Monday, June 29, 2015

Sheep Shearing

Not sure how many of you are aware that we still have one sheep.  A few years ago we were down to three. Two of them were quite old, and a couple of years ago we had them put down, as they had got to the point of no longer being able to get around.  I figured that the last sheep would be quite upset being on her own, and we would have to do something about that.  Oddly enough, she didn't seem bothered at all.  Didn't baa at all after her last buddy left.  She just carried on as usual.  I think it is because she has a flock of chickens in the field with her, and those are her companions, or that's my best guess at least.  So she's still here, on her own.  She baas at us morning and evening, because she gets an apple when we go to let the chickens out in the morning, or shut them in the evening, but other than that she does her own thing.  At least she helps to keep some of the grass under control.

I'm embarrassed to admit that she didn't get sheared last year, and the year before she only was partially sheared before the shears got too dull.  I had planned on finishing her somehow, but, well you know how that goes.  Anyway, I could ramble on here, but being the 'frugal' person I am, basically I didn't want to pay for the shearer to come for one sheep, as he had a pretty hefty charge for coming to the farm, and then a per sheep charge after that.  So it had been weighing on me quite a bit lately with this hot weather, that this was a job that NEEDED TO BE DONE!

I did make an attempt to sharpen the electric shears, and then one day last week I walked out there with an apple and a halter and lead rope.  I figured she would be all over me like usual, wanting that apple, but not a chance.  Maybe it was the rope, although she wouldn't even know what that was, maybe she could sense my intentions, but she was having nothing to do with me.  I gave up quickly, as there was not even a small space to try to herd her into, and she certainly didn't need to get stressed out in that heat.

Late Saturday afternoon I was out in the field with her, had taken some bolting lettuce out for her and the hens.  I was saying to Larry that maybe we should start feeding her the apple in a white bowl, so she would connect the bowl with food and it might be easier to lead her where we wanted her with that.  The ewe was stood right next to me.  I reached down and grabbed her neck and was able to hold on.  I yelled for Larry to grab the halter which was on the table on the patio right next to him. We got the rope around her neck and then he went back to get the scissors because I had to trim the wool off her head to get the halter on.  And then I just started with the scissors and basically kept going.  Now there is a technique to shearing sheep.  The idea is to hold them in certain positions to pull all the skin tight so that there are no wrinkles where you are shearing.  This is really crucial when using electric shears or hand shears (which we also have...somewhere), but not so critical when using scissors.  It was slow going, but other than spots were the wool was really felted or matted, it wasn't 'hard'. once I got a spot opened up I just slid the scissors in an inch and then cut along parallel to my last cut.  The fleece rolled off, slowly:)  You learn quickly not to pull on the wool.  That pulls the skin up and you will nick the sheep.  She got a few small nicks but nothing major.  Meredith showed up half way through the process.  She of course had her phone, so took the pictures. It was a stinking hot day, and the mosquitoes were biting by this point. I don't know why we even have mosquitoes, it has been so dry dry dry that there is no standing water.  Anyway, I was telling Larry  or Meredith to swat the one on my left shoulder, lower back, etc.  I'm pretty bumpy and itchy now.

 Meredith also took over from Larry, it was harder on his back than mine, straining to keep that ewe still. She was pretty good most of the time, but did make the occasional break for freedom.  I did have her down on her side at one point, and then sitting between my legs at another. But really, it went quite well, although slowly. 

 I figured it was close to a couple of hours before we were totally finished, and the wool was bagged up.  It will probably just be garbaged because the outer part was such a mess.  I had forgotten that the ewe had white legs, as the fleece was hanging so low you couldn't see them.  I felt great when the job was done, and hopefully she did too.  In fact she should have been bounding around that field like a lamb, she had so much weight removed from her.

 I'm not sure my scissors will be quite the same.  They got a good oiling I guess, but will need a good wash, as did I.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Month's Worth

Here's a bit of a garden tour.  I was looking at pictures on Friday night, and realized that they were taken a month prior.  So on Saturday I went out and took some photos to show what some of the veggies looked like a month down the road.  It's pretty amazing!

This was a patch of overwintered kale that was flowering and just about finished.  You can see the little chard in the bottom right corner.

A month later we have not one (made out of the old fuel tank stand) but two bean towers.  And look at the size of that chard now.  The tallest tower is 10 feet high and both are covered with some of our old electric sheep netting (fence).

The beans are up!  There is a squash in the center of each tower.  It's yet to be seen whether that was a good idea or not:)

See those tiny little lettuces planted about 6" apart, just above the center of the picture?

Look at them now (that's mizuna in the foreground).  I've picked and sold about 40 lettuces out of there already.

Here's the cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage section. The peas are under that narrow strip of mesh in the upper left corner.

What a difference!  Look at those weeds, Cathy you need to come back and weed it again!

The Kale behind the basil hoops is doing great.  The basil is not doing so great, the only failure so far this year.

And those peas, I saw the first flowers on them yesterday.  Loves me some snap peas!

The red cabbage

Softball sized cabbages forming!

The plot that used to be gladiolus, and then turned into an overgrown mess.  I got it cleaned out and here are furrows to plant potatoes in.

And now the potatoes are planted, and up!

 This picture is a little older, May 8

But look at those turnip greens now!  The only thing is that no one seems interested in them.  I'm going to have to make a fact sheet to put up at the market.  They are very high in Vitamin K.

This last Sunday most of this was for sale at the market.  We had lettuce, salad greens, kale, chard, turnip greens, spinach, arugula, garlic scapes and a few herbs. In a week or two there should be broccoli (if we don't eat it all) zucchini, cabbage, peas, fennel, and maybe carrots too.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Boys go on Holiday

When my sister was planning to come out to visit, I told Larry that we were going to go to Oliver for a couple of days.  I guess he was feeling a bit left out (of the Oliver part) so he said that well he was going to go up there by himself.  After his endothelial cell transplant eye surgery scheduled for the end of May was cancelled due to lack of donor tissue, I said well on the upside, you can still drive yourself to Oliver.  I encouraged him to take a dog for company, with Jake being the obvious choice.  So they set off this past Tuesday on a hot day.  The hot day got hotter as they approached the Okanagan, so they stopped at a rest stop that came with a lake, and Jake got to swim.  Despite me having sent a camera along, (just turn it on, point and focus), pictures were kind of limited.  

While in Oliver, Jake got a couple of good walks down the dyke.

The sky was kind of interesting one day.  Maybe that was Thursday morning.  Larry had decided to come back on Thursday, I tried to convince him to stay another day, but he said he was restless and had decided he was missing me.  Awww!

We walk this dyke a lot.  Basically flat so it is easy for Calli, and wide open so I get good notice of other people and dogs that we are going to run into.  I like to be prepared with Luna.  It follows the Okanagan River, which has been channelled.  Along the way are what they call VDS or Vertical Drop Systems, and what we call weirs.  There is a pedestrian bridge at each one, which makes for some nice loop walks.  The Hike and Bike trail is paved for a good length close to town, but if you cross to the east side, the dyke is unpaved and more 'wild'.  Just recently, the powers that be have decided at a couple of weirs to make ramps directly from the dyke to the bridge. Before, you had to scramble down the dyke slope, up the concrete steps, and then do it in the opposite order at the other end.  A bit awkward for bikes and dogs in carts, and impossible for people in wheelchairs.   One of the ramps is at a weir we cross often, so that's kind of handy.  Jake is the first of our dogs to test it out.

You might be impressed, but I'm not

Oh, oh, I'm a brave boy, I'm a brave boy, almost there, almost there.......

Oh my gawd, I have to cross one of these scary things again at the other side....

Larry said the river was really running high and fast.  You can see how the water is roaring after it has come over the weir, on the right side of the bridge.

Back at the cottage, the squash along the fence are coming along just fine.  Larry had to ease the branches back through the fence that were heading into next doors.  
Larry didn't see anything of those neighbours, and neither did Cathy and I when we were there.  

 I planted a few in the vegetable garden.  This is the only one he seemed to notice, which has grown hugely.  I can't imagine that the others have croaked in the two weeks since I've last been there, so hopefully there are a few more in there still.  The weeds are coming up too.  He said he thought about weeding , but didn't. (Phew, let's out a sigh of relief).  He didn't notice the three pepper plants in there, although he did seem to notice the sunflowers that had come up.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was quite looking forward to a few days on my own. It was all good, until late Tuesday afternoon.  I was making jam, I started to feel not so well.  I got the jam finished barely, before a terrible case of food poisoning hit. (My best guess, but no idea what from)  I was either in the bathroom or on the couch all evening.  Luna was shut in the basement with Calli (because I was making jam) and I could not get down there to feed them or let them out.  I was getting worried, as there were chickens to shut in and eggs still to collect.  I considered taking my chances and getting out there early in the morning for the eggs, and just hoping that that wasn't the night that any predators decided to wander by.  After 10, I had to stagger to the bathroom, and knew I'd  feel a bit of relief after that, so grabbed that opportunity to feed the dogs and head outside to the chicken coops.  By the time I was collecting the eggs in the second coop, (maybe it was all that bending over?) I thought I was going to pass out.  I left a large deposit out there, which made me feel better again, so I managed to get the chicken/eggs finished and the dogs toileted.  After that, other than some pain about 3 am, I was okay, and the next day was fine, other than feeling a bit washed out and low energy.

This was the longest Luna and Jake have been apart.  It was kind of interesting at my end. Even though only one dog was gone, it seemed like more.  Makes me realize Jake makes most of the noise, and is the better farm 'watchdog'.  Luna would hear the chickens cackle a lot, give one woof, go to the back door, I'd open it for her and she'd just stand there looking because her buddy Jake wasn't out there on high alert, barking at the fence.  When he got back, she was happy to see him.  When she is the one that has been away for a few hours, she can be bitchy to him when he fusses us around her, giving her the 'where have you been' smell over.

And then on Thursday Larry said he was coming back, which I was a bit disappointed about because I'd lost half of my 'alone time' being sick.  Anyway, it all worked out for the best, as I was informed by a reminder phone call that he had an appointment for a barium xray at the hospital at 7:30am on Friday.  The day before I had got a message to say to phone about an appointment, but no mention of there actually being one.  After I dropped him at the hospital I went grocery shopping and there ran into Granny Marigold and her husband.  We chatted a bit and she mentioned me not blogging much lately, I said I'd been planning on posting something for the last week and a half, but she was the little kick in the butt that I needed, so you can thank her for this post!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Flying Trip

 Things have been a bit crazy around here for the last little while.  Trying to get the market garden all planted and weeded .  Getting ready for the markets etc.  My sister is visiting for ten days or so.  On Tuesday morning we made a flying trip to Oliver. We stopped at one thrift store on the way, and tried for another, but it was in Princeton and isn't open Monday or Tuesday.  We had a great time yesterday morning though at the thrift store in Oliver.  They had a bag sale, which means that for $5 you get everything that will fit in a paper grocery bag.  They work hard to roll things up tight and stuff them in there.  Between us we filled two paper bags, and that included fitting in a small box fan/heater.  After we had hauled that back to the house on our bikes, we set off again and visited a garden center along the river.  I chose a route that took us down a steep rocky trail from the upper bench to river level.  A bit more than Cathy bargained for!  I bought a few heat loving, drought resistant flowers, stuck them in the ground, and I hope they will survive until it rains again or someone arrives to water them.  I've pretty happy though, it's rained an inch and a half at Oliver this month, which is as much as the previous four months combined. We always have to water and mow and weedeat and weed when we are there, and this time was no different.

Here's my new skinny sister.  She joined in with us on the Whole 30 style eating when she visited in February, and then continued on when she went back home.  Between the two of us we have lost 50 lbs.  It's a lifestyle now.  Yes we have the occasional treat/cheat.  The first night we went for a walk, ended up at the drugstore, and found a deal on good dark chocolate (85%) for $1 a bar.  We may have eaten a bar.

Here's my squash plants that are planted along the fence line in the back yard.  There they catch a bit of water from the neighbour's lawn irrigation, and obviously it is agreeing with them just fine, as they have grown quite a bit in three weeks.  
We always turn our water off when we leave, then we don't have to worry about a leak and us not being there for weeks.  Timers to water the plants would be nice, but we just worry about something going wrong and no-one noticing.

The rose along the west side of the house is in full bloom.  Just beautiful!

And conveniently covering/perfuming the bathroom window.

The snapdragons come back every year, and they self seed too...bonus!

I planted the gaillardia, and they are doing well this year.


Last time we were there, it was the smell of lilacs filling the air.  This time it was honeysuckle.  

I have planted more squash in the vegetable garden.  A few different clumps.  The grapes along the back fence are loaded with baby bunches.  The sage bush is in full bloom.  With enough water, things grow amazingly well in Oliver.

Mt. Cheam on the drive home Wednesday evening.  About 45 minutes from home.  There is a  4x4 road and then a hiking trail that takes you to the top, from the other side.  I want to try that one year.  David has been to the top twice.
We had some bizarre weather on the way back.  We went from sun at the start and finish, with a wild thunder, lightening, pounding rainstorm through Manning Park.  It was coming down so hard that at one point we had to pull over as we couldn't see.

Back here in Abbotsford, we are smelling cow manure.  This morning they are spreading liquid cow manure on the field next door.  Thankfully the wind tends to blow the smell away from us.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ticked Off

I used to read posts from some of my bloggy friends, in which they were complaining about the amount of ticks in their area.  I used to feel all smug because as far as I was concerned, ticks were not an issue here.  They are mentioned occasionally, but I had never found one on our dogs.  Many years ago I removed a tick that had taken hold in the corner of my mum's dog's eye, but that was the extent of my experience.  They were not something that I spent any time thinking about.   That all changed about a month and a half ago.  I was massaging Luna on the back of her neck.  I felt a little bump, and I've felt bumps before and whenever I've looked, it's always been nothing.  Maybe a bit of an old scab, but it was never a tick.  Well this time it was.  I was shocked, and a bit grossed out.  I had to google the best way to remove them.  I got an old pill vial and put some rubbing alcohol in it.  Grabbed the tick with the tweezers and pulled.  The skin pulls up and then breaks free from the tick, and the tick gets popped into the alcohol to kill it.  Some polysporin is put on the skin at that spot, if the dog hasn't moved and you can actually find the spot again.  Then a few days later I found three more on Luna.  We couldn't decide if they had come back from the Okanagan with us.  Or maybe Luna had picked them up at Princeton.  We had stopped to walk the dogs there and I remember Luna rolling in the grass, and Princeton has loads of deer.  Then one evening Jake was doing something and then suddenly stopped and scratched up near his head.  I felt around and found a tick on him.  I've lost track now, but I think we are up to about a dozen, including some just lately. The worst were two that I missed somehow on Calli.  Kind of on the underside of her jaw.  The biggest one was the size of my finger nail, or a gross swollen small grape.  It still makes me shudder to think of that one.  I figure we have ticks here.  In fact I know we do, because yesterday morning I was sat right here at the computer.  Earlier I had felt like something was crawling on me.  I had looked but seen nothing.  This time I felt it on my leg, so I pulled up the bottom of the jean leg, turning it inside out, and there on the inside of the jean was a tick wandering around.  I itched all day, and more than once yanked my t-shirt off to have a check.  I've done so much reading about ticks my mind is whirling.  What types we have here, incidences of Lyme disease, paralysis, etc.  It's mind boggling, and scary, and I just want them all to go away.  

This is the one that was on my pant leg.  It's trying it's best to 'just go away', but is stuck in the egg yolk on my breakfast plate.  It looks like a male American Dog tick, but some sources say we don't have those here, so it must be a Brown Dog Tick. 

 The dogs are getting the 'tick massage' daily.  I keep checking my head and neck.  I read that Rose Geranium essential oil helps keep ticks away.  I need to find some of that. 
 If you really want to gross yourself out, Google 'ticks on dogs' and then click on 'images'.  
You'll wish you hadn't.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Garden Tour

I'm getting behind again.  I took the pictures for this post last week, so the plants look a bit bigger now.
Thought I'd give you a bit of a tour of the vegetable garden down by the house.  The garden is not very organized.  Little bits of stuff planted here and there in some parts.  Still patches of last years kale and collards that I am still picking little new leaves off, although their days are numbered.  This garden is on a slight south facing slope.  In the bottom southeast corner there's a little patch of  red cabbage.  At the top of the picture you can just see a bit of last years kale.  That will be chopped off shortly, and I've already inter planted some fennel amongst the kale plants.

Just to the east of that is a patch of chard.  The older seedlings are doing well, and to the right of it there are a few rows of newer seedlings.

Heading further west is more of last year's kale, with my fuel stand bean support in position, but not set up and ready to go yet.

On the other side of the path is a pretty decent patch of arugula, with garlic behind.  I can see a slug on the arugula.  I wonder if anyone found a slug in their bag of arugula at the market on Saturday:(

Below the arugula is a patch of lettuce, then some beet seedlings under the cloth, and some more fennel under the screen.  While we were away I wanted to give the seeds that I had just planted some protection from birds, chickens, cats, whatever might get in there while I wasn't around to protect it.

Here's a look from the top. Garlic, then arugula, a bit of old kale interspersed with fennel, lettuce, beets and more fennel.

To the right are a couple of rows of raspberries and lots of buttercups.  I gave up on trying to keep the base of the raspberries cleared out.
After the raspberries there are basil seedlings under the plastic tunnel, a bed of cauliflower, then broccoli and  then cabbage at the bottom.   A row of snap peas runs along the left.

On the other side of the peas (on the right edge of the photo) is a bed of spinach and one of turnip greens.  At the back is more kale and flowering brussel sprouts that didn't come to much of anything last year.  The chickens will get all the old plants when I finally pull them out.  Meanwhile the bees are working hard to pollinate those flowers.  I'll leave a plant or two to set seed.

I haven't grown turnip greens before.  Can anyone tell me what they are like?
Here's a peek under the cloth.

Above the basil tent is a bed of kale, about 60 plants I think.

In the green house are tomatoes. Some already planted in the ground, and some in pots either to sell or plant outside somewhere.

There is one piece of bench still set up in there.  On there I have sunflower seedlings and a variety of squashes.  I seeded them all just before our last trip to Oliver.  I covered them all with a big clear garbage bag to keep the soil damp.  We were only gone a few days so I knew they wouldn't germinate before we got back.  While we were away a mouse had a hay day under there and dug up and ate most of the seeds.  A few survived and have since come up, and I have reseeded the rest.  It took me three nights of setting traps before I caught the little b#gger.  I had already caught one a month earlier that was kindly eating my lettuce seedlings off each night.  Tonight I was out there late and managed to get a slug that was just slithering up between the sunflower pots.  It's me against them, in all sorts of ways.

Outside, we've added a bit of red and white to the blues.

Solomon's Seal


More blue, Columbine

Okay, that was sort of a boring post.  I'll see if I can do better next time.