More Delicious Chickens

I took more of our chickens in to be processed last Friday, and for a short while I have more chickens available for sale.

Whole chickens-$15 each (5 lb average)

Half chickens-$8 each (2.6 lb average)

I also bring some half chickens to the Petrolia Farmers Market each time I attend. Our half chickens are wonderful to put on the BBQ with some of your favourite sauce and spices, and are so easy to cook!

You can contact me through Facebook or text/email me through the Contact Page listed on this website.

 

The First Maple Syrup Update

We had no idea how long we were supposed to boil the sap for. So we boiled it pretty hard for the first couple of hours, and then slow boiled it for 3 1/2 days. We would boil it during the day and shut it off at night.

The syrup came out looking so dark it was almost black! Yikes. We wondered if we had ruined the syrup. It smelled like burnt maple candy when we first took it out of the pan and brought it into the house.

I put all the syrup into large mason jars and stuck them in the fridge, hoping that like with honey, all the sediment/odd bits would rise to the top of the jar so they could be filtered out later.
Apparently refrigerating the syrup got rid of that burnt candy smell, because when I took it out of the fridge and carefully sniffed it, I could only smell a hint of maple syrup-ness; nothing else.

This afternoon I strained our black syrup through a double batch of cheesecloth.
Then I carefully stuck a finger in a bit of the strained syrup I had put aside in a small bowl.
Would it be gross? Did I kill it? Would it kill me?

Wow, this is absolutely the best-tasting, most fabulous maple syrup I have EVER tasted! I am super happy with how the flavour turned out!

I will be keeping this first batch. I put together a giant jar for my landlord to try when he gets back from vacation, and the other giant jar will be for us to have with our blueberry pancakes. ๐Ÿ™‚

I asked Google, and I found a forum of folks from the Maine area that were all into making their own maple syrup. One guy had super dark syrup like I did (he described it as resembling driveway sealer….lol) and one of the old-timers explained that if you store your sap for several days (which we did) and then boil it for longer than 24 hours (guilty as charged) you will end up with very dark syrup.

Our next batch is boiling now, and will be ready by 2 pm tomorrow. I will let you all know how this one turns out.IMG_20170409_164704829

Loose Farrowing Barn Update

It has been a week since we put the 3 sisters in the newly renovated farrowing barn and began our no-pen farrowing experiment.
Things got off to a rough start the day Miss Blaze went into labour and attacked Elsa.
After lots and lots of boo-boo spray and ear scratches for poor Elsa, things seemed to settle down. Miss Blaze had her babies, and kept to herself on the South West side of the barn, building a huge and elaborate nest for herself and her piglets to live in.
We tried training the piglets to go under the 2 heat lamps when they weren’t nursing, but every time we left, they would just go back over to Momma and sleep with her. That’s okay; it’s warm and cozy in the barn, and now that it’s warmed up again, we’ve removed the lamps.
Over the weekend, Starr and Elsa also had their babies. When I went into the barn Saturday morning, Elsa was resting after the birth and Starr was feeding both sets of piglets. She was smiling.
Today everyone seems to have decided where all of the nests will be. Each sow has taken a corner of the barn.
There is surprisingly little fussing going on between the 3 sisters. They are calm and nobody is fighting over food or space, which is how I want it.
The babies are curious and are getting very good at climbing straw hills and exploring their space.
Here are a few pictures we took this afternoon. In the first picture we have all 3 sows fixing up Elsa’s nest together. Note the piglets all mingling and then following each other in single file in the next 2 shots.
I also took an interesting picture of three piglets slurping up some water near the watering station in the corner. I’ve never seen piglets do that. The slurping sounds were adorable.
More updates to come in a few days! ~Lisa and the Pigs

Maple Syrup Time

It’s always good to learn new things to keep your brain sharp.
This year I thought it might be fun to learn how to make maple syrup. Now that we have this week of fabulous weather, I figured it was time for Darby the German Shepherd and I to head back to the bush and get started on tapping some maple trees.
It was a lot of fun, and it was so quiet and peaceful in the bush. I can see now why a lot of people enjoy doing this as a hobby.
The afternoon was made even nicer when a few of our honeybees came over to see what I was doing.
Tomorrow morning I will head to the bush again to see how full the buckets are. As you can (hopefully) see from the close-up photo, the sap started flowing quickly out of that particular tree as soon as I tapped it and put in the spile.
I will keep everyone posted on how my maple syrup project goes along.
Lisa, the dogs, and the Bees ๐Ÿ™‚

Our New Farrowing Barn and an Experiment

So some of you might know that our Berkshire pig herd is part of the Humane Handling Certification program. Of course we were already raising our pigs humanely when they were a hobby, so it wasn’t hard to tweak our operation to exceed the HHC rules and guidelines.
Here are some pictures of our newly renovated farrowing barn/baby nursery. Normally we would have large farrowing pens for each sow to have her babies in as per the HHC handbook, but we decided to do a large experiment with this batch of 3 sows within the new barn.
We will leave the girls in together, without pens, to have babies in a hopefully happy sisterly bunch.
We did take their penning down partway after the last time these girls all had their piglets, and it went very well. Lots of co-nursing and co-mothering, and nobody got trampled. But they started out with pens, so that was still different.
I will be taking notes and spending extra time out there with them to see how they do.
The babies will have heat lamps, of course, and Beekeeper/Builder Tom is building the babies a shallow “playpen” for sleeping in while they are newborns, just so they are safe from being stepped on accidentally and will stay warm. I have actually been “training” our previous babies to go right to their heat lamp nest inbetween meals, and according to a pig site I’ve been on a lot lately, piglets can be trained this way within 4-6 hours!
So this will be the (I think) very first group piggie birthing building that we know of.
Wish us luck, and we’ll keep everyone posted once the babies arrive in the next few days.

PS-That’s Elsa sitting on her brisket looking right at the camera. She loves having her picture taken.

Lisa and the Pigs

Sudden Egg Storm

So just before we got the 2 smallish polar vortexes here in Southern Ontario, we insulated the run-in part of the barn using pig paneling and lots and lots and lots of clean dry straw.
It worked extremely well. So well, in fact, that when the milder weather arrived our black and brown young laying hens discovered the straw insulation and decided that making nests on top of the “walls” was an excellent idea. They’re up and out of the way and there’s plenty of room for many hens to make many nests.
Our egg production has seriously gone up as a result of this great discovery by the hens.
With the continuing mild days, we bring you this:

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One day’s haul plus a few extras in the basket from yesterday, waiting to be cleaned and sorted.
One dozen $3.00 or a flat is $6.
Message or text 519-381-1771 if you want any delicious free-range eggs.

Cheers~Lisa & the Hens

He Was A She

Normally when we order our meat birds for the season, I request only pullets (girls). I know that picking out girls vs boys at the hatchery is never an exact science. It’s hard to guess with birds. They’re kinda secretive that way.
This past summer I identified 3 little roosters in with the flock of girl meat birds, which was ok. They waddled around with the flock and learned along with everyone else to scratch for bugs and eat grass and hay and worms.
In the fall we began sending small batches of birds to freezer camp. I was pretty sure the 3 little roosters went along, too.
However, when the dust finally settled after the last batch went away, we found a rooster meat bird hanging out with the young laying hens. No problem, we would just have another pet chicken around.
Something injured him about a month ago in the barn because he can’t get up as high as the layers to roost. Into the shop he went, where he learned to eat chicken cookies out of an old cat dish and warmed his toes nightly in front of the woodstove. The injury was healing and he was even growing some nice new feathers!
Yesterday Tom the Beekeeper came in from the shop with a strange look on his face. He handed me a light brown egg.
“Guess where that came from?” he asked.
“Ummm, from a chicken butt?” I answered, ever the smart aleck.
“Yes, but more specifically?” he said, waiting to see if I would catch on.
Turns out the boy meat bird was in the workshop cackling like crazy and pacing back and forth in front of Tom, and suddenly, an egg fell out of his butt.
The meat bird is a she.

 

True Free-Range Eggs and Why We Need To Eat Them

Everywhere you read, ask or look, you’re being told that free-range eggs are what you should be eating. But why, exactly? Can’t you just eat eggs that come from hens kept in cages but fed an organic diet? Cuz that’s what the big boys do. These eggs can then be certified organic, and a spin can be put on the labelling of such eggs.
In order for you to benefit 100% from eating eggs, the hens MUST have access to the outside. Not just standing around in a concrete lot outside their concentration-camp styled barn, but actually outside, with access to grass, dirt and bugs.
Furthermore, it seems that the hens have to able to do their own thing. I recently had a customer tell me she was buying eggs from a farmer who kept his hens in a large enclosed pen. His eggs were just as fresh as ours. She then came back to buy eggs from our farm. In her opinion, our eggs were “perkier” and had more flavour and colour.
So the nutritional low-down on true free-range eggs? Here’s a short list:

1/4 less saturated fat
2/3 more vitamin A
Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
Three times more vitamin E
Seven times more beta carotene

Now the experts are looking at vitamin D, of which many people donโ€™t get enough. New research is showing that this common vitamin deficiency may be related to much more than just weak bones โ€” from diabetes and cancer to heart disease and multiple sclerosis. Our bodies can get vitamin D in two ways: when sunlight strikes our skin, or from our diet. Eggs are one of a small list of foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D. The USDA says supermarket eggs contain an average of 34 International Units per 100 grams.
Mother Earth News tests of eggs from four pastured farms in Texas, Kansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania found that their eggs contained three to six times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs. This means two scrambled eggs from pastured hens may give you 63 to 126 percent of the recommended daily intake of 200 IU of vitamin D.

*Study & Nutritional Figures courtesy of Mother Earth News

Cool Farm Idea!

Cool Farm Idea!

Buying supplies for the farm animals on a small homestead is often an expensive experience. There are also very few options for us small-timey farmers. Sure, TSC has very nice-looking farm supplies but they come at a very high price! Anyway, check out this interesting link for a great way to make your own low-cost chicken waterers /feeders by Bless This Mess. Enjoy!

Waiting For Their Time To Come

It has been a lot of fun raising our very first batch of Berkshire pigs. It has also been a huge learning experience. I never realized how much there was to learn and know about raising your own pigs, from the first-time mother and all of her piggie instincts and idiosyncracies, to learning pig diets, pig habits, and everything inbetween. There have been many days where the entire herd has made me laugh. Of course they have also made me sad, and taught me some new and very colourful curse words. I started my very own collection of bruises. Each day is a new and interesting pig experience.

All of the pigs I chose to sell to customers have already been sold. My customers are eagerly awaiting the phone call or email that will tell them they can finally come out to the farm and pick up their pork. The calendar told me the pigs should have been ready by the end of January.

Then we got an immensely long, drawn-out cold snap. The temperatures plummeted to minus twenty, then minus thirty, and even lower with the wind chills. The media announced our part of the world was immersed in a polar vortex which kept its icy grip on us for many weeks. It went away briefly and the thermometer crept back up to “normal” temperatures of minus five or a little higher for a few days, and then we were hit with another polar vortex.This completely changed the schedule I had for the pork that was due to be sold, and put my farming schedule behind.

Although we kept the pigs very comfortable inside their large pig barn, during the cold they quit growing completely. They got fresh straw every day that they loved to bury themselves in, run around in, and take in their mouths and carry around in order to build giant and intricate pig walls. It is a lot of fun to go out in the morning and peer through the windows at them and see them all happily piled together under giant golden blankets of straw with only an occasional ear or snout showing. It has stayed nice and toasty in there for them and they have been as happy as always. ย I even began supplementing them with an evening treat of pre-warmed goats milk which caused complete and utter happy chaos every time I poured it into their water pan at bedtime.ย 

However, Mother Nature dictates a lot of how things go here at the farm, and high up on the list of things she likes to control is how fast my pigs grow when it’s bitterly cold outside.

So, slowly but steadily, the pigs are growing again. We have had a few more very cold nights but those haven’t affected the pigs in the same way as those almost indescribably cold polar vortexes. All I can do as farmer is to continue being patient and calm. The customers know why their pork isn’t quite ready but they are happy to wait it out. They know the end result will be wonderful and delicious. The new time table states the pigs should be ready by the end of February. I am now just waiting for their time to come.