The Farm is Humming

Finally, some rain! Things had gotten quite dry over the last few weeks and I had to water the transplants more than once. Because we’re not properly set up for irrigation, watering the transplants consisted of running a 100’ hose to the garden and using it to fill a watering can which is then taken to each plant for watering. No, not terribly efficient and definitely not “farmy” but the best I could do for now. Nature is providing us with some natural irrigation in the form of rain which I do appreciate after lugging many cans full of water.

We have been getting lots of wind lately which I am actually beginning to like. What do I like about wind? Well, wind keeps the bugs away (mosquitoes and blackflies), and I think it is also responsible for the lack of flea beetles on the brassica transplants. Wind dries clothes on the line very quickly and even causes them to release themselves when they are done! Fortunately our prevailing wind blows away from the pond so we haven’t had to go fishing for undies yet. Wind also encourages a tidy farmyard because if you leave stuff lying around, it will blow away. Wind cools us on a hot day and is building strong stems on the tomato seedlings. Yes, wind is indeed my friend!

The potatoes, peas, salad turnips, spinach, broad beans and rapini are all up and the transplanted brassicas (cabbage, kale and broccoli) are all doing wonderfully. Weeds are starting to come up, mainly the ones that were chopped up when the garden was tilled that are eagerly sending up new shoots from their pieces of root: quackgrass, vetch, yarrow and dandelion. This is an interesting stage in our farm development: the first year after breaking ground. We will hopefully not be seeing too many perennial weeds in the garden after this year, at least if things go as planned. Our 3 ½ acres not planted to vegetables this year will be seeded to buckwheat and chickling vetch. The ploughed area has already been disced twice and rotovated once and I am waiting for the next flush of weeds before doing another discing. After that, another flush of weeds, and then I’ll rotovate once more before seeding the cover crop. This will probably be early July, the vetch should flower after 60 days, and then I’ll plough it all in. I am thinking the best plan from here will be to seed fall rye for a winter cover since rye is the best thing I’ve heard of for killing quack grass. We will see how this all works out. Meanwhile, while waiting for that next flush of weeds, we’ll pick up some more rocks and spread some dolomite.

My parents joined me in rock picking yesterday. Dad drove the tractor and Mom and I picked rocks and tossed them into the bucket. It was a good rock picking day: sunny but not too warm and just the right amount of breeze to keep bugs away. We picked for almost two hours and got about 1/3 of the field. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow (and the field isn’t too wet) we’ll pick some more. My parents are keen farm helpers and we are appreciating their help more than you can imagine. Dad cuts up lumber and helps in construction, Mom transplanted all my rhubarb for me and they both joined us, along with my aunt and uncle, Bert and Peter Dysart, to put up the coldframe. How lovely to have all this help and so much enthusiasm over what we are doing on the farm!

What do we do when not farming? Well a few weeks ago my dad came over and we went fishing on our pond! Dad brought his fly rod and cast a few flies while I fished with worms. We wanted to see what the fish looked and tasted like and we got that chance when my worms hooked a couple of brook trout. I kept one and let the other go for another time. They were both good sized fish, Dad reckoned probably about 5 years old, and really good eating. We haven’t done too much to manage the pond and the fish get most of their food from insects and worms in the natural environment. We toss them some fish food a couple of times/week mainly just because its fun to watch them jumping around. Anne and Paryse stocked the pond many years ago with brook trout and I’m pretty sure the fish have been doing a good job of maintaining their population since then. Our friend, Charles, has promised to jump into the pond some day when the weather is warmer and take a look at our fish population for us. I’d like to know how many there are: how many mature and how many small ones. I’d like to be able to figure out what a sustainable catch is and whether, in order to maintain our appetite for trout, we need to occasionally add some baby trout. I figure the fish in this pond are in a free range system. A conventional trout farming operation is more like a feedlot with all the feed brought in and water constantly cycled to remove wastes. A free range system consists of a pond holding the number of fish that can be maintained naturally. The fish hibernate at the bottom in the winter and then are active again in the summer. This is a great system, especially if it allows us a good few feeds of trout each year!

Will and I joined Charles, Sylvie and their son, Samuel to see Daniel Leger in concert in Bouctouche a few days ago. I will attach a link to Daniel’s website for those interested in know more about this wonderful singer and performer. He writes all his own music and sings about his family, Acadian culture, human rights issues and more. We met him when he showed up on our farm a few months ago, delivering mail. He was interested in the tiny house (actually one of the best ways of getting to know your neighbors in a new place is to own a tiny house!) and we showed it to him and had a great chat. He is interested in organics, community building and all kinds of good things so I think we’ll run into each other again some time.

A couple of hooded mergansers have hatched some babies somewhere nearby and they are currently enjoying our pond. There are two females and 16 ducklings so I assume they have consolidated their broods and are taking turns managing them. They are quite lovely to see and I hope they stick around for a while. There are so many things that eat baby ducklings, and they are also very prone to drowning and chilling so survival is tough. I usually walk around the pond in the mornings with Cory but we’ll stay away from that area for a while so the family doesn’t feel threatened and hopefully they’ll stick around.

Will is working on the coldframe and has the ends framed in and one end covered in plastic. We’ve been using an interesting product to treat the wood against rot called “Eco wood treatment”. It is made on Salt Spring Is. and is supposed to be nontoxic and provide a lifetime of protection against rot. Provincial parks all over Canada are using it on their wooden signboards, benches, etc. which we reckoned was some recommendation. Well, we’ll get back to you on this in 10 years and see where it’s at.

I’m giving a short presentation tonight to the Petitcodiac Watershed Society on environmental benefits of sustainable farming. We need to get a logo for our farm and cards printed up so that I can use these opportunities to advertise us and our wares. We’re hoping for about 30 CSA shares for next year and I’d like to have people thinking about us now, with next year in mind.

I’ve just finished reading Joel Salatin’s “Pastured Poultry Profits” – what an inspirational guy! He gives you the mechanics of creating a pastured poultry operation and also talks a lot about developing relationships with customers and how the pastured poultry system represents a whole new paradigm in food production. I got his book from the COG library. Anyone who is a member of COG (Canadian Organic Growers) can make use of their library service for free. Their book collection is extensive but their data search system is very poor so you need to know the author or title of a particular book rather than just going in and searching for “poultry raising” or something like that. It is still a great system and just needs a volunteer techie to tweak it a bit – maybe Will can help them out in the wintertime!

Joyous summer is on its way – enjoy it all!

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4 Responses to “The Farm is Humming”

  1. Gary Davis Says:

    Watering when the rain doesn’t happen: When it doesn’t rain and one needs to use the watering can, waiting for the watering can to fill with a hose is a pain. So what I do is run the water into a 45 gallon drum. I don’t have to be there to watch it fill. I can do other things. When the drum is full and you can keep it full…. Then just dipping the watering can into the barrel fills the watering can quick like. A watering can with a wide open top works best.
    Having a barrel by the house to catch rain water, and with hoses running across the surface will transfer water to the barrels close to the coldframe from your house. The ‘house’ barrel, of course, needs to be higher than the one by the cold frame…:) You can see some videos of this on Facebook. Google oknwht. It is best to register as a friend of oknwht as the site will take you elsewhere unless you are determined.

    • wjpedersen Says:

      We plan to set up rain barrels to catch roof water runoff. How well does an asphalt shingled roof fill a rain barrel? Should we be concerned about asphalt shedding any nasties into the water? We would divert barrel overflow into the pond so wouldn’t want to poison our fishies.

      • Gary Davis Says:

        The bigger the roof area and the harder the rain, the more water for the barrels. I have gold fish for mosquito control in the barrels and the asphalt roofing seems to cause no problem to them. After a time the barrels do fill up with crude on the bottom. I use a drain hose from a washing machine to suck the dirt off the bottom of the barrels from time to time.

  2. Gary Davis Says:

    I started doing this when the rains were plentiful and I thought “Why am I doing this????” At that time I was experimenting, I guess, and as rain goes the experiment does shed some light on how to do it better. I started with 1/2 inch garden hoses with the appropriate garden hose attachments that are brass and expensive. The attachments break. The plastic handles, for turning on and turning off the water, break and there are no replacements sold as far as I know. So when that happens buying a new one seems to be the only answer. There is a better way.
    Not sure what that will be but for sure a bigger capacity hose is mandatory. I have found that the 1/2 inch hose does not transfer water fast enough to get it to the area where I can use it. So when it rains really hard the water cannot be transferred fast enough and much water is lost from my use. It flows over the top of the first collection barrel and is lost for my use.

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