Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still on the To-Do List

There are still jobs to be done, aside from the daily feeding and care of chickens. One of the big ones, which we're dreading, is the cleaning of the greenhouse. The greenhouse becomes a dumping ground all summer. As we plant out the seedlings, we tend to dump the empty flats back inside. As we work through the spring and summer, we tend to dump the sprayer, or broken sprinkler heads or whatever in the greenhouse. It's a convenient spot, it's a lean-to structure on the barn, right beside Farmer Man's shop, close to the house. Then, in fall, we clean out pots of stuff we've had around the house and dump those pots. And then, we tend to dump tools that need cleaning before putting away for winter. Well, you get the picture. Furthermore, because we take the windows out late in the spring, and never get them back in in a timely fashion, it has rained and blown leaves into the greenhouse. It's a disaster! And why we keep finding something else to do......

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Buddy Goes Wild!

I had a little run-in with Buddy, the new rooster. He's settling in nicely, it seems, but has been a little aggressive with me when I enter the pen to collect eggs. He's been pecking at my feet and making little runs at me! Well, Thursday he went a little wild! He rushed me as I entered the pen, and the next thing I remember is a blur of beige and brown and pain! He went after me with his spurs, cutting the insulated pants I was wearing and leaving two gouges at ankle height. He also came with force, bruising my ankle. I went to work limping, thinking it would mellow out as I moved around, but it didn't. The ladies at work thought I should go to the clinic and have it looked at, so Shelley drove me over there. Well, the doctor orders antibiotics, get off the leg for a couple of days, get the leg up, cold compresses and salt baths! Farmer Man offered to prepare Buddy for the soup pot immediately, a task I knew he was not really up for. Besides, that's not the way we do things here at Aagaard Farms!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Meal

Simple but good. A whole chicken from our friends at Maple Valley Farms, lightly seasoned and oven roasted. Sangre potatoes and spaghetti squash from our own garden. We had carrots from our own garden, which would have added some nice colour to the photo; we've said before that our food styling definitely needs upgrading! The squash was roasted in the oven with the chicken, the potatoes steamed. We would like pepper and salt on the veggies but they're not local! We stuffed freshly cut sage into the cavity of the chicken, which added a nice flavour. We have herbs, in pots, which we brought inside in September. They'll be a great addition to winter meals.

Enjoying a Lovely Late Fall Day

Linda 'e'd this cute picture of Rocky's little son and his two nest mates. It was a truly lovely afternoon, sunny with little wind. The chicks are checking out the dog dish on Linda's porch.

A Great Christmas Present!

Dan Jason, of Salt Spring Island Seeds, has been a leader in the movement for sustainable agriculture and self-sufficiency for over twenty years. His seed company has a great idea for a Christmas present - The Zero Mile Diet Seed Kit. It includes grains, legumes, kale and lettuce to mention a few. It comes with a guide to growing and using the seeds; dealing with the grains will be very new to some people. The kit will get a person off in the right direction for self-sufficiency. Check it out at Salt Spring's website.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating Local

I've joined the Dark Days Challenge from the blog (not so) Urban Hennery, trying to eat locally produced food at least once a week during the winter. Especially here on the snowbound Prairies this can be a challenge! It's hard to read some of my favourite blogs where they are talking about planting winter greens on the West Coast or in the Deep South. But here's an excellent tip from Harrowsmith Magazine's Lorne Elliott, who has a great piece on his efforts to be self-sufficient. His search started in an effort to replace lemon juice, which he seems to love for salads and such. He went to an old Indian recipe which uses sumac, a native shrub with red, velvety seed heads. When the seed heads are rubbed in water, he says it produces an excellent lemon flavour. There's one for us Prairie folk to try!

It's Good to Have a Root Cellar!

A peek at part of our root cellar. We're very fortunate Farmer Man's father built a proper cellar when the house was being built. Farmer Man estimates that there is over one thousand pounds of potatoes down there, over twenty varieties! Some, like the Pink Fir Apple are in very small quantities while we continue to try to build our stock of seed. Others, like Norland, in the corner, we have in good abundance. Unseen, we still have some small heads of garlic, an assortment of winter squash and some heads of cabbage in the cellar. We won't be going hungry this season!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two More Chicks Lost

Yesterday, we heard a little fuss mid-morning; looked out the window to see our neighbour's Akita chasing The Chicks. Raced out, scared him off, recovered one dead Chick from him. Four still missing. We hunted high and low, couldn't find them. The Akita had actually knocked down the gate to get at the chicks, so Farmer Man reinforced it. We had to leave the farm and, on returning, three had made their way back but one is still missing today and must be presumed lost. It's tough to lose a little creature we've made a commitment to care for. We've got to get this organized so that The Chicks are safe!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Case of Bumblefoot?

I noticed a couple of days ago that one of The Girls had a swelling on her foot. I remembered reading something about this but couldn't remember the details or where I read it. It took a couple of days, but I am pretty sure she has something called bumblefoot. It seems she would have gotten a cut or scratch on the bottom of her foot which has been infected with, most likely, a staph infection. Various treatments are described both in our books and online, all which involve a little 'surgery'. The bottom of the foot will have a scab, where the infection entered. This must be removed, lifted or lanced and then pus and goo must be removed from the wound. It should be disinfected and treated, bandaged and then the little Girl must be contained in a small place with deep bedding to cushion the foot. We've got to get organized and get this done because it has definitely gotten worse in the couple of days of research; the poor Girl has quite a limp today!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chicken Coop, Almost!

Now that harvest and clean-up are largely finished, Farmer Man has turned his attention back to the coop. It's very close: two windows and a door, power has been run to it, roof is on and inside, it's all insulated, wrapped and most of the ceiling is in place. Just in time, too. The weather has been awesome for November, but it looks like next week will cool down. Our chief concern now, how to integrate both flocks. We're finding the new rooster Buddy is a bit aggressive; when collecting eggs a few days ago I stood up by him and he gave me a big old peck on my cheek! We don't think Rocky is as aggressive or as big, so we're a little concerned because we don't want anything to happen to Rocky. And Rocky's little son is suppose to return to Aagaard Farms, soon. If anyone has any advice on combining the two, please let us know. Both flocks should be left in the new coop for a couple of days so that they understand it is their new home. We may have to erect fencing between the two, and literally mirror and space with two sets of roosts, two sets of nests, etc. It does have two separate chicken doors, but one is now currently within the fenced pasture so a little re-fencing may be in order!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farmer Boy Becomes Farmer Man???

On the eve of Farmer Boy's birthday, he decided to give The Berks a late dinner. The Berks will be going away tomorrow, and Farmer Boy is a little sad. He has enjoyed this little herd; The Berks are curious and lively creatures, and he has spent a lot of time caring for them. Tomorrow will be a hard day. So, he went out in the darkness to give them a late little treat. And took a nosedive right into the muck! He tucked his head just in time to land on his hat and not his face! Mud up his arms, over his gloves, down his front, covering his legs! And smell.........!!!!! Baptism by pig poop as he starts his next decade! Happy Birthday, Farmer Man!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rocky's Baby

An update from Linda: Rocky's little son is a teenager now (in chicken years) and Clucky effectively kicked him out of the nest on the weekend! The three babies are on their own and Clucky has returned to her routine with the other hens. The little white rooster will return to Aagaard Farms, soon. He'll hang out with The Girls and Rocky, and cock-a-d00dle-doo his way around here!

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Odd Fall!

Pictured is a Viburnum, 'Bailey's Compact' Cranberry to be exact. (This has nothing to do with the cranberries served with turkey - different group of plants going by the same common name.) This plant usually has gorgeous orange/red leaves this time of year, highlighted by the bright red berries. In this odd fall, the leaves got frozen by our early winter storm, and now persist, half green and half brown, looking sad. It's like that with many plants, sort of caught in time. Here in Manitoba, the majority of plants have yellow fall colour, so the red of the cranberry is sorely missed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Benefits (or not) of Organic Food

Another study, another debate: are organic foods more healthy? The link is an article on Forbes, with a new study showing little nutritional difference between organic and conventional food. We've never been about that; our thing is the FRESH food has more nutrition because the nutrition hasn't had as much chance to decay. And the flavour of fresh, fully ripened food is waaaaaay beyond so much of the stuff that is trucked for thousands of miles. And we really do believe pesticides and chemical fertilizers can leave residues in your food, which this study did not investigate. Check it out:

Dark Days Challenge Meal

If you haven't heard, we're taking the Dark Days Challenge '09 from the blog (not so)Urban Hennery. It's about eating local through the winter - not everyday, which would mean giving up so much (bananas!). So, here is our local meal for the first week of November. Organic lamp chops from our friends Logan Farms of Wawanesa, which Farmer Boy coated with bread crumbs, powdered mustard and tarragon, then baked. On top of the chops, from our garden, Pink Fir Apple potatoes, a rare and yummy fingerling that Farmer Boy hardly ever lets us eat because he's trying to increase his seed stock. Then, he simply roasted four different kinds of winter squash we grew. Sort of a squash-off. They all look similar, so he differentiated by the cut of the squash. From right to left: butternut squash, a Kabocha called 'Confection', 'Jaspee de Vende' which was advertised as so sweet you can eat it raw, and finally 'Long Island Cheese' pumpkin. The lamp chops were divine! The Pink Fir Apple delicious: a nutty, waxy potato. The butternut and the Kabocha very good; the Jaspee and Long Island both a bit of a disappointment. I don't think either of the last two squashes were actually mature, the flavour was blah. The butternut and Kabocha were quite delightful: sweet, nutty and great texture. Rather a bland colour palette though - we have to work on our food styling!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pigs' Porridge

Part of the winterizing is cleaning out the garage, which acts as Headquarters Central during the Farmers' Market season. We've been curing potatoes, squash and onions in there before they go to the root cellar. We also brought back product from the Green Spot, which we were able to store there between markets. The lush, humid atmosphere of the Green Spot was not the ideal place to store winter squash; some mold and mildew got started on the skin. So now, we've got to go through everything before it goes down into the root cellar. Anything bashed, scratched, nicked or knocked cannot go to the cellar - it will be the first to rot and can 'infect' (so to speak) anything stored beside it. So, The Berks are getting a special treat - largely perfectly good winter squash and cabbage that can't be held to long. We can't eat it fast enough, we only have small sales through the winter and it's just tooooo much stuff! It's mostly the ugly stuff, which we'd rather not sell anyway. We've got better stuff for our customers! The Berks will love it!

The Chicks Get a New Friend!

Farmer Boy has been looking around for a second rooster, figuring The Chicks need a new flock mate. Come Spring, we'll probably look for a couple more because there are waaaay more girls than guys. Our friend down the road, Mike, volunteered an Isa Brown he had. Farmer Boy went and picked him up yesterday. 'Buddy' is beautiful - the colouring quite different from The Chicks, with a huge comb. Although he seemed a little shy last night (and can you blame him!) he seemed quite comfortable this morning! In fact, he and Rocky were having a bit of a cock-a-doodle-do contest this morning. The two roosters can't see each other: Rocky is out in the pasture and Buddy is in the barn, but they are only separated by about two hundred feet and can definitely hear each other!

We hope Buddy can offer some protection - we lost another Chick yesterday morning. All was fine early on, Farmer Boy went out about mid-morning and the gate had been pushed over. The Chicks were scattered; took us about two hours to collect them and about six hours later another wandered back but one is still missing and must be presumed gone. Farmer Boy has improved the gate and hopefully Buddy will help!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Pretty soon it is going to get freaky-deaky cold here on the Canadian Prairies. In Brandon, we can expect night time temperatures to regularly hit -30 C (about -28 F, really cold!). Hopefully, this won't happen until January or February, but you never know! Plus, it's hard to winterize if there's already two feet of snow on the ground, also expected. So the chores are on the To D0 list now. Farmer Boy has already hauled straw which we put around our sun room for extra insulation, he's boxed up and insulated the air conditioner that's built into the wall of the office. And I've protected the newly planted fruit trees. Young trees, and for some reason especially fruit trees, can be prone to winter cracking. The theory is that the sun artificially warms the bark and raises the temperature. The sun goes down, it's freaky-deaky cold and the bark cools rapidly. Expansion and contraction occur and the bark can split. Sometimes it's fatal, sometimes not. Certainly always rather unsightly. So something to keep the sun off is applied - hence the white tree guards I installed. In 'olden' days, people frequently painted the bark, but research shows that is not the best plan because bark actually has breathing holes called lenticels which can get all gummed up by paint. The tree guards are also very helpful against young trees' other winter enemy: rodents and small critters. Mice, raccoons, skunks, beavers will all look for a tasty winter meal on the trunks of young trees. They can strip the bark and go deeper, killing the tree. Part of the trick I learned early in Manitoba is to go higher than one guard - my first summer here I heard of a fellow who lost all his young trees when critters got on top of the snow and ate above his lone tree guard!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Have A Hauntingly Happy Halloween!

Yes, Farmer Boy grew it, carved it and lit it! Scaaaaary, very scaaaaaary!