Thursday, April 29, 2010

Toronto Bylaw Review

A Picture of Flowers by Michael
I heard yesterday on the news that Toronto city counsillors are considering lifting the ban on having backyard chickens. They would start with a trial run, in a few wards, for a few years. That's good news and I hope it works out.

When we first moved to the country people suggested we get some chickens. Initially we thought it was a crazy idea but look at us now. We are now convinced that having backyard chickens is very important to our health, the environment and our community.

Very few people would dispute the fact that fresh eggs are healthier for you and raising chickens in your backyard is more humane than the industrial chicken factories that currently feed our cities. Almost all our kitchen scraps are fed to the chickens and we compost their droppings to complete the recycling process. We offer our extra eggs up for sale to our neighbours and we welcome the opportunity to connect and chat when they stop by to get some.

Raising chickens, even only a few, is a great opportunity to teach children many important life lessons. Lessons about sustainable living, their connection to the food chain and how they must respect and protect the environment and the food they eat. The world we live in was created by those that came before us and I believe that somewhere along the line things went off track. Allowing and encouraging backyard chickens in our cities isn't going to change our world significantly today but it will have a significant impact on our children. It's very important that we teach these lessons to our children. I hope that Toronto gives it a try. {Peskychicken steps off his soap box and heads out to milk the goats ...}

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Working Together

This past weekend was very productive. I moved a large amount of well aged compost to the new garden. The chickens pitched in to help spread the compost around. Of course they were looking for bugs and small seedlings but I appreciated the help none the less. During moments like these it really feels like we're all working together towards a common goal.

I gave Barb the weekend off and I milked the goats so I could work on my milking skills. I have improved considerably and I can now get 10+ cups in just under 30 minutes. Not bad at all.

Barb reminded me of something that I didn't get done this weekend. We have a very mean and nasty Americana rooster that I promised to "deal with" about a month ago. He is still around and Barb won't collect eggs from his hens until he's gone. It's a very time consuming and messy process but it has to be done. He's simply not a nice rooster. Michael is the only one in the family that isn't afraid to go near him. I know what I'll be doing this Sunday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Feeding Time

This was a tricky picture to take. One hand on the camera and one hand holding three baby goat bottles. It's not so easy.

These little kids broke out of their pen a few times today. Barb was not pleased. Neither was I but for different reasons. They made a mess of my garden. I really don't like seeing my garden torn up by these little guys.

I have reinforced their chicken wire pen with some boards and some of those blue winter plastic crazy carpets the kids use to slide down the hills. You have to use what you have around, right? I'm sure they'll find a way to break through tomorrow.

I'm starting to get stressed that I'm running behind getting my garden in. There is so much to do and so little time. I'm happy to see the days getting longer so I can work outside later. That helps.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dandelion Salad

Michael and I picked a big pail full of fresh, tender dandelion leaves today. We have tons of dandelions around the property so it didn't take long to fill our pail. We ate some of them in a simple salad tonight. They we're really quite good. There was a slight bitter taste but it didn't overpower the salad.

I steamed the rest of the dandelion leaves for the freezer. I'm sure I'll find a couple good recipes for steamed dandelion in the future.

We checked out the size of our cattail shoots but they aren't ready yet. I've done a quick search of the web and found many good cattail recipes. They even say you can pickle the cattails ... I'm certainly going to try that one out.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eat the weeds?

Barb brought me home a book from the library this week. I'm surprised to see the names of many of the weeds we have around here. I'll have to try a few of them out. There's the obvious dandelion but there are others such as Cattails (which we have an over abunance) and Queen Anne's Lace that look promissing.

I wasn't planning to look this deeply to find food sources on our property but I think it's worth a try. We have enjoyed some wild food over the years like wild leaks, wild asparagus and morel mushrooms. Speaking of morels they come in to season in a few weeks. That is the highlight of our spring. Some years we find only a few morels but other years we have founds several pounds worth of them. They are simply to die for and I urge you to look for them in the wild or in your local fresh food markets in May (Ontario). They are absoutely delicious.

This mornings milk

It takes about 40 minutes to get 8 cups of milk from Lilly and Lucy. Just enough to feed the kids in the morning.

Milking and feeding the kids has added about 2.5 hours to our day. I wasn't expecting that level of time commitment. It's especially dissapointing that we don't get to enjoy any of the milk ourselves.

Our time will come soon enough until then we'll keep feeding the kids.

Friday, April 16, 2010

General Update

The last few weeks have been busy and I haven't provided an update on some of our projects.

For example, the maple syrup turned out extremely well. We have 3 small jars and one slightly larger jar stored away in the fridge. I hope to save this untill next winter. It is something worth looking forward to.

I probably could have boiled down more sap but I ran out of steam (pun intended). I just couldn't spend another night babysittting the simmering pot of sap.

My first attempt at planting my spices was almost a complete failure. I think the goat manure was still a bit 'hot' for the seedlings so only a few survived.

Here is my second attempt. Each group of 9 cells are the same spice. So starting in the top left group and moving clockwards you will see: Parsley, Thyme, Marjoram, Tarragon, Basil, Sage, Rosemary and Oregano. I have at least a little bit of everything which is just perfect.

Now all I have to do is keep 'em alive and harvest them.

I also started some peas, spinach and lettuce in some cold frames.

I didn't get a high germination rate and I'm not sure why. It may have been better to germinate the seeds indoors and then move them to the cold frames when they were well established.

I've planted corn and green pole beans in the empty cells to take advantage of the space available.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The new garden is on the way

We rented an auger today and dug the holes for the cedar posts for the new garden. Those augers save a lot of time. If I had to dig these post holes by hand I wouldn't end up planting a seed in the new garden. It would have taken me most of the spring to dig them with a shovel.

Next weekend I'm renting a rototiller to break up the soil. Then I'll nail some split cedar rails up to keep the chickens and goats out of the garden. I hope I have enough cedar rails to complete the fence. We'll see.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day old chicks!

I swear our neighbours must think we're crazy. Everytime someone drops by we have something new.

We picked up 31 day old chicks this week. They made so much noise in the house that we quickly decided to move them straight out to the barn. They have a heat lamp above them and a small heating pad under their newspaper.

Two small White Leghorns died this week, unfortunately. I hope they weren't going to be hens. Roosters I can part with ... but I'd like to keep then hens.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Delilah and Chocolate

Delilah (girl) and Chocolate (boy) were born on Saturday, April 3rd. We have been busy milking and pastuer-izing since then. These little goats drink about 2 cups each - three times a day. Our two nannies are producing about 12 cups of milk a day. We are having to make up the difference using regular homo cows milk. The goats don't seem to mind.

My wife has turned out to be an amazing goat milker. She holds the records for fastest time and the most milk. I hope my skills improve as time goes on.

Getting up extra early in the morning to milk the goats before I head off to work is tough. Very tough. But I have to do it. I have to be more careful for what I wish for in the future :)