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