Archive for October, 2010

October 31, 2010

Will and his mom, Carol, by the tiny house

October 31, 2010

Will's Aunt Jean painted a picture of the farm's fall colours

October 31, 2010

Fall colours on the rail trail

October 31, 2010

More fall colours on the farm

October 31, 2010

A view of the garden in fall

October 31, 2010

Our patented hay bale root cellar with carrots

Windy Hill Farm dot Ca

October 31, 2010

Well it has been a while but I am back with an update on the farm and on Al and Will’s lives. Right now Will’s arm is in a cast after breaking a bone in his hand falling off his bike. We are all very happy that he managed to avoid being run over by a vehicle since he fell into a busy road, so a badly broken bone isn’t really that bad, is it? This happened while I was in Cape Breton, celebrating music and feminine companionship with the Fiddle Chicks, so Will continued doing farm chores with his broken hand and didn’t even get it x-rayed until about 10 days after the injury took place. Yes, he’s quite the guy! It seems to be healing okay and he’ll go in for another x-ray to check its progress this week. Meanwhile he continues to work on the farm as if nothing was wrong, though we have had to slit the sleeve of one jacket to enable the cast-encased arm to fit through.

Will’s Mom, Carol and her sister, Jean, visited us for a couple of weeks during this time. They arrived a few days before I left, then they also went to Cape Breton to enjoy Celtic Colours before heading back to NB to help Will out on the farm. They travelled around locally, spent a day on PEI, a few days in Halifax, and generally enjoyed the Maritimes. It was good for Will to have the help at home while I was away (especially after he broke his hand) though I was sorry to have had so little time with them. They are two wonderful, multitalented women who I would love to get to know better. Fortunately they are keen travellers and I think we’ll see them out this way again soon.

We suffered a loss in the animal family recently as well. My big male cat, Thabo, died the day after I got back from Cape Breton. He had been eating less than usual and seemed lethargic so my parents brought him to the vet’s the day before I was due to leave. They put him on antibiotics and sent in some blood tests but his condition deteriorated rapidly from that time on. It was like he hung on, waiting for me to get home, before he finally died. We reckon he had feline immunodeficiency virus, something he most likely caught from one of the feral cats that hung around the farm in BC. He could have had it for his whole life without it affecting him, but unfortunately it was activelly destroying his immune system and he must have been recently exposed to something that ended up killing him. This disease is not routinely vaccinated against because the vaccine isn’t totally effective. We’ve decided not to test the other cats for it since there isn’t anything we can do about it anyway. The vet suggested that we keep an eye on them and if they show any signs of illness, to put them on antibiotics immediately. So far they seem fine though they do miss their big, hairy, black friend. We miss him greatly, too.

We’ve been putting a lot of energy into getting ready for winter. Storing food for the winter is a big priority and I think we now have a lovely, varied and healthy winter food store. We have frozen veggies in our freezer (corn, broccoli, kale, chard, beans, tomatoes), plus frozen herbs (cilantro, dill, basil pesto), dried herbs (thyme, sage, savoury), frozen fruit (sliced apples, blueberries, raspberries, elderberries) and frozen chicken. In the “root cellar” we have carrots, celeriac, apples and potatoes. We have a few rutabagas but not a winter’s supply – something ate them in the field. We also have squash, onions, garlic, dried beans and tomatoes in the not so cold room (the tiny house with a bit of heat). We also have canned tomato puree and tomato salsa in the kitchen cupboards. There are still leeks, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and kale in the field and chard, arugula, peas, spinach, beets and carrots in the coldframe. And of course, how could I forget about those wonderful goats, producing milk that makes yogurt and cheese? How wonderful to have all this food in storage – I feel ready to face winter and I know we’ll eat well!

We never managed to get a root cellar dug so are experimenting with various ways of storing the root veggies. We put potatoes in the crawl space under our house (it is kept above freezing using a heater because our pipes are under there) and built a storage area in the barn out of hay bales and styrofoam insulation. The carrots and celeriac are in the barn storage area. My parents have a bin of carrots in their garage for winter storage so we’ll see how they do with them there. I have apples packed in newspaper on our enclosed porch and I think they should be fine there unless the temperatures go really low. If that happens I can always bring them into the house for a night or two. These apples are from my parent’s tree – it was completely covered in fruit this year and they are a very tasty, very hard apple that look like they will store well. Mom and Dad have their winter supply and we are taking everything else. The good fruit is stored and the damaged was convered into frozen sliced or dried apples yesterday, with the remainder going to the goats.

I planted a few crocus bulbs today and put in 75 daffodil and 12 tulip bulbs last week. I am already looking forward to spring when they will make their glorious appearance on our farm. There’s nothing like the sight of daffodils (more so than tulips because they are earlier) on an otherwise bare, green space of yard. Of course crocuses are even nicer because they are earlier still. I put only 15 crocus bulbs in (my Mom bought a bunch and gave me some of hers) but will probably do more next year. I don’t want to go too crazy in the first year. We’ll see how it all looks this spring and then decide whether we need more and where they could go.

Will is working around the steel building today. He rented a backhoe again and pulled soil away from the foundation so we could lay down more insulation. We installed styrofoam insulation up against the insulation under the foundation and extending four feet out from the building. This is required by code to prevent soil under the cement pad from heaving and cracking the pad. What a job! After the back hoe was done its job, we then had to dig the soil (which was heavy, rocky fill, not soil at all) down to the insulation below the foundation and level it out so that the styrofoam boards could be laid down and taped together. Will did most of this, sometimes one-handed, and Mom came out to help us one afternoon as well. My Dad also helped out, cutting and laying out insulation, until we finally finished. We are now pushing the “soil” back in place over the insulation and around the foundation, using the tractor with loader and a shovel. We will need some more gravel so that we can reach the top of the foundation where tractors drive in and out, as well as to create some slope away from the building for drainage purposes. The next job to do is to install doors on the building. We are looking at putting in one garage-type door and then framing in the other side and building a sliding door with about a 4 foot opening. The openings on each side are 12 feet wide so great for manouvering equipment in and out but expensive to supply a door for! We got these large openings because the building we bought was one someone else had ordered and not paid for, so we got a deal on it but got it “as is”.

We are expecting some snow flurries today – our first for the season if they actually happen. It’s hard to believe that just two days ago we were outside in t-shirts enjoying temperatures in the 20 degree C range. I am always amazed at how temperatures can rise and fall around here. This week we are expecting lows of – 7 degrees one night and then plus 11 the next. Of course these are predictions and we know how accurate they can be! However we do get these wild fluctuations, especially at this time of the year. I remember one day last year waking up to a steamed up house with condensation on all the windows: overnight the temperature had risen to almost 20 degrees so outdoors was a lot warmer than inside the house!

As usual I’m going on and on – so much to tell! Some exciting news: we now have our own domain name! Windyhillfarm. ca is ours and ours alone (for a mere $10/year) and we can now start to construct our own website. Will said he needs to closet himself in the tiny home for a couple of days with junk food in order to be able to do this properly. I guess this is how the pros do it, eh? We will keep our website very simple: who we are, what we do, how you can get some and then a link to our blog. It will be a big part of our marketing of the CSA – Alva Farm started this way and found a lot of their customers through their website and the links they had from other sites (ACORN and an Atlantic Canadian local marketing site). After a season of venturing out into the world to sell produce I have a pretty good idea what marketing strategy should look like, especially as we are just starting out and just getting to be known. I will definitely set up at the Sackville farmer’s market again next year – I think it has great potential – and we will try another market, too. We are also thinking about setting up an “honesty” farm stand at the end of our driveway. We live on a busy road and I think we need to take advantage of all this traffic. People love farm stands and an honesty stand keeps it really simple: produce, prices and a box to drop money into. I’ve sold eggs in the past using the honesty system and I think 99% of people out there use it honestly. The 1 % who may decide to pay less than you ask (or not at all!) are so insignificant and the money you save by not having to be there to sell is so significant, it makes the system worthwhile. So we’ll need a sign, a little covered stand and enough space that people can pull off the road safely and shop comfortably. How much fun is this, now?

We planted a whack of garlic this year. I reckon you can always sell garlic – you can start selling it as soon as it bulbs out and before it “ripens” in July and keep selling it till it starts to rot or sprout in Dec/Jan. The price around here is good (we paid $7/lb for certified organic “seed”) and the demand for garlic is always good. We put in 240 bed feet (three rows) last week and covered it in a straw mulch. My Mom helped planting – she had the patented garlic spacing and depth control tool and I dropped in the cloves. Will got bed shapers for the rotovator and we had a nice raised bed to plant in. I found an area that looks well drained, so there’s no danger of the garlic sitting in water if we have a winter thaw (or encased in ice after a post thaw freeze) but it is a bit close to pine trees. I guess we will see what effect a nice pine needle mulch will have on garlic growth. Most of the bed is the garlic I bought and there is about 50 feet of Glen Valley garlic from the cloves Jeremy brought and planted last year. The GV garlic is a far nicer garlic than the one I bought: the colour is attractive and the cloves are more moderately sized and there are more of them. The bought garlic had lots of double cloves which I decided not to plant. We’ll keep them (plus all damaged cloves) and eat them over the winter. I think I will try freezing garlic this year: grind it up with a bit of olive oil and salt and freeze in a ziplock bag. Then you just break off a piece when you need garlic. I’m sure it will work just fine though I don’t know yet how different it will be from fresh as far as flavour goes.

Okay, I’m going to talk about just one more thing before posting this oversized blob (blog blob?). We had our kitchen table talk last week on Sunday evening. It was a great event though not as well attended as we would have hoped. We had 12 people altogether (13 if you include the baby, Rose!) and had some amazing discussions. We had planned on going till 8:00 but talked well beyond that time and had to eventually just say “enough” and wrap it up. We left it open for anyone who didn’t have the chance to say everything they wanted, to contact me later on and I could add more to our flipchart sheets. Next week, the organizing group will get together again and go over the notes, pulling things together by theme and then we’ll submit it all to the Peoples Food Policy group to incorporate into the National Food Policy. We had some help from Micha Fardy, our local animator and an all-round amazing woman, and lots of enthusiastic participation from those who joined us. I had given a short talk earlier in the week to the Omegas, a group of women from the local Baptist church about the kitchen table talks (we’d posted a notice about it at the Baptist Church in Mckees Mills) and gotten into a great discussion about food storage and root cellars. Micha reckoned we could add that to our info, even though it wasn’t the planned Kitchen Table Talk, it was still a KTT of sorts.

I didn’t talk much about my trip to Cape Breton but I’ll post some photos so you can see how much fun it all was! Till next time….