Brian Vraken

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since Feb 01, 2017
Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Recent posts by Brian Vraken

Cristo Balete wrote:It takes a lot of milk to make cheese, with a lot of leftover whey.  Is there a cheesemaker near you who might buy your extra raw milk?

Not legally, here in Canada. Distribution of milk produced without quota ($24k per kilo of butterfat per day and not currently available) or raw milk (with or without quota) has lead to jailtime here. While I am sure I could find people who would buy it illegally from me, I'd rather find ways to convert it into product I *can* legally sell (or distribute).
11 months ago
Additional goal:

1. I want the indicated level of production on average pasture and hay, without requiring extensive or expensive supplementation.
11 months ago
Hi all.

I've been thinking about Dexter cattle and how they are supposed to be dual-purpose animals. However, some experience with the breed and owners really suggests to me that by and large, most owners and homesteads are primarily using them as small beef cattle, and the dairy aspect in the breed as a whole (outside of some selected breeders) has been massively deemphasived to the point that many of the Dexters out there would not make good house cows. Personal experience has shown me many cows in the breed with bad to terrible udders, and questionable milk production - the owner unable to get much milk, and the calf eating signifigant grain or hay much earlier than would normally be expected.

So, I've been debating the merits of starting a breeding program to re-emphasize the dairy aspects of the breed.

My baseline expectations would be:

1. The cow should produce enough milk to sustain her calf's growth rate (~1.5 lbs daily) until an 8-month weaning, without limiting the calf or forcing it to more solids than is in the best interests of the calf's long term development.
2. The cow should produce a minimum of 3/4 to 1 gallon of milk per day for the family.
3. The cow's beef aspects should not be signifigantly deemphasized - merely balanced.
4. None of the other core aspects of Dexters should be compromised - easy keeping, feed efficiency, temperament, size etc.

I don't know if I will actually pursue this, as I am not keen to tie myself to a milking schedule, but I am still working through it mentally. A few thoughts:

1. I would need to split calves more or less immediately post-colostrum, so that I can harvest and track the cow's complete milk production, then feed an appropriate portion back to the calf. I need objective measurements to have objective results.
2. I would need at least a few cows in the herd under this regime, so I would (hopefully) harvest several gallons of milk per day.
3. This is more than my family can drink, and we only have so much time and resources for 'extra' enterprises like cheese making.
4. I live in Canada, so we can't sell any sort of dairy product, or even technically serve it to visitors.
5. I will need to find a use for excess milk.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the best uses for excess milk? So far, I have:

1. Raise a few extra bottle calves.
2. Perhaps feed it to the chickens or a hog?
3. Spread it on the pasture as an amendment?

I'm done with the lists, but would love to hear people's thoughts on all the above.

11 months ago

Steve Thorn wrote:Very neat Brian! What type of apple is it?

I air layered an apple last year and removed it after about two months, and no roots had formed yet unfortunately.

Maybe if you could open it up and peek without fully removing it? I know that might be hard though depending on how the air layer is set up.

I removed mine right near our first frost, maybe even a little after it, and it was fine. We don't get very hard freezes here though, only down to about 15 degrees F, I bet winter damage may be more of a concern where you are.

Well, I can look, but I put it together with potting soil, and it... wasn't easy to get it all together in a way that it works.

It gets down to about -30 Fahrenheit here during winter, so cold enough that winter damage is a pretty large concern. Hence my desire to take the air layered cutting earlier to give the wound some time to harden off and heal before it starts freezing overnight in a couple of weeks.

I guess the worst case scenario, I could plant my air layered cutting into a bucket of damp sand in the short term to give it more of a chance for roots to develop.
1 year ago
I have an apple tree that I started air layering over 2.5 months ago (beginning of July).

I'm thinking it's probably about ready to go into the ground. However, with frost and dormancy being at most a month away, is it worth me waiting until dormancy to plant the new tree?

One concern: I probably should do it sooner than later to give some time for the wound where I remove the branch from the parent tree to heal.

Does anyone have any thoughts?
1 year ago
Benjamin: Since you are in here anyways, how unreasonable would it be to use the No. 8 Aluminum snath as a taller guy (6'0")?
1 year ago
Hi all!

I've been doing some looking into Scythe options up here in Canada, and just wanted to post my research here for the benefit of others.

All these options are for scythes that would arrive in 'Ready to use' condition along with the sharpening equipment required to maintain them (Peening sets and stones for Euro scythes, grinding point and sharpening stone for the American style). I want the blade to come sharpened, so I have a good reference points as to how a sharp scythe is supposed to cut. These quotes are all for 'general purpose'-type blades that can be used for trimming and rougher ground / vegetation, so 'Ditch', 'Garden' or 'Weed' blades depending on the vendor.

Note that these are not 'Apples to Apples' comparisons - these vendors sell different Snaths, blades and even styles of scythe. So, your mileage may vary, but since I had it all written down, I figured I may as well post it in case it's useful to someone else.

USD/CAD conversion was done at 1 USD = 1.33242 CAD

#01A “All-Purpose Outfit” with #126Z/65cm
Sharpening Kit
$75 shipping
$392.11 CAD after HST and shipping

Scythe Supply (coming from the USA)
Custom outfit with 26" Ditch Blade and Sharpening
'Under $75 shipping to Canada'
$376.53 CAD after HST and Shipping. Not sure about duty as the blade is not US made.

Baryonx (US supplier, American-style Scythes)
Longfellow Snath
'Grab Bag Vintage Blade' weed blade with a 'Deluxe Fine' grind and Tang Adjustment
Polymer Whetstone Holder
Lansky Canoe Stone
Grinding Point
$61.72 Shipping
$445.13 CAD after HST and Shipping. Possibly some duty.

One Scythe Revolution - from the USA
160cm FUX Adjustable Snath with 65cm "Gartensense" Scythe Blade Outfit
Peening Jig
$85 Shipping
$598.05 CAD after HST and Shipping

The Marugg Company - from the USA
Straight Hickory Outfit w/ 26” Grass blade
Peening Apparatus
$75 Shipping (estimate, will adjust once owner responds)
$393.03 including HST and Shipping

After all this, I'm not sure which way I'm going to go.

I was thinking hard about the American scythes from Baryonyx... I'm convinced they can do the job as well as European-style scythes  once properly fitted and set up, plus, with the grinding points, I have the option of picking up and 'restoring' local blades if desired. I also prefer the maintenance requirements somewhat more. However, I'd be paying a premium to go that way.

All the above companies offer custom sizing, and I suspect I would be quite happy with any of them.

1 year ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:The one thing I would do at this point in the year would be to decide which leader you want to keep and I would get rid of the other and use Elmer's glue to seal that one wound.

Leaving a double leader can lead to deformation of both leaders and that ends up weakening the tree.

notching this late in the season does not allow for enough time for new growth to fully harden before winter, that can lead to death of the new branches.

There are three options available in your situation.
1. do nothing till winter, your tree isn't old enough to not respond to good, judicial care of branching.

2. remove the unwanted leader and seal the wound to prevent insect/fungal damage.

3. turn the unwanted leader into another tree by air layering and waiting until a good mass of roots have formed on the scion then cut off seal wound and plant new tree.

you can, in the spring, encourage new branching where you want it to occur by inducing bud formation as per R. Steele's suggestion and method.


Thanks. I will probably take this advice.

As for air layering - I had never heard about that, but it seems amazing! On the flip side, I also see it as a potential avenue for disease on the parent tree, not necessarily something I want to experiment with the first time around.

That said, I've been thinking about trying an apple on it's own roots as an experiment. There's some 'wild' apples around here that produce prolifically, and are likely the result of seeds scattered into fence lines by birds. Ignoring the fact that the wild quality is all over the map, the trees are for the most part large, healthy and productive with no human intervention.

1 year ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:Are you planning on creating a bonsai or other manipulated tree shape?

No, I just want to end up with a 'standard' central-leader tree. My main concern is that the existing branches are mostly too low, and as far as I understand, it gets harder to 'induce' branching on older wood. I believe the area where I want the scaffolding to grow is already 2-year old wood (this being it's third year), so already may be difficult to get it where I want.

I would wait until the tree is in dormancy, it needs this year and perhaps next year for the root system to establish so the tree will not be stressed when you do prune it.
Winter is the time for pruning, early spring is the time for notching most fruit trees.

If you were to prune or notch now, you would invite insect damage to occur as well as sending out the call to feed for fungi spores that are airborne.


I appreciate the advice. I am giving up on the idea of pruning, thinking only to notch to induce some scaffold branches where I want them... but even that, I am hesitant about this late in the year.

Working with trees purchased as 1-year olds is way simpler....
1 year ago
Thanks for the responses all.

Regarding notching - I've always heard not to aim for new growth after July 1 as it won't have time to harden off before winter. Is that an old wive's tale, or good advice?

It notching is still feasible, then I will give it a shot so that I don't 'lose' this whole year in terms of training the tree.
1 year ago