April 29, 2010
|The lambs are now at the stage when they basically 4 legged pogo sticks. They can't move without jumping up and down on all 4 legs while they are moving forward or backward, they are very springy. And they do it with such joy. It's like when a baby or toddler laughs; you have to smile and laugh with them because whatever a child that young does they do with their whole heart. Just like when a lamb springs forward. You smile and forget about everything else for a few minutes.
Danny has started walking fences. Slowly because there's still so much other stuff to do (like the HST and income tax). He has managed to get one field ready; it's the one outside the sheep barn by the brook. So now they are outside enjoying the outdoors for the first time.
They're all frolicking; even the ewes. Incidentally I'm sure the whole point of the word frolic is to describe lambs. It can be a noun or a verb but without the lamb reference it would have no meaning. Since this week has been overcast and a little rainy (I think we live in the sunbelt; we are always the last to receive the rain) they spend almost as much time indoors as out but the lambs frolic and they love it.
Hannah and Destinee won junior double demo at the regional competition and may go on to the provincial competition in Truro. We're still thinking about it. It's a busy time and involves an overnight trip. Hannah has also done a very interesting project for school on the heritage of the Bruce Farm. As soon as I figure out how to scan the pictures we used and then shrink/crop whatever them so I can post them to the blog I'll share it with you.
This week the plum started to blossom. Not the damson plum, a later plum, but the early golden and cherry plums.
This is a plum tree in a sheep pasture. As you can tell it's old and decrepit. Not like the young ones in the chicken coop:
Unfortunately these particular plums are not very tasty as I recall. That said they smell heavenly now. And then there's the buzz. The buzz of bees as they gather nectar, the buzz of bumblebees as they also gather food as well as the buzz of wasps. The colonies and nests are building themselves up. Soon it will be much louder. When the chestnuts blossom stand under one of them. The noise will amaze you. Look up and you will see many kinds of pollinators, not just honey bees. I remember walking by a small field of flowering buckwheat a few weeks after Eben was born (it was suppose to be plowed under before it bloomed but we got distracted). The roar coming from that patch was unbelievable; there were honey bees, wasps , many different kinds of beetles and who knows what else. It gave me a whole new understanding of the roles played by insects and plants as they look after one another. It was beautiful, and not just a little awing. I look at my garden differently now.
Well one more picture I think. Have you noticed that all this weeks photos have been horizontal? Here is part of the fence that was walked this week and repaired:
While most of our fences are electric or barbed some still are wood. Any my parents are giving us a new gate; a metal one that will open and close more easily. Life is good. I hope we get more rain next week; our ground is thirsty, out water table is low. I want the grass to grow.
Have a good week.
April 22, 2010
What have we here?
|We knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. That's right: a nest, a huge nest of eggs.
You see when your hens free range not only are your girls eating bugs and greens and laying more nutritious eggs but they're also exploring the world and trying new things out, rather like errant teenagers. During this past week Danny was moving some round bales of hay:
If you tilt your head you can see one of our piles of round bales covered with a hay tarp. The chickens found it earlier this spring and they thought it was great! Warm and inviting, safe from nosy parkers; what a great place to lay their eggs!. Of course it was private; nobody could see them under the tarp. Anyhow one day Danny decided to move some bales from this pile and what did he find but a nest of eggs. A nest of eggs that was old and abandoned. So what do you do with the eggs. Some would say 'Yuck!!! Throw them out!' Others would say feed them back to the chickens. To all ofyou I will say a loud emphatic NO! This is what the thrifty housewife does when a nest of eggs is delivered to her:
She does not put them with the regular eggs for sale. (Bet you're all relieved to hear that.) Nor does she feed them back to the hens or other hungry varmints; the last thing you want is your hens getting the idea that eggs are good to eat and they should start breaking them. No what the frugal housewife does is this:
That's right she fills a basin with water and puts the eggs in to see what happens. You see most of the eggs are still good. Sure you don't want to go making eggnog with them but they are still fine to use. By floating the eggs you learn some important things. If you look at the picture you'll see that most of the eggs are lying on their sides. They've gone to the bottom of the basin, the water covers them and they lie on their side. But then there's the one at the top right. It's not lying on it's side. It's floating to the top and is only half submerged. This means it's really old; so old that the air sac in the egg has gotten so big that the egg floats. The egg should be disposed of. I took the offending egg outside and threw it up against a metal storage tank near the barn. It broke and splattered, this way if the chickens find it and eat it they won't recognize that they are eating an egg. The rest of the eggs I put in a carton i labeled nest and I proceeded to use the eggs. Some I used for baking, to be sure the egg was okay I would break it in a separate bowl before i mixed it in any batter. They were all fine. The rest I used Sunday night when I made a broccoli souffle for supper. Everyone enjoyed it.
Like most weeks we have been busy. The most frustrating thing has been that we are unable to get out and walk the fences before we let the animals out to graze. The last thing you want is to chase your animals all over creation because a fencepost was broken. Anyhow the animals will stay in until we get this done. They have access to the outdoors in their barns but when they're in the barn you have to feed them and care for them, out on pasture you just check them out every few days to make sure all is well.
Last night was the Organic Council of Nova Scotia's AGM. Danny is a director so of course he went. Two wwoofers from last summer were there and he got to say hi to them again. They have bought a farm in the Tatamagouche area and are starting an organic farm there. Yay! more locally grown food in Nova Scotia. Good luck guys.
Because Danny left early to get to the meeting on time Hannah helped with the chores in the sheep barn while Eben and a friend did the chores in the cow barn. So here's Hannah milking the goat:
As you may be able to tell (Danny took the photo not me) Hannah is milking right into the water bottle we will put the nipple on and feed straight to the lambs. Thanks Hannah and thanks Eben for your help last night.
Tomorrow, Friday, we will make our second CSA delivery to Halifax. I better finish typing the newsletter.
April 8, 2010
|Last Saturday Danny couldn't stand it anymore; he started to shear the sheep. Now normally shearing is something that starts after Danny has walked and repaired the fences; and he wants to let the sheep out to graze. The pastures are not yet ready for the sheep but the weather is at least 3 weeks ahead of where it normally is. So he started shearing. I took some pictures and I'm sharing them with you. However you will all have to tilt your head as you view them because I still haven't figured out how to do that when I upload them to the site that way.
First Danny selects his sheep. He still has not sheared any of the sheep that haven't lambed yet, about half a dozen, it would be too uncomfortable and stressful for them so they will have to wait a little longer.
See what I mean about tilting your head.
He grabs his electric clippers and gets to work. Now I'm sure many of us have heard about the sheep shearing teams out of Australia and New Zealand that can shear a sheep in about a minute. In fact I think that the champion female shearer was Canadian for quite a while. Anyhow when Danny does it it takes him about 20-30 minutes per sheep. And it's hard work.
The sheep get quite quiet and meditative during the process. They don't squirm at all.
Eventually though Danny gets the job done and the sheep is leaves her wool coat behind.
Now this is the fleece. I could explain grading and skirting the wool to anyone who is interested; where you find the best parts of the fleece and what you would normally throw away; particularly if you were a handspinner but what always amazes me is the fleece itself. Do you remember the scene in "Babe", the movie about the pig that acted like a sheep dog, where hoggett has been shearing the sheep all day with his handclippers? It's a sunset shot where he lifts the fleece into the air and fluffs it just like you would if you were straightening a blanket on your bed. And the whole fleece stays together instead of breaking apart into 1000's of little pieces like you would think it should. It's magic, pure and simple. Anyhow at this point, instead of fluffing it Danny puts it into a feed sack to be stored until we can get it too a wool mill like MacAuslands in PEI or Briggs & Little in NB.
Hannah sometimes helps Danny weigh, tag and organize the lambs and goats. Here she is with her favorite kid, Nibbles:
Are you getting good at tilting your head yet? Nibbles is very aptly named.
Spring nights at our farm end the same way every night; feeding the lambs. We walk down to the barn in the dark carrying the pop bottles filled with milk replacer. Danny stops to check the cow barn (so far 4 calves). I continue walking and Danny catches up with me. In the past it has been treacherous because it's usually a sheet of ice from the cowbarn to the sheepbarn, but not the last few years. You can hear the brook that runs behind the two barn doing its thing, sometimes you can hear the peepers. Danny feeds the lambs while I fill up water buckets for the sheep and the goats that are penned up away from the waterers for one reason or another; it's important to let the sheep and goats bond with their young fully before mixing them all in together with the other animals. Right now it takes about an hour. Then we stroll back to the house and go to bed.
See you soon
April 8, 2010
Join us on Facebook
|Just so everyone knows; I've started a page on Facebook for Bruce Family Farm; please feel free to join. One of the perks is that I can edit and rotate the photos quite easily so you don't have to tilt your head to look at them.
April 1, 2010
more signs of spring
|I am trying to add to this blog every week now. I even went to the trouble of taking special photos this week andwas going to post them to the blog. Sorry folks; the ludite has somehow lost it all.
But let me tell you what's going on here this week anyway, even without the pictures.
My crocuses are out. They came out all of a sudden with a bang on Tuesday. I kid you not, i went out looking around for things that were happening and growing on Monday and there were no crocuses. On Tuesday Danny asked me to some out and see something and there they were. My heart smiled.
And my garlic has broken through the earth and through the mulch. You can see garlic shoots all through my garlic patch. Hopefully the chickens won't destroy it while it's in this tender stage.
Ah yes the chickens. The chickens have been roaming outside for about a month now. The eggs are coming at a good pace; over a dozen a day in assorted shades of brown, white and blue. Yes blue; we have Aracana hens too. I had taken a great picture of the hens that like to gather and coffee clash under my forsythia bush. There was a barred rock as well as the faithful golden comets. When they're not hanging out under the forsythia they roam my garden and look for good things to eat. Now here's the heart breaking thing about free roaming chickens: As happy as it makes me watching them do their thing around the farm they are absolutely the most destructive creatures when it comes to rooting through disturbed, newly broken dirt. They will kill off some of my garlic. They will break tender newly transplanted seedlings if I don't pen them in before i plant them and leave them in for several hours. Although I haven't transplanted anything yet this year I have learned this through bitter experience. It's always a good idea to do your transplanting early in the evening when the chickens have gone to bed or when the chicken run is relatively tight and free from escape hatches. We built a new chicken pen last year and it still doesn't have a run area where we can let the birds outside but not let them range in the garden area.
Our 4H club, the Sun Valley Riders had its speech competition on Monday night. Eben did a speech titled "To Burn ot not to Burn" about the pros and cons on burning grass in the Spring. Hannah did a double demo with a friend titled "Tissue With a Twist' They are both going on to the county level of competition. I am very proud of them but before you all think how clever they both must be I will confess that we are a small club and that while the jr speeches had a fair bit of competition my kids did not. Never the less I look forward to watching them perform at the county rally.
It's Easter weekend. A time to spend with families. On Easter morning our family will be going to the Early church service in Bridgetown. Not as congregation but, this time, as cooks. We will be helping to prepare the Easter breakfast of pancakes, ham, sausage and eggs. We will be supplying most of the ingredients and the menu will include our delicious sausage and eggs. We have gotten real maple syrup for the pancakes and it promises to be a wonderful time.