After a particularly rough fall, having dealt with two knee surgeries, sick animals, and the loss of animals, we thought that we might be able to start enjoying the slower time of year at the farm. Unfortunately mother nature had other plans.
January 11, after a nice dinner with friends around the corner we came home at the beginning of a severe ice storm. Trees close to the house were already bending from the weight of the ice and going to bed I could hear the snapping of trees around the farm. With the weather warnings in place we had put the sheep in the main barn to be better protected from the projected 75 mm of freezing rain, so all the animals were safe during the storm. We woke up Sunday morning with no electricity and over 40 large trees on the property severely damaged from the effects of the storm. It was pretty devastating to see the damage. Power remained off for 20 hours Sunday and was off again the next day for a few hours.
Sunday was spent dealing with the animals. Good thing we just got a generator and link set up in the summer. Without power there is no water since the pump and pressurizer require electricity. So the animals had their water and we had electricity to the barn. Pigs were being sent to the butcher that day as well. Paul had put straw over their yard to allow them to walk over the ice. We got them sent away late in the afternoon. After eating cold pasta from a can and putting the animals to bed we switched the breakers to have enough power to watch a bit of television and run the furnace. Then off to bed when the power finally went on about 11 p.m.
Next morning we were able to see the damage. Although the ice covered branches looked beautiful the damage was severe. Surprisingly, our neighbours weren't hit hard and only a few small pockets in the area had been without power. A friend removed the branches in most danger of damaging the house soon after but one month later we are still cleaning up. Fallen Branch Farm really lived up to its name! Our Amish neighbours cut and removed the poplar logs over the course of a week. All this was done by hand and taken away with horses and sleds. We needed to hire people to help with this job as it was way too much for us to handle. Some of the trees were 60-70 feet tall. All that remains is to have a big burn of all the brush and to cut and store wood suitable for firewood and of course repairing fences and gardens in the spring.
The animals have of course been keeping us busy. Kit got into a scrap just before Christmas and was limping for weeks. The goats have been dealing with their grief but seem to have finally made it through and seem to be getting along better. We take them for walks everyday and they have enjoyed chewing on all the branches laying around. More vet visits as well as Belle has cystic ovaries and required several rounds of injections to finally sort things out. The pigs are growing and provide us with lots of entertainment as well. It looks as though baby pigs may be on their way as early as May. The sheep are in good health and lambs should start arriving as early as the end of March.
We finished December having had a very successful year at our shop. Sales were up, we introduced new products, and we met new people and made new friends. 2020 got off to a great start as we butchered a few pigs and had the store open for a few weekends. We hope to be open every Friday and Saturday starting in April or May. You can also look for us to be included in the garden tours of Huron-Perth from May to October.
Last week we planned out the next spring, summer and fall. Seeds are ordered. Processing dates are booked for poultry and pigs. We have ordered all of our poultry for the year as well. We are trying a few new things. In addition to Orlopp Bronze turkeys and White Rock meat chickens we will be raising heritage Chantecler chickens and Rustic Ranger chickens. The Chantecler are very slow growing requiring six months to become a table size bird as compared to 6-8 weeks for the White Rock chickens that people are used to. They are not to everyone's liking. They are free range and the meat is tougher and needs to be cooked differently. We are trying a Ranger chicken this year which matures in three months, similar to hens produced for the French market. It will be a test for us and we'll keep you posted on the results. We are also trying a different mix of laying hens. The barn yard and the contents of your egg carton will be more colourful!
I'm not sure that it's really been an easy time of year but we are finally finding time to do some of the things we enjoy. Paul is painting again. I'm working on a stained glass project. We're cooking more and trying out new recipes. My legs are healing so I can exercise more. We have been able to get together with friends. Most importantly we are now able to just relax and talk and enjoy this time of year.