Monday, December 21, 2009

...and a mint for your pillow madam.

It's December 21 and the Barnyard Organics sheep are in their new palace. And what a palace it is!!!
Here's what it looked like, first thing this morning;
Then, with a layer of sawdust from Mark's friend, Jason Gaudet, who runs a business, cutting firewood just down the road.
Finally, the layer of (mint scented*) straw.
And TA DA! Tonite, as the sheep ate their supper!

I wish I could say that moving them from one barn to the next was as easy as posting these pictures, but, not surprisingly, that is not the case. They just didn't like the door we wanted them to use, but after much chasing, tussling, fighting, coaxing and cursing, we managed to drag them all where they needed to go.
Check out my proud carpenters/farmers. Even Wilson, who normally hates the sheep, sheep barn and all things sheep related, didn't scream his face off while we fed them tonight. That has got to be a sign!
*My favorite part of the day (and 'real farmers' will roll their eyes at me here) was when we were bedding out the straw. We had a bad infestation of field mint in our oat crop last year and thus, the straw made from the oats was FULL of mint. As we were fluffing it around, the barn filled up with the scent of mint and I felt for a minute like I worked on housekeeping for the Waldorf, or the Royal York or somewhere that actually still leaves fancy mints on fancy pillows. Only organic sheep get THAT kind of treatment!

Anyway, so that is the big excitement around here lately. The barn is pretty much complete. Just a few little extras to tidy up sometime in the future, but for now, it is so much more than I expected and exactly what I wanted! I can house like 80 ewes in there if I want!!! Time to get on the lamb marketing train! Wooot woot!
I took this last shot as I was leaving the barn tonight and I'm pretty sure that ewe is smiling at me. Like a little, subtle sheep thanks. hahaha!
On a side note, we finally cut our Christmas tree today (the top 8 feet of a 50 foot wonder, and it's PERFECT!), which would have been fine had Mark not decided that the best method to get it home was to tow it behind the four wheeler. If it was 50lbs when we cut it, then it was 300 by the time we got it home. It was completely coated in slush and wet when we landed back in the yard. So it spent most of the day outside, standing up against the house, dripping off, but I'd like to get it up before New Years, so it's laying out in the basement by the cast iron rad doing it's best impression of a tree that might possibly dry off within the next 48 hours. I've got a spot cleared in the living room and a little girl who has been promised a "Chreesmeees tree", so even if I have to use towels as a tree skirt, it's going up!!! (I should mention here, that no matter how wet this tree is, it is a step up from the one last year that we had to pressure wash after it got wrapped up in the tire of the four wheeler when we got stuck in the mud...)

If I don't write again before Christmas, have a good one, enjoy the spirit of the season and take some time to relax and take it all in.
Hope things in your corner of the world are merry and bright!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

CBC News Story

I'm posting the website of a news story which has grown in the past couple days regarding a donation made to a local food bank by the Weston's of Loblaws (Superstore here in the Maritimes) fame. The story itself is interesting, but it's the pages of comments which really shook me. I am astounded at how many are anti-farmers. I could only read a few pages worth before I had to shut it down in disgust. Galen Weston Sr. finally articulated exactly the attitude that farmers have been dealing with when it comes to large corporations for generations, which is basically, "Too bad, so sad."
Agh, oh I have so much to say about this. I wish I could be as articulate as one of the local farmers here, Ranald MacFarlane, well known for his outspoken opinions. He's also a representative of our region for the Nation Farmers Union, and I think is one of the best educated on the realities of the farming crisis in the area (and doesn't mind sharing it). I would love to know his first reaction upon reading this article. I know that he already refers to The Superstore as "The Satanstore". Since I don't deal with big stores with my products, and don't ever intend to I am a bit disconnected from how it exactly works, but I DO have friends whose farms have shut down in the past couple years, after generations of working as hard as the rest of them. Agriculture is a dismal place sometimes, and the attitude expressed by Weston, and most of the commenters of the article doesn't show a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Does the food crisis concern no one? I guess it's probably like the Copenhagen mentality right now. Let's worry about our current problems and hope that the future figures itself out.

Sorry for the downer dump in my usually light hearted blog. I just cannot believe that there are that many naive people who sincerely believe that a farmer who goes out of business is getting what he deserves for not being able to compete. While Loblaws made $186 million in profits this last quarter.
Hmm..sounds about fair to me!

Ok, ok, soapbox is tired out for the night.

I hope this finds you in better spirits than me!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Came Early in Freetown This Year!

I must have been a very good shepherd this year because Santa has come early and built me a beautiful feed alley for my new sheep barn. I've started with a shot of the old sheep barn and the evidence that I need a bigger barn. All my feed slots are filled and the lambs are eating off the floor. Not a tragedy, but since I'm not quite done building my flock yet, it's only going to get worse, so I put on my best cute face and TA-DA! a new barn for me and my ladies!

Here's my little glow worm showing off the alley mid-build.
The diva never misses an opportunity to pose.

So here is the nearly complete alley. It's high enough off the ground that the sheep don't have to bend down to eat, I'm above them to feed them, but just low enough that Mark doesn't hit his head on the low ceiling. It's going to take some skilled tractor driving to be able to clean out, but according to calculations, is doable. So we'll see! I'm ecstatic! Especially since the estimate was given that the sheep may be in the new barn as early as this week!! Whoohoo!!
We are hoping to be able to finish up this year's tattooing (a job I infamously put off EVERY year until the last possible minute) and do one last garlic juice deworming before moving them. Most of the ewes look really good, but the lambs are not doing as well as they should. The last two that were born when they were born and never really caught up, so they will be getting a good dose to help them out. I don't remember telling you about the garlic juice when we did it the first time, but I can honestly tell you that it is one of the smelliest jobs I have ever endeavored. We drench (which just means to force feed) a good shot of pure garlic juice and grapeseed oil for each animal and while they get most of it, it is inevitable that some is going to end up on hands, clothes, faces, boots, etc. And we all know how garlic likes to stick around. Ugh. So gotta suck up that job sometime this week!
I shipped my last three ram lambs last week and we decided, for the first time, to keep one for ourselves. I don't tell my customers this as a rule, but I'm not much of a lamb fan really. So we just kept the legs, the loin chops and then got the rest made into sausage. It should be arriving any day now and we will have sausage for sale! I'm hesitant to call it organic however, since I suspect the spices are probably not organic and our last inspector indicated some questions over meat grinders and how they can be thoroughly cleaned between conventional and organic meat and whether they actually are, in a busy butcher shop. So, we have sausage made with certified organic lamb for sale! (It's all about the spin! Good thing I have a degree in Spin Doctoring, care of Mount Allison University!)
For Mark's side of things, he has the tractor and blower in prime condition for the year and had no major incidents on his first snowfall this year. Let's hope that holds out all season. He also just turned 30 on the 11th and we had a little get together to celebrate with some of this friends. It was a great time and I think we relived enough of our youthful past to keep the big round number from getting to him. Carol, Wendell and Martha were nice enough to keep the kids for us that night too, so we had the luxury of sleeping in (although a 7 am wake up probably doesn't count as a sleep in for most people it was like gold for us!)

Christmas preparations continue and now that the bitter cold winds have left us for at least a couple days, the kids can get back outside and help with chores again and the such. It's pretty pathetic when we drive over to the farm to do chores because it's too cold for the kids. The next project is heading to the woods to find a tree. We found a little grove of firs last year, so we'll be going back to that, but it's kind of slim pickin's, so we can't be too picky. I think every tree is the best one every year, so it won't matter. I just like the hunt!
I reminded Mark that we should go when it's mild and he in turn reminded me of last year when we went when it was 'mild' and got bogged down in the mud with the four wheeler and our tree got wrapped up in the tire and we had to pressure wash it when we got back to the barn. I've never washed a tree before and to be honest would like to avoid it again if possible. Although, evidently it made for a good story! And the tree was fine in the end! That's why you put trees in corners of houses, to hide the muddy side, right?

Whew, lots of bad grammar and poor punctuation in this entry. My spin doctor profs would be upset with me. That's what happens when you've got one kid crawling up your back and the other waking in thier crib as you type in a flurry!

Hope this finds you well!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter Prep...

Since this is technically a 'farm blog', I'll start by posting a picture of some chickens, but for the most part, the first half of this entry is once again mostly for the benefit of my family in WB, NB, who are keeping up with our water trials in the basement each spring and our ensuing attempts to fix the problem. This week we tackled it once and for all and dug a few holes.
This is the first one, about 15-20 ft deep. It started out as a trial hole to find the old dry well, and Mark and the backhoe driver thought they were lucky enough to have hit it first try. We sent the backhoe guy away while we had the plan to simply re-fill the hole with new rock and be done with it. After chatting with Wendell that day, he told us that actually what we had found was the pipe that used to be his old septic tile field, from way back when he and Carol had their trailer down on this lot.
So, back comes the backhoe.
This time, we started at the corner the house and traced the pipe out to the actual dry well. It was about the same distance as the original guess, just a slightly different angle (towards my garden..which was once again decimated in the process). The picture above shows Mark tracking the pipe as the backhoe did the heavy digging. Once we finally reached the end, there was much more evidence of what we expected an old dry well to look like. The pipe job was pretty shabby and for a while I was sure that I was on an unsexy episode of Holmes on Homes. Mark sounded just like him, ripping apart the previous job, proving all the ways he was going to do a much better job, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
Anyway, the final decision was to fill that trench back in and dig a new one, out to the first hole we had dug. So that's what we did.
When we had first dug at the corner of the house we also found an extra pipe. A narrower, simple, black pipe that had been connected to the weeping tile at the corner. While the general consensus from the peanut gallery was just to reconnect it and not worry about where it was coming from, Mark wasn't going to let it go. So he dug it up and traced it back to our washing machine. Apparently, it was common to pipe the water from the washing machine to somewhere other than the septic because it was believed that the soap from the machine could kill the bacteria in the septic that is needed to break down...things. SO, this time, there are two pipes running to the dry well. One for the weeping tile and one for the washer.

Thankfully we live on a farm and tend to have lots of...excess...stuff/garbage around that urban dwellers don't have the luxury of keeping around, so we were able to fill that first giant hole with old cinder blocks. (If you are from the Dept. of Environment, and this in some way violates some kind of PEI law, disregard that photo and commentary please. Thank you.) We also put that big green pipe down into the well too, so that if need be, we can at least look in and see how much water is in there, or pump it out...or something. It might prove to be completely useless, but it feels better to be able to access the dry well, for some reason. So here's the final product before it was filled in. Take that snow and rain! Not only do I have a big muddy ditch that runs around half the house, and a big muddy lawn, I now have a big green pipe sticking three feet above the ground in the front yard which Lucy keeps affectionately insisting is a "gaubige can!!!" Don't misunderstand however, I am in no way complaining! If I have dry feet come April, I don't care if I never have grass again. So here's hoping!

In other news, and believe it or not, there is other news, the sheep barn is coming along! As you can see, the woman door got put in this week and as you may also be able to see, has a very complicated security system in place. Baler twine! (I am slowly bringing my Wilson/West Branch/Hillbilly ways into the Bernard mentality!!!!!)
As Mark was cutting out the door (with a chainsaw..haha) he found a board that had been signed by Doug Profitt, Wendell's business partner quite a few years ago. The date is July 12, 1987, which would have been when they remodeled this barn the first time, to switch it from dairy to potatoes.
The next two shots show the progress from the outside, and Mark's meticulous insistence that it look good, not just do the job. I think he succeeded.

The hay in the back sheep barn is starting to get low, so hopefully we'll be able to move soon! (I'll let you know what kind of comment that generates once Mark reads this.)

Hope this finds you well!


Thursday, November 26, 2009


My new windows!!! (For my sheep barn that is.) One side is completely done, framed, etc. and the other side is coming along nicely. My personal carpenters are doing a fantastic job! Prior to starting the windows however, Mark was working on some other projects that need to done before the weather turns, like rust proofing the roof on one of the warehouses. Despite appearances, the rusty colour is actually the protective stuff, not the rust itself, so things are better than they look!

Here's a little something to put you in the Christmas spirit. It's amazing how much more fun Christmas becomes with kids around. I've been holding myself back from decorating for a month now and am now bursting at the seams. Outside lights are all set, just need to plug them in sometime...SOON!
I hope you're getting some pleasant, very mild weather like we have. Old Man Winter will be here soon enough (and I personally can't wait, snow is my favorite season!)


Monday, November 16, 2009


I was informed tonight that I have "lied" on the blog recently, and so am taking this opportunity to correct that false bit of information, because I know that many of you, dear readers, were terribly troubled and lost a fair bit of sleep over the fact that Mark finished harvest on the Thursday following Halloween, and NOT on Halloween as stated in the previous blog entry, dated November 10, 2009. Also, the date of that entry is actually a bit of a trick since I originally wrote parts of it on the 10th, but did not officially post it until around the 13th, so it showed the date of the first draft.

I sincerely apologize for any stress and undue harm this may have caused (besides within this household...hahahah!!!)

Am off to 'home', West Branch for a couple days and really looking forward to it! Am also meeting up with some friends who will, by some great cosmic coincidence, be in Moncton for one night only. Can't wait!

Hope this finds you well.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Harvest is OVER!

That's right, Mark wrapped up the last of the soybeans on Halloween, so the combine has been put away and everything is in some kind of storage. All the last minute wrinkles worked themselves out, at least long enough to finish up, which was a big relief around here.

So the next big project is the new sheep barn. We've run out of the room in the old barn, and really we need more space to be able to separate them to maximize our production a bit more. I'd like to be able to breed the ewes for spring lambing as well as a winter lambing, so that we can produce more lambs more often, thus offering a consistent product and maintaining customers who want lamb year 'round. (Note to all restaurants and businesses looking for a supply of PEI organic lamb!!! Here I am!!!) Actually I'm a while away from having year round production but this barn will be the first step in getting there and this week has been the first step of the new barn!

After much discussion it was decided that the best route to go about starting the whole project was the "West Branch/Hillbilly Method". So instead of tearing off the plywood, taking out the insulation, framing in windows, etc. etc. it was voted to just cut into the wall where we guessed that the old frames might be and see what happens. Turned out pretty darn good I'd say (guess who's idea this was!? hahah!) As you can see in the picture below, it's pretty clear where the old windows used to be.
The lower section of the barn was a dairy barn in a previous life and is now in the transition back to housing livestock, so the frames are still there, it was just a matter of finding them, and a few rat tunnels to boot. :)
So this is the result of the first cut and it went fairly well. As I write this, there are four more holes which will very soon be windows. We haven't decided whether to go with all six that are seen from the outside shot because they're fairly large windows, so that may be an expansion project for a later date (ie. not likely to get done, but let's talk about it like a legitimate possibility to make our female foreman feel good.)

These are some important before shots of the barn, which is currently used as grain storage. (Family farming is a battle of give and take- I mean you can't very well take away a man's storage space without agreeing that it necessitates the purchase of yet another grain tank, can you!?) You can see where the ceiling drops considerably, which is where the sheep barn will begin. The lower part is where the hay mow is, conveniently enough, and although it looks quite low, the general consensus is that there will be no clean out problems when it comes to getting a tractor in there. Time shall tell, and if it tells a bad story, I don't want to be the one caught with a fork in my hand! So you'll have lots of barn reno stories coming your way in the future, I'm sure. We've decided to mimic my mom's sheep barn design somewhat, with a feed alley up the middle, able to feed out of both sides, and easily separate the flock if need be. We are also building it wide enough that we hope to be able to accomodate round bales in the future, but we'll see how that goes when we cross that road. I threw in the picture of Wilson climbing his bouncy seat so that you could see just how mobile he is getting. This puts a whole new spin on life around here.

Oh my, just heard a crash...and it's nap time... Let's hope it's the was loud enough to wake Wilson at least...

Hope this finds you well, and more awake than I feel today!!!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Straight Ahead, sorta...

Like her dad, Lucy likes to eat the kernels of grain right out of the field, be it wheat, soybeans or barley, she enjoys a good chew on the hard little seeds. She took it a step further the other day however, when I caught her eating flour by the handfuls. Of all the things in that cupboard that she could reach, she went for the flour...My girl likes her carbs raw.

Lucy showing off the beans in their neat rows just before harvest.

Our wettest field this fall. We're hoping to be able to do something about drainage next year, although less rain wouldn't hurt either!

Soybean harvest is a fickle thing. Less tricky than potatoes, since the soybeans can really stay in the field until...well...a long time. Certainly a lot longer than potatoes can. But the wet fall has made for some anxious days, wondering if there will be enough fine weather to 'get them off' as we say. Alas, it looks like this year there will be. Mark was out yesterday, finishing up what we hoped to be the last of the beans for this year. Things were going really quite well, (except for the yields in one field, which were less than satisfactory) until Halloween night when Mark heard a knocking in the combine (generally not a great sound with any kind of machine), and suddenly (although evidently, it had been a while in coming) the main intake auger on the flex header of the combine literally snapped in two. Not good.
So Mark was using the other header yesterday, which is really designed for grains. The difference is, that soybeans grow so close to the soil, that the flex header is built to 'flex' with the hills and valleys of the rows so that more of the beans can be picked up. The regular grain header is built with a solid front section to zip through the grains which are hopefully standing up and waving in the wind at harvest. It just means slower going and possibly missing a few beans here and there. The risk of waiting until the other header is fixed and testing the weather isn't worth those few beans that may be missed.
It all sounded good in theory and was going fairly well, until after four rounds and a full tank, Mark went to unload into the gravity wagon and the unloading auger (technical term hahaha) wouldn't engage. SO, once again, things are at a stand still until that is fixed (the project for this wet day). Also, yesterday we found another flex header for parts, so project number two is putting the 'new' intake auger into the 'old' header.Mark unloading into one of the gravity wagons (when the unloading auger worked!)

Lucy liked the handmedown Eeyore costume, but the head was a little heavy, so she opted for the witch (because that meant she got to wear the plastic green fingers).
We survived another Freetown Halloween, by which I mean to suggest, we are still eating all the candy left over from our seven trick or treaters. Yep, seven. So while I try to pretend the left over chips and mini chocolate bars don't exist, Mark is doing his part by consuming them as quickly as possible for the both of us. Lucy is still working on a candy apple she got from a neighbour. Hilarious to watch that process.

I forgot to post this picture back when it was relevant, but didn't want to miss an opportunity to show that I got something from my garden that will last through the winter. (Seems like most of what I plant is just to be enjoyed while it's fresh, but that means that I end up buying fresh veggies in the winter from who knows where. Those peppers have all been chopped and frozen by now and although I don't love green tomatoes, I managed to find something to do with all of them.

I was doing my annual 'kids in leaves' autumn photo shoot that was going pretty well until a chicken rudely interrupted! She was pretty curious and pretty photogenic too. My family at home probably thinks I'm crazy posting pictures of a chicken, but I feel confident that I've got readers out there who appreciate an up close profile of a regular ol' laying hen. Haha!

Here's your daily dose of happy.

Hope all is well in your corner of the world!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Call Before You Dig!

Lucy's vantage point for the whole event. Needless to say, she thoroughly enjoyed it.
This entry is mostly for the benefit of my family back in West Branch who are keeping close tabs on our basement-water situation over here. I mentioned that a guy was coming to put in some sort of ditch to help run the water from the backyard, away from the house and down to the road ditch. The day they came to have a look, Mark, being the prudent man that he is, began to dismantle and move the playset and sandbox that take up residence in direct line of the ditch. My garden was also in direct line of the ditch, but I, being relaxed girl that I am, didn't worry about my perennial bed of asparagus (my three year investment from which I harvested maybe 12 spears this spring, for the first time!) and my large patch of gladiolus bulbs until one morning at 8 am, I answer the door in my housecoat, glasses still on, child in a diaper at my side, to a man driving a dozer through my hedge.

So, while he was backing up, ready to push again, I was running around like a little rat, trying to snag all the gladiolus plants that I could. You can see at the feet of my shadow in the picture above, that I managed to get most of them. (By this time I am dressed and decent by the way).
Below, is what is left of my hedge, although as Mark said, it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. We actually still have quite a bit of it left.

This is the final product in the backyard and although it's a poor representation, there is quite a nice slope running from the house into the ditch now. And the ditch runs right down to the road, out in front of our front flower bed.
The asparagus and a few glad bulbs were not the only casualties however. I picked up the phone after the dozer left to discover that somehow, the line had been cut during the whole process. Right where the farthest chicken is, in the above shot, our phone line ran just under the surface of the ground and underwent a bit of a nip and tuck you might say. Thankfully Aliant came just a couple hours later and fixed it, but who would have thought our phone line would be in the BACK yard!? As far from the road as you can get really. Now we know I guess?

That's all for today. Just a yard work update for the Wilsons in West Branch. The next step is that they same guys are going to bring out a back-hoe to dig up the dry well and depending on what we find, we'll likely drop a large pipe down to it to be able to check the water level and potentially drop a pump down to get the water out of the hole and away from the yard. Here's hoping!!! Will let you know all the misadventures of that trial as well!

Hope this finds you well.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Showing off the sign and the fam

Ever since we had Wilson, and then when we got the new sign, we've been saying we needed to get new pictures, since all of our old ones only have Lucy in them. So, finally, the other day on the spur of the moment, in the snow/rain and cold wind, we decided that since we had the skills of Bobby Jo Hickey of Old Mill Photography, we decided to update.

Here's just a couple of the results, along with our new profile picture to the left of this post.
Things are relatively quiet here. Had a nice day of warmth here (for a change), carved a couple pumpkins and laid around in the sun like old barn cats. It was nice. The long range for this week is looking nice, so Mark is hoping to get in to the soybeans, but no one is holding their breath.
On the home front, we had a company (and conveniently family friends) come to look at our back and front yard to tell us what we had to do to keep water away from our basement this spring and the first move is going to be them coming in with some sort of heavy machinery to dig a ditch from our backyard, down the side of our lawn, out to the road ditch. This is to help get rid of the snow that accumulates on the backyard with no where to go.
This doesn't solve the problem of what we think is the dry well filling up because there's not enough grade to the road and the water has nowhere to go. The house should have been built up farther off the ground to start with, but there's not much we can do about it now. And apparently, not much we can do at all in fact, except suffer. When the guy is here to dig the ditch, he's going to dig up the dry well, check it out and see if there's anything that can be done to improve the problem. I really don't care what it takes, because I am NOT sucking water out of my basement again. Last spring, I had a 16 month old, a big pregnant belly and spent three days in rubber boots, with a shop vac acting as an extra appendage. A great way to ring in the spring!

Anyway, gotta try and catch up on some sleep. Wilson is STILL getting up for a mid night snack every night, and no matter how quick it is, it breaks up a good night's sleep pretty nicely.
Hope all is well wherever you are!