Spring is here!
As I write this greeting to all of our faithful friends on March 21st, the official Spring Equinox and close of winter, we are already well into enjoyment of some of those seasonal wonders which make this time of year so beautiful. Yes, the ground is still covered with snow and the wood stove is in full vigour, but yesterday we boiled off the first batch of maple syrup! And at Mark’s barn we tagged the 22nd and 23rd calves of the year.
Today we get our first batch of 500 day-old chicks. This means that in 5 weeks it should be warm enough for us to put them out on pasture without risk of water freezing. Kids are signing up for baseball and soccer, while their parents and grandparents are planning summer vacations. The wheel of life, day by day, continues to turn… (read more below)
How about a nice Old Fashioned smoked ham for Easter?
We are trying hard to keep all our products in stock at all times, but sorry to say sometimes we fail. Beef and Pork are processed monthly so we have a regular opportunity to restock. Chicken is another matter. Because the only time to grow pastured chicken is in the summer, we have to estimate how much of each product to put away in October; enough to last until the following June. This year we missed the mark on the following products;
Out of stock products
- Chicken thighs – boneless and bone-in
- Ground chicken
- Whole chickens
We have two new products to announce. “Bacon Bits” and “Hot Dog Weiners”. The Bacon Bits were requested by a customer so we looked into it and found that it was no problem. Our delicious maple bacon, ground and vac-packed for use in cooking or salads.
We experimented with Hot Dog Weiners last year and were not quite satisfied with the taste and texture. This batch is better so we are offering them for sale.
(Spring … continued)
When we started into the business of raising beef cattle, most of our calves were born between April and July, with only a few making up the cohort of “January Calvings”. Calving in January has its risks of severe weather, and the challenge of providing clean, dry space for the mothers. Infectious diseases to which newborn calves are prone, exhibit less frequently when the calves are born on pasture. But this is a grass farm, and the foundation of our strategy is to make the best possible use of those six months – May to October – when the animals are in the fields eating grass. We soon noticed that the January calves, who were already well grown by May, took off and never looked back once they got to the field. They were consistently the biggest and best performers by weaning time. So now we put the bull in with the cows April 1st and leave him there until August. Our intention is to tighten up the calving season gradually to get to a point where all the cows have calved before they go on pasture in May.
One advantage of calving in the barn is the ease with which we can contain the calf to insert identification tags. Calves born outside, especially in a forest, are prone to running. Their instinctive impulse to run from perceived predators seems to be activated by something in the trees, and if you scare a newborn calf before you get a hold on it, he can be gone, running blindly through fences, and leading the farmer on an “adventure”. A few years ago the rescue of one such fugitive necessitated hip waders to navigate our neighbour’s treacherous swamp.
Time in the Bush
Almost every 100 acre farm in our part of the world retained a hardwood bush at the back when the land was cleared by our forefathers in the latter part of the 19th century. The 15 or 20 acres of bush (not “forest” as they call it up north or “woods” as the maritimers say) provided an ongoing source of hardwood lumber, firewood for heating and for those who had the time and energy to pursue it – maple syrup! The making of maple syrup has a deep history on our home farm in Greenock Township. Lots of family lore is connected with this laborious, magical spring ritual of tapping, which we in our own time are adding to year by year.