Up to date on the farm

Wow, how time flies and what a gap between blog postings! I’ll try and get you all caught up on happenings here in the past few weeks:

Goats and kidding
What? Pearl is pregnant? How did that happen? Somehow during her long trans-Canada journey, Pearl came into heat and had a close encounter with a buck. Was it Cardinal? Only time will tell though we don’t have long to wait by the looks of it. It’s amazing how we can convince ourselves that something isn’t what it looks to be because “surely it can’t be!”. Then we finally give in to reality (if it looks like a duck…) and realize that, even though it can’t be, it is! So Pearl isn’t just fat, she’s pregnant and not only pregnant but due very soon!

Goats in the great outdoors
With nice weather and melting snow, the goats and I have been taking walks out into the woods to feast on trees and the few green things poking up through the dead grass (the goats feast, I watch). They first went for conifer trees, eating needles and tips of branches. More recently they have been enjoying the budding tips of young trees and bushes and stripping the bark from their trunks. Yes, buds are swelling and pussy willow-like things are forming on the most south-facing of our trees. The girls are enjoying the variety in their diets, plus the exercise is good for them after a winter of restricted access. I am enjoying the sun and was asked today at the market if I’d been down south – yes, I guess I have a tan! This is not a typical NB March though I’m not complaining in the least!

New goat housing
Will has been working diligently on the boys’ new house and it is almost ready to be occupied. The timing is good because I’ll soon need more space in the barn. I’m buying a new buck for this season’s breeding and he will be arriving at the end of March. I saw him today, he’s a purebred Alpine, black and white and very handsome. His mother is a big milker so I’ll be expecting great things from his progeny. I’m thinking of getting a doe kid at the same time so he won’t be too lonely. I think he’ll be safer kept separate from Buckley and Nick until he’s big enough to defend himself; I can then keep him and a doe kid in their own space, lavishing attention on them until they’re ready to join their respective herds.

Planting seeds and new coldframe
Will was at the ACORN conference in Charlottetown a few weeks ago and came back brimming with information and ideas. He also brought back a lovely case of stomach flu which we each partook of, one at a time. Rowena rode back with Will and spent a few days with us (also recovering from flu). It was a little tight in our wee house but totally enjoyable and we may do it again some time. Will is in the process of ordering our coldframe from a company in Ontario. They ship regularly to NB so the cost of transportation isn’t as horrible as it could be. Gone are the days of having a couple of coldframe companies just down the road (good-bye B&W Greenhouse!). Also gone are the wonderful irrigation companies who have everything you need, also just down the road. This is not the horticultural capital of Canada and we must search far and wide for basic vegetable growing equipment. However we are almost ready to start planting and I am very excited about this: tomatoes, onions, leeks and peppers in trays for now and eventually things will go in the ground. We have our seed potatoes as well so will try and plant them under row cover a little early and see if we get lucky.

A new tractor and building
We’re looking for another tractor, a smaller one with 4 WD and a loader on the front. We looked at a little 20 hp MF today that seems in not bad shape but is just so tiny! The trick we’re finding is trying to decide exactly what we need it for. We know what we’d use it for now but what about in the future? Once we do this we can figure out what size tractor we need. Though should we buy slightly bigger and be ready for future developments, or stay small and work with what we have? We’re also planning a steel building for housing tractors over the winter, storing fuel and to act as a workshop. This will release our barn from tractor storage duty and allow us to fill it with goats – yay! The steel building may or may not happen this year since I still have room for a few more goats in our current space. The building would double as a space for washing and packing veggies in CSA boxes in the summer. That’s Permaculture: everything has more than one function!

Life on the pond
As the snow melts and the sun warms this world, we are starting to see more creatures on our pond. We have been visited by mallard ducks, mergansers, Canada geese and there was a long, lean rodent swimming in the pond a few days ago. I’ve been seeing fewer sign of deer around so I guess they’ve moved away for a while. I’m keeping an eye and ear out for bears awakening from their winter sleep – hopefully we don’t have any unpleasant surprises while out on a nice morning walk!

Coyotes here on the east coast are quite different from the west coast variety. It seems that they interbred with wolves at one time and are therefore larger and more aggressive than their western cousins. The coyotes I remember in BC were fairly small and lived on small things: field mice, rabbits, berries, cats. Our eastern coyotes, on the other hand, eat quite a bit of deer and smaller things when they can’t get deer. They’ve been known to eat small dogs quite close to home and recently a woman physically fought off a coyote to save her puppy. A woman in Cape Breton was killed by coyotes back in the fall of ’09, something I just couldn’t believe until I learned more about the local coyotes. They arrived in NB in the 1950’s so are not indigenous to this place. Of course they’re very well adapted and are thriving here now. There have been bounties on coyotes in the past to try and control their numbers when they were attacking livestock, but the more you kill, the more pups are born the following spring. Livestock people around here find that a guard dog (or llama) running with the herd is the best protection against coyote attacks.

Our roads
Roads in NB are atrocious. They were pretty bad back in the fall but now, after a winter of frost heaving, they are unbelievably bad! The worst thing isn’t just the roads themselves but the speed limits on these terrible roads and the fact that, no matter how high the speed limit, people will always try and drive faster! So imagine a narrow road with invisible lines, next to no shoulder and pitted with potholes deep enough to drown a SmartCar. Now put an 80 km/hr speed limit on that road and you are here! I laugh when I think of the exquisitely beautiful BC roads with their freshly painted lines, signs that tell you there’s a curve ahead and not a pothole to be seen, and they tell us to drive at only 60 km/hr on them! Occasionally out here you’ll see a sign indicating bumps ahead on the road – now that really makes me laugh, like, what were those things all over the road before and you mean it gets worse?

Cory had his first visit to the vet last week and got his shots. He is quite good in the car and was a little nervous at the vet’s but calmed down a lot once he started getting treats. We took him out to Moncton to visit the farmer’s markets today, then off to Magnetic Hill to see the tractor for sale. He stays in the back seat of the car and only tries to jump into the front seat when we leave, otherwise he seems pretty good. He is six months old now and weighs 43 lbs. He should end up at 55 – 60 lbs in weight, pretty much the same size as Libby, which is a good dog size. He’s calming down a lot and doesn’t chew near as much (what a relief!) and is truly becoming a good canine citizen! He has discovered the joy of eating goat poop and will follow the goats quite closely when we’re out in the woods, just waiting for a release of his favourite treat!

So the snow continues to melt and every day we see a little bit more of our fields. The drainage seems pretty good so far and the ploughed fields should dry and warm up pretty quickly if this weather continues. Of course we are told that snow on Easter Sunday is a regular occurrence here so we know that spring does not necessarily mean the end of winter! We certainly won’t have any trouble making use of this early spring, to whatever extent it occurs.


5 Responses to “Up to date on the farm”

  1. Kim Says:

    I’m with you on the roads. Good to hear they’re as bad in NB as they are on PEI, lol.
    Ah, I’m so jealous of your impending birth! Our farmer neighbor’s two goats are ready to pop, and we keep visiting as he said we could have them if we wanted.
    If we wanted … who are we kidding here? Females only, though.
    Great update. As for the coyotes, I’m too scared to walk in the woods alone now. Silly, I know, but after that poor girl was killed …
    So your pup doesn’t get carsick? Ruby is drooling by the time we hit the end of the driveway – it’s really frustrating. Even with her in the front seat and head hanging out the window, she gets sick!
    Make sure to post a pic of your new buck!

  2. Eileen Says:

    Good to hear from you again, Alyson. Greetings to Will, Cory, Goats, and coyotes & bears

  3. jo willson Says:

    Hi A&W I brought six of my hiking pals to the farm gave four of them the one hour tour & two of them the full two hour tour. They saw the cob oven, the new tiny house, five new baby goats, the mural and the story of how we put it all together as a co-op and also the story of you both leaving the farm with all your goats in tow to live on your very own farm in NB. They stayed for the pot luck lunch and attended the AGM. They were enthalled with it all. I see you are beginning your new venture with years of farming knowledge behind you that gives you the wisdom to see the possibilities of the future!

  4. Edith Schwartz Says:

    Hi Alyson,
    So good to read of your adventures. Thought of you often here in the banana belt during the thick of winter when the weather news out east was white and wild. Glad you seem to have weathered it !
    I was on a long walk a couple of weeks ago ( about 20 K) and came across three coyotes in different areas. One seemed a fair bit larger than usual and had a fair bit of black it seemed in the coat. I wondered if it was part wolf.
    Congrats on the new kids ! Looking forward to the next bit of news coming out of the farm.
    We are looking forward to the White Rock farmer’s market starting up again but you will be missed ! When I look at my egg cartons my thoughts turn to you as well !
    I have swiss chard and kale in the garden still from last year. All the best and enjoy Spring ! Hugs, edith

  5. Shawna Eagles Says:

    Aaron says “Ewwwww!” re: Cory’s idea of a nice treat!

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