on autumn and hay stacks, pipes and windbreaks.

 On the Farm  Comments Off on on autumn and hay stacks, pipes and windbreaks.
Oct 172014


With fall well underway, we’re working on getting winter-ready, ironing out details with the local (and federally inspected) abattoir that is processing our meat, and keeping on top of the everyday work of running the farm.









We decided to harvest 9 acres of oats that we planted — underseeded with grass — in the spring, in order to get some straw for bedding for the winter. We don’t yet have a combine and it was hard to find someone who could do the work for us; most contract workers in our area own machinery that’s suited to combining hundreds of acres in a go, not a few handfuls. A real downside to the push to “go big or go home” when you’re in agriculture is that small scale farmers, who don’t want to go big, nonetheless have a harder time accessing machinery that is suitable to their scale.








We ended up harvesting four tons of oats, much more than anticipated. As we hadn’t expected such yields, we also didn’t have a place to store the grains. Paul stayed up late to build two massive wooden crates on pallets, which he then lifted onto one of our grain wagons. Unlike our old grain silo, it was a good height for the combine. (P.S. Anyone want to buy feed oats?)









With meat deliveries starting this weekend, we’ve also had to make sure we had the freezer space to hold the meat. Paul and Danny started by giving the barn a deep clean, removing years’ worth of cobwebs, removing some of the walls and a hay rack, digging out old manure, and trucking in some sand. We then built two freezers and a cooler in our barn and have been working with our local electrician and refrigeration experts to get everything up and running.


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We ended up buying the bulk of the hay we need to feed the cows and calves throughout the winter. Paul filled the hay shed and then built a pair of pyramids and covered them with the biggest tarps we have ever owned.


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At this point, we’re also working on installing close to 7000 feet of water pipe to get water to the animals during the winter. The creek that has fed our pasture pumps in the spring and summer won’t do at all during the winter, so we’ve had to apply to the municipality to dig below a road, and find contractors who can do the work. The pipe needs to be between 5 and 6 feet below ground to prevent freezing, and needs to be in the ground before we have daytime frost.

We have also found the logs we need to build wind breaks for the cattle, for shelter from the winter winds. More on that once we manage to secure transport to get them to the farm.


Despite the busyness of this great winter prep, the two herds get fresh pasture every day, fences get moved, pasture pumps are moved from pasture to pasture with the herds, and the animals are counted and their health monitored.


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In the next post, we’ll talk about the new abattoir we’re working with, our new sausage makers, and hopefully, we’ll have progress to report on the pipes and windbreaks.

To those receiving the first box of their share this Saturday, enjoy !



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.