Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Fever - My latest Chautauqua article

Below is my latest article in the local paper, The Chautauqua

Today's the first day of spring and there is definitely a touch of the fever around here.

As we move back into farming - we are trying to learn the skills related to each enterprise that would allow us to be able to be self-sustaining, if we need to be. This means learning how to start seeds and how to save them so that we are not dependent on other growers. It doesn't mean that we won't buy seeds or plants from others, but at least we know how to do these things if we want or need to. This is a principle we are also applying to our animal enterprises.

Last year we had very little involvement in the hatching of our ducklings. We had two females and when we were offered a drake - we added him to the clutch. A few weeks later the two girls were gone. As we had recently witnessed one of them learning to fly, we thought they must have taken a trip. After they had been gone for over a month - we began to think that we would not see them again. However a few weeks later they returned with 9 ducklings and took up home in our coop. Natural birthing indeed!

Of those nine - 5 were male, so late October saw us learning to butcher and we've enjoyed a dinner of roast duck a few times this winter. The 4 females joined Naomi and Wynonna (our two original ducks, mother and daughter) in the coop all winter.

This past weekend we brought home a new drake. He's come from a home that included lots of males competing for female attention so we figure that the 6:1 female to male ratio is in his favour and we're hoping nature will work in our favour again.

A few weeks ago we also introduced a rooster into our henhouse, hoping to get some fertile eggs to incubate in the upcoming weeks. We are not counting on our whole flock to come from eggs we are incubating ourselves. This year is about learning and experimenting with the new-to-us incubator we just bought.

What all this means is that I now feel a bit like a madam running a brothel. Two of our windows look directly across the yard to the coop so I can watch the goings ons during the day. I find myself observing the actions of our ducks and, as it seems they are getting along well, trying to rig up nest boxes that our ducks will like as it is still too cold for them to be taking off into the woods to nest.

I am also wondering what to do about the fact that our rooster is hanging out with the 'wrong' chickens: we would prefer he mated with our 4 heritage hens and not our Isa Browns. I am pondering locking him and his four girlfriends in a separate pen to ensure he pays proper attention to them but I don't know what may be going on inside the coop and perhaps this is unnecessary.

I know I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch but I feel like I should do what I can to ensure the eggs are fertilised. So in the spirit of the spring equinox, this weekend I may just crank up the stereo, put on Louis Prima's “Just a Gigolo” and get to work on those nesting boxes.

The gent arrives
Our gals seem to be welcoming him

The first family photo

Monday, April 2, 2012

Building Bridges for Islands: GFSA Blog

I wrote up a reflection for Growing Food Security in Alberta on the recent Joel Salatin presentation's that we attended in Lacombe and Coronation and it was just posted on their blog:
“We’re building bridges for islands in the prairie.”
That was the feeling in the room in Coronation as people began to arrive to hear Joel Salatin, of Polyface farms (, speak.
For farmers who are looking to raise livestock and produce food in ways that are rooted in ecological principles, Joel is somewhat of a role model. His books like “The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer”, “Salad Bar Beef”, and “You Can Farm” have provided inspiration, motivation and laughter. His story about his farm is a positive one as he shows the growth in healthy soil that has occurred under the stewardship of his father, himself and his children. Plus the farm is supporting three generations of the family (generation number four growing up there too) and 20 individuals. This is not the common story on farms in the USA and Canada.
For my husband and I, the chance to see Joel without having to travel very far was an excellent opportunity to also have our parents and siblings get further insight into our line of thinking. We attended both the Lacombe evening presentation with all of our parents in tow. Then the next day we drove out to Coronation with his mother and sister. Events like these are not 100% about the individual giving the presentation: they are about the conversations you have with people at the event and with your partner when you get home.