Friday, December 31, 2010

Retrospect = 20/20

It seems appropriate that I'm suddenly full of hindsight on the dawn of a new year, but it really has more to do with the sudden onset of a cold winter and circumstances colliding to make a clearer view of certain choices.
Firstly, it's funny how short a memory can be when things are going well and buying twice as many laying hens as previous years seems like a good idea and a brilliant business decision.  Hens, after all, are the lowest maintenance animal there is, aren't they?  I mean, they don't eat much, they peck around all summer and stay inside all winter, giving fresh eggs everyday.  That whole, giving eggs everyday however, can be a problem, when customers take Christmas vacation from eating eggs and the farmers (who happen to be the main egg consumers) go off to NB for three days.  What results is a ridiculous amount of eggs upon return.  
So, when we decided to get twice as many hens, we apparently also made the decision to keep our year-old ladies on over the winter (which we've never done before).  It seems silly to kill off year old birds who are still producing an egg every few days.  That is until you find yourself laid on your back on the icy precipice that is the walk from the coop the main barn (where the water source is), having just dumped the entire water feeder all over yourself when you slipped (and having just filled it that morning).  That is until you have a child who refuses to walk and sits on the same icy path, screaming his face off until you respond, two buckets of eggs, and a bucket full of milk in hand, ready for the long trek home.  That is until you begin to hate even thinking about opening the door of the coop which houses those dreaded birds that you so enjoyed watching throughout the summer, happily picking through your leaves and lawn.  
My vote, having now seen the light of retrospect, is to kill off the old ladies (I don't CARE how productive they continue to be in their maturity) and NEVER ever again order twice as many as we currently have customers for, not matter 'how easy it is to sell eggs' at the time. 

And speaking of a kid who won't walk, hindsight tells me that although it may have been always easier to just pick him up and truck him along wherever we wanted to go, it taught him nothing and now makes for a miserable EVERYBODY, as the prospect of a baby sibling who actually REQUIRES carrying, looms near.  A battle of who-is-more-stubborn, in the parking lot of every store in Summerside, does not make for a happy mother, thus an unhappy household.  It also makes for a cold wet bum of the boy having the tantrum in the slush and a cold, impatient sister.  Good times.

Hindsight has also taught me to pick very different marker colours for the rams when I do two different breeding groups. Blue and green turn out to be VERY similar when it comes to separating the ewes and depriving a ewe of any grain prior to lambing seems to make a big difference in the lamb itself.  The morning we were scheduled to leave for NB, I went out to the barn, checked over the two ewes I had left to lamb, fed everyone and happened to notice a strange, tiny little white lump curled up on the WRONG side of the barn (the side of the barn where the ewes not due until March are housed).  It's mother was at the manger eating away and the little cat-sized thing was pathetically trying to make itself comfortable in the straw.  We DID eventually get to NB (for a great visit I might mention) and the lamb continues to do fine, but after letting it out with the rest of the flock for a day, I could see that it was too far behind the rest of the rambunctious lambs to really strive.  So, her and her mother have their own deluxe pen in the corner of the barn and she seems to be much happier (she at least isn't getting plowed over and looking so pathetic as the rest of the lambs romp and play).  Result?  Dramatically different coloured markers and watching the calendar to ensure that the ram is taken out at least a couple weeks before Christmas lambs would be due to arrive.  On the upside, I've never seen growth in lambs like I am in these ones.  They are all singles, which is really ideal as far as I'm concerned, and there were two rams who were big to begin with, but they seem to have quadrupled their weight in only a couple weeks.  Must be that Cheviot blood.  Thanks Duncan!

In other news, my Christmas present was the kitchen island I've been nagging for ever since we moved into this house and retrospect asks me why we didn't do it sooner.  It's perfect. 

Here's before:
And here's after!
Here's a few pics from our Christmas;

At 5am, Wilson was more interested in stogging his stocking chocolate in before someone told him otherwise, than the presents.
Wilson and his Dad inspecting/fighting over the new Massey tractor from Poohie and Grampy.  "It even has a manure scoop on it!"
 Lucy and I trying out my new pasta machine.  It works like a dream and is a great 'helper' sort of job!
 Lucy and her Grampy in West Branch having a feed of nuts.
 My sister April getting an accordion lesson from Dad, with an audience looking on in excitement and I'm sure, adoration!

It was a beautiful, family filled Christmas and I feel so blessed.  The weather outside is chilly, but as it should be this time of year.  As I read in a poem a few weeks ago an old man was asked if he didn't hate the Maritime winters after all these years and he replied something to the tune of,
"The pantry's full of food, the shed is full of wood, the loft is full of hay, let 'er come."

I feel the very same.

Have a fun and cozy New Years and a healthy, happy 2011!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Wish

Despite being the youngest of nine kids, due to a significant age gap, I grew up more like an only child, but in a busier house than normal.  Maybe that's why I remember so clearly the day in the car that I asked my dad if the big guy in red was the age of 12.  And his always infinitely patient but ever-so-slightly exasperated answer of, "What do YOU think?" to a child whose peers had known the truth for half their lifetime already. 
Maybe that naivete is what makes me so sentimental about Christmas and all the traditions.  Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones too, or the veil of 'tired' that has become part of my wardrobe lately, but it doesn't take much for me to get happy and nostalgic to the point of tears these days.

My mom began a tradition a couple decades ago (can't be decades!!) of each year making a Christmas tree ornament for each of her grandchildren so that when they grew up and moved away, they would have their own set of ornaments to take with them to their respective Christmas trees.  Back to being a pseudo only-child, and perhaps because she had a grand daughter older than me, I managed to get onto the list of ornament recipients each year as well.  So now, when I dig out the shoebox full of ornaments each year, I get to walk through a bit of a time warp as each ornament finds its place on the tree (now out of reach of stretched out hands), and although each one doesn't necessarily carry a specific memory of that year or something significant, together, the set of those ornaments takes me right back to West Branch and where I came from.  My sister, April, did much the same with me, creating (yes, always handmade-despite being a mom of three wee ones) unique and pertinent decorations for my Christmas collection and those ornaments tell each of their own stories as well.

So, in the spirit of nostalgia and that genuine heartstring-pulling feeling that comes only at Christmas, I send you a very sincere Barnyard Organics Merry Christmas.

I hope you get  make time for those you love, especially over the holidays which are actually designed for just that.
I hope you make time for yourself, to sit back and reflect on all the blessings, all the good things that you are so fortunate to enjoy.  I hope you also sit back and reflect on the harder times and what those have done to you and for you.
May you remember those no longer with you and celebrate the joy that they specifically brought to the season.
May you look excitedly upon a whole new year, a whole new set of opportunities waiting to be found out and promise yourself to tackle at least one thing that makes you nervous/scared/apprehensive.
I hope that you eat until you are full and content and take a moment to think about the source of that food, where it came from, who might have raised/grown it. 
I hope that you are able to give a gift that you really want to give.

No matter your background, may you make time to reflect on the origins of this holiday for you and the importance of religion in an increasingly secular, and world.

Enjoy the simple things within your traditions, whatever they may be.
Like, the way a Christmas tree lights up a room in the early morning hours.
Or how neighbors suddenly stop in, just for a visit, unlike any other time of year.
The tell-tale evidence of powdered sugar on grinning faces.
The smells of the greenery and tree, the baking, the turkey, snow (we hope), the orange in the toe of your stocking.
The sharp crack of a hazelnut, walnut or almond being broken into and promptly gobbled up.
The laughter, stories, music and games that come with family.

The overwhelming warmth of being 'home' and full and completely content.

Lambing continues here and the wind and rain are unrelenting, but the spirit of Christmas is filling us up, none-the-less.  Lucy continues to fill the house with caroling at all times and Wilson seems to have a sense of excitement, combined with complete obliviousness.  No one seems sure what will happen after 'three more sleeps', but the sense seems to be that it's going to be good!

So, from our wee shepherds, to you, have yourself a merry little Christmas and enjoy every moment.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rumens and Humans

The Christmas tree salespeople have been on the news lately complaining of low sales as apparently the sale of artificial trees is growing each year.  They said that the lack of snow is one of the main reasons that people haven't bought their trees yet, so they should be happy today.  We've gotten a pretty, nice little dusting over the last couple days and there is just enough to make things sparkly without needing a shovel.  It's supposed to turn mild tomorrow, so we might take advantage of the frost in the ground today to go find ours, even though we won't put it up for at least another week.  The spot on the farm that seems to have the most fir trees borders a plowed field this year, so it's going to be a bumpy ride back (and we hope the tree survives with only one busted up side after being hauled behind whatever implement we choose to go back with), but adventurous as usual.  

I haven't posted in a while, for no real significant reason.  I'm starting to slow down (rather reluctantly) and am getting more tired everyday, so when I would usually be writing a blog entry, I am instead laid out somewhere, 'vegging' as they say.  Lambs have started to arrive (a couple days late for the Sunday School concert photos) and so far so good.  The first guy was big and had to be pulled and he looks like he's three weeks old already. He's got the cute North Country Cheviot face and proves his heritage by being an excellent jumper (Cheviots are notoriously 'crazy' and jumpy). 

In other sheep news, we have finally purchased our own ram.  After trading with my mom and trying out the renting thing, it only made sense that as we're trying to be a fairly closed flock and we're organic, we have our own man about town, if you will.  He's young yet, but turning out to be a handsome fellow.  We'll see how his progeny turns out when my second batch of ladies start to lamb in March.  Although I like having the Cheviot blood in my flock, there seems to be a bit of a market developing for purebred breeding stock right now, so it will be nice to have some pure dorsets around again.

Sticking with the ruminants, milking has fallen into a nice little routine of milking as much as we need/want in the morning, letting the calf out for the day, then shutting her in at night when we feed Rosie so that there will be lots of milk in the morning again.  We seem to have rid Rosie of most of her annoying mannerisms while milking, although my patience wears thinner much quicker than Mark's on most days (no surprise there I'm sure).  I'm including a rare picture of me (or rather, mostly just my ample nose) milking the cow in my "beautiful pea green boat' as Mark so affectionately calls my self-made maternity one-piece snow suit.  It's only self made in that nearly all the seams in the back have been completely ripped out to make room in the front for a growing belly.  And since I washed it a couple weeks ago, most of the seams on the inside have let go as well, so the pockets no longer hold anything and half the time I shove my hand or feet into the stuffing rather than into a sleeve.  But it does the job, so no complaints here.  Only from Mark who seems mortified everytime I put it on (even though we're only going to the barn!).

 Here's a growing Poppy.

On our first milk product adventure we made butter, which actually turned out far better than I expected.  It was really easy (ok ok, Mark did the hardest part-shaking the cream) and is pretty much exactly the same as 'boughten'.  Cream seems to carry more of a 'homemade' milk flavour than the milk itself, and my 'delicate palate' (har har) can pick it up in the butter, but overall, I was pretty impressed. 

Here's some fresh homemade bread, half eaten, made with Speerville flour (NB), spread with Barnyard Organics butter.
Here's my little snow bunny, after my own heart, gathering up as much of a handful of the white stuff as she can to have a little snack first thing this beautiful morning.
The Sunday School concert is next week, which means today is our last practice, so I'd better go get my Nativity Scene director's hat on (and maybe tie on a few extra patience to boot).  I hear Mark battling over church clothes with our increasingly independent duo upstairs, I'd better go begin my own battle with the closet of muumuus.

Hope this finds your squinting at the snow in the sunlight, or at least enjoying the view of whatever is out your window today.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Organic Christmas!

Have an Organic Christmas!

Barnyard Organics is excited to be offering, for the first time, a Christmas promotion that is sure to please all you health and environmentally conscious eaters out there! 

For the low price of only $75 you will receive a hamper that includes **

  • Two organic chickens (5 lbs.each avg.) (value of $35)
  •   Three packs of organic lamb chops (1 lb./pk) or One organic lamb roast (value of $30)
  • Two dozen organic brown eggs (value of $8)
  •  One package of ground lamb or lamb sausage (value of $8)
  • A coupon for a 2 for 1 discount on fresh chickens or lamb in 2011.
  • A jar of mint jelly to accompany the lamb
  • Booklet with directions for cooking organic meats and recipe ideas for the holidays!
          **substitutions/additions can be arranged

This is a great chance for anyone new to lamb, to try it out and experience the flavour you’ve been missing out on.  The new smell of Christmas at your house will be a lamb roast with rosemary and mint, wafting through the halls.  And with the recipe ideas, you won’t be left wondering the best way to serve all your organic meat!  

We also have individual chickens available for sale, as well as lamb, so if the above deal doesn’t suit your needs, I’m sure we can accommodate your Christmas wishes.   

As you know, all of our animals are raised on pasture and fed only the highest quality organic hay and grains, grown right here on the farm.  Our laying hens are still out and about, picking through the snow and running through the mud.  Our new lambs are arriving as this goes out and while we wait for our own new baby (#3) to arrive in January, life on the farm in 2011 is already looking busy and bright!  Read our blog ( to keep up to date with the farm and the family.

This is a limited time offer until Christmas and once the meat is gone, so is the deal, so don’t wait!  We will deliver to Charlottetown and Summerside for your convenience.

Mark, Sally, Lucy and Wilson Bernard 
Barnyard Organics
Freetown, PE C0B1L0

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bolt or Armstrong?

I realize you are all tired of hearing about milking a cow, but I have one last comment to make.  Rosie seems to have settled in nicely to our routine and we have a LOT of milk, which is great. We keep Poppy in her own pen overnight, so morning milkings are the most successful and the evening ones are really just to empty her out for the long, calf-less night ahead.  Despite my repeated moans, "My hands aren't getting any stronger! I can't go any longer now than I could two weeks ago!", I think I am getting more milk than ever in the small burst of speedy milking that I do.  If I am Usain Bolt however, Mark is Lance Armstrong (I realize they are completely different sports- but the Armstrong pun was too good to resist).  By that I mean, he is slower, but manages to last much longer and get more milk than I do, and also a frothier foam on the top, which according my books is the true indicator of a successful milker.  In any case, both Bolt and Armstrong get their chance to shine and Rosie doesn't protest when we move from one to other, so things are good on that front.

In other livestock news, each morning when I go to the sheep barn I say a quiet, quick little wish into the grain bin that when I open the door, there will be baby lambs waiting to greet me.  According to my calendar they should be here by now, or any minute and although I'm always eager to have the first lambs this year there is added urgency.  Firstly, the Sunday school group from our church is coming out on Sunday to take photographs of a living nativity scene to be shown at the Christmas concert and baby lambs are sort of a key cast member in charge of the cuteness factor of the photographs.  Secondly, I don't particularly want to be checking the barn come Christmas.  I am looking forward to getting home to West Branch for a couple days after Christmas and leaving a lactating cow is chore enough, baby lambs yet to arrive would probably push my favour-asking over the limit of my accommodating in-laws.  But with only eight ewes bred (or so I think) for this early lambing, once they start, surely they will team up and get it done at once. 

I am continuing to expand and each day regular activities get just a little trickier. I am starting to get to the point where I'm getting excited to meet this little critter, although I am really glad that Christmas will be over first.  January is usually a quiet sort of month (relative to the previous one at least) and although I always said November (Lucy) was a worse time to have a baby than April (Wilson), I think January will be just fine.

Mark is busy roasting beans and although the markets were looking a bit worrisome at first, they seem to have come around and kicked it into gear, for now.  At least the roaster is getting some action.  It puts out such a delicious smell!

We have a great Christmas promotion on our products right now, keep your eyes peeled for its blog debut very soon!