Still Life With Puppy

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!

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