Monday, June 29, 2015

Tiger Lilies

When I was little, I went to my Grandma and Grandpa's farm as much as I could-- as often as someone would take me!  I loved spending time at the farm, it always felt like time moved slower there as we took care of all the things that needed to be done.  Grandpa Tom would hum away and listen to classical music and work in his shop, or be out on the tractor, and Gran and I would pick weeds or strawberries or shell peas and bake cookies and bread and squish laundry through the manual rollers in the basement, or I would catch frogs (or more often encourage Auntie Joan to with hearty cries of "Get him, Auntie Joan!) or collect bits of broken dishes from the field and organize them by size, pattern, and colour in the playhouse Grandpa Tom built for me. 
When all the work was caught up, Grandpa Tom loved to ride his bicycle, and he would put a pillow on the back rack and there I would sit, and we'd go watch the trains in Oak River or, if the season was JUST right, we'd pick wildflowers for Gran.  He showed me how to cut them so that they'd grow again next year, with a little yellow pocketknife.  My favourite of all the flowers were the Tiger Lilies.  In a sea of yellows and whites and pinks and mostly green, all of a sudden there would be a flash of red-orange, and the brakes would come on on the bicycle, and we'd wade through the waist-high grass towards the flashes of red and cut big bunches of the gorgeous lilies to bring back to Gran.  The season was very short, even to me as a child, but it usually coincided with the end of the school year and my usual 2 or more week visit to the farm.  Occasionally if we were lucky, my cousin Andrea would even join us, as you can see in the photo above.
Last week, after weeks of scanning the ditches each day on the way home, I yelled (like, actually YELLED, I'm surprised Jon kept the car on the road): "TIGER LILIES!!!!!".  So, we picked a few, and they're holding a place of honor on my kitchen table beside a photo of Grandpa Tom, who passed away 12 years ago.  I like to think he'd be proud of me and Jon and our new endeavor and that we have returned to my roots in Manitoba, where the wild Tiger Lilies bloom in the ditches in June.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chicken Processing June 27

Yesterday Abby, Mark, and Mom came over and we processed chickens.  We traded Abby and Mark last week 4 hens for a rooster, but they still had three that they needed to dispatch.  They got chicks in the spring and 5/7 were roosters-- we've had the same luck when we've gotten unsexed chicks!  We were left with 18 hens, and really only wanted 12, so there were 6 of ours to process, too.  Abby & Mark have never done it before, so we invited them over to our open-air processing setup so we could share the work and the knowledge.  With 5 of us, it was short work-- Little over an hour, and Abby and Mark and Mom were the best help we could ask for!
 We haven't processed chickens for three years, so we brushed up by watching a Joel Salatin YouTube video.  We realized it's kind of like riding a bicycle-- once you've done it, it all comes back to you pretty quickly.  We knew what was required and so had a great setup-- A cone for slaughter, lots of waste containers and cutting boards and sharp knives, and HOT water for plucking.  That was something that we improved upon from last time we did this-- I have horrible memories of trucking huge dangerous pots of boiling water back and forth from the kitchen, and plucking being slow and hard.  We boiled a pot of water in the kitchen and then kept it near boiling on the BBQ in our processing area.  8 seconds is the perfect amount of time for the dip, and the feathers came off so easily both Jon and I groaned at how easy it is when it's done right.  Now we know!
 Here's the chicken processing crew enjoying a beer after all the work was done.  Everyone went home with 3 stew birds, and-- though I would never say that killing birds is "fun"-- it was as smooth and quick as it could possibly be!  Jon and I have only done roosters, in the Great Watershed Farm rooster incursion of 2012.  The hens were neat!  Very different than roosters, filled with egg yolks, lined up like a conveyor belt inside these little egg machines.  We were not surprised, as the gals have proven to be excellent layers, and Abby & Mark are also sharing the spoils of their 4 new hens already.
I believe that as a meat-eater, it is my duty to be okay with the necessary cycle that eating meat necessitates-- Animals have to die for me to eat, and the closer I can be to that process, the better!  We got 22 birds and planned on putting 10 in the freezer within a few weeks.  I'm happy to have had some eggs from these gals in the meantime, and now to have 3 delicious pots of soup from hens that were pastured on our farm for a month.  Next year we plan to get pigs, and Abby & Mark are talking about getting meat birds and we may follow suit, and continue to combine our efforts at processing time.  Many hands makes light work!
Thanks to Mom, Abby, and Mark for an excellent day accomplishing a task.

OOOhhh!!  I almost forgot.  Our rooster has a name now.  Meet Ron Swanson and his 12 ladies!

Three days' worth of eggs from the hens (54, would actually have been 56 but Jon ate 2 for breakfast).
Some egg stats: 
Total egg count is now 470
over 25 days
average of 18.8 eggs per day
Total cost: $170 (waterer, layer mash, oyster shells, fuel to pickup hens, a few bits of hardware)
Cost per egg: $0.36 (not including avg. 1/2 hr of my time each day managing the flock)
Income from farm gate egg pickups (the only legal way to sell them): $28
Total cost including income: $142, per egg $0.30

**This is just because I'm a cost of production nerd.  To be honest, I enjoy the chickens so much that I don't feel like it's work-- every time I eat one of the eggs and are blown away by how good they are, it's worth it.  I love sharing eggs and initially planned that I would supply Mom and Aunty Jayne with eggs, because it's as much work to look after 12 hens as it is 3, and they do so much for me it's nice to have something to give back.  I'm not in it to become a commercial egg producer, and it's been awesome to give everyone who comes in the yard a dozen eggs.  We've met some of our neighbours this way, and we keep Sherman in eggs, too.  I feel like I get a present every day from the hens, and then I get to share them with others.  I'm keeping track of the numbers in case I want to ramp things up in the future, but with the restrictions on selling "Farm Gate Only", it's very unlikely.
Mostly, I just like to eat really, really yummy eggs!  :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

4 less hens and a new addition!

On the way to the fields one day last week, I expressed to Jon my desire to get a rooster. I like roosters: they're beautiful, a nice way to wake up in the morning, and they protect the hens (are usually the first to be killed). Plus, they are delicious, and-- a necessary addition to the flock if I want any viable eggs to hatch out chicks. So, it was fortuitous timing to find out that very day that the daughter of my parent's friends had an excess of roosters and was in need of some hens. We haven't had time to dispatch any, and as the chicken tractor was designed to hold 12 birds, it's great to pass along a few hens to a friend and only have 6 to slaughter this weekend.
So, Abby, Mark and Oliver brought over 4 gentlemen last night and we picked the one we liked the most. He is a good candidate for the name “Maestro II”, but we haven't heard him crow yet. Good lookin' dude, anyhow, and he's already doing his duty looking after the hens.

Bunnies and hens

Mr. Rooster

Block 1: Spinach, Beets, Cilantro, Dill, Spuds, Green Onions, Carrots, Beans, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Parsnips, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Raspberries, Celery, Celeriac

Watermelons are growing well

Herb Garden

Block 2: Beans, Squash, Citron, Watermelon, Cukes, Zukes

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wheatgrass eggs

Big MB sky and a storm comin'!
 We had a few leftover wheatgrass trays that got too big, so we fed them to the chickens.  The chickens LOVED them, and ate all but a thin mat of soil.  The eggs are delicious, and the last 5 days in a row have been 100% production.  They also get lots of rotter carrots and nettles and just got moved to a new section of grass the other day.

Hungry Hens!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Chicken Love

Nest boxes
Me and my chickens and delicious eggs

Chickens love nettles

Jon fishing

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A big weeding day and a little egg

What a rip off!  :)

Happy Hens!

Paradise...  Jon putting on row cover on the cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi

A successful weeding day!

Spinach, Beets, Green Onions, Carrots, Parsnips, Peppers, Tomatoes

Cucurbits are up!

Jon in Block 3

Monday, June 8, 2015


Jon and I took most of the day off yesterday and went up to Clear Lake for the afternoon.

Then we went for a walk when we got home and found lots and lots of wild lady slippers in the ditches,  Beautiful!
At the end of the pier, Clear Lake

Ladyslippers all over the ditches!  Beautiful.  Used to ride bikes and pick these for Gran with Grandpa Tom.

Why anyone would drag a piece of cake all the way from Nova Scotia and eat it a year later is beyond me, but we did.  :)

The cowslips... What enticed me into the ditch in the first place!

The flower of PEI, but they are pink there and look a bit like lungs.  I've always preferred the yellow ones.

The cairn commemorating the Robinville school quarter is across from our lane.

Wild strawberries everywhere blooming

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A nice rain, and an unimpressed wet cat

He came back from his morning outing looking like a drowned rat!  Lol

Man's best friend
"Thanks for the rain!" -- The Beets

Need to do some more weeding once it dries up.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cukes, zukes, and watermelon to transplant today.

My chickens are too chicken to go outside... Instead they prefer to be packed into their house. 6 eggs laid so far today, another 18 yesterday.
Our egg label-- They are flooding in, so this is necessary for keeping track of rotation.  This is our niece Maevey collecting eggs a year ago (2-1/2).

Thursday, June 4, 2015


 Returned from a day working for our neighbour, Peter, who owns a few greenhouses and does landscaping on the army base, where we planted flowers all day.  The chickens had a surprise for me!  18 eggs, cost of production for one egg so far is $7.78 each (I expect that to go down obviously as they lay more eggs!)
2 of 4 baby robins flown away from Scarlet's nest.  Ruby's next was pillaged by (we think) a predatory bird, so they are no longer.

Breakfast for supper.... Mmmmm!!