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The Best of 2019 on the Gilly Farm and What is to Come of 2020?

Well, here we are, just days away from the end of 2019! What an epic year we had on the farm!

Lets dive in!

At the beginning of this year we said goodbye to our beloved geese. They moved on to greener pastures and bigger ponds to flourish with even more geese. We wish them well but the farm was moving in a different direction and we were so lucky to be a stepping stone for them in the meantime.

We then added more chickens to our laying flock as our egg sales increased throughout the year. We now have a steady list of customers who enjoy our free-range eggs on a regular basis and keep us sold out weekly.

The spring of 2019 brought 2 mini donkeys to our farm. Molly who is 12 and her freshly brewed baby, Griff. Adding equines to the farm was a big step for us even though they are pretty small. Much preparation and research was needed but we are so happy that we made the jump and welcomed them to our farm. Molly is an independent, wise girl who doesn’t have much time for shenanigans where Griff is full of piss and vinegar even after being gelded. We are enjoying watching Griff grow and settle into his new home with his mum.

While the mini donkeys were still unpacking their bags, I carried our first lamb into her stall to settle in. Lemon, the Suffolk sheep came to us from a neighbour and instantly melted our hearts and opened up a huge can of worms… or should I say can of sheep? Long story short, Gussy & Gordy (our first 2 baby doll sheep) joined Lemon to keep her company. Then came Gaga, Gracy and GG the female baby doll sheep, and just like that, our flock was complete! If you ask Greg, he would agree that as much as I love all of our kids, those damn sheep tickle my soul like no one else can. Their personalities are aboundingly lifelike and I enjoy any moment I can get with them.

This year brought many projects to the farm that we started once frost broke in the ground. Fencing went up, upgrades to the barn, French drain, more additions to my ever-growing garden, finishing contractor jobs in our shop and running hydro and water to the barn. Its so nice to have most of those projects complete however it makes room for much more to come next year.

We also traded our compact tractor for a skid steer instead. Our farm is small and a skid steer gets around better in tight spaces. We also plan to add a no-till method to the garden to reduce compaction on the soil so that made many of our implements unnecessary.

The saddest day of the year was when Rae, our beloved handicapped piggy, died in my arms suddenly. We are still unsure of how she left this world but if I can imagine her running free in flowered fields with no leg or joint problems then it helps to heal the pain of loosing her. We are grateful that she found her way to our farm and that we could show her the love she deserved for just a small piece of her life.

The summer was all about the bees. Hesitant to add them, nervous to keep them and paranoid they would all die. They buzzed all summer long and made wonderfully sweet honey from our garden. We did end up loosing one hive in the late fall but the other seems to be hanging on. Fingers crossed they stay strong and make it to spring.

The fall of this year we were gifted Tucky. He was a dog boarding client of mine who needed a forever home. His health was declining rapidly so we jumped on it to quickly give him a second chance and within a couple months his health had drastically improved. He lost almost 30 (much needed) pounds, he regained muscle, energy and his coat now shines with the sun. He is finally living the life he deserves full of walks, chuck-it tournaments and endless hours swimming in the pond. Although adding another dog was not on our radar, life will only give you what you can handle so we found a way to make it happen.

My farmacy garden was abundant this year with all the medicine we could grow to stay healthy. We even enjoyed our homegrown foods in our Christmas dinner which was very rewarding. Each year the garden grows stronger and gets bigger and it is awesome to see where it started and how far it has come. That garden of ours is the lifeline of this farm and each year it serves us longer and longer into the following year.

So, what is to come for 2020?

I don’t think I’ve been so excited for a year to get here before. Big things are coming and I’m bursting with anticipation!

Without giving it all away or spoiling it before its ready here are a few things we are looking forward to sharing.

The garden is getting a face lift! We will be adding perennials, herbs and flowers for drying, distilling and dried teas. Expanding more of a medicinal garden is something I look forward to elaborating on and sharing with everyone and learning more ways to heal people with plants is always fun for me.

Big changes have already begun in the personal growth department and although I’m still fairly private, perhaps I could start to share my story on the topic and how I’ve drastically changed my health, diet and lifestyle.

In terms of projects, there are not many on the list at this point however that doesn’t mean we are smooth sailing. Farm projects seem to pop up and accumulate pretty quickly. Hopefully in the spring we can extend our fencing into the meadow to increase the size of the grazing pasture for the kids. This opens up more rotational grazing options and other species of plants to munch on.

Something Greg might be a little too happy about in 2020 is the plan to NOT add any more animals to the farm. That’s a tough one because we really can’t plan for something like that however we are reaching our max on the farm because we let our animals graze all summer so we need the space to grow pasture. As of right now we are at our cap for their grazing space and I do not want to jeopardize that for them. I will be looking for a couple kittens in the spring to add to the barn as mousers and we are hoping to add more chickens, but a different kind of chicken, stay tuned.

2019 was an epic year for Gilly Farm!

We are so grateful for all of you who read and enjoy our farmstead.

Thank you for coming here today and I wish you all a Happy New Year! May it be fully loaded with awesomeness and abundance in all the right places!


Sheep on the Farmstead

The days prior to bringing Lemon (our Suffolk ewe) home, we were thinking of pulling the plug. I had been doing a lot of reading about sheep and honestly, I was spooked by all the info about worms and internal parasites. Even though I was trying to get ahead of any major health issues before they happened, I felt like maybe I was out of my element with ruminants and all that came along with them.

So we decided that we would just go and meet this baby lamb and make our decision then.

Note to everyone! NEVER a good idea! DUH!!! Who can say no to the face of ANY baby animal?

We brought Lemon home from our neighbours and settled her into our mini barn.

We were now in it! Sheep deep!

We fell in love. First with the adorable BAA-ING and sweet nature, the feel of her wool and the bounce in her step.

BUT after she started headbutting the pigs, we quickly learned that she needed a friend or friendssss.

Then came Gussy and Gordy the Southdown Babydoll sheep. We acquired Gussy because he was born with a deformed foot and no one really wanted a broken sheep. EXCEPT ME! So Gordy came along with Gussy.

Once you see a couple of babydoll sheep for the first time, you fall head over heals and that’s for damn sure what happened to us!

About the same time we brought the boys home, we discovered Lemon had brought tape worm with her. After letting our neighbour know so that he could treat his flock, it still took us a couple months of re-occurring worms popping up and different de-wormers to finally get rid of it. Funny thing with tape worm is that it’s probably not even gone, just laying dormant until we see it again. Lovely!

None the less, adding Gussy and Gordy really made me swoon over sheep. I would (and still do) stare at them in the yard for hours! They are truly the sweetest animals we have on the farm. Gordy LOVES head rubs and will stand at your side as long as he can just to soak it up. Lemon loves food of any kind but would rather you hold it for her as she eats instead of eating off the ground. She’s classy like that.

So, I wanted to keep our hearts open for the possibility of more! And sure enough a few months later, we found 3 more baby doll ewes that needed a forever home!

Enter, Gaga, Gracie and GG. We had finally made a flock of our own and to me that was just enough sheep to keep themselves warm in the barn and for me to maintain, shear and harvest wool in the spring. It is also the perfect number of grazers for our acreage that I do not need to cut grass anymore!!! Woohoo!!

I don’t know how we ever made it through life without sheep?! Yes, they come with their usual maintenance like any animal but the pros strongly outweigh any concerns I had about internal parasites. I haven’t had sheep long at all, I’m still quite the amateur but I wouldn’t trade them for anything! They each have their own sweet personalities and the BAA-ing has become beautiful music to my ears, so much so that we can even tell who is baa-ing without looking.

So why sheep?

They seriously have the sweetest temperaments! They are docile, trusting, calm and love attention. They are so curious and welcome to head rubs and snuggles. They graze the yard and keep the grass cut. They are a blast to watch at sunset when they get all frisky and start chasing each other around the yard. Once sheared in the spring, you can sell or use their wool to make sweaters! That’s my plan! They fertilize my pastures for better growth the next season and they clean up anything from the garden that I don’t sell or eat.

You will never see me endorse having animals for the production of food. I don’t throw shade on homesteaders who feed their families this way however we do NOT eat any of our animals here on Gilly Farm. So having sheep for meat will never be a good enough reason for me to add to this list. Plus, they are just way more fun alive then dismembered and decomposing inside your body.

They do require foot trims which I do about every month. Along with their hoof trims, I also trim the wool around their eyes because babydoll sheep grow wool on their faces and if not taken care of, it can grow over their eyes. They need to be dewormed, normally in spring and fall but everyone has a different worming schedule. I’m still learning this part and only trying to worm when they need it so as not to become too resistant to the dewormer. And then there is shearing. Ideally this is to be done in the spring or early summer. I plan to shear my sheep myself and can post a blog about that when the time comes. I also plan to use their wool for myself and to sell locally.

There are so many reasons to have sheep on your farm. Hopefully you take the jump and can realize for yourself just how wonderful they are!

Thanks for stopping by today!


Harvesting Echinacea Seeds

Echinacea is one of my favourite flowers to grow because it is a hardy perennial that survives our Canadian winters, it smells amazing, looks beautiful and my pollinators LOVE it!

Here is a short how-to blog post for harvesting seed from your Echinacea patch. Harvesting your own seed saves you money while you collect spawns of your already successful and adapted flower patch.

First, start by collecting the dried flower heads in a bowl. I do this as early as September and right up until November. Make sure to cut the heads when they have COMPLETELY dried and turned black. Try not to cut them while they still have colour as it is harder to pluck the seeds out. I use pruners and cut off the head at the base where it meets the stem.

After you have collected all of the heads that are ready to seed, take them indoors. I tried doing this outside in these photos but the seeds are so light that they carry in the wind rather well.

Try doing it on a dark table or cloth because the although the spikes are dark, the seeds are a light cream colour.

Start by taking a seed head between your thumb and forefinger. Push your thumb back (kind of like pinching it) resulting in laying the spikes down and parting the seed pods underneath. This should start opening up the inside and making the seed pods more visible.

Be aware! You will get stabbed with the spikes. You can try wearing gloves but I found that was more annoying as the seeds are so delicate and gloves can be cumbersome.

As you continue to pluck off all of the seeds, I toss them all in a bowl with the spikes. You can choose to separate the seeds from the spikes but since I’m putting them back in my meadow, I’ll leave the spikes in there to decompose once planted.

Be sure to not be wasteful, take all the seeds and spikes and compost the left-overs.

I harvested 20 heads before I couldn’t feel my thumbs anymore. This full bowl is what I got from 20 heads. This will be more then enough seed for me to plant in the spring and start a new patch of Echinacea.

My flower patch produces enough seed each year to harvest, plant and re-sell. From this bowl I will plant designated patches of Echinacea in set locations.

For the rest of the dried seed heads that I do not harvest, I will cut and toss them in the meadow where I want them to grow.

They are natures little seed bombs that can be tossed just about anywhere!

I have taken this shortcut in the past with many different kinds of dried seed heads and have been gifted the beautiful surprise of large blooms popping up all over the farm in the spring.

These seeds can be planted indoors and transplanted after first frost or direct sown in the early spring. I find it very hard to mess up growing Echinacea. Therefore it’s reliable, hardy and a must have for my farm.

I also dry the flowers for medicinal teas and animal treats in the off season. The ripe leaves are loved by my bunnies, pigs, sheep and donkeys. The pollinators go crazy for my Echinacea patch and even my ducks love to lay in and around the bottom to hide their eggs. This plant is truly enjoyed by all of us here on the farm.

Thank you for reading! Good luck with your seed harvest!


How Gilly Farm Began

It was the winter of 2012 when I decided to start the search for a pet pig. Don’t ask me what triggered it, I have no idea where or when the seed was planted but I jumped in with two feet and began my search.

At the time, I worked at a vet clinic and made the most of my down time looking into rescue, rehome or adoption options. I remember falling short as “mini pigs” were just about to take off in the novelty department and blow up all over the latest classified ads.

I ended up purchasing Gilly from a farm that had just started to breed “mini pigs” as the next best pocket pet. Not my proudest moment of encouraging this kind of start up business however this lesson learned was about to change my life and the life of other pigs to come.

Our first year together was a magical whirlwind of everything pig related, all day everyday. Days were full of walks, day trips, car rides, family visits and Gilly’s favourite, drive throughs.

Gilly was a fast teacher and he lacked patience where food was concerned, something we both had in common. I started to learn rather quickly all about pigs and their very specific wants, needs and above all, smells. Gilly would release a specific, disturbing odor when he was scared that could clear any room or entire house it occupied. He taught me never to pop the top of a banana unless you coughed over the sound of it so that he couldn’t hear. He taught me that no matter how important I thought my time was, a belly rub was essential to squeeze into my schedule and that when the rain touched his hard piggy skin, it would make the hair stand on end resulting in the perfect little, black ball of fluff. I was spiralling down this rabbit hole and falling more and more in love with this little creature and all the lessons he had to offer.

Just before Gilly turned one year old, he started to get sick. By sick I mean, straining to pee. We wasted no time and made our way to a vet appointment, the first of many to come over the next year. Diagnosed as a bladder infection, we came home with some meds and hoped for the best.

Apparently, we didn’t hope hard enough.

The next full year consisted of appointment after appointment, trial after trial, exploratory surgeries, meds and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. We visited specialists, universities, drove Gilly hours to be seen by people who wanted to help and spent any good days we were having, worrying or researching to try and figure things out on our own. I took him to holistic vets, played around with healing foods and essential oils but every sleepless night I came back to my computer to research his symptoms.

During this period of research and vet overload, Gilly remained patient with my efforts and constant experimentation. I can only assume he knew I meant the best for him. He took his days in stride and if it turned out to be a shitty day, I would be there, all day, if for nothing else but to provide the best belly rubs I could give.

We were told that it was highly possible that he had a blockage somewhere in his urinary tract. So after an exploratory surgery, we still did not have any answers.

Long ass story short, one summers afternoon, not too long after Gilly’s second birthday, Greg found Gilly straining on his side beside the house. This was way more exaggerated then most times so we scooped him up and rushed him to the vet. The only decent pig vet was an hour away and I remember it being a Saturday after hours so we got on the road and called them when we were en route.

Once there, we tried a couple options and eventually left many hours later with no progress. It was about 10pm and we just made it home. Gilly was laying in the back of our van, still in distress and me still crying overtop of him. I quickly rushed inside for a much needed pee but on my way back out, Greg came running in to get me. By the time we both got back to the van, Gilly had taken his last breaths and moved on to greener pastures without me.


And that was it…

Looking back, I cant believe just how full those two years were. Besides the obvious abundance of appointments, travel and meds, I’m overwhelmed by the many emotions that filled and fueled those two years. I wish that I could explain the kind of happiness Gilly brought to my life. The pure joy of seeing his chubby face every morning, the grunts of approval he would share and the wet snout-snot in my hair after a long day were exactly what I needed in my life and not a moment too soon.

Since then, the “mini pig” trend had taken on full steam and people where purchasing these pigs thinking they would stay small forever and they could be carried around in a purse like some kind of accessory. Only weeks later, they were up for sale because they grew up, lost their novelty or city bylaws forced them to be rehomed. Funny thing is, all these years later, it’s still happening! They are being advertised as “mini pigs” or “teacup pigs”. Just a word to the wise, there is NO SUCH THING AS A “MINI PIG” OR “TEACUP PIG”. They all grow up! They do not belong in an apartment! They are pigs and like to graze and run and roll in mud! Do not deprive them of their needs! As you can tell, I get really fired up about this topic. I just hope for people to take it upon themselves to educate and learn about them before bringing a pet pig home.

Gilly and I, walking in the snow.

Since loosing Gilly, shit started happening really fast. We brought in 2 more pigs, moved to the farm, then brought in 3 more pigs, among other critters. They all have some kind of story to tell and have come here to retire and live out their spoiled lives in peace. Well, I use the word “peace” lightly here, as I’m sure they see it differently. I probably inflict a small degree of harassment in the form of snuggles (sometimes forced snuggles), screaming their name in excitement too early in the morning, chasing them across the farm with the hopes of squeezing their chins, an abundance of selfies with them and so on. But, those are spoiled pig problems. The only problems I hope they have in life.

I’m so lucky to have loved and lost such a huge game changer. The loosing part sucks, but the loving part built me and prepared me for even more love in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to properly thank Gilly for what he did, so I’ll just try to show it everyday with the ones who need it.