Home Alone

We have finally entered the month of March, the month that spring begins in, or at least the one the vernal equinox occurs in because “spring” as I define it may not start for another couple of months. March came in like a lion and the lion continues to roar, or is that just the sound of wind battering our little house? Windy Hill Farm is indeed well named! I came in from the barn yesterday morning after fighting my way through wind-driven snow and ice pellets, watching the puppy almost blow away a couple of times and wading through snow drifts up to my hips to read an on-line weather report that called this morning’s weather “a 40% chance of flurries”. I phoned my Mom and she was planning a trip to Moncton to join her fibre friends (spinners, knitters and weavers), saying that it didn’t look too bad where they were. Hmmm, do we live in some sort of strange and vicious micro-climate, a bubble of high winds and drifting snow and colder than anywhere else temperatures? Or does it just feel that way? I’m hoping this weather will reduce our mosquitoes in the summertime, but that’s just my persistent optimism!

Will is away on PEI for the ACORN (Atlantic Canada Organic Regional Network) annual conference. Yesterday was the berry symposium and today the conference starts in earnest. It sounds really interesting and I’m looking forward to reading the info Will brings home and hear his stories from the sessions he attended. Will left on Wed. and stopped at an organic potato farm to pick up seed potatoes for us and another farmer. He also went to Vessey’s, one of our local (and very long established) seed companies to pick up some equipment for starting this year’s vegetables. We actually didn’t buy seeds at Vessey’s, but from High Mowing Seeds in the US (all organic seed) and Hope Seeds, a small seed company in NB which sources most of its seeds from the Maritimes. Hope Farm is also organic and most of its seeds are certified organic or “organically grown”. For our seed order we started with Hope Seeds and where they didn’t have the varieties we wanted, moved onto HMS (located in Vermont so not too far from this growing climate) and picked up the last of our needs at Johnny’s Seed (located in Maine, closer yet but not all organic). The only seed we haven’t been able to get yet is broad bean seed but Will is attending Seedy Saturday at the conference and will try and find some Aquadulce or another good broad bean variety.

So I get the farm to myself for three days – whoopee! Except there’s a bit more work to do when there’s only one person – Will is a hard working guy – and I’m finding the daily chores take up more time than they usually do. Today was snow removal day; though the wind is still moving snow around and creating new drifts, I realized I’d need to start carving some routes onto the farm if I ever wanted to leave here (or have anyone visit) before spring thaw. Now our division of labour up till now had Will running the snowblower on the tractor and me doing the shoveling part (where the snowblower doesn’t go). So today was the first time I got to operate the tractor + snowblower. I have been driving tractors and operating farm equipment since I was 19 but I am always apprehensive the first time I operate something new. I also don’t have a lot of experience on this particular tractor, so was ready for a few surprises and some new learning experiences. My first experience came when I started the tractor (after it was plugged in to warm up for an hour) and realized I didn’t know where the PTO (power take-off) was located! I’d done some ploughing in the fall but ploughing doesn’t use the PTO, so I was fine with the levers that raise and lower equipment, plus all the parts that cause the tractor to go forward and back, but not the one that makes moving parts in equipment move.

The tractor started up just fine but the 5’ high snowdrift at the door would need to be blown away if I was to get out of the barn. I shut the tractor off when I realized I was gassing the goats and went into the house to consult the manual. Thank you Anne and Paryse for being so organized that we have all the manuals for everything on the farm (even the toaster!). Tractors are usually well labeled with all the functions of all the buttons, knobs and levers but on old tractors, these labels are often worn away to nothing but dark smears on the paint. Fortunately the manual told me everything: how to engage the PTO and how to cause the spout that snow blows out of to move from side to side. We’ll get into the importance of this second function later.

I think I did a pretty good job of clearing snow from the driveway, though some of the drifts were high enough to require some persistent backing and forthing, taking bites out of the drift until it was reduced enough to be able to plough right through. Moving the blowing spout is really important if you don’t want to re-snow the area you’d just cleared and it’s also important that you don’t blow your driveway snow onto the main road. In fact I think you can get into big trouble for that and I’m really hoping it blows away before the plough comes by and sees who messed up Hwy 115! It didn’t take long after the triumph of my first tractor+snowblower adventure to realize that the drifts were drifting back in much faster than I’d been able to remove them. I think I’ll be doing this again soon, even though the weather report is still reporting a slight chance of flurries!

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3 Responses to “Home Alone”

  1. Kim Says:

    Ahhh, we didn’t get any of the predicted snowfalls. I was walking on grass and ground today, all over the property.
    Touch wood!
    Sounds like NB gets a bit more ‘weather’ then PEI!

  2. jo willson Says:

    Alyson, you are truly a wonder woman – taking charge of the farm when
    your man is away!

    JO

  3. Shawna Eagles Says:

    Who’d a thought we’d be sitting outside in our t-shirts soaking up the sun less than 2 weeks later….

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