Monday, May 31, 2010
We're on the Canadian Prairies, Zone 2B officially. We like to think of ourselves as Zone 3 - it makes us feel slightly better. Farmer Man and I moved here from Vancouver, BC, Zone 8, where you can hardly kill anything unless you let it drown over the rainy winter. So, gardening here in Brandon has been full of disappointments and frustrations. Things die for no apparent reason (well, I can often deduce reasons, but it doesn't make me feel any better!) Pictured is my Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), a Zone 4 plant (OK, OK, it was always a risk), which has been thriving in a sheltered spot for four years. This year: all dead except for a little branch at the very bottom that has leafed out. It doesn't show too well in the photo, but behind it is an Amur Cherry tree, quite hardy, in the ground five years and doing well. This spring, one of the three main branches is dead and gone. As well, I have extensive die back on hardy roses, spirea and barberry. I've given them all plenty of time, so now it's down to the pruning and the pulling out. It's soooooooo hard to be a Prairie gardener!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
An interesting piece from the local Brandon Sun website, featuring some buildings made of bottles. Yes, buildings made of pop bottles! They are beautiful and functional. Can't imagine what it is like inside on a sunny day - or a moonlit night! Check it out here!
Just had a Sunday morning walk-about. Quite a day at Aagaard Farms! First, on checking The Hens, heard some noises behind the trees; thought somebody was trying to steal our friends' Joe and Calla's boat. Took a peak: it's some of our neighbours cattle, perhaps scared across the road to the shelter of our tree belt during yesterdays' storm. Walking toward them seemed to head them home and they took off trotting for their own pasture. Some very large trees are down at the east end of the property. It's willow shelter belt - not too surprising. A major river coursed through the field yesterday, washing out some of Farmer Man's planting. We may have corn four feet south of where he intended! More bad news: big branches down in the asparagus patch, with some loses of lovely new asparagus! Farmer Man spoke last night to our neighbour Mike Waddell, half a mile south of us. Mike had a funnel or mini tornado go through and has a number of big trees down and quite a mess around his yard. I guess things could have been worse!
The good news: some of the potatoes are up, even in this cool weather! And the dugout level is much higher than it was ten days ago! More good news: spotted an oriole and some swallows! Swallows have nested around our garage every year - their arrival means summer is close by! We have to make sure the garage is closed up or they might nest in there. They tried that a few years ago, it got too hot and some of the babies died. We love to sit and watch the swallows on a summers' eve - they are so beautiful in motion, and eat lots of bugs as they are soaring around!
Awoke early Saturday morning to find an 'Active Weather' warning on the Weather Network. High winds, thunder and lightening and heavy rain forecast. Within half an hour of reading this, it got dark - very, very dark. Suddenly, about 6:30 AM the wind came up ferociously, thunder started to roll, and lightening flashed across the sky. For about fifteen minutes it rained so hard, we couldn't see to the end of our driveway! The power started to flicker, and continued to flicker on and off for about fifteen minutes. It was very weird; some of the electronics would buzz or beep as the power came and went. Just before 7:00 AM the power went out. The thunder, lightening and rain continued for quite a while - shaking the house at points.
Farmer Man went out to check the chickens when the storm abated somewhat, and found one poor Leghorn dead on the floor of the coop. We have to assume the thunder scared her to death, poor thing. Everyone else seemed fine, the coop seemed in good shape. We had to go into town; Saturday is currently the only day our dump is open and we were over-due for a visit. We were hearing stories everywhere about power outages in town, huge trees down and the Golden Arches of McDonalds, on the highway just a couple of miles from us, hit by lightening.
We returned to the farm a little after 10:00 AM, still no power. The storm had abated but it was still raining. What do you do in a power outage? We went for a nap! On waking, still no power. We watched some old John Wayne movies on the laptop until the power started to go, moved a table into the sun room and played some cards in the best light we had. Being without power for such a length of time became an issue: we couldn't cook or make coffee. We were worried about all our lovely Berkshire pork in the freezer, we were trying not to open the fridge to increase the temperature. The situation made us realize just how tied to the grid we are: couldn't get online, our phone didn't work, couldn't recharge the computer or the camera, couldn't cook. Because we're on a well, run with an electric pump, we even had to be careful of water use - using a bucket of rain water to refill the toilet as the day went on. We finally went out for coffee and some fast food about 4:00 PM. Thunder, lightening and rain had started up again. Just as the light started to fade, the power finally came back on! One of the first orders of business: looking into purchasing a generator!!
Friday, May 28, 2010
It's been windy, rainy and cold for almost a week now. Hard times for a chicken, who likes to take a dust bath. Not much dust right now! So, The Hens have been trying, anyway, and getting something a bit more like a spa experience. I wonder if we could package and sell Aagaard Farms mud bath.....The results show the most on the white Leghorns, but I know the Isa Browns are a little caked right now, too.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Finally, we're getting back our little sunroom/sitting room! Well, almost. As seedlings have been planted, more trays of seedlings can go up to the greenhouse. Today, we're able to take out two of the three folding tables that have been holding trays of seedlings. The third table has to stay for now, holding winter squash seedlings, which are looking great! The light-stand will stay for now, too, as it is nurturing the last seeding of herbs, and some oddities like eggplant. What's left after the tables come out? A great big mess! I haven't been able to really reach the two bookcases in the room, so they are thick with dust. And, even though we try to be careful, we've splashed, splooshed, dropped and gooped our way around this little room since February. So, a thorough cleaning is in order and then our little sitting room is ours again. It's a beautiful place to sit on a late Spring evening. Birds are coming and going from the feeder and bird bath, we can hear Rocky crowing about his good day, the doggies may be playing on the grass beside the windows and sometimes wildlife will wander by! We just have to get through the cleaning......
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
A great piece from yahoo about choosing the healthiest bread! Check it out here! Of course, at the Farmers' Market we have a bit of trouble rating some of our nutritional ingredients, but this helps! Whole grains - WHOLE GRAINS! Sorry to shout, but at the Farmers' Market the baker should be the vendor, so ask! No trans fats - that's easy and do-able! This is great info for a little label-reading at the supermarket!
Labels: local food
The last three days have been very windy, but Sunday and Tuesday were, well, dangerously windy! Freakish gusts, prolonged intense winds. It has just been weird. In the aftermath last night, we had a little walk around. The row cover, or horticultural fleece, has survived - thanks to Natalia and Vartan for doing such a good job of putting it down! (I noticed Vartan has used it in his little rental plot - we're rubbing off on him!). Tree branches, some big, are everywhere! Brother-in-law Murray's camper took a dive and the hoop house now has air conditioning. One of the bird feeders went flying and assorted pots and crates got blown all over. I've never seen the crates we use levitating like that - it was unsettling! But this morning seems fairly calm, and the chores of a market garden carry right on!
Monday, May 24, 2010
From the Yahoo Canada News page - an article on five things we use everyday that may be killing us. Makes you stop to check your lifestyle. Cel phones have been in the news lately, plastic bottles that not only leach chemicals but stuff up our landfills. But perfume? The perfume is killing me? Read more here.
Labels: sustainable agriculture
Sunday, May 23, 2010
I made bread! I've tried once before, with miserable results, and I don't like doing things I'm not good at! So, in Mother Earth News a few months ago there was an article about artisan bread, that can be made without kneading and all the to-do. So, bought the book and gave it a try! This works!! 'Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day' by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg is going to change our bread eating habits! Now, it will never be 'five minutes a day'...but it is pretty fast and easy! You make a wet dough - enough for five loaves. You just mix, no kneading. Let is rise a couple of hours, refrigerate and make loaves over the next week. To make a loaf, you pull off a piece, shape it, let it sit on the counter for up to ninety minutes, then bake for thirty minutes. You need a pizza stone, corn meal is good, I found. But this really works! We also bought their book 'Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day', which incorporates more grains, veggies and fruits. We're going to be eating a lot more home made bread! Click the Amazon bar at the right to get a copy, too! Are you ready for home made bread!
This time of year, there is lots of action at Aagaard Farms. We have our largest group of garden renters ever this year, Vartan and Natalia are coming by to help out, Farmer Man is in the field, back to the chicken coop and out to the barn. Friends and neighbors come and go, stopping for a visit, organizing this or that! It all makes for some busy little Bears! The dogs love this time of year: lots of visitors after a hermit-like existence all winter, gophers and magpies to chase, traffic to bark at, sunshine to bask in. Teddy, Panda and Grizzly are busy, busy, busy! Sometimes, even a doggie just needs a break!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Looks like a nice, organized stroll through the pasture. In the very right of the picture you can see Farmer Man's foot. I love the way The Hens and Rocky come running when he approaches the coop. They know him, and they know they'll get some good scratch! Farmer Man's having a little inspection tour, with the scratch bucket in hand - so The Hens aren't letting him far from their sight! It's so amusing to watch them run after him; chickens can't really be called graceful, it's more of a forward-neck out-bob to either side kind of shimmy that they do.
Friday, May 21, 2010
First out, this year, cabbage! Farmer Man had the field all prepared, next to the onions, so Natalia and I spent some time crawling around stuffing little cabbage seedlings in the ground. The seedlings were a little 'lanky' this year, and it was very windy, so we did break a few! But, most got in the ground, looking good. We immediately watered them - Farmer Man had to haul water 'cause the irrigation systems' pump seems to have cracked over the winter. Then, we immediately covered them with row cover or horticultural fleece. This is the very light weight, spun stuff. It will give them a bit of frost protection, but more importantly right now, will protect them from wind and too much sun. Even though we consider them 'hardened' off or ready to be planted, we often find that it is a bit more rugged out in the field, as opposed to in the greenhouse. The big, long-term bonus of row cover - it will keep the cabbage butterfly off them so we should have beautiful cabbage without having to spray!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Just because we want to keep The Hens happy, and because we like to recycle, we put something new and different in their pasture today! Grass clippings, with mountains of dandelions heads! Farmer Man did the first mowing of the season on the front lawn, which was awash with bright yellow dandelions. We frequently leave the clippings on the lawn, for 'on-the-spot' composting - the clippings break down quite quickly (it only looks messy for 24 to 36 hours, I promise!), returning their nutrition to the soil. But, the lawn was quite long and it would have been quite messy, so Farmer Man decided to take some of it off. Now, we could have composted it but we do tend to have a lot of green, juicy stuff in our compost so it seemed like over-doing it! So, something different for The Hens to scratch in - and they seem to be loving those dandelion heads!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The first hummingbird of the season made an appearance at the feeder last night! The hummingbird and the oriole feeders have been up about three weeks. My neighbor Rob Holland gave me that tip a few years ago - get them up early, the birds will find them first and will tend to return to them. The little hummingbird came, flew off and then returned for a good, long drink! I just love watching them! No pictures I'm sorry to say - I was waaaay to busy waving at Farmer Man, shouting 'Hummingbird' to even think about getting the camera!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Happy, happy doggies everywhere around Aagaard Farms! Days of romping, roaming, digging, swimming, chasing!! Yesterday, during potato planting Panda Bear and Grizzly Bear were just in doggie heaven; they followed the potato planter, sniffed at all the freshly turned earth, trotted up to say hi to Vartan and Natalia anytime the planter stopped, rushed off to check a gopher hole, chased some birds, barked at an airplane, ran to the house for a drink, barked at a passing car and just on and on and on. Blaze was not far behind them, and he also had a swim in the dugout, one of his favorite things. Diva Teddy Bear was, of course, not mixed up in any of this nonsense. She spent most of the day reclining at the front door.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Today's the day! Or the next few days.....Farmer Man is ready to plant potatoes. He's been bringing up crates of his potato collection for a few days. Each seed potato needs three eyes to grow well, so he's been cutting the larger potatoes and then leaving them to dry in the crates. We don't want a wet, gooey cut going into the ground; they would be more prone to rot so each cut variety dries for at least twenty four hours. I've got to work the next few days so Vartan and Natalia will be helping him. Our potato planter is a recycled (up cycled?) tree planter; Farmer Man's father Andy Aagaard was very good at re-using and recycling. It's not the most comfortable ride - but a couple of cushions help. Vartan and Natalia will be here the next few mornings, I'll probably be riding the planter the next few nights when I get home from work. By the time we're done, we'll have almost four acres of some twenty different varieties in the ground!
Sunday, May 16, 2010
We blogged here about forcing the stems of early blooming shrubs like double-flowered plum or forsythia. Well, here's the double flowered plum in all its' glory in the garden - just a sight to behold! This is an awesome shrub for Prairie gardeners; hardy, reliable, gorgeous spring bloom and pretty fall colour. Give it the room it needs and please, please, please don't give it little haircuts on its' tips, which ruins its' natural shape. Now, I must admit that the bloom is maybe a week of glory, if it's not windy. But well worth it! For some gorgeous close-ups, visit Prairie Girl Studios - some delightful photographs there! I was waiting rather impatiently for mine - some of the shrubs in protected town gardens started blooming two weeks ago. Well worth the wait, I'd say!
The first official planting in the garden has taken place! Onion sets are in the ground! I co-opted my pal Deb on Thursday and we planted a couple of rows of Spanish onions. Vartan and Natalia have been helping prune the raspberries, and since they were finished that job, they finished the onions while I went off to work yesterday. Spanish, red and yellow onions are done! Farmer Man made small trenches with the seeder and then we did two staggered rows of the little bulbs down each side of the trench. We just push the little onion sets down into the soil, which goes fairly quickly in our sandy soil. The sets are planted fairly thickly, because we will take out smaller sizes of onions earlier in the season, thinning the lines as we go. Cross one job off the very, very long to-do list!
Friday, May 14, 2010
Ah, Spring. Farmer Man found the first asparagus last night. We'd walked the rows about a week ago and found no sign of anything but weeds. Last night, he scored!! A handful of short, fat shoots - just yummy!! If you've never had fresh asparagus from the garden (truly fresh, minutes from the garden) it's glorious! Are we still eating local? You bet! Last night's dinner was our own, homegrown pork roast, our own Russian Blue potatoes, fresh asparagus and some store-bought yam (from far, far away, as they say in The Dark Days Challenge). Just delicious!
All this has been tempered this morning by Blaze and Grizzly Bear having their first meeting with a skunk this year. Wasn't as bad as it could have been....neither was fully sprayed. But even a little whiff of skunk is too much! The occasion called for an impromptu bath by hose with the special skunk shampoo. Much struggling, whining, and shaking later, the situation seems under control! Now we've just got a couple of wet dogs getting dirtier by the minute as they go around the farm!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Out to check the chicken coop last night - too early and too light to actually tuck The Hens into bed. Just checking and having a stroll around. Just past the coop, what do we see but some of the neighbors! There are plenty of deer around these parts, but they don't come too close, and we don't often see them this early in the evening. I think having dogs (even though The Bears only come up to a deer's ankles) and the barking and scents seem to keep the deer away from the house. Now, if Blaze had been with us, instead of reclining on the front driveway, he could have had big fun and an awesome work-out!
We don't get much television here at Aagaard Farms. We don't have cable or satellite, so we (sort of) get three of the four national channels, one of which is all French. Apparently, in America, some of those zany late night commercials are marketing seeds for the fall of civilization, or something......Interesting post on one of my fav gardening blogs, Garden Rant, about the phenomenon.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I just love the website 'Etsy'. It's a shopping site for everything handmade, handcrafted from around the world. Their email today was just a joy - artisans who are rethinking 'junk' items and turning them into fabulous stuff. Such inventive minds!! Check it out here. I think my fav is the blender turned into a lamp! What's your favorite?
We've been blogging almost a year on The Vine. It's been quite amazing what we've learned about our farm and our animals just by carrying around a camera. One 'sees' differently through the camera's eye! We've always grumbled about our plum trees that were here on the farm - come August there is hardly any plums. We admit they didn't get pruned, forgot to put down fruit fertilizer, etc. Now, in taking a picture of the lovely blooms on one, I had one of those light-bulb moments: the other one isn't blooming yet! Neither are getting pollinated because their 'date' isn't there on time! Eureka!
Labels: fruit trees
Farmer Man's brother-in-law, Murray, was our awesome house/chicken/dog/cat sitter while we got a little winter vacation this year. He must have mentionned to his wife, Susan, that The Three Bears had cute little beds, but Blaze, the border collie had none; Blaze just finds a comfy spot by Farmer Man and stretches out. Murray was heading our way this weekend, and sister Susan sent along a little (well, big!) present for Blaze: a beautiful, round, plush bed. Funny thing is, Blaze doesn't seem interested. We've called him, told him to sit here, wrestled him onto it, rubbed his tummy, draped ourselves over it, wrapped him in it to get his smell on it but no, he's not interested. He slept last night curled around it! However, Panda Bear is rather enjoying it.......
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I love this moment in time, every Spring. Farmer Man has just tilled the gardens for the last time. The soil is fresh, new and ready to plant! It will only look this pristine for a day or two: tomorrow or Tuesday he will lay out the rental plots, those people will come plant, he'll start to plant and everything will start to look a bit more messed up, stepped on and, well, regimented and organized. But, tonight, it's perfect and unspoiled! Soon, the market gardening starts in earnest!
Farmer Man hasn't been sleeping well with his bad back. So, late at night he's been cruising the Internet, finding interesting things. Here's the link to a great little spoof of Lady Gaga by 'On the Rocks', by University of Oregon's a capella group. This is just for laughs!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
We blogged a while ago about our fondness for a little gizmo called the 'Pot Maker'. Well, here it is in action: loaded with some blue pumpkin seeds and watermelon seeds. We find this works really well for those things that are brittle and do not take to transplanting well. A number of people have asked if they disintegrate or fall apart, if we tape them together or add a dab of glue. The answer is no; we just roll them up, fold over the substantial bottom and crease it well in the base. We don't have a lot of trouble with them disintegrating, a few may implode at planting time but we just scoop them up and keep planting. On the whole, they work really well, and instead of buying peat pots we're re-using newspapers!
Friday, May 7, 2010
We lost a chicken last night; one of the little white Leghorns was sluggish for a couple of days. Then, yesterday, she wouldn't move from the nesting box and by evening was very unresponsive. I moved her into a box in the greenhouse, which I thought would be warmer. Tried to give her water and make her comfortable and cozy. Although we are not experts by any means, we've done our reading and examined her for any signs of disease or parasites or injury. Nothing obvious. It was sad to find she had passed away through the night. We buried her this morning and said a few words. It's always hard to lose an animal, we just hope she had a good life here at Aagaard Farms and is now happily scratching away in a better place. Rocky now has one less Girl to guard; the whole flock seems a little quiet this morning, like they know someone is missing. Or maybe I just imagine that......
Thursday, May 6, 2010
We've started our new compost pile for 2010! Our 'composter' is made of discarded wooden pallets - 4 sides, lots of good air circulation, re-using something that may otherwise have gone to the dump! The first bucket of kitchen scraps has been dumped, along with the (once) lovely pussy willows our neighbour Fred gave us. It's a start! Our garden renters will also add to this pile through the growing season; it is often full by the middle of August and this will be removed to make room for more. Our 2009 pile, augmented this year by the chickens, will be used sparingly - we don't really have enough to just broad coast it in the fields, so we will choose where we apply it. We often add a scoop to the hole dug for each tomato, for instance, and will use it as part of the raised beds or mounds for winter and summer squash.
Are you composting? Are you ready to start? Westman has some great events coming up - all free to the public. Knox United Church is sponsoring an evening of 'Composting and Smart Gardening' at the Green Spot Monday, May 10th starting at 6:30 PM. I'll be taking my worms that night, so if you're interested in worm composting (or vermiculture) come meet my worms! There is no charge and everyone is welcome! And the Brandon Community Garden Network is holding a 'Compost Crawl Workshop Extravaganza'! The event is this Saturday, May 8th. It starts at 12:30 at Rock Park, at 15th and Louise, next to Hobbs Manor. They'll be moving on to two other sites through the afternoon. It's family oriented - kids welcome! For further info on that contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 729-2494!
Compost is one of the best things you can do for your plants, your garden and the Earth! It's not that hard!!!!!!! It's time to get started!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
It's been raining/drizzling/snowing off and on for a few days now. Boy, could we use it! We have had low precipitation averages since last September - yes, that's last September! As Farmer Man found when he tried to disk the fields last week, it's like powder eight or nine inches down. As you can see from the photo, we're just at bud-break here, so rain will really help all the awakening trees and shrubs! Some days, it is hard to be cruising The Web; I read that the Pacific Northwest is harvesting asparagus, California is eating the first strawberries of the year. Problem for us, is that our temperatures are rather low - frost is still a huge possibility. But the rain has come at a good time for another reason: Farmer Man has put his back out - waaaaay out- and can hardly walk! A rainy period is a good time for down time!
Monday, May 3, 2010
One of my favourite blogs, GardenRant, has an excellent new post 'Concerned Scientists Get Gardening Right'. The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a document called 'Climate-Friendly Gardening'. It's a pdf file - just download and save! Loads of great tips and methods! Tell everyone to go get a copy! The link is on GardenRant here.
Farmer Man has been fencing this past week. The pasture the poultry used last year is, well, used up! The Hens and Rocky have scratched it up, pecked it apart and straw has gotten spread all over. So, we felt they needed 'greener' pastures! Something where the grass is growing, alfalfa is coming up, and bugs will be more plentiful, the first photo. So, Farmer Man has spent the last few days fencing in the area north of last year's pasture. The new pasture will incorporate the same spruce trees, for their protection from hawks and for some shade. It's part of an old alfalfa field now mixed with grass and weeds that hasn't been cut in a couple of years: lots of good greens for them to eat! We'll probably seed grass and/or a cover crop into last year's pasture; with all that chicken manure what ever Farmer Man chooses should grow like crazy and we'll flip The Hens back into it next year. Have to do a little reading first, to make sure one year is long enough to eliminate the possibilities of transmitting pests or parasites. Add that to the reading list!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Almost all dogs love to play fetch, and ours are no exception. Our little diva princess, Teddy Bear, will cry and whimper and jump at the bench just outside our front door where we keep the balls and toys. (Just like kids, you've got to pick-up after them every day or there would be toys everywhere!) If one of us picks up a ball she starts to sprint down the drive way, ready to receive! Thing is, diva fetch only happens once, 'cause Teddy Bear won't bring the ball back! Won't share. If you attempt to go and retrieve it, she picks it up and runs away. I guess that makes for fast and easy fetch!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Another great day in Manitoba horticulture circles! Today I was in Hartney, and what a great show they organized! I swear half the town was there! An awesome crowd for such a little town. And some great vendors with some excellent products; saw Julie from JR Greenhouses, some beautiful plant material and cut flowers were for sale - I just wish I had had more time to hang out. Great audience with some great questions; I think I introduced at least a few people to the wonders of horticultural fleece! Thanks for having me, Hartney! And a big pat on the back to Edna and Judy - good work, ladies!
We try to be earth-friendly and sustainable in what we do here at Aagaard Farms. We've been looking for information to keep our chickens chemical-free: no antibiotics or hormones for our eggs, thank you. It's hard! Online, in the bookstores there is lots of information for cats and dogs, some for horses and a wee bit for cattle. Found one great book for goats, which we don't have (yet!). Chickens, not so much! So, we were quite excited to find an article in one of our fav new magazines 'Backyard Poultry'. Herbal remedies for poultry, particularly for spring eggs and breeding, and the info on three great websites. Susan Burek is an herbalist at Moonlight Mile Herb Farm, Laura Corstange runs the Wishing Tree and the both answer questions on an herb forum all about poultry and animals at Blue Moon Forum!