There was an error in this gadget

Monday, 11 June 2012

Rowantree Farms' Newsletter - Notes from the Farm

Notes from the farm...

Wow – so much going on at the farm right now! I haven’t had time to write the newsletter before now, so there are lots of updates...

Garden Report
We were so glad to get the rain last week – now everything in the garden is looking good! We have had quite a bit of bug damage on certain crops (mizuna, mibuna, bok choy) but generally the garden looks lush and productive. So much so that we were able to get our first CSA veggie boxes delivered last week – that’s 4 weeks earlier than promised! Our first box contained Bon Vivant salad mix, Grand Rapids lettuce, Green Banner bunching onions, Easter Egg radishes, Mizuna/Mibuna mix, spinach and mint.

While many crops are doing great, we did have a large set-back with our tomatoes and winter squash. Two weeks ago we got hit with an unexpected hard frost and lost over 100 tomato plants and many winter squash plants. Fortunately we had back up tomato seedlings in the greenhouse, but our tomato harvest is going to be delayed this year, when it should have been extra early! Arrrgh. The winter squash was a bit more of a challenge because we were fresh out of seeds to plant. Our friends Dave and Chantal at Dalew Farms came through and gave us 4 varieties of winter squash for a second planting. But again, our winter squash will be late, which may mean a very small harvest as these plants take a long time to grow.

Farm Helpers!
We have been very fortunate to have 2 farm helpers for the past 10 days. Leo and Loic are travelling from France and stayed with us on their way out to BC. They have been fabulous helpers and have allowed us to get lots done this past week – they even prepared a wonderful French meal for us and proved to be excellent cooks as well! They are hitting the road tomorrow morning to hitchhike and are hoping to make it to Thunder Bay by Wednesday night. They will be missed!

Bears, Bears, Everywhere!
This seems to be a big year for bears. Already I have seen 8 bears and 2 of those have been very close encounters. There is one bear who has been hanging around the house – first he got into our compost, but now he just seems to like it here – Aaron caught him sunning himself on our driveway and snapped some beautiful (yet slightly scary) pictures:

Chicks and Ducklings!
Last week we got 100 day-old laying chicks – so cute! These chicks will replace our current flock of laying chickens. What happens to the old laying hens? We will be getting them butchered in the fall to sell as delicious soup hens – let us know if you’d like to place an order!

We also were able to purchase some baby Khaki Campbell ducklings to start replacing our duck flock – thanks to Jeff the Friendly Worm Guy! We will be getting more this week as the rest of his eggs hatch.

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Veggie Box Subscriptions Available!

(If you would like to be removed from our e-newsletter list, please let us know!)
Notes from the farm...

Happy Spring!
Wow – the sun is out, the weather is warm, the fields are dry...I can’t help but feel like the other shoe is soon going to drop. A warm winter and an early spring? Well, I’m not complaining!
Things aren’t quite “busy” on the farm yet, but the excitement is building! Today I planted all our onions in the field (from bulbs or “sets”) and we also have kohlrabi, pac choi, lettuce, green onion, eggplant, pepper and tomato seedlings growing indoors. Germination has been good, but we’ve already had problems from a pesky pest: mice! Believe it or not, mice came along one night and nipped the tops off my kohlrabi and lettuce seedlings. Fortunately they didn’t eat them all, but still a surprise for me that they were interested in such healthy green fare.
We’ll be getting quite a few crops planted in the ground inside the greenhouse this coming week, and peas are next on the list for our outdoor crops. There is still lots of ploughing to do as well.
The chickens are outside now during the day in their fall/spring “woodland retreat” beside the barn. The pasture is not quite ready yet for them – we need to wait until the grass is better established and the night-time temperatures are warmer so our hoses won’t freeze! But they are happy right now digging holes in the dirt for a “dust bath” and then spreading out their wings and soaking up the sun. Dust baths are important for natural pest control, as chicken flocks are really susceptible to lice and mites (don’t worry, these pests are not contagious to humans!).
The ducks had the option of going outside in their covered hoop house all winter (and still do), but they are really enjoying the warmer water temperatures in their buckets for dunking their heads and splashing around! We’re going through triple the amount of water we were in the winter months.
We expect everyone to be out on pasture (and eating their greens) by May.

Gourmet Veggie Box/CSA Program
Interested in receiving a weekly-supply of fresh, in-season, ecologically-grown vegetables from Rowantree Farms? We will be expanding on our veggie box program this year to do a full 19-week subscription from the last week of June to the last week of October. Veggie box prices include a 7% discount off our regular veggie prices at the market, plus egg club members will receive free delivery for eggs (a $20 value!) during the summer months. Boxes are delivered once a week on Wednesdays from 5:30-6:00pm to the parking lot at Market Square. Please see the attached flyer for more information, or contact us at allison@rowantreefarms.ca or 705-694-0165. We have limited memberships available, so if you’re interested, let us know ASAP!

The Soil Blocker

This is a neat little tool that we picked up last year from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine. Basically, it compresses wet soil into blocks, so there is no need for plastic seedling cells. We have two sizes, a mini-blocker that makes 20 blocks at a time (picture on the right) and is great for starting small seeds like tomatoes, eggplant, etc. The next size up makes 4 blocks at a time – and has a small depression in each block that fits a mini-block. So once your seeds have sprouted in the mini-blocks, you can pop them right into the next size up to give them room to grow!

Happy Hen Club Memberships Still Available – spread the word!
Happy Hen Club members buy a 6 month membership and get a regular supply of eggs during that time. Eggs are $5 per dozen and you can choose a:
- Double Membership (2 doz eggs per week)
- Single Membership (1 doz eggs per week)
- Half Membership (1/2 doz eggs per week)
- Quarter Membership (1 doz eggs per month)
Our happy hens are inside a cozy barn for the winter months, but are out on pasture during the summer. They eat a grain diet that is 100% GMO-free and contains no antibiotics or medications.
*Please send us an email for more details or call 705-694-0165.

That’s all for now!

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Chicken Eggs Available!

Notes from the farm...

Happy New Year!
It’s been a while since our last newsletter; mostly because we’ve been busy getting everyone settled in their winter barns, tidying up from the summer and taking a little break for the holidays! Now we’re getting into planning mode and gearing up for next year’s growing season when we’ll be expanding our vegetable production. We hope you all had a happy holiday and wish you all the best for 2012!

Happy Hen Club Memberships Available – spread the word!
Our newer group of hens has begun to lay so we have chicken eggs available once again. Happy Hen Club members buy a 6 month membership and get a regular supply of eggs during that time. Eggs are $5.25 per dozen and you can choose a:
- Double Membership (2 doz eggs per week)
- Single Membership (1 doz eggs per week)
- Half Membership (1/2 doz eggs per week)
- Quarter Membership (1 doz eggs per month)
Our happy hens are inside a cozy barn for the winter months, but are out on pasture during the summer. They eat a grain diet that is 100% GMO-free and contains no antibiotics or medications.
*Please send us an email for more details or call 705-694-0165.

Turkey Time
We (of course) cooked up a Rowantree Farms turkey for our Christmas dinner – a 33 pounder! It was delicious and we enjoyed it with Aaron’s family in Guelph; with lots of leftovers for everyone to take home! For those of you who cooked one of our birds this holiday – we hope it was as tasty as ours!
 



Duck Egg Deliveries
We are now doing duck egg deliveries into town every second week. Duck eggs are $8/dozen or $5/half dozen. Send us an email or give us a call at 705-694-0165 to order.

That’s all for now!

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165

Monday, 22 August 2011

Farm Tour

Notes from the farm...

 
Farm Tour!!!
We are hosting a FARM TOUR here next Monday August 29th as part of the Educational Farm Tour series offered by Eat Local Sudbury and the FarmON Alliance. If you are a member of ELS, you can get free transportation out here – but you must contact Amy ASAP at farmon@eatlocalsudbury.com. The tour starts at Heart and Soil Gardens in Chelmsford at 10:30am, and then visitors will be arriving at Rowantree Farms at 12:30pm. You can also just meet us at the farm using your own transportation of course! We would love to see you!

 
Feed Change – important!
The price of our certified organic feed has been going up and up since the Spring, and the latest jump was a big one so I called the feed mill to find out what is going on. We found out that they ran out of Ontario organic grains and were shipping our feed in from the mid-western US states. This doesn’t sit well with us – we want to support organic production, but feel the environmental cost of shipping the feed thousands of miles is too high, plus we feel strongly about supporting Ontario farmers.
What to do? We’ve decided (with much thought!) to switch to the “Maitland Valley Naturals” line of feeds which:
  • ·         Is certified/tested non-GMO (no genetically modified organisms)
  • ·         Has no antibiotics or medications
  • ·         Is grown in Ontario
  • ·         But, is grown conventionally – likely with the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
We will be switching over sometime in September for ALL of our livestock (laying ducks, laying hens, meat chickens and turkeys). We wanted to keep all of you informed of the change, and also explain why we made this decision.

 
Snapshot Farm Tour!
For those of you who can’t make the farm tour, we finally took some pictures of the pasture across the road and I’ve labelled everything so you can get an idea where the livestock are located:

 
So, starting on the left, you can see our 3 “chicken tractors”:
These follow the Joel Salatin model of meat chicken production. These chicken pens have no bottoms, so the chickens can eat all the grass and bugs they like and scratch in the ground as chickens like to do. We move the pens every day (or every other day when they are young) to fresh, clean grass. The pens also ensure they are protected from predators.
Geese:
If you look hard you can see some white dots near the chickens, which are our 5 Embden geese. They have a shelter for the night, but otherwise they roam wherever they want – they mostly like to hang around where the chickens have been to eat any grain the chickens might have missed!
Turkeys and Ducks:
Moving further to the right you can see our turkeys and ducks each have their own “paddocks” fenced with electrified nets (to keep out the foxes and bears!). You can see the white turkeys outside their yellow shelter (a modified “tarp garage” from Canadian Tire). We move their shelter every other day within their enclosure. Tomorrow the whole turkey enclosure (fencing and shelter) will be moved to the far left half of the pasture so the grass in their old enclosure can grow back. I can’t see the ducks outside in this picture, so they may either be hidden by the trees or inside their shelter - they really like to hang out in their shelter (a white hoop-style enclosure) because they drink HUGE amounts of water and that’s where their water is located. We move the duck enclosure every night because they are MESSY birds!
The pasture where the birds are located right now is about half of what we fenced this year. We haven’t had to use the other half yet this year, but the turkeys will be heading out there tomorrow.
Oh, and if you are wondering where the laying hens are, they are up near the house. They spend their nights in our small log barn (circa 1930) and roam around in a large area fenced off with electrified netting. They also have a small chicken wire coop out back of the barn where they can go outside before we let them out into their “paddock” in the morning – the roosters love to go out back to crow starting around 5:00am!

 
Geese Update:
Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of our geese. Geese are supposed to be able to live (and grow) eating only fresh plants and bugs from the pasture (except when they are babies, when they require grain). We are experimenting with our 5 geese to see how they do eating only fresh forage. HOWEVER, these geese are greedy creatures! You can see them here doing what they do every night – stealing some of the grain from the chicken-bucket before we get a chance to pour it into the chicken feeders. I like how you can see some grain flying through the air as they chow-down!!

 

 
Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165

 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Milestone

Notes from the farm...
Hot, Hot, Hot!
Farmers never seem to be happy with the weather, but from what I’ve heard a lot of non-farmers were getting sick of the heat as well! We were a little worried about the chickens and turkeys in the heat, but they seem to be faring well. Once again I am glad to be raising the “heavy red” birds rather than the commercial “white rock” breed – I’ve heard of others that have been losing their meat chickens in the heat wave. My heavy reds are bred for free-range systems and are more tolerant to heat, cold, etc.

Our turkeys have been having the hardest time in the heat – I discovered, though, that they enjoy getting a “cold shower” with the hose, so I have been cooling them off that way. The ducks are doing great and don’t seem to mind the heat at all!

Our vegetables have been affected by the heat/drought as well: our early peas haven’t been doing as well as expected at all, but the next crop looks good so far, and the carrots are way behind where I expected them to be. The tomatoes and squash, however, are loving the heat and are growing well! Our cucumbers are late, but the plants look bigger and healthier than any other cukes I’ve grown in the past so I expect a good yield.  

OSEB Program is Done!
Rowantree Farms marked a business milestone last week – I graduated from the Ontario Self-Employment Benefits (OSEB) Program. This provincial program helped me start my business with 6 weeks of intensive business training last October-December, plus access to regular business classes and mentorship as well as financial support while the business was in its “launch phase”. I can’t say enough good things about this program or the organization that delivered it: Sudbury Learning Initiative. Without this support I would not have been able to launch my farm business in the same way.

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165

Monday, 11 July 2011

Herding Turkeys

Notes from the farm...
In the news!
You may have seen us in the news these past two weeks. MCTV came and filmed the laying ducks, and then we had a a great article in Northern Life! We’ve already had a good response from people who saw the media coverage and have been asking to buy duck eggs. We’ve had interest in meat chickens and vegetables as well, but we are currently sold out of both.

Herding Turkeys:
We conducted a little experiment this year when it was time to put the turkeys outside for the summer. Whereas we usually catch, crate and carry our poultry from the barn to the field across the road each summer, I wasn’t relishing the idea of doing this for 50 turkeys! We decided to try herding them across the road and it was a big success. Progress was slow, but the turkeys stuck together and we didn’t encounter any cars. This is definitely something we will try in the future and we think the stress level of the birds was a lot lower this way. We wished we’d had a video camera because it was quite a sight to see! 

Vegetable Report:
After that big rainfall and then many days of sun, the vegetables are growing well! Last week out veggie boxes contained a good variety of vegetables: spinach, garlic scapes, radishes, green onions, sunflower sprouts, head lettuce, lettuce mix, mint and rhubarb! The first snow peas are out and there should be a lot more peas on the way. We even have a few small zucchinis almost ready for picking. The greenhouse tomatoes are thriving and we are crossing our fingers for a big harvest in August. We have tried planting lettuce mix and tomatoes in the same bed to save space and it seems to be going well.

Mama Hen adopts “large” family:
One of our hens went “broody” about a month ago so I gave her a few fertile chicken eggs to sit on. Only one hatched successfully, but this gave me an idea...the single Ameraucana chick had hatched only 2 days before I was due to receive another 50 day-old laying chicks. When I got my 50 chicks, I brought the box into the brooder pen where “mama hen” had her chick. As soon as she heard the peeping she jumped up and began clucking at my feet and I could almost hear her saying: “give me my babies!”. I let the chicks out and she began to frantically try to herd all 50 chicks to a corner of the pen where she could watch over them. Since then she has become their adopted mother and I once spotted all but about 10 chicks huddled underneath her body and wings while she snuggled them close for warmth – how she fit them all I do not know! Adopting 50 chicks is a pretty amazing feat and has earned this chicken a secure place on our farm for years to come. Now all she needs is a good name...any suggestions?

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165

Monday, 27 June 2011

Renegade Geese!

Notes from the farm...
Rain, rain, rain!
We were doing a happy rain dance when the rain began to fall last week – our seedlings really needed it as things were very dry around here. The peas are thriving and finally have flowers on them. But then the rain kept coming and coming, and on Saturday morning we awoke to a flood in the fields! Half of one of our moveable chickens coops had turned into a lake over night. Because our chickens are young yet, they are still fairly sensitive to cold or wet conditions and we unfortunately lost a chicken in the night. I brought 2 more chickens that looked especially cold into the barn and put them under a heat lamp to recover (and they did!). I was worried about the beans I just planted with all the wet weather, but I saw today that they are up and doing well!

Renegade Geese:
Our cute little geese became much less loveable last week when they got into the greenhouse and ate a significant portion of our lettuce and radish crops. Some of it will re-grow, some will not. I was so proud of my beautiful, big heads of leaf lettuce (pictured at right) and it was devastating to see them hacked apart!

Market Stall:
We’re now at the Farmers’ Market! I have a booth on the “other side” of the deck selling duck eggs. Stop by and say hello!

Veggie Boxes:
We’ve begun selling our veggie boxes in VERY limited numbers! Our boxes are sold out right now, but if you are interested, let me know and I can send out an email when we get more veggies to fill more boxes later in the year! Lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, mint and green onions have been the mainstays of our early summer boxes. We hope that peas and garlic scapes will be ready soon! Our first carrots and beets have come up, and our tomatoes have flowers on them – it’s always heartening to see the promise of vegetables to come!

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms
705-694-0165