Archives January 2021

Welcoming Bluebirds to our Country Home

Posted by Mom on January 5, 2018

Way back as a youngster, I was fascinated by bluebirds. Well, any kind of bird, actually. I roamed about the woods, swamps, and fields searching for bird nests and built up a collection of nests, eggshells, and feathers. But bluebirds, now they were an almost mythical creature.

In hopes of attracting a pair of eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) to our yard, I encouraged (read: nagged) my parents to set up some nest boxes. Although we saw a male bluebird sporadically for a day each spring over the following years, no pair ever set up residence in our nest boxes. Not that the boxes were empty, house wrens and tree swallows took possession, and for a budding naturalist, provided many opportunities for observation.  

Fast forward a few decades and now I am the parent with three little naturalists and another chance to attract bluebirds to a country property. While in University, and dreaming about future bluebird glory, I had picked up a book about bluebirds. I cracked it open once more to see what I could do to fulfill that dream. I followed the advice, set up the next boxes and waited. Just as happened with my parents, we had brief bluebird sightings, but none chose to stay.

We speculated, and later confirmed, that house sparrows were preventing the bluebirds from taking up residence. For me, there is no love lost for these sparrows. Native to Eurasia, house sparrows (Passer domesticus) were intentionally released in New York City to control the caterpillars of the linden moth in 1852. Now these birds occur across North America; not being confined by international borders, their range spreads from the subarctic all the way to southern Panama. The birds are so adaptable and quickly colonize new territory that of all wild birds, the house sparrow is the most widely distributed bird on the planet. In all honesty, the sparrows are not to blame, they are generalists and thrive amid human habitation. We humans introduced them to a brand new continent and proceeded to lay out the welcome mat as our farms and cities spread farther west and north across the continent.

Their success at global domination has earned the house sparrow a bad reputation. The bird is considered a pest and threat to native bird species. House sparrows prefer to use tree cavities as nest sites (though they seem to find gaps between letters in storefront signs to be a wonderful alternative) and are in direct competition with other cavity nesting birds, such as bluebirds. Neither bird actually does the excavating, they leave that to the woodpeckers, who create a new nesting cavity each year, leaving the vacant cavity of last year available. These vacant cavities are a hot commodity, and with their tenacious, bully-like qualities, house sparrows come out on top wherever they compete with native birds (you can find some gruesome images online of bluebirds and swallows pecked to death by aggressive house sparrows). Well-meaning humans erecte nest boxes to encourage wild birds, but often these boxes are suited exactly to the house sparrows taste: ready-made homes close to human habitation.

At our country home, we have neighbours with a farm and several outbuildings, including a run-down barn. This property is the source for our neighbourhood house sparrow population. Come winter, a noisy flock of house sparrows  descends on our bird feeders. When the weather warmed in spring, the flock  breaks up into breeding pairs, and in short order, unwanted tenants look to move into the nest boxes we’ve set up.

We have several nest boxes with the 1½ inch entrance hole that bluebirds prefer. House sparrows prefer that size of entrance hole too. My first attempt to deter the sparrows was to cover the entrance holes with duct tape. While effective, the sparrows only waited for the tape to come off, which it did when the tree swallows arrived looking for nesting sites. My next attempt was to remove a sparrow nest from the box, but this only stimulated the male to turn on his neighbours in a revengeful rampage that resulted in all the nestlings in a tree swallow’s nest being killed by the irate male sparrow. In a desperate third attempt, my husband grabbed his pellet gun and shot at the males as they sat atop the nest boxes. None of these methods succeeded in deterring the house sparrows; so I turned to the internet to show me a way to keep the house sparrows from our nest boxes.

I found the website to be loaded with suggestions. On it I learnt that house sparrows spook easily and an effective way to prevent them from nesting in a nest box is to use monofilament (fishing line) attached to the nest box to “scare” them off. By affixing it to the roof of a nest box in an X pattern, the sparrows will not perch on top of the box, something they do to announce that they have claimed a nest site as their own. The monofilament can also be dangled from the corners of the roof so they hang next to the entrance hole (weighed down with a nut or washer so it won’t become entangled in the entrance hole and harm any occupants) and make the sparrows too leery to enter the box. Furthermore, the monofilament can be strung around the entrance hole in a square shape that will also deter house sparrows from trying to enter the nest box.

I can testify that the monofilament worked! The first year we tried it, We did not have any house sparrows using our nest boxes. Instead, each box was the home to a family of house wrens, tree swallows, or, drum-roll, please, … eastern bluebirds! Apparently the bluebirds were waiting for us to fix the house sparrow problem.

Bluebird glory was finally achieved! Our next dream is to entice purple martins to our property. Dad is already working on their apartment complex. But a challenge awaits… house sparrows like to set up residence in the same apartments as purple martins. Sigh! The battle continues…

Embracing Tea – Part 2

Posted by Mom on November 27, 2017

A few year back I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that I could grow and use my own plants for herbal remedies. We began to plant flowers and herbs specifically for drying and storing to use in future teas.

We’ve grown German Chamomile for the past two years for the purpose of plucking the tiny daisy-like blossoms. Once dried (I do this by leaving them sitting on a tray lined with cheesecloth), I add the blossoms to a jar and keep them ready for anyone with tummy troubles. A tea made by steeping dried chamomile blossoms in warm water contains anti-inflammatories that ease digestive upset. The herbal tea is also useful to anyone looking to ease the discomforts associated with menstrual symptoms or simply needing an immune system boost.


Another help for tummy troubles, and one that is readily accepted by my children, is peppermint tea. Like chamomile, peppermint tea will soothe stomach ailments; concentrated peppermint oil is even used as a treatment for people suffering from IBS. And like chamomile, peppermint can also ease menstrual symptoms and strengthens the immune system. It has the added benefits of relieving pain, increasing bile production, and soothing colicky babies. Oh yeah, all of this while leaving you with fresher breath.

We grow peppermint in a planter box on our deck that provides easy access to the plant for use in our cooking. When peppermint is in the blush of growth I cut off stems for drying. To dry them, I bundle the stems together with an elastic band and put them into a paper bag punched with holes, which I hang upside down to dry. The paper bag is necessary to permit air and moisture to escape while also keeping dust from collecting and catching any broken, dried leaves from the dried herbs. I hang the bags in a dry, warm spot and wait, checking after several weeks to see if the mint is completely dry. When ready, I strip the leaves from the stems and put them into a jar for storage until needed.

We have a ready supply of Echinacea growing in our gardens. Commonly referred to as Big Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea), it’s a common plant in flower gardens. It’s also a plant with a history. The first people to discover and use echinacea were native North Americans. They used the plant to treat snake and insect bites, heal old wounds and burns, and reduce fevers. Sucking or chewing on the root alleviated sore throats, coughs, toothaches, and infections. Pioneers learned from their native neighbours and used the plant as well to treat a range of ailments. Near the end of the 19th century, echinacea’s renown crossed the pond and Europeans were introduced to its healing properties.

This past summer I collected and dried the leaves, buds, and roots of echinacea. I dried them by laying them upon a simply-made drying rack and leaving them for several weeks. The drying rack is also the spot where we dry chamomile and calendula flowers. Once dry, the pieces went into glass jars for storage. Already this year I’ve had several cups of echinacea tea when symptoms of the common cold appear in our house. Echinacea improves the immune system to be able to fight off the cold virus quicker, which lessens the duration of a cold and the severity of its symptoms. We also take echinacea in pill form following their prescribed dosage schedule for the duration of the cold. Echinacea works best when taken at the first sign of a cold and then for the next 7 to 10 days.

Armed with our homegrown chamomile, peppermint, and echinacea dried and ready for steeping, we’re prepared to combat the minor discomforts that the winter season bring our way.

Embracing Tea – Part 1

Posted by Mom on November 23, 2017

I like tea. It’s a simple, soothing drink and it can offer powerful benefits to your physical and emotional health.

The more I learn about herbal medicines, the more I value my tea-sipping habit. I’ve even grown and dried some plants for future sipping; it’s surprisingly simple to do and I find the tea tastier and more aromatic (though that may just be my imagination). At present, I drink tea primarily for the boost it gives to my physical health. I haven’t delved into the teas that specifically address mental health, although herbal teas with ingredients such as St. John’s wort, Lemon Balm, Lavender, or Chamomile will calm the nerves and ease stressful feelings. Mind you, I appreciate the short-term boost from the caffeine I get from in my cup of green or black tea.

Green Tea and Black Tea – Purchased Potency

I start my day off with a mug of green tea and my morning devotion. The caffeine is enough to give me a boost to start the day. While green tea is not the most flavourful of teas, it offers much in the health department; it improves blood flow, helps prevent heart-related issues, helps prevent the formation of plaque that is linked to Alzheimer’s, helps keep blood sugar stable, and helps cell growth. That’s a lot of ‘help’ for the body!

Before it steeps in my mug, green tea undergoes minimal processing; the leaves are picked, steamed, dried, packaged, and shipped. When steeped, the powerful antioxidants within the leaves are released into the hot water for our consumption. I depend on my kettle to heat the water to the proper temperature setting for green tea (175℉) to ensure the tea leaves don’t scald. Adding lemon to a cup of green tea enhances the absorption of antioxidants and, when mixed with honey, produces a tastier drink.

I also enjoy a mid-afternoon cup of black tea, usually around the time when lessons and piano practices are done for the day and I have attended to any garden or chicken chores. Not to be outdone by green tea, black tea also offers a wealth of health benefits. The beverage contains antioxidants and polyphenols that fight disease, work to prevent cancer, support digestive health, and are even beneficial to the hair, skin, and oral health. Drink it up!

I like my black tea with a spoonful of honey and cinnamon (pre-mixed) and a splash of almond milk. I like to think of it as my poor person’s chai latte. As an aside, we keep a container of unpasteurized honey and cinnamon handy and use a teaspoonful per day to help fight off or ease the symptoms of cold viruses. Both honey and cinnamon are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immune boosting. Furthermore, honey coats the throat and can soothe an irritated and sore throat.

Next: Part 2 – Homegrown Herbal Teas

Artisanal Chicken Finds a Niche

Posted by Mom on November 20, 2017

At our local farm market, The Stand, we discovered a source for local, pasture-raised chicken. We’re excited about Hidden Root Farms and wish to share a little bit about them with you.

While owners Rob and Lori Brown have been raising chickens for years, Hidden Root Farms is a mere two years old. Prior to full-time chicken farming, Lori had a career in accounting and supply management. Her experiences gave her a first-hand look at the pitfalls of an industrial food chain and inspired her to explore ways ts supply her own family with homegrown and home-raised food. For Lori, a passion for humanely-raised animals and locally produced food quickly evolved into growing market vegetables and raising meat chickens.

Soon after, word spread throughout the community and people were seeking out the couple to enquire about purchasing chickens from them. In short order, the couple realized that there was a demand for local, humanely-raised chickens that was beyond their annual ability to supply. At that time, according to the Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s (CFO) Family Food Program, the maximum number of chickens they could raise and sell as farm gate sales was 300 chickens.

In 2015, the CFO introduced the Artisanal Chicken Program, a licence that permits farmers to raise between 600 and 3000 chickens a year. This new licence would allow them to raise more than 300 chickens, as the local demand evidently required, without jumping to the commercial scale. Lori and her husband considered giving up one of their two full-time incomes in exchange devoting more time and energy to their budding chicken business. In Lori’s own words, “We made the decision that life is about happiness and took the leap of one of us staying on the farm full time and going for it. Thankfully, that was me!”

This past summer, with Hidden Root Farms just a mere two years old, Lori was again approved for an Artisanal Chicken licence and raised as many birds as she could to sell to her customers. So, just what is it that is so special about Hidden Root Farms? What made it possible for them to jump from raising 300 chickens per year to over 2000? How were they able to sell that much chicken product to the local community? The answer is in the quality of meat they produce and the care they put into raising their chickens – you taste the difference.

The reason for that difference in taste, which I like to think of as what a real chicken, who has a healthy happy life should taste like is the quality of life for the chickens on Hidden Root Farms. The Brown’s operation is the polar opposite to a commercial chicken farm. Consider the following table, which highlights the quality of life the chickens of Hidden Root Farms enjoy:

The motivation for Hidden Root Farms, according to Lori, is “a passion to raise the best food for our family and our customers. We are giving people a choice of where to buy food and educating them that food doesn’t have to come in Styrofoam or from a factory.” Amen to that!

Where you can find products from Hidden Root Farms
While open during the summer months, you can find Lori selling her artisanal chicken at The Stand in Burford every other Saturday. She offers her customers whole roaster chickens, boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken wings and three different flavours of chicken sausages. She also sells her products at the Talbotville Berry Farm MarketBailey’s Local Foods, and Fresh City Farms. For those who live closer to Hidden Root Farms, delivery is available, as are farm gate sales by appointment.

But that’s not all, chicken from Hidden Root Farms is also served in some local restaurants. You can enjoy their chicken prepared for you at Burning Kiln Winery in Turkey Point, Links at Dover Coast Golf, prepared by David’s Restaurant, and Indigio Lounge in Tillsonburg.

Yummy chicken for our freezer. I can’t wait to cook it up!

Putting up the Harvest

Posted by Mom on September 19, 2017

The sounds of late summer fill the air outside: chirping crickets, strumming katydids, humming cicadas, twittering sparrows and squawking blue jays. All these noises coincide with the ripening of fruit and the opportunity for homesteaders to busy themselves with canning and “putting up” preserves to enjoy during the cold, dark winter months. 

Around here, the preserving season begins in early summer with strawberries. Other than the ones we all enjoy eating fresh or baked into pies, I freeze bags of berries or process them into jams. We like to use these frozen berries to make a sauce for pancakes and waffles. This past year was the first year we really got a worthwhile harvest from our own strawberry patch but the majority of strawberries we preserved came from a local farmers’ market.

We’re blessed to have two farmers’ markets near our home. The first is The Stand in Burford and the second is Your Farm Market in Woodstock. Both are great sources for locally produced food. When it is open during the summer season, a trip into Burford (our nearest town) typically includes a stop at The Stand. The little Harrolds are keen to visit The Stand because they are given a free lollipop and will request a visit when we are in town even if we were not planning one. Your Farm Market is in the City of Woodstock and we include it as a stop during our weekly shopping trip. 

After the strawberries, we shift to making pickles as the farm markets have baskets of pickling cucumbers to offer. And then the blueberries come into season and we can harvest them ourselves from neighbourhood U-pick operations or purchase flats full of blueberries. Again, what we don’t enjoy fresh we either freeze to use later or transform into pie-fillings and jams. This year I made a Blueberry Lime Jam that the little ones like to eat on their toast.

Come August, the stone fruits ripen and the smaller tomatoes are ready for picking. In our house, the little ones like to use plum sauce, and rather than buying bottles of plum sauce, with much more sugar and pumpkin than plums listed among the ingredients, I made a batch of plum sauce. I used red plums rather than yellow plums, so the colour of the
sauce is a deep red instead of the typical pale orange, but the little ones don’t mind and give it a thumbs-up.

The next bountiful harvest we enjoy is peaches. The cling-stone peaches ripen first and we feast on those so that shortly after, by the time the free-stone peaches ripen, we can use most of them for canning. I came across a recipe for Honey-Spiced Peaches that is delicious and was able to can seven jars of it, in addition to some peach pie-filling.

Around the same time as peaches arrive at the markets, larger tomatoes come into season. We grew a few tomato plants in our garden and about once a week we’ll have amassed enough of them to make a batch of 3 or 4 jars of crushed tomatoes. Diced and crushed tomatoes are so versatile that we never seem to have enough put up for the winter. To improve our chances of making it farther into the New Year before exhausting our tomato reserve, Dad Harrold brought home a bushel basket of Roma tomatoes. While being shocked at the massive amount of tomatoes that we needed to process, I couldn’t help but be happy that Dad found a real bushel basket – I thought those were a thing of the past.

As I post this, apples are coming into their peak. As much as I would like to can and put up some apple sauce or pie-filling, I don’t know if I’ll have the energy left to do it!

I Blog for Mother Earth News

Posted by Mom on September 11, 2017

If you have any interest in living lighter on the land and becoming more self-sufficient, whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural home, then you should check out Mother Earth News. What started as a bi-monthly magazine in the 1970s has become a multi-media repository of information for those keen on learning how to be more self-reliant. We discovered the magazine several years ago, which led us to the corresponding website where oodles of articles and blog posts are waiting to be discovered.

From Mother Earth News we’ve found tips for keeping chickens, recipes for our garden’s harvest, and ideas for off-grid energy production, among many, many other topics. Knowledgeable people from all over North America write articles or blog posts that provide a wealth of information gained from real-life experiences. We too at Harrold Country Home were recently approved to blog for Mother Earth News. Last week (while camping with the family) my first official post describing the beginnings of our permaculture orchard was placed on You can check out my Bio page too! I’m excited to be writing posts for both Harrold Country Home and Mother Earth News.

Pausing for Beauty with Nature Notebooks

Posted by Mom on August 21, 2017

My children spend a lot of time outside. They do not, however, spend a lot of time watching TV or staring at screens. This combination is producing some very observant youngsters who take the time to pay attention to the world around them and to notice the wonders of nature.

I came across a quote from Vincent Van Gogh (attached to my tea bag, no less), that brought to my mind my eldest daughter and the way that she interacts with the world around her: “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere”. Those words suit her so well.

When she steps out the door all of her senses are on alert. She scans the vista before her and cocks her ears to the sounds about her. She takes a deep breath to breathe in the scents and then skips off to whatever it is that grabs her attention for further investigation. Soon I hear the call of “Mommy! Come look!” and I know she has found or seen something that speaks beauty and wonder to her and she wants to share it with me. If her discovery is small enough, she will bring it to me to show me. Often her younger sister and brother get caught up in her excitement and share in the discovery as well.

To encourage my little ones to continue making discoveries, and to look closely and truly observe what they see, I follow Charlotte Mason’s suggestion to keep Nature Notebooks. Each child has his or her own blank notebook that he or she fills with sketches or paintings of natural objects that appeal to them. Opposite the artwork is a page for writing notes about the object, such as where it was found or some interesting fact. My eldest daughter is able to write/copy her own entries; her younger sister still gets help with hers. And little brother likes having his own book of blank pages to fill with nature-inspired art alongside his sisters.

For the most part, the children choose the objects they wish to sketch. If we make a find together, I’ll suggest to them that it could be something they put in their Nature Notebook. During school season, I schedule a time for Nature Notebooks, but during the summer, I try to set aside some time once per week to make an entry. Not that they need me to tell them to do it. If something strikes them, they will pull out their books and begin to draw it without my reminding them.

Miss Mason values Nature Notebooks because what starts as a weekly routine, becomes a lifetime habit, and eventually, a way of seeing life and science. The keeping of the notebook takes the curiosity of a child and develops it into a keen sense of observation; the world around him becomes his classroom and the working of nature his lessons. I can see the truth of this in my own children, but in true Charlotte Mason fashion, the process of becoming keen observers stretches over many years; as their bodies and brains develop and mature, so too do their observations and their ability to put down on paper what they see. I am enjoying the process.

Insects in the Orchard – Friend or Foe?

Posted by Mom on August 14, 2017

After beginning our orchard, we’ve become more aware of the insects that co-exist with us at Harrold Country Home. In terms of our trees’ health and resilience, the insects can be lumped into two general categories: the good or the bad.

First, the good insects, which can be further divided into predators or pollinators. The majority of people find the pollinators easier to like; the beautiful butterflies and moths, the bees busily working away. Pollinators not only endear themselves to us with their brilliant colours and fanciful life cycles, they also serve an invaluable role in our food systems. Simply put, without pollinators, our food options would drop by 75%, at least*. Just imagine a world with no more chocolate, coffee or fruit. Inconceivable!

When we picked up our 36 trees from Wiffletree Farm, we also picked up two Bee Kits. Each kit includes 10 mason bees, 25 leafcutter bees, 25 nesting reeds and a bee house. We set up the bee houses within the orchard when the weather conditions were favourable (average temperature about 10℃). Now, in the middle of summer, our waiting is over and the bees are using the nesting reeds. Although our fruit trees did not blooming this year, the bees are finding plenty of pollen from our flower gardens.

Our native bees, unlike the Old World honey bees that were introduced to North America during European colonization, are the better pollinators. Honey bees prefer nectar, which they take back to the hive to be transformed into honey. Our native bees prefer pollen; and it’s pollen, after all, that needs to travel between blossoms in order to pollinate a flower and produce fruits and seeds. The female bees fly from flower to flower and collect pollen with their fuzzy bodies. The bees then comb the pollen off themselves, stuff it into a chamber along with an egg, and close off the chamber (the larva feeds upon the pollen when it hatches from the egg). Mason bees close off the nest chambers with mud and leafcutter bees with (did you guess?) pieces of leaves.

Unlike the loveable pollinators, predators tend to give people the willies: spiders, wasps, hoverflies and dragonflies. But these maligned insects are priceless. They are responsible for keeping the bad insects under control and preventing them from eating their way through our fruit trees. When we walk through the orchard on a search for the bad, we try not to disturb the spider webs. If we spot a wasp, we seek to identify it and discover which bad insect it preys upon (unlike the bees that leave pollen to feed their larvae, wasps leave a paralyzed caterpillar, insect or spider to feed theirs). When we see hoverflies (flies that mimic bees to avoid predators), we give a “yahoo” because their larvae voraciously eat pests, such as aphids, thrips, scales and caterpillars. When we see dragonflies, we grab our field guide to learn its name so we can know it next time we see it patrolling the orchard.

And now for the bad insects…

For the most part, the bad insects are those that harm our fruit trees. I’m referring to the leaf-munching caterpillars and beetles. With our trees so newly planted, they are not setting any fruit; and fortunately, we are not pestered by the flies and moths that lay their eggs in the developing fruits. The easiest to spot leaf-muncher in the orchard is the Japanese Beetle. These iridescent copper and emerald beetles like to eat the softer parts of the leaves and, if left to themselves, will skeletonize the leaves of a small tree from the top down. In an effort to reduce their numbers, we walk the orchard and scan the trees for beetles. If we spot one, we pluck it and plop it into a bucket filled with soapy water. The soap prevents them from breaking the surface tension and they drown.

We also keep a look out for caterpillars as we walk along. In the spring, a gentle shake of a tree would yield a few caterpillars dangling from silken threads to be collected and tossed to the chickens. Lately, we find the caterpillars hiding in brown, rolled-up leaves. We either unroll the leaves and clean out the caterpillars or pull off the leaves and squish the caterpillars inside.

As our trees mature, the bad insects that visit our orchard will change too. When the trees are bigger, the Japanese Beetles won’t be such a problem. But we can expect the arrival of apple maggot flies and yet-to-be-learned flies that will look to infest our pear, peach, plum or apricot trees. To combat these pests we are looking to install a pond that will provide habitat for dragonflies and encourage more of these beneficial predators to patrol the orchard for invaders. The pond will also provide the necessary water that ducks require. And ducks are fantastic at foraging for grubs, slugs and other arthropods that live under the orchard. I think it’s time to investigate duck-keeping…

* (accessed August 8, 2017).

Little Brother Finds His Voice

Posted by Grandma on July 27, 2017

It’s hard being the youngest of three and being the only boy. My poor grandson has had to put up with being bossed around incessantly. When he was younger the girls played house and he of course always played the baby. For a while he didn’t mind as he got all the attention and when they put him in the high chair he got treats to eat, even if it was only Cheerios or fruit.  It was as he got older that things changed. One day the three of them came into my living room holding hands and dressed in one piece girls bathing suits. The eldest, eight at the time, asked, “do you like our baby sister?” I didn’t stop for a moment to think, which I admit I do much of, and blurted out. “No! I want my grandson back.” Well the poor little guys face fell. I had ruined their, ‘day at the beach game’ but I also saw something else in his face that day.  It was somewhere near my grandson’s fourth year that he decided he would be no one’s puppet. I may have inadvertently played a small part. The girls would ask him to do things and he would say,  “No, I don’t want to.” Then the weather changed and they spent so much more time outdoors. When outside you didn’t hear his refrain. He wanted to do everything. The girls climbed high up in trees. So did he. They spun in circles in the tire swing. So did he. They chased the chickens. So did he, until the Rooster chased back.

Well he just celebrated his half birthday. He’s now four and a half. Everyone at the farm gets a birthday cake but no presents on their half birthday. The exception to this is grandpa, who gets pie, not being a cake kinda guy. Well, I tell you, the three have grown into a beautiful unit. They play well together, a little sibling stuff, but that’s normal; however, when disaster strikes and knees get skinned or a lip gets split, big sisters come to the rescue. Doctor/nurse/mother mode is put into action. The wound is cleaned and bandaged. The lip is soothed with a popsicle – and one for each of the helpers as well.  I guess being the youngest has it advantages as well as its disadvantages. Right now the girls leave their dolls behind more often than not to play dinosaurs or look for fossils with my grandson. I’m not sure what will come next but what I am sure of, is that there is another half birthday coming up and I love cake almost as much as the kids do. 

From Free Range to Pasture

Posted by Mom on July 24, 2017

We are converts from free-ranging chickens to pastured chickens.

When we started keeping laying hens two years ago, we had at most 16 birds at a time and they wandered about our property at will. Besides the scratching in mulch and digging up of some seedlings, we had little to complain about. We felt the nutrition of our eggs and the insect control offered by the hens were balanced by the digging, uprooting and occasional messing on the deck, and were satisfied with the arrangement.

This spring we sold the last of these chickens and started anew with 30 laying hens and a rooster. Like their predecessors, these birds we free to range far and wide, which they most certainly did. However, unlike the birds before them, our new flock had a taste for hostas. In an attempt to co-exist with free-ranging chickens that ravaged the hostas and scratched about in the gardens, we purchased roles of plastic poultry fencing and set them up around the gardens to keep the birds out. Eventually we came to see the ridiculousness of the arrangement when we ran out of poultry fencing… after erecting over 850 ft of fencing. And then the lightbulb moment came: why not fence the chickens rather than our gardens!

Other factors came into our decision to pen and pasture the chickens. For one, the birds did leave a lot of droppings strewn about the yard and walking in flip flops was risky and bare feet was insane. And then the birds, even though they had their wings clipped, were still getting enough lift to get over the permanent cedar fence around our raised beds and into the vegetable gardens. They also wandered into our neighbours yard and scratched about in her flower gardens. And the last straw was the rooster beginning to show aggressiveness and charging Dad, Grandpa and some little Harrolds.

From the door of the run we’ve stretched out electric poultry netting (we’ve yet to turn it on) that allows the birds access to the yard, field, and a hedgerow. To make sure the chickens are still eating lots of forage, we also toss in any weeds pulled from the gardens or around the yard. Roughly every one to two weeks we will re-arrange the perimeter of the pasture to give the birds new forage, especially access to the Lamb’s Quarters that they favour.

On the plus side, the hostas are re-growing their leaves now that the chickens can no longer access their salad bar. We’re also finding more toads hopping around our yard. The little ones can run around in barefeet again and have the freedom to play without having to look out for the rooster, Sir John.

In the evenings we will sometimes let the birds out to forage in the fading daylight. With dimming light they do not range as far, yet still manage to find plenty of tasty morsels. As twilight sets in they make their way back to the safety of the coop for the night. This arrangement is working for now but Dad and I are looking to create a mobile chicken coop and put the chickens to work preparing or cleaning out gardens.