LIVING WILLOW

We have launched a new website...

LIVINGWILLOW.CA

With spring only weeks away, we are thinking about things that grow and the colour green! Once the pussy willow crop has been harvested we will shift our focus to living willow. Early spring is the best time to plant, once the ground has thawed and before the willows leaf out.

Last year we created several projects, including a natural playground at Percy Centennial Public School in Warkworth, Ontario. We watched these structures grow and change over the summer months and were thrilled to have the students at PCPS help us weave the new growth back into the walls of the dome and two tunnels in September when they returned from summer vacation. What a delight it was for us to see the excitement in their faces as they worked with the long rods that had sprouted from the framework we had planted just a few months earlier.

This year we are pleased to offer kits for domes, tunnels, fedges and chicken runs, plus willow rods for sale for larger projects. There are workshops for living willow trees and spheres scheduled for April and demo workshops available with the purchase of living willow kits. 

dome3.jpg

The new site will follow the growth of living willow structures that we have planted and also feature artists from around the world who use living willow to create many remarkable things. We hope you will join us on our journey through the wonderful world of willow... livingwillow.ca

photo courtesy Spencer Jenkins

photo courtesy Spencer Jenkins

 

2016 Farm Sale and Workshops

The Branch Ranch is open this year, Wednesdays thru Sundays from 9:30am - 4:00pm, until December 11th. We have a full range of holiday decor items for DIY, plus some ready-made urns, swags and wreaths available. Custom orders are welcome, please feel free to contact us if you would like us to design an urn or swag for your home. 

Centrepieces and tabletop arrangements will be ready starting December 2nd. Custom orders are welcome!

Are you looking for a unique Christmas gift? We have a limited number of hand-made willow baskets, bird feeders and garden items. 

Our willow stars and reindeer are very popular, we are making them daily but can't keep them in the store. Contact us if you would like to reserve one so that you are't disappointed! 

760 Concession Rd 2 West, Warkworth

760 Concession Rd 2 West, Warkworth

A Warning About Milkweed!

***PLEASE CHECK YOUR PASTURE FOR TOXIC WEEDS during this drought and please share to avoid this happening to another donkey or horse.

MOLLY AND THE MILKWEED
Molly is one of three equines who live at The Branch Ranch. She is loved by all who meet her for her mop head hairdo, her big voice, knock knees and impish behaviour. Molly's stubborn badness and some excellent vet care may have saved her life this summer.

Our pastures on the farm dried out several weeks ago, much earlier than normal due to extreme weather, no snow in winter, no spring rains and intense heat with high winds. Even though the pastures are bare, Molly, Franny and Basil like to nibble on the dusty stubble so we give them access to the pasture behind their shelter and have been feeding them hay since the end of June. They get plenty of hay and their weights are good, which makes this story all the more baffling.

Last Sunday Molly stopped eating and appeared to be starting a colic. Molly is a BIG eater, so refusal of food, even sugar cubes or carrots is reason for great concern. As with all things equine, disaster always strikes on a weekend, but fortunately our vet is accessible by phone message and he immediately called back with some advice.

We followed his instructions: pepto-bismal 2x’s the human dose and Banamine, which he said we could administer orally, thank goodness because giving Molly a needle under normal circumstances is a nightmare. These measures seemed to have some effect but they were short lived. We did a search of the pasture and discovered that someone had been eating MILKWEED! This was more than just caterpillar chewing, there were donkey teeth marks on the 

leaves! Although generally thought to be unpalatable to equines, Milkweed is poisonous and if consumed in large quantities it can cause death within 24 hours. The donkeys are on a small pasture and we have had milkweed in there before but they have never been interested in eating it so this discovery came as a shock to us.

On Tuesday our vet came to the farm and said Molly was definitely colicky. Her heart rate was in the high 40’s, which meant she was in some discomfort from the colic but nothing too serious. We started her on probiotics, Kaopectate, more Banamine and antibiotics. By the next day she was worse so the vet came out again. Her heart rate was over 55, she had not eaten for 4 days, she was lethargic and obviously uncomfortable. Donkeys don’t exhibit colic symptoms in the same way horses do. A horse in colic rolls on the ground frequently and kicks at it’s belly, a donkey is more stoic and the symptoms are more subtle.

After tranquilizing her, the vet gave her a rectal exam, IV fluids and put a tube down her nose in order to pour warm water into her stomach. He said she was very ill, most likely the colic involved a torsion of the lower intestine overtop of a ligament resulting in a compression of the spleen and a blockage in the gut… he gave her a 50/50 chance of survival. He instructed us to walk her up and down steep hills to encourage the twisting to flip back into place. We were up walking with her every hour overnight but by the next day her heart rate was over 60. One again the vet arrived and performed the same procedures as the day before, the prognosis was still grim. This time the vet gave her a shot of adrenaline, in the hope that it would help to release the intestinal twisting. We let her out of her paddock to wander around the backyard and she showed some interest in nibbling on a few blades of grass! For the next 24 hours we watched her closely and monitored her heart rate and slowly we started to see some signs of improvement. We let her eat grass, gave her some soaked roughage cubes and continued with the probiotics. Yesterday, over a week from the onset and after four vet visit, things started to move and she had quite a few loose bowel movements.

Today her manure is normal, she is eating hay and braying for food like the Molly we know and love! We are grateful to Serge and Jessica at Coninx Equine Mobile for their thoughtful and excellent care during this past week. Their amazing help and Molly’s stubborn nature got us through this ordeal and thankfully there is a happy ending to this donkey's tale.

If you have equines please check your pasture for toxic plants! There are many plants and trees in our natural landscape that can hurt or even kill a horse or donkey. With barren pastures due to drought conditions it is more important than ever to remove poisons that could harm your animals. The following link is a list of those plants: http://bit.ly/2aIMBvU

Stick Prison!

"STICK PRISON", is the term we use to lovingly describe the Branch Ranch harvests. In fall and spring we harvest our branches, cutting every stem by hand, making bundles in the field and then processing the sticks back in the poly house. In early fall the branches must be stripped of leaves and pruned before packaging. Later, once the leaves are off, the process is much faster but the volume increases with peak demand for Christmas ornamentals in November. Spring harvest is more unpredictable, since we depend on the weather to open the pussy willows and sales are geared towards Easter and spring-like weather, so each year is different.

With the introduction of weaving willow, we have a third harvest which must happen while the plants are dormant, making "Stick Prison" a longer and more involved workout! Thankfully we have some wonderful help which makes Stick Prison a whole lot more fun.

Cardinal Dogwood in October.

Cardinal Dogwood in October.

 
The truck loaded with branches off the field.

The truck loaded with branches off the field.

 
Stripping!

Stripping!

 
It's exhausting work!

It's exhausting work!

 
Curly willow!!!

Curly willow!!!

 
Stripped, cleaned, tagged bundled and ready for shipping.

Stripped, cleaned, tagged bundled and ready for shipping.

 
Pussy willows in early spring.

Pussy willows in early spring.

 
Harvesting the weaving willow.

Harvesting the weaving willow.

 
Taking a break.

Taking a break.

 
"I love Stick Prison!"

"I love Stick Prison!"