Blackberry Keep is a small hobby farm situated in the fertile Upper Fraser Valley, over-looking the Fraser River.
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2014 was a very productive year for the farm and 2015 is looking to be even busier, The ducks are doing great and will begin laying again in early January. Kevin (buck) and Naples (ram) have been productive little studs and the ewes and does are all expecting.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat kids are due in late February and again in March. Shetland Sheep ewes will begin lambing in March through late April. I have attempted to spread out the birthing activities this year to avoid one big onslaught. The bonus is there will be babies around for a long time.
With the number of inquiries I have been receiving, it appears that many are excited about 2015 farming activities. The interest in heritage breeds is so good to see.
Several fleeces are currently at the processor. Pictures and descriptions will be added to the fleece sales page as soon as they are back for the interested spinners.
If there is something in particular you are wanting in 2015 please contact me. The Ancona Hatching egg wait list has already begun.
Thank you for a great 2014 and wishing you a wonderful 2015!
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Few things in this life could possibly be as adorable as baby goats. The incredibly handsome darling pictured on the left is Blackberry Keep's soon to be buck.
The little blue eyed buckling is a triplet, pictured here with one of his two sisters. A more perfect colour pattern could not have been custom ordered.
He will be very welcomed addition, and certain to fit right in.
Wait till I tell the does.
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The Latest Hatch
It was a busy weekend for hatching. 2014 has been a great hatching year so far. A beautiful batch of Ancona ducklings are ready for their new homes. Each duckling is healthy, curious and as unique as a snowflake.
This will be the last duck hatch for a bit. It's time to conentrate on the multitude of other spring activities around the farm.
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Shearing Day 2014
Shearing day; one of the most anticipated yet stressful days on the farm. For the shepherdess almost more than the sheep.
It's impossible not to empathize with the little creatures, not wanting them to be frightened or resentful. While simultaneously getting excited over all that glorious fleece.
The fleeces are beautiful again this year. With the addition of the dark brown from the yearling ewes, the farm's Shetland palette is expanding.
Processing the fleeces will begin this weekend and I can't decide which to start with.
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Fibres West 2014
For all those fibre enthusiasts (in case you were not already aware) Fibres West is rapidly approaching. I've posted the information from their site below. www.fibreswest.com
The SIXTH ANNUAL FIBRES WEST will be held on Friday and Saturday, March 21st and 22nd, 2014, 9:30 am-6 pm.
Adult admission $8.00, seniors and students with valid id $6.00, kids 13 and under free. CASH only at door. ATM on site.
Fibres West will be held on the Cloverdale Exhibition Park Grounds, in the SHOW BARN building. Most Classes will be held in Shannon Hall, Alice McKay and the Show Barn. The Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds are located at 6050 176th Street, Surrey, BC, just North of the Cloverdale town centre. Enter the grounds from 176th Street on the West side of the site via 62nd Ave – through the Cloverdale Rodeo Wooden Archway, by the new Cloverdale Recreation Centre.
Free parking on site, wheelchair accessible, refreshments available.
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Cheese Making Workshop
The snow is coming down again, much to the delight of my dogs and the disappointment of the overwintering hummingbirds. Late winter snow is not completely unheard of for temperate climate western British Columbia but unusual all the same. It is March after all and although I very much want to begin spring prep I am for now contented to instead dream about cheese. Yes, cheese.
Yesterday I attended a cheese making workshop given by award winning Canadian cheese maker Debra Amrein-Boyes, from Farm House Natural Cheese Shop in Agassiz, BC. The workshop was hosted by the Fraser Valley Goat Breeders Association and was well attended, including members from the Alberta chapter. It was great to spend the better part of the day with individuals as passionate about sustainability as myself. If anyone has the opportunity to attend a similar offering, I definitely recommend it.
I had been looking forward to the workshop for months and Debra delivered. It was everything I had hoped for, very informative and interesting. The workshop was hands-on, and we all carried home samples of the days spoils; Chevre, Feta, and Farm House Cheese's signature Kabritt.
Being all too familiar with the selection offered at Farm House Cheese, I was surprised by the inclusion of the Kabritt, and those in attendance have been sworn to secrecy regarding the recipe.
Although I cannot yet roll up my sleeves and begin cheese making on my own as my goats are not yet milking, I am pouring over cheese making supply sites making out my wishlist in between warming up the hummingbird feeder and checking on the ducklings as they hatch. Let the snow fall.
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Hatching Duck Eggs
Spring is rapidly approaching (although this week's snow fall is a reminder that we are not there yet) and as I have been receiving a large number of inquiries about duck eggs, I thought I would go over a few basics on hatching, shipping, fertility rates and whatever else I have picked up along the way.
Ducks are a little trickier than chickens to hatch artificially. They do not appreciate the traditional bottoms up automated turners, but prefer to lay on their side. I do not wash hatching eggs. If they are excessively dirty I would not put them in the incubator. As it rains frequently here and my ducks like to play in the muck their feet are dirty and this transfers to the nest and the eggs. I brush off the excess dirt, a little is not going to affect the hatch.
I set the eggs for 28 days at 99.5 F/37.5 C (forced air incubator), and humidity 35-50%. This is a dry bulb reading. I find that a periodic cooling off, and misting helps. If turning by hand, turn approximately 5 times per day. I begin candling at 48 hours in, but some people may not be able to tell until a few days later when blood vessels are noticeable. I remove any non-viable eggs. Candling is fascinating, the developing duck embryos are much more active than chickens, and it is amazing how quickly they develop. I find it difficult to tell what is going on after day 24 as the duckling is taking up most of the space and blocking the light. Talk to the the developing ducks regularly, this is not the crazy lady step. Try it. Ducklings imprint and respond to the sound of your voice. Lock down is at 26 days, I then lower the temperature 1 degree F, and raise the humidity to 70-75%. No lifting the lid. Leave the newly hatched ducklings in the incubator for 24 hours before transferring to a brooder. I will leave troubleshooting and interventions for another day.
The temperature under the brooder lamp is 95 degrees, and the temperature is lowered 10 degrees per week by raising the lamp. Many people say not to give ducklings water to swim in, however at 2 days old they will be emptying the water dish several times a day splashing around so watch that they do not get chilled. Playing in water is completely instinctual. Ducklings are messy and their bedding and water will require frequent changing.
The ducklings receive an organic crumble that is around 22%. I do not vaccinate or medicate poultry or waterfowl. I have never lost a duckling or chick to illness.
Each egg is individually bubble wrapped for shipping (please recycle). I take a great deal of care in preparing the orders as I want them to get to their destinations as safely as possible. Depending on where in Canada you are plays a roll in shipping, the fastest is the best. Duck eggs start to lose fertility after one week.
Shortly after the ducks begin laying in the new year, I begin fertility testing small batches until I am assured that what is leaving here is fertile. Having said that the hatching rate on any shipped egg, duck or chicken from any breeder is 45-55%. Eggs don't really like being shipped, so the prior steps are very important in ensuring that the remaining fertile eggs have a successful hatch.