Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter is here....

Winter is now upon us despite today's freezing drizzle and above zero temperatures. We've had a couple of really cold days which makes me thankful that the heat tape is wrapped around the barn water pipes and that the gaps in the old chinking are stuffed with used feed sacks filled with old wool.
On the livestock front, Alfie went off to a new home last Sunday as we can't have two rams. We took him to join the five ewes we sold earlier to a small farm near Silver Lake and I'm sure he was most happy to rejoin some of his family flock.
We are getting acquainted with Texas Longhorns as I continue my search for just the right breed of cattle for our farm. It's the first time we've had this breed and after a meal of burger and now a gorgeous beef stew, I do believe that this lean and tasty beef is my favorite. Lower in cholesterol and in calories and I so very much like the way these gorgeous animals have managed to survive and thrive on those arid Mexican and Texas ranges for the past 400 years. They thrive on grass, are hardy and resilient and the meat is well marbled but low in saturated fats. And they remind me of the Spanish fighting bulls which I admire...these cattle are the descendants of the original Iberian cattle brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus and other explorers. I've been trying to decide which beef breed we want as our specialty and I think I've found it. And I hear, they are very protective of their calves and will put the run on wolves and coyotes. I see them also as wonderful protectors for my sheep in the pastures.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November on the farm

A rainy blustery grey day. Some days I feel that I work from sunup (actually before sunup)until sundown (actually after sundown) and get nothing particularly accomplished. Such is life for housewives, farmers, writers...all of which sums up my existence at the moment. Have been waking up way too early (4 ayem and then sleeping fitfully through dogs,cats, roosters,stove lids slamming, screen door banging) and then fall blissfully into a deep sleep just before my appointed rising time at seven ayem. Not in summer when I love waking up early, but in the gloomy fall and winter days leading up to Christmas.

Hens are laying exceptionally well since we gave them a second light and a second feeder and I've been making them wheat sprout "grass" as a treat once a week. The dairy sheep flock dutifully went out to their yard and ate hay for while but as it began to rain they gathered at the barn door like shoppers waiting for the mall to open. Let them back in and threw down a bunch of hay and they settled in cheerfully for the day. The Navajo-Churro flock are in the other barnyard and I let them inside the hay barn where they'll shred bales for awhile but they hate being out in the rain also.

Spent the better part of the afternoon sorting out meat orders for the Ottawa Valley Food Co-op. Takes a lot of time, as the item I need is inevitably at the very bottom of the last freezer I look in.

In between animals and emails and meat sorting, have been trying to get my NaNoWriMo word allocation in, and not getting very far today. Which makes me feel grumpy and so now I am going to stop blogging and go back to the darned thing! Sayonara for now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And the East Friesien girls arrive!!

Blessed warm weather and sunshine these past few days and we're getting lots of outdoor work done while the getting is good! Tom's still winterizing the cafe building and on Tuesday morning took two pigs to the abbatoir and then picked one up on Wednesday morning for delivery to the Ottawa area where a mix up in communications resulted in one undelivered pig for which we then needed to find an immediate home! Thank heavens, the hunt camp always makes their superb venison sausages and burgers with the addition of minced pork and so the pig and I travelled in to the camp, waited for the hunters to return for supper and were able to put the pig in their cool room. All in all, the whole misadventure ate up most of the day! Thursday, we left about mid-day for a trip to pick up organic feed and then to meet our trucker in KEMPTVILLE for the pick up of the dairy sheep after his trip to the Greely salesbarn.
We were at the pre-arranged gas station bright and early at 4 pm just in case he was finished early and we sat cheerfully enough reading the paper and eating popcorn until past 5:30 when we began to wonder what might be taking so long. But a childhood spent sitting at the salesbarn while Dad waiting to load whatever cattle he bought, taught us nothing but that these things can take forever, so we waited some more. While we waited, I thought again that it might sometimes be handy to have a cell phone (the last time I waited four hours at the passport office when I'd told Tom I'd be finished in "about half an hour" comes to mind...but I hate the tyranny of the telephone and we've always decided not to get one. At any rate, by the time it was after six and pitch dark and I had neither the truckers cell number with me or Richard and Sylvie's number and only a dimly lit phone booth with a pay phone at my disposal anyhow. So I called home collect and miracle of miracles, Henning was inside, had just spoken to the trucker who wondered where the hell we were as he had been waiting in WINCHESTER for the past two and half hours!!!! All was straightened out and we made it to R & S's and got the girls loaded with only a modicum of fuss...the great thing about sheep is they will always head towards other sheep so if you can get one or two where you want them it all gets easier.
A short visit with a drink of scotch (much appreciated by this time!) and some last minute details and off we went on the long drive home. Back here at twenty to eleven and the girls settled in the big barn with some hay and lights out!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday dinner roast organic chicken

Looks like "Indian Summer" may be here! This morning we were treated to the familiar hunting season sights of big muddy four by four trucks piloted by bearded men in orange. They crossed the field and headed for the back bush. Leave the deer alone and get those coyotes!!

Yesterday, Sunday, we had a delicious Sunday dinner with guests Pete and Ritsuko, visitor Assafa, and our internet guru Tomasz. I roasted a chicken from our last batch, threw in some potatoes, turnips and carrots, made some gravy from the drippings and Voila: a tasty dinner with enough leftovers for sandwiches and a big pot of chicken soup. Ritsuko brought a gluten free chocolate cake topped with walnuts and earlier on, we had pate on baguette made from our own organic chicken livers. Yummy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Learning to milk & make sheep's cheese

In late September, I was able to spend two days at the farm of Richard and Sylvie near Oxford Mills becoming better acquainted with the East Friesien dairy ewes I will be bringing home in November. After the girls are bred once they arrive, they will lamb in April and when the lambs are weaned in late May, I will begin to milk twice a day and to make cheese daily for the first ten or twelve days. After the initial lactation rate slows down it'll be cheesemaking every second day throughout the summer and early fall. The unpasturized sheeps milk cheese has to age 60 days so it will be late summer before we have cheese available (and hopefully my cheesemaking skills will be adequate even in the first year). I am really looking forward to my new career and as we already have a couple of these sweet sheep in our current flock, I feel acquainted with their personalities already. The three we have are very much "people sheep". They run over to get petted and they like human company. My Navajo's are more stand offish...they aren't afraid of people but they are more intent on their sheepish pursuits and less fond of being hugged. (although you can win their affections easily with food treats).

I've sold about a third of my Navajo flock in the past couple of weeks. I would love to keep them all but we have only so much room in the barns and we'll be filled to capacity when the dairy girls get here on Nov 11. Ironically, that is the very day two years ago that I brought my first sheep home here to the farm in Donegal. It's been a very changeable two years!! But progressing exactly as I had hoped.

As well as getting organized with all our belongings now piled up at the farm, I also have taken on the challenge of participating in National Novel WRiting Month. The goal is to write 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I am at ten thousand words and on schedule! I know from years ago when I lived here and did a lot of writing that setting up my computer (now a compact lap top instead of a huge Apple two GS) here on the kitchen table works best. I can roast pumpkin, bake, make soup or stew, keep an eye on the barnyard, wash eggs, do some cleaning, all interspersed with sitting down and writing. It's the perfect combination of mental and physical effort!

Learning to milk & make sheep's cheese

organic chickens.

First major snow of the season yesterday (Nov 5) but still mild and its all a sloppy mess this morning. It's been a busy week! Just last weekend I finished my share of the work at the Red Canoe cafe in terms of getting the house ready for new tenants but Tom is still there every day working on outside tasks and final winterizing. On Wednesday we were up at 3:30 for our third trip of the season to Morrison's Poultry Processing in Omemee. Birds caught and crated in the dark by 4:30 and we were at the processor on the dot of eight a.m. Treated ourselves to a not bad breakfast in the Zellers cafe and then I went to Value Village and Chapters while Tom read in the truck. A long day but at five pm one is rewarded with 86 pristine, bagged, cooled, priced chickens. Loaded and on the way home by 5:30; delivered some in Barry's Bay and home to the farm by 9:30 where we loaded the final 75 into our already packed freezers. You can buy this fabulous tasty birds for 4.50 per lb...fed only on Homestead Organics grains with absolutely no antibiotics or hormones or any of the crap in commercial chicken feed.

Farmers markets, local organic food

Friday, October 22, 2010

October, closing Red Canoe Cafe

Chilly October days and every morning, bright and early we head for Wilno for the final transformation of our beloved Red Canoe Cafe and Wilno Station Inn into a prosaic rental dwelling. I am cleaning grease from the top of the kitchen cupboards and cursing several of our unmotivated cooks and kitchen preps...I am folding bedspreads and thinking of our many inn guests who became friends. I am removing the paintings and the books and the giftware and thinking of all our openings and soirees and events...the patio with white twinkle lights on a sultry August night, those magical musical evenings with Ian Tamblyn and Cara Luft and Sneezy Waters...the Film Festival...Philosopher's Cafe...poetry afternoon.

November 1, we'll lock the door for the winter and our new tenants will take over the residential part of the building. I will be writing 50,000 words as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel WRiting Month) and I will be bringing home 30 East Friesien dairy ewes as part one of my new life as a cheesemaker.

In the meantime, come on out to our farm on Sunday afternoons from 1-4 pm for a visit, a farm tour if you wish, and a snack of some kind of homemade tasty treat. Our farm shop and freezers are open for business for orders large and small. We have organically raised lamb, pork, beef, chicken and eggs...local eating at its best!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Navajo-Churro ewes for sale

Must sell some of my flock as we will soon be taking over a 30 ewe flock of East Friesien dairy ewes.
For sale:
Alexandra: 18 months old. Cream coloured. Lovely horns. Mother is Dorset/Navajo/Jacob
Had twins this spring.

May: Two years old. Navajo/Jacob cross. Brown with black face.
Single lamb this spring.

Brownie: 18 months old. Blondie/russet fleece. Navajo/Jacob. horns. Beautiful fleece.
One lamb this spring.

150.00 each delivered within an hours drive. 613-628-9986. Ask for Joanne

Saturday, October 16, 2010

end of an era, end of the summer

It is eight pm on Saturday evening and I am sitting here at my kitchen table in my pj's and bathrobe amidst the following items. Aprox 12 bags of organic chicken feed piled in the sunroom, six boxes of kitchenware from the Red Canoe Cafe, all the pots from our five ayem perogie-cooking marathon for Taste of the Valley,coolers, bins, a pile of sweaters and mittins and scarves (it is very cold at six ayem at the Cobden Fair Grounds). The old Belanger kitchen range is toasty warm, the sheep and hens are safely in their beds and I have had two glasses of "girly wine" and a hot bath. I am celebrating the end of one life and the beginning of another.

This weekend marks the official end of the Red Canoe Cafe and the Wilno Station Inn. I will be exploring a lot of my ambivalent feelings into my novel when one of my characters, Orleen,decides to close her diner and take off in her RV for parts unknown. In the story, she hooks up with a band of lesbians called the Van Dikes and tours off to New Orleans, but that is a future plot development.

We were up at five ayem this morning, preparing for the Cobden Taste of the Valley. We boiled and fried up about 300 perogies,loaded the travelling freezer with pork, beef, lamb and chicken. In the past two days, I have roasted and pureed pumpkin and baked scones, biscuits and pumpkin loaves from morning till night. All this was piled in the truck and the trailer. We fed the chickens and threw hay to the sheep and dressed in about four layers of clothing, set off for the Ag Hall in beautiful downtown Cobden.

I love Cobden. I love Cobden's hearty plaid shirt farmers, I love their sweet small town main street, I love the view of the lake as you hurtle down toward highway 17 and I love the Cobden Sales Barn and my teenage excitement sneaking out of Opeongo High School to see Pierre Fontaine....another story for my novel...

My visit to Cobden today was more prosaic with a full day of selling meat and baked goods and perogies at the last and final Taste of the Valley for 2010. Despite early morning clouds and a brisk wind, we had a goodly number of buyers and potential buyers. Finally, at three pm, chilled to the bone and weary, we packed it up and headed home. No more early mornings for farmers markets, no more late night waiting for inn guests, no more dinner rush or lunch groups...much as I loved it all, it is now over. Tomorrow morning I am mistress of my own destiny!!! After I weigh a half a pig worth of pork,clean up todays kitchen mess, deliver a twig settee and a painting to Barrys Bay, take two sheep by trailer to Silver Lake and attend to my writers group the rest of the day IS MY OWN!!!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's for supper? New organic family packs.

At the Red Canoe Cafe, we were never in a quandary as to "what's for dinner?" One had a menu, one shopped and prepped and prepared that menu and the entire issue of last minute choice was neatly avoided. It's much like wearing a uniform...less spontanaity but much less last minute agonizing.
With that in mind, Donegal Heritage Farm has organized the month long "Organic & Local Family Pack" complete with recipe and menu suggestions. Follow our plan and feed your family of four at least three hearty organic meat-based meals per week. Growing kids need the protein and energy and even the natural fat which comes in lean pasture raised meat. And tired moms will be surprised how energy returns when a little red meat becomes a regular feature at the dinner table. As for Dad...most Dad's are all too happy to sit down to a juicy pork chop or a succulent burger.
So here's a sample pack priced at 100.00.

One large roasting chicken split in half= Two roast chicken dinners and leftovers for chicken fajitas, chicken sandwiches, chicken salad and chicken soup.

Four pork chops: grilled pork chop dinner. Add potatoes, rice or vegetables.

One smoked pork hock: bake with baked beans. Throw left over bone into pot of split peas for soup.

4 lb beef roast: Pot roast dinner, beef tacos or stir fry, sliced roast beef sandwiches.

4 lb lean ground beef: Burgers, shepherd's pie, meat loaf.

1 Pkg lean breakfast sausage: Sunday breakfast or a stir fry.

1 Doz organic brown eggs: Omelet, quiche, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs.

Fill your shopping cart with a large bag of onions, a bag of rice, a bag of pasta, a bag of yellow split peas, a bag of dried white beans, a bag of carrots and a bag of potatoes. Add garlic, couple cans of stewed tomatoes or use fresh from the garden, a bag of flour tortillas, cheese, your favorite herbs, a couple of loaves of your favorite bread, mustard, pickles, sour cream, ketchup. Put bread produts in freezer to stay fresh and stash the rest in the cupboard and fridge. You probably already have cooking oil and flour and sugar and all those staples on hand.

Week number one: Sunday Dinner: Saturday night: Thaw one half roasting chicken: Sunday afternoon brush thawed chicken with oil, sprinkle with herbs such as oregano, rosemary. Set chicken in roast pan. Add 1 cup cold water. Surround chicken with onions, potatoes and carrots, cut in fairly large pieces. Roast, UNCOVERED, for about two hours or until internal temperature indicates 180. Remove chicken and veg from pan, add another cup of cold water. Bring to a simmer and loosen up bits from bottom of pan. Strain into a smaller pot. Add one heaping teaspoon flour or constarch to a half cup cold water and stir with a fork until lumps are gone. Slowly pour flour mixture into gravy and whisk until smooth and simmer for a minute. Serve gravy over chichen and veg.

Remove left over chicken from bones and store in fridge. Put bones into plastic bag in freezer or fridge until needed for soup. Don't throw out left over gravy...add it to fajita mixture for extra flavour. You get the idea!!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mid August at the farm

The Canadian summer is so short! Last night I left the cafe at 7:45 while our last three tables were still eating. Josee and Tom will finish up so I could get back to the farm before dark to make sure my sheep are all still alive!

I did my usual speedy back roads trip home...down the highway, shortcut through the Stone Church road, up 512 for a couple of miles, turn left at Alexa's house and down the long straight hilly stretch, then turn right, make sure none of Paul Hartwig's livestock is on the road, turn left, wind along for awhile till you come into the hamlet of Cormac. Make the sign of the cross at the shrine of St.Ann...see if AnneMary's lights are on at Kitt's General Store, glance right up the highway to see where old Patsy Dunnigan used to live and look left to where he's now buried in the Cormac graveyard.

Head for Eganville on 512. New gardens growing daily at Seeds of looks like an ambitious project with a farmstand and a new house and row upon neat row of gorgeous vegetables. Drive, drive, drive past Heideman's Mill and past Donnie Howard's hayfields and past Mike Petrini's lovely new home and turn right onto the Donegal Road.

Now I can take off my seat belt and if this was the olden days,back in the eighties, one could safely crack open a beer at this point in the journey. But it is not the olden days so will wait to get home for a glass of low alcohol "girlie wine" mixed with club soda and ice.

A deer and fawn have been leaping across the road here almost every evening. They graze in our long lower hayfield and come down here for water. Past our neighbours laneways... Alvin's farm...the log house I still think of as Rick and Joan's home...the Wingle driveway...our little corner of the Ottawa Valley has seen its share of sadness and tragedy in the past twenty-five years and not one of these neighbours has been spared.

And then the sharp turn and the cattle gate and the long straight driveway up to the house and barns on the crest of the hill. On a warm humid evening such as this, the smell of cattle is the first thing that greets one's nose. A scattering of cowshit on the driveway and long ribbons of mist in the two long fields on either side of the driveway.

Up to the second gate and greeted by the lights on in the barns, the sound of pigs squealing for their supper, geese honking, chickens cackling, cats racing for the house, sheep bleating, cattle bawling. 8:45 pm. Home at last.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What I did on my day off....

This is how life unfolds these summer days.
Yesterday was Monday morning and supposedly our day off so we awoke in our own bed at the farm. We have started taking Sunday afternoons off after 13 years in retail and hospitality and usually make it back to Donegal by about four pm on Sunday afternoon.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning, with the late summer mist hanging over the big open back field at 6 a.m. I carry my coffee cup around with me while feeding chickens and checking on the sheep and by 7 am we were on the back roads heading for Wilno.

Our inn guests were literally waiting at the cafe door for their breakfast of French toast, organic sausage & local maple syrup. After their departure, I went down to gather the laundry and make up the two suites as a house inspector was slated to arrive at 11 am. At ten ayem, our server called to announce that she was "weak, tired and had a rash on her belly" and would not be in for her shift. All uncompleted tasks thus immediately became mine for the doing. Decided not to open for lunch as we had a meeting with a real estate agent scheduled for noonish and of course we had to get back to the farm to take Junior Piglet to the abbatoir before five pm.

One thing after another and finally raced out of the cafe at 2:30 bound for Donegal. Tom loaded the pig box and then both of us dragged a reluctant Piglet from his siblings, secured him in the crate and headed for Reiches. I had previously promised mother I would clean the apartment at Fairfields where she and Dad live so Tom dropped me off there and continued on his way.

I did laundry and dusted and swept and did it all very slowly and deliberately to illustrate to mother that I was doing it RIGHT. (The fact that I have been running an inn for 13 years doesn't hold much water with my mother...she still doesn't believe I know how to do the laundry correctly).

That aside it was a pleasant enough afternoon with lots of conversation and I stayed to have supper with them in the Fairfields dining room.

Tom in the meantime was back at the farm mowing the lawn and waiting for Henning to return from a long days work at the job site on the Siberia Road (a 1.5 hour drive from the farm). It takes two strong men to load the four horned ram lambs who were to be delivered to the abbatoir this evening. That task was accomplished by about 8 pm and Tom picked me up and we headed for Reiche's for the second time in less than six hours. The lambs went willingly into their pen which was next to Piglet and I was happy they were reunited in their final hours.

Pitch dark by the time we arrived back at the farm. Henning still doing chores but took a short break while we all had a glass of white wine and caught up on the days news. To bed at ten pm and managed to read about three pages of an Englishwoman's memoirs of life in a primitive village in the Algarve before falling asleep.

Only to be awakened at 3:30 am by a wild chorus of wolf howls which sounded close enough to be in the barnyard. Tom got up and turned on the porch light and that shut them up. Then at 4:30 the henhouse erupts with crowing and cackling as the hen's lights come on. At five thirty Scooter starts whining piteously at the door to be let out. At six thirty, the truck and trailer started up under the window as Tom and Henning prepared to load two pigs for the third trip to Reiche's. I had planned to go along but opted instead to spend some time studying my sheep in the stable....several of them are lame and can't figure out why...and no light was thrown on the subject after twenty minutes of observation....but I did see that Freckles is looking less than perfectly healthy...she's thin and swaybacked...but has nursed three big lambs all spring so that could account for her frazzled condition.

Next stop: the henhouse where I filled the nests with fresh hay and discovered a large clutch of eggs hidden UNDER the nest boxes and a very irate red hen sitting on them. There's part of the reason our egg production has dropped off!!! The would-be mommy is intent on brooding eggs. I ruthlessly removed them and chased her out of her hidey hole and pitched the whole lot of eggs into the compost pile. Who knows how long she's been hoarding them and its not the sort of thing you want your egg customers to discover!!

Henning found a dead hen yesterday so dispatched her to the manure pile, weeded some of the tomato plants fighting for air and light amongst the giant mutant pumpkin plant taking over the garden and swept up two full dustpans of dust, grass, hay, dog hair and the likes from the downstairs floors.

Tom back now from Reiche's and we had a rare treat...bacon and eggs for breakfast! Watered the orchard lambs, gathered more eggs,tied up the gates protecting the round bales in the back barn (sheep keep knocking them down and nibbling at the underside of the bales which results in eventual collapse and possible death of sheep who happen to be underneath as the bales weigh hundreds of pounds.)

Ten ayem on the road again...headed for Wilno and the cafe...another "Day Off" successfully spent.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The bear is dead!!!!!

The bylaw officer in our township says the nuisance bear has been shot near the McGrath Road. Thanks the goddess, now I can perhaps let the sheep out again during the daytime...with only the wolves to worry about. Can't wait to be at the farm full time so I guard the fencelines with my trusty firearm. (First I need a firearm and the skill to shoot it but that should be an easy obstacle to overcome in my hunting-mad family).

mid summer farm, shepherdess, my novel

Almost the middle of August and these last few nights of chilly temperatures remind us that blessed summer is coming to a close. Far too quickly, for my liking!!! We have been busy with our two farmers market booths this summer and my attention to the cafe has suffered as a result. And I made the mistake of starting into my Spanish research for my NIP (novel in progress) which leaves me totally spaced out in some imaginary whitewashed village in Andalucia instead of in present time in Wilno.
Last Wednesday I made a rare daytime trip home to the farm and immediately let my poor bear-oppressed sheep out of their barnyard confinement into the long grass beside the driveway. Because of the predator problem, I had decided that they would go out only when I have time to be a shepherdess...a task I have much youthful experience with. In my childhood years, we raised sheep at the home farm on the McGrath settlement and as soon as the hayfields were cut and baled, we used to send the flock out to eat up the new grass. We had stone fences and a dearth of gates in those field gaps and it was one of our tasks to spend the day sitting "in the gap" keeping the sheep from straying into the adjacent unharvested grain field. Needless to say, as an avid reader, it was my favorite farm job, and armed with a Nancy Drew novel and my writing paper and pen I would head out to the field. I liked sheep even then and had my favorites...grandly named Jacqueline and Josephine....and I was happy to read and work on my "novel" (a rather blatant plagiarism of the Swiss Family Robinson where the family was much more pleasant than my own annoying brothers.) Thus lost in reverie, I would lose all track of time, and even more importantly all track of sheep and then have to frantically round them up in the grain field and herd them back to their proper field. I confess this now, only because all these years my father lamented the trampled grain along the fences and blamed it on raccoons when in fact it was MOI.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just another bale on the load

We were fortunate to get these 300 bales of hay from Leslie and Carl...and are able to store it in their barn until needed this winter. Was a great haying day....we had a funeral luncheon at the cafe from noon till three and then I rushed out and started throwing bales in piles while Henning and Tom loaded the truck and drove to the barn...ten trips. We were home at the farm at 7 pm...tired but happy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

After two years of blessed peace with only the occassional wolf sighting, we've lost two sheep to predators in less than four days. First missing was a white dairy lamb, and two days later, Carmelita, my Navajo-Churro ewe with the beautiful horns, didn't show up in the evening. Initially suspected wolves, but no sign of the dead sheep in the big back field and I can't see any wolf being strong enough to drag them into the bush...and now, I hear there's a bear in the neighbourhood and that seems a more likely option. Knowing what happened might help in preventing future losses.
I looked in all the nooks and crannies in the barns, hoping against hope, that Carmelita would be lying there chewing her cud, but no luck.
I am going to keep her lamb as well as the other grey girl, Blossom, who looks so much like her....but there will never be another sheep like Carmelita!!

R.I.P Carmelita

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bears//wolves/losing our sheep

Carmelita has gone missing. My very first lamb; my little blue-grey princess with the beautiful curled horns is not in the barnyard; Her lamb is there but she is not. It's been an unnerving week with our white Garner lamb disappearing earlier and local reports of a huge black bear and my own sighting of "our" wolf in the hayfield on Saturday morning.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In my farm visioning a few years ago, I saw white sheep in a green field. When I found myself back at my beloved farm, the sheep in my green fields were mostly black. I love my black sheep and never gave the white sheep another thought. But visions are powerful and here are eight white sheep. Their mothers, 29 beautiful pink eared snowy WHITE East-Friesien-Rideau Arcott cross dairy ewes will be arriving this autumn as I prepare to take on my new life as a cheesemaker. (Blessed are the cheesemakers...according to John Cleese).
Sometimes I feel that the important parts of our lives are all set out for us, waiting only for our agreement.

welcome canadian organic growers July 10

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Andy and Gillian visited with their new baby...Tom's first grandchild...a beautiful baby and very proud parents! Mia will get an early introduction to the Canadian wilderness as she will be accompanying mom and dad to tree planting! An exciting adventure, I am sure. Next time we see her she will be almost half a year old...

First grandchild: Mia Anne McCullough Cameron

Saturday, April 24, 2010

visit from Paul and Maria and kids

Paul and Maria have stayed at our inn many times over the past years and indeed have become good friends. Maria is Dutch and they live near Strathroy,which is where so many of our Dutch family and friends ended up, instead of in the rocky hills near Brudenell! Easter weekend, we had a visit from them along with Maria's on Terry and his five kids. They live in Barry's Bay where Terry has a natureopathic practice. The kids enjoyed visiting the baby pigs and lambs! Should be some Dutch farmer blood in there somewhere.

sheep in the pasture, clothes on the line

Lots of spring work to do at the farm and gorgeous warm sunny days to do it. Leaves, buds, flowers, green grass, everything is a couple of weeks ahead of schedule this year.
Lulu's twelve piglets are doing well and had their iron shots and needle teeth clipped when they were a couple of days old.

The uproar in the henhouse has subsided a bit with the pecking order restored to normal after the addition of 15 new layers. Egg production certainly drops when the girls are squabbling!

And a surprise lamb with Brownie girl, who is the youngest and smallest of last years ewes, having one single little black and white lamb out in the stable where she and Alfie have been living. Everyone together now, once again, out in the pastures, roaming the farm and bleating piteously at the gate whenever they suspect there is grain to be had anywhere. Blaze in particular, has clever ways of getting into the yard, going directly to the henhouse and if the door is open, going in and gorging on laying mash from the hopper. Beastly sheep!!

Tom moved the chicken run and is roto-tilling so we can sow oats in the patch and so keep rotating the run for fresh feed. I love having the chickens loose but must admit that they do create an unholy mess of chicken shit all over the yard, not to mention, eating all the flower shoots.

Roto-tilling for the new chicken run


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter, Navajo Churro lambs

Quiet week at the cafe and still busy cleaning and painting and rearranging for the upcoming season. Eggs in the incubator are hatching, although not as many as I had hoped. A few cafe visitors for Easter breakfast and Paul and Maria brought the kids over for Easter eggs and pancakes and to see the baby chicks. Home to the farm and on Monday, Paul and Maria and the grandchildren came to visit the lambs and the piggies. Oma and Opa also came for a visit. Lots of excitement in Wilno re upcoming visit of the Polish Prime Minister next week. We are to host a lunch for the visiting media.

Took Dad for a drive to the salesbarn on Tuesday as I had to go to Reiche's to pay an abbatoir bill and then on to M&R Feeds to pick up our chicks and fifteen new laying hens. Lots of squabbling going on in the henhouse when the new girls arrived. Our goose is sitting on eggs and we have four new lambs, Aretha had twins and Anastasia had one single and lastly, Brownie had one tiny black baby. The sheep are thrilled to be out in the fields, so green and so much room to roam about. Let Alfie out also and he was lamblike in his leaping and cavorting.

April news, sixteen piglets, new hens, chicks

An eventful couple of weeks to put it mildly!!!

End of March we had a gathering to celebrate Henning's 60th birthday...a pleasant Sunday afternoon visit with Len and Robin and Pete and Ritsuko and Mike and Liz...everyone trooped out to the barn for the de rigeur visit to the lambs and pigs, hoping that Lulu would have her piglets today. No signs of impending birth however, and after a delicious pot luck dinner, Henning went back out to the barn and returned to announce that there were 16 born dead but the others alive and well and busily nursing. They have their heat lamp and their cozy spot in the piggie nursery and spend most of their time safe and warm...however, sadly, over the next few days, Lulu managed to step on three of them, leaving us finally with twelve happy healthy reddish hued piglets.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Second weekend at the Red Canoe Cafe and still cleaning and polishing and sorting and moving things around. Tom is refinishing a set of twin beds from the family home in Elmira and they will go into the "nun's room". The "nun's room" is our term for the bedroom at the rear of the main building which has twin beds and an almost austere atmosphere. Nuns have actually slept there also! But mostly it attracts sisters or friends travelling together who want a simple inexpensive room they can share.
Chilly weather today. I am using up the wood in the greenhouse so there'll be room for planting seeds later next week. Am going to try the hotbed technique with composted manure from the chickenhouse and then a layer of organic growing medium on top.
On the farm front...we're waiting for Lulu to give birth to her piggies. Henning worked in the barn for two successive nights until well after midnight finishing off the farrowing pen. It's a fortress like work of art built of reclaimed lumber from the old granary with a creep along one side and clever side benches to provide a refuge for the piglets when good old Lulu flops her 400 lb self down for a nap. She's one giant sow at this point...the other morning she just lazed around in her hay nest completely uninterested in getting up to start her day...all she needed was a tv and a box of bonbons...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Re-opening Red Canoe Cafe for 2010

Finally back in business at the cafe this week. So much to up the ravages of winter, putting up the signs and replacing lights and hanging art and replenishing the supplies. Just getting the building warmed up is a major endeavor, although the sunshine this March has been a godsend. Trying to make it home to the farm every couple of nights to collect eggs and look after domestic life there. Henning takes good care of the animals and works long hours in the barn and the least we can do is clean and cook and keep the home fires burning when we are there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ian Tamblyn performs at the farm

A wicked blizzard played havoc with the audience for Ian Tamblyn's house concert here in February. However, those who did brave the storm were treated to a great evening of music and we all had a very good time. A lot of baaaaad sheep jokes, some Scotch and a late night ensued!

Lots of brown eggs

Freshly washed brown eggs waiting to be sorted and put in their cartons. Our 23 hens have laid well all winter and I've ordered a dozen new ones to arrive in April. Our egg hatching went well last month and yesterday we moved eleven chicks into the henhouse from their brooder bin in the sunroom. They are in their chicky condo with the heat lamp and are feathering out nicely. Interesting colours and patterns as our rooster is a splendid looking fellow!
The new gander, now named Clemence, seems to feel right at home. Perhaps he knows us from up at Pete and Ritsuko's. Piggies are also all doing well. The big reddish ones are Goldie and Spot and the little guys are just known as the boys. Henning is working madly to finish a new farrowing pen for Lulu who is due by the end of the week. We have a household pool going as to how many piggies she has. We also have pools on the weight of pigs going to the abbatoir, the number of lambs born and all sorts of other farm drama. Tom won the weight pool with his estimate of 190 and Big Red was 198.
Tom cleaned out the chicken house over the past two days and trailered all the manure over to the pile in the barnyard. I picked up rubbish in the yard and did a bit of raking, washed a couple of barn windows, moved the chicks and dusted cobwebs in the henhouse. It has been the most incredible weather this March...endless sunshine and warmth. Today it clouded over and has been snowing fitfully all afternoon. Wood stove burning all day, Tomasz made tandoori chicken and saffron rice for supper and an egg fritata for breakfast. Tomorrow we have to leave early for the cafe as it will be chilly there again with no fires going since Sunday morning.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hatching chicks

Was loss than successful in my first chicken hatch with eleven chicks surviving out of over two dozen. Last fall we hatched ducklings with no difficulties so was surprized that the chickens were more problematic. Not sure what went wrong but suspect that eggs got too cold in the henhouse before we gathered them and set them aside. Have another batch on the go and see how these do. The eggs that did hatch made for lively and colourful chicks...they are doing well under the lamp and providing some amusement for the cats.


Spring on the farm

One more day till the spring equinox. Weather has been gloriously sunny and warm and the barnyard and fields are almost bare. Twenty lambs so far...all of them variations of black and white. Five sets of triplets this year and an early start to lambing and one record day where we had eight lambs born during one day. We had our share of losses also, with Fairy having a dead lamb, Black Face losing two of her triplets in some undetermined mishap (found them wedged into a corner of the lambing pen) and one of Freckles triplets similarly found dead in the pen one afternoon (suspecting Carmelita's horns). We're still waiting for the six youngest first lamb ewes...hopefully all will go well with them and soon.