Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Wildlife abundant

Apologies for the lack of updates. Between the blueberry season and my trip to Edmonton with the kids, I have not had time to write.

The season is starting to draw to a close. We are coming up on the 20,000 lb. mark for berries. We have started to offer U-pick for the first time in a few years. There are just too many berries to pick. Our biggest challenges right now are finding space for freezer bags, keeping pickers on staff (as many are returning to school soon), and generally finding time to get everything done in a day.

This past month, we have seen an increased challenge from the wildlife. Prior to my vacation, we discovered a younger deer that was just curled up in our creek. It had clearly been sitting there for a few hours and it did not bolt when we approached. It appeared to have injured itself and it was unable to move. Several of us went down and we put it down and removed the carcass to a more suitable area so as not to attract the wrong sort of wildlife. Given the circumstances, this was the best thing to do for both the farm and the deer.

Last week, while I was away, Laura had to contend with a mouse, a bat, and a mink that all made their way through our part of the house. The mouse met an untimely end. The bat was captured and released outside. The mink was a whole other story.

Prior to our last batch of broilers going in we had spotted a few around the layer area. We were a bit surprised to discover that they had gotten access to the broilers and killed six of them. Fortunately, that was all they got.

While I was away, they got into the coop prior to it being closed up and took out two laying hens before they were startled off by someone hearing the commotion. We went out and picked up a trap and set it out. Within a day we had captured one of the mink. Knowing that relocation was not advisable, we put it down last night as quickly and humanely as we could. We expect to capture the second mink this week, with luck, and send it off to join it's companion in evil weasel heaven.

Farm life has it's challenges and having to take a life, even that of a pest that is preying on your livestock, is not something to be taken lightly. At the end of the day, we do what we felt was right.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A Stampede of Two

Cows are big animals. They aren't the most nimble creatures so we often take them for granted when fencing their area. Last night it almost cost us some blueberry poundage when our pair of cattle escaped their pasture and spent a bit of time wandering the blueberry field, whose rows are overflowing with berries and whose branches spill out into the rows.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Woodwynn Farms

This entry will be a bit out of the ordinary from my usual topic choices...

For those of you in the area, recent news articles may have drawn your attention to a local farm in our community: Woodwynn Farms.

This farm has been in operation for that past five years in Central Saanich. Their goal is to get people off the streets and rehabilitate them back into society through programs, work, and community living. They have boasted some great success in this area.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The season is upon us...

Blueberries are coming a bit earlier this year. Traditionally, we have started our picking around the third weekend of July. The recent rain combined with the amazing sunshine this past week have given our crop the last boost it needed to ripen.

Picking has officially started today. Our storefront will not be open until next week when we ramp up into production. For now, we will only be picking for our markets tomorrow in Sidney and Saturday for Saanich Peninsula Market.

For those who did not pre-order, fear not. Stop by any morning for some of our blueberries picked from the previous day.

Now the work begins...

Monday, 7 July 2014

New neighbours, old friends

Our old friends Mark and Carissa moved into our second house with their two little ones this past week. So far they are loving the change from city living. The peace and quiet is definitely a nice change.

Mark has popped out a bit to help with the odd farm item. We have had them down to the meadow for a few camp fires. We're hoping to have a few more get togethers in the meadow before summer's end.

Welcome to the farm you two!

Happy Cow Happy Pond Project: Break Time

Well not much has been happening with this as we have been pushing through the last legs of our pre-blueberry season prep. The idea that I might step away from that to work on a project that we have until the fall to complete is a bit off.

Not much has changed...

So here is where I am at...

PVC Pipes are run and everything save the tank and pump are in place. The game plan is to wait until we bring in the excavator in the fall and use it to dig the tank foot print down. Right now we are working to iron our our budget for the coming year and depending on cash and work availability, this might not be possible.

So in the next coming weeks, I will be looking to get out and start digging my hole. I am to have it done for the fall so we can get the tank and pump and put this project to bed.

I also still need to cap the pipes and fill it all with water to check for major leaks. One of these days...

Friday, 13 June 2014

More mouths to feed

This week heralds the arrival of an animal we have not had on the farm for the better part of a year.


We have ordered another batch of bacon on legs and will be setting them up in their new home this week. Look forward to some pictures of our cute little bacon factories. Don't get too attached though. We all know they are destined for your breakfast plate!

Their arrival further cements the importance of my rain-water project. The project is in a holding pattern until the fall when we can get the excavator in to dig a hole for the tank that all of our market and blueberry efforts will help fund.


EDIT: It turns out our pig order got shorted so we never did receive any. We are still working on obtaining about a half dozen pigs, but nothing has arrived yet.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A real fixer-upper

Farm work takes a bit of a back seat this weekend as we do some reno work on our rental here on the property. We recently had our long-time tenants decide to downsize and move into the suite owned by the former owners next door. This has provided a great opportunity to get a few new faces here on the farm.

Some old friends of ours from church jumped at the chance and will be moving in next month.

The boys left the place in fine condition for what it is. They did and amazing job of cleaning up all of the clutter and stuff left behind by their family (one of them is the son of the former owners). That being said, the place definitely could use some love and attention.

So this weekend will be all about removing a few odds and ends and doing a massive sweep of the place to paint and make minor repairs in preparation for our new tenants.

For all the interesting and potentially dirty jobs involved, I'm kind of excited for it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Canada Day Parade

The much-anticipated Canada Day parade is just around the corner. Last year I made the suggestion that we should put ourselves in it. Well, we did the homework and looked at what would need to happen and unfortunately it will not be happening this year.

We are excited to do it, but we have a few too many weekend work battles to take on and would not have time to adequately prepare for this event.

I'm still excited about the idea and I am definitely looking forward to next year's parade.

Happy Cow Happy Pond: Half time

Sunday was not a day for work. The normal routine of church was preempted by the stomach bug. All but two of us stayed home for the day. I was still unaffected but I opted to stay with the kids as Laura had been a good sport and let me out for most of the day before to work on the barn, as well as put the kids to bed so I could assist at a conference Saturday night.

Where I left off on Saturday.
I would need to steal time if I was to wrap up what I wanted to get done this weekend. My goal was to get the diverter put together and installed, finish the pipe run and leave a dry-fit pipe pointing to the eventual tank location.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Happy Cow Happy Pond Project: Game Day

I woke up Saturday morning surrounded by sick kids and adults. Josh had just gotten the bug the day before and so did Laura. Most of the kids were sick or recovering. Josh said he would try to get out and help. Marc, unfortunately was out for the day.

So I went about my usual duties, cleaning up after the horses. Then I headed down to the shop to load up on every possible supply I could need. Ladders, hacksaw, hammer, drills, screws, brackets, chain, wire, and so on...

The ever-growing pile of supplies for my project.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Happy Cow Happy Pond Project: Cram Session

This weekend I started on what was to be the most daunting stage of my rain-water harvesting project...

Getting the water to the tank.

Now I do not have my tank yet. The decision was made to save that purchase until later in the season for cash flow reasons. I have the specs and a rough idea of what I am going to do with it.

This is my "rough" design (blue boxes are filters, diverters, and the tank).
I drew up the above diagram last week and sent it off to the folks at Watertiger to get confirmation that this was the intended layout when they came out initially. Now I just needed to get the pieces I would need.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Operation Chicken Fort: Freedom!!!!

Fencing was wrapped up over the weekend with a big push. Saturday, all the guys got out and wrapped the existing fence with wire fencing. We sent Josh out to get some more on Saturday afternoon as we were looking to run out. He ended up buying just enough

Our improved roadside fencing.
We got everything in place, leaving just a gate required to finish. Cliff finished up his gate the other day and yesterday we finally let them loose.

They are watching and waiting...mostly watching...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Market Watch: Prospect Lake Farmer's Market

My very first market. I jumped at the chance to take part in a market that actually falls at a time when I am not at work. This was it. A bi-annual market put on by the Prospect Lake District Community Association ( The market did offer space outside but we chose to be indoors as there was more action inside.

Unlike most markets, we had electricity and decided to bring along a small freezer stocked with chickens and ground beef. Good call there. We sold a ton.

The market was fun. I think we were the only food-selling vendor as it looked more like a craft fair. We did very well as a result, bringing in sales over our higher days at Sidney last year. It was also very good for networking as we got to meet a lot of the faces in the area.

We are going to be at a lot of markets this coming season. I will do my best to get a list posted and times when we will be at each one.

Operation Chicken Fort: Don't sweat the small stuff

Don't sweat the small stuff, we say. Well all the small stuff remaining on the chicken coop certainly left me sweaty this past weekend.

We wrapped up the metal roofing this week...almost. We still need the cap but all the panels are on and secure. It looks good.
Our new roof.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Maaaaan Cooooooldddd

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I have been beaten down by a vicious man cold.

Short update: We finished the bare minimum for the chicken coop on Sunday. Roofing needs to go on the plywood. We have our birds inside with roosting bars, food, and water. I will have pictures and a more detailed updated later this week.

Also an update on the Happy Cow Happy Pond project... I got my fascia up but now I will be doing the gutters myself. The company that was going to do them cited a minimum charge which would almost quadruple the price for the gutters. No thanks. I picked up my downspout filters and should have more updates after the long weekend for that one.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Happy Cow Happy Pond Project: Start your engines.

Finally got a chance to bring everything to the team last night. I reviewed what funding we had received. I explained my decision to drop the chicken barn from the rain-water project. I explained the fencing and rain-water numbers. Approval.

So now I need to figure out how to move forward with this approval. I have been given the go ahead to do gutters and PVC piping in the spring and install the tank and pump in the fall. I also have approval to purchase the fencing and proceed with the fencing I laid out previously.

The inner fence will be the spring project, followed by the outer fence in the fall.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Operation Chicken Fort: Getting closer

Another weekend. Another big push to complete the chicken coop. Cliff, Marc, and Josh made some excellent progress on both Saturday and Sunday. Hannah was out at 4-H and Charlotte was napping on Saturday afternoon so I managed to pop down to assist with the efforts.

The walls are up already.
At this point, the entire main room had walls with plywood already attached. They had even cut out a doorway. Josh and Cliff were inside building the roof trusses, so Marc and I set about building the walls for the side room, which was roughly 4' x 8'.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Operation Chicken Fort: Building Walls

I can't say that I have had much influence on this project this week as I work all week. I did stop by to check on the progress though. The flooring went down on Monday. It revealed the un-squareness of the base. It was not too bad though considering we were on such uneven ground.

I popped down again yesterday while Marc and Cliff were continuing work on it. The first framed wall section went up the other day. The second half of that wall and the two ends went up yesterday. A few more wall sections to go and we can start sheeting and looking at the roof.

I will post pictures with my next update.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Happy Cow Happy Pond Project: Quotes and Plans

I decided to further the rainwater project along by getting a quote from a gutter specialist. I called them out and we walked the property yesterday, visiting the two barns.

Low roofs and a high window make this a challenging install.

The experience was enlightening for me. I realized I might have issues running a solar pump at the chicken barn due to heavy tree cover at the two potential spots I had selected. I have begun to think more on cash flow and the value of each location having rainwater harvesting. I think I have decided to let go of the chicken barn and put my weight behind the cow barn being our target for this year.

Building a Back Yard

When we bought the farm we were stoked about the large pool down in the back yard. Having had the pleasure of living on a property with a pool for the previous few years, it would be nice to continue to have that experience with the kids.

Well, as it turns out, the experience was not as great as we would have hoped...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Operation: Chicken Fort - Fundamental Foundations of our Fortification

We are always looking for ways to maximize the use of our farm. At the end of the day, it is the use of the farm that provides the money which allows us to live here. Some ideas are crazy. Some ideas are good. A few are excellent and need to be pursued.

We are in the business of wholesaling laying hens (layers). We have a supplier which raises them up island. We pick-up our batches four times a year and they are often sold out well before the pick-up date. Cliff and Susan own a number of layers at their place and make a decent profit selling their eggs to local restaurants. Locally grown food is the bread and butter of what we do as a farm, and Victoria is big on it's locally grown food.

So Cliff put forth the idea to have laying hens. We decided on a number which was both manageable and profitable and set to work. We needed somewhere to put them though and we needed it fast as the next batch is arriving in May.

Happy Cow Happy Pond Project : Prologue

I love spring on the farm. It is not just the long-forgotten sunshine that has reappeared, although that is nice. It isn't even the beauty of nature exploding from the ground, though it is magnificient. It is the end of the long slog of blueberry prep and the beginning of work projects that have been hibernating all winter, waiting for the chance to be realized.

Now that two of the items relating to our recommendations for reducing the environmental impact of our cows are being potentially realized, I think it is time to start looking at the big picture of what I am getting myself into...

Saturday, 26 April 2014

How do we make it work?

Most times when we talk about owning a farm with three other families, people assume we all have our own house. We quickly correct that assumption, which then prompts the next most common question...

How do we make it work?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Happy Environment or Happy Cows? Both?

In our first few months of ownerships, we submitted ourselves to a Riparian Management assessment, courtesy of the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). This multi-faceted plan allows farmers to have a specialist come by and assess their farm for a variety of targeted areas. In our case, we chose riparian. The Riparian Management Plan was fully subsidized by the government funding for EFP.

Our farm was assessed and despite our fears, we were doing alright. Big things of mention were our horse manure composting and our cow pen. The cow pen was noted as being too close to the water (as in right up to it). The recommended setback for our usage was 30m.

This has been on my task list since. Given that we only have two (maybe three) cattle at a time, we have not pursued it... until now.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


I just got the most fantastic email. It was our EFP adviser informing me that we have been approved for our full amount on the rain-water harvesting idea for both our chickens and cows.

It is our first funded project and the funding will knock a few thousand off the price tag bringing it down to 40% of its original cost.

Next steps: I need to cost out the gutters and other non-funded materials to get a final price tag for the team so we can decide if and when we will do this.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Long Weekend

Happy Easter everyone. He is risen!

As per usual, we made the most of our long weekend with a flurry of work.

On Friday, Josh and Marc pushed to finish bucketing. Our tenant Grace surprised us by wrapping that up in the evening as Josh and Marc had to make a few hay runs on Friday. I was tied up painting at my rental.

Saturday morning, I popped out to wrap up bucketing and noted it was all done. I proceeded to show epic fire starting prowess and burned down the two remaining piles. Raking is done!

Saturday afternoon we all disappeared from the farm to attend the birthday party for Darren, who has probably been one of our biggest volunteers for our many work parties. I think he has been at every one except one day when he was sick.

Sunday was mostly church stuff, lunches and dinners so we did not do much that day. We need a day of rest you know...

Monday we plowed through shavings and knocked out a third of the remaining rows. We did most of them in the morning with all three guys plus my kids. In the afternoon, Marc and I returned to do another two rows. We called it a day for shavings as we were not sure where we were at on fuel.

We then went over to the area adjoining the cow pasture and pulled up an entire fence. The ground was soft so we made quick work of it. I now have 13 nice fence posts to use for blocking the cows from the pond.

No word yet on my funding. It should be coming soon. Work proceeds as expected.

I am looking forward to May. We are hoping to wrap up shavings soon. Then we can hit some fun stuff. We have a stall or two to repair, plus a chicken coop to build. It should be exciting.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Work Shift

Thanks to some hard work over the weekend, blueberry pruning is now complete. Marc and Josh finished off the last row and started into the remaining raking that needs to be completed. We still have well over half a field of raking, plus shavings for the remainder of field one.

What this signifies is a shift in the work focus on the farm. We are now winding down blueberry prep and are stepping into the spring work project season. We have a number of projects demanding our attention and the game now falls into my realm of prioritizing work based on need, cost, and time.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Work Party Update

I'm about a week or two late on this one. I kept meaning to post up pictures of our work party but I guess I lost track of time...

Way back in the days of yore, about two weeks ago on March 22nd, we gathered the fair folk of the community around us to rally towards one common goal...shavings in field one. Ok. I can't type the whole post like that...
One of the smaller piles at the start of raking.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Birds

Walking through our fields makes one feel like they are trapped in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The amount of robins is astounding.

As I mentioned previously, I was working to post up pinwheels on bamboo stakes to deter them. The method seems to work well in personal gardens, but we wanted to try it on a larger scale. The goal is to deter the birds from pecking and eating our berries.

One of my bird deterrents.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Moving in the mud

As I mentioned previously, one of our projects was to move all of the Patriots from the rows adjacent to our ditch system into the Patriot field to fill in the gaps. Over time some bushes get damaged and there are a lot of gaps. Moving them will be beneficial in a few ways:

  • Being more susceptable to "mummy berry" the patriots along the ditch are the biggest targets. The lack of space on the one side means we cannot spray as completely for the fungus.
  • We want to create a visible separation between the varieties for ease of pruning and organization.
  • Getting them away from mixed rows with Blue Jays will allow them to thrive without being overwhelmed by the faster growing Blue Jays.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Blueberries on the brain

Time for a big work push.

Pruning is quickly coming to a close. Josh and I are putting in as much time as we can on the weekends to contribute, while Marc plugs away at it during the week as our full-time farmer. We have a few big projects coming up these next two weekends.

This weekend we are making the push to move the remaining 15 bushes from the row we started to move. The original goal of moving well over a hundred bushes was a bit too lofty given the time needed and the weather that has been slowing the moves down. We will aim to move another row in the fall. We should be able to get this done.

Next weekend will be a big work party. We will be raking, burning, and doing shavings all in one weekend (God willing). We have recruited our church's youth group for the task, as well as any friends and family who can come out for some hard work. We are only aiming to do shavings on one field, but raking needs to be done on all three.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Sky is Falling

Victoria suffered a rather strange dump of snow over the weekend. It started coming down quite heavily on Friday night and has been coming down non-stop since. Needless to say, this is not normal winter weather. We are not foreign to the idea of snow in winter (we do live in Canada after all), but it certainly does not tend to come down so heavily.

Looking out from in front of the cow barn.

Friday, 21 February 2014

When the pieces fit

Owning a business is not something I ever saw myself doing. Being a co-owner has made this a much more agreeable experience for me. We have been blessed with a team full of giftings which greatly impact our ability to do business. Let's review:

Workloads and Timelines

Spring is fast approaching and we are starting to feel the crunch to complete our annual season prep.

Just to give you an idea of how much work we do over the winter months, here is a bit of a breakdown:

Pruning season starts in November (or whenever the leaves drop off). Pruning season must wrap up by the end of February for Patriots and the end of March for Blue Jays.

In that time, we must prune over 50 rows, comprising of over 2000 bushes. Patriot rows can take 6 to 8 hours per row. Blue Jays can take upwards of 10 hours to prune a full row.

Once pruned, all (and I mean ALL) of the clippings MUST be raked up and burned. The reason is to prevent offshoot growth in areas where it is not supposed to be. This also limits the impact of things like mummy berry.

Once the clippings have been raked, we need to put shavings down, as well as fertilize. Some spraying is needed but it can happen leading into the season. Shavings have typically been done as a work party. Over a dozen people plus one tractor can do a third of the field in a full day's work.

This year we are laying coffee sacks over the shavings. We need to assemble 800 sacks into runs of 20 using small sticks of wood and staples/screws. These need to be assembled in place. Later we can roll them up and roll them out.

The impact of not finishing by the spring can affect our crop. If pruning is not completed, the bushes will not produce the optimal fruit. If trimmings are not removed, we could have offshoots and potentially infect the bushes with mummy berry. If shavings and sacks are not done, our weeds will start to choke out the bushes. If things run too late, we disrupt the bees from pollinating the bushes and risk knocking buds off the bushes.

Right now it looks pretty tight. We are on par to complete the Blue Jays by the end of March. We will need to plan a shavings/raking/burning work party soon. This will involve recruiting friends or possibly paying workers to come in and lend their muscles to make it happen. We have had mixed results in the past. Our first year we finished the one field in a day and left the other two for the next year. The next year, the shavings took a long time to complete and it definitely impacted our production.

It is a tight window but we are looking to make it...perhaps barely, but we will make it.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Blueberry Planning and Planting

This past weekend was the start of one of our longer term projects for the farm. Marc and Katie came up with a plan to increase production of the blueberry crop by 50% by adding more bushes. We have talked about adding more bushes but had yet to start on it. Blueberry bushes take a few years to start producing, so there is no better time than now.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Finding water in a peat bog

Water is not something you would think as being an issue when living on the Wet Coast. It falls in buckets all winter and even the summer is not a stranger to rain clouds. But water is a core issue for some of our farm endeavours.

We are based off of a well. Its not a massive well and it often runs dry in the summer months if we are not careful. It feeds three houses, five horse stalls, and a chicken barn. Thankfully our blueberries do not pull from it as they are nestled nicely in their native environment of a peat bog.