wind, reduces the fll strength of the sunlight, and hods in the heat for the cool nights.








The peas initially germinated quite unevenly, possibly due to the cool weather.

The rows have filled out over the past week, though there are a couple of small gaps.










 With progress comes setbacks.  This is how a two hour task becomes a four hour chore and a two day delay on work that needs finishing last week...

Halfway through some light tilling, the tire goes flat.  A quick examination reveals a little more happening than a leak.  Cover the engine with a tarp and head for you tube.





Monday, 20 May 2019


Hello Everyone:



Finally the weather is improving enough to start more sowing and planting.  Everything is late and the time pressure is building. 












The best news is that the garlic is growing well, though I may have to harvest early.

So far this year, the weather seems to be following a pattern similar to 2017.  That year, the amount of rain damaged a lot of the garlic and caused a considerable amount of it to go bad before harvest.  When I compared notes with other growers, most said that in such seasons the bulbs should be harvested about two weeks sooner.  The bulbs are smaller with such an early harvest but at least they are still sound.


This photo and the following one taken by Minnie.








It is said that one failure teaches more than a hundred successes.  With this in mind, I should be able to produce a great crop of spinach this year.  Keep the row cover off the bed to allow for maximum sunlight as spinach needs a lot of light to germinate.  Keep the beds moist but not soaked to prevent the seeds from rotting.  Thin the seedlings sooner rather than later.  Don’t sow too early (not enough leaf production) or too late (before the weather turns too hot for good quality leaf).  I’ve made all these mistakes over the years and assuming I hit a good planting date, we should finally have some decent spinach.





The past two weeks I have been cultivating the beds as much as possible to suppress this year’s crop of weeds before they get started.  The beds are ready for the early crops to go into this week.  Chard, kale, kohlrabi and hopefully some lettuce should be making its way out of the nursery.  Carrot and radish seeds are likely going in soon.









On Monday we are taking our annual trip up to Coe Hill to pick up the seed potatoes from Ellenberger Farm.  Our usual two day “holiday” will have to be a day trip this year.  Each season I go there, I learn more about potato growing in twenty minutes of discussion with Henry and Janet than I do for the rest of the season.  One of the benefits of moving to Lanark is that the drive to Coe Hill is about an hour shorter.





A ten minute conversation with Henry on the phone the other day has already expanded my knowledge of seed potatoes.  These ones were saved last year and stored in the dark over the winter. 



When I pulled them out last week, I found that they all had very long eye stalks already growing; so long as to make sowing very difficult.  Previously, I had thought that breaking off the stalks would render the plant incapable of producing plants, but Henry's wealth of experience put my fears to rest.  

At his direction, I have removed the long stalks and placed the tubers in a bit of sunlight to encourage a new set of stalks to start.  This should take a week or two, and then the potatoes are ready to plant.  The process of removing the eyes of potatoes is called “chitting”.






The melted snow here in Lanark has revealed a greater mess than I anticipated.

These were beds that I was hoping to prepare for production next year.  It's possible that they can be cleaned up by fall, though timing will be everything.  The amount of quack grass rules out even the lightest use of a tiller here; I'll have to bring my curve tine wheel cultivator home and find time to cultivate to make this area productive.
 




Julia cleaned up an area that was plastic mulched over the winter (at the top of the photo) and sowed flowers for the forthcoming bee hives.




There are some pleasant surprises too.  This is one of many flower beds of bulbs and herbs that has a lot of potential to expand once they are cleaned up, aerated, and the soil amended with  compost.














The rhubarb is coming up but as you can see from the photo its bed is quite choked with at least a season’s worth of grass.  I doubt the stalks of all these otherwise healthy plants will produce the quantity this many plants would otherwise be capable of.  I’ll harvest it over the course of the next month or so but it will take a lot of time cutting and cleaning this many small stalks.  Those of you who receive some will have less chopping to do...








I’ll be contacting everyone soon about final payment and getting our email list together.  There are still a couple of shares left to sell, so if you know of anyone who is interested, please let them know as soon as possible.

Talk to you soon,


Bob


Thursday, 9 May 2019


Hello Everyone:

Time goes by too quickly.  There is so much to write about I don’t know where to start.
 
The nursery seems to have stabilised.  I lost most celeriac, onions and leeks in the early spring to damping off, probably from running the nursery a little too cool.  The first celery, parsley, and lettuces did not do well either but their replacements are on the way and starting to harden off. 


The other crops – tomatoes, peppers, chard, kale, and kohlrabi are growing well. 

Out in the field of the Stittsville farm, the garlic is back to my usual emergence rate of 98 to 99 per cent.  The snow peas were a sown a week later than I wanted to due to the field being too wet.  The sorrel is very patchy and does not seem to have self seeded very well. 

I’m very glad that I took the time to aerate the new portion of field last fall as I assume that has allowed the water percolate deep into the soil and allow the beds to dry uniformly.  This time last year, this same location had standing water on the surface.

The main portion of the growing field is cultivated and soon ready for the seeds and transplants. 

The Lanark farm is where most of my efforts are focussed right now.

The melting snow revealed a great mess of winter debris – a season’s worth of work has thawed out.  The herbs look like they have plenty of potential, but it seems that some fall preparation was missed; none of the plants were mulched. 

The brush along the electric fence needed a lot of trimming back, the tool shed a complete re-organising, and livestock hutches a though cleaning out.

Old equipment from the previous farm here, inventoried back in the winter, is now being set out and examined closely.  There is hundreds of feet of hose – some useful, some requiring repair, and some not meeting our needs.  All the buckets and containers are getting a sterilising.  Fencing for the livestock is going up and plots of ground are being surveyed.

June is going to be busier, with the arrival of chicks, pigs, mushrooms and seed potatoes. 
I haven’t seen much activity in the asparagus bed, but the rhubarb is growing very well.  The number of plants that have come up are much more than I recall being told about.  There will be no shortage of this crop.

There will be more news and photos to follow...

Bob