Welcome signs of spring 2010

Welcome signs of spring:

  • Nice big litter of Tamworth piglets born
  • Two weeks of calving brings lots of healthy Dexter calves
  • Pasture fields greening up
  • Flickers pecking away at ants on the lawn
  • Lots of wild leeks so far
  • Trilliums already poking up  in the bush
  • Asparagus patch poking up its heads as of yesterday
  • Spring pork orders sold out (halves and wholes –some cuts including lots of sausages, are still available)
  • Tamworth feeder pigs sold out. Two are going to Ste. Marie Among the Hurons again; others to farms in Oro Township and Severn Bridge
  • It's time for us to make plans for ordering in the chicks that will grow out to be meat chickens
  • There are signs of green in the areas of the Great Round Bale Self-seeding Experiment. All we need is more rain. See below.

Not-so-nice signs of spring:

  • No rain
  • Lots of dust everywhere
  • Farm dog rolling in manure


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The great round bale self-seeding experiment

Last evening, as I was cutting open a couple of round bales of hay in the front field for the cattle, I could see little bits of green in the pasture field just waiting for some sunshine and heat to start growing – just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Well, thinking of lush green grass is a little ambitious, this time of year, but it won’t be long before we start to see some pasture regrowth for 2010. That also gave me a mental reminder to check out the results of our great round bale self-seeding experiment from last year.

Back in the late spring, we were left with a number of hay bales made with pretty mature hay. That means it had more stalks and seedheads than lush, appetizing, nutritious plant leaves. The cattle still like it for scratch, and there is protein, after all, in the seeds themselves. So, wanting to get the most out of the hay, we took to driving the tractor down into the floor of the rather sandy back ravine. There, I’d cut the strings and roll out the bales, one at a time, in a big long ribbon.

The cattle like having lots of room to get at the feed, and I am hoping that at the same time they were able to spread out those grass seeds, trample them into the soil a little, and at the same time fertilize them for this spring.  It has worked to a limited degree in the past around the sites of the round bale feeders but this is the first we have tried in on a wider (literally) scale.

It’s inspired in part by reading Wendell Berry, and by talking with an OMAFRA pasture advisor at 2009 Farmers’ Week in Innisfil. The OMAFRA guy recommended reseeding worn out pasture fields by feeding cattle mineral with clover seed mixed in and letting the cattle do the spreading. Berry has lots of similar ideas of leaving the bulk of the work to the livestock.

Right now, four remaining market hogs are out there hard at work giving the whole area a quick once-over, lightly working in the hayseed with the residue of the hay bales. Of course, the grass seeds don’t like to be planted too deep at all, so we’ll have to keep an eye on it all.

I hope over the next month we can find some sign of new green coming up in the old ravine. Keep your fingers crossed.



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Celebrate International Pig Day with Tamworth pork

March 1 is International Pig Day — a chance for everyone to reintroduce themselves to quality pork. Today's free-range, rare-breed pork is nothing like the supermarket stuff.
We enjoyed hearing the Canada-US Olympic final on the truck radio yesterday while transporting four of our Tamworth market hogs up to Whitmore's for custom processing. It was a snowy ride but having the game on The Fan 590 helped the time go by. When we arrived, the pigs were happily snoozing, packed like sardines across the front compartment of our stock trailer. They were more than full after hogging down the warm chop we used to lure them on board back at the farm. They were in no hurry to get up.

This photo shows them a few months ago — they are now considerably larger. If you're looking for some pork cuts, we'll have some back in two week's time. Some are custom sides already ordered, and some is going into a variety of cuts, including  lots of breakfast, garlic and Santa Fe sausages.
Compared to the Large Black pigs we used to raise, these Tams and Tam crosses make a noticeably better bacon (among other specialties). We'll have five more from these litters ready to go out in April.
This time around, we plan to also offer pork available in packages this time round i.e. boxes with a variety of cuts. Just ask for details.

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Keep your fork … there’s pie

Just in time for dinner — we now have a supply of frozen berry pies on hand at the farm. They're hand-made by the women of St. Peter's Anglican Church in Minesing. All proceeds go to the church for its continued community work.

Choose from:

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Raspberry
  • Peach
  • Raisin

The pies take only one hour to bake from frozen right in your oven. You might want to keep a few on hand in case of surprise guests! Cost is just $10 each, available when you drop by for pork, eggs and chickens. Contact info is here

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Barn cat update

We have two male barn cats, named The Fluffs because of their long coats. They were born in the wild, in the ravine behind the barn, about 3 years ago, to a wild mother who, like so many other cats, simply appeared here one day.

One of the Fluffs lets us pat him; the other does not.

The pigs are their pets — they go out to pasture with them, sleep on their backs in the barn and sidle up to them and wrap their tails around their legs.

Lately, we've been wondering they the flull-who-won't-be-touched-by-humans has been showing up looking all wet and ruffled. Was he falling into a water trough? Melting snow?

He didn't look that wet.
Last night, during evening chores, we found the answer. He was lying in the straw, letting one of the young cows lick him all over. Of course, her tongue is about the width of his body — hence the wetness. He loved it as the bath went on for several minutes.

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What’s on our plate this winter

Thanks for dropping by our farm blog.

Here's an update of what food products we have available right now in mid-winter.

Note: All our meat is sold frozen.

  • Right now we have some whole chickens, about 6 lbs each on average, for $3.50 lb.
  • We also sell fresh eggs, large brown eggs, for $3.50 dozen.

Call or e-mail to arrange a time to drop by if you're interested in either of these products. Our contact info can be found here.

  • Grass-fed Beef and Free-range Pork are sold mostly by the side or the whole. Prices are the same for both right now – $2.75 for wholes and $2.95 for halves. The price is based on the hanging weight, before trimming and cutting into meat cuts.
  • Pork (Tamworth x Yorkshire) will be available next in late spring.
  • Beef (Dexter) will be available next in early to mid-summer once the animals have had a chance to fill out on spring pasture.
 Let us know in good time if you are interested and we can give you all the details as to how to order, expected weights, time-frame etc. 

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The tale behind Kerry butter found in bog

Kerry cattle, which are very closely related to Dexters, originated in County Kerry in south western Ireland.
The book "A Lambing Season in Ireland", is set in Kerry. The author is the wife of a Canadian vet who spends a lambing season with a practice in Kerry in the late 1990s.

To the point: In one chapter, peat cutters report that they occasionally unearth firkins (ferkins in Ireland, apparently) of butter buried long ago for safekeeping.

The milk of Kerry cattle, she writes, was renowned by smallholders for its richness and adaptability for making wonderful butter.

Sounds promising if we can ever get it together to milk one of our Dexters. The calves sure grow on the Dexter milk. This one on the left, Tempo's calf, might look a little wobbly and scrawny but he's only a few days old.

That homemade butter-making certainly carried on well into the last century (as it's now called — I mean the 1900s.) In Kate Aitken's childhood reminiscences of growing up in Beeton, Ont., she describes how the local farmwives would churn their milk into butter, store it in firkins and eventually bring it into town to trade for goods at her family's general store.

  • Our fall calf count is up to three. Old Kicker-Thwacker had her calf earlier this week. Kathy managed to get her into the small barn the afternoon before she calved, and a day before our current cold snap arrived.


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