Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shearer, Shearer on the wall, who's the wooliest of them all?

The shearer finally arrived and none too soon. Although we have had a relatively chilly summer, the hot days are hot, so the sheep were more than ready for their annual haircuts. It's a pretty grueling, physically demanding job, which is not above Mark, but involves skill and patience which he doesn't have time for. One of the shearers who stopped by was asking about our chickens and telling a story about how it took him 50 minutes to kill, pluck and clean ONE bird so he figured the killing price at the local abattoir was more than worth it. Mark had just finished saying something very similar about shearing so it was sort of funny.

Anyway, it went pretty well. We got the same girl as last year who is quiet, quick and good at it. Watching her nicely tanned shoulders rippling with muscles as she bent over the struggling ewes I was reminded again at what poor shape I'm in these days. She had my 18 smaller dorset ewes to shear while two other guys went to a neighboring sheep farm to do 35 big suffolk and north country sheep. She beat them by about 15 minutes. It was pretty impressive since there were two of them. At our end of things, Mark's mom has been busy getting ready for family who are visiting so hasn't been able to take the kids and the kids were less than impressed with having to hang around the sheep barn while we sweated, cursed and worked. Lucy was ok with playing in the mud until she crawled up into the stroller and flipped it onto herself. Wilson suddenly developed a severe hate of all things sheep related and spent the first 45 minutes of the event screaming louder than I've ever heard. But the show must go on and I couldn't let the wool get piled up or it would be harder to sort. (Go ahead, call social services..haha). Anyway, grandma and grandpa came to the rescue for the last couple sheep and saved the day.

Last year she advised me that shearing the lambs would make them grow faster, but I decided that my little ewe lambs weren't in any rush to grow and my rams were in a separate barn so the hassle of moving the shearing equipment wasn't worth it, especially when some of them are already nearly to weight.
Here's a flattering picture of me sorting the wool (ie. taking the poopy bits off to shoving it into a feed bag).
So I've got 18 fleeces to try to get some money for. The past two years the wool hasn't even covered the cost of the shearing, so it's sort of discouraging. Our organic inspector was here yesterday and suggested because it was organic wool maybe we could get a premium for it, but dorset wool isn't known for its spinning quality (they're more of a meat breed). So I might look into it, but I suspect I'll be sending it up to MacCauslan's in the end. They are the big woolen mill on PEI. Anyone want a blanket made from Barnyard Organics wool? We could get you one for a price.
Here's the final (worthless) product.
As I mentioned the inspector was here yesterday and I think it went pretty well. Mark did the inspection part, but I was around for some of the questions and the final summary and it sounded good to me. We've got to put together some kind of slaughter protocol to insure that our slaughter houses (for the chickens and lamb) are using permitted substances or rinsing when they clean. We already ensure a first-in, first-out policy with the meat, but this takes it a bit further to ensure there are no residues from any cleaning agents. For some reason I get nervous asking the butchers to take special measures just for me, but I have to remember that I'm the customer and I'm the one paying for the service.
OACC farm tour
I forgot the mention in the last post that we had our first farm tour of the summer a couple weeks ago. It was the annual Organic Agriculture Center of Canada's (see the link the side column) tour of the plots they have here on the farm. There was a pretty good turn out and it was good prep for the larger tour coming this Thursday. The PEI Federation of Agriculture does an annual tour of different farms around the island and this year we are the first stop of the day. I've gone on the tour before and they are usually pretty interesting and well organized. Mark is VERY laid back about it (as he was with the inspection as well...strange for him), so it should be interesting. We'd like to be able to show off our soybean roasting, steeping and flaking operation, but I think they mostly want to see the crops and plots...

Busy week this week with tour prep, my family coming for the weekend and hauling manure. MMmmmm....the sweet smell of nutrients... :) haha

Hope all is well in your corner of the world,


The newly naked sheep in thier corral.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sign of the Times

It all started a few years ago in the kitchen of our old place in the other half of Mark's parents place. We were having friends over, discussing a farm name because the old name, Bernard and Profitt Farm didn't really fit anymore. For one thing, we no long had a partnership with the Profitts, and the farm had moved from being a conventional potato farm to the organic grain farm it is now. So we felt a change was needed, just not sure what. We wanted to keep it associated with the Bernard name, but were having a hard time picking something we liked. Since Mark's nickname at NSAC was Barnyard that seemed pretty fitting. quaint and funny (to us at least-and to some of the friends who were helping us pick a new name since they were old rugby guys from AC).
So once we chose the name it was time to choose a logo. My good friend Lanna (that's an old link btw) doodled the picture you see above on an old piece of scrap paper and the logo was born!

The other day we erected the sign seen below and now this is what you will see greeting you at the entrance to the farm! The smaller print that you can't see in this picture says, "Producing certified organic livestock, grains and oilseeds since 2006." Technically we've been growing organic since 2003, but that's the first year we actually produced a certified product.

We got the sign from Colours in Summerside and I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I would never use their business again. We were extremely disappointed in the service and the quality in the end, for what we paid for the sign. Thankfully the PEI Dept. of Ag has a great campaign on right now for marketing costs for farms and businesses to promote the Buy PEI initiative, so they covered half the cost of the sign. However, that doesn't negate the fact that the quality was not what we expected or were told we were getting. So I would advise you to go elsewhere for your sign needs. Fortunately, it looks like what we asked for, so I guess that is the most important thing.

Finally the sun is showing its face here today and the forecast sounds promising! Yay! The sheep are HOT, but surely the shearer will be making an appearance someday soon... My rams are fattening up nicely. As you can see in the background of the sign, they've moved to thier new pasture and are pretty content I'd say. Mark weighed them as he moved them and although the size varies, there seems to be two groups of similar weights, the first anywhere from 70-80 lbs. so they will be ready to ship soon, the second group is smaller ranging from 35-60 lbs, so will be ready hopefully by September, Octoberish? I'm sure there'll be the usual stragglers (that 35 pounder probably) who hold out getting to the 80lbs until Christmas. Argh. Anyway, currently, all is well.

All the chickens are doing very well. We've now got the third batch here on the farm and so far so good. We've lost a few out on the pasture from unknown causes, but not many, so we're happy. We're moving the pens twice a day now and I think it makes a difference, where last year we only moved them in the morning. More foraging means less feed...we hope. The first batch will be ready to eat on the 12th. That's our first slaughter date and they should range anywhere from 6-10 lbs. So get your orders in soon!! We're considering borrowing a truck bed cooler unit and hitting up a couple markets if we need to. Have never done it before, but it might be an interesting way to get some new customers.

Here is Mark unloading the latest batch of birds. They scramble for the warm light and then start drinking water like its going out of style. Finally, they start pecking at the feed and on that first day they sure make up for lost time in the eating department. We were a little unsure of what to do with the layer hens we had gotten with the first batch on the 26th of May. By now they're much bigger than the new babies, but not quite big enough to go with the old laying hens who run outside all day. We left them with the little chicks for the first day until Mark found them in under the light, picking at the chicks. One guy had some especially serious bullying marks, but has recovered so well we can't even tell which one he is anymore. SO, Mark managed to scoop all the layer hens out and threw them in with the old ladies and bid them good luck. They're working out a 'pecking order' (literally) as such, although they new ones are definitely at the bottom of the ladder. They're too scared to go outside so they spend the moments of the day when the old ladies are outside, filling up on feed and water that the old girls won't let them near if they're inside too. I saw them up on the roosts this morning though, so things must be coming along. This is a picture of Wilson watching his dad unload the chicks, with the laying hens in the background, while they still lived in the brooder house. Not anymore.
Hope all is well in your corner of the world!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Hay, Parties and Potatoes

Here you can see the hay teaded(??) out, ready for raking and baling, with the fall rye behind that, and then Wendell cultivating the beans behind that. Sadly it's too small to really see the big difference that cultivating makes.
Wendell has taken over since we started haying and he is a trooper, staring for hours at a time out the window at the little rows, travelling at a literal crawl. Don’t know where we’d be without him.This is a shot of the hay we harvested from the pasture, with the sheep and chicken tractors in the background.

Got the first load of hay up last night and it’s beautiful stuff. The sheep won’t know what hit them after the poor stuff we’d been feeding them this spring. The second load went in this morning so we’ve got the back of the sheep barn full, the side of the ram pen full and have moved up to the big loft above the main shop. It’s a lot easier to store it up there, since we have an escalator now. Only takes two, which means I don’t have to get Carol to babysit while I help out. Bronson and Mark can handle it just fine. Mark and I have the infrequent discussion about the merits of stacking the hay in the ‘loft’ versus just tossing it in the corner. If you know us, you’ll know which of us agrees with which method. We also have the discussion of the proper terminology for ‘the place where you put the hay’. As you can see I’ve adopted the terminology of my surroundings by using ‘Loft’, but where I come from it’s a ‘mow’. What do you call it?

I also wanted to include a few photos of my parents’ 50th Anniversary Party which was a huge hit. We all had a ball and made many memories. There were TONS of people (approx 500?) and somehow my siblings and I managed to guess at enough food, drink and room for everyone. The weather cooperated and the tent worked out perfectly. It all went so well I think it should be held more often than every 10 years!!

Here's a picture of my dad playing some tunes with Carolyn and Abby (my nieces, his granddaughters) for some afternoon entertainment.

This is a shot of three of my brothers (Bruce, Mark and Grant- he has an identical twin, so that's my best guess, only because I think the other one was wearing a red shirt that night) singing "Mama Tried" with my mom, karaoke style.

Here's the celebrated couple cutting the cake-sorry I don't have a better one on hand.

Here they are, dancing the last dance, serenaded especially nicely by a distant cousin of ours(you can see my brother Mark giving some hearty encouragement). How many couples at their 50th wedding anniversary party can say they stayed till the very end and hit the sack at 2:30 am? Good times had by ALL!

As I type this I'm keeping a nose out for the smell of roasting organic, pasture raised chicken to go along with the new potatoes that Mark and Lucy dug out of the garden today. We'll also have some nice salad greens and spinach from the garden as well. I believe this is what could be called a 100 foot diet, and my favorite meal at that! Even the thyme on the chicken is from my herb patch, and the butter that will go on the potatoes is made from PEI milk, so tonight we dine as locavores! WHooohooOO!!

fresh, brand new spuds, care of the garden of the Sally half of Barnyard Organics!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bizzy Bizzy

Things are hoppin around here, although my duties seemed to have slackened to almost nothing, on the farm at least. Bronson, our new worker has taken over all the ‘little jobs’ that I used to be in charge of and the kids seem to be on a schedule which makes it hard for me to get out of the house to do the morning chores like I used to (those two things together, make it quite convenient however). Mark and I have always done the chickens in the morning together, because we enjoy it, but also because it is sort of a two person job. Moving the chicken tractors is possible with one person, but it’s always helpful to have an extra set of eyes keeping watch on any spare parts that might be slow to keep up, and an extra set of feet to kick the sides to wake up the sleepy birds who aren’t ready to move yet. Also, I think I tend to take a closer look at the actual state of the individual creatures, where Mark is more group-minded. This fact alone is probably a big part of the reason that Mark doesn’t seem upset that I’m no longer as available as I used to be. (When I go up to the chickens in the pasture, I tend to come back down with one in arms for the ‘hospital’, which is really just the brooding house where I can tuck a tired looking one away for the day, under the heat lamps with easier access to water and feed. Mark rarely thinks this is necessary – and it probably isn’t most of the time – but together we make a good team.

Anyway, things are going well. We cut hay today, FINALLY! It should have been done a week ago here, but the weather has been strange and terrible. It’s still cold, but there’s a lovely breeze and some sun, so, so far things are looking good. Oddly enough there’s a call for frost here on the island tonite. A first apparently, frost in July. I think everything is probably fairly safe, but we’ll see come morning I guess.

Mark also started cultivating the soybeans today, which is probably my least favorite job on the farm. Technically it shouldn’t be that bad, sitting in an air conditioned (or heated if need be, like today!) tractor cab travelling slowly over level ground, listening to whatever you choose on the radio, at an even pace. However, after about half an hour my brain is mush and my patience shot. The rows are 18 inches apart and the tractor tires are nearly 15 inches wide. The cultivator is set to clear out as many weeds as possible, which means that there is NO room for error. It takes the first hour or two to accept that losing plants here and there is inevitable, but because of our lack of a row marker on the seeder, we lose more than we should. Without the row marker it’s easy and likely that you’ll put the outside rows too close to the next row (make sense??), which means when you’re going through with the cultivator, you take out one of those entire rows. ‘Tain’t pretty when you’re in the cab watching the little plants get sliced off.

Anyway, another lesson learned (again) for next year. Besides that, I think it went well. The beans always look so pretty and tidy after cultivation, so in that sense it’s a really satisfying job. Just not one for me.

More to come soon, my computer time is cut short today.