And the green grass grew all around

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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.

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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.







Spreading, seeding, sowing and naming.

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May 302014


It’s been a sunny week here on the farm. The last of the fields are drying, enough for the lime to be spread, in fact, and hopefully seeding will be done in the next week.

We’ve tilled our “lawn” to make room for a vegetable garden. We may have bitten off a bit more than we can chew here, but we’re hoping to grow the bulk of what we’ll be eating (including our  popcorn and pumpkin seeds), so it may not be far off.








We’ve also been looking into more ways of using all of the delicious milk our Jersey is producing. Here is the first of our fresh cheese endeavours : making paneer.











The result was a pretty perfect addition to our curry. Fresh cheeses are great but they don’t have much of a shelf life so we’re looking into ordering the necessary supplies to start making hard cheeses. I’ve been reading “Keeping a Family Cow” which explains that, given the natural tendency of all dairy species to bear their young in the spring, there is plenty of milk available then but that “cultured dairy products are essential for the preservation of milk. Yogurt and allied products serve to preserve milk for a few days. Hard cheeses, with its wonderful keeping qualities, has been the natural answer to milk preservation nearly everywhere”.  So hard cheeses we shall make.










In other dairy news, we have finally named our Jersey. We’ve called her Ursula Franklin after this great pacifist.












Paul has also been keeping an eye on all the fields, to get the lime spread and the seed sown as early as possible. We took a family trip to see the fields on the other side of our Rang and compared to the lush pastures near our home, they were a sight for sore eyes. Bare tilled earth, left without a cover crop in the fall, now drying and cracking in the sun, the soil’s nutrients being eroded with the rain and snow melt — the ditches are full of valuable topsoil. One of the learnings that stuck with me from the Holistic Resource Management course we took a few years ago was about the importance of cover crops, that is, of sowing green organisms to use the sun and the rain to do what it does best in order to foster healthy, resilient soils.








We’re both looking forward to seeing these fields come alive later in the season.












And the fencing continues.








Screwing in insulators in the posts — which hold the electrical wires in place and prevent the electric current from going down in the ground — is a task that is easily done with a child in tow, so we’ve been taking in the fresh air and scenery that way.












The yearlings — the part of the herd that will be turned to meat for the 2014-2015 CSA shares — are arriving on Monday, which means that the priorities for the next few days will be, again, fencing, and getting the pasture seeding underway. Sowing the vegetable garden is also at the top of the list.

We’re also super excited to announce that our dear friend Danny Howard will be joining us on the farm this summer. Like Paul, Danny grew up on a farm in Alberta and has a background in engineering. He brings hands on know-how, knowledge, gumption and good spirits to the team. Glad you can make it, Danny, we’re looking forward to having you back.



Fencing for Jersey.

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May 202014


Today we decided to prioritize getting the fencing done around the pasture near the house to bring the Jersey (name pending), our dairy cow, out on pasture, so I got to see the post pounder in action.

















We used this handy cart, fashioned with a lazy susan, to unroll and lay out the wire for the fencing.








And kiddo helped by watering the wire before it unrolled.