All posts by Derek

New Lamb Born 2024

Surprisingly we had a new lamb born in January, which is not ideal. The best time to have lamb is spring because of warmer weather and the new growth of grass on the pasture. Granted, commercial sheep farmers with heated barn have lambs all year round, but for a small homestead like us, we prefer to work with nature as God intended.

Thank God that we had a relatively mild winter in Ontario this January. 2 years ago 3 lambs were born but we lost 2 of them during winter because of the bitter cold. We took the remaining lamb inside the house before the wood fireplace and hand fed her for a month. We named the ewe Cedar.

Well, our latest addition, Friska, is the daughter of Cedar!

Building a New Greenhouse

I have always wanted a properly built greenhouse to start seeds indoors before spring and to extend the growing season for heat loving veggies. I thought about building a hoop style greenhouse with polytarp cover, however, the polytarp needs to be replaced every 2 or 3 years because of wind and UV. A more costly upfront expense but much less maintenance alternative is to build a steel frame polycarbonate greenhouse.

I decided to go with Sigma 10′ x 20′ greenhouse.  The kit was shipped within a week and I enlisted my  2nd daughter  and sons to help put it together.  After watching the instruction videos repeatedly, we were able to build the greenhouse from the ground up.

The process was not difficult, but it was tedious and time consuming because of all the tiny nuts and bolts.  Anyhow, I am glad that it is up and running.

Hanging Garlic to cure

This year, we have grown more than 600 bulbs of garlic. I used to hang them on ab ABS pipe at our old place. I need to find a better way to cure the garlic occupying minimum space so I build a very simple stand inspired by this video:

 

 

Side view of the stand.  You just need 3 long pieces of 2x4s and 8 pieces of short 2x4s.
Using 1.5″ long deck screws, first drill a screw on one end of the top piece (front).  Then screw about 8″ apart on the other side (back) of the top piece.

Continue in this front and back pattern along the top piece.

Essentially, the screws are 16″ apart on each side of the top piece.

Each piece of bale twine can hold about 50 garlic bulbs, with 10 bulbs in a bundle for each counting.
 

My stand of 8′ long top piece at a height of 7′ tall can hold about 600 garlic bulbs.

Garden Late Summer 2023

This year we expanded our garden.  However, we have been struggling with bindweeds.  This persistent and never-dying (almost) vine is extremely difficult to remove.   Their roots can grow to 2 feet long and yet very brittle.  If you leave the broken pieces of the vines on the ground or in the soil, each broken piece can sprout a new plant!

I learn that the only way to suppress them is carefully remove the leaves, stems and roots, repeatedly.  We would use a bucket to collet the weeds and burn them.  After 5 or 6 hand digging at the same spot, the bindweed would seem to be weaken and finally die off.

Talk about stubbornness!

 

Cucumbers.  Some of the plants are killed by wilt, which is a bacteria spread by cucumber beetles.  I have been using Dr. Bronner’s soap mix to suppress them.
3 sisters patch (corn, squash, bean) planted by my youngest son Caleb.
Cabbages.  I make sure I planted them further apart this year.
Beets
Zucchini
Mama squash and delicata squash
Turnip.  I haven’t planted this for several years.
Kohlrabi.  First time growing it.
Daikon and broccoli for fall planting.
Potato plants are growing pretty good this year.  I surrounded them with sheep manure.
Our family cat sleeping in the garlic patch!

Investment Thoughts

I have never written anything on this blog about investment, but there is always a first.  In fact, I have been in the stock markets since my university years.  I have been through the dot com bubbles, 2008 recession, covid and now the 2023 rate hike induced recession.

I am both a short term trader and long term investor.  I love reading investment newsletters, but I had to sift through many to know the good ones.  By no means I am a professional but I would like to share with my reader about my approach who is interested in investing in the stock market.

Disclaimer:  I am not a SEC registered or licensed accountant, fund manager or financial advisor.  All of my comments are my own personal opinions.  You should consult with a qualified financial advisor for advice before taking any investment action.  I am not responsible for any of your gain or loss from your own investment.

  1. Number one goal in investment is preservation of capital.  Keeping what you have is more important than making profit.
  2. Risk management is necessary.  You have to know when to cut loss.  This is one of the hardest thing to achieve because fear of loss is human nature.  Consequently, we tend to “average down” or hold on to losers forever.
  3. Selling too early to lock in profit.  This is the 2nd hardest thing to do.  Let the winners run.
  4. Fundamental and technical analysis are both important.  Fundamental analysis assists you in choosing which sector and company to put your money to work while technical analysis helps you to buy and sell at a favorable time.
  5. Macro trend or big picture trend dominates the market.  “Rising tide lifts all boats”.  One can be more aggressive in a bull market but needs to be defensive in a bear market.  For example, in a commodity bull cycle, you want to invest in mining stocks.
  6. Don’t invest the money that you cannot lose and  I NEVER use margin to short or buy stocks.
  7. Dividend paying stocks from strong companies should be the building blocks of your portfolio
  8. Finally, one strategy that I have back tested multiple times that works well:
    • Research a solid company that you like.  I personally would choose dividend paying companies with a track record of consistent cashflow
    • Using RSI, MACD and EMA indicators, wait for the stock price to drop to your target purchase price and sell out-of-the-money puts
    • If you don’t get called, you get to keep the premium.  If the stock is put to you, you purchase at a desirable price of your choosing
    • Wait for the stocks to rise above your purchase price and sell covered calls
    • Again, if you don’t get called, you get to keep the premium and keep selling covered calls for next month
    • Meanwhile, collect the dividends along the way

2023 Starting Seeds

Spring is here and the snow is gone. Time to plant seeds.

I purchased specialized LED designed for plants growing.  Not sure if they are any better than regular  T8.

Here I am starting seeds of squash, cucumber, tomato, cabbage and zucchini.

This automatic timer is very helpful in turning on and off the growing lights.
These pepper and watermelon seedlings were started in late February and are now ready to be planted outdoors once they are hardened off.

Building a Chicken Coop

The last project before year end is to build a permanent chicken coop.  The coop is 12′ x 10′  in size with concrete slab foundation.  It is divided into 2 compartments separated by a sliding barn door.  The living area for the layers is about 9′ x 10′ whereas the rest is for the feed bin and shavings.

Although it took us more than 4 weeks to complete the coop and surrounding fences, it was a rewarding experience for the whole family.  Without the help from my family, I don’t think I can finish the coop before the snow flies.

 

This is the front view.  I used  1″ rigid foam board for insulation.  I also painted the steel entry door brown to match the color of vinyl siding.
I used steel siding and aluminum fascia and soffit.
Digging the holes for 4×4 posts.
Attaching the wooden boards to posts as frame for fence.
In order to protect the bottom portion of OSB boards, which would be in constant contact with chicken manure, I attached aluminum flashing all around the coop.
A sliding barn door serves as the second entry to the layers’ living area.
Just enough space to store shavings.
My sons are digging a trench so that we can put a layer of hardware cloth on top.
After we lay down the hardware cloth, we would cover it with dirt and compact them again.  This would prevent predators from digging underneath the fence.
Building the frame for an exterior door into the chicken run.
A homemade door for the chicken run, paint with exterior stain.
My son is spreading some grass seeds for next year along the fence where we dug.
Notice that I cut a small hole with a sliding door to allow the passage between the coop and the run.
The final product…looks fancy!
We built some chicken roots for the layers to perch at night.
The rolling chicken nest box.

Garden Late Summer 2022

With several days of rain and wet weather from late summer thunderstorms, the plants in our garden “explode” in their growth.  Sure I have been hand watering them every now and then, but several days of rain achieve much much more than my small watering can.

All around the world, this summer has been plagued by drought and heat wave that seriously hampered crop production.  Even the UN and the powers that be have warned the public repeatedly that food shortage is coming very soon.  On top of that, the war in Ukraine has disrupted the global supply of energy and subsequently the fertilizer production.  With higher prices and drought, farmers are either not growing or having to cut back on production.

I have read that a farmer cannot harvest his crop because he cannot afford the hydro bill for refrigeration, he can only watch his crop lay waste in the fields.

It reminds me that it is the Lord who gives rain to the earth so that it can bring forth food for us and the animals to eat.  Could this be His judgement on mankind who are rebelling against His word and His son Jesus Christ?

At any rate, I thank God that he sent some rain to our little garden.

Spinach in the new garden beds.
Beets in the new garden beds.
The zucchinis are finally giving fruits.
Swiss Chard
Green beans – Provider variety.
This is sugar baby watermelon.
Sweet potato plants.
Look how big the mama squash have become!
The cucumbers did not grow well this year.  I only got 1 cuke from each plant, versus 3 or 4  previously.
My 2 youngest helpers in the garden.  I sincerely wish every child in every family can learn and try to grow his/her own food.

Garden Mid Summer 2022

Now that we are well into summer, I have gained more knowledge about the new garden.

First of all, certain areas of the garden do not get any sunlight until 10 a.m. in the morning, so I should plant cool season veggies in that area.

Secondly, the soil is pretty sandy so nutrients would drain more easily after watering or rainfall.  To rectify this I need to add more compost and organic fertilizer.

Thirdly, there are a lot of ants on my property.  I need to use diatomaceous earth and “borex+sugar” combo to control their population.

Because of a new construction, a large pile of soil was dumped at the back and my children have been diligently helping me in building new garden beds.  Now I am 45 years old, I honestly cannot do too much shovelings any more.  Thank you so much kids!

 

Each bed is about 4 ft wide and 20 ft long, with a 20 inch path in between.  My children did a really good job in forming the soil.
As you can see, the garden is surrounded by tall trees, but certain area can still get 6-8 hours of sunlight.
I am covering the path with woodchips and the new beds with sheep/straw manure.
My son planted 3 new blueberry plants
I asked my daughter to build a water barrel stand close to the garden so that we don’t have to walk all the way back to the house to get water.
The tomato plants are doing well.  This year I tried the string trellis method.
This is sweet mama squash starting to spread everywhere.

Electric Fence

After building the Mobile Sheep Shed, the next step is to setup the electric fence for better pasture management.  We sub-divide the 2 acre pasture into 4 smaller lots, using electric wire and step-in post.  This year, I upgraded the charger into a “all-in-one” unit by Parmak.

It is always a good idea to use a more powerful (more joule/energy output) unit that one can afford.  This unit does not come with any lead wire so I have to make my own.  Also, a  ground rod placed 3 feet away from the charger is a must for any electric fence system.

This is the all-in-one energizer unit with built-in solar panel and battery.
Electric wire and step-in posts. Looking from above, the electric fences would form a “+” shape.  We place the mobile sheep shed close to the intersection of the “+”.