Monday, 22 August 2011

Farm Tour

Notes from the farm...

Farm Tour!!!
We are hosting a FARM TOUR here next Monday August 29th as part of the Educational Farm Tour series offered by Eat Local Sudbury and the FarmON Alliance. If you are a member of ELS, you can get free transportation out here – but you must contact Amy ASAP at The tour starts at Heart and Soil Gardens in Chelmsford at 10:30am, and then visitors will be arriving at Rowantree Farms at 12:30pm. You can also just meet us at the farm using your own transportation of course! We would love to see you!

Feed Change – important!
The price of our certified organic feed has been going up and up since the Spring, and the latest jump was a big one so I called the feed mill to find out what is going on. We found out that they ran out of Ontario organic grains and were shipping our feed in from the mid-western US states. This doesn’t sit well with us – we want to support organic production, but feel the environmental cost of shipping the feed thousands of miles is too high, plus we feel strongly about supporting Ontario farmers.
What to do? We’ve decided (with much thought!) to switch to the “Maitland Valley Naturals” line of feeds which:
  • ·         Is certified/tested non-GMO (no genetically modified organisms)
  • ·         Has no antibiotics or medications
  • ·         Is grown in Ontario
  • ·         But, is grown conventionally – likely with the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
We will be switching over sometime in September for ALL of our livestock (laying ducks, laying hens, meat chickens and turkeys). We wanted to keep all of you informed of the change, and also explain why we made this decision.

Snapshot Farm Tour!
For those of you who can’t make the farm tour, we finally took some pictures of the pasture across the road and I’ve labelled everything so you can get an idea where the livestock are located:

So, starting on the left, you can see our 3 “chicken tractors”:
These follow the Joel Salatin model of meat chicken production. These chicken pens have no bottoms, so the chickens can eat all the grass and bugs they like and scratch in the ground as chickens like to do. We move the pens every day (or every other day when they are young) to fresh, clean grass. The pens also ensure they are protected from predators.
If you look hard you can see some white dots near the chickens, which are our 5 Embden geese. They have a shelter for the night, but otherwise they roam wherever they want – they mostly like to hang around where the chickens have been to eat any grain the chickens might have missed!
Turkeys and Ducks:
Moving further to the right you can see our turkeys and ducks each have their own “paddocks” fenced with electrified nets (to keep out the foxes and bears!). You can see the white turkeys outside their yellow shelter (a modified “tarp garage” from Canadian Tire). We move their shelter every other day within their enclosure. Tomorrow the whole turkey enclosure (fencing and shelter) will be moved to the far left half of the pasture so the grass in their old enclosure can grow back. I can’t see the ducks outside in this picture, so they may either be hidden by the trees or inside their shelter - they really like to hang out in their shelter (a white hoop-style enclosure) because they drink HUGE amounts of water and that’s where their water is located. We move the duck enclosure every night because they are MESSY birds!
The pasture where the birds are located right now is about half of what we fenced this year. We haven’t had to use the other half yet this year, but the turkeys will be heading out there tomorrow.
Oh, and if you are wondering where the laying hens are, they are up near the house. They spend their nights in our small log barn (circa 1930) and roam around in a large area fenced off with electrified netting. They also have a small chicken wire coop out back of the barn where they can go outside before we let them out into their “paddock” in the morning – the roosters love to go out back to crow starting around 5:00am!

Geese Update:
Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of our geese. Geese are supposed to be able to live (and grow) eating only fresh plants and bugs from the pasture (except when they are babies, when they require grain). We are experimenting with our 5 geese to see how they do eating only fresh forage. HOWEVER, these geese are greedy creatures! You can see them here doing what they do every night – stealing some of the grain from the chicken-bucket before we get a chance to pour it into the chicken feeders. I like how you can see some grain flying through the air as they chow-down!!


Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms


Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Notes from the farm...
Hot, Hot, Hot!
Farmers never seem to be happy with the weather, but from what I’ve heard a lot of non-farmers were getting sick of the heat as well! We were a little worried about the chickens and turkeys in the heat, but they seem to be faring well. Once again I am glad to be raising the “heavy red” birds rather than the commercial “white rock” breed – I’ve heard of others that have been losing their meat chickens in the heat wave. My heavy reds are bred for free-range systems and are more tolerant to heat, cold, etc.

Our turkeys have been having the hardest time in the heat – I discovered, though, that they enjoy getting a “cold shower” with the hose, so I have been cooling them off that way. The ducks are doing great and don’t seem to mind the heat at all!

Our vegetables have been affected by the heat/drought as well: our early peas haven’t been doing as well as expected at all, but the next crop looks good so far, and the carrots are way behind where I expected them to be. The tomatoes and squash, however, are loving the heat and are growing well! Our cucumbers are late, but the plants look bigger and healthier than any other cukes I’ve grown in the past so I expect a good yield.  

OSEB Program is Done!
Rowantree Farms marked a business milestone last week – I graduated from the Ontario Self-Employment Benefits (OSEB) Program. This provincial program helped me start my business with 6 weeks of intensive business training last October-December, plus access to regular business classes and mentorship as well as financial support while the business was in its “launch phase”. I can’t say enough good things about this program or the organization that delivered it: Sudbury Learning Initiative. Without this support I would not have been able to launch my farm business in the same way.

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms

Monday, 11 July 2011

Herding Turkeys

Notes from the farm...
In the news!
You may have seen us in the news these past two weeks. MCTV came and filmed the laying ducks, and then we had a a great article in Northern Life! We’ve already had a good response from people who saw the media coverage and have been asking to buy duck eggs. We’ve had interest in meat chickens and vegetables as well, but we are currently sold out of both.

Herding Turkeys:
We conducted a little experiment this year when it was time to put the turkeys outside for the summer. Whereas we usually catch, crate and carry our poultry from the barn to the field across the road each summer, I wasn’t relishing the idea of doing this for 50 turkeys! We decided to try herding them across the road and it was a big success. Progress was slow, but the turkeys stuck together and we didn’t encounter any cars. This is definitely something we will try in the future and we think the stress level of the birds was a lot lower this way. We wished we’d had a video camera because it was quite a sight to see! 

Vegetable Report:
After that big rainfall and then many days of sun, the vegetables are growing well! Last week out veggie boxes contained a good variety of vegetables: spinach, garlic scapes, radishes, green onions, sunflower sprouts, head lettuce, lettuce mix, mint and rhubarb! The first snow peas are out and there should be a lot more peas on the way. We even have a few small zucchinis almost ready for picking. The greenhouse tomatoes are thriving and we are crossing our fingers for a big harvest in August. We have tried planting lettuce mix and tomatoes in the same bed to save space and it seems to be going well.

Mama Hen adopts “large” family:
One of our hens went “broody” about a month ago so I gave her a few fertile chicken eggs to sit on. Only one hatched successfully, but this gave me an idea...the single Ameraucana chick had hatched only 2 days before I was due to receive another 50 day-old laying chicks. When I got my 50 chicks, I brought the box into the brooder pen where “mama hen” had her chick. As soon as she heard the peeping she jumped up and began clucking at my feet and I could almost hear her saying: “give me my babies!”. I let the chicks out and she began to frantically try to herd all 50 chicks to a corner of the pen where she could watch over them. Since then she has become their adopted mother and I once spotted all but about 10 chicks huddled underneath her body and wings while she snuggled them close for warmth – how she fit them all I do not know! Adopting 50 chicks is a pretty amazing feat and has earned this chicken a secure place on our farm for years to come. Now all she needs is a good name...any suggestions?

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms

Monday, 27 June 2011

Renegade Geese!

Notes from the farm...
Rain, rain, rain!
We were doing a happy rain dance when the rain began to fall last week – our seedlings really needed it as things were very dry around here. The peas are thriving and finally have flowers on them. But then the rain kept coming and coming, and on Saturday morning we awoke to a flood in the fields! Half of one of our moveable chickens coops had turned into a lake over night. Because our chickens are young yet, they are still fairly sensitive to cold or wet conditions and we unfortunately lost a chicken in the night. I brought 2 more chickens that looked especially cold into the barn and put them under a heat lamp to recover (and they did!). I was worried about the beans I just planted with all the wet weather, but I saw today that they are up and doing well!

Renegade Geese:
Our cute little geese became much less loveable last week when they got into the greenhouse and ate a significant portion of our lettuce and radish crops. Some of it will re-grow, some will not. I was so proud of my beautiful, big heads of leaf lettuce (pictured at right) and it was devastating to see them hacked apart!

Market Stall:
We’re now at the Farmers’ Market! I have a booth on the “other side” of the deck selling duck eggs. Stop by and say hello!

Veggie Boxes:
We’ve begun selling our veggie boxes in VERY limited numbers! Our boxes are sold out right now, but if you are interested, let me know and I can send out an email when we get more veggies to fill more boxes later in the year! Lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, mint and green onions have been the mainstays of our early summer boxes. We hope that peas and garlic scapes will be ready soon! Our first carrots and beets have come up, and our tomatoes have flowers on them – it’s always heartening to see the promise of vegetables to come!

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms

Monday, 13 June 2011

At the Farmers' Market

Notes from the farm...
Lots going on...we managed to plant a good number of winter squash and zucchini, as well as some beets, carrots, beans and more salad crops.  Aaron’s parents came up last weekend and we got all of the fence wire nailed up – now we just have a bit more work to do (and a gate to make)! The cold weather this past week has delayed moving our meat chickens outside, but they will be going out for good this afternoon because it looks like the weather is picking up. The turkeys will go out a little later as they are a bit more delicate.

As I type this, we have some baby chicks hatching in the incubator downstairs – our first home-bred chickens: Silver Laced Wyandottes. We also have a wonderful hen who went “broody” and consented to sit on some eggs for us – Ameraucana chicken eggs, which are blue egg-layers – if all goes well, she will hatch these chicks in just under a month.

Farmers’ Market – come see us this weekend:
We’ll be at the Farmers’ Market this Saturday June 18th to sell our duck eggs! Come and look for us on the “other side” of the market. The Market is offering free stalls to local growers on the East Deck, which I am taking advantage of, even though no one else is! Come stop by and say hello!

Meat Chickens and Turkeys:
I’ve almost pre-sold all of our chickens and turkeys, but there are still some left. Eat Local Sudbury has agreed to put the word out in their e-flyer this week. So, if you want meat chickens or turkeys and still haven’t placed your order, you should do it this week because I think they will soon be sold out! It’s easy to do: just fill out our on-line order form.

New sales venue for duck eggs:
Our duck eggs are now available for sale at Paris Natural Foods, and should be at Tarini’s Meat and Fish next week. That makes for quite a list: Paris Natural Foods, Tarini’s Meat and Fish, Durham Natural Foods, Eat Local Sudbury Co-op, and Fromagerie Elgin – and through our booth at Market Square!

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

New Fence

Notes from the farm...
Things have been going much better over the past two weeks! We got most of our fence installed, and we’ve been selling our arugula, rhubarb, chives and wild-picked fiddleheads at the Eat Local Sudbury Store! We’re still behind on our planting due to wet weather and lack of time, though.

Our meat chickens and turkeys are doing really well and we are really enjoying our six baby Embden geese. We call them “Rowan’s Geese” because they follow her around everywhere. They have been a great learning experience for her – she feeds them, takes them for walks and especially loves giving them “baths”!

New Fence:
We’d like to say a BIG “thank you” to our wonderful friends Steve, Marjorie, Arik and Melanie for coming out on the long weekend to help us fence! The weather was HOT and the work was hard (drilling holes, moving concrete, installing posts) but they were a tremendous help and we couldn’t have done it without them! We still haven’t finished installing the page wire, but with Aaron’s family visiting this weekend, we are hoping to finish up. The finished fence will be just over 1200ft and will keep the poultry much safer!

Duck Egg Frittatas:
I am happy to announce that you will now be able to buy our delicious duck egg frittatas at the Eat Local Sudbury Store! Faced with a surplus of duck eggs, I decided to make and freeze two types of frittatas at our local inspected kitchen in the Wanup Community Hall:
·         Sundried Tomato, Spinach and Feta – all ingredients are locally or Ontario-grown except for the spinach.
·         Caramelized Onion, Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese – all ingredients are locally or Ontario grown except for the sweet potato.
The frittatas are frozen and just need to be heated in the oven for about 30min at 350F before eating – perfect for a quick and healthy supper! You can also buy the frittatas from me directly – just send me an email and I can bring some along on my regular Tuesday night delivery to Market Square.

Duck Egg Promotion:
As I mentioned last newsletter, we will now be selling our delicious duck eggs through an egg club membership similar to our chicken eggs. Our chicken egg memberships are sold out, but the duck eggs are a tasty alternative! Duck eggs are larger and more nutritious than chicken eggs. Please spread the word!

Allison Muckle
Rowantree Farms

Monday, 16 May 2011

Duck Massacre and Meat Bird Mix-Up

Notes from the farm...
It hasn’t been the best week for Rowantree Farms! Since I’m a “bad-news-first” kind of girl, here it is:

Duck Massacre:
We woke up on Saturday morning and noticed that several ducks were outside of their shelter across the road. When we went out to round them up, we saw the remains of a duck in our path – looks like the work of a fox. After doing a head count, we found that 12 were missing, and we found the remains of 3 ducks. It looks like there was a small gap between the bottom of the shelter and the ground where the ducks got out and/or the fox got in. Very disheartening. It was a financial (as well as emotional) blow – we had spent about $450 to raise those ducks to adult-hood, plus we have lost the revenue from their eggs over the next two years! As a result of this unfortunate event, we’ve decided to bite the bullet and install a predator-proof welded wire fence around our entire pasture. Some of our wonderful friends have offered to give up part of their long weekend to help us install the posts and wire – thank you!

Meat Bird Mix-Up:
We were due to pick up our 120 meat chicks and 50 turkey “poults” last Thursday evening. I had been very organized and ordered them 5 weeks in advance from my local feed store, plus booked their appointment at the abattoir. When I called the feed store to find out what time I could pick them up, they informed me that they had gone out of business and would not be getting me my chicks! I didn’t even get an apology from them for not giving me the heads up. After a couple of stressful days and many phone calls, I was able to secure a delivery through Canada Post of my original order from the hatchery. This only sets me back about 5 days, which shouldn’t be a big deal.

And now for the good news...
Produce season has begun! We will be selling ARUGULA (mild, nutty salad green) and CHIVES at the Eat Local Sudbury store this week starting Wednesday (11am-6pm). Looks like lettuce and rhubarb are on the way, with spring garlic greens not far behind! Also, I will be foraging for wild FIDDLEHEADS in Sudbury this week. If you’d like to order some, please email me or call me at 694-0165 to place your order!

Egg Washer:
We recently purchased a Kleen Egg Turbo Egg Washer in order to save time on this labourious task! I’m still not sure, though, whether it is a time savings or not. It is a little too big and awkward for a short person like me – the model in the picture is not the one I received! We have been using it to clean both our chicken and our duck eggs from the past 2 weeks. PLEASE let me know (by email or phone) if you notice any differences (good or bad) in your eggs as a result of our new system!

Duck Egg Promotion:
We will now be selling our delicious duck eggs through an egg club membership similar to our chicken eggs. Our chicken egg memberships are sold out, but the duck eggs are a tasty alternative! Duck eggs are larger and more nutritious than chicken eggs.

Haven’t tried our duck eggs yet? Try a sample dozen – on sale for the month of May for $5!