Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Upcycled Tin Can!

What can you do with a tin can?  Well, in Hartney, MB Edna and Alvin are making little birdhouses!  The body is the tin can, with a little wooden roof, front and back wall, and perch.  I was fortunate to be gifted one when I spoke to the Hartney Hort Club last year.  This year, I have tenants!  An adorable pair of wrens has been building a little nest inside; it's been hard to get a picture because they come and go so fast!  I am all for recycling and upcycling, and if it involves critters or birds, then I'm a huge fan!  Don't know where Edna and Alvin will be selling them this year, but if you're interested in one, email me and I'll put you in touch with them!  They have some great oriole feeders and other houses and feeders as well!  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good Bye, Old Cat.

I'm an old cat and I'll push my food
around with my nose if I want to!
It's a sad day at Aagaard Farms today.  This morning our old cat, Peanuts, passed away.  He was an incredible age of twenty four and the last link to Farmer Man's Dad and Step-Mom.  Peanuts had been declining but up until yesterday he knew when dinner was, knew where his cozy bed was and could get to the water dish.  Yesterday we noticed he seemed very unsteady on his feet and early this morning he could hardly get on his feet.

Peanuts was a beautiful jet black cat.  He was a little unusual in that he had one brown eye and one green eye.  He was an excellent mouser - after we had been on the farm about a year he started to bring home his catches to 'share' with us.  We figure he led an awesome cats' life: he never wore a collar, he was free to roam and chase mice to his heart's content and he always had a good bed, a bowl of food and lots of scratches on his head to come home to.  He was never a snugly cat but he would come and curl up someplace in the room with us on long winter nights.  This past winter, he had taken to sleeping in the bathroom, beside the baseboard heater.  We've grown accustomed to stepping around him when we get out of the shower.  We will probably continue to do so for some time.  Old Peanuts will be missed!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cleaning Up After The Flooding!

Sheila hard at work on the walkway!
Riverbank Discovery Centre had put out a call for volunteers to help with clean-up after the flooding.  We volunteered immediately; Riverbank Discovery Centre is the original home of the Farmers Markets we organize, and we love this gorgeous public space.  We've driven by and through, during and after the flooding, and we knew they had some, ummm, debris problems.  Fortunately, the building, the interpretive centre never flooded, but I found out today the flood waters came half way up the staircase to the building! A close call!

Some of the 'big' debris.

A nice assortment of people came to help: some members of Brandon's Lions Club, some neighbours of the park (Hi, Kay!), some Garden Club members and just some other great people!  Met Sheila, who came to volunteer at Riverbank because she'd been unable to help with sandbagging during the flood.  Good on you, Sheila!  We were picking up debris largely.  I was surprised at some of the large logs deposited, as well as some hefty 4x4's that may have been part of someones dock or something!  We were raking up piles of small stuff: spruce needles, small twigs, straw and reeds were everywhere.  There's also a fine layer of mud over much of the walkways and stairways that is really hard to sweep up!
A great group!

If you'd like to help with more clean-up, Rachelle at Riverbank Discovery Centre says sometime after the July1st weekend there will be another 'party'.  Email her at rachelle@riverbank.mb.ca to register!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Riverbank Discovery Centre Clean-up!

The view from the North Hill in May!
Brandon's lovely Riverbank Discovery Centre, home to our Saturday morning and Thursday night Farmers Markets, is in need of a clean-up now that flood waters have receded.  The Riverbank has put out a call for volunteers, for this Wednesday or possibly Thursday at 5:00 PM!  Raking, sweeping, picking up debris: nothing too strenuous.  If you'd like to help 'polish' this jewel of Brandon, get more information or sign-up go here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Field of (Tomato) Dreams!

We've gone big on tomatoes this year.  With the help of our little crew we've got almost four  hundred plants in the ground!  All of them we started from seed in our little sun room.  We've got a wide variety: heirlooms like 'Brandywine', 'Opalka' and 'Black Krim', proven Prairie winners like 'Manitoba' and 'First Lady',  paste tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and some of the low acid goldens.  We've got about twenty in the hoop house, which appear to be thriving.  The field tomatoes are, well, a little wind whipped, a little soggy.  Yes, we got more rain last night, along with some awesome lightening and rolling thunder.

All the tomatoes were planted in long rows, with the width of the tractor's rototiller between them, for ease of weed control.  One person dug holes every foot or so, one person came along with a wheelbarrow of compost and amended each hole, one person came along with a bucket of bone meal and threw about an eighth of a cup in each hole (that's to supply calcium, to prevent blossom end rot).  Then, a couple of people came along with trays of seedlings, planted and back-filled the hole.  Then, until they ran out, we put collars around the plants, to ward off cutworm.  We ran out of the collars (largely old cans) about half way through, so some little tomatoes are left to their own devices.  We already see a bit of cutworm damage: a plant seemingly cut off at soil level.  We still have a mornings' work to put tomato cages on as many as we can, until we run out of those.  These are closely planted, we may end up with a hedge of tomatoes, but that is okay!  I just want tomatoes, lots and lots of tomatoes!  I'm really serious this year about canning a lot of tomatoes, sauces and salsas, plus we need a good supply for our CSA families and to sell at the Farmers Markets!  Now, if only we would get a little sunshine and heat!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our Farmers Market Season Gets Underway!

The Friday Night Farmers Market is back in action!  First Farmers Market for us this year!  It was, unfortunately, a cool, windy and rainy day.  Doesn't exactly make for a fabulous market.  But we've all got pop-up tents so everything and everybody managed to stay fairly dry!  It's so nice to see our regulars and catch up with them, as well as having a chance to visit with and catch up with our vendor pals.  Only three vendors made it and there wasn't a whole lot of fresh veggies ready in this cold, wet Spring.  We had some nice, fresh spinach, a good selection of fresh herbs and asparagus, Maple Valley had spring onions and rhubarb and Mann Apiaries was there with, of course, local honey products.  We had all done some baking to fill our tables and what a delightful assortment of breads, buns, sweets and treats!  And we all do different canning so there was a great selection of jams, jellies, pickled beets and relish.  The weather forecast for the upcoming week is a little better, so hopefully the veggies will grow, grow, grow!  Same time next week for the Friday Night Farmers Market: 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the corner of 18th and Richmond!  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Goats Know How to Relax!

Chocolate Score The Comfy Chair!

Golden Nibblets Relaxes!
We've read everywhere how much goats like to climb and play.  We're looking into some sort of arrangement for them inside the barn, especially for winter.  A jungle gym, some old playground equipment or something Farmer Man might build with different levels will keep them amused, we hope!  In the meantime, we've found they have really taken to a couple of old chairs we put in the barn.  Originally for our own comfort as we hang out with them or tried to trim their hooves, the Goatlings have co-opted the chairs for their own purposes.  Many an afternoon or evening now we go in to find two lounging on the chairs and one lounging one the bale of hay beside their pen.  Of course, from there they have learned to get up on top of their pen, and jump down from that to get into the other half of the barn where equipment and tools are stored.  Never a dull moment with a goat!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Era School Comes To Garden!

We've donated a garden plot to New Era School this year.  They've got some great gardening projects going on at this small, inner-city school.  As well as having different grades of kids starting seeds indoors and learning about gardening, New Era has created a community garden for families in the neighborhood.  I love seeing kids learning about gardening, where their food comes from and getting out to commune with Mother Nature!  I also love that New Era is really working at getting good food into their breakfast/lunch program and into their community!  Very forward thinking, kudos to New Era!

Teacher Greg Dinsdale and teaching assistant/garden coordinator Blake Hamilton brought out a class of Grade 6'ers yesterday afternoon.  This project has been slightly delayed due to weather but, finally, yesterday was a gorgeous day.  Farmer Man had tilled the plot three days ago and then we'd had a good rain two days ago, so the plot was prime!  Their session started with a little chat from Farmer Man (and Grizzly Bear, who otherwise would have been too disruptive): gardening organically, not to leave plastic pots and tags lying around, don't drink the water from the watering taps and stuff like that.  Then a quick tour of the place.  The goatlings were a huge hit!  Everyone wanted to pick up a baby chick.  The dogs were quite the stars, as well.  Blaze the Border Collie was experiencing nirvana with all the tummy rubs!  Kids even wanted to try to pet Rocky the Rooster, which we did not allow.  Then, the kids got to work planting seedlings that had been raised by all grades at the school!  Their little garden is looking great!

I just love the questions from children.  One young man just wanted to know when the tomatoes would be ready, it was really important to him.  Another wanted to know all about broccoli: was it a tree or bush?  Would he recognize it?  When would it be ready and how would he know?  Had a few questions about why some of the chickens are white and some brown.  We only had the kids for about fifteen minutes; I can only imagine the questions Blake and Greg were getting all afternoon!  Same time next week, to finish planting and do some maintenance!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Manitoba Sweet Potato Experiment: Round Two!

A bouquet of cuttings!
Much to my disappointment and chagrin, the wee sweet potatoes I over-wintered did not survive.  They were soft and moldy when I retrieved them from the root cellar a few weeks ago and they quickly became compost.  However, I had ordered more cuttings early in January from Vesey's, and they arrived early this week.  My friend Sheri, over at Prairie Roots had forgotten to order until it was too late, so she is trying the method of toothpicks in an organic sweet potato from the store, hanging it in a glass of water with just the end in water and hopefully roots will form.  Hope she blogs about it soon, I would love to know how it's working out!

Now, if you're not familiar with the story, sweet potatoes do not really grow in Canada, let alone on the Prairies.  Our growing season is too short and not hot enough.  It's even hard to find seed sweet potatoes, so last year I was entranced when I saw Vesey's offer cuttings.  If you'd like to read about last years' experiment, check it out here and here!  The new cuttings have been in a glass of water for three days, and got planted in the hoop house this morning!  They had nice, healthy roots growing on them, but these will be roots largely adapted for water.  I'll treat them gently until I'm pretty sure they are well rooted in the soil.  I did not put compost in the holes so there's no chance of over-loading the little babies.  They are planted with one plant in between two tomatoes, so lots of water for that side of the hoop house!  Here's keeping our fingers crossed for this years' Manitoba Sweet Potato Experiment!
They look so small planted out!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hoop House: Almost Fully Loaded!

It's odd being a Prairie blogger.  All during the long winter I have little to say and much time.  Now, I have much to say and little time.  We're getting things done around here: we're late, and we're working in between thundershowers, hail and standing water.  The hoop house is almost fully planted.  We've put in a row of tomatoes along one wall, on the left in the picture.  We left a narrow walkway, planted a double 'hedge' of bell peppers and then, along the other wall we have patches of other peppers, including jalapeno, habanero and chili.  All that is left to plant are sweet potato cuttings that just arrived a few days ago.  Apparently, it was cold in North Carolina (!), so the cuttings arrived a little late again this year.  The Manitoba sweet potato experiment will continue; the wee tubers we saved from last year were not worth planting, they were shrunken and mushy.  We're going to plant the cuttings between the tomatoes and cross our fingers!  There is also a small patch of flowers including sunflowers and cosmos, which I hope to be able to cut for a wedding in late July.  Don't you love the 'artistic' curve to the pepper hedge?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Little Kitty Exploring The Farm!

The little Kitty Mommas had their kittens up in a high place in the barn.  Last week, one bold or unlucky kitten came down; we don't know if he fell or went exploring.  We couldn't catch him so he remained down, while the other three continued to frolic around their high perch.  Thursday night at dusk, while all the dogs were off with Farmer Man, I took my cameras and went for a little stroll.  I was hoping, without the doggies around, to catch some deer or some of the incredible birds that are around the farm right now.  As I came around the east end of the barn I found part of the little Barn Kitty family, out playing on a beautiful, calm evening.  Because I feed them, they are fairly comfortable with me and allowed me to sit down quite close.  If you're interested in how I met the Wild Kitties check out here, here and here.  I must have sat with them for fifteen minutes and I got almost seven minutes of video, which I edited down.  What is quite amazing to me is what a little community these cats are.  The smaller golden one is the mother, and brown tabby is another female and the bigger golden one is an unneutered male, the gold momma's brother.  I have seen a couple of the other males in the group, neutered and unneutered, baby sitting, watching over all the kittens.  The group plays and hangs out together, mostly in harmony, even at feeding time.  I suppose that is why they call feral cats 'colonies' because it really is like a little village.  It takes a village to raise a kitten!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Farmer Man Has Chicks, Lots of Chicks!

Yesterday we picked up our baby hens.  Thirty little Black Sex Links girls, a very hardy bird that can be used for their brown eggs and for meat (although we have no intention of eating them).  We also got ten little Ameraucanas, also known as the Easter Egg bird because they lay eggs in pastel shades of green and blue.  The Hens are two years old, and will start to lay less and less eggs, so it was time for some new girls.  The Ameraucanas are not sexed so we may get some roosters.  They are an interesting bunch; most are brown and beige striped, one is quite yellow like the classic Easter chick.  I love picking up chicks: you are handed a peeping, cheeping box that rustles constantly.  Once we got them home, where the brooder was all set up an waiting, we have to dip each little beak in the waterer so they know where and what it is.  The food dispenser they find on their own; as soon as one finds it word seems to spread quickly.  They are so adorable, rushing and tumbling around, mobbing under the heat lamp.  Numerous checks yesterday right into the evening left us confident that they are settling in nicely!