Even though it is lightly snowing today, warm temperatures have arrived, and what a delight to be out walking every morning I can in the sunshine.

Difficulty in the barnyard has started as the tractors have torn up the ground into deep mud ruts. Attempting to hire someone last fall with a truck to bring gravel for these  lane ways failed when the contractor did not come. So what a mess this spring.

Image result for photo tractor in mud

It takes eight,  4 x 5 bales of hay to feed the 45 head of adult and young cattle weekly on this farm. We have enough feed, looking for a May 1st turnout on pasture grass. But it will be much later this year as we have snow on the ground again April 29th.

I’ve already spotted some cattle grazing elsewhere in fields, but that grass is dead and has little food value. The adults here are pregnant, and need the best nutrition at this important fetal development stage. Some people care; others do not. The ground is soft in the fields as well, and there is a danger of flooding in some area. Thankfully not here.

The old timer here just sold a load of two-year old round bales of hay kept inside, because hay and straw are leaping in price due to demand. He expects to get $25 bale for that old hay (but settled for $15).  Last year’s crop is now anywhere upward to $80 per bale price depending on balancing the volume wanted and a farmer’s need to get rid of it to make room for this year’s crop.

Because all my customers went on holidays during March break, I was able to provide eggs to other neighbours. I really enjoy those social outings, and they appreciate having eggs delivered to their door. The hens are marvelous, never missing an egg a day per chicken.

How they love to be outside, but the turkey vultures arrived yesterday in migration. I hurried to get the chickens back inside the safety of the coop, leaving the screen door locked but the outer door open. The netting over the chicken yard collapsed under the weight of snow, and even pulled some of the metal posts out of alignment, so I don’t have a protective place for the chickens yet outside. I went with the cheaper netting because it cost a $1,000 to build the coop. It is easily converted to a garden shed in future years.

Although I really care for these birds as pets, I am considering selling them either in pairs,  or two sets of three to new homes so I will be freer to travel now that spring has arrived. But I keep changing my mind. They are fun to have,  and easy to care for now that the blasts of winter are lessening. I did decide not to get any more chickens this spring as I am quite content with the six I have. When they disappear and I get worried,  I can call and they will come running for the treat that I always give in reward.

In warmer temps, I let the chickens outside around 10 am  after they have laid their eggs,  and then shut them up for the night around 6 pm. Coons have been known to come out before dark.  Night blackens now about 7:30 pm. But I check on the hens several times a day while they freely roam the front property. As long as other people are working somewhere nearby the  foxes and owls and other varmits stay away. Coons always visit my deck overnight because of bird seed falling from feeders. I have to remove the feeders or hang them high up against the house wall so coons don’t get at them.I’ve lost more than one suet feeder that coons will carry away. Whenever no one is here during the day, or I have to go away, the chickens are shut up in the coop until I rebuilt the yard. But will I do that? Not sure yet.

I noticed that the Jamaican crews have arrived in the valley, and are busy pruning in the apple orchards .  The same guys are hired each year because of their skill. The government pays the owner half their salary under an agricultural program. I learned about this from a couple in my church who have had their own crew for many years. The Jamaicans stay right through to harvest in the fall, and are often seen in local stores on their time off. They either ride bikes to get there or their employer takes them into town in a van. The men are housed together in houses on the various apple farms. One sees them driving tractors along the highway or side roads, pulling the big apple bins in the fall as they move the crops from the field.  It is a long time for these men to be separated from their families, but the money they make must provide enough to get them  all through the year, to make it worthwhile.

A nice surprise this past week was being asked to be part of a play  in the community’s Good Friday Easter service. It involves eight congregations in the valley. Got a hug at the grocery store today in Meaford from the female pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Thornbury, who had contacted me,  and who  paused to update me about a practice for next week.

My family is coming here to the farm this Sunday for a gathering for Easter. It is a week early because April 14th has always been a very important date in my life, beginning with the sudden death of my father when I was nine years old. I honour him in this website, since all my genealogy efforts began when I tried to find his grave as a young adult, and discovered he was buried beside a woman other than my mother! Was I in for a shock as my research uncovered a total of four wives, and Mom was his last. She outlived him 40 years. Miss you both. Love across the universe.

I am especially excited to see my three-year old granddaughter, who is on a video meeting the chickens last  year in an early  posting on Farm News.  My grandson, Zuke, is also coming and is now 21 months old and very gregarious and friendly with everyone.

I have been gathering new toys and sewing some doll things to add to my Toy Box  as a surprise.  Zuke’s Mommy is now pregnant with her second child, due in September, so she is just past that delicate three months stage and coming into her fourth month, but struggles with deep tiredness. My son works full-time in Toronto, a long daily commute. She is in banking in York Region.

I finally got my own “Sequence” Game and have borrowed the old timer’s one, so it will be a family challenge: women against men, right after a turkey and ham dinner. Now I am not a games person, but this is one board game I really enjoy. Fun and lots of laughs but tough competition, as we only play two rounds to crown the winner.

Patrick and  Evan at the far end with their wives, Rebecca and Lindsay,  and Lorelei at this end, playing the first round of Sequence.  Zuke was chasing a ball but kept crawling under the table after it. Family–the true joy of life.

I can still remember when my son was eight years old, and he offered to teach me how to play Chess that he often played with his dad or sister. It is much too slow and tedious for my quick thinking, Checkers type of personality.  But those were a precious few moments, as I listened carefully.  At least I remember how to set up the board,  cause we have a big one out on the lawn on a concrete base during the summer. It invariably is something I take care of as the gardener here, when others have moved the pieces around. Those wooden black and white chess pieces are as tall as the littlest ones.

A final photo, of Lorelei and her new bike she just got. Best photo I think she has ever had taken. She’s growing up so fast.  I’m amazed at her intelligence as she handles electronic games with ease, matching objects and such like, and so on. She bounces furiously up and down on the small trampoline for fun. Zuke climbs on it beside her, although he hasn’t got that one figured out yet. Love to all.

Diary of Earlier Farm News, month by month.

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