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Posted 9/3/2016 1:24pm by Samantha Klinck.

An interview with Maggie, Keeper of Quail  

Hi, Maggie! How old are you?
M:
10 years old.  

What do you like about quail?
M: Eggs! They are small, and cute! My mom used to bring quail eggs home from the market, and I loved making little fried eggs on toast.  

What made you decide to raise quail yourself?  
M: The more I thought about the quail eggs, the more I wanted some. Then I asked my mom why didn’t we raise quail on the farm because I thought they would be cute to have and I could help.  

What did you do to prepare before you got quail?
M: I did lots of research on baby quail and adults, and what kind of food they eat.  I found out how old they had to be to lay eggs, and I looked pictures of the different types of quail. My mom and my brother and I built some moving quail pens so we would be ready when we found some birds to buy.  

Tell me about getting your first flock of quail.
M: When I found out that I could get quail, it felt like my heart was jumping up and down and I was really excited! I started to talk about them a lot more. I may have talked about it so much it was bugging my mom and dad.

One day, my mom asked me if I wanted to go and get some quail and I jumped up and down and said yes! After chores that afternoon, we drove a long way to get 54 baby quail chicks.   The person we bought them from helped me load them up into carriers to take them home. I asked him lots of questions, and he was very helpful and nice.  

On the drive home, I thought their poop really stank, but they made the cutest little cricket noises! Their poop smells better now, because their food is better and they are outside on grass. We got home and it was almost midnight. My mom and I put them in their new houses, and we let the dogs know that the quail were there and that they were part of the farm. 

The next day, we went out really early to check on the quail. I remember seeing a really pretty sight. There was a heron perched up really high on a tree with it’s wings flapping, and the sunrise was behind it. It was really beautiful and I will remember it for the rest of my life. If I didn’t have quail, I never would have seen that.       

Has there been anything you have found hard about raising quail?
M: You have to feed them carefully so they get enough protein, and it’s hard because we use organic food only, and we don’t soybeans. I use the chicken food our hens get with ground up sunflower seeds or crushed up boiled eggs.  

It’s hard to move the quail houses, I’m afraid I might hurt one if I’m not careful. I try to move the house every other day so they have fresh grass.

It’s hard to wake up early and do the quail feeding, and it’s hard when it’s raining. When it’s raining you have to make sure that they have dry spots to stay and their food doesn’t get wet.   Sometimes the cows get into the quail food I have stored in buckets, so I’ve found a place that is safe from the cows. When I’m feeding the quails, I have to use a stick to keep the cows away. The cows want to eat the grain!  

What will you do with the male quail that don’t lay?
M: Well, first I would have to make sure that there are the right number of girl quails for the males. If there are too many males, they can fight. I’m going to keep the prettiest, friendliest, biggest males for breeding. The others I will cull.  It’s going to be hard on butcher day.  

What do you think winter will be like with your quail?
M: I think it might be hard for the quail if they don’t have nice warm feathers, and I’ll have to get up early before school to check on them. Sometimes the weather will be bad to go outside, but what I need to remember is that it’s my responsibility to take care of them and I will always love them.  

If you plan on selling the eggs, what will you do with your profits?
M:
I would put some of the money back into the quail, and the rest I will use for things I’d like to save up for. I’d like to buy better cartons to sell the eggs, and a better house with rotating paddocks, and an incubator.  

What would you tell other kids that might be interested in raising quail?
M: It’s hard work, but it’s worth it in the end when you see your quail lay their first egg. Mine haven’t laid yet, but I’m going to be really happy when I see that. It will be very soon now.  

Anything else you would like to tell me about raising quail?
M: Having quail makes me feel more connected with the farm, because I’m outside more with the other animals helping. I understand better now why my parents are farming. Food is more precious. Once you realize that, you don’t forget it.

            

Posted 7/11/2016 7:02am by Samantha Klinck.

An amazing day was had at Lifestock: A Call to Farms yesterday.

A few of the Funny Duck Farmers got to spend time with some of their favourite neighbouring farmers from Fly Creek Farm, Hollanbec Farm, as well as farmer friends from farther away places like Severn Sunset Eco Farm. I even met a farmer there from Hurleybirds Eco Farm and discovered we had gone to high school together many years before!

One of the many highlights of the day (and there were many) was sitting and chatting at length with Montana Jones and Joel Salatin. Under the shade of some lilac bushes we sat in a small group for about 20 minutes talking until a crowd had gathered around us.

Thank you Joel for allowing me to put you on the spot numerous times yesterday so you could teach us and share with us your experiences and knowledge. You were so generous of your time, and so willing to share. I know there are farms on the brink of giving up, and I hope that your message helped them see that it is as you say, truly darkest before the dawn. I hope that anyone there yesterday, farmer or eater alike, gathered round under the lilac, or later when you spoke from the stage takes to heart the important messages you shared, and that in turn we all live out those messages and go on to share them with others. 

Thank you Montana for opening up your home and farm to us, and for sharing all you have been through, and you've been through a lot. The festival and all those you gathered to come created a magical, inspirational, fun-filled day. In spite of all you've been through you still have such an air of peace and happiness about you.

After sitting for about an hour chatting with these two inspirational farmers, Michael Schmidt arrived. Our good farmer friend Brandy from Fly Creek Farm introduced us all, and later in the day sat in the shade of a screen tent we talked of legal woes, cow horns, line breeding and all sorts of things. Thank you Michael for giving freely of your time, sharing your knowledge and experience, as well as for asking about my families past run-ins with the government and policing authorities, and our many years in the court system when we too were trying to change things for the better. It is always so encouraging to talk to others who have literally gone through trials in order to make the world a better place. Your peaceful nature and knowledge are inspiring. 

There were so many important messages shared that day, and one that really spoke to me was something Joel shared from the bible on what Romans 13 says about the government, "For civil authorities are not a terror to people of good conduct, but to those of bad behaviour. Would you have no dread of him who is in authority? Then do what is right and you will receive his approval and commendation."

So, the government is to be a terror to evil and an encourager of righteousness. 

Is that what our government is? A terror to evil? I'm not so sure. Our government here in Canada does do many good things, but in some areas there is a long way to go. Why are farmers persecuted for growing healthy food, for trying to feed families the best from the land? Why are the best and most healthy foods restricted? We have a long way to go, and this is not just a battle of farmers against the government. There are far more eaters out there than farmers. Much of the change has to come from the eater.

There were so many highlights to this amazing day, but for me one of the most personally meaningful was when I was speaking privately with Joel at the end of the day, and he told me that what I was doing, and what I did in getting him to talk to us was very important and good work, that I was a catalyst.

So my question to the eaters and farmers out there is this: What are you? Are you a catalyst for change, or are you going to sit back and let things stay as they are? It only takes a moment to write a letter, make a phone call, or email a politician to ask what they are doing for your food freedom and food sovereignty. It only takes a moment to choose a small local farm over a faceless grocery store chain.

It only takes a moment to be the change. 

LifeStock

Posted 7/11/2016 6:11am by Jen Hart.

Summer is here, we've finally had some rain, and I'm happy to report that our hives are busy as ever.  This year is already looking like a great year for bees, which means more honey for the CSA!

Last year we harvested over 100lbs of honey and comb, and several pounds of wax from our 2 hives.  Although we were very happy with this, we know it was low compared to other beekeepers yields, so this year we aim to at least double that.

My mentor, Buzz, got over 200lbs from one hive last year!  I won't make any promises, but it is looking positive.  We were pleased to see that both our hives came through another winter and seemed strong and active.  Unfortunately, our Queens are on the old side, and swarming was starting early this year so we had to get moving to make sure we didn't lose the colonies. 

When bees feel overcrowded, or a Queen is weakening, they can decide to swarm.  This is a decision made by the entire colony, and it happens in a flash.  One moment the bees are happily buzzing in and out, and the next there's a cloud of thousands exiting the hive at once to find a new home - often 60% of the hive population leaves during a swarm. 

This is the hives natural way of increasing the colonies, but it can mean disaster for beekeepers - it's a long-winded and expensive process to replace them once they're gone.

All the local beekeepers were rushing to set up swarm traps this spring - you hang something from a tree that would make a desirable home and hope that your bees find it and take up residence, making it easier to get them back into a box.  Usually, a swarm means bye-bye bees, so it pays to try and prevent it.

A month or so ago on a bright, sunny and very hot Saturday morning, I split the existing hives and we now have 2 more colonies at our second farm location.  I create this 'split' in the morning and leave it - a split is box with a series of frames containing honey, pollen and brood (baby bee cells) which draw bees from the main colony into the new box.  We use a metal rack called a Queen excluder to prevent the colonies Queen from heading up there as well. 

Returning later that day with un-hatched Queen cells from a local breeder, I open the lid to find the top box full of bees - workers and nursery bees only. They've followed the scent of the brood and are tending to it as usual.  These bees and the larvae in the brood cells make up the new hives for Funny Duck Farms - The Sequel.  We plug up the entrances and make sure the lid is on very tight, and carefully load both new hives into the van, making sure we don't disturb the Queen cells. Also, we don't want anyone escaping... It's bad enough driving around with a lit smoker in your van where only 2 windows are functional, but to be attacked by angry bees at the same time would be too much! I knew this only too well...

Once they're loaded, along with all the necessary equipment, we head off to the other farm and set them up near the pastures and hayfields. I had friends visiting that day to help and learn about bees - they were so great, very calm and so the bees gave them no trouble at all! It's always exciting to show people how gentle and calm happy bees can be.   

Once arriving at the new apiary site the hives are unloaded, and with a bare hand, calm and steady, I pull the Queen cells from their carrying case. They are about the size of a hazelnut, they must be kept warm and upright, and they have a teeny tiny plastic handle on the top to enable you to place them into the hive.  They must be placed in the middle of the hive, the plastic top gently pressed into the honeycomb and the adjacent frame slid back into place to catch the other half of the tiny lid, giving the cell stability and enabling the bees to get to it, to feed it and tend to their new Queen as she emerges. As I said, this must be done bare-handed - no gloves to protect me as they are too bulky for such delicate work. But if you remain calm the bees tend to remain calm and you can get away with putting your hand inside the hive.

I added a second brood box to both of these hives recently, as the new Queens have made their one and only flight (their Wedding Flight) to mate, and have been busy laying while the workers feast on the mustard, milkweed and other wildflowers they find in our hay and grain fields. I cannot say whether we'll get honey from them this year, but it is looking promising!  All being well, these little ladies could lay for us all day, every day for up to 4 years!

All-in-all it was a very successful effort, with minimal fuss and no stress.  Oh, how I wish this was always the way...

The weeks prior to this I went to assist my bee mentor, Buzz.  Some of you may have tried his honey - it is spectacular!  He had 6 hives in a local apple orchard to help with the pollination of their little trees - they are just starting out and all the trees are essentially saplings. On my first visit the trees were all loaded with blossoms - I helped him with some maintenance and re-queening of some of the hives, and it was no trouble at all.  We made and moved some splits.  The bees were very happy, there was lots to eat and we completed our work without incident. 

About a week later we returned to move the bees back to their original homes in a bee yard nearby.  The little trees had all been pollinated - we knew this because the flowers had fallen off the trees - and the owner wanted to spray so the bees had to be moved that night!  Thankfully, this apple grower gave Buzz the heads up to get his bees out to a safe place - many people are not aware that some producers who hire hives to pollinate their crops simply go ahead and spray while the bees are still there, killing many millions at a time.

So, after a regular day starting just after sunrise, and a CSA drop off, I headed to Buzz's place with my bee suit and gloves, ready to help move hives.  This was my third time moving hives, but my first at night.  We waited until 9pm when the colonies are back to the hive for the night and quite calm.  It was going to be a doddle, no problemo. 

We pull up beside the hive in the dark, smoke it, seal it up as best we can and lift it on to the flatbed of the pickup. Each hive weighs upwards of 200lbs, and we were having to dead lift them from a pallet on the ground to a bed higher than our waists.  As you grab the hive from the base, you can feel the bees crunching under your hands. Your face (within your veil) is pressed hard against the side of the hive and you can hear the enraged bees inside.

You cannot flinch. You cannot hesitate. You CANNOT drop it.

Then you feel the first sting. It's like a tiny electric shock and although the pain doesn't last too long (15-30 minutes), it's a surprise and you can't help but call out.  Then you feel another sting.  And another. Once they start they won't stop. With each successive hive it got worse and worse - they can smell the venom on you and you're now considered a real danger.  We were being attacked mercilessly but we had to get on with it or the hives would be sprayed.

We could only take 3 colonies at a time to the new apiary. Buzz's usual vehicle was in the shop, so this was a rental pickup truck.  He wasn't allowed to tow a trailer on the rental insurance - the trailer was ideal as it's much lower and bigger than the flatbed, and the bees are way behind the vehicle as you load, unload and travel - so we make 2 trips with the bees practically beside us. 

All the way there and back we were surrounded by bees in the cab, under us on the seats, on our backs, stinging us even as they were being crushed. The bee suits are usually protective, but if they really want to sting you, they will.  And even if they don't get through the suit, they leave venom behind which triggers the other bees to attack, and if there's a way for your suit to be compromised, they will find it. 

We had to keep our veils on at all times, even while driving, and the heat was oppressive.  Sweat poured down our faces, blinding us as we lifted the hives off the truck bed and back onto the pallets where they would stay until next year.  Bees poured out of the hive entrances where, in our rush to get them onto the truck, we'd knocked the paper towel we'd used to block the entrance.  Tens of thousands of bees were everywhere.  We swept as many as we could off the truck and back to the safety of their hive, but so many were lost.

Now we had to go back to the orchard and do it all again.  It's now nearly 10:30pm and I'm exhausted, but I can't give up.  The bees need us and so off we go, back to the orchard in the dark. By now I've been stung over 20 times, through my suit and my gloves.  I've put on a second suit over my own but they're still finding a way through and the heat is stifling.  It hurts so much but I remain strangely calm.  There's a part of your brain that kicks in at times like these, stopping the panic from rising in your throat and taking over your whole body. 

Many years ago I think I would have run, screaming, from the hives, refusing to go on.  But, apart from the first surprised yelp, I'm pleased to say I didn't lose it once. I don't think I've ever been so stoic or felt such overpowering calm.  I'm being attacked and brutalised by insects and all I can think is, "It's ok bees.  I love you and I'm going to help you, even though you don't understand.  Let's just get this done."  By the end of the evening I actually felt closer to these incredible superorganisms than I ever had before.

We finished loading the hives, returned to the bee yard and put the hives in place.  THEN we ran.  We had to get a long way away from the colonies as we were being bombarded and they weren't letting up. They followed us around the trees, down the hill and we were nearly to the highway before they stopped and went back. We must have stank of venom.

I've never seen Buzz swat at a honey bee before but tonight was exceptional.  We brushed and batted off hundreds of bees and when things had calmed we ran for the truck.  All the way home we sat helplessly as the last remaining bees tried to sting us. I almost felt as though I should let them, as they were now forever lost to their hives and their Queens. Best to end it quickly.

It's nearly midnight when we arrive at his home, and in the middle of his street in Portland we tear off our suits and try to get the last of the bees off of us. I can't imagine what his neighbours must have thought to see a pair of crazed beekeepers stripping down in the road, swatting at the air and dancing about like fools. 

I managed to get cleaned off enough to hop in my van, and I made my way home, never more ready for my bed.  My whole body throbbed with the stings, I'd lost count of how many I had.  But as I drove I smiled - I'll never, ever, forget that night. I was proud of myself - I'd got through it, and I couldn't wait to go visit my own bees the next day, it hadn't put me off one bit, in fact quite the opposite.  

Now I've seen these creatures at their worst, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  And I know that when I'm no longer able to do much else, I'll find a way to look after those bees. Besides, what's a few stings between friends?  

Honey Bee

Posted 6/27/2016 6:33am by Samantha Klinck.

My sister, Farmer Jen, gives me the most lovely things for my birthday. Twice now she has given me the gift of a fabulous story involving bulls, and better yet as the bull likes to escape on my birthday she gifted me with handling this all on her own! ;-)

This first fun event happened on June 25th, 2014. Here is the full account as told by Farmer Jen:

Today I twice had to retrieve my bull, Apollo, from the main road - the first time with the help of an unidentified man in a black pickup. I spotted Apollo on the wrong side of the fence through the window, and bolted out of the house as quickly as I could. A bull loose in the community is NEVER a good thing. The kind stranger happened to be driving along and saw the commotion. He stopped, put on his hazards, and corralled him using his truck while I opened gates and coaxed the beast back home (thank you, whoever you are), all the while my breakfast sat forgotten and congealing on the hob. The Funny Duck crew arrived shortly thereafter to assist me in getting Apollo out of the uncut hayfield where he had decided to make camp. DtBM (aka The Cow Whisperer) arrived quite unexpectedly (and fortuitously) and made the final move. Talking to Apollo calmly, walking beside him, coffee in hand, he lead the young bull back into his pasture without a hitch. Fences were then mended and we thought all was fine until... 

The second time Apollo escaped it was just me and our intern, Amanda. She was stellar in not only attracting all manner of biting insects away from me, but also getting the giant, stupid bollock-bearer back onto the property before he did any damage. Again, we walked him along the road, but this time no truck. I had to run to try and keep him from going past the driveway (anyone here tried to keep up to a stampeding bull??) but luckily he turned into the drive and headed straight for his ladies (PHEW!!!). We put him in with the heifers and would sort them out tomorrow. Fences were checked again, adjusted and we felt confident that was it for today, panic over. 

All was well, until I went to close the barn this evening. I hear a familiar bellowing from the crest of the hill. Mother Hubbard!!! I trekked up in the pitch black, being attacked by all manner of flying, biting things (Amanda where are you when I need you?!?). Armed only with my giant Maglite and my trusty dog by my side, I found the courage to face the bovine posse, all of whom were on high alert as we were surrounded by coyotes. I rallied them and got them all home, doing my usual call as I stalked ahead at pace. "Come on cows!". Cocoa was in the lead, and the rest of the herd, as always, followed her. Thankfully, this included Apollo, now forevermore to be known as PITA (Pain In The Ass). 

I then filled up their empty drinkers cos I forgot earlier in all the madness of the day, which likely spawned the wandering craziness. They were thirsty. Bad farmer.

Urgh. Wine. Now.

So now fast forward to June 25th, 2016. Similar events, but a much more seasoned Farmer Jen:

This morning I am thankful my fences are better and my knowledge of bovine behaviour has improved dramatically. As I write this I still have 2 bulls out of their pasture, but they've been stymied by a series of electric fences at every turn - there's only so many they're willing to push through I guess. The cows are hiding at the top of the pasture road, out of sight, trying to stay cool (it's 8:30am and already 20C). I have not taken them water so as not to stir up any activity. This will keep the bulls calm until help arrives. Buckets of grain are ready and I have a plan that does not involve running around like the proverbial chicken. I got all that out of the way last night, in the dark.

What excitement, and to think she left out the most exciting parts of this that happened in the dark whilst being bitten by insects! But for me, the best part is by the time we were able to get over to help her, she had taken care of it all herself! Amazing the difference a few years makes. Well done, Farmer Jen who I'm certain will yet again be receiving the Midnight Farmer of the Year Award!

Jen & Apollo

 

 

Posted 2/27/2016 11:11am by Mrs. Funny Duck.

I recently came across this neat video of something called ‘Kulning’ which is this olden day type of Nordic cattle call. When you hear it, it gives you goose bumps, shivers down your spine, and brings a smile to your face.  It is a beautiful, haunting sound. 

The idea behind Kulning was it was a way to communicate over far distances and call your livestock in. The high pitch of it carries better. In the short video I made today, I mention this awesome clip I saw of a woman Kulning out in the woods. Here it is, and I highly recommend you watch it. It’s really, really neat.   

Now, I sing my cows to the barn in the summer when they are out grazing and it’s milking time, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near as cool as someone who knows how to do this Kulning stuff.   When I sing my cows in, it’s more likely to elicit guffaws of laughter rather than tingles down your spine. 

I’ve always called them in a high pitch for a few reasons. I can’t whistle worth a darn, I can call louder in a high pitch than in a regular pitch, I always felt like a high pitch carried better through the trees and over the pastures, and I talk and sing to all our critters in a higher voice, so then they know when I’m talking to them.  My regular voice is for people, and when I use a high pitch voice all the livestock look up and pay attention to me. Incidentally, the high pitch works quite well on kids too.

So, this morning before milking, I went out to the far gate of the winter pasture and called the cows. I wasn’t sure if it would work. In the winter, the cow shelter is near the milking barn, so other than trips to the water dish, hay rack, and barn, they don’t really walk around much. As well, like most livestock, cows are creatures of habit. At milking time, they are waiting at the gate before I even arrive.   

They were waiting at the barn gate this morning, and I began to call them over to where I was. They both turned and looked and me, and pushed harder at the gate trying to get in the barn thinking I was calling them to hurry up and get inside. I called again but this time, they not only looked up, one of them bellowed at me. Probably wondering what on earth I was doing over there.  

A few more calls and I remember how to sing them in properly (it's been about 5 months or more since I've had to call them anywhere), and Suzie our lead and boss cow started to walk out to find me. This is why she is our lead cow. This girl is smart, and always ready to do what we ask.

Lucy, still back at the barn was curious, but somewhat confused. Not all cows are quick to learn new things, and here I was asking them to do something I had never asked before. Lucy is a most sweet and generous cow, but about as fast as a bag of hammers tied to a rock when it comes to learning new things.   

By the time Suzie was most of the way over, I stopped calling and ended the video so I could go and give her a treat for being so accommodating. After all, she was trekking out over the snow for no reason other than I had called her there, and now I was feeling bad for having had her make the trip.  

A few minutes later in the barn after I had milked her, I played back the video to watch it. I should have waited until I got to the house, because when the clip got to the part where I was calling, Suzie turned around in the milking stall and walked right over to where I was stood watching the video! Such a good girl.

So, here is our video me singing the cows in. Enjoy, and don’t laugh too hard!  

Posted 2/7/2016 7:02am by Samantha Klinck.

So I went shopping with some of my kids the other day. Well, I wasn’t shopping, but I took them to shop. Our two eldest kids had some Christmas and Birthday money from their grandparents burning a hole in their pocket, and they wanted to go to the big city to spend it.

Usually, they would ask to go to Goodwill in Brockville, but it’s recently been closed, so they got it in their heads that Bayshore Shopping Centre would be the place to go. I’ve only been to Bayshore a handful of times in the last two decades, and most of my memories of that mall are when it had only two floors for your shopping pleasure. It’s radically different, and yet so similar to when I went there as a kid.  

Now, you have to understand, I don’t spend time in the city. I do take care of our CSA drop off frequently, which is in Ottawa, but I drive in drop off the totes, and head home. The closest I come to shopping is when I gas up the vehicle or stop in at a Canadian Tire. Where in Kanata incidentally, people will hand you their Canadian Tire money if you are dressed in your farming clothes.  

I took an hour to myself whilst my two girls and one of their friends wandered the mall at the end of the day to sit in a lounge. It was a big spacious, quiet room with sofa’s and comfortable chairs and a few places for kids to play up on the third floor.  

I wrote our weekly farm update as I was sat there, and then got to thinking about the similarities that are in the differences between farm life and country life.  

There are things I saw the kids do today when they got to the mall that I see city kids do all the time when they arrive at our farm. We all think the two places, country and city are so different, but there are so many similarities in the differences.  

As our farm kids get closer to the city, they ask about the smell, they say it smells like school bus. It’s car exhaust, I say, smells like school bus to you because when all your buses park at school, the smell of the exhaust builds up. I tell them it’s like that in the city because there are so many cars out and about at the same time.  

When people arrive to the farm and I ask how the drive was, the parents and kids often say there was no traffic at all! Before you know it, they are wandering about the farm and experiencing all sorts of smells. Compost piles, manure piles, sour milk in slop pails. Both farm and city have their fair share of smells.  

When my country mouse kids enter the mall, their eyes open wide! The place is so big compared to anything near our farm, there is so much selection, variety, a million things to capture their attention. For the first few minutes, it’s like letting loose kids in a candy store. They want to see, touch and buy everything. Stay together, I admonish them, this is the city, we have to be careful! They calm down a bit but I can still see they are awestruck by much of what they see.

When city mouse kids arrive on the farm, it’s often the same. Their eyes open wide when they see the fluffy farm dogs lope up to see them, brown chickens pecking about, and it’s not unusual for dairy cows to be in the front yard.  There is a barn stacked with hay bales just screaming to be climbed, and a pond perfect for throwing pebbles into. Most kids immediately want to run from place to place, shouting and grabbing at everything and anything they can.  

I remember once when friends of our from the city came to visit, it was a family of 5 that lived in a small one bedroom apartment high off the ground, and due to many reasons, they were not able to get out any where very often. When faced with the wide spaces, their kids lost their minds for a few moments, a similar but different kid in a candy store moment that my kids experienced.  

Within moments, most parents are giving their kids comparable warnings to what I gave mine upon entering the mall: Stay close, you are on a farm, you have to be careful!  

I found it fascinating and surprising that in the middle of a big city, in a big mall, I was able to find this huge, empty quiet space. Many people that come to the farm are often shocked when they realize how loud it can be here, when they are expecting peace and quite. The ducks can quack up a storm so loud you can’t hear yourself think, when the cows get it in mind that they need to bellow, it’s quite a racket, and at night the crickets, peepers, coyotes and barking dogs make quite a cacophony.  

So often people tell us they could never do what we do, and when I spend time in the city, I feel that I couldn’t manage there. City and farm are different, and we all have our places in this world where we belong. Yet the similarities are there, if you look for them.    

Posted 12/26/2015 12:43pm by Samantha Klinck.

Many envision farming as an idyllic lifestyle. Days are spent working the land, in harmony with the seasons which results in calm and peaceful days; unlike those who have to work in the hustle and bustle of the city, with highly stressful and demanding jobs.

Well, I won’t lie, farming can be idyllic, but some days are packed with adventure, danger, and a large helping of ridiculous.  

One of our more action packed days in 2015 involved moving a bull. We have a small herd of Dexter and Jersey cows. These breeds are great to work with, as they are smaller than most cows, and generally docile. They have so many great traits, I could easily write a blog post on that. But, this post is about moving a Dexter bull.  

This particular Dexter bull was about 18months old, and a real looker. His sire, Apollo is even more impressive. Both these fellows are well muscled, with solid feet, lovely gentle temperament, and despite the title of this blog post, polled. An animal that is polled is born without horns.

A small beef herd like ours needs only one bull, so Apollo’s little brother was going to be taking his final journey.   We’ve taken many cows to the butcher before, and assuming the cow is well tempered, it’s rather easy. The biggest problem we run into is we don’t have a squeeze for loading at the other farm. A squeeze is an area you herd the cows into for sorting, and the ones that are staying go out one gate, and the ones that are being moved off farm are sent out another gate that leads to the waiting trailer.  

On account of our lack of a squeeze or proper loading area, I suggested that Mr. Funny Duck head over to the other farm the day before the move to make a plan with our farm hand over there. The two men had a plan, so I was happy to go along with it.  

Some of our farmer friends loaned us their livestock trailer for the move. We do have a trailer, but it’s more suited to moving shorter animals like pigs, so we thought the larger livestock trailer with the high sides and bars for a roof would be a good idea for the bull.

Mr. Funny Duck headed over to their farm in the morning to pick up the trailer. I forgot to suggest he stop for gas before getting the trailer, and he didn’t think of it himself because the gas gauge didn’t look like it was that low.  

A few hours later, we arrive at the farm where the bull is, and we’ve got four people on hand to load him. The idea the guys came up with was to create a squeeze with large cattle gates. It seemed logical, but the gates are heavy and not easy to move quickly, and because the weather has been so warm, the area we were working in was rather muddy. Some places you could loose your boot if you weren’t careful.  

Strategically placing some small square bales out, the two of us who handle cows the most begin pressuring them gently using our body language only to move them where we wanted, and the other two people were to hold the gates in place. We initially get lots of cows in the squeeze, but not the one we want.

The young bull knows something is up, he doesn’t want to co-operate, and shows us this by jumping with ease over round bales to move out of our way.  Most cows would treat the round bale like a wall it couldn't pass, but this fellow was a jumper. We do get him into the makeshift squeeze once, but we aren’t able to close up the gates in time.

The bull is still very calm, and although Mr. Funny Duck is getting mildly annoyed, I’m not worried. We had until 5pm to get the bull to his final destination, so I knew we had lots of time to get the job done.  

Two of us keep trying to move the cows where we want them, which is easier said than done in the thick mud with a herd of cows, and though the two bulls are polled, many of the cows have pointy horns.

An hour or more later after about 5 attempts, we finally succeed in getting the bull we are trying to move into the squeeze, along with two other cows we are not trying to move. We manage to get the two extra cows out, and now it’s time to move the bull into the trailer.   But the bull decides he doesn’t want to be where he is anymore, so with the smallest bit of effort, he rears up to hop over the gate that is being held up by two people. With a bull between them, one person can’t see the other, so both are propping up the gate with all their might, worried that if it falls, it will harm the other.

The bull, his two front legs now over the gate being held in place, finally lurches the rest of his body over. Immediately, both people that were holding the gate begin swearing and cradling their injured arms. Nothing broken thank goodness, but certainly some sore muscles to show for it.  

At this point the two of us who handle the dairy cows each day decide that not only is this method of loading not working, it’s also officially dangerous. We have a new plan, which is really just the old plan.

The way we normally load our beef cows on to the trailer is we move them into the next field away from the other cows, from there into a barn stall, then through the barn onto the trailer. Unless we’ve moving Jersey cows of course, then we just put a halter on them and lead them wherever we want.  

Before we can implement the old plan, we have to dump out the water tanks which have for some reason been placed directly in front of the gate we need to move the bull through. There is one large drinker on each side of the gate, and we tip them over, adding even more moisture to the already muddy ground.  

We move the trailer around to the front of the barn, and because this trailer has a ramp not a door, we also build some quick walls. That way the bull can’t decide to escape when he is so close to being loaded onto the trailer.  

We stop to finalize our plans, deciding who will be stationed where, and what each of our jobs are.  Once we are ready, it takes us less than ten minutes to move the bull to the other field, into the barn, and onto the trailer. No injuries, no stress, and the young bull seems happy to follow where we lead him.  

Then, as we are driving away, we remember that I forgot the ear tags. Most livestock require an ear tag, even if you are just transporting from one farm to another. The other farm with the ear tags is only 6km down the road, so we head there first. No sooner have we turned onto the road, and I remember that I have my ear tags, but my ear tagger has been loaned out. To the very friend that loaned us the trailer that morning.

Much swearing by Mr. Funny Duck follows this realization of mine. No problem I say. We stop by our place to pick up the tags, then to our friends to get the tagger, then to the butcher. No, my very annoyed husband says, after you get the tags we need to get gas, then we can get the tagger. Right, forgot we were low on gas.  

We arrive at the other farm, I jump out and I look back towards the trailer before I enter the house in time to see the bull TRY TO JUMP OUT OF THE TRAILER!!! Words can’t begin to cover the thoughts and feelings I had when I see this happen. We manage to get him back in.  

With all the events that have already happened, I’m embarrassed to say it didn’t occur to me right then and there to better secure him. I run double time to get the tags, I peek in at the bull before we leave and he’s happily munching on a bale of hay, oblivious to the fact that he’s nearly given both of us a heart attack, then we’re off to the gas station.  

Twice on the 8km trip to the gas station, we have to stop to get the bull back in the trailer and standing on all fours.  When he tried to jump out in our driveway, you could just see his head above the trailer top, but on the road, he managed to get a hoof up.

This is a high-sided livestock trailer, with bars running over top, so it seems crazy that this bull would even try to get out. But he was trying. Our worst fear was he would tip the trailer and get injured.  

The kicker was that this bull was so calm the whole time. He wasn’t shaking, his eyes and body were relaxed, and when he wasn’t trying to jump out, he was eating. I’ve never seen a scared cow eat, so he wasn’t scared, just not used to being in a moving trailer.   After getting gas and having the gas attendant chuckle at us, we get some supplies from the farm equipment place next to the gas station to better secure the bull.  

From the moment we left the first farm with the bull in tow, I'm trying to call my friend to tell her we’re coming for the tagger, but she's not answering. At her place, I have to safely get past her very large dogs, and thankfully, I have a good idea of where to find the ear tagger. With relief I find it in the second place I check. I thank her dogs for not eating me alive, and run back to the truck. We continue on to our final destination, and on route, I call my friend and leave her a final message to apologize for entering her home without permission, and for the many previous frantic sounding messages I left her earlier.  

The bull behaves for the rest of the journey, more interested in the hay than in escape, and many hours later than expected, a good deal of adrenaline still coursing through our veins, we reach our final destination. The bull gets off the trailer with ease, and is so calm, no one there really believes what we tell them happened earlier that day.  

Now, most of our days farming are not like this, but these crazy adventurous days happen more often than you might think. So the next time you eat a meal, be sure to thank a farmer, and take a moment to wonder what exciting stories might be behind that food.    

Posted 12/4/2015 1:25pm by Samantha Klinck.

(Trigger warning: This post deals with the topic of domestic violence)

I killed some ducks this week, and I actually feel pretty good about it. And I don’t just mean in the typical farmer way of putting food on the table. I feel good about it because many years ago, I killed a pet duck that belonged to a little girl, and I have felt bothered by the memory of it ever since.  

It wasn’t easy killing our ducks. Killing anything is never easy, but these ducks of ours weren’t pets, although they were loved. The ducks we processed were raised for food. They weren’t taken from a child and killed, to hurt and show dominance over the child. Today, when I killed our ducks, I gave thanks not only for the meat, but for a family that got a second chance.  

So now you are probably asking why would I have killed a little girls’ pet duck. I wasn’t intentional, I can tell you that.  

It happened many years ago. A woman newly moved to our community from Manitoba asked for help to butcher some broiler chickens her family had raised that summer. I was of course very happy to help. She wanted to come and assist so she could learn and become more self-sufficient.  

Butcher day arrived and her husband came to our farm. I asked where his wife, Natsara* was, and he said not to worry about it. But I was worried, something seemed off about this man. My husband and I opened the truck where he had the broilers, and the first thing we noticed was these were laying hens, not meat birds like we’d been told. And there was a duck in with the chickens.  

Something about the manner of this man had both my husband and I on alert. We exchanged a few glances, and when the man was out of earshot, we both agreed to get the job done as quickly as possible to get this guy off our property.  

We began butchering, and after the first few birds the guys’ cell phone rang. It was his wife, Natsara, and he told her that everything was fine, he’d see her later, and he hung up on her while she was in mid-sentence. I could tell that what he was saying to her did not correspond with what she was saying loudly in the background. My pace of slaughtering quickened.  

Then all that was left was the duck. I picked up this white, plump, beautiful duck. I didn’t need to catch it, it came to me. It just waddled over and looked at me. It seemed liked it enjoyed being held, and did not fight to get away. It looked me right in the eye. Something felt very, very wrong.  

Being a farmer, I have killed many things. It is always hard, but something felt so different with this duck, I had never in my life experienced this before, and I wasn’t even really sure what it was I was feeling. I strung the duck up, said a prayer, and killed it quickly. It looked at me the whole time, and I looked back.  

At that time, we had never yet processed ducks on our farm, so I wasn’t sure how the plucking would go as I had been told that waterfowl are notoriously hard to pluck. What I had heard was true, and the plucking didn’t go well. The man tossed the dead, soggy, partially plucked duck into a garbage bag and we sent him on his way.  

I called Natsara to find out why she didn’t come. She was talking very fast, she apologized and said there had been a mix up, and her husband was supposed to bring her. I told her that the duck hadn’t turned out very well. She told me that it had been her daughters’ pet. My heart sank.  

I posted about how awful I was feeling on facebook that night, and immediately one of my childhood friends who now works in preventing violence against women said that killing family pets was a big red flag indicating domestic violence. The idea that something like that was happening right in my own community was hard to swallow, but I knew it was true.  

After that, each time we butchered that year, I called Natsara and asked if she wanted to come and learn how, and even offered to pick her up as her husband wouldn’t let her use the truck. Any time I saw her, I told her that if she ever needed anything I would be happy to help.  

A few years went by and I tried to forget about the duck and the situation that I felt powerless to change.  Then I got a phone call from a neighbour. She said she didn’t know what to do; a friend had called her and confided that she was in an abusive relationship, and she wanted to get out. I immediately knew who my neighbour was talking about. I asked if it was Natsara, and she said it was.  

With the help, support, and advice of some of my friends that work in the justice system and for the prevention of domestic violence, as well as other women in the community, Natsara and her daughters were able to get out of the abusive situation. The husband was charged, and mother and daughters were able to move back to Manitoba to be with their family.  

So why write a blog post about this on our farm page?  

Because domestic violence is happening right now in our own communities, amongst our friends and neighbours.  

Because we need to be talk about it and be aware of it to help prevent it.

Because silence doesn’t help.  

If you would like to learn more about this incredibly important issue, or to help families in your community that are trying to escape domestic violence, then contact your local women’s shelter and ask how you can help today.  

*Natsara’s name has been changed to protect her families’ identity & privacy. This blog entry has been posted with Natsara’s permission and blessing.

Posted 3/18/2015 6:16am by Samantha Klinck.

We went to check on our bees the other day, and both hives are healthy and thriving! This means it is time for the farm to save up and buy more hives so we can split the colonies. If all goes well this summer, we'll have honey this fall! How amazing is that? It think it's pretty amazing. 

Harvesting honey in the fall also means we get raw beeswax in the form of cappings. When you carefully slice open the top layer of the honey-filled comb on the frames, you end up with cappings, which are the thin wax covers that protect the honey in the hive. The honey is removed (mostly) from the cappings, then there is a refinement process to remove the rest of the honey, bits of pollen, debris, the occasional dead bee, and anything else that doesn't belong in the final beeswax. 

A local bee farmer who has been mentoring us was kind enough to give us some of his cappings which I cleaned and melted down yesterday. These will be added to the oil which I have infused with herbs from our farm like plantain and selfheal, to make beeswax salves. 

Some other good and exciting news is approaching arrival of puppies! The first Maremma breed Livestock Guardian dog we purchased over two years ago was accidentally bred recently. Oops! Star is now due to whelp at the end of the month. She was not bred to another Maremma, but a small very friendly black lab named Remy, so the puppies will be interesting! We will be selling them to good farm homes and the money from the sales will help cover vet fees to have the mother spayed, to replace our LGD Missy that died late last fall, and if the litter is large enough, to add some more 'dog fencing' to the farm. We'll be sure to post pictures of these little cuties!

Beeswax

Beautiful beeswax, soon to be salve!

 
Posted 10/12/2014 10:00am by Samantha Klinck.

This is the time of year I love.  

There is a beauty to be seen and felt outdoors this time of year like no other. Yes, the days are getting shorter and colder. Yes, Old Man Winter slowly skulks and slouches ever closer to us, his cold and boney fingers ready to grip us in ice and snow, but for the moment, Autumn holds firm.  

The trees, in one last triumphant show of their splendour bring forth shades and designs that only artists can dream of. The wind rustles their leaves and you can hear them whisper stories of summer memories long past.  

The perfect autumn days are the ones you can see how the sun, now slung low in the sky, practically lights the trees on fire. The blaze and arrays of red, yellow, and orange are enough to make your heart pound and your mind swoon with the beauty of it all. Days where most of the leaves still cling to the branches in defiance against the change of season, whilst others rain down in submission to autumn in a shower of movement and colour, skittering across country roads and fields, like mice running for the shelter of their nests.  

The rolling fields are golden brown with crops yet to be harvested. The meadow and pasture grasses have slowed their growing. They are a deep, rich green from the cool nights and sunny days, diligently sending all their energies below the soil surface to their roots in preparation for the winter to come.  

The animals winter coats become more noticeable each day, as they too feel the internal and unstoppable pull of autumn. All the small birds of the meadows and fields that have been flocking for weeks gather into larger and larger groups, readying for their great journey. For time to time, one of these large assemblies takes to an indescribably blue sky, reeling and rolling in an impressive flight across a backdrop of perfectly formed clouds.  

Wood has been stacked, gardens laid bare, animals have been fattened, and the larder is full from the harvest collected and stored. Families and friends gather together to feast and celebrate and give thanks. And for a short while longer, we can ignore winters approach, and the work it entails to enjoy these brilliant, most wondrous autumn days.  

This, is the time of year I love.    

Photo by Jen Hart

Photo credit: Jen Hart