Friday, May 29, 2009

Illicit activity down on the farm

Recreation at Barnyard Organics comes in many forms. I believe the last line of my last entry mentions just one of those recreational activities (coon hunting). That story later. First, my darling husband is an innovative man and one after my own heart in that he would rather make his own recreational beverages than buy them.
This afternoon, he gave me a little treat by sending me off to town by myself to make a couple quick stops, leaving him home with the kids and supper to make. Well, multitasking is not his forte and when I came in the door he said, "Maybe you should go away and come back in an hour." When I went to investigate, this is the scene I came upon.
He had a pot of 6 cups of water, 6 kg of dark brown sugar and one litre of molasses boiling away as he cooked steaks on the grill. Allegedly, he was only gone for a moment, but when he returned, this is what he came upon ---------->
There was sticky, goopy, candy-like goo, 1/4 inch thick, UNDER the elements on the stove, let alone the mess on top! I had a great giggle as he struggled away to clean. I will say however, that my stove has NEVER been cleaner now that he's done! He's predicting this will be his best batch of shine ever.
As for our raccoon adventure, we were unsuccessful the other night, but the following morning when I was on my 5 am walk, our dog Rinnie was terribly excited about one of the trees in the farmyard. So I looked up and to my delight there were two big lumps just hanging out enjoying the sunrise.
Not for long.
I called Mark and thankfully Wilson hadn't woken up yet, so the great hunter arrived in haste and quickly demolished the masked bandits. I think they have been enjoying our grain for a while, they were fat as seals! It was a very successful day and it wasn't even 6 am yet!

So far, the new chicks are all surviving and doing well. It hasn't been the most chick-friendly weather here, with bitter winds from time to time, but the sun does make the occasional appearance, so the planting is getting done. Only the soybeans left and we'll take a little break before those go in, so right on schedule!

Hope all is well with you, faithful readers! Don't hold anything in this entry against us.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guess What This Is!

So, challenge of the day, for all my faithful readers out there; What is the stuff in these pictures and what do we do with it?

Well, it's couch grass (pronounced 'cooch grass') and chances are you have it in your garden or somewhere around you. It's a persistent and wily little beast and if Barnyard Organics ever collapses, it will be due to this arch nemesis of a plant. Whenever we're asked about the challenges of organic farming and our operation in particular, 'couch grass' comes up as an answer pretty close to the top, along with time management and paying the bills.
It spreads by rhizomes under the ground and is virtually invincible. Like some mythical beast, chopping it up only causes it to spread and creates yet new plants. Even the tiniest little piece of rhizome (or root) can take root and sprout big healthy plants in a very short time. Mark has dug up four foot rhizomes in the past. The other thing is that the root is VERY strong. It can grow right through a potato with ease. It laughs in the face of obstruction.
SO, what is an organic farmer to do. A quick shot of Roundup would take care of it pretty easily, but that's the name of our game, so we've had to be inventive. Hence, the photos above.

We knew that breaking it up would only make it worse and tillage is a dangerous method to try to deal with this weed, so we considered the possibility and methods of removing it from the field completely. Turns out a finger weeder is a multipurpose tool afterall. First, the field is harrowed and broken up and then left for a couple days to allow the rhizomes to dry up in the sun. Then we run the finger weeder through it and let the tines drag as much as they can to a winrow. That's what you're seeing in the first picture above. While it's VERY satisfying to see the big piles of couch grass in the woods, there's still quite a bit in the field and it's something we really need to keep on top of at all times. Just a little bit of pressure to keep us on our toes, which isn't a bad thing.
We'll let you know how the couch is in this field at the end of the season, since it made for a crop loss last year, it was so thick.

In other news we got our first batch of chicks yesterday and so far so good. 100 broilers, 25 layers.
Must run, there's a coon on the loose on the farm (leaving tell tale signs around) and Mark is itching to go a-huntin' before he finds all the grain he could get into. Ah, what a way to spend a beautiful May night.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Whew, I just booted Mark off the computer saying that I needed it to do bookwork for the farm while the kids were asleep, but now that I'm on here I find myself drawn to do an entry here. It's far more fun than filing invoices and receipts! Plus, this is for the good of the farm as well isn't it!?

Life rolls along here steady and strong as the weather is giving us a special treat today of 24 degrees! There's a fair wind here (if there wasn't, I would wonder where I was), but it's a warm one and I'm not complaining. Lucy and I spent the morning in our sandbox and flowerbeds, respectively, while Wilson alternated between sleep, eat and cry. So all is well on the homefront.
The new corral built off the barn to give them more space and access to outdoors.

On the farm front things are picking up. We finally got the sheep out to pasture and boy were they excited! Here's some pictures of them heading out on the second day (after they figured out how it worked).
First here's the flock waiting for me to open the gate (which is really just two coiled strands of electric fence that you can't see).

Then, they're off! And Lucy laughing as they run at full speed.

Just a quick explanation of our pasturing system; because we can't use the usual de-worming meds under organic production we have to rely on a system of prevention and according to the books and research, the parasites require a host at a specific time in their life cycle and if the sheep are not on the pasture during that time, the parasites die off eventually. So for us, we've developed a system where we divide the pasture up into temporary sections that the sheep graze for 7 days at a time, and then they're moved to the next one, never to return to that first section again that year. At least that's the ideal plan. We ran out of pasture last year and they returned to a couple sections, but I think it was ok. Anyway, in the pictures you can see the sheep heading up the furthest paddock, the first one this year. It has a little bit of woods in it as well so that should make the early grass paddock last a little longer. Fingers crossed at least, since I think they've got it pretty well cleaned off and it's only been a couple days!

Besides the sheep, Mark is hoping to get planting today or tomorrow. So far he's gotten across all the land at least once and is now doing some second passes with his new toy.
As I predicted, we have a new set of harrows, and are less a res-till, but he's happy, so we're all happy. Anyway, apparently it's doing a great job of prepping the land and is a lot wider than the res-till was, so we're covering a lot of ground a lot faster.
I think at this moment he's spreading some boron on some of the land, which is not a common thing to do, evidenced by the response of the fertilizer companies I called to get prices.

Oops, I'm late for Wilson's three week appointment, will have to finish this up later!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

There is something about this clothesline of mine that makes me so happy. Something about Lucy's blankie, Wilson's sleepers, Lucy's pink pjs, Mark's workpants and clean sheets that makes my heart sing.

Lucy inspecting the new Barnyard.
Firstly, a big thank you to my counterpart, colleague for posting the birth announcement so nicely and quickly!
Secondly, things are going swimmingly! Wilson has settled in nicely and while Lucy has been getting molars and fighting a nasty cold, she has begun to accept his existence more and more with each day. I've included a couple family shots in this entry for your viewing pleasure.

As for the farm, things are beginning to pick up. As much as they can with a new baby around that is. Wilson is sort of setting the pace these days so it's been nice to have Mark around the house in the evenings and taking a more leisurely time getting out of the house in the morning.
-We've ordered our first batch of chicks which should arrive a couple weeks from now. We're ordering our second batch tomorrow. One hundred at a time, with the hopes of ending up with three hundred finished by the fall.
We've also recently discovered a small rat (gasp!UGH!!) problem in the chicken coop, which doubles as our brooder house, so a serious sting operation has been set up to get rid of them before the new chicks arrive. Being organic, we're pretty limited in what we can use to lose them, but so far our efforts have been working.
-The laying hens have been enjoying their days outside of the coop, cleaning up all the flower beds and gardens in the area. They are GREAT workers. I've got some seeds in trays, but so far I haven't had the time to dedicate that's needed to get the peppers to germinate. Lucy is a little too curious to keep the trays in the house, and I fear the garage is too cold at night and it's been long enough that I think they've probably rotted, but the trusty broccoli has poked its head through so it wasn't a complete waste of time!

-Mark has been doing some grain cleaning, getting ready for seeding. We've been doing some germination tests on our own grain, figuring out seeding rates, etc. Some have been better than others, but overall, it's not bad.

-The sheep have been lucky enough to get a new corral built for them. Mark and Wendell remodeled the entrance to their pasture and given them a bit more space, until I'm satisfied that the pasture is ready of them. I don't really want to let them out too soon as the grass is still a bit scant, and I have to make it last, with twice as many sheep. Rotational grazing means some pretty tricky organization and planning ahead (not two of my strongest assets).
-It is a minor but constant battle around here to transport the eggs from the hen house to our house. Either we forget and leave them in a pile in the barn until the next day, or carry them carefully in pockets, unable to lift Lucy or do anything really. Or we'll use a bucket and then leave the bucket somewhere else so the next day it's nowhere to be found, or empty it and then lose it, crack it, whatever. SO, Wilson has solved the problem! He's our new egg carrier. A nice gentle ride for the eggs, a good first chore for Wilson.

-Mark is starting to get the equipment ready and as is the annual occurrence, his mind has turned to new/different equipment that works better for our operation. Being the book-keeper and the cheap one, I always cringe at this time of year, but generally end up just trusting his decisions. (Do I have a choice, with my VAST knowledge of equipment values....pfffftt!) So we'll probably be having a hot date sometime soon to go for a tour of the local farm equipment lots.

While Wilson has been sleeping pretty well for a newborn (I realize that's not saying much), I am still in that somewhat foggy new mom haze, so my entries may be infrequent for a bit. Keep checking though!

Hoping all is well with all of you!