Archive for the ‘Crops’ Category

Not sure why this didn’t post on Friday, but here it is.


Oh look, a Farm Girl Friday post!  Must mean spring is coming.

This is what our neighbourhood looked like on Tuesday (before we were buried in snow).  Colin was over a few side-roads doing a big cleaning job.  He likes cleaning for these guys because it’s a family and neighbours who pool their cleaning.  So Colin has one big job instead of half a dozen smaller/little jobs.  Since it takes about 45 minutes to set up and take down the cleaner, it’s much nicer to make it one big job.

This set up is a bit different than usual.  Often Colin pulls up to grain bin and the seed loads from there.  That wasn’t the case at this farm.  The new bins have unloading augers that are too big for the cleaner and risk breaking the beans (won’t grow if you break them).  So they ran the auger at full capacity into a holding wagon.  The fuller the auger the less damage to the beans.

From the holding wagon (left), Colin was able to use his loading auger to move the beans to the cleaner.  From there the soybeans are then loaded into the ‘weigh-wagon’.  When the right weight was reached for each farmer, the soybeans were loaded into their personal grain wagons.  It was a very long day -almost 12 hours.  Colin cleaned 35 ton of soybeans and 3 ton of oats.

Farm Girly has had some fun this week too.  Figure skating has come to the end for this year (so early compared to at home).  They had a big carnival and Grandpa and Grandma Lorraine came.  Grandma Hattie was there of course too (she drives us every week).  Daddy was even able to come.

The Future Star kids did their competition routine.  Taylor wasn’t there so Ella got put in the centre of the pinwheel since she’s the next biggest (in muscle mass not height).

She made a great cheer leader!

My very happy Farm Girly has finished her CanSkate program in only 2 years!  She got such lovely comments from her coach in her report card too.

I forgot to share this one on Wednesday:

Last Saturday was Cookie Day in Renfrew.  Wow, what a miserable day!  On the way to Renfrew we hit a wall of snow and could barely see the vehicles in front of us.  Luckily we were almost to Renfrew or we should have turned around.  The snow stopped, mostly, after 10.  Then the water started dripping off the roof.  We took the tablecloth off soon and had to use it to mop up puddles.  Then the snowballs/pellets started.  The lovely folks at Metro let us come inside the doors for the rest of the day.

You know the most common comment/question when people hear you homeschool?  “What about socialization?!!”  Well guess what?  If it wasn’t for my ‘poor’ home schooled child we would have sold 0 cases of cookies.  We had a Brownie and Spark member ‘helping’.  Ella was the only one to actually stop people and ask them to buy cookies.   We were there for 4 hours and we sold a whopping 10 cases of cookies (12 boxes in each case).

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I actually didn’t have anything planned to share for Farm Girl Friday this week.  That is until this podcast turned up somehow on the computer this morning.  This song says it all (I’ve even put it on the iPod).  It’s a perfect description of what life is like this time of year here on the farm.  I love the ‘please, bake for me’ and ‘when I get back, I’ll need an O ring’ lines.  That really is my life.

Leaving on the Combine

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Last year I used some of my ‘egg money’ to buy a dehydrator and a pressure canner.  Life got so busy I didn’t get a chance to try them.  This year, since we aren’t busy with Market, I finally got a chance.

6 pints of yellow beans ready to go.

The pressure canner wasn’t as scary as people make it seem.  Though I did have a problem keeping the pressure at 11.  Will have to watch that more next time.  I also made some dilly beans for the first time.  Just made a half recipe to see if we (me and mom) like them.

Colin processed a few of our meat birds.  Once he got the water hot enough he was able to do 1 bird in 20 minutes (I won’t tell you how long the first one took).  They were 9-11 lbs each.  I love a big chicken.  If you are going to the trouble/mess of roasting a chicken make it a big one.  Then you have meat for a long time.

And a final first for Farm Girl Friday this week – TOMATOES!!!   I made these into toasted tomato sandwiches and they were so yummy!

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Farm Girl Friday and what’s going on here at the Farm?  Not much!  Still getting too much rain.  Unlike some parts of the country (and the States) we’ve been lucky and don’t have giant ponds or flooding in our fields.  But we can’t work in then either.  We’ve been getting ‘just enough’ rain that we can’t take any of the equipment out without making a mess/destroying soil/getting stuck.  The non-rainy days aren’t warm enough or windy enough to dry up the ground.  I think food will be getting expensive next year.

About 2 weeks ago Colin found an afternoon where he could do a bit of planting.

Can you see those little rows of green coming up?  That’s the wheat.  Colin has nearly all the wheat in now, but that only counts for about 20% of our crops.  Time is really starting to tick to get the corn and soy beans in the ground.  The corn needs a long season because it is grain corn and can’t be harvested until it has dried.  Soy beans are really time sensitive because they develop with hours of sun.  Once we get to a point in the fall where the hours of sun goes down too much, the plants stop developing -whether the beans are ready or not.

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For Farm Girl Friday I thought I’d share some signs of spring from the upper Ottawa Valley.

Monday Colin and Dad were hard at work getting the corn combined on the ‘Killman Farm’ a.k.a. our front field.  There was a bit of frost in the ground and the corn is perfectly dry now, so it was good going.

Why the hurry?  Because this is the spring creek in the morning when they started.  It was 5 rows into the corn by the end of the day.

This is the other side of the road.  Luckily this field was dry enough in the fall, so it’s OK to be wet.  Ella calls this Lake Ella.  That’s Dad’s house in the background.

It’s a fair bit of water that runs through our front fields every spring.  And we didn’t really have that much snow this year, you should see it on wet winters.

And then there is the problem caused by the groundhog that likes to live in the culvert at the driveway…

This is Lake Snugglebug.  As you can see it’s heading over the driveway and is well past our raised beds (another good reason to use the steel rings instead of wood).

I get a little nervous each year when the lake is back.  Between the ditch and the mushy ground, that water is close to 4 ft deep in places.  Ella’s only just now 4 ft.  But luckily…

the lake didn’t stay long this year.  Since the ground didn’t really freeze this winter the culvert let go drained it all away.  Good thing too, because I don’t think Colin’s new apple trees really wanted to swim.

The guys headed over to the corn on the back-end of the ‘Poff Farm’ and had a much harder time.  The top of the hill has a spring in it and the ground was so mushy.  They actually buried the entire combine tire (nearly as tall as me) in the mud.  Unfortunately Colin didn’t have the camera.  What a mess!  Now we’ll have to wait for the ground to dry before trying any more corn.

What is it with farmers calling farms by the family that owned them 50-100 years ago?

Saw the first flock of geese for the spring.  It’s nice to see them, but we hope they just keep moving.  Geese do so much damage on these wet fields.  Their big, flat feet compact the soil and turn it to cement if it dries before it gets worked.

And for a final sign of spring…

Sprouts poking up (now to keep Daisy off them)!  From their location they should be tulips, but it’s so very early for tulips.  Usually my snowdrops make the first appearance.  Maybe they spread?

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When one is a Farm Girl on a real, full-time working farm, you get used to the fact that ‘real’ vacations are few and far between.  Extra work for the Farmer usually means he’s ‘out’ for long hours and if you are lucky he comes home in time for supper.

But not last weekend…

Friends of ours have a B&B (well, more log cabins they rent out) and Carol wants to start grinding her own flour.  Joe grew her wheat last summer but wasn’t happy with the job the combine did.   They know all about Colin’s cleaner so they invited us out for a night if we’d bring the cleaner.  Can’t beat a deal like that!  It was a rather cold day for Colin out there cleaning, but Carol, her friend Judy and I had a great visit in the house with the cook stove going.  Joe had a friend and a son-in-law over for the day too so Colin had more help than ever.

Not the best picture, the first one was better but my eyes were closed  🙂  It was nice to just lazy around the cabin all afternoon (cleaning was done by lunch).  The wood stove had the cabin so nice and cozy.

So nice when extra work equals a romantic night away too.

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Plough Monday

Today is a good example of how some British traditions don’t translate well to the New World.  Today is Plough Monday, the traditional start of the British agricultural season.  Hop over to Under an English Sky and see what England looks like right now.  Look out MY window and we see this:

Not much ploughing going on these days.  In fact, we’ve still got 80 acres of corn out in the field drying and waiting to be combined (probably in March while the ground is still frozen).

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Farm Girl Friday

Farm Girl Friday is about the Farmer and the Farm Girly.

combine1 (1000x750)

We have finished up the soybean harvest for this year.  It’s turned out to be a pretty good year.  Last year, even with the drought our beans were decent enough because we keep our seeds and they are used to our climate.  In case anyone was interested, this is Grandpa driving the Gleaner L with the soybean flex head.

combine (1000x750)

One of the nice things with the ‘new’ combine is the cab is much bigger making lots of room for company.  Ella loves to take a few trips around the field.  I like that it is a lot more air-tight.  Soybeans are so dusty when they are being combined.

Colin got some of the soybean ground chisel plowed yesterday.  He doesn’t usually plow much, he prefers to ‘no-till’.  There’s no plowing going on today after all the rain we got last night.  Oh well, I’m sure he’ll find something else to do  🙂

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Farm Girl Friday

Farm Girl Friday again this week.  This week we’ll talk about Colin and the wonderful things he does with his crops.

If you listen to the seed salesmen, Colin is really stupid.  According to them no one in their right mind would keep their soybeans to plant year after year.  According to the ‘experts’ bin-run seeds (as it’s called when you save your seeds) just produce worse and worse every year that you keep them.  You will NEVER find pods with 4-beans in them and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to find the illusive 5 bean-pod.  To even have a chance of making 4-bean pods you have to buy all the ‘fancy‘ (i.e., expensive) new technology bean seeds.

Well, guess what:

5 beans 2 (1000x750)

Not only does Colin have a field FULL of 4-bean pods he has found TWO 5-bean pods!!  That’s right, Colin’s 7 year old ‘bin-run’ soybean seeds are producing better than the ‘fancy’ seeds.  The seed salesman even admitted that he hasn’t found any 5-bean pods.

This is why Colin’s mobile seed cleaner is such a great idea.  It makes it so much easier for farmers to keep their own seeds.  Farmers are smart to keep their own seeds, especially up here in the Ottawa Valley.  We are a little colder than southern Ontario and it’s a little harder to get crops to grow well.  So why buy seeds from the salesmen that have been grown in South America (often)?  Those seeds have no idea how to grow up here unless the conditions are perfect.

Our ‘bin-run’ seeds are used to our northern climate.  This is why they performed well, even last year after the drought.  Our neighbour over the fence grew soybeans in the adjacent field.  He always buys the newest, fanciest technology seeds. His yields were far from satisfactory.


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Well it’s official, after 100+ years, the Fletcher family will no longer be in the pork business.  This has been a long, hard decision.  Actually one that’s been about 4 years in the making.  Why are we getting out?  Short answer is we are tired of bleeding money and having to borrow 10’s of thousands of dollars every year to make up the income shortfall.  There was a time when the pork market followed a cycle.  You knew that after a couple of years of no profit things would turn around for a few years and everything evens out.   Colin and I have been married 10 years, not once during that decade have we had a profitable year -oh we’ve had break-even years but you can’t pay bills with just breaking even.  Also, Colin’s barns are really old and in need of a lot of repair.  It would be more economical to tear down the barns and build new, but that’s an easy $1 million.  Hard to make mortgage payments on a million dollars when you are only breaking even -on the good years.

We have been selling our pork locally for 7 years.  We have loved getting to know all our customers and have even made some new friends.  Although we DO make a profit  on our local sales, it’s only about 20% of Colin’s pork production.  Local market just isn’t big enough nor can it support higher prices.

Also, since Colin’s Mom died last December his Dad has really been slowing down and not doing so much around the farm.  This leaves Colin with so much more work.  We have 400 acres of cash crops too.  People don’t realize that pork farming is a full-time job.   On top of all that Colin’s mobile seed cleaner business has been growing by leaps and bounds.  If he doesn’t have to be tied down with the pigs, he will be able to go further afield with the cleaner.

So basically, things came to a head and something had to give.  It was pretty much a ‘no brainer’ for what had to go -the sector of our farm that requires the most work (hard, dirty, dangerous work) and loses the most money.

What are we going to do now??  Well, I will still have my laying hens (new ones are starting to lay).  Our 400 acres of corn, wheat, and soybeans will now be sold on the open market instead of being fed to the pigs.  And like I mentioned Colin hopes to expand his cleaner business into the counties south of Ottawa.

And you know what? Colin now has time to spend with us, his family!  Now that he isn’t overworked and frustrated he has more patience with Ella too.  Colin even had time to take Ella to Star Wars Identities when Belinda and Stefan were up last.  I look forward to this new chapter in our life.


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