Hay Making : Take One.

 On the Farm  Comments Off on Hay Making : Take One.
Sep 022014

One should make hay when the sun shines, so in a fencing lull, with our eye on the weekly forecast, we went about making plans to cut, ted, rake, and bale a few pastures. We figured we’d need around eight hundred bales to feed the cow-calf pairs through the winter and both Paul and Josée were getting pretty anxious seeing the neighbours hauling cart after cart of luscious golden hay, so the time was ripe.




We were hoping to harvest at least a hundred bales and needed at least four consecutive  days of sun and warmth to get the job done. The thermostat was to be in the 30s for a solid mid-week and the sun was set to shine. We embarked. Hay making means  long 16+ hour days, endless hours bumping along in a tractor, and being quite obsessed about listening to weather reports.





When Paul started talking about « entering hay season », the team* was pretty stoked to partake in this true farm experience.  Turns out it’s a lot of taking over someone else’s house chores (cooking, milking, etc.) and not that much excitement. Regardless, all of those who wanted tractor shifts got a kick at the can.

(* At this point, the farm team had grown to welcome Thulasy and Graham, good friends visiting from Alberta. For a glorious month we were five adults and two toddlers on the farm.)



Here’s the hay tedder. The teeth spin to aerate and spread the grasses out, or to « wuffle » the hay, to expose more of the cut to sunlight, air and wind and thus speed up the hay-making process.




And here’s the awesome warning sticker on the tedder. The words, if there were any, have rubbed off, but that twirly body says it all.




All kidding aside, farm fatalities due to entanglement in machinery are real and frequent. Between 1990 and 2008, 1,978 accidental agricultural deaths were recorded in Canada. 70% were caused by machinery. 48% were caused by rollovers, runovers and entanglements (see report here).


Despite five solid days of heat and sun, the humidity and stillness of the air did us in. On the sixth day it poured. It rained like it hadn’t in months. Paul managed to bale 30 solid bales of dry stuff, 50 of moist, and the rest is still (rotting) in the fields a week later. Quite deflating. In cities, you just don’t have that sort of experience. Prior to living on the farm (and as an urban worker and dweller), Josée’s closest experience is probably when a day or two of freezing rain in February ruins the ice on the Rideau Canal and the city closes the skateway for the season despite an upcoming cold snap. It had never been about livelihood for her. And these failed bales totally are.




Here’s Paul rolling in with the dry bales in the pouring rain.

We’re going to be giving it another go in September and undoubtedly buying hay for our first winter.

And the green grass grew all around

 On the Farm  Comments Off on And the green grass grew all around
Jul 012014


Summer is officially here. With the heat and sun, our seeded pastures are, for the most part, growing well.


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We’re still low on grass though, which means Paul’s pasture math is really critical. We’re also finding ourselves needing to temporarily fence small parts of pasture in order to make sure the two herds — the yearlings and the cow-calf herd — have enough to eat and to grow.

Here our friend Cory, who came up for a weekend to roll up his sleeves and lend a hand, and Paul are tightening a new fenceline by putting tension on the wire.








This day consisted of harvesting t-posts from old, useless fence lines and pounding them along a new fence line, a foot or so away.







adding insulators,











and pulling the wire along the new fence line, with the help of a cart and quad. (We’re all grateful that we held off on trying to quickly selling the quad that we had to buy with the farm. It’s definitely not how we want to get around the farm longer term — we are dedicated to our farm bicycles — but it’s definitely speeding up work during this hectic first season).

It’s strenuous work, and at this point, we’re only about 10% done the fencing that needs to get done, but it’s definitely a scenic work place.











We’re also working on getting all the barbed wire and page wire out of the pastures, by creating different reels for easier removal.








And we’re using some of the page wire as trellis for our lentils and peas. (Also, the garden is starting to look like one!)








We don’t really have the time to stay entirely on top of the potato beetles and weeding, but the plants are doing well for the most part.












And in other news, we’ve added four laying hens to our farm ménagerie. We built a mobile coop (also called a chicken tractor) for them, and like the cows, they get fresh pasture (for their pecking and bug eating pleasure) daily. They share our dairy cow’s pasture and the calf is really very entertained.




A full farm, fencing and friends.

 On the Farm  Comments Off on A full farm, fencing and friends.
Jun 172014


We are now pretty close to being a full farm. The 40 yearlings that will be this year’s CSA beef arrived last week from their home farm in Vankleek Hill. They were in the winter paddock area for a few days, eating hay and getting used to the place, as we waited for the pastures to green and grow.








The drier and warmer weather made it possible for us to get the fields cultivated and seeded. We were seeding three different types of grasses, a mix of legumes, and oats as companion plant.








On the last morning of seeding, the workers realized they were running out of the legumes mix — the small seed. Here Paul is speedily mixing alfalfa, bird’s foot trefoil and huia white clover.

If you want equal parts of each, you would think that you would have to mix one full bag of each, but since the seeds are different sizes, you actually need one full bag of alfalfa, two thirds of a bag of bird’s foot trefoil, and one third of a bag of white clover if you want a pasture with an equal number of plants of each type.


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I’m not sure it’s entirely visible in this photo but the oats have started coming up in the fields across the road (a happy sight to wake up to.)








We’re still working hard to stay on top of the fencing, in order to be able to give the two different herds — the cow-calf herd and the yearlings herd — fresh pasture every day. Making our fencing systems more efficient is really key. Here the fencing cart is being upgraded, replacing the wooden reel with a welded metal one made out of some of the stop sign posts that we inherited.











The roll of fencing wire stays in place with the hooks and the wire is now fed through a ring that can be opened and closed to allow for easier manipulation.

Notice the rubber stopper in this model, an addition that really speeds things along as it keeps the reel from spinning on (and having to be constantly re-rolled) when we stop the cart.








Careful planning (and long work days) are making rotational grazing possible despite our needing to build permanent fencing, temporary fencing, fix culverts, and move pasture pumps.








Despite the seemingly endless amount of work, the long days and little sleep, we’ve been pretty blessed with visits from good friends, eager to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand,








some good times together,







and some amazing skies.