You Are My Sunshine!

Today has been a day of sun, wind and showers – pretty typical for spring in this part of the world! We had some amazing weather about a week ago: temperatures in the high 20’s and blazing sunshine. The goats were a bit overwhelmed by the sudden change and had to retire to the cool barn a few times during the day to recover from the heat in the field. Cory had about a foot of tongue hanging out of his mouth after his walk and ball chasing adventure and I made sure he recovered in the house before going outside again.

The little seedlings are growing well. The potting mix I used had no nutrients so I’ve been dosing the plants with water mixed with fish fertilizer. It is not an ideal growing medium but will do in a pinch. I’ve secured some bone meal, Kmag, lobster meal and compost and have created a new mix for potting up the seedlings. I think the only limiting nutrient will be nitrogen but it can be supplied with the fish fertilizer. We bought some seafood compost which turned out to be full of large chunks of bark and lots of little rocks, so won’t buy that brand again. Hopefully we’ll have some of our own compost next year and the long term plan is to provide all our own nutrients through composted animal manure and green manure crops. We bought a tonne of dolomite and have limed the ½ acre we’ll plant in vegetables this year. We’ll get to the rest of the tilled land, bit by bit, and will need to buy more lime eventually. The soil test recommended 1.7 tonnes/ha to bring the pH up to 6.5 and our soil is very low in Mg, hence the dolomite.

We’ve bought a new tractor, a 25 year old 42 hp Case with loader. Yes, it is old and has some of those usual old tractor issues (worn tires, leaky hydraulics) but has been well maintained through its life and should last, with a bit of love and attention, for at least another 25 years. We really need a tractor with loader and spent weeks debating whether we should buy a loader for our existing tractor or buy a new tractor. Well, new loaders are expensive and a good second hand tractor + loader really is the best buy, if you can find one. We actually found out about this one from a John Deere sales rep Will had talked to weeks ago. When he heard what we were looking for he referred us to someone in St-Antoine who had one for sale. What was in it for the John Deere rep? Well, the guy selling the Case was planning to buy a new John Deere but his wife told him he had to sell one of his existing tractors first!

We’ve actually been spending lots of money this month and we are hopefully at the end of large expenditures for a while; now its time to make some money! We’re getting an 18’ trailer built for us and have also bought a new rotovator. The man who sold us the Case also sold us a used hay elevator. He grew up on a dairy farm and his father supplied milk to this area for many years. They sold the cows a few years ago and now, slowly and bit by bit, the farm equipment is going as well. He had a few other items that I coveted but, as I say, we really need to stop buying things for a while, at least until we make a bit of money!

Will has been working away at building the coldframe and was able to do all the soil leveling once we got our new tractor. He has all the anchor posts installed and the next job will be putting up the ribs. I’ve been cleaning out the goat pen: about 600 cubic feet of compacted hay and goat manure that is loaded into a wheelbarrow (over and over again) and dumped on an every growing pile. Eventually we’ll have the goats in a different area, one that can be scraped out with a tractor. For now, though, and for next year, this is a job that needs to be muscled through. I used the Case to move an old manure pile that was grown through with quack grass. I piled it very unattractively between the field and our driveway and I’m kind of hoping that it will look better when the grass grows over it. I am now attempting to move one old goat manure/hay pile to where the old pile was and then pile some more old composting horse manure on top. Moving large piles of hay with a loader bucket is really difficult and I think my next best strategy is to push the pile (instead of trying to lift and unload it) into its new home. Considering the amount of space we have available for composting, I am thinking about sheet composting and cover cropping as an alternative to making compost. With this method one acre of land each year gets this treatment for planting the following year. It requires more land because some of it won’t be in production every year, however I think it will be a more sustainable approach than trucking in compost from all over.

So what else is happening here other than farm stuff? Well the tiny white and larger purple violets are in flower; wild strawberries are flowering; birch, maple and poplar trees are leafing out and the swallows have arrived! The wild violets are lovely little things – violets are NB’s provincial flower and they are everywhere at this time of the year. It is also fiddlehead season in NB. Fiddleheads are the young fronds of the ostrich fern and they grow wild along rivers and in wet areas. We ate them when I was a kid and I always really liked them. Imagine my excitement to find that I can pick them on my very own farm and eat as many as I like! Actually we have very few along our river bank so I borrowed my mom’s hipwaders and went for a walk through the river one evening, checking out our neighbor’s river banks. I found a few but not enough to satisfy my craving. Another neighbor up the road heard of my desire for fiddleheads and offered his patch. Well I found myself in fiddlehead heaven: I must have picked 20 lbs of those delectable little green things. We ate lots and I’ve frozen quite a few of them for winter feasting. Fiddleheads are like the stinging nettle of the east coast: our first wild green food of the year. They remind me a bit of asparagus and, like asparagus, you have to make sure you don’t pick too many fronds/plant so that the plants continue to grow and supply fiddleheads for years to come.

My mom and I went out to the famous University Women’s Club annual book sale in Moncton last week. Picture a large hall that is just full of books and full of people stuffing books into bags and boxes. Prices were anywhere from 10 cents each (Harlequins) to $2 (hard covers) so there were many great deals to be had. Mom is a veteran of these sales and made sure we got there a half an hour before opening to get a good place in line. Even that early there were over a 100 people ahead of us and the line continued to form until doors opened at 7:00. I got a lovely book on Eastern Canadian birds, novels by my favourite authors and some interesting-looking nonfiction. It was an evening well spent, indeed.

Well, my hour for writing is up so I will post this and then get out to the barn for milking. The girls are milking well and I’ve been making cheese a couple of times a week. We’ll need to find ourselves a larger fridge for aging so that we can be self-sufficient in hard cheese. Yes, there’s always something else we need! At least old fridges go cheap.

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One Response to “You Are My Sunshine!”

  1. Kim Says:

    You two have so much going on! Great pictures of all the doings and goats and such.
    Never a dull day on a farm, eh?

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