Summer!


This summer has been a busy one here on FAF! We have 6 sheep mowing our pastures, 100 meat birds munching alfalfa (the first of two batches) and 43 new laying birds growing up fast! 

Our Olive Egger, Mary, went broody in a serious way this spring and hatched out 7 chicks of mixed heritage who will become part of the laying flock (if they are hens). 


This is a photo of her being a good Mom and teaching them how to forage. They are our most resilient chicks and really show how nature knows what’s best!

They are figuring out all sorts of things like how to get in and out of the coop!


Soon our meat birds will be processed for customers. We sold more than we thought we would and upscaling production has held some interesting challenges! 100 chicks is a lot of chicks! 


I even had a successful save with the help of a little bit of biomechanics and some chicken physio. Our little bent neck chicken, Twisty, survived and now I can’t even tell him apart from the other chickens!



If you ordered chicken, you will get an email shortly regarding pick ups.

Stay tuned for the next blog post: raising sheep on pasture!

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Why Non-GMO?

You might ask why we feed our chickens non-GMO feed. We believe strongly in respecting the integrity of the land and as Ben said this evening “I love soil”! Often GMO crops are crops that are engineered to withstand herbicides that are sprayed to rid fields of weeds but not kill the crop (I.e. Round up ready corn). The unintended consequence is that along with weeds, you kill the amazingly diverse groups of plants, insects and micro organisms that make up the soil. You destroy the soil integrity and end up creating dead dirt. Then, you have to pump it full of fertilizer to get things to grow. These fertilizers run off into the ground water supply and poison our drinking water. We want to protect the land for years to come and we want to avoid contributing to killing our water supply. This is why we feed non GMO and eventually hope to go full organic and feed from our own farm. 

How much is that doggie in the window?

I’m our quest to fill our farm with the cutest animals we decided (after lots of convincing from me to Ben) to get a new puppy to keep Nessa company and help with the hearding of our imaginary sheep… (we will be getting them in the spring if all goes according to plan) 
Meet Peigi! She is full of energy but more timid than Nessa ever was. She wants to do everything that Nessa does and follows her like a little shadow! 

She has already almost tripled in size since we got her and is fitting in great! 

Chicken!

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I know, it’s been a while since we have updated the blog. Life has been busy and it’s not all about fire anymore, it’s about chickens!!!

At the end of March we started out with our first day old chicks – heritage laying birds that would be the foundation for our laying flock. These included Marans and Easter Eggers who would lay dark brown and blue eggs respectively. They came all huddled together as a fuzzy mass. So cute! They come unsexed, so we were hoping to get a good number of hens out of the flock of 12.

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As with all babies, they started to grow quite quickly and take on their own personalities.

heritage adolescent

 

We also learned that we had acquired one very unique chicken – a silkie! These birds are mostly used for showing and grow long fluffy feathers. They do, however, lay pink eggs so we were hoping that silkie would turn out to be a hen.

After 5 weeks it was warm enough for them to move outside into one of our newly built hoop houses. These houses have no floor so the chickens can forage and are on wheels so we can move them daily to provide new pasture. The heritage birds mostly eat foraged alfalfa, bugs and other outdoor treats and consume very little supplementary feed. We keep the chickens in a portable electric fence pen to further deter predators.

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Now, they are all grown up! We are still waiting for our first eggs and unfortunately it turns out that Silkie is a rooster! We sent a few of our roosters to slaughter with the meat birds because you can’t keep 6 roosters with 6 hens – too much fighting. We are now left with our silver Easter Egger (Lord Grantham), our black Maran (Harry Rico), our partridge Easter Egger (Mathew Crawley) and Silkie who we are trying to find a new home for plus our 4 ladies. Because 4 ladies aren’t enough for our egg production, we are now raising another flock to supplement these layers (a story for another day!)

next up… meat birds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful quiet 

  
There is a bench on our front porch that captures the morning sun. When we first moved in I spent countless hours basking in the sunshine watching the birds at the feeder and dreaming of what our empty slate would become. Winter came and it was chilly and sunless. Today I was given a gift of sunshine and blue skies and an opportunity to sit out here again and be reminded of why we moved here. I’m on call but the threat of work feels less significant on this bench in the sun. 

  
  
  

How much wood does a homesteader burn?

  
All my friends on Facebook are probably wondering why the heck we have so much wood and what the hell are we doing with it? 

When we bought the farmhouse one of the “selling features” that might have only been a selling feature to the guy who installed it was a wood boiler in the back yard. Essentially, it looks like an aluminum shed but when you open the door there is a fire box inside. There are double walls and between the walls there is a water jacket. The fire heats the water and depending on the temperature of the water jacket, an aquastat opens and closes the damper so air is let in to heat it up or closed off to make it die down. 

  
The water then is circulated by a pump through pipes that run underground into the basement and into a heat exchanger. That heat exchanger interfaces with both our hot water system and forced air furnace and provides heat to our home.

This is a great system if you never want to leave your house for more than 12 hours after the temperature outside drops below freezing. If the fire goes out and the water jacket freezes, the pipes burst and you have ruined the system and perhaps flooded your house. You can put glycol into the system to lower the freezing temperature, but, it’s special hydroponic glycol that is a million dollars an ounce. You could also drain the system and run off oil but if the person before you put an unknown type and quantity of anti-freeze into the system, you can’t just pour the water into the ground because it’s poisonous and you can’t put it down the drain because it will ruin your septic system. So, you’ll have to pay someone to come and pump it out and dispose of it. Great. 

So, for this year, we felt we were going to have to use the boiler. The next issue is wood. The boiler can take up to a 4 foot log but you ideally have nice dry hardwood that’s been season. We moved in in November and there was no wood. Nobody sells seasoned wood (although they’ll tell you it is) in November. We started cobbling together wood we found on the property, a load from a saw mill and we also started asking everyone we knew about where to get wood. Enter Perry, our saviour. A colleague at work put me in touch with his father’s wood guy and we had a beautiful load of straight Ash delivered. It wasn’t totally seasoned but it was reasonably dry. We at least knew we would have wood for next year. 

  
So, now, Ben is out chainsawing and splitting every weekend. We now own a hydraulic splitter for the tractor and a Stihl chainsaw and this past weekend I also learned how to saw so we can work together. I guess I know where my strength workouts are coming from! (And yes, chainsaw hair is sexy)

  
We also both lost our eyebrows, eyelashes and some hair to the fire in the first week. Thankfully now we are more skilled at throwing and stoking from a distance in our “fire time” outfit.

  
What will we do next year? Hard to say. Right now our biggest problem is that our chimney seems to have creosote buildup so we’re trying to figure out how to clean it with minimal down time. Oh the things you learn through necessity! 

  

Fresh Ayr Farm

I never though I would live on a farm with a Scottish husband and a beautiful dog. Many things in life are unexpected and this takes the cake!

This blog will explore what it’s like to go from city girl to country farmer and all the trials and tribulations of our homestead experience.

What is Fresh Ayr Farm? It’s a fake farm name that I’m using until we figure out what the name of our farm really is! Right now it’s an 1840s farm house with a hay field. Hopefully soon it will be a place for sheep or chickens or goats (for Andrea) to live and there will be a few donkeys on the side for Robin to play with. It’s a place where we learn about heating a home with wood and how to live in harmony with coyotes and deer.

 

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