Goodye Snow

The snow is finally on its way and as I watch the fields slowly turn from white to brown, I think about winter and what I will miss about it. I will miss the snow: being able to see dog poop so I can avoid stepping in it; being able to walk in parts of the forest that are hard to access without a big cushion of snow; the sheer beauty of snowflakes floating down from the sky; I will miss fires in the wood stove; I will miss bringing a nice, clean puppy into the house after a long romp in the fields. However, all that being said, I am very excited to see spring on its way!

Today was the first time I saw our garlic bed since the snow fell. There isn’t any garlic poking up out of the hay mulch yet but I know it won’t be long now. The goats are starting to go outside on their own and explore more of the field and the cats have started catching mice again (and leaving their remains on the mat by the door). Cory’s whole life up until now had consisted of walks in the snow and he is now getting used to jumping over puddles and navigating through muddy fields. We walked by the pond a week or so ago and he jumped right into it, I think expecting to land on the ice – he looked quite shocked to land in water up to his belly!

Pearl and her babies are doing well though Pearl doesn’t seem to have an excess of milk. Her babies aren’t complaining yet so I’ll keep an eye on them. Her temperature was normal today and she is eating well so it just may take a bit more time. She didn’t get fed as a pregnant goat in the early stages of pregnancy so didn’t put on as much weight as she could have. Medusa is next on the list (April 9) and is looking very nicely rounded with a fine, glossy coat. She’s Nessie’s daughter and, though doesn’t seem to have inherited her mother’s tendency to obesity, doesn’t look like she’s malnourished, either!

Will worked against all odds and finished up the buck palace a few days ago. He took a pick-axe to frozen ground to bury the final fence post and finished off the fence. The only thing left to do is finish the siding on the northeast side of the building which we’ll do once we’ve had a day warm enough to prime and paint the plywood. The rest of the building is sided with metal left over from building the barn roof. We moved the boys in a few days ago and they seem to be settling in, though changes in their routines are always difficult for them. We cleaned their pen out yesterday: a phenomenal amount of bedding and manure came out of there, partly due to not having a feeder and having to feed hay on the floor and partly due to the poor quality of hay so there was quite a lot wasted. Will and I worked for close to three hours to get it all cleaned out and we now have a very large manure pile to enjoy looking at and eventually add to the garden!

We’ll be getting some new young goats soon so Will is building more hay and grain feeders for them. The floor of the old buck area is drying out now and will hopefully be ready for the new goats. This pen will eventually become a creep area for the young goats. A creep area has a small door that allows young goats to get in but keeps the adults out. Grain and other goodies will be fed free-choice in there to supplement the young goats’ diet.

I’m working on organizing my brain to teach an eco-nutrition course next week. Rowena has been teaching this course the past few years but has just taken a job in Nova Scotia coordinating NS’s farmer’s markets. She taught one round of the course already and I sat in on it all, so should theoretically be ready to leap into teaching it, myself. I have all Rowena’s handouts and Powerpoint presentations but still need to read the book (“The End of Food” by Thomas Pawlick) and get myself organized to teach. I enjoy teaching and look forward to this new element in my life. The eco-nutrition course is part of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition’s Registered Holistic Nutritionist course. It looks at the food system as a whole and how our food choices impact on our environment, communities and farmers, as well as on ourselves. I get to rant about GMO foods, cheap food policies and the Green Revolution, as well as factory farmed livestock and the decline of the family farm. It’s about 12 hours of teaching plus a few homework items, so you can imagine how organized you have to be to squeeze all this in and make it understandable to people who are encountering these issues for the first time. I teach next week so I’ll tell you how it all goes.

Last week I sat in on the AGM for Really Local Harvest, a local farmer’s cooperative. It’s been going on for 13 years (the last 10 as a registered co-op) and is amazingly successful. I was really impressed with how the AGM was run: it was mostly in French though most people also recapped in English for the benefit of non-Francaphones (that would be me!). It was well organized and the discussion was well-thought-out and interesting. The atmosphere seemed really pleasant and I got the feeling that the members liked and trusted one another. It’s nice to be in a room full of people treating each other with respect and still getting things done! I’ve certainly seen a lot of the opposite. I couldn’t stay for the whole AGM because of an evening commitment, but I managed to talk to a few of the other farmers and they were very welcoming. The group is mainly non-organic but I talked to one organic farmer who had been with the group for many years and said he always felt comfortable in the group, regardless of differences in farming philosophy. I guess the group is made up of many farmers who are trying to become more “organic” as well as those who will never change their methods. It sounds like my “organic continuum” vision where, instead of the “all or nothing” situation where you’re either organic or not, there are many different levels of commitment to sustainable growing. The growers’ methods are transparent and the consumer can make their choice.

Really Local Harvest is made up of about 30 some farms: meat, vegetable, fruit, winery, cheese, and it also runs the Dieppe Farmer’s Market. There are so many things a group like this can do and it very recently hired an executive director to try and help it better focus its energies. It’s a group I would like to join once we are up and running and producing food. It’s not cheap to be a member so we need to make sure our business gains something from membership, though just being a member of a great group of neat people is definitely a good thing!

We have just ordered our steel building – whew, big bucks! We have a budget for what we can afford to spend getting our farm going and this is within the budget. However it’s that first big expenditure which is a little scary, especially when we don’t expect to see a significant income for another few years. We need the barn to move machinery into so we can free up the big barn for the livestock, so it’s all in keeping with the master plan. We pay a down payment now and get the engineered plans for it. We’ll pour the foundation this summer once the conditions are good and then get the rest of it delivered probably in August or so. This will be a multi-use building: tractor storage in the winter and veggie handling in the summer with a year-round workshop. The steel buildings are a low cost option that last forever (40 year guarantee on the paint) and are fireproof (great when you’re a beginner welder!) plus quick and easy to assemble (4 people and scaffolding). I think it’s a good choice. We’ll pour a slab slightly larger than the building so we can have an outside work area for washing and packing produce. We’ll put up an awning eventually and a trench for water lines to the area, too. The coldframe won’t be too far away which works well since it will need water, too.

Once again I’ve gone on and on. Well, there’s just so much to tell! I must go outside and milk Keehay. I’ll put some more pictures up soon, the river is especially exciting to see at this time of the year!

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4 Responses to “Goodye Snow”

  1. jo willson Says:

    ..lan’ sakes alive, you’re up to your ears in projects and plans for the future !! Don’t forget to rest now and then. Looking forward to new pictures – yours is the best blog EVER!!

    lots of love

  2. et Says:

    I’m curious about the “organic continuum”. You say the “growers’ methods are transparent and the consumer can make their choice”. But how would consumers know how to choose between:
    Farmer A who uses non-org fertilizer every few years but no pesticides
    Farmer B who uses no off farm inputs or crop rotation but has a major weed and fertility problem
    Farmer C uses only manure (maybe composted, maybe not) to fertilize but GMO seed for one crop
    Farmer D who minimizes off farm inputs but has persistent diseases treated with antibiotics
    Farmer E only input is hay but uses a dewormer regularly
    or any combination of these and a multitude of factors?
    Do you think that consumers are willing and able to consider all these factors when choosing which eggs or corn to buy?
    I can see how organic/non organic can be very divisive and that it would be good for farmers to meet as peers w/o labels.

    • wjpedersen Says:

      The “organic continuum” is my very own concept and it involves having all farmers registering and submitting thier production information to a certifying body who would conduct inspections and then give each farm a rating number from 1 – 100 where 1 is very conventional/chemical/industrial (hopefully no one is ever that bad!) and 100 is very sustainable (probably not an acheivable level but something to aim for). So instead of the all or nothing “organic” or not organic, the farmers’ rating appear on a scale and consumers (who would of course have to be educated in the system) choose based on their level of concern/interest. I came up with this concept one day while contemplating my observation that not all organic farmers were good farmers and not all conventional farmers were bad. It would also be good to include in the rating things that organic certification currently doesn’t include like employee working conditions, species diversity and maintenance of wildlife habitat on the farm.

      The organic continuum does not exist at this point except in my twisted little mind. Interesting concept, though, eh?

  3. Susan W. Says:

    Wow oh Wow Alyson you continue to be amazing in the amount you are both doing. I love the Master Plan for buildings and goats.
    Great Pictures. Interesting that you are saying Goodbye to the snow and Today April 8th in White Rock we woke up to snow on the ground. Very surprising so now you know where yours went.
    Many people are asking for you, especailly now that the Market is getting closer to being open. Lots of White Rock Friends are very Happy you are doing well and thriving in your New Home.
    This friend missing you very much, especially as the spring is here (except for the snow today) I think it is Spring. I planted garlic last fall and I have some coming up already. Of course I have no idea what to do now, leave it, harvest I need your advise. This is not a comment any longer but an email response sorry if I broke any blog rules (first time on a blog site!) Cheers to you my Friend.

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