Moving the manure pile.

What does it mean when I’m sharing an activity such as the moving of the manure pile? No need to contemplate, I’ll tell you. It means winter is too long!!! exclamation point, exclamation point…

But no fear, for March is here! It may get worse before it gets better (as March is known to do) but hoping it doesn’t. “Hope” the trait of every farmer. Fact is, we’re on the home stretch! Spring is just around the corner. (I need to remind myself.)

The manure pile was spreading. Spr-ead-ing. There’s only so much snow you can push a wheelbarrow through. Then the pile itself becomes a snow trap. You can tell how far the manure pile was reaching by the first picture. It’s near the front tire of the tractor. We don’t have a tractor with a bucket, so we called our neighbour and hired him to do the work for us.

My apologies on the quality.  It was dusk when the pictures were taken. Days are still short and you do things when you can.

Thanks, neighbour! It’s so much appreciated!

In case you’re wondering why he didn’t use the snowblower on the back of his tractor, it’s because there is too much frozen manure.  Snowblowers are only good for blowing snow and nothing else. Anything hard or frozen breaks it.

A small (small!) part of me wants some fresh snow so we can toboggan down the manure pile. It’s huge! We don’t have any hills around here on the prairie, only manmade ones.

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Farm dog

Lucy got hurt. 😦  She was chasing something, a rabbit or a chipmunk or a squirrel, we’re really not sure what and we’re not really sure what she caught her leg on.  (She’s not saying)  But don’t worry, she’ll be okay.  A trip to the vet, cleaned well, wrapped in bandages and some antibiotics.  She’s such a good dog, a member of the family and a valuable helper on the farm.  Maybe she’ll even get an extra blanket tonight.  And a couple days off.

Winter update

It’s been a long winter with just a few things going on. I thought I’d give you some of the highlights.

Christmas was quiet on the farm with just my immediate family. I cooked one of my home grown turkeys and we ate it for a week! So good, though. The new year brought my brother home from Europe. We had a really nice visit, catching up and playing Wii!

We had several losses on the farm this winter. A mink got into the barn and killed 2 of my ducks. The mink didn’t live long to tell his tale, my dog got him! Extra biscuits for Lucy, she’s earned them.

The heifer was down one day. I did all I could for her but in the end she didn’t make it. Doesn’t take a calf long to turn when it doesn’t get up.

The last loss was one of our goats, Cap. She hadn’t been herself before but seemed to rebound. This time she didn’t. 😦 As all my goats have reached their life expectancy, I chalked it up to that.

The rest of the animals seem to be doing quite well. Some of those very cold winter nights were really hard on them. I know they will be as glad to see spring as I will! The hay we got in the fall didn’t last and we had to get another 10 bales. We had to dig out the door into the shed so hopefully they’ll last until the snow is gone.

We have so much snow! Chores are harder everyday. I have never seen this much snow in the goat pen! Where we built the calf shed last fall changed the way the snow drifts. I stopped using the gate into the goat pen in January some time. I’ve been walking up the drift and stepping over the fence around the back side. I broke the water pan for the chickens. It was so cold it cracked. Broke the duck water pan and blew through 4 water pails for the goats.

That’s about it around here. It’s the time of year we all are sick of winter and are just hanging in there hoping spring comes soon.

Hay shed/cow shelter

Here’s some pictures of the hay shed/cow shelter we built.  We made it with posts in the ground, there is no floor.  On the hay side we put down pallets to keep the bales off the ground.  The hay hasn’t come yet and the cows haven’t moved in.  First we have to finish stringing barbed wire around the pasture this shed is in, then we can move them in.  The blue drum is for their grain ration.

The big doors on the hay side allow for easy access of unloading bales into the shed.  The smaller doors on the cow side are split so I can have just the top open for air and light if I want.  The idea is to only close them up in severe weather and at night to protect them from preditors until they get big enough that it is less of a concern.

Hubby and son did most of the work.  I think they did an awesome job!  I helped with the shingling, safely on a ladder.  I wasn’t climbing on the roof! 😯  I did the painting too. 🙂  As you can see, I like traditional colours and style. 😉

The Practical Homestead

October already!  Where did September go?  I know I have to update you on what’s been going on around the farm. But first I want to tell you about a book, an excellent book called The Practical Homestead, by Paul Heiney.

I first saw this book at my public library years ago.  It was published as Country Life in 1998.  Sadly the book went missing from the library.  But I found it at Chapters!  I was browsing one day and picked up this book, was I surprised when I opened it to see the same book I loved and read many times.

I’ve started reading it from cover to cover, whenever I can find time, that is.  Usually at bedtime, if I’m not too tired.

Here’s a few excerpts:

Home Farming starts with a dream, and it takes many steps to change the dream into a reality.  This is a book for those who want to turn their fields, plots, gardens ~ real or imagined~ into working home farms.  It is also a source of information for those who are already farming, whatever the acreage.  Some of the steps you have to take will seem huge, but you need be afraid of none of them, for each brings you closer to that deep satisfaction that can come only from living and working on the land.

Food production today is a huge mechanized industry.  But it was not always so and does not have to be.  From the time of the earliest settlements, people all over the world have used the land around their homes to grow crops and raise animals for the family’s use.  Through history, their houses have been farm workshops, accommodating the diverse businesses of dairying and preserving, pickling and brewing, milling and baking, all these crafts being carried out on a domestic scale.

It can still be done.  The wisdom of those centuries is still available for us to use.  What I call “home farming” is a celebration of that wisdom; it is interesting, fun, wholesome and gentle on the earth’s resources.

This book is about how, in the midst of modernity, we can add a measure of home farming to our lives and enjoy living and eating better.

It has practical information and tons of beautiful colour photographs, drawings and charts.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, hosted by GNOWFGLINS, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Sustainable Eats, and Culinary Bliss.

One little chick

A while ago I had a couple hens that went broody so I decided to let one of them sit on a clutch of eggs. I’ve never actually done this before. One year I had a hen hatch some eggs but that was an accident. She disappeared one day and I found her hidden in some bushes on a nest of eggs.

Anyway, I decided on a spot to seclude her from the rest of the flock, tucked 9 eggs under her and let her be. It was around 15 days or so that I risked putting my hand under her to see the eggs. (She pecks HARD!) I see that there aren’t 9 eggs anymore but only 7. She ate 2 of her eggs. 😦 I didn’t think the rest would hatch because they had gotten egg yolk and white on them, but decided I’d wait and see.

On the morning of the 21st day I see a chick under the hen, but it’s not moving. 😦 Later that day I look again and low and behold there’s another chick hatched! And it’s alive! 🙂  so exciting!

I left the other eggs under her for another 3 days but looks like there’s only one little chick. I can’t tell if it’s a poult or cockerel. We’ll have to wait to see.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday hosted by GNOWFGLINS, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Sustainable Eats, and Culinary Bliss.

Calves

We made use of the livestock trailer. We added a couple new animals to the farm – these Holstein twins, just 6 days old in this picture. The one on the left is a male and the other is a female. We haven’t named them, and probably won’t. So far I’ve been calling them ‘the twins’  🙂  They require milk replacer feedings 3-4 times a day. I’ve introduced calf starter which is a grain mix. So far only the boy is nibbling at it. They aren’t eating hay yet but they have access to some.

Girl (heifer)

They are so sweet! All they want to do these days is suck. They’re so funny! They aren’t shy of us or our touch. We’ve all been enjoying them very much. They’re healthy and happy. Babies are so cute.

Boy (bull calf)

Livestock trailer – before and after

Okay, so here’s the before pictures:

Outside 'before'

Inside 'before'

A little info before I show you the ‘after’ pictures.  Try not to look down.  😉  This livestock trailer was bought by my hubby (then boyfriend) in 1983 from an old man named Mr. Hay.  It’s true, that was his name. Ever noticed how a person’s name suits their profession?  Anyway, it was a single horse trailer at the time.  Sometime in the late 80’s, early 90’s, hubby change it to a 2-horse trailer by cutting and expanding it.  The last time we used it was… mmm… 2000? when we had pigs.  It’s been sitting out on the ‘back 40’ since, hence it’s appearance. 

The floor was completely rotted through, the paint was peeling terribly.  That’s me in the pic.  I knew it wasn’t going to look beautiful when we were done but honestly, that’s not the point anyway.  We need a livestock trailer that is  solid and reliable.  That’s all.  I think that is about all we got… lol  Here’s the ‘after’ pictures:

Outside 'after'

Inside 'after'

The bones of it were good. Hubby installed a ‘new’ oak plank floor and reinforced the walls.  I painted it and we fastened a tarp on the top.  Not shown are the doors on the back and how hubs added reiforcements there as well.  A lot of time spent… too much maybe?  But it’s ready to haul whatever we’re ready for.  I told hubby it’s better but it’s a pig with lipstick… looks nice but it’s still a pig. 😆

Ducklings!

Guess what we got! 😀 I saw an ad on and online classified for these free ducks. A little coaxing from my son, I made a phone call and we drove to get them. Not that I wasn’t already thinking about getting ducks but a little nudge from someone else helped me take the next step. I usually do some reading about an new animal before it comes to the farm but this time I didn’t, not until I brought them home that is. I consulted Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. I’m not too worried about how we’ll do, they sound a lot like keeping chickens with a few differences.

The place I got them from wasn’t sure what kind of ducks they are. She keeps Indian Runners, Blue Swedish and Rouen. It seems pretty clear to me they are Indian Runner and Rouen cross! Wouldn’t you say? I don’t know how to tell male from female at this stage. Does anyone else? They are suppose to be 2 weeks old.  Hopefully there is a female amoungst the five because I’d like to get some eggs so I can grow my flock.  They are very shy but I hope they will start to feel safe and know this is home. 🙂