Farmers have a hard time with winter. A part of us just wants to be in the dirt. Basically farmers want to farm, and this starts very young in some people.
In an effort to keep our two-year-old grandson from “farming” in our houseplants this winter we did a small experiment with a house farm. My daughter (his auntie) and him filled a wooden box with dirt and brought it in the house to defrost, which took days since it was already -30 C. When it warmed up they planted many aloe vera plants (to get gel from in the spring), and also multiplier onions. They actually grew! We do not have a grow light so they are wimpy but they did grow. This made a two-year-old very happy and winter just that little bit less long. We had thought they would be ready to harvest at Christmas but they are looking more like Valentine’s onions.
The adults in the family keep some of these urges at bay by planning. What will I plant? What will I grow? What kinds of chicks will we have? On our farm many evenings are spent going over seed catalogues for gardens, semen catalogues for cattle breeding and poultry catalogues.
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We are very excited about planting more elderberry bushes this spring. We are planning on planting one tame variety along with a wild cultivar. The ones (both tame) that were planted in 2016 did not grow well on our farm but friends in Landmark, Man. planted the same ones and they flourished. We are not sure our climate could be that different being two hours north but an arborist has recommended this other kind. At a cost of $26 a pound for the berries in Winnipeg it is worth trying again with the different cultivar. There is some discussion about asparagus peas but again they just didn’t grow well in Narcisse.
Along with dreaming about elderberries we have been tossing around the options of pretty birds. My daughter and I truly enjoy roosters running about the yard in the summer. The problem we have with them is that they are really hard to catch in the fall. We have a leghorn, ISO brown, americauna, silkie, and mixed breed roosters just because they are pretty. The men have decided that we don’t need more but a girl can dream. This year we have had the most amazing grey hens as a result of these roosters mating with our ISO brown hens.
The first-generation ISO brown hens do not sit on the eggs long enough for them to hatch. Over the years we have had bantam varieties and these little hens will sit any time, anywhere and are most obliging to sit on other hens’ eggs. They lay very small eggs though so we substitute leghorn or ISO brown eggs for the tiny bantam eggs and wait. The tiny bantam eggs are very good to use for pickled eggs but must be collected before the hens sit to incubate.
Crosses from these hatchings will also incubate eggs quite willingly, and some of these hens are big enough to sit on a dozen eggs. It is amazing how fast the chicks learn to scratch and peck, and they grow quickly and the cycle begins again.
Please be cautious if you choose to hatch chicks from your own chickens at home. Over the years we have found, through horrible experiences, that you cannot safely hatch eggs from a small hen bred to a large-breed rooster. This has happened in both the incubator and when they hatch naturally under a hen. The chicks grew too large for the egg and the results were hatching well before they were ready. The reverse is very safe and can result in the most beautiful hens.
Soon it will be calving, lambing, kidding and our yarn will be delivered from Alberta and we will have less time to dream and more time to just farm! Before we know it the snow will all melt and the hens will have the yard filled with little chicks again!