Wednesday, March 4, 2015

That's one big egg!

Are you as tired of this long, cold winter as I am? This is the point in the year when I am eagerly looking for signs of spring, and this week I found one.

On Tuesday I was surprised and happy to find this egg in the duck house. Ducks are seasonal layers. We haven't seen a duck egg since fall, so this one was a welcome sight. She has since laid two more. 

Duck eggs taste much like chicken eggs, but they have a richer taste and a creamier texture. I use most of them for baking.

Here it is in a carton of chicken eggs. The brown ones would be large to extra large if they were graded, and the green ones would be medium to large. I can't leave the duck egg in the carton, because the lid would not close. Actually, I am planning to save some of these duck eggs and put them in the incubator. Stay tuned for duck hatching pictures sometime in April. I sense a cuteness overload coming.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book review: How to Make Money Homesteading by Tim Young

Do you want to be a homesteader? Or maybe you already are, but you are finding it hard to pay the bills each month. That's the position we are in, so I was very eager to read this book as soon as I heard about it.

I am familiar with Tim Young and his wife, Liz, having read his previous book, The Accidental Farmers. Tim and Liz did what a lot of us want to do. They left their big city life to start their own farm. They learned as they went, and Nature's Harmony Farm is now a successful producer of award-winning farmstead cheese. They are able to earn their living on the farm, and Tim wrote this book to teach us all how we can do the same.

I had high expectations about this book, and I was not disappointed. It is filled with great ideas for earning money from your homestead. There really is something for everyone here. I could relate to a lot of them, and some I am already working at. But there are so many other things I could be doing as well, and some I had never considered before. Some ideas are large scale, others have low start-up costs and would be suitable to augment one's current income.

My favourite feature of the book is the profiles. There are eighteen unique farms featured. Each is well described and the farmers/homesteaders talk about such things as how they earn a living, how they got to where they are, what things they would do differently, and so on. It is like being able to sit with them face to face and learn from them.

This is a book that should be on every homesteader's must read list. It inspires, encourages, and empowers the reader to turn their farm into a viable and sustainable enterprise. And it is entertaining too. What more could one ask for?

Now I am exploring the possibilities and I am confident that this book will help me find the niches that we need to make our farmstead thrive.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why is it so hard to find pastured chicken in Ontario?

This has been an interesting month. We have been contacted by a few people who stumbled across our website and our Facebook page. I keep hearing how happy they are to have found a source for pastured poultry. Now, this makes me very happy. It's great to know that there are people out there that are informed and care about where their food comes from. Most people don't give it a second thought. It comes from the grocery store. Duh!

But the word is getting out there, and people are asking questions. Were the vegetables sprayed with pesticides? Were they genetically modified? How was the meat raised? Was the animal in question given antibiotics? Was that chicken stuck in a barn its whole miserable life? 

Once we start asking these questions and finding out the answers we start wanting to change how we eat. And that's not always easy. 

Farmer's markets are a great place to start. You can find fresh from the farm beef, pork, and just about any vegetable you could want. But where's the chicken?

You will not likely find chicken at a farmer's market. And there's a good reason for that.

Chicken production in Canada is controlled by a supply management system. Back in the early 1970's chicken farmers had a problem. The price of chicken was so low that they were having a hard time even breaking even. Their solution was to form  a quota system. Farmers were given a quota of birds to raise and they were guaranteed a price. That started the era of the factory farm. From a purely business standpoint, it is much more efficient to keep the birds confined and feed them as much as possible so they grow as fast as possible. And that is how the vast majority of chickens are raised. Sad but true.

Here in Ontario this is governed by the Chicken Farmers of Ontario. For years they controlled all of the chicken produced in Ontario. In 2009, after pressure from farmers who wanted to produce organic free-range chicken, the CFO allowed an exemption for small flocks. This made it possible for small farms to produce chicken, not just for their own families, but to sell to people who want better chicken.

But there's a catch. The CFO, not wanting to make things easy for small flock producers, added some restrictions.

You have to buy the chicks at a hatchery. This way the CFO can track how many birds you have. In fact, the hatchery is required to give you a form, called a form 300, that you have to take to the processor. If you don't have the form the processor will not accept the birds.

You can only raise 300 birds in a year. This ensures that producing chicken will never be more than a hobby. You cannot make a living raising 300 birds. Most small flock farmers don't even come close to 300. Why not? Because you are not allowed to advertise, and you can only sell at the farm gate. That means you pretty much have to rely on word of mouth. And why would you order 300 chicks if you don't know whether you will be able to sell them?

So, if you are looking for pastured poultry in Ontario, ask around. If your friends don't know a small flock farmer you might need to do a little digging around. Try the farmers at the market. Chances are someone will know someone. You won't be able to buy it there, but you might get some information. Even better, ask at the local feed store. They know who is buying the feed.

Of course, if you are in the Belleville area we might be able to hook you up here at Joyful Noise Farm. Look us up and Like us on Facebook and we can keep you updated on what we're up to.

Once you have tried true free-range chicken you will never want to go back to that factory farm chicken from the grocery store.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

ducks just gotta have water

In the summer there's no place a duck would rather be than in the water. They love to splash and play and to keep themselves clean. We keep a kiddie pool for them to use, and they spend a lot of time in there.

But in the winter there is no way to keep their pool from freezing. Even their water dishes get icy and need to be freshened up every couple of hours. What's a duck to do?

Today the temperature is hovering around the freezing point after a long stretch of bitter cold. So, it's time for a bath in the water dish.

Ducks love to do this, even in a smaller dish that they can't fit into.  They dip their bill into the water and then preen themselves.  After several minutes they look just as wet as if they had been in their pool.

They are so fun to watch because they are so enthusiastic and are happily quacking away as they go about their business.

But the chickens are not so sure they are not crazy.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

snowy day


Yesterday we awoke to the first major snowfall of the year.  There was about four to six inches of the white stuff, enough for the school bus to be cancelled. 

The trees looked beautiful all decked out in white.

Well, except for this one.  Yes, that branch is leaning on the side of the house. Yikes!

 Miraculously, it managed to land without breaking any of the four windows, nor did it damage the woodstove chimney.  We are so thankful for that. If you look closely you can see David firing up the chainsaw.

It's always funny to see the chickens' reaction when they see the first snow of the year.  They just stop in their tracks while their tiny brains process what they are seeing. 

It takes a while, but they do bravely venture out.

They stay pretty close to the coops though.

The goats aren't sure what to think.  All they can be sure of is that this is all my fault, and they make sure I know it.

Best of all are the ducks. They have no problem with the snow, even though their bellies are dragging in it and their little legs sink right down.  But they are still quacking joyfully and wandering all over the yard.

And of course Tessa loves the snow.

Guess it's not a good day for hanging out the laundry.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

a tale of two chickens

When we got our chicks in August we had a bit of a dilemma.  We had ordered both white rocks, which are broiler chickens, and red shavers, which are layers.  Should we raise them in the same brooder box?  The white rocks would definitely grow much faster than the reds.  But, it is easier to only have one box to deal with, so we put them in together.

They all got along just fine.  Although the white rocks quickly outgrew the reds, they are not at all aggressive, so there was no fighting or pecking their smaller companions.  If anything the reds encouraged the whites to be more active.  When the screened lid of the box was removed for adding feed or water the whites would sometimes attempt to fly out.  This is not something we usually see them do.

So they grew and grew, and went outside to their movable pen. And there, in the sunlight and fresh air, they grew some more. Usually we would keep them confined to the pen until they are about the size of our silkie, a bantam chicken.  This is to protect them, not only from potential predators like hawks or foxes, but also from being picked on by our other chickens or turkeys, who free range around the property. But when the whites had reached that size the reds were still quite a bit smaller, so we left them in another week.

They are enjoying being outside.  The other birds did peck at them and chase them a little at first, but mostly they just go about their business and ignore them.  Looking at them, it is hard to believe they are exactly the same age.

And they continue to grow and thrive.  We move their pen daily to give them fresh grass to sleep on.  White rocks do not roost, since they are so large they are not able to fly.  The reds would roost, and they do sometimes hop on the feed trough handle, but usually they snuggle up to the whites right on the ground.
They still get along, even with the size difference.  In a few weeks, when it is time for the whites to leave us and head to freezer camp they will be missed.  But for now, they are all best buddies.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Meet the Bloody Butcher

Back in January, in the dark days of winter, I spent a lot of time on gardening web sites.  On a cold day it is fun to think ahead to spring and plan what new and interesting veggies to plant this year.  One of my favourite sites is Terra Edibles, which is a small garden center that specializes in heritage seeds and plants.  They carry many, many obscure varieties that I have never heard of, and it is fun to try new things each year.  

This year a variety of tomato caught my eye, intriguingly called the Bloody Butcher.  According to the description it is early, not very big, and has a rich tomato flavour.  How could I resist that?  

They have begun to ripen this week.  David requested a couple of tomato and cheese sandwiches, so out to the garden I went.

There were a few ripe ones.  Actually, the Bloody Butchers are the only ones even close to being ripe.  All of the other varieties are still very green. They aren't very big, about two inches in diameter.  They are about the same size as the "cocktail" tomatoes you see in the grocery store.

Although small, they do slice neatly for sandwiches.  They are nice and juicy and have a great flavour, just a little sweet. 

And, they make a great sandwich.  They would be ideal for in a salad, but they are also good just picking them and eating them right in the garden.  We will definitely be planting these again next year.