Juno’s Quest

About a week ago, I was wasting time on the internet when I came across a contest for dogs – a “casting call” for Fido (the mobile phone company) – in which the winner is selected through votes.

On a whim, I entered our sweet Border Collie pup, Juno. I don’t know WHY I entered, as it’s totally out of character for me, but I did. And when Juno started steadily moving forward in the contest, I got the crazy notion that we might actually win.

Right now there are over 5,000 dogs in the Fido Casting Call, and of those Juno is sitting at 418th place (at the time of this writing). Last night she was in 523rd place, and a few days ago she was in 1278th place. She’s gaining ground, pushing ahead by the day.

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So, our family is going all out for “Team Juno” and having a lot of fun with this. Out of character, yes, but we are loving it! Juno has a fan page on Facebook, which you can join for updates and photos, and where you can post words of encouragement. And if you want to vote for Juno (which I know you do!!), all it takes is less than a minute out of your day. CLICK HERE, and once you’re on the contest page, click the big yellow button that says “VOTE”. It’s so simple, takes no effort on your part, and can mean all the difference for Team Juno! Best yet, you can vote once per day until Sept 10!

 

Poky Little Puppy

Last year, we had a beautiful Border Collie in our lives named Miss Molly. She was wonderful in so many ways – smart, fun, loyal, affectionate – but there were also some problems with her behaviour as well that made her incompatiable with life on our farm. I trained with her for months, went to private training sessions and group classes, saw three different trainers for help & advice, and when I felt like we were making great progress, Miss Molly started killing our chickens and ducks. We found her a new home, a GREAT new home with three other Border Collies, but I was devastated at saying goodbye (and my kids were pretty upset, too!).

For many months following Miss Molly’s departure, I wondered if I had done the right thing. I missed her terribly (and I still do). Oddler and Echo helped to fill the void, but still I wanted a Border Collie, a dog to work with me on the farm.

Spring came and my birthday rolled around. On the morning of my birthday, Jae surprised me by telling me I should go ahead and start looking for another Border Collie to bring into our family – his birthday present to me. I applied for a few rescue dogs, but each time I was denied for one reason or another: no fenced yard (we’re a farm!!), two other dogs, small children in the home. I gave up and began looking for a puppy, a wee little bundle to start fresh with.

At the beginning of June, Juno came home. She was 10 weeks old when I picked her up from the breeder, and pretty nervous about leaving her mom and siblings. The poor pup got carsick several times on the way home, but once she got out of the van, recovery followed quickly and she began settling into her new life on our farm.

Juno at 10 Weeks. Photo by my friend Jeanette.

I still miss sweet Molly, but my oh my, has Juno ever filled that aching spot in my heart! She’s been a complete and utter delight to have around. Every morning at 6am we get up and start the day while the children snore. Juno comes outside with me and accompanies me while I do the farm chores. We work on some simple obedience commands and go for a brisk walk with the other two dogs on the Greenway Trail.

Juno at 12 weeks, with Lynden

Juno’s been coming everywhere with us for socialisation and training – to the splash pad and the beach, to market, to the homes of friends and family, to various parks and trails – and we’ve been going to a puppy obedience class. So far, so good! She is fitting into our family beautifully and is becoming a very well-behaved, well-socialised, eager-to-please little pup. We’re so delighted to have her here!

Juno at 16 weeks, enjoying the park

I felt a little crazy when I brought home a third dog, but it’s worked out pretty wonderfully so far. I’m really excited to see what Juno’s future brings!

Swinging into Summer

“Swinging” into Summer is hardly accurate. It feels more like we’re on a speeding train and Summer is a brick wall directly ahead of us! The days are passing way faster than I care for (but isn’t that always how it goes?). Life is bursting forth everywhere I turn, the baby is growing way too quickly, and my older children are more incredible with each passing day.

Summer on the farm is such a busy, hectic time. There are so many demands! At the end of the day, though, it’s all worth it, and there are an abundance of little rewards.

The chicks, who one month ago looked like this –

- now reside outside and look like this -
How quickly they change!

The rabbits are thriving on grass. They’ve escaped a couple of times, and so we’ve been playing around with various modifications to the rabbit tractor to prevent escape but still allow for grass-eating. (Stay tuned for an update on our rabbits!)

The farmers’ market opened on June 9th, and I was so happy to be back! We had a fabulous opening day, with way more sales than we anticipated and lots of folks from last year stopping by to say hello. The feelings of community and camaraderie that come out at the farmers’ market are so uplifting.

Here’s my market partner – her name is Juno. She’s a 12-week-old Border Collie, and absolutely fabulous!

We’ve also had a few births around this little farm over the past month -


Dinosaur finally birthed her kid, a beautiful little buckling whose name is Boots.


Platypus the duck went broody and sat on a rather large nest of eggs. Eight of them hatched last week, much to the delight of my children.

Yes, Summer is a busy time on this farm: chicks, bunnies, goat kids, ducklings, puppies, gardens, children…….. I feel as though I’m busy and working my butt off nearly every moment of the day. It’s good work, though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Escape!

Oh, goats. They are such lovely creatures! Daisy is currently giving us more milk than we know what to do with, and she is quite the sweetie.

However, everyone knows that goats are escape artists. Ours are no exception! I’m getting rather tired of goats in my garden (twice now I’ve had to replant beans and tomatoes!) and I sure don’t feel great about them getting into the neighbouring GMO soy field.

Today we set up a portable electric fencing system so that we could move the goats around various parts of the yard. The idea was that they’d munch down the grass & weeds, and then we’d move them on to the next spot. It was a lovely idea and perfect in theory, until we attempted to put it into practice.

On this wonderful first day of Summer, in blistering heat and searing sun, Jae and I pounded a copper grounding rod 6 feet into the ground – no small feat! We set up all the fence posts, strung the wire, turned on the fully-charged solar fence energizer, and placed the goats inside their new pen.

In less than one minute, they were out. They received a big zap – we saw the sparks – paused for half a moment, and then they barreled right on through as though the wire was not even there.

Goats:1, Solar fence:0

I hollered after the goats and declared that I was sick enough of them in my garden that I’d be happy to get rid of them altogether. Lynden started crying, “Please don’t get rid of my goats, I love those guys, please let me keep them!” and Raina joined in with a high-pitched wail.

So now Jae is returning the expensive solar electric fencing system to the TSC and reinforcing the fence around the goat yard, where those stubborn beasts are supposed to be contained. And the lush, overgrown lawn? Well, I think we’ll finally give in & purchase a lawnmower, and feed the goats the clippings.

Pastured Rabbits

We moved to this farm two years ago with the intention of becoming as self-sufficient as possible. To us, the most obvious place to start was with food. We’ve been building our gardens year by year and preserving food as the gardens produce it, but it became apparent pretty quickly that we could never produce enough for our family with plants alone.  It also became apparent that for our farm to be sustainable, animals would need to be eliminated from time to time or we’d be overrun.

Our decades of vegetarianism came to an end when we began processing our chickens (which you can read about here and here), and now with another farm season stretching out ahead of us, we are looking for more ways to produce our own food. We’d like to sustain ourselves through the winter with as much farm food as possible.

Our front yard is covered in lush, green grass that is not really used for much at the moment. When I started thinking about how to turn that space into food, rabbits came to mind. The children had pet rabbits in the past, but I never felt very good about keeping them in a hutch with wire beneath their feet. I want my animals to live as naturally and comfortably and happily as possible, as close to what Nature intended as I can provide. It occurred to me that something similar to our chicken tractors might work well for rabbits – a rabbit tractor!

There were a few things that had to be addressed: could I bring myself to eat a rabbit, and is it possible to kill a rabbit without any undue stress or trauma to the animal? As it turns out, harvesting a rabbit is remarkably quick, easy and painless (you can watch the process in this YouTube video if you so desire). And when my father-in-law gave us a rabbit he had in the freezer, I did indeed bring myself to eat it – and I enjoyed it immensely!

I thought I was pretty original with this rabbit tractor idea, but low and behold, one of the farmers who has inspired me greatly raises pastured rabbits in a tractor system. Joel Salatin and his son have been doing it for years (check it out here), and a quick YouTube search revealed that plenty of other people are doing it too! Awesome!

Jae built the rabbit tractor very quickly with wood and chicken wire that we already had around the farm. I looked around for some inexpensive rabbits – which are in abundance, who knew? – and within a day we had ourselves some pastured rabbits.

We bought ten rabbits from two different farms, for a diversity of genes. Nine of them are 8 weeks old, and the tenth is a seasoned mama who we will breed later in the summer.

The tractor is 8′x4′ with an enclosed nesting box on one end to provide shelter from the elements and a snug place to sleep. The entire tractor is bottomless to allow the rabbits access to fresh grass all day. These bunnies aren’t hopping around in a small, wire enclosure!

Each morning, I move the tractor to a fresh patch of grass. The rabbits spend their days browsing on the greens growing under them – crab grass, plantain, dandelions, clover and much more – and our lawn is “mowed” in the process (you may recall that we don’t mow the grass around here!). By the end of the day, there is a neat rectangle of short lawn and the tractor is ready to be moved on to the next spot.

I love this system because the rabbits are hopping about on soft ground instead of wire, eating plants instead of pellets, and generally acting as rabbits were meant to act. After observing them quietly for several days, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are pretty darned happy in their tractor. They haven’t dug at the edges in attempts to escape, as some folks have suggested they might. The rabbits have shown no signs of stress whatsoever, and I’m pretty pleased with that.

I’m pretty impressed with the even cropping the rabbits give the grass. It’s not patchy as I had expected it might be – instead, it looks like a lawn mower went over it.

On the left of the photo above, you can see grass that has not yet had the tractor on it. On the right, grass that had the tractor on it yesterday (yes, there are dirt patches. Those are not from the rabbits, they were there prior to the tractor).

I’m pretty excited about this new venture in food production and sustainability. I can’t wait to see how it all pans out. I’m sure we’ll revise and tweak our system over the course of the summer as we see what works and what doesn’t, but for now everything is looking good!

Morning Rituals

For most of my life, I was not a morning person. It was really, really hard for me to get my butt out of bed. But living on a farm means getting up each morning and getting right to it – there’s no time for easing slowly into the day! There are things that must to be done before breakfast is made, animals waiting to be fed, goats waiting to be milked, eggs needing to be collected. These days, I love mornings and the routines we start our days with. Take a peek at a morning on the farm!

Some Days

If I am to be honest, there are days when I am overwhelmed by the tasks that lay ahead of me. There are days when mopping the floors or washing the dishes or folding laundry seems so insanely futile, when I feel like it’s pointless to pick up the toys scattered about the living room, when I wonder why I ever bother making the bed. I know that when I wake up tomorrow, there will be absolutely no evidence that I did any of these things today. There will be more toys on the floor. There will be muddy footprints leading from the back door to the bathroom. There will be a heaping hamper of dirty laundry waiting to be washed, and the sink will be full of dishes. Tomorrow I will spend my day going through the motions – again – cleaning the same messes that were cleaned today & wondering how I will fit the gardening and the meal-making and the child-loving in around the endless housework.

Most days, it’s ok. It’s life. It’s just the way things are. But some days, some days it’s enough to make this mama feel a little more than crazy. Some days it’s enough to make me want to stay in bed all day with the blankets pulled up over my head. But I know all too well that avoiding the dishes only makes it harder to face the task, when every last dish has disappeared from the cupboard and made its way, filthy, to the sink. Avoiding the laundry means I’m stuck with a pile that I can never get to the bottom of. And I can’t relax in bed, anyway, when there’s laundry on my bedroom floor and the bed sheets are crinkled & begging to be washed.

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When these days of overwhelm hit me, I force myself to find little things to appreciate. It doesn’t always work, but dang, I do so enjoy hanging laundry on the line when the sun is shining and a soft breeze is blowing. And I do so love the satisfaction I feel when I gaze upon a basket of freshly-folded towels, crisp and smelling of the sun, just taken off the line.

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Some days little moments of beauty are in greater abundance than one could ever expect.