Spring Time

Another week has gone by and there’s so much to tell! It’s a very windy day out there today so I’m putting off outdoors work till the wind dies a bit. Will was reading about the climate of NB this morning and we learned that there have been tornadoes in this area historically (though not for a very long while), also that we typically have dry springs and early summers and a good mix of rain and sun in the summer. It has been very dry here this April and now that all the snow is gone (except for the odd patch in the woods), the fields are looking quite dry. We bought ourselves a set of disc harrows a few days ago and are now in the process of securing some large rocks to them to give a bit more “dig” to their cultivating action. Will went over the ploughed field closest to the house yesterday and managed to cultivate the soil on the top but was not able to chop up the turned sod below. The fields are definitely ready to cultivate so disc development is on today’s agenda.

I finished my teaching gig last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was hard work – the preparation and talking for four hours – but with such a delightful group of people, how could we not have fun? It was pretty intense for them, the material being new to most everyone, but they were really interested and we had some great discussions. There was a range of ages and experiences, from a body building personal trainer who wanted to improve his nutritional knowledge to a woman who’d worked in the food processing industry and was shocked enough by what she saw there to seek out alternatives. Three of the women have businesses at the Moncton Farmer’s Market selling prepared foods (miso, sprouts, fajidas) so I’m happy that I’ll get to see them again when I get in there for shopping. Our last class was dedicated to talking about the things we can do to improve our food system; we went around the room with everyone sharing their contributions, current and future, and one woman said she wanted to bike across Canada, stopping at farms on the way to buy food to eat, talking about farm issues and documenting it all in the media. What a neat idea! So if this plan does come to fruition, you’ll hear all about her as she comes through your province.

It’s nice to not be driving into Moncton 3-4 times per week, though there is a Min. of Agr. workshop next week on vegetables and small fruits that I’ll attend. We’ve made contact with the local agronomist and he’s been wonderful at helping us find information and links with other helpful people. However working with government agencies is a double edged sword: yes there are great people and resources available, but there are also rules to follow and we’ve just encountered one very disturbing one: in NB you need to be licensed to raise livestock. Rowena had mentioned this when she visited us in BC so I knew in the back of my mind we’d encounter it at some point. I think the Livestock Operations Act came about because of some bad experiences with stinky pig farms in the province. Of course it is important to limit the distances between intensive agriculture and peoples’ houses, however there needs to be some distinctions made between industrial barns crammed full of animals and liquid manure handling systems, and goats raised on pasture. Of course, government bureaucracies being what they are, there is little room for creative thinking and this means we will have to be the creative ones. We need to develop a nutrient management plan for our manure, which isn’t a problem since we’ll be growing veggies. The big issue for us involves minimum setbacks from houses since we have one neighbor who is very close to our barn. We have some ideas so I’ll keep you all in touch with how things develop.

Pearl’s kids are doing well though Pearl isn’t really putting on much weight after her pregnancy. She’s still milking well enough so the kids are satisfied, but I have the feeling that our Pearl is not a long term prospect for the goat farm. Once the kids are weaned I’ll try and feed her up a bit and then find her a new home. This is one of the hard realities of being a commercial goat person: I’ll need to cull goats that don’t produce or that have persistent health problems. My plan is to find Pearl a farm that needs a companion for a horse or else a family who don’t want a high producing goat for milk. Kijiji is a great tool for selling and buying and a few people have already advertised goats there.

I bought two new goats from Norm last week: a young buck named Pinto who will be breeding does this fall and a sweet Sanaan doe kid, Snowball, to keep Pinto company until he’s big enough to go out with the boys. I’d forgotten the difference between doe-raised and bottle-raised kids but Snowball is reminding me daily: bottle raised kids are noisy and follow you everywhere and suck on your clothing. I guess we’ll eventually start bottle feeding kids so will have this experience on a daily basis, but for now I’m such a fan of those sweet, discreet doe-raised kids! Diamond and her brother Chops (Pearl’s kids) had their horns removed last week and seem to have survived that trauma quite well. I used to leave horns on the buck kids since they only lived for 6 months or so, but I found that even in that short time the horns were a problem. It’s hard to prevent scurs (horny growths that arise from the horn area after dehorning) in bucks but scurs are much less damaging to the handler than horns!

Will and I are in the process of buying some second-hand goat milking equipment from a guy in Newfoundland. We saw the advertisement in “Rural Delivery” and the price sounds good so we thought we’d go for it. It’s a bit of a shot in the dark, since we haven’t seen the stuff, but if it arrives and is total garbage, we can always send it back. It’s getting shipped to Truro, NS, a 2.5 hour drive from here, so isn’t too bad a distance to travel. Our friend Jimmy, who shipped the goats across Canada, was almost involved in the interaction but it didn’t work out. Jimmy, who knows everyone, told me that Nfld is the place to buy used goat milking equipment because of a government initiative to employ out of work cod fishers. They set up a big experimental goat dairy that worked really well until govt. financing disappeared and then the whole thing fell apart. So it sounds like quite a few Nflders have used goat milking equipment in their garages and basements!

We started some seeds in Will’s patented seed starting device (see photo) and most everything except the peppers are coming up. I dug around a bit and found the pepper seeds have germinated but are starting very slow so we won’t see green for a while. I’ll probably start tomatoes and other veggies this week, too. We’ll green manure and cultivate most of the ploughed land this year to try and get the goldenrod under control and build fertility, and then pile compost onto our little garden plot and the coldframe area and manage those weeds by hand for this year. Our coldframe arrived last week and is ready to go once we get the land cultivated and leveled. I was planning to seed some buckwheat, peas and oats for green manure crops and then Reiner suggested planting sunflower as a green manure. It’s a great idea because sunflowers do have some allelopathic properties (prevents other plants growing nearby) and there are huge bags of sunflower seed still around in the stores for feeding birds. Is there anything more lovely than a field of sunflowers? Plus goats love them, too!

We enjoyed a taste of our first loaf of sourdough bread this morning. We’d recently met some neighbors, Charles and Sylvie and their son Samuel, who live a 20 minute bike ride away and who are true kindred spirits. They actually found us through our blog via the Tiny House link and sent us an email. Since then we’ve visited a few times and Charles came out to help us unload the coldframe parts. Sylvie shared her sourdough culture and a recipe guaranteeing success and it worked! The bread is delicious: flavourful and a nice texture. It seems that sourdough works better with whole wheat flour than yeast cultures. Now we just have to make sure we keep feeding the sourdough creature and keep it happy.

Charles is an artist and the most recent photos of the goats are his. I love the angle he used on them: photographing them from almost ground level makes them look quite majestic! There’s a link on the blogroll for a Flikr page showing more of his photos and some of his copper work as well – check it out, the pictures are quite wonderful. Charles and Sylvie are also both foodies and it’s nice to have people around who like a good, smelly cheese! They may also be our first CSA customers and perhaps practice customers for this year (if we grow enough).

As the weather warms, more and more birds and other critters appear on our farm. I saw a great horned owl a week or so ago while out walking Cory. I thought it was a hawk at first but then heard the distinctive Whoo Whoooo. I also saw two lovely ducks perched on a rock in the river this morning which I’m pretty sure were wood ducks. They are found in parts of NB but not usually this far east. I can’t find any other duck that has a green head and white underside so it must be them. Our hairy pond monster turned out to be a beaver and then turned into two beavers, so we may have a mating pair living nearby! We see them at all hours of the day, swimming and diving, though I’ve seen no tree gnawing activity at all. I also found a baby brook trout that had managed to get through the pond overflow and flopped around in the grass for a bit before I tossed him/her back in. The pond was stocked with brook trout many years ago and it would seem they are living and reproducing in our little body of water.

Mom and Dad bought Will and I a book to help us identify the trees in our forest and I am pleased to report that we have Red Pine, White Pine and Jack Pine growing here. I’ve identified White Spruce as well and, I think, Balsam Fir though I’m not totally sure about that one. The White Pine and Spruce are natives and Red Pine is an exotic from Japan. The pines planted along our roadside and in the goat pasture are all Red Pine. The White Pine is fast becoming my favourite tree: it is quite pretty with lots of fine needs and lovely tall, straight trunks. An expert on the Acadian forest is coming to Cocagne in the next few weeks and I’ll attend the lecture. I’d like to learn how to identify and propagate some of the native trees to bring our forest more towards its heritage state.

Will found a second-hand Lincoln welder on Kijiji for a good price so we now have welding potential on the farm. We don’t have 220 power in the barn yet so if there is a welding emergency, we’ll plug into the dryer receptacle in the house and run the cord out the window. We check Kijiji regularly because there’s always something interesting offered for sale. The magazine, “Rural Delivery” is another great one for deals on second hand farm equipment. The last issue had someone selling haying equipment and bee keeping equipment as well. They sounded interesting but we’re not quite there yet so better hold off on the buying.

Well I think this is a record. I guess I’ll need to moderate the detail of my blog contributions as the season gets busier – if I can figure out how to do that! Take care and enjoy the spring time!


One Response to “Spring Time”

  1. Eileen Says:

    Checked out the flickr site. Are the installations Charles’s as well? Very Andy Goldsmith. Nice!

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