When people ask if things on the farm are 'getting busy' this time of year, the obvious answer is yes. Although, I don't know if I feel like there was necessarily a big downtime that we're coming out of. Winter seemed to slip by pretty quickly and as usual, we're still just now catching up on all the 'little jobs' that we said we were going to tackle over the winter.
We're in the midst of the biggest one, that we've really left to the 11th hour, but that we're both really excited about. (Note: A mutual excitement over a project on the farm is a rare thing. We often support each other's ideas, but rarely do we share a common enthusiasm for the initial design and creation of a thing.) (Maybe I'm the more excited one in this case which is why I don't recognize that perhaps we're both not quite as 'excited' as I claim...) Anyway, in either case, we're eager to get things moving on our on-farm chicken processing facility. We're going above board and getting all the proper check marks to be able to sell publicly, so hopefully you'll be able to get some fresh, Barnyard Organics chicken this year, fed, grown and handled from day one to last day right here on the farm!
It's involved a few meetings with some interesting people, and one really fantastic tour of a beautiful facility in Nova Scotia, but I think we're finally getting somewhere. As expected, for a while we were hung up on waste water management, but I think maybe things are moving on that front so we can start actually pricing and purchasing a few things. We'll be cutting it close for processing the first batch of chickens which arrived a couple weeks ago, but we'll see what happens.
I can't wait to keep you up to date on the details of this as it goes forward!
In other news, Rosie calved today. Her first bull calf. We decided that given the general usefulness of a jersey bull calf that Duffy would be an appropriate name. It will also make it easy to ship him whenever that day comes. Hard to get attached to something that reminds me of such a waste of tax dollars and time, and also reminds me of Dead Shark Eyes himself.
Speaking of attached, our pig, Gail Shea has become quite enamoured with Miss Lucy and the two of them are quite the pair. Gail got out on day two of her stay and we thought she was a goner, but we think she was just lonely, so put Lucy in charge of making her feel welcome. And did she ever! They snuggle up together and snort and grunt and scratch and rub and giggle. It's quite a sight. Gail's supposed to be our sow so we can have our own piglets next summer, so we've got three more weaners coming this week or next for eatin', so hopefully that will keep Gail happy (and in her pen). Besides still being a pig, she's so different from the two we had last summer. She eats grass faster and more efficiently than any cow or sheep I've seen and isn't interested in table scraps at all. She has rooted up more of her pen in a week than the other two did all last summer, and they never managed to get out once, even when they were new and small. Anyway, if she knows anything about surviving, she's displayed it by making herself a special place in the heart of the person most likely able to sway her final destiny.
We've hatched one round of Delaware chicks, with pretty good success. We got 21 from the first hatch and now we're trying a batch of red chicks to see how they do. When we candled them last night there were a quite a few that showed little to nothing, so we were a bit disappointed, but I think they might have sat too long before we put them in the incubator (Mark insists that they're ok for 6 weeks- I'm doubtful). Chicken genetics are pretty interesting, so I'm excited to see what we get from these ones. The little brown chicks are just so darn cute! And some of our Delawares have blue legs, which we've been told is a trait of blue-egg layers (and entirely possible since Roosti is a genetic cocktail (multiple layer pun there eh!?!!) mishmash of things.)
My last four ewes are enjoying the pasture to themselves before they go on to their next forever home at an organic farm near Hunter River, PEI. I'm sad to see them go, but really surprised at how liberated I feel from not feeling guilt over not being able to check on them as often as I'd like/need to. I will be doubly glad in a month, when moving pastures weekly will be more than I can handle with four babes in tow.
The tour of the chicken killing facility I mentioned earlier also brought us some new ideas on raising our meat birds and a sweet new design for the chicken tractors we use in the pasture. (Dammit! I have good pictures and blogger won't let me post them!) Anyway, they're way taller and brighter and drier and airier (word?). They are moved by a winch system with tractor or four wheeler or some such vehicle, but the birds will be so much healthier and happier for it, I'm sure of it. So Mark modified one of our old tractors to be very similar so we can try it out this summer and see. I'm hoping they'll be more predator proof too, since we had one hen miss lock down/lights out/curfew last week and Reddy Fox gobbled her up pretty quickly, so it's not safe to be feathered and on the ground after dark around these parts.
I'm sure the next few days will bring great pictures of Duffy and likely Gail as well, so I'll be sure to post some when the site lets me.
Mark is off to the barn with a good dairy farmer friend who is helping to deal with preventing Rosie's impending milk fever. Her ears were cold when we last checked her, which is a first sign, so rather than waiting for her to go down in the middle of the night, we're hoping some calcium injected under the skin will hold it off. I, on the other hand, have been battling the worst head cold and intend to get some good rest in my own bed (after a fun but tiring weekend away at a wedding in Sackville).
I realize now that I haven't mentioned any of the things that actually make this farm a farm and a business, but the fields are looking great. Mark got some nice Acadia wheat in last week and is now doing some final tillage to get everywhere ready for the rest of the seeding. I predict some good results from his preventative weed control/false seed bedding this year. The barn is full of lovely bags of seeds and the equipment is all ready to roll, so with good weather will come busy tractors and happy farmer. The feed making business is going well and we're considering a non-GMO line as well as the organic, but we'll see how that goes if demand increases and it makes $$ sense.
I've still got a month to go before I'm predisposed, so am trying to make the most of it without getting too exhausted (with marginal success). :)
I hope this finds your garden tilled, your hands dirty and your sleeps deep and contented.