Hey everyone! I’ll be posting farm related posts on www.pachamamaorganics.ca. I’ll still be posting here about cooking, fitness, yoga, personal projects and computer-y things. Please check out my latest post about our new flock!
It’s been FOREVER, I know! It is hard work finishing up a degree, starting a business, being social and managing “life stuff”. But the countdown to launching the farm has begun and I’m back to let all of you know what we are up to and what to expect from us over the next few months.
First off, if you haven’t had a chance to check out the farm website, please do! I’ll be blogging about farm things on there in the future.
It has been a busy year here! I have been playing around with making cheese, pickling all the things, making soap, fermenting all the other things, pressure canning, hand lettering and a bunch of other small endeavors. I promise to write some detailed instructional posts later on!
Things are speeding up here on the farm as spring approaches! Onions have already been seeded and we are getting ready to start peppers and some herbs. There are *so* many things on my Pre-Spring To Do List, I don’t quite know where to start! The big projects for the next couple months will be:
- finishing the permitting process for the greenhouse
- starting more seeds
- finalizing bed plans
- building beehives
- building a new, more roomy, chicken coop
- building a chicken tractor (or two)
- planning the irrigation system
- ordering the last bits of plant production materials
- and so, so much more
I finish my program in about a month and then I will be putting all of my time and energy into running the business. This year will be a learning year for me, so I am keeping everything really small. You will be able to find me at the North Gower and Kemptville Farmers Markets on Saturdays and Sundays. I will also be offering a CSA shares to 10 special people/families and contributing to the Two River Food Hub‘s weekly baskets.
This year’s focus will be primarily vegetable production and processing. The goats and chickens will mostly provide milk, eggs and meat for Toby and myself. I’ve ordered a selection of heritage breeds to replace our flock (which was eaten by a hungry fox). The new chickens will be colourful, vary in size, shape and plumage. We will of course continue to sell eggs from the farm gate.
Three of our goats are pregnant and due to kid this spring. I will be making and selling goats milk cosmetic products (soap, lotion, conditioner, shampoo, bath bombs, etc.) at the end of the summer and through the winter. I am considering offering a soap making workshop or two as well, so let me know if that is something that would interest you!
Succulents have become a passion of mine and I’ve been propagating them like a mad woman! Look forward to succulents, terrariums and vegetable seedlings for sale at the farmers markets!
That’s the quick update! Please email me if you have any questions about the up coming season, or anything else you may want to know!
I hope to have a more traditional post coming out later this week! Thanks for your support and interest! For now you can find me working away in my office, finishing up school and planning for the farm!
Toby and I have be wanting to start brewing our own beer for quite a while now. Luckily for us Frisk got us a starter kit for Christmas so we could go ahead and get to it. That guy! So thoughtful!!
We have been broadening our beer horizons over the past few months. Buying anything new and tasty looking at the LCBO. We have even been keeping each new bottle or can! So now we have a whooooole bunch of bottles stocking our pantry! Anyone have any fun DIY ideas for a whooooole bunch of bottles? I was thinking maybe a wall of bottles behind our future bar? Who knows?
I am finding that more and more I am really enjoying dark and flavorful beers.. things with a whole lot of character. I adore pretty much everything that comes out of Lake of Bays Brewery. Actually though.. such good beer.
I really don’t know much about beer and figured that brewing my own would be a great way to learn. I want to be a part of every step of the process. Explore what makes beer great and what makes beer just kind of OK.
The plan is to brew as much as we can testing all sorts of different conditions etc. We are both very interested in arduino based projects and I hope to incorporate some of our own devices into the brewing process.
I picked us up a few books to explain the basics of brewing. I’ve looked them over and made notes but really I just wanted to jump in! I thought about starting with an all grain batch but was told maybe that might be a wee bit much for the first batch. So instead we went with an Oktoberfest kit from True Brew. The kit was a good choice. It is hard to screw up and gave us decent exposure to the process. I think we may end up doing a few more kits before jumping to anything more complicated.. or at least stick with extract brewing for a little while longer.
We opened the package up and jumped right in! The first step was to sanitize and sanitize some more!!! The kit came with a small tub of cleanser to be used on anything that comes in contact with the beer. It is really important to avoid any contamination during the brewing process. We washed everything, we sanitized everything and we rinsed everything before using. We re-sanitized after each use.
The next step was to fill a large pot with 2.5 gallons of water, place the crushed grains in (in the steeping bag) and bring the mixture up to 155 degrees.
As the water heated up it began to darken and give off a delicious malty aroma! Nom!! We removed the lid and label from the malt extract and placed in a pot of warm water to loosen up.
Once the water reached 155 we left it to boil for 15 minutes before removing the spent grains. We took the pot off the heat before adding the malt extract. As I poured in the malt extract Toby stirred the mixture constantly. We tried a taste of the liquid malt extract and it was not bad.. very similar to molasses.
We then added the bittering hops! I loooove hops!! They are my favorite. This recipe came with Liberty Hops, which smelled especially delicious.
We returned the pot to the heat and brought it to a boil for 45 minutes. Then came the waiting game.. we watched some netflicks, Toby did some MOOCing and I made some funny faces!
After the wort had boiled for 45 minutes and we were finished with all the shenanigans we turned off the heat and used the wort chiller to bring the wort down to between 65 and 75.
Once the wort had reached the appropriate temperature we transferred it into the carboy and topped it off with cool water. We did not have a siphon hose so we poured it into the carboy using a makeshift funnel (a rolled cutting board). It got pretty bubbly.. which I hope is OK. We didn’t really know how much to top it off.. so we kind of guessed. The carboy fits just over five gallons so we aimed for five. Next time we will mark the carboy so we know how much we have to add. Using a sanitized turkey baster we removed a small portion to measure the original gravity. The reading was quite a bit off which we have come to realize (thanks to reddit) is most likely because we ended up with more top off water than wort.
Finally, we added the yeast, sealed it with the airlock and tucked it away to ferment!!
By this afternoon we saw some pretty consistent bubbling!! There is still a whole bunch of foamy gunk at the top but I’m not sure what to do about that.
OK! So there is the quick summary of what we did! It seemed to go pretty well for our first time but I guess we wont know until we have our first sip! I cant wait to start our next batch!
This morning I put together a table to make it a little smoother next time. Super fun, super simple and not super attractive!
So goats are the best. They are adorable, affectionate, hilarious and intelligent animals. Toby and I love to have them around.
We had a big scare in October when one of our goats was attacked by a dog we were house sitting. The goats had managed to put the door of their house open and the dog just did what any animal with a prey drive would have done. Unfortunately I was away doing a Yoga Tune Up workshop but Toby did a wonderful job of managing the situation. When he arrived home to find the dog covered in blood and Montoya torn up in the backyard, he called the vet and rushed over.
They treated her wounds and gave Toby shots, cleaning solution and instructions on how to help her recover. The injuries included: a puncture wound through the base of one ear causing neural damage resulting in temporary loss of movement, puncture wounds through the bottom of her mouth, cuts at the base of her jaw and cuts across her face.
The main concern was infection, her staying hydrated and well fed. I had a pretty solid cry when I first saw her and rushed her to the vet when I thought she might have developed an infection in her ear.
But within a week she was making huge improvements, eating lots and even seeming cheery. When we put her back with the other lady goats they beat her up quite a bit. Eventually she was reaccepted into the herd and now she is good as new. Just a few scars, which let the other goats know she is a badass.
Toby and I built a small winter house for the ladies. It has insulated aspenite walls and a tin roof. It is pretty darn cute! With their combined body heat they stay nice and cozy warm during the night. We have surrounded their house with a 6 foot high section of snow fence.
The boys are still out in the old chicken coop and have a nice outside run attached to their house. The plan is to build a little cuddle cave in the corner out of straw bales with an insulated roof. This way they can keep cozy at night and have something to jump on in their house.
Within the next month we will be breeding Bella and Buttercup to Vizzini in hopes of kids in June. That will give us time to get setup for kidding and milking. I cannot wait to have our first kids! They are going to be super cute! All the milk and cheese to come!!!
Its been a little while since I have given an update on our flock so here I go…
The chickens started laying towards the end of the summer. It started with one or two hens laying and everyday there would be one more egg than the day before. Until finally we were getting an average of 9 per day (which means one per chicken). Now that the weather has turned and the days are shorter we get between 4 and 6 most days.
The eggs are rich, fluffy and delicious!! After our first week of eggs we decided to do an experiment.. eggsperiment?.. Toby and I cooked up some scrambled eggs with store bought eggs we had left and some with our eggs.
Immediately after cracking the eggs you could see the difference. Our yolks were a darker deeper yellow and our whites were layered (one tight thick portion around the egg and a second more watery layer).
It was much easier to scramble the store bought eggs. Our tried desperately to hold their form but once they were scrambled they had a gorgeous colour and texture.
The cooking process was identical but in the end our eggs were prettier, fluffier and tastier.. but then again I may be biased.
Toby did not taste a huge difference with the scrambled eggs but was blown away when he tried the soft boiled yolks side by side.
We have had all sorts of crazy eggs. Some without shells, some double yokers, big ones, small ones, fat ones, tall ones.. all of the shapes and sizes!
We moved them into a fancy new coop that I found on Kijiji. It was a fantastic deal and they seem to be a great deal happier. We have continued allowing the flock to free range and they take full advantage despite the weather. We have ourselves a fierce bunch of birds. The coop is so pretty!! I love love love it!! It works perfectly for our little family of birds. The previous owner had insulated it, installed heat lamps and kept it in pristine condition. It was a really great find! Next summer I am planning on increasing the size of the flock, which will mean a larger coop or a second coop.
Toby named our Rooster Hooch because he is CRAZY! He has it in for me I swear!! He and I have had a few not so fun run-ins, but we keep him around because he does a fantastic job of protecting the ladies. Whenever a large bird flies over head he calls all the ladies to hide in the bushes, he also makes sure they are all within sight during the day. Hooch even fought a dog once! We had been dog sitting for a friend and didn’t think hard enough about how hard it would be with our many animals. The dog had already seriously injured one of our goats so we made arrangements for him to stay in a friendlier environment. As I was bringing him out to the car he and Frisket managed to push through the door ahead of me and take off. The dog ran straight for the chickens and Hooch ran to meet him. They fought and admittedly the dog was winning but Hooch sure put up a fight. Frisk and I managed to save Hooch before he got hurt.. it was still very scary. Currently he is looking very fierce on account of the frost bite on his comb. It will bleed sometimes making him look like a zombie chicken.. which is mildly terrifying. Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do to prevent the frost bite. He refuses to stay inside when it is cold and we don’t think he will wear a toque. The next rooster I choose will be better suited to our climate.
Other than that there is not a lot going on with the chickens. They are a wonderful addition to the farm and we really appreciate the eggs. I highly recommend anyone who has the space look into backyard chickens.
Toby and I have both been interested in trying out metal working for a while now. I have always wanted to make my own jewelry and Toby likes the idea of making our own tools. So this year for his birthday I booked us a weekend introduction to black smithing course with David Robertson at Ontario Artist Blacksmith.
The itinerary for the weekend was as follows:
Friday night 6 pm to 9 pm
We cover safety, introduction to tools large and small, proper hammer technique, and the first project of a Tool Hook.
Techniques: drawing out, curling, notching, curving, hot cutting.
Saturday 9 am to 6 pm
Consists of a series of projects with techniques building upon each other. Projects include Coal Rake, Coat Hook, Leaf Hook, Finials, and Tongs. Techniques include: Pointing, Flattening, Shepherd’s Crook, Hot Reverse Twisting, Pointing Flat Bar, Spade Point, Pattern Punching, Offsetting , Shouldering, Through Punching, Leaves, Rattail.
Sunday 9 am to 6 pm
Starts with a discussion of alloy steels and follows with making a Cold Chisel from high carbon steel, Finishing Tongs, Discussion of Forge Welding, Discuss Setting up a Personal Workshop, Several Hours are set aside for working on a Personal Project.
(taken from the course description page)
We drove up early on Friday and made it just in time for our first lesson. David started off explaining the safety precautions that must be taken when working in the shop. After that, he went over all the basic tools: hammer, tongs, forge, air hammer, anvil and various other useful things to have in the shop.
When David was finished the talk we jumped straight in and started working with the metal. He demonstrated the first step of forming a small wall hook and we immediately followed suit. This was the flow of the weekend, he would show us one or two steps and we would continue on our own. We made each made 2 wall hooks, a decorative wall hook with a leaf, a fire poker, tongs, a chisel, a center punch and a personal project.
I found that I could either hit the metal hard enough to move it or hit it where I wanted to. The choice was between power and precision.. and you really need both. By the end of the weekend I had settled into a good rhythm and was finding the work much easier. For my personal project I decided to make a pair of copper, leaf shaped earrings. It was soooooo much easier for me to work with the softer metal, I could shape it any way I wanted to.
We learned all sorts of neat things through out the weekend, including all the basic black smith skills. We practiced many times and discovered that working with metal is unbelievably approachable and a whole lot of fun. I don’t think I can adequately put the experience into words but I highly recommend that you give it a try if the opportunity presents itself. Toby and I will most definitely be building a forge at the farm.
When we looked at our property we asked if the previous owners had gardened at all. They said that the original owners had a big vegetable patch in the back at some point so we assumed that we would be able to plant easily. It was not until the snow melted and we were able to dig that we realized we had purchased some pretty awful soil for planting. The bed rock is only 20 inches down (at the most) and above that the soil is compact, rocky and matted with dense weeds. I dug our first bed and it was difficult but not impossible. That night we had a decent amount of rain and when I went to resume digging I found the hole was completely filled with water, it had not drained even a little. That was when I realized I was going to have to rethink the plan for our garden, it was not going to be as easy as we had hoped.
Throughout the summer we tried tilling the entire acre we plan to use as our garden space. The soil drained better but was still shallow, root filled and 70% rocks. I had the neighbor use his tractor to push the dirt back from the bed rock so we could sift it as we placed it back down. Tilling and sifting helped a lot but did not tackle the main issue: we just don’t have a lot of soil.
To be completely honest we were pretty discouraged for a chunk of time. Sifting the soil was slow, exhausting work and we missed out on planting season. But after a trip to the mother earth festival and some research we decided we could do something about it. Now we are working toward raising the level of our soil, increasing the nutrient content and improving the soil structure.
Our first step is raised beds using straw bales. We spent this weekend building our first raised bed and planting garlic. It did not take too long and was much easier than what we had been trying to do before.
First we laid out the bales in the desired shape. This was really easy and kind of fun. The bales make great building blocks and make great walkways through the beds.
We then dug out a little under the bales to make the bed more stable.
We used top soil purchased earlier in the season mixed with our sifted soil to fill in the beds.
After raking the soil flat we managed to plant four pounds of garlic. We planted until it was pitch black out but we got it done!! Yay!!
Unfortunately we will have to wait until the spring to really see what we think of this planting technique. We are also planning to play around with planting directly in the straw bales. The bales will decompose overtime adding to the organic matter in the soil. You can read more about straw bale gardening here.