Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In the end, I am an omnivore

I hate to say it, but I didn't feel bad when the meat birds left for market. I know, I know...I should have felt a pang of remorse.  I didn't.

I was far more relieved that I wouldn't have to stick my head inside the chicken tractor one more time, sliding on chicken poop and banging my head on the sharp corners.  Let's not forget to mention the multiple times that the chickens decided to shake as I entered - spraying me with wet chicken poop.  I managed to close my mouth on most occasions. Then there was the horrendous time that I slid on chicken poop in my Crocs, like a giant slip and slide - ending in a heap of slippery stinky chicken poop.

So, when the time came to load them up for their final journey, I have to confess I felt a bit elated that our time together had come to an end. It was a long 9 week relationship. 

Most of them came in at about 6-7 pounds, and as we savoured a freshly roasted bird last night I did pause for a moment and thank the bird for giving me such a delicious meal.

It was a short bittersweet relationship.

I suppose this was a bit like a rite of passage, a chance for me to prove that I am a real farm girl. I can raise up a meat hen, send it to market and enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Yee haw. I have arrived.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Haying for the first time

It’s hard to believe that only just a year ago, I didn’t realize there was a difference between hay and straw. To listen to us speak now about the types of grasses in our pasture, one would wonder if we had a degree in field grasses!

As we got closer to hay season, we began to wonder if we should invest the money into buying used haying equipment, or if it would be simpler to have someone else hay the fields for us.

We had no idea how hard it would be to find someone to do so! Having made several attempts we learnt that:

1) Most farmers are too darn busy haying their own fields to do yours

2) If they do take it on, they don’t guarantee it will be done before the rain comes…after all they have to get their hay up first

After many hours of searching on Kijiji, we finally found a retired farmer who was selling a haybine. It needed work, but after a few hours of repair we were able to get it up and running.

It took 3 more weeks to find a baler we could afford, once again Kijiji led us to our new acquisition.

We were now the proud new owners of haying equipment…but could we actually hay the fields? Could we manage to learn how to use the equipment in time to get the hay in?

In the words of my 89 year old neighbor “Your field looks like it got a two dollar haircut”!

And of course, no sooner had we finished baling the first 9 rounds of hay – but the weather forecast changed and the hydraulics went haywire on the tractor. We stood in misery watching the storm that night, the downpour soaking our freshly baled hay. I am sure our anguish was visible, we were so pained to see all of our sweat soaked efforts go down the drain.

However, the hay is baled. It’s now stored inside of our pole barn. That’s what counts right?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The cutest ass

Asses are like potato chips, or purses, or great shoes...you cannot stop at one.

What began as a practical means of keeping coyotes out of the field, has now turned into a bit of an ass obsession. I fear that I will turn into a wild eyed version of the crazy cat lady - standing in some old post and beam barn surrounded by asses.

I swore I would stop at three, but then I read on a highly official government site that you should have one donkey per 50 sheep.  Of course, another site said that was hogwash, and that you could have one per every 100 sheep, but I used the first ratio as my strong argument in the purchase of Lucy.  Never mind that we don't have the sheep yet...it's all about effective planning!

Lucy is our new 4 month old donkey.  How could I resist her charm?

Donkey's are wonderful when it comes to livestock protection. In terms of value for dollar, they provide endless hours of entertainment, in addition to coyote protection.

In order for donkeys to provide the best predator protection possible it is important to first understand how they protect the flock. Think of a donkey like a security guard - in order to provide protection they must both be in the right place at the right time. The donkey's herding instinct combined with its inherent dislike and aggressiveness towards coyotes and dogs make it an effective livestock guard animal.

If a coyote enters the field, a donkey will raise a ruckus, and chase the intruder. In most cases they will actually confront the predator, and attack them by rising up on their hind legs and striking with both front feet. They will then attempt to bite the back of the predators neck as it ducks to defend itself, causing damage to main arteries.

It really makes you stop and think about how cute and fuzzy they are doesn't it?

Perhaps that's why I like them, they are cute, sweet and fuzzy...until you rub them the wrong way!