Archive for January, 2010

January 27, 2010

Living room and puppy

January 27, 2010

Will's fine shelves, loaded and ready for action

Still Life With Puppy

January 26, 2010

It is an abnormally warm day today: up to 10 degrees above zero. It rained and the wind blew heavily last night and this morning so much of the farm has gained colour: green and brown and other shades that aren’t white! The snow is no longer nice to walk on and I’m sinking halfway up my calf in very heavy, waterlogged snow. The dog poop I missed picking up is now visible (plus lots of what I suspect is cat poop) so I did a bit of a run around the farm this morning with my little poo bucket, cleaning up. I have a composting area set up not too far from the house that is for composting dog poop and cat litter box leavings. Yes, I do miss my composting toilet back at the farm! I compensate by not flushing after every pee but there’s still a large part of me that just must compost these unsavoury products!

What a great way to start a blog posting: poo and pee talk. My apologies for those who aren’t used to me or haven’t been around me the last 10 years or so, I do tend to get excited about converting bodily wastes to soil nutrients. I’ll try not to get too carried away, though! Cory the puppy is lying on his back with legs out in the air, having a mid-afternoon snooze by my chair. I have him on the leash because there are just too many chewable delights up here on the second floor of the house, mainly because this is where we’d moved everything to puppy-proof the first floor! He is especially attracted to sheep and goat hides though yoga mats and cat litter boxes are nice, too. Cory is doing really well in the house training department, he knows his name, comes when called (unless something else is just too irresistible to leave) and sits on command (more or less!). He is a very confident, rambunctious and stubborn puppy but also very eager to play and please. He’s much better with the cats now and Motor and Tabbi have even started hanging out on the first floor again. Will was initially reluctant to bring a dog into our tranquil home but I think he’s quite fallen for Cory and all of his endearing ways. Cory has also taken to the crate really well and we’ve left him for four hours at a time with no problems. I’m such a big fan of crate training, it really makes life so much easier for puppy and person.

Will has been working with my Dad on constructing shelves for the living room and they are now complete. They are made from pine boards and reach from floor to ceiling (14 inches below ceiling) and are almost 6’ long. We stained them this morning to match the staircase and they look fabulous. I’ll put a photo up once they are in place. We’re both really looking forward to being just a bit more organized around the house: there are still boxes of books to unpack and plants that need a better location. I also have all my spinning supplies in a pile on the floor and will now be able to organize them in baskets on the shelves. The big thing is having access to books and no longer having to dig into boxes to find the “Vet Book for Goat Owners” or “Ontario Weeds” books. Yes, our farming reference library is developing very nicely!

Will and I also re-covered our kitchen chairs. I’d bought these chairs many years ago at a second hand shop in Mission, BC, and am quite attached to them. The cloth covering them was getting pretty ratty-looking, though, and they were ready for a makeover. With my Mom’s help, I found some good quality cloth at a fabric store and then she and my Dad shared with us their years of experience reupholstering chairs. It’s not a very difficult job for something as simple as a trapezoidal chair seat, but it’s hard enough that I have much more respect for those who re-cover couches and other big and complicated things. The chairs could really do with being stripped down and re-finished as well but that is just too big of a job and one that needs to be done in the summertime when you can do it outdoors to avoid nasty fumes. We’ll have to be happy with the new coverings though the rest of the chair looks a little rattier now than it did ….

Will and I have also been ordering seeds for our garden. This is quite different from my experience of the last few years, ordering seeds for a salad business. Now we get to look at things like carrot, potato, broccoli and tomato seed in the catalogues! In the past I always appreciated the great pictures of veggies in the seed catalogues and enjoyed fantasizing about growing something other than lettuce, spinach and chard. Well, we may have gone a little overboard for our first year’s garden, but we’ve ordered a wonderful selection of varieties of pretty well every vegetable you can think of, and a few you may never have heard of (the non-farming readers)! We are planning to have a coldframe up this summer so have 10 different tomato varieties planned and other vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas, celeriac) planned for the root cellar we’ll also have constructed over the summer. We won’t be too busy or anything, will we? Of course there will be things we’ll grow for dry storage: painted mountain corn, beans, garlic, onions, wheat and hot chillie peppers; things we’ll can: peppers, tomato, onion, cilantro for salsa and cukes, dill and garlic for dill pickles; and things we’ll put in the freezer: beans, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach. We’ve been veggie challenged this winter and I look forward to having a much better stocked larder next year.

I met another organic farmer last week. Maurice Girourd owns the Maritime Bean Company and Ferme Girourd and grows certified organic wheat, rye, beans and soybeans. I talked to him about growing barley and oats for livestock feed and he is quite keen to supply another organic farmer. Barley and oats are both quite easy to grow here and Will and I are thinking that it may make more sense to get someone with all the equipment to grow them (we can buy them for less than $400/ton) and then use our land for something that we’re having a hard time finding around here, like alfalfa. If we can source CO livestock feed ingredients then it makes it more practical to consider a CO goat dairy. There isn’t such a thing in NB yet though NS has one in Tatamagouche.

Maurice’s farm has been in his family since his grandfather bought it many years ago so he is a well established, experienced farmer. However he is finding it difficult to market his product; for example Co-op Atlantic will tell him they are looking for a certain grain/pulse and he grows it, to find that they end up needing less than they’d thought and he’s left trying to sell the surplus. Growing grain isn’t like growing vegetables, you can’t start selling at the farmer’s market with a small stall and then increase your area as demand increases. The price of grain is just too low and unless you get into processing (make flour and bread), you just couldn’t sell enough to make it worthwhile.

Raising goats for milk will be the same in many ways: we do our research and are pretty sure of a market that needs to be filled, but we are still taking a leap of faith when we invest in the herd and the milking equipment. We will have to make sure we have more than one market lined up before we make the big leap, though at the same time we would like to work directly with one cheese-maker and develop along with them. It was quite amazing to hear on the news that Michael Schmidt was acquitted of the charges of selling raw milk. It would seem that operating a cow/goat share program is a legal way of making raw milk available to people and it could be one further step towards Canada legalizing raw milk sales. At last Canada would be as progressive as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and most of the US on the issue of raw milk and human health. Now how exciting is that!

January 16, 2010

tree skeleton

January 16, 2010

I know I pee on the floor but please love me anyway!

A Tree Story

January 16, 2010

I know you have all been waiting for an update on Nick so I apologize for leaving it so late: Nick has made a full recovery! It seems the impaction may have been caused by a urinary blockage which prevented Nick from drinking enough water (his bladder would have been full and uncomfortable) and without water, food doesn’t move through the system. His recovery was heralded by a massive pee, after which he seemed quite a bit happier. The rumen started working after that and, after recovering from the mineral oil, he was totally back to normal. Following this experience I now more closely monitor the condition of the boys’ water for liquidity and cleanliness. Nick has now developed the habit of intercepting me when I enter the goat area with a bucket full of hot water and drinking the hot water. I really feel like I should put a tea bag in there for him, since this water is pretty warm! I guess it’s like the satisfaction we get from drinking hot tea (or eating hot soup) on a cold day: it warms you up from the inside. Buckley hasn’t yet discovered this treat so Nick is free to drain the bucket himself, the clever guy!

All the goats appear well though they’ve all developed large hay bellies. This is typical for goats in the winter, I’m told, since the digestion of hay keeps them warm. As long as the goats are happy, I’m happy. I’ve included a picture of the unfortunate tree that was devoured by hungry goats a few days ago. It was actually Mom and Dad’s Christmas tree – no tinsel or other foreign objects still attached and it was from this farm so I knew nothing nasty had touched it. I can’t think of a better ending for a tree that was cut down for Christmas purposes!

Cory the puppy continues to do well though we are challenged by his desire to use cats as playthings and chewy toys. This is, of course, quite hard on the cats and Cory doesn’t seem deterred even by a good slash on the nose. He has a strong prey drive so to not chase something that runs is a hard concept for him to grasp. We’re working on it as well as his recent peeing on the floor problem. I’ve noticed this with animals: as soon as you get some sort of routine going and stop giving them your full attention all day long, they start developing bad habits. So with Cory we can’t just ignore him until it’s time to go outside and pee (this would be the time WE decide he should pee), we need to keep an eye on him and watch for the subtle signs that tell us he wants to pee. Well, we’re working on identifying those signs and, meanwhile, giving him our undivided attention, all day long! This is all causing Will to reminisce how much he likes having dogs around that someone else is responsible for!

Will is off in Memramcook this morning, picking up a bunch of plastic, 55 gallon barrels. These will be used for feed and other sorts of storage. They looked good on the computer and they come with lids so hopefully they’ll do the trick. At $10 each they’re a good price and they were originally used for food ingredients so don’t contain any toxic residues. I’m here at home, baking bread and making a potluck contribution for tonight. There is a fiddle jam this afternoon with potluck dinner to follow: I can’t resist many continuous hours of fiddle playing!

There are a few snowflakes falling which will be nice since the snow has gotten rather “stale” lately. It froze quite hard after that wet spell and we’ve been able to walk on top of it, which is great. When I take the puppy for a morning walk through the woods, I see many tracks of the animals that move around in the wee hours: rabbits, squirrel, deer, pheasant and something smaller than Cory and larger than Thabo (our cat). They tell me the coyotes out here are quite a bit larger than their west coast cousins so it may be a fox? We’ve been walking all over these prints so the wilderness isn’t quite as pristine as it was; hopefully a new snowfall will turn it back into a blank canvass for animal tracks.

Will has been spending some time working at mapping the farm. If we had a good Google earth picture of the property we could use it to place landmarks: fence lines, house, barn, etc. but without this the process has been quite involved. Will has been taking measurements and compass readings to try and get things on a map to some sort of scale. It is working quite well and looking good. We went out the other day to measure the flow of water from the pond’s overflow, plus the shape of the swale. Milder temperatures allowed all the moving water to cut paths through the snow so we were able to see what we couldn’t see in the fall with all the weeds: the movement of water through the farm fields. This will help us get a better picture of our farm and what we can expect to do where.

While we were out measuring the pond, Cory ran out onto the pond ice, chasing a blowing leaf. Now this ice was very new and we could see it quivering under his weight so called him back and, thank goodness, he came to us right away. Just imagine this little puppy going through the ice and struggling to try and get out again – what a horrible thing to happen! Especially since one of us would have to go in after him (it was about 12 below zero celcius) and it would have probably been me! How many of these near misses do we have every day in our lives and we just go on, thinking “good thing that didn’t happen!”. I guess they serve to make us more aware of what can happen so we can prevent them. I think we’ll make sure we keep a long coil of rope near the pond, just in case!

It’s time to go and knead some dough, then perhaps another visit to the barn to talk to the goats. Happy January to you all!

January 10, 2010

Rare footage of a pride of goats devouring recently killed tree

January 10, 2010

This tree didn't stand a chance

January 7, 2010

Cory, looking adorable

January 7, 2010

A big handful of puppy