A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Winter Beauty

While I am getting a little tired of winter, (as are most Horseflinnians...we greet each other with a shake of the head and a 'wow, will this snow ever stop'?), I can't deny just how awestruck I am by the natural beauty of it all. Take for example today's beautiful sunny and impossibly blue sky...
Or wild winter sunsets...

Or the crazy perfection of these icicles...(yes, we must fix those eavestroughs)

Or breathtaking sunrises...

Some other things I am loving right now...

1. Rainer - for delivering a fresh bale of hay for the sheep in exchange for Erich's computer assistance and some RAM - I love bartering! This is our second barter, Erich also mucked out a pig stall in exchange for snow removal services with Rainer.

It's amazing what 95 hp of snow blowing can do!

2. Split wood - Thanks to the snow removal mentioned above...we were able to access some dry wood...
which Erich chopped down to fireplace size and split for ease of use.

3. Making plans for summer - the Arts on the Fly committee have been busy making plans for the summer festival...scouting out acts, updating the website (stay tuned...Erich has volunteered to be the new webmaster)..we also have a family wedding coming up in late July and our good friends from Ontario have contacted us about planning their next/annual visit :)...we've also got a line on the best fishing lake around from some neighbours...looking forward to checking that out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sugar and Spice

I took today off so Joanne could join the older girls on a skiing trip to Mt. Timothy.

It was a daycare day, a day of laundry and baking spiced with Brady Bunch episodes and Green Mist radio.

A few days ago Joanne, after unloading most of the groceries, asked me to feed the sheep and get the apples and vinegar from the truck. I fed the sheep.

Yesterday we had a bag full of frozen apples.

I wasn't about to waste those beautiful BC Royal Galas, but they were not very palatable in their post-glacial form. I figured (and confirmed on the 'net) that they could be baked.

I found this recipe. I cored the apples.
M helped stuff them with the raisins.
After over an hour in the oven (I thought they'd be quicker due to the freeze, but my tests indicated they needed as much as a fresh apple) we had a nice bunch of yummy, caramelly apples we can reheat through the rest of the week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some chicken math

Photo credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/binkley27/1487476672/

Yes, yet another post about chickens...am I the only one so obsessed? This time I'm talking about broilers/fryers and not our beloved laying hens. I received the hatchery catalogue in the mail last week and I have been browsing through trying to decide what I want to order. I think I have decided on a Cornish Cross for my meat birds and a few more of the Sex-sal Link or ISA Brown to supplement my laying hens. The Cornish Cross seems like a winner for a meat bird...from the Rochester Hatchery catalogue...

"This dual purpose bird is a pleasure to grow. Our unique cross gives you the best of both worlds. A bird that makes a good roaster without having the leg problems, heart attacks, or "water-belly" commonly seen with the modern meat birds, since it is slower growing. The Cornish X is capable of finishing at weights close to those of the broiler but will take 2-4 weeks longer."

The Cornish Rock Giant is the bird typically grown for meat use. It is grown to about 8 lbs live weight in 8-10 weeks. Sadly as it has been bred to grow fast and with exceptionally large breasts it has no end of leg problems and heart attacks...so I think the Cornish X is a better alternative. I am going to order 100, which should leave me with about 50-60 birds for the freezer...when you factor in losses and chickens to trade for help when slaughter day comes.

I'm quite excited about having our own chickens. It means I can completely skip the meat aisle of the grocery store because we get our pork from Big Bear Ranch (check out their Family Pack - and make sure to get some bacon..delicious) our beef from the Zirnhelt Ranch and in the Fall we will have Zirnhelt-Meyrick lamb and chicken.

In anticipation, I have stopped buying trays of breasts which I have always bought (which is the meat from 4 chickens!) and started buying a few roasters, per week. So now we come to the math part...two organic chickens (from Bradner Farms in Abbotsford) at 1.4 kilos each cost me about $30 (about $10/kg). I prepared both chickens using this recipe....they came out juicy and very tender. We ate the meat from one chicken one night, saved the meat from the second one for Chicken Fettucine Alfredo later in the week and made a delicious stock from the bones and leftover chicken which gave me 4 litres of rich, golden stock...

three of which I used for Chicken Noodle Soup (one dinner and two lunches).

So... $30 worth of chicken = 3 dinners + 2 lunches for a family of 5 + 1 litre of stock for my favourite vegetable soup. Not bad!

So then, in raising our own chickens...the cost breaks down as follows:

100 chicks = $192 + $20 to vaccinate chicks against coccidiosis and Marek's disease + $15 shipping= $227
*Approx. 450 kg of organic chick grower = 22 x 20 kg bags @ $19.50 per bag = $429
Miscellaneous equipment costs = approx. $100
Total cost = $756

*While we are hoping to use some chicken tractors to let the chicks forage for food after a few weeks...we wanted to calculate our costs as if they were eating feed alone as we're not sure about the quality of our forage.

So then if you factor in some losses...so say 10%...leaving us with 90 chickens...if we barter 30 of those to get help with slaughtering etc...that leaves us with 60 chickens for our freezer at approx. $12.50 per chicken. So going back to our Bradner Farm organic chicken purchase...we are hoping our birds will finish at a live weight of between 3 - 4 kg which would provide us with a roaster at approx. 2kg. So...based on all of these estimates, raising our own organic meat birds should cost us about $6-7 per kilo.

So in the end...we should be saving about $3-4 per kg...or based on my 3 kg worth of chicken meals I mentioned above $12 per week (if I've done the math correctly ;) Not to mention contributing to our overall goal of eating locally and 'knowing where our food is coming from'.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Would you look at the size of that??

Whoa...the one on the left is our typical "large" size egg..the one on the right is "extra" extra large! I haven't cracked it yet but I bet it is a double yolker too!

Thanks to the warm weather and a tip on lighting from Gigi (set your lights on a timer to come on at 4 am and go off at 10 pm) our hens are back to laying an egg per day. That's pretty amazing when you think of it...that their bodies can sustain themselves and produce one of these nutrient dense little beauties...every day!!

Some interesting nutritional facts about eggs...
One Canada Grade A large egg (50g) contains::


70 Calories
Protein6 g
Fat5 g
Polyunsaturates0.8 g
Monosaturates2 g
Saturates1.5 g
Trans fat0 g
Cholesterol190 mg
Carbohydrates0 g

Percentage of RDI provided by one Canada Grade A large egg (50 g)*:

Vitamin A8%
Vitamin D2%
Vitamin E6%
Vitamin B62%
Vitamin B1230%
Pantothenic Acid15%
* Based on Recommended Daily Intake for Canadians estblished by Health Canada

Eat Eggs for Your Eyesight

Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants from the carotenoid family that contribute to improving eye health and protecting eyes from ultraviolet rays. These two carotenoids help to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness in Canadians over 65 years of age.

Eggs and Memory

Eggs are an excellent source of choline. Choline is known as the memory vitamin because it is an important part of a neurotransmitter that helps preserve the integrity of the electrical transmission across the gaps between nerves. It aids brain function and enhances thinking capacity and memory. Recent studies show that providing extra choline during pregnancy plays an essential role in brain development and higher memory capabilities throughout life. Choline also seems helpful in treating memory deficiencies in adults.

From the Alberta Egg Producers http://www.eggs.ab.ca/about/eggnutrition.htm

UPDATE: even better are the stats attributed to free-range eggs:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

From Mother Earth News' "The Chicken and Egg Page" http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dreaming of green...

A couple of times over the last few weeks, talk amongst our friends and neighbours, has turned to seeds and gardens. I have leafed through a few seed catalogues and read this post on a friend's blog and I have to say I am starting to get the fever. Every winter I get the same feeling, when I am reminded that winter doesn't last forever and that spring is around the corner...if you can call 3 (?) more months 'around the corner' :) These pictures say it all...these were taken in July of last year...

This is what it looks like this morning...

Notice the fence in the first picture? You can just barely still see the fence posts now...most of the fence has disappeared under the snow.

For now I will keep 'dreaming of green' and thoughts of delicious, crunchy sugar snap peas will have to get me through to April? more like May, when I can get my hands back in the dirt!