Thursday, January 14, 2010

Livestock Winter report -2010

Every Urban Farm should have some livestock. Living in Halifax, we are not allowed, yet, to have chickens in our backyards, but I understand legislation is undergoing a change. Let's hope!

Bees are possible, but we were supposed to be going on Sabbatical this coming July and I didn't want to start a hive until we returned. However, that has been delayed by a year so the bees will be some time coming. We have also been told by Phoebe that she won't step on the property if there are bees here. Choices, choices! At the moment, Phoebe wins, but there might be bee aversion therapy in her future.

Our main livestock are the Lucky 3 worms. We received these a couple of years ago from a friend's neighbour. We have built the herd up to two bins worth of worms. I pulled out enough worm soil and worm pee to keep my garden fertilized last summer. The tomatoes loved it. The geraniums were also pleased. The geraniums are currently looking a bit flustered so I am going to give them another drink of diluted worm pee this weekend. That should give them some winter luster.

Worm pee you wonder? It isn't really pee, it is the moisture from the humidity that gathers inside the dark bins. As the worms work their way through the kitchen scraps, they generate heat. And the little buggers reproduce irrepressibly, adding heat. Imagine 10,000 worms reproducing, it staggers the imagination. And it happens in my basement every day. I'm surprised the lid doesn't blow off the bins.

Back to reality. The moisture can build up in the soil, making a soup and this is drained off about every 6 months. The worms like it mucky, so I'm not too worried. If I see a bunch of worms at the top of the bin, it means it is either too wet or I tossed something in they didn't like. One friend claims you can hear the worms munching. I think this is the water squishing about, but I can't hear anything, and I've spent minutes listening. Maybe she said it as a practical joke so she can think of me with my ear to the worm bin?

Once a year I turn the bins upside down on a tarp in the driveway and spread the soil out as thin as I can, with a heap in the middle. As the soil warms and is exposed to light, the worms scurry to the dark heap in the middle. I harvest the edges of the soil, diluting it with lots of water and it makes an excellent soil fertilizer. The middle heap goes back into the bins. Last year I had enough to make a second bin and I should have been less lazy and made a third bin last fall. We generate enough kitchen scraps that I could keep 4 bins happy, thanks to coffee grinds.

I'm rather slap dash about my Lucky 3 worms. I just toss the scraps in, shred some newsprint on top, sometimes stir it up and ignore them as much as possible. Perfect livestock, no early morning milking, no spring shearing and no vet bills.

Since I can't have chickens, I have a bird feeder. As of this Christmas, we have two.

They are from Connecticut Yankee. The green one is the newer model and because it is wider in diameter, those amazingly smart crows and their cousins the Blue Jays, can't stick their greedy beaks in and get the chickadee feed. Crows and Jays are aggressive enough they can fend for themselves. I try to feed the little guys. We have chickadees, a few types of sparrows, house finches and sometimes a yellow finch as they pass over during migration. At the eensy-weensy island-spit of land in Liverpool, we see yellow finches, along with several other cutie pie birds so it is possible the yellow finches could use our feeder more regularly, but they don't. We also have blasted starlings and idiot pigeons.

We put a suet feeder out last winter, guaranteed for small birds. The small birds ignored it and the starlings learned to jump from the ground, four feet into the air and flutter long enough to get a mouthful of suet. I tossed the bloody thing out last month. The 15 pigeons' main job are to stand around on the various roof gutters and annoy the cats. This gives the cats exercise as they sit on the rad covers and object. They would otherwise spend the day sleeping, saving up rest in case tomorrow is busy.

We have occasionally seen the Downy woodpeckers, (the ones that have the black and white feathers and the red splotch on their heads). They like the various stumps we have left around the shrubs, getting bugs even in the winter from under the bark. Our most special guest was a Yellow Shafted Common Flicker. He likes to visit every so often, peer about and then take off, while I scrunch up with excitement indoors. I don't know what he's looking for and I'd provided it if I could figure it out.

Our other livestock, the cats, are doing well. Bruno is fully recovered from his traumatic partial tail removal. All the fur has grown back in and he swishes it around as if it was an ermine stole he needs to display. He's a little touchy about any feet near his tale, and I guess I can appreciate that. Bruno misses Phoebe a lot and whenever she comes over, he is in her lap the first minute she sits down for a long drawn out purr fest.

I miss Phoebe especially at bed-time when Bruno tries to convince me that sleeping with his head on my shoulder is a good thing to do. Nope, get the to the feet of the bed, you hairy thing!

Cleo Belle continues to rule the roost. She caught a mouse last month. I don't consider the mice one of the livestock. I suppose they are more numerous than I care to think about and they do live inside the structure of the house. But that is temporary. I called the pest control people and we'll blast those buggers out of the walls before any mice lovers read this blog. Cleo continues to sit on various tops of bureaus and cupboards, looking intently at the paint. I think this is her way of pointing to the mice. Bruno watches Cleo Belle watch the mice. It is all very exciting and exhausting. (see above re: in case tomorrow is busy and sleeping)

Steve is Cleo Belle's livestock. She wrangles him into his different corrals; his office chair, the kitchen chair, the living room chair or his bed. She stands on his lap and shouts until he extends his legs out and then she settles down for a nap, or several. She doesn't do this with me too often, she mostly stands on the counter top and screams “Where are those long legs, I need a nap!”

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