Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going to "farmer school"

I've been going to a two session seminar on "Growing Your Farm Profits" offered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Doing their workbook exercises has been a great opportunity to clarify our farm vision and to plan for future projects. It is also a wonderful opportunity to meet other area farmers who are much more experienced than we are....although I am heartened by our relative success in our first year of production. We have ambitious plans including a flock of milk sheep, heritage dual purpose chickens and of course, our pork production. Also very interested in getting into organic beef cattle and researching various options.
Another three weeks at the cafe and we'll be closed for the season and will be able to turn my attention more thoroughly to the farm projects. Fortunately, Henning is between off the farm work commitments and has been putting in fourteen hour days getting the pig barn ready, organizing all our feeding regimens as well as doing the routine twice a day chores.
A fresh snowfall brought home the realities of the upcoming winter. Chickens to go to the abbatoir, waterbowl freeze-proofing, shelter for ducks and geese and the sheep wandering about in forlorn search for fresh grass. They like the cold, frisk about kicking up their heels and butting heads playfully. After all, they do have very warm woolly waterproof coats!!

Goldie: a little red-haired piggy girl

Not a very good photo, but the moment I saw Goldie, our little red part Tamworth piggy, I knew she was a keeper! Just like Carmelita, there are some animals who are destined to become a permanent part of the farm family. Goldie is incredibly friendly, loves to get her ears scratched and of course, loves her yogurt and granola bar treats. She is definitely a pig with personality!

Life in the newly renovated pig barn is ever changing. Our recent acquisition of Napoleon (Big Daddy), a purebred Duroc boar has cemented our committment to breeding our own piggies and controlling our supply of butcher pigs for our freezer meat and restaurant supply business.
Esmerelda (Esme) and her litter have been separated into two pens and the little piggies are still enjoying their heat lamp as they sleep in a huge pile. All are growing although the two littlest are a bit behind the others. And Esme has quickly taken to being hand fed left over granola and yogurt bars from Stephano's Bakery and immediately climbs up to look over her pen for treats.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

breadbaking workshop Nov 14

We had a delightful and productive day making naan, focaccia and Irish soda bread on a gloomy November day. Paula and her two daughters Rhea and Janel and Leslie and Lynn kneaded and mixed and measured and turned out these lovely loaves. We used the wood stove to set our dough and everything rose fact, we could barely keep up with baking. Lunch of sandwich and soup and sampling the bread and we were all ready to have a nap by the warmth of the fire. A thoroughly enjoyable day!

Monday, November 23, 2009

donegal farm organic pigs

The piggie herd is growing rapidly. We added three young pigs from a farm near here...two are Tamworth crosses and the third is a Hampshire cross. I think we will eventually get exclusively into heritage breeds but for now...are happy with our selection.
Andreas was here for a day visiting Henning and got to help unload piggies.
The sow with the nursing piglets has been here for almost a month. She's a Yorkshire and her piglets are half big blacks (very pink in their infancy though) and are growing nicely into spotted piggies. Yesterday, Henning fetched Napoleon from his home near Stirling. Napoleon is pure-bred tested 8 month old Duroc boar who should father a lot of good meaty piggies with Esmerelda and Lulu who have settled their differences and are now co-existing nicely in their pen while they wait for their respective dates with Napoleon.
On the bird front, delivered our five little duckies to their new home at Robin and Stephanies farm. Too complicated to keep them at the cafe until they are old enough to go to our farm.
Hens are laying really well and meat birds are growing nicely. I am searching for a breed of Heritage chicken which will lay and be a good meat bird also. Possibly Delawares, Chanteclairs or Jersey Giants...if I can find them.
The Wilno Film Festival went well with our theme From Farm to Fork. What an eye-opening series of documentaries! Food Inc....The World According to Monsanto...The Real Dirt on Farmer John....all very much worth watching.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Autumn update at Donegal Farm

It seems that our cafe and now our farm lives, no longer slow down as they used to after Thanksgiving weekend. The Wilno Film and Video Festival now demands attention for a week and the usual outdoor clean up, firewood, etc to look after.

I had been postponing all sorts of pleasant expeditions until November and so this past Monday we visited a sheeps-cheese dairy near Ottawa where owner and cheesemaker extraordinaire, Richard, gave us a tour of this barn and milking set up and of his cheesemaking operation. Very impressive!! Then off we went to see a herd of Lincoln Reds (looking for a heritage breed beef animal for next season). We rounded off the days excursion with an organic feed pick up at Homestead Organics and at Mountain Path Flour. A lovely sunny day for a twelve hour trip.

Next morning, Tuesday, we were up and about early luring piggy number five into the pig box for her trip to Reiche's abbatoir. That accomplished, came back here and spent the afternoon sweeping up the fall's accumulation of cobwebs and dead flies and washing windows and blacking the cookstove in anticipation of my Saturday bread-baking workshop.

Wednesday morning, off to the abbatoir to pick up the piggy and to take her to Ottawa to her appointment with Chef Steve whose restaurant Murray Street Bistro was named one of the top ten new restaurants in Canada. Not every pig we raise ends up in such fine final circumstances (although her sister went to Castlegarth which is also a noted eatery). I am pleased that the girls will be much appreciated on the plate.

After pork delivery, treated ourselves to a cafe au lait and a brioche at the French bakery in the Byward market. What a different life now then when I lived in Ottawa in my youth, sold flowers in front of the George St. liquor store, booked bands into the bars, worked as a bartender in those same bars, partied in those bars with my writer and musician and film friends. Life changes in many unexpected ways! After this short nostalgic foray into the past, we headed back to get another load of organic feed and this time made it back to the farm before dark.

The rest of the week was a combination of serving food at the cafe, cleaning inn rooms as we have ten paddlers staying on Saturday night, organizing the Wilno Film Festival, making phone calls looking for a breeding boar for Esmerelda and maybe even Lulu, printing our my breadmaking recipes, more fly sweeping at the farm, transporting all my baking supplies, fighting off an incipient cold (brandy and lemon and organic honey works well) and being tremendously surprized by our duck eggs starting to hatch in the incubator. So now, we have five ducklings in a plastic bin under a heat lamp, and more eggs in the incubator looking like they will be ready to hatch soon. Farming is never dull!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Red Canoes at the Red Canoe Cafe

A rainy fall day with a parking lot full of cars with red canoes...
And a wonderful evening of music with Albertan country performer Tim Hus, fresh from a tour with Stompin Tom. We are so lucky to have so much great music here in Wilno!!

Personal life

And here I am with a large roast pan of beans preparing for our catering at the Woodlot Conference. A very hectic day as it was also Studio Tour and we were tremendously short-staffed and I won't even go into our friend and neighbour Pete who arrived to "help" us after a wild night of "liquid fun" on the hill. (LOL). That's Wilno!

Thanksgiving dinner at the home farm with our favorite aunt and uncle and long lost cousin Maureen. Hadn't seen her in 27 years!! We assured each other that no one had aged at all.

And Tom with eldest daughter Robin just before she departs with husband Lucas for their belated honeymoon trip to Czech Republic to visit family and then off to India for four months of travel and exploration. Lucky girl.

And last but not least, my forty year wish to see Ian Tyson perform finally came true with a mad impulse drive all by myself to the Empire Theatre in Belleville on the eve of Rural Ramble. I got a ticket in the FRONT ROW. And I stayed after the show and got to meet him and tell him about my Navajo Churro sheep (the wool that Katie's blanket is made from in his very popular song, actually co-written with Tom Russell). It was wonderful to hear him sing and wonderful to see him in person and I am so happy I went. What else is mid life for but to live out your dreams!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wolves were harassing the cattle in the late summer and we had several episodes of midnight wolf visits to the barnyard. Thank heavens, the sheep like to graze in among the cattle because it definitely provides protection from predators. In September, my brothers sold most of the cattle and within days, the wolves were chasing the sheep in broad daylight. I kept them in the orchard for a couple of weeks but then they decided they had eaten what they wanted in there and were escaping through various holes in the fences. So now for their own good, they are in the barnyard when there isn't anyone home to supervise their activities.
Henning and Tom loaded Hamlet and his sister without any great difficulty for their trip to see Mr. Reiche in mid September. Hamlet turned out to be a fine pig of almost two hundred pounds dressed weight and his sister slightly less.
And the inevitable sad day arrived in which we had to take the six little rams to the abbatoir. At least, they are going to be appreciated by our diners who say it is the best lamb they have ever tasted. The Navajo-Churro meat is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste and it is truly delicious!! I sent the sheepskins to Ward Wright to have them tanned and I'll sell the sheepskin rugs in our gift shop. Farewell Big Boy, Galumphy, Black Boy, Moussie, Vinnie and Brownie. I will miss your sweet faces.

harvest time

All grown up! Our three geese are NOT going to the abbatoir. I am keeping them as watchgeese, since they do such a good job of creating a ruckus whenever anything unusual occurs. We kept four ducks and they are laying eggs which I believe is not the norm at this time of year. So I have gotten an incubator from the kid up the hill who was tired of it, and am hatching a dozen duck eggs. Our first batch of meat birds are in the freezer, and in fact are all sold. We have a second batch of 50 chicks on the go and hopefully it won't get tooo cold to fast. I also added ten more hens and we now have 25 laying birds and I am able to supply many of our regular customers with eggs as well as for our own use.

Friday, July 17, 2009

lamb, chicken, beef

Where does the time go? We are in full summer mode at the Red Canoe Cafe with inn guests and diners and shoppers and I'm lucky to get to the farm two or three evenings a week. We are doing a hundred mile menu this summer...more like a twenty mile menu really...featuring a lot of our own meat and vegetables. Ritsuko and I are at the Barrys Bay farmers market every Friday afternoon which is a lot of fun..we meet lots of people and its a great opportunity to promote the wonderful village of Wilno.

At the farm, the meat birds are growing and eating and eating and growing. They go out into their run and enjoy the great outdoors. The geese and ducks are a noisy bunch...lots of splashing and honking and quacking whenever someone arrives. The guinea fowl have hatched a passle of young uns and the whole troupe scurries to and fro in the yard. The sheep have decided that they must be with the cattle and there is no separating them. Even Alfie and the girls are no longer in the orchard and are in with the rest. So much for keeping our ram separated from the ewes!

Its just too busy for us to micromanage everyone at this point...sufficient that there is pasture and water and shelter for the night and no escapes down the Donegal road or forays into Wingle's hayfields. Dad usually comes up once a day to check on the cattle and Phill has been dismantling the granary so there's mostly someone around. Henning is busy working in Kashuby on a cottage and Tom of course is cooking madly most of the time.

Its been a rainy summer with very cool enough that the pastures are not growing as they should...the boys are feeding hay to the cattle and I just brought a round bale in to Wilno for Maureen's lambs who have eaten the lawn. We need heat for things to grow!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ducks, organic feed, cool weather

It's been a chilly spring in the Ottawa Valley. We had a full house at the Wilno Station Inn on the weekend with a group of bikers in town to enjoy country night at the tavern. I took a rare Saturday off to attend a cheesemaking workshop at Foymount Farm. A wonderful day off...a great informative day with beautiful sunshine and interesting people...and a great variety of livestock...Katehdin sheep and horses and the biggest pot-bellied pigs I have ever seen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunday May 31 with a lively fire in the cafe woodstove and snow falling outside on the lilacs. We arrived home at the farm by three pm and had to light the kitchen stove as well. The house is cold and damp without it. The sheep however don't mind the chill and the absence of black flies is a bonus.

On Monday morning we went for a drive all the way to Berwick to check out a place that sells organic animal feed. We are thinking of expanding our current retail business in Wilno to include organic farm and garden supplies and this is part of our research. It was a sunny morning to start off but clouded over by noonish and by the time we returned at four pm it was pouring rain.

The boys were here checking out their cattle and I put my sheep inside early as they were drenched in the downpour. One ewe with a prolapse...everyone else is fine.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Snow in May

Woke up to bright blue sunny skies at seven ayem but by nine ayem it was cloudy, cold, blustery and by eleven ayem it was SNOWING. Needless to say, the woodstove has been working overtime this spring. This has been a week of traumatic partings with my beloved sheep. First Aydie and Alexander off to Jodys and then Jesse and Julian to Maureens and now today, the departure of Dottie, Blaze and Marilyn to Karen and Barrys farm near Denbigh.
Several things have become clear to me as my sheep adventure continues and so I am constantly refining my approach to sheepfarming. Firstly, if we are going to raise organic lamb for our customers or our own restaurant, we need lambs which mature more quickly and put on weight more quickly, and quite frankly, are less distinctively cute than these little tykes. I can't bear the thought of having to take any of them to the abbatoir and I am not sure how I am going to get around that problem. So I have decided to sell a couple of my wool sheep and to replace them with a meat breed such as Dorpers. Problem is, most people don't want a mature ewe so they go to the salesbarn where they end up as dogfood...which is just as disturbing as sending the lambs to the abbatoir. So I was overjoyed to find someone who wants to keep them as they are...let them eat grass and be happy pets. So I chose the clever Dottie and the good mom Blaze and my blondie Marilyn and off they went in style in the horse trailer.

Free range chickens, ducks, cattle

May has been a chilly and rainy month with few opportunities to get the baby ducks and geese outside. Finally a warmish day and everyone is happy to be out in the green grass.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lambs for Sale

Although I know they are all going to good homes, it was sad to see Alexander and Aydie ride off in the back of Jodie's car and then a few days later, to take Jesse and Julien to their new home just up the hill in Wilno. I wish I could keep them all...(and not in the freezer either). All in all, it was a rather depressing week...its been raining day in and out....the Bama broke off one of his cute little horns and was mopy for a couple of days as I guess it hurt him...and then the departure of the aforementioned lambs...

On the brighter side, the chicks are growing madly and are now in their big pen. I put the goslings outside in the wire pen for an afternoon and also three ducks who panicked and flapped around in that hysterical duckish manner of theirs. The goslings were ever so calm and settled themselves right down to eating fresh grass. It's still very chilly at night with a frost a couple of times so the brooder lights are all still on. Where is our warm spring weather?

Local pasture raised meats available

As some of you may know, the Red Canoe Cafe is now raising our own organic and/or pasture-fed livestock here on our farm in Donegal. Our dining room this summer on weekends will feature our "Feast of the Farm 100 Mile Menu" with our own pork, beef, lamb and vegetables and greens from our own farm and from the organic farms and gardens of our neighbours in the Wilno-Eganville area.
Price per person. $20.00. Reservations are a good idea. 613-756-9515.

We will have a limited amount of organic chickens, farm raised pork and beef and lamb available by the pound for our customers. All our meat is provincially inspected at certified abbatoirs, flash frozen and packaged in brown waxed freezerwrap. There are no minimum quantities for an order. You can order as little or as much as you wish.

Our 2009 prices are:
Spring lamb: available as stewing lamb (bone in) or ground lamb.........7.00 per lb.
Spring lamb: leg of lamb (limited amounts available)..........................8.00 per lb

Locally raised pork: Chops, hocks, roasts.................. ...........4.00 per lb
Smoked side bacon, riblets, tenderloin... ......................................6.00 Liver........................................................................................6.00 per lb

Pasture raised young beef: roasts, boneless stewing beef..................5.50 per lb
Ground beef or ground pork..........................................................4.50 per lb

Free range organic chicken (avg 7-10 lbs).......................................5.00 per lb
Deposit of 25.00 required to reserve your order, payable by credit card, cash or cheque.

Chickens ready for delivery by mid August. Lamb in mid August. Pork and beef available now. Sidepork and tenderloin currently sold out but available again in September.

Please email or call 613-756-9515 to place your order.
Thank you for supporting local agriculture in the Ottawa Valley.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sure signs of spring in Donegal. We picked up 100 fluffy yellow chicks at M&R feeds last Tuesday and put them in their little coop in the henhouse. A turkey roast pan made an improvised brooder hood as the other brooder light is still on the ducks. Its a chilly spring for all these little creatures. Apple blossoms are in full glory...the scent is overwhelming when you come into the yard...also the scent of fresh doubt this is a working farm.
The boys, as my adult brothers will forever be known, have had their problems with their cattle. They've had a bout of shipping fever and lost four head and now some of the dehorned calves have infected horns. The other night they penned up most of them and carefully washed the afflicted calves with peroxide and sprayed them with a disinfectant which should take care of the problem. Its all a lot of extra work.
Henning is busy building outside runs for the poultry and looking after the pigs and the sheep. We are keeping Alfie and the three maidens in the orchard where they look very pretty among the blossoms. Carmelita was in there also but she is an escape artist and we've turned her in with the rest of the flock. Several lambs have been sold and next week I will have to part with least two of them are going to Wilno where I will be able to hear them baaaing up on the hill at Maureen and Keith's.