What’s Happening?

A bedtime favourite in this family used to be a wonderful series of children’s picture books by Helen Lester, revolving around a character called Tacky the Penguin, usually dressed in an Hawaiian shirt, who always greets his prim friends (Goodly, Neatly, Perfect, et al) with a rollicking “What’s Happening?”

You might be wondering the same thing….it’s been at least two months since I posted anything here on the blog. Stuff has been happening, but somehow nothing that seemed picture worthy or at least worth going back to the house to fetch the camera for. So the pictures you’ll be seeing in this post are not necessarily exciting or even representative of the whole season, just the times that the camera was around.

We had a relentlessly hot summer up here in the usually mild Pacific Northwest. That sounds a bit whiny, and maybe it is, considering the kind of heat so many places experience as “normal”. For us, 36 C is not normal, at least not for more than a day, and certainly not for days in a row. We’re used to dry summers, just not all that heat.  I’m not a hot climate person, I’ve decided.  Too bad for me if this turns out to be the new normal, which I fear might be true, as they’re predicting another warm winter and hot summer.   I felt like I didn’t get a lot done in the summer, beyond working myself into a really negative thought spiral as my energy was zapped by working at my day job and trying to pack everything else into the 30-32 C average days around that.  All my efforts to get ahead during the spring foundered when I began full time hours and it was all I could do to keep up with just the day to day stuff.  There was even a point in June when I wondered if I should just chuck it all in and convince the family that town life was the way to go.

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But somehow, despite the heat and my negative headspace, and due in large part to the willing help of the rest of the family and especially our younger daughter, all the things that usually happen in the summer on this small farm – happened.  Chicks, piglets, broiler chickens, garden, family time – even a mini-vacation.

Most Saturday mornings from June through to mid-October (Thanksgiving), my husband and I were able to get up to the fairgrounds across the road for the farmers market – we’d buy greens and fruit for the week, sometimes some pasture raised beef or some honey or chutney.   We’d finish up with a coffee and a scone, listening to the folk music and chatting to neighbours.  It’s the first time since 2006 that I haven’t been working most Saturdays, so it was a real treat to go back to being a “regular”.  A civilized break from the chaotic scramble that was our lives this summer.

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The three Large Black pigs (and large is a more accurate description now), which arrived at the beginning of July as very small Large Black piglets,  are heading to the processor at the end of November.  The 145 broilers came at the beginning of August, 141 went out onto the field exactly 13 days later (the youngest I’ve ever put birds out) and at the end of September, 139 went to the processor and subsequently into people’s freezers.  One of the broody hens from the layer flock was allowed to set a dozen eggs, and she successfully raised 9 chicks – 5 of whom were roosters of course.  All 9 are currently in the layer flock – the roosters destined for the freezer any minute, I swear.  The pullets are laying regularly now, as I get 4 small eggs in with all the jumbo eggs from the old hens.  The veg garden started well, and I had big plans which most definitely “gang aft aglay”, but we did get a huge crop of tomatoes, which nearly all got dried or made into tomato sauce for the freezer. We grew basil successfully for the first time in years, and between what we grew and what I bought from the farmer I always buy basil from, we made enough pesto for the freezer for the whole year. The pears did well this year – I canned some and dried some, and we managed to pick 100 lbs of apples on the rainiest day in late September to send to the guy with a juicing operation, so now we have  24 litres of the most excellent unfiltered apple juice in our freezer, ready for hot apple cider in the winter, or as a yummy adjunct to breakfast on the run.

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Younger daughter created and maintained a small flower bed, which is still holding it’s own at the end of October.  She also handled the afternoon water check and supper chores throughout the entire summer, for broilers and pigs, including three days in August, when she had sole responsibility for pigs, hens and broilers – 200+lives – while my husband and I went up to the north end of the Island to cool off in the rain and spot grizzly bears and orca whales – a trip which was extremely hard to rationalize at the time, but in retrospect was vitally necessary to allow us to reconnect after a summer of seldom seeing each other thanks to impossible schedules, and which restored my equilibrium and allowed the family to have the less cranky version of myself back again.

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We had our usual Labour Day weekend barbeque, with 55 guests and tons of food – rain was forecast but held off till late that night.  It was our chance to socialize with people we’ve known for years, but seldom get to touch base with over the summer and wonderful to see that almost half our numbers were teenagers or young adults – every time I suggest that maybe this tradition has had it’s day (preparing for 55 guests is not difficult exactly, but it is work), there is an outcry, and this year I really did very little beyond getting the invites out – the rest of the family pulled all the details together.  One of the bitter-sweet aspects of the barbeque, and the Fair which happens the same weekend, is that school starts up again right afterwards.  The younger daughter has just begun her grad year – her final year of high school, while the older daughter has begun her second year of university – the first year of her three year degree programme in Elementary Education.

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The broilers went to the processor at the end of September, and suddenly the days started to seem possible again, as chore time suddenly got reduced to 15-20 minutes at each end of the day, as opposed to the extra thirty minutes every morning, moving cages, hauling feed down the field, etc. and an extra 15 every evening.   I suddenly went from just managing to get chores work and dinner fitted into the day, to a place where I could fit chores, work and dinner in and still have time and energy for other things – which was a good thing, because the timing with the tomato crop was impeccable.  Between tomatoes and pears, freezing, canning and drying became the order of the day.

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Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago saw us eating the first of our broilers, roasting freshly dug potatoes, making our first pumpkin pie of the season and entertaining hubby’s sister and brother-in-law who have just retired here from Ontario, swelling the numbers of our local extended family dramatically, which for years has consisted only of myself and my brother and our families.  The girls are enjoying being doted on by their aunt and uncle, and have enjoyed several weekend outings to local parks for hiking, nearly always followed by sumptuous teas that obviate the need for supper.

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Halloween looms, and the weather has been cooler now for a month or so.  My list of things that need doing is still relentlessly long, but my optimism is back and I’m willing to give it another kick, like Charlie when Lucy holds the ball ready.  Maybe this time…  Unlike Charlie though, I’m aware that I need a better plan – flying by the seat of my pants wasn’t the best way to get through the summer for me, nor the rest of my family,  so as I spend time catching up on repairs and fence moves and the like, I’m starting to mull over my farming goals and how they relate to our family goals and ambitions.  Stay tuned.

 

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Summer growth

Piglets, chicks, flowers – all growing like crazy.  I may not be saying much on the blog, but there is stuff happening here.

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An hour after they arrived, 6 July. Abut 6 weeks old.

The piglets arrived two weeks ago, they’re around 8 weeks now. Their mama is a Large Black, called Olivia and the boar is a Berkshire.  They are sturdy, energetic little things, growing fast.  They also move as a unit, like a well trained platoon. It’s easy to think of them as the Three Musketeers, except that being pigs, they’re all over the concept of “all for one” and not at all interested in the more altruistic ideal of “one for all”.

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3 Musketeers, aged 8 weeks.

While they respect electric fence to a point, it apparently has to be an electric fence worthy of their respect, and ours was not up to snuff when they came.  To be fair they came a week earlier than expected, and we had to really scramble to get the fence set up in time, but I was aware that there wasn’t much of a charge on the line, and vowed to troubleshoot it at the earliest opportunity.  I was not prepared for their robustness or their confidence.  The pigs we’ve had the previous two years were far more timid in their early days.  I think this trio has the advantage that they were born on a farm very near here, and they are siblings, so that they have always done everything together, and have moreover been doing that in a wooded acreage with a pond at one end, where, as I learned later, they also considered the electric fence to be more of a guideline than an actual rule.

So long story longer, they got out on Friday, five days after we got them.  I was at work when I got the call:  “The pigs got out”.  Fortunately this isn’t our first experience with pigs, and even more fortunately, pigs are highly food motivated.  Turns out their bid for freedom was more to do with the fact that one of the kids had opened the gate to come in with dinner, and the pigs simply pushed through in their eagerness to ambush her.  We have a wire across the gate entrance to discourage this kind of behaviour, so that we humans can deliver dinner without becoming part of it, and the piglets, being quite small, and the fence not giving much charge, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this particular scenario would happen.  In normal circumstances, I’d have been home in an hour, and able to roll up my sleeves and start troubleshooting the fence but that night I was meant to be in town after work to meet hubby to sign some papers with him (new car).  I whipped home from work, sussed the situation with the pigs, and decided I’d go to town to sign the papers quickly then come home again (quick is relative – that would have been about 90 minutes minimum), rather than staying in town to have dinner with hubby as originally planned.  While we were in our meeting, the girls texted to say “pigs are safe in fort knocks, stay for dinner”. They’re French Immersion kids, hence the creative English spelling, but the gist of it was clear from the picture they attached.  The pigs were indeed contained in a version of Fort Knox – with boards at pig height all the way around their paddock, so that they couldn’t push through the hog wire fence that is behind the electric most of the way around. We had dinner.

That weekend, we did some troubleshooting and ended up sinking a second grounding rod (earthing rod for those in the Antipodes), bought a new extension cord, and ultimately have also recently purchased a new energizer – I gasped slightly at the price, but it’s a Sta-fix, which have to be special ordered here, as we don’t have a dealer.  The feed store had ordered it for someone who changed their mind, and it was just sitting there the day I went in to get a new one.  It seems like it was meant to be for me, and though it’s more powerful than I really need right now, there are plans to take electric fence out to the fields for chickens and sheep, and this charger is good enough for that.  Sta-fix is a brand out of NZ, who are the world leaders in electric fence.   According to the instructions that come with it, it will keep in pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, bulls and kangaroos. Can’t wait to get the kangaroos.

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Mama Hen and family, 3 days old

Mama Hen hatched nine chicks from a clutch of 12 eggs a month ago, and she’s still got all nine, so we’re very impressed.  We’re not quite sure if it’s 4 pullets and 5 roosters, or 3 and 6, but we’ll find out eventually.  The eggs were from different hens, hence the different colours of chicks.  At this point we’re working on integrating Mama and the brood with the rest of the flock – the roosters are proving pretty contemptuous of the chicks and pretty vicious towards Mama, so I’m trying to do it gradually.  Mama herself however is keen to get back into the hen house, so I hope things smooth out soon.

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Mama hen and family, 6 weeks old

On the topic of chicks, we have 140 broiler chicks coming in a few weeks, and hopefully one good thing about this sweltering heat wave we’re in will be that brooding them will be a snap, though I’ll need it to cool off a couple of weeks later when they go out on pasture.

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The flower bed is the work of our younger daughter, who has also been my right hand while I’ve been at work managing water for all the critters in the heat, and feeding pigs on the evenings that I work.  The trellis has been there for years, legacy from an old clematis that never did well on it, and has been gone for eons.  She built and filled the bed,raised all the flowers from seed and transplanted them – et, voila!  My grandmother and my father’s sister both had that sort of knack – making it look so easy, and having things come up so lushly.  That’s sweet peas in the far back, zinnias, cosmos and nasturtiums, with some calendula she rescued from the veg garden in the box to one side.  She’s got her sights set on developing a perennial bed next year.  My veg garden also looks quite lush right now, but not from my efforts – it’s mostly weeds.  There are veggies in there and we’ve done quite well with some things – quite a lot of basil for a couple of batches of pesto for example.

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Annual family pesto assembly line, we made 7 batches in the end.

Tomatoes and potatoes, cukes and pumpkins also look pretty good.  But my good intentions to do succession planting came to nothing and unless I get cracking right now to get some more seeds in, I won’t have much of a fall garden.  But it’s so darn hot out these days, that I just wilt out there, so about the only garden job I really get done on a regular basis involves standing in the garden at dusk with the hose, thinking about nothing in particular while I soak everything, including weeds, and if it’s been really hot, even myself.

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cooling off

Blackberries Beware!

I got a new toy today.  There were a lot of jokes at the feed store about my new method for decapitating chickens, but in fact, this toy is a serious piece of equipment.  With this thing, I have a fighting chance of keeping the blackberries at bay.  Maybe even the hawthorns.

Meet my new Husqvarna 545 FX forestry saw.

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Weighs about 18 lbs empty.  You should see the harness, it has it’s own instruction manual.  (well, kind of).  The harness will make this large cutter possible for me to use for longer periods.  It will handle blackberries, hawthorns, small trees, tall grass, and broom.  Not as entertaining as getting goats, which were highly recommended, but will do the job in my limited time off.

This is a thing of beauty.  I can’t wait to get going with it.

Honeysuckle

I’ve been working on that ruddy chicken fence some more today.  I’ve had to start on the section I’ve been avoiding all season.  The HONEYSUCKLE.  It’s probably about 25 or more years old.  I brought it home from a friend’s garden in Vancouver as a gift for my Dad, who used to get all nostalgic about English honeysuckle in gardens when he was a child.  The three or four cuttings I brought all thrived under his TLC and became rampant creatures that took over entire fences, and in the past couple of years, have begun demolishing the fences board by board.

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June 2012, see the chicken house back there?

 

The problem for me is that in the chicken run (Run #1 for anyone keeping track of where I’m at with all this fencing) the honeysuckle affords wonderful shade and shelter for the hens when they’re in that run.  From the house side of the fence, it’s just so darn pretty.  I really don’t want to take it down.  I want it to be there.  Plus, it’s under the walnut tree, and walnuts are well known for exuding juglone, which lots of plants don’t like and won’t grow near.  Honeysuckle apparently thrives on it.

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June 2012, outside the chicken run

 

On the down side, I have to get in there and cut it back pretty hard every spring anyway because it has big ambitions to take over the walnut trees and sends up huge runners every year, that twine themselves around the branches of the tree. Also, the fence under the honeysuckle is falling apart.  And somewhere under there, there is a hole in the wire.  I know this, because the last flock of chickens used it as their entry to the great beyond for their free ranging forays, pretty much daily.  Also, I see the cat emerging from somewhere in there occasionally.  I hate to cut off her access to the rat population, but I do want to contain the chickens, so…the fence has to be re-done, and the honeysuckle has to be dealt with.

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Inside the chicken run, just before I started cutting today

 

My plan is kind of fluid.  I’m hoping that my destruction is not complete enough to stop the honeysuckle from starting again, so to that end, I decided to just clip back one side at a time, so that I can see where the main trunks are coming out of the ground, and so I can get the wire off, replace the boards and hopefully leave a few stems of the honeysuckle to come back and take over again.  I don’t know if it will work.  My neighbour and I cut one back pretty ruthlessly about 10 years ago so he could put in some fence on his side, and despite his care and attention, that honeysuckle has never really been as strong again.  Well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Having finished clipping one side today, I have learned that the hole the chickens and cat were/are using is not under the honeysuckle.  Bother.  So why does it look like that’s where they’re coming through when I’m watching from the other side?  I guess I’ll find out eventually.

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Where the chickens are not getting through, but a big part of why I need to redo this part of the fence.

 

Day Five – the Finish Line

It felt very odd this morning, not heading out to the field to move shelters.  I was done chores in about 5 minutes – top up waters, check feeders, and that was about it.

There are 73 birds in that hen house, way too many. At least 20 have to be sold ASAP.  That’s up to my older daughter, as 25 of these birds are really hers – she changed her mind mid-summer about having her own layer flock so decided to sell them as point of lays. Since they are due to lay at the end of November, I’d say we’ve reached that point.

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Motley crew

After chores, I drove the elder daughter to university (this is the last week of that; toes are pretty much healed), and got back in time for coffee and conversation up at Saanichton Farm around 10 am which was a nice treat after a week of keeping my nose to the grindstone.  It was a gathering of some interesting folk and our topics ranged from family history to immigrant labour to sustainable agriculture.

An hour later, with my coffee needs taken care of, I loaded up the car with empty feed sacks and empty paint cans and headed up the the recycling area at the landfill, and hit the feed store on my home.  After lunch I drained and stored all the hoses I’d been using to deliver water out to the field (5 hoses), tidied up the field shelters (lids and waters were spread all around the field, where we’d left them in the dark last night).

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It doesn’t show super well here, but if you peer closely, you might be able to discern 4 rows of greener grass where the field shelters went through during the summer. I had birds on the field in two shelters for 2 months.

I was just heading out the veg garden with wheelbarrow and fork when hubby came out and offered to help – so the potatoes were dug up in double quick time.  He went and spread them on the rack in the barn to dry, while I took the kale and weeds we’d acquired while digging over to the chickens to distract them from fighting over the pecking order.

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Prepping the garlic for planting.

We went back to the garden and between the two of us had the garlic bed dug, weeded and ready for planting in about an hour.  It is amazing how pleasant such work can be with company.  It almost didn’t feel like work.  Of course, it’s not a very big garlic bed :).  We got about 50 garlic cloves planted, which is not quite as much as I wanted to plant, but all that I had allowed space for.  If I get a chance, I will maybe plant another dozen somewhere else.

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The soil was in beautiful shape, and despite all the recent rain, fairly dry below the surface

By 630 pm it was dark enough to shut the chickens in for the night.  Because the hen house is new for them, I keep them confined to the house and lobby for a couple of days so that they identify it as their sleeping place.  With the pecking order issues of combining the flocks from two field shelters, half the birds were out in the lobby and did not want to go in.  The good news is that most of them seem to be roosting.  Henny seems to be holding her own in the pecking order battles – no one seemed to be picking on her, and I saw her attack a rooster and take a chunk of neck feathers from him.  She did give me a reproachful look this afternoon, when I was tossing some weeds in for them.

Astute readers will notice that I have not mentioned the nest boxes that I was going to assemble.  That’s because I haven’t done it. I decided with so many birds in there and laying not happening for another month that we needed the floor space more than the nest boxes.  But I am going to get those started this week, so that we can install them when the 20 birds are gone.

Everything else got done, with a little help from family.  That feels pretty awesome.

I’ve learned a lot from this race, which I’ll delve into next post.  Back to work tomorrow, which will be quite a change of pace after this week.  I’m ready for it.

The Five Day Race

Monday (today) marked the beginning of a race with myself to get a set number of projects done by Friday.

Here’s what I have to accomplish to win the race:

1.  The Hen House – patch rat holes in the walls and floor, line the floor with chicken wire.  Patch the door (two major holes, not from rats, just because this thing is made from particle board.  Yes, I know).  Replace the fascia board or whatever it is on the top front of the house so that the rain doesn’t do more damage to the top edge of the wall than it already has.  Do the same on the back end.  Take out the old wooden nest boxes (they were functional but difficult to clean out, plus the birds kept roosting on top.  Anything I used to block them from doing that allowed the rats a free passageway).  Assemble and install the new metal nest boxes (new is relative, I bought them 2 years ago).  Patch and/or replace the wire where needed on what we call “the lobby”, the covered area the hens access from the house, and from which they then access one of 4 pasture runs.  Put some scratching material in the lobby (old straw).

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not shown is another big hole at the bottom of the door.

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holes that need patching. At least I’ve finished cleaning…

2. Chicken Run – not the movie.  I have 70+ pullets (actually 3 are roosters) out in field pens right now, and the minute I’m done with this race, they have to come off the field.  They will need some pasture, but they’re flighty at this stage, so it’s got to have good fence.  Not one of my 4 pasture runs for the hen house has intact fencing.  It’s all full of holes, falling down, or actually missing (because I started working on it last year).  I need to get one run ready to go by the end of the race.  I can get the next ones done once the chickens are in the house.

3.  Garlic – prepare the bed, plant the seed, mulch, fence.  Sounds so simple put like that.

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The calendula mark one edge of the planned garlic bed.

4.  Potatoes – have GOT to be dug up, before they rot.  Only about 40 plants, but they have been low on the list for weeks, and they are on borrowed time.

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The potatoes only go as far as those tall reddish weed stalks.

5.  Put garden to bed – turn over, green manure.  Just one half, the other half has so much volunteer kale,which we’re enjoying, that I think I’ll leave it be.  Weeds are a cover crop, right?

Some challenges I face:  the weather.  Forecast is for rain all week.  In practice what it seems to be doing is raining most of the night, clearing for most of the day and drizzling at dusk.  If that changes, it will probably be to more rain.   Other aspects of life will continue and I will still be involved.  You know, meals, laundry, errands, driving kids places, etc.  You notice I have happily ditched house cleaning from the list for the week.

I have a few positives going from the start line – thanks to some stat time in lieu that I had to use up soon or lose, I have no off-farm work till Saturday. That’s 5 days free for farming (and family and laundry and errands…). Also, my elderly neighbour, a retired construction contractor, who feels he owes me some help due to my daily visits to keep his veg garden watered over the summer while he had a broken ankle, has offered his expertise, and will bring his own tools. Yes! I’m more than happy to accept his offer.   Also, I got a couple of hours of work done on Sunday – a jump start, and hubby cooked an awesome meal that day which provided leftovers for today, so no cooking needed on day one of the race.  What a great support team I have.

My reward if I win?  Dry secure housing for my layer flock.  Happy hens who won’t be confined in pasture pens anymore, but will also not be free ranging over in my neighbour’s flower garden, like the last batch. Eggs!    A year’s worth of garlic, redeemable next July.  A couple months worth of potatoes, good until the New Year (hopefully).  A feeling of accomplishment, and a chance to finally write new stuff on my whiteboard.

I’ll try to post my daily progress here – I’m pretty motivated by the impending weather and it’s likely effect on my birds in the field pen, but I figure the motivation of proving to all of you that I am actually getting stuff done will help keep me on the straight and narrow.  Wish me luck!

 

 

Where did August go?

It’s been quite a month, quite a summer actually. You will notice none of these pictures show progress or completion on the various house painting projects that are STILL on the go (third summer, sigh). We weren’t idle however. The girls made raspberry jelly at the end of July, the younger girl picked 50 lbs of plums most of which she sold, and she picked a few more pounds for me to make plum sauce and chutney.

The older girl has picked up a job at the deli in the grocery store in the village, but at the beginning of August was still valiantly trying to do farm stuff, work and have a social life. Now that she is getting ready for university in a few weeks, farming has definitely taken a back seat. Her new plan for her little layer flock (no pictures, but they’re beautiful little pullets – Columbian Rocks and Red Rock Crosses)is to raise them to point of lay and sell them on the local equivalent to Craigslist.

The younger girl has been busy too. She’s whittling away at her end of the painting job, she’s almost finished her online math course (Math 11 Pre-calc), and in addition to picking plums, our neighbour (age 86) broke his ankle (fell of a ladder while pounding in a T post for his bean trellis) and asked if he could hire her for the rest of the summer to walk their dog, and do housework and odd jobs. Plus she’s doing the usual amount of chores here. She’s managed to get some time with friends despite all – an evening at the fireworks at Butchart Gardens, and a few Wednesday evenings at the music in the park in the village.

Due to poor planning, just about the time the little layer chicks turned 3 weeks old, the 150 broiler chicks arrived. The brooder got pretty busy. About then, the weather switched on a few degrees warmer, and our problem quickly became keeping the chicks from getting TOO hot. This week, we got the broilers out on the field which is much better. The layer chicks are still stuck inside because their new home is still occupied by the old layer flock (well, 20 of them, hubby and I processed 25 of them a few weeks ago).

The pigs are thriving. Big pig is around 200 lbs, little pig slightly less. We had a fun morning the other day moving the fence together, the pigs and I, so they could have fresh pasture. Let me just say that this is not a good job to share with pigs. They are just way too helpful. However, they have new pasture – with shade, which delights them, and they have been hard at work building a new wallow. This pair of pigs are expert wallow builders. Their wallows have walls, with an edge above ground level. And room for two to wallow comfortably. I’ll have to do a post another time to show you.

From worrying about being able to sell my extra side of pork when a customer who’d ordered a side in January backed out in May (“I thought I ordered a lamb from you”, she said), I now have the much nicer situation of having a waiting list of 3. Wow. And to think my husband was worried that I’d priced the pork too high. The fact is good pork takes time and money to produce.

Around the time the little layer chicks began flying out of their side of the brooder, and the heat was at it’s most intense for the broiler chicks, was about the time the pigs started dumping their water bucket at various points in the day. This was also about the time that hubby and I went on our three day jaunt to celebrate our 25th anniversary. It was a nutso time to leave the farm in the hands of the not exactly idle teenagers. I wrote a 2 page oporder, which I don’t believe they touched. I had back up plans to back up plans for fans and hoses etc for pigs and broiler chicks. I forgot to buy in favourite teen food before I left, but hubby pointed out (on the ferry where I was bemoaning this) that one of them worked in a grocery store for pete’s sake, they won’t starve). The girls managed marvellously, and nature was kind and provided a spectacular thunder storm the first night we were away followed by rain and fog for the next two days.

Hubby and I went to the Olympic Peninsula, staying in Port Townsend for two nights. We spent our first morning up on Hurricane Ridge, which we had last visited 26 years before, the week after we were engaged. Port Townsend was delightful, especially for sailors. Our bed and breakfast (Commanders Beach House) was amazing. I would happily have sat on the porch all day doing nothing, but…there were all these organic producers of veg, fruit and meat, wine, cheese, and cider. So we spent a full day exploring around the Chimacum and Sequim area, nibbling and sipping contentedly. Our favourite stop was Finnriver Cider Farm, where we tasted cider and wandered for a couple of hours. We drove home via Whidbey Island, where I had last been with the Navy about 30 years ago (and didn’t get to go ashore). What a beautiful spot, even in the fog.

The garden got away on me, but tomatoes are flowing into the kitchen, we’re still pulling some carrots, and the potatoes need to be dug. Lettuce has only just started to bolt, and the runner beans are producing like crazy. Some of them might qualify for longest bean at the fair in a week and a half.

Two nights ago, hubby and I were dawdling our way through the evening round of chores, enjoying the cool air and the sunset (this amounts to a date for us :)), when our friend Bryce phoned to see if we wanted to see the combine at work. He was harvesting a field just up the road from us – maybe 3 acres total, of malt barley, destined for Phillips Brewery. Those of you in the Mid-West might think this is not very exciting, but grain growing has been absent from the Island for much of the last 80 years, and Bryce is one of the few people with a combine in our area. We each got to ride around the field with Bryce, learning how the process works, seeing how complex the machine is to run. Very cool. And it put my summer in perspective, because Bryce told us that between hay, wheat, lentils and barley, he and his gang have been harvesting for 80 days straight. In between, making runs to the mill on the mainland to get wheat milled for the local bakery. My days suddenly don’t seem as impossible as I thought.

The Fall Fair is next weekend, Labour Day weekend, and always marks the end of summer round here, as the kids go back to school the next day. It rushed up on me, and I didn’t even realize how close it was till I saw the tents starting to go up the other day.