Hay in the Barn

Greetings once again from the farm!

1. Today is dark and rainy so the perfect day for writing for the blog.
2. We have hay in the barn! Finally the weather cooperated: three days in a row with no rain and we managed to get 330 bales of very nice first cut hay picked up yesterday evening. It was touch and go: the forecast was for rain in the afternoon but it held out for us. My Mom and Dad and our friend, Charles joined us to toss bales onto the trailer and then off the trailer onto the hay elevator. People think I’m crazy but I love nothing more than picking up hay bales: the smell of fresh hay, the heft of the bales working my muscles, the sweat and scratches and dust, the camaraderie of sitting around on the hay wagon afterwards drinking a beer – not to mention that delightful security of a barn full of sweet hay – nothing beats this for fun!
3. Goats are well and Nessie’s infected teat tumour seems to have healed itself. It reminds me of a quote I had on my wall (forgotten author): “Doctors entertain the patient while nature performs the cure”. Everyone continues to milk well and there are 15 gouda cheeses curing in the cheese fridge.
4. We are eating peas, beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, herbs, greens, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, turnips and the first tomatoes. I’ve processed broccoli, greens and some herbs for the freezer and today have a large zucchini to grate and freeze. We got a great deal on a large freezer from Kijiji and we are just starting to fill it.
5. Went raspberry picking at an organic raspberry farm in Miramichi. The berries weren’t near as large and tasty as the Glen Valley berries but they were still pretty good. Mom and I went together and picked over 30 lbs of berries between us! They let us pick their black current bushes for free, too, so we have some good jam-making to look forward to in a few months. Next will be the wild blueberries just down the road in Bouctouche.
6. We have registered to sell veggies at the Shediac Farmer’s Market in a week’s time. I visited four local markets and this was the one that called out to me. It is a “make, bake, grow” market so no re-selling of stuff, it is outdoors in a park rather than indoors in a crowded building, and they are sticklers for labelling of organic (you MUST be certified, which isn’t law in NB yet and the term is played rather fast and loose at the other markets). It is not as big a market as Moncton and Dieppe and is only seasonal but we don’t have much stuff to sell. It is a touristy place, too, which means lots of foodies visiting from Quebec come out to buy dinner for their rented cottage at Parlee Beach. I am spending some time this week buying stuff to create our beautiful market stall and really enjoying it! The market will also give our farm some exposure to people in the region who may become CSA customers. Our friends, Allan and Eva of Alva Farm, are at this market so there’s some socializing potential, too.
7. Cross country kitchen table talks as a tool for gathering input from people about what they want in a national food policy – what a great idea! This is being organized by the People’s Food Policy Project. They send out information on how to organize these talks, plus possible topics to get you started, and you just get together a group in your own neighborhood, region or even just your own household to have the discussion. I love the idea because it will an opportunity to contribute to something very important (imagine, a Canadian Food Policy!) plus an opportunity to get to know our neighbors better. Allain and Eva, as well as Ginette, another small organic grower from Cocagne, will join me as part of an organizing committee and we will see what we can organize in this area (McKees Mills, Bouctouche, Cocagne, St-Antoine, Notre Dame, Ste-Marie). For more information (you all can do this, too!) check the website: http://www.peoplesfoodpolicy.ca.
8. Chokecherries are ready but the birds eat so many of them – great grazing but not enough for jam. Goldenrod is fully in flower. I hated this plant when I arrived last fall (the tall, woody stalks were everywhere) but I like it now that I see how much the bees love it. Goats eat it, too, and it can be used to make a nice yellow dye. I checked out the possibility of goldenrod wine but read no good reports on the internet (you can make it but it needs to be aged 3 years to be any good!). Oh, and it is not allergy-causing because the pollen is too heavy to drift around in the air and make us sneeze.
9. The pond is full of frogs who croak all night and all day long. They are big green things and I think they’re doing a great job of eating insects because the mosquitoes seem to have disappeared. There are also thousands of dragonflies constantly flying around the pond, also contributing to controlling mosquito numbers as well as entertaining us with their natural beauty.
10. The broilers are doing well and still growing like crazy. We are thinking of doing the killing and cleaning ourselves so we can fill the freezer slowly and not have to freeze 40 birds all at once. We just need to find a chicken picker to borrow – the mechanical device that removes feathers is a pretty essential part of the process as plucking is really the most laborious part of chicken killing.
11. We got our building site prepared a week or so ago and Will has been working, with lots of help from my Dad, to get ready for pouring concrete. We rented an excavator for a day to dig a trench for the foundation, as well as a tamper to tamp it down and then a laser levelling tool to make sure everything is as level as it should be. Will and Dad have been cutting, fitting and taping together sheets of foam insulation which goes underneath the cement pad to prevent cracking due to freezing and thawing. There is also a vapour barrier under the insulation – yes, this foundation is much more complex than what we would do in BC and, yes, it costs as much again as the building itself! The next step is to lay down rebar, then build the forms (2×6 lumber) and then we’ll call the cement truck. Its all coming together and Will, as usual, is doing an amazing job at it.
12. We had another visit from NB’s organic extension agent yesterday. He is a fabulous resource and we really appreciate having his help in finding inputs and answering questions. The local agricultural extension rep is also great and has been out to the farm at least once so far. I don’t recall ever having met an agricultural extension agent in BC, other than Rochelle (organic), and that was at a trade show. Even though NB could support their farmers better in some ways, there seems to be lots of support when it comes to information sharing and funding. The local experimental farm is having an open house next week and will be showing us the results of some of their experiments with cover croppping. There are also rumours that our provincial government will be subsidizing the cost of organic certification for new operations for the first four years of production (70% up to $500/farm if I recall correctly). Fortunately this timing should work perfectly for us since it’s supposed to start next year when we plan to apply.
13. Will is bottling his beer today. There is a wonderful organic microbrew beer made in Fredericton called Picaroons, which you can get at some liquor stores around here. They make a variety of beers, my favourite of which is Dark and Stormy Night, a rich and flavourful dark beer. I never used to be a beer drinker but if the beer tastes like food, I like it. The local microbrew is The Pumphouse, based in Moncton. They aren’t organic but also make really nice beer. I’m sure Will’s beer will be really good, too!
14. The siblings have finally all come and gone. It was very nice to see them all and to spend some time together, but its also nice to get back to our quiet farm routines! My friend from way back in junior high school, Shawna, is out visiting with her family and we had them over for dinner a few nights ago. I am planning an afternoon with her this Friday – they have rented a cottage at Parlee Beach for a week – and look forward to spending some more time. There’s always so much to talk about!
15. The buckwheat is starting to flower so we’ll soon be mowing it down and then cultivating it in. We got ourselves a new-old manure spreader (off Kijiji) and plan to spread our season’s accumulation of manure, till it in, and then plant oats as a winter cover. The oats will winter kill, leaving a mat on the soil, so we should have land ready to go early in the spring if other conditions permit. I am thinking the fall application of manure and cover crop may be the way to go, especially as we want to be able to do lots of early planting under tunnels.
16. I am rediscovering the joys of using the scythe. I used one a bit in BC but it was wood handled and quite heavy for me. Anne and Paryse left one here for us and it has an aluminium handle so is much lighter and easier on the back. I used it to chop the tops off the Superior potatoes which are now quite large and need to stay in the soil for curing for winter storage. I did this job so quickly and was just starting to get into scything, so had to find something else to mow and practice my technique! I ended up spending the next hour mowing a path down to the rail trail – the area had become quite overgrown with goldenrod, grass, vetch, bedstraw and some thistle, so walking to the trail was hard work. The scythe did a lovely job and, the most interesting thing of all, is that it works just as fast as a weed wacker! Yes, this is truly appropriate technology and why should we burn fuel to use a tool that is, perhaps a bit easier and less physically demanding, but really no more faster or effective than the scythe? Since then I’ve been reading up on the resurgance of use of the scythe and there’s even a hand mowing competition in Nova Scotia this summer! Maybe next year I’ll go out and learn how to do this properly.
17. Tomatoes are starting to ripen – we hope we’ll have some to bring to the market on our first day on Aug 15! It’s the Acadian Festival so there should be lots of people out and about. Oh well, even if we don’t have tomatoes we should have some other veg to bring, and we’ll definitely have some nice farm pictures to show off!
18. To end this long winded account of our life in NB, I’ll leave you with a quote by farmer, Ed Deaks of Big Lake Ranch, BC. He wrote an article for “Rural Delivery” magazine called ‘Building a Rock Rake’. This has nothing to do with building a tool for picking rocks, but I guess Ed just had to say it and I think he sums up everything that is wrong with the world and gives us a great starting point for creating positive change. Take it away, Ed:

“There wouldn’t be any food shortages and hunger in the world today if the ideological theories of politicians and of so called “economists” wouldn’t deprive people of growing food for themselves, instead of driving them off the land into disgusting urban slums to force them to buy the sickening products of chemicalized monoculture by the agribiz mafia”

To subscribe to Rural Delivery, go to http://www.AtlanticFarmer.com and click on Country Magazines.

Bye for now!

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3 Responses to “Hay in the Barn”

  1. E Says:

    Seems like scything is becoming a National Trend!

    from: gabriolan.ca (A gabriola blog)
    I love the quiet of Gabriola, and interrupting that tranquility with a lawnmower seems just…. wrong. Evil, even. So we ordered a scythe over the internet, and found a book about scything, too. We assembled our scythe, and went to work early one morning.

    The first surprise is that scything is insanely fun. When I’m done my arms pretty much shake from the exercise — that’s because my technique isn’t very good yet. But when I’m actually scything… oh, it’s some kind of bliss. I can’t get enough of it. Swish sweeep, swish sweep… and the grass is cut. It makes me wish there were more grass to cut. If I didn’t have so much other stuff to do, I’d go looking for a big Gabriola field to scythe, just for fun.

    Here’s how it’s done:

    5 Responses to “Scythe, Gabriola!”
    The sound of a power mower is a trivial, but nonetheless annoying assault on the peace and quiet of our little bit of paradise. For those of us who are a little less adventurous the latest iteration of the reel mower (http://www2.fiskars.com/Products/Yard-and-Garden/Reel-Mowers) for about $200 is another option, with the whisper of the click-click of a reel mower. And think of all the gas/electricity to be saved and exercise to be had!

    I wanted to add that I would very much appreciate a neighbour who took into consideration even the trivial sound of a lawn mower. It does matter to me… and everything in moderation… though it makes me one notch happier knowing that someone else at least considers the noise they put out into the neighbourhood.

    But scything, come on…! That MUST be bad for you. Even from the video it looks like someone could get *some* exercise doing something like *that*. Gasp.

    I also have a scythe but have to admit I’m not very good at it. However, your post is inspiring me to get out there and improve my technique. Especially since the lawn mower is broken (and I could use the exercise)… 🙂

    Rick on 15 Jun 2010 at 11:11 pm #
    I got a beauty from Lee Valley a few years ago. I love using it too!

  2. gary davis Says:

    Using a scythe in the ‘olden’ days was a necessity. Today, if one has nothing else to do like pay bills, harvest crops, or go to markets to sell those crops that pay the bills then I say great, use the scythe. Good exercise? Yes! It has much to do with priorities. If ya’ got the time, using a scythe is a good thing.

    • wjpedersen Says:

      Don’t forget, though, that the scythe works just as fast as the gas powered weed wacker, so use of scythe is not just for those with lots of time on their hands, busy people can use it, too!

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