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Posts Tagged ‘Livestock’

Did you know that pumpkin seeds (and to some extent, the flesh) have anti parasitic properties in ruminants? Our sheep always come running when they see the tasty round orbs in my hands as I approach their fields. I admit, it’s super satisfying to watch them explode across the ground as I toss them into the field, too!

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Our sheep aren’t the only ones who enjoy the pumpkins, though. Our chickens and ducks do too, and I’ve broken up more than one squabble as the hens have fought over the perfect pumpkin seed or strand of pumpkin guts. Our turkey, however, cannot be bothered by treat-like morsels this morning. He is too busy professing his love to one of the Cochin hens, strutting about and poofing up like a love-struck teenager. Poor chap, I’m not sure if it’s more sad that he’s crossed in love, or that his days are numbered in general.

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One other form of natural parasite control that we use is pine needles, and the sheep get branches from our windbreak weekly throughout the winter. For now, though, I find myself begging and bartering for leftover pumpkins and squash into the depths of the fall season.

Have you ever used a natural form of parasite control for your livestock or pets?

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From city mouse to country mouse

I do not have a background in farming or agriculture. I was raised in Vancouver and until I was in my thirties, I had only been once to a farm–when I was 5 years old. That trip was very influential, and I immediately liked the idea of living on a farm. The biggest impression I recall was seeing the ‘Big Red Barn’ all nicely stacked with hay–it was a 5 year old’s dream to play in the barn with the other kids and feral cats.

When I moved to New Zealand, I was in heaven. I never did own a ‘real’ farm there; you don’t have to. There are plenty of opportunities to live vicariously, and so I did. I volunteered on a few farms and soaked up as much as I could. I did eventually buy some land there and together with my husband, we built a house on three acres outside Palmerston North in the Pohangina Valley. Well, not exactly in the valley but up on a hill overlooking the valley. It was there that I got my first chickens and, later, ducks. Our neighbour, Toni-the-Greek, donated a ‘chicken starter kit’, read three hens and a rooster. The chickens did the rest of the work and happily replicated themselves.

The following year, Toni-the-Greek gave us a Muscovy duck ‘starter kit’ which was less successful than the chickens, and I learned what the term ‘like a sitting duck’ meant. Until that point, we were excited about the duck who had gone broody and was sitting on a nice batch of eggs. I don’t remember how far along into the incubation process she was, but one morning when I went out to check on her all that was left, of what had been until that point an idyllic scene, were her feet. We never did successfully hatch baby ducks there. We sold the property and the buyers wrote the chickens and ducks in to the agreement to purchase!

After this experience, I knew I never wanted to live without my own patch of dirt and flock of chickens.

The big move to Bella Coola:

I moved to Bella Coola, on the west coast of BC 6 years ago (2003), and bought a 4.1 acre property there 3 years ago. It had 2 acres of lawn which took more than three hours on a ride on mower to mow; it was, a friend said, a “two beer lawn.” I wanted to establish a food garden.

Why? I had a longstanding dream to be sovereign in my food. I wanted to either grow, raise, hunt or fish for everything I needed. I was also aware of the hypocrisy of being a meat eater: this, I thought Michael Pollan would conclude, is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Agrobusiness, with its terrible food and animal treatment practices, was not for me.

My first addition was chickens. I had raised them in New Zealand and knew that there were easy: they provide a good source of protein and (a not insignificant consideration) they provide good entertainment. Thanks to a friend’s incubator, we soon had 22.

Suddenly we needed fencing. I returned from the store with fencing materials and a goat. Soon we had 5 goats. Ducks were donated for our pond, and almost instantly we had a farm. Animal accommodations were the next job, followed by fruit trees: apricot, pear, quince, plum, 2 apples, crabapple, peach, 5 cherry trees, 2 gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, more blueberries, a strawberry patch, huckleberry, saskatoonberry, 4 kiwi fruit.

Once I had my 'Big Red Barn' I felt more like a 'real' farmer!

Once I had my 'Big Red Barn' I felt more like a 'real' farmer!

YEAR ONE (2005)

Having moved in in April, it was all go. With our roto-tiller we turned lawn into garden, around 2000 square feet. We fenced it 6 feet high with old fishing net to leap deer out, and divided it into 3 sections so that the chickens could turn over one area while I planted another. Our property had some well established fruit trees, including 2 cherries, 2 kinds of pears and 2 kinds of apples. A peach tree died in the 2007 winter. It also had 2 high bush cranberries, 3 blueberries, a red grape and a green grape.

We also built my very own big red barn.

YEAR TWO (2006)

More converting of lawn into veggie garden, including a potato patch. We threw in horse manure form down the road, household compost, leaves, hay, and cardboard on top. We enjoyed our own harvest, especially of cauliflower, cabbage (the biggest and best tasting I’d ever experienced), broccoli, zucchini, and blueberries. We made a new berry patch, laid down sawdust paths and made our vege beds permanent: we now had about 3500 square feet under cultivation.

We got 6 broad-breasted turkey chicks from Rochester Hatchery and thoroughly enjoyed raising them; they were polite and curious, and tasted great at Thanksgiving. (My husband brought one out to me via Westjet!) We didn’t have the time to winter them over (the valley requires snow shoveling the paths almost daily), and the ducks were moved into the turkey house.

Veggie garden facing south.

Veggie garden facing south.

YEAR THREE (2007)

In the summer of that year, frustrated at being laid off and wageless, I moved to Regina to a part time job and the prospect of up-skilling. On March 24, 2008 I woke up, looked at my closet for what to wear and thought: “I don’t want to do this any more. My sister enjoys dressing up; I want to be in my gumboots and overalls in my garden. If I continue with my PhD I’ll end up with a good career where I have to dress properly every day!” I was 2 provinces from everything I loved: my garden, my husband, my animals. My life was there. At last I was ready to accept my husband’s offer to support me through his teaching job; this was my chance to indulge myself in the farm. I would attempt food sovereignty—and maybe write a book about it, too. I was apprehensive about this decision, because I didn’t grow up on a family farm and had always thought that this accident of heredity precluded me from being a farmer. But if I could get a PhD, surely that same diligence would help me become a farmer, especially with the resources available to me through neighbour farmers in the valley and the now voluminous resources of the Internet.

YEAR FOUR (2008)

Capital expansions:

This year, we built a new turkey barn, complete with a nursery room to raise hatchlings. On the left hand side will be the home to the 99 chickens as I get the ‘herd’ built up to that number. On the right hand side at the back is the brooder room where I am presently raising 25 turkeys. It is all lined, insulated and cosy warm for the babies and full grown animals.

The new chicken coop complete with feed room and nursery room.

The new chicken coop complete with feed room and nursery room.

We also built a greenhouse. I’m hopeful we’ll actually get some tomatoes and basil this year! We just don’t have the heat units for the tomatoes to be successfully raised outside, and it is simply too wet in general for basil. Of course, a greenhouse will also extend our growing season for greens during the fall.

Year five (2009)

Animal expansions:

I have never managed to be completely self-sufficient in chicken or turkey. In light of the project (and developing way of life), I plan to raise more chickens and turkeys this year than in previous years. I have ordered 50 new day old cornish cross chickens, and have 30 turkeys in the new brooder barn (waiting for the cornish crosses to get butchered so they can move into the real coop!).

This year has been the year of the goat! At the end of hunting season last fall, I looked at the goats and thought, “You’re just small deer. I could shoot you and eat you.” So I borrowed a buck and got two of the three gals pregnant. Together, those two gals doubled my herd! I had five goats (two wethers and three does) and now have five gorgeous kids on the ground.

It was also the year to get rid of the ducks which I did earlier in the year for the following reasons: They are unreliable layers of eggs, not very good mothers, and too cute to kill. Not that the other creatures aren’t also cute, but the ducks take the cake in that department.

I have just ordered a milking machine for the goats and will be venturing into the wide world of goat dairying! This has been my dream since starting on the whole project. I’ve wanted to milk my own goats but needed to wait until I was confident enough to do them in and eat their kids. I’m still not sure I’ll be able to do it; but I’ve got a few more months and another hunting season to muster up the courage again.

What makes a ‘real’ farmer?

It has been a long time for me to get accustomed to the idea that I am farming. I have not considered myself a ‘real’ farmer. For a long time I have wondered what it would take for me to consider myself a ‘real’ farmer. Until recently, I have not really been able to articulate that. I think it will be when I get farm status and actually make the animals pay for themselves. To that end, I have just sent off my application for farm status! I think that getting the status and then the ‘farmer card’ will help me think of myself as a ‘real’ farmer.

I would love to hear from others the answer to this question. What makes a ‘real’ farmer?

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White Man’s Fly Ice Cream*

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

(Subtitle: How to waste several precious animal resources in one decadent swoop!)

There are four types of farm animals here that give me products without requiring me to kill them first: poultry (eggs), cattle & goats (milk), and bees (honey…Hey! How do these pesky insects keep creeping into my posts??). Actually, there are five if you consider the sheep (wool), but I will side-line them for now. I consider all of these products to be gifts from the animals in my care and most get used for simple day-to-day uses like cereal wetter (hmm, spelled differently that would sound a bit disturbing), pancake binder, or tea sweetener. Sometimes, however, you must honor the hard work these animals put into their offerings and create something gold; you must appreciate them all in one, very rich, end-of-summer concerto:

White Man’s Fly (Honey) Ice Cream

1 cup cream (heavier the better!)

3 cups milk

1/2 cup honey (you can add more or less, but you will definitely taste the 1/2 c.)

Vanilla to taste (I use 2 teas.)

8 egg yolks (of course, reserve whites for yummy scrambled eggs with tomatoes & onions!)

Mix cream, milk and vanilla and bring to simmer. While milk is heating, whisk together egg yolks and honey. When milk is simmering over medium heat, add 1/2 cup of milk mixture to egg mixture and whisk until smooth (this tempers the eggs so you don’t make honey scrambled egg ice cream-whole other recipe;)). Add egg mixture to milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Bring back to simmer and whisk constantly. Mixture will eventually thicken (you are essentially making a custard). Put in refrigerator to cool completely. Process in ice cream maker according to type you are using.

Yields 1.5 pints (I know, it’s not much for 8 whole yolks!)

This is creamy, rich and very sweet. If you’ve never made your own ice cream, you’ll note immediately that it does not have the same taste as store bought ice cream. The honey gives it a unique flavor, a flavor of flowers. It’s also very good with nuts like hickory, walnuts and pine nuts (I can only get the first two locally).

Ice Cream Gold (You Can Thank the Livestock later!)

*American Indians called the honey bee “White Man’s Fly”. In early 1600s, hives were shipped to the new colonies of Virginia. Because the honey bee tends to range quite a distance from her hive, she actually explored America before the Europeans. Indians would see the Honey Bee and theorize that “White Man” was not far behind. 

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