Archive for March, 2011

March 20, 2011

Our snifty doodle lean-to coldframe for starting seedlings

Medusa and her daughter - what shall we name her?

We firmly believe that if we start planting things, the snow will go away!

Little guy whose mother did not accept him, we call him Rej, short for "reject"

Goats finally able to get out and stretch their legs

Some of this season's babies

The Herd, out enjoying some sunshine

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Can Spring Be Far Behind?

March 6, 2011

We are finally seeing some signs of spring! Now I won’t get too excited because I know there will be more winter weather before we’re truly done with the season, but for now I’m enjoying today’s mild temperatures, sunshine and the sight of melting snow! Unfortunately a lot of that snow melt is flowing into the barn and making a bit of a mess. I had thought we might want to move the goats into a different part of the barn (long term plan), which happens to be where the water is currently pooling, so I think we’ll keep the goats where they are for now!

The Maritimes have truly had enough winter and the city of Moncton will be very relieved to see the end of the snow. Moncton has been taxed to the max trying to keep up with snow removal this winter and many side streets were not getting cleared because there was nowhere to put the snow. Peoples’ views through their ground floor windows have been limited to the sight of snowbanks these last few weeks and I’ve heard stories of “snow rage” where neighbors have fought over where to put their snow and someone actually beat up a snowplough driver for asking them not to push snow onto the main road! Some parts of Moncton and Shediac were on a boil water advisory due to broken water mains (snow load and freezing temperatures) though I think it’s been cleared up now. I’m sure Moncton is severely over-budget on their snow removal allowance and the two city workers who attended my French class didn’t stay beyond their first four lessons – they were too busy removing snow and too tired at the end of the day to sit in class!

So we’re looking ahead to spring, though not quite ready to remove the snow tires from our little car. Will has pretty much finished the new lean-to coldframe and our first plantings of onions, leeks, shallots and green onions are sitting on their warm bench, contemplating germination. Two days after planting the alliums we had night temperatures down to -20 degrees Celcius. With the heating cable, insulation under the table and blankets over the hoops over the trays, soil temperature remained a balmy 15 degrees. A lot of our design was based on the system John had devised in BC and I’d it has been a success. This week I’ll be planting brassicas and some early lettuce with tomatoes to follow in early April. We are getting a second heating cable so we’ll have two separate heated areas (total of 16 feet) on the bench. This way we don’t have to heat much more than we need and can hopefully save some energy.

I dug snow away from the front of the coldframe in hopes of actually getting inside of it soon. The doors are still frozen shut but with another day or two of mild temperatures, we should be able to get them open. There are carrots, chard, kale, beets, spinach and some stinging nettle growing in the coldframe and I’d like to see how they’re doing and perhaps give them a bit of water. One side of the coldframe is pretty wet (snowmelt is flowing through it) but the other gets quite dry. We are soon to finish our supply of kale, chard, beans and broccoli in the freezer and we’ll soon be looking for more green food. The food I froze last summer has been great and I’m glad I kept records because now I know to freeze about twice as much kale, chard and broccoli, about the same amount of tomatoes and beans, and absolutely no corn! The frozen corn is fine but we just don’t seem to eat corn. I’ll have to find someone to share it with because I’d hate to think of all that work gone to waste. We are almost finished our squash (at the last red kuri last week), the potatoes are holding up well, onions are doing great, the apples all froze (goat treats!) and I’ve been enjoying the pureed carrots that Will’s aunt Jean did for us last fall. Most of the carrots we stored in the hay bale root cellar froze solid but we’ve managed to salvage some that were closest to the inside of the containers and closest to the ground. We’re keeping them for fresh eating and I’ve been adding the frozen pureed carrots to soups and stews – what a great idea that was! I’ll have to tell Jean.

The goats have started birthing their babies and all has gone well so far. Gem was the first and she had twin boys who are both healthy and bouncy. She only accepted one of them, for reasons known only to her, and I’ve been feeding the other with a combination of holding Gem and letting him suckle, and bottles. He’s also an opportunistic feeder, ever on the alert for a free teat and Will has seen him suckling a doe who has one of her own babies on the other side. I reckon he’ll be fine. Medusa had twins, a boy and a girl, and the girl is just gorgeous! She is black with pale brown points – like a Doberman’s colouring- and is very delicate and long-legged. She’s sweet and friendly and, though I’d promised to myself not to keep any more girls, I think I may have to keep her! Ruby had a single, very large, boy which is very much typical for her. Out of six kiddings she’s only ever produced one female kid and only had twins twice, when twins are more common than singles in goats. I think it’s quite interesting and don’t mind her single boy at all because it means more milk for us. Yes, I am so happy to be drinking goat’s milk again and just made my first batch of yogurt in far too long!

I taught my first organic gardening course last Saturday and truly enjoyed it. After a lacklustre start (three people signed up in the first month of advertising) I started getting more interest as we got closer to March and now have 18 signed up. I’m using Rowena’s curriculum and handouts but have created my own powerpoint presentation and am supplementing the handouts with more information. Next year I think I will do the handouts over again, though I really like Rowena’s organization of it and won’t deviate too far from that. I really enjoy teaching, especially something that I am truly passionate about, and the people you meet in these courses are just great. I teach for 2 ½ hours each Saturday in March: garden planning, soil building, crop planning and pest and disease management. It’s lots of good, basic information to get you started and I try to include lots of references for people who want more information on certain topics. The people in my class are from lots of different gardening backgrouns – some quite experienced and some total newcomers. Hopefully everyone will find the course useful to them.

Will is going to the ACORN conference this coming weekend and I’ll get to enjoy some days alone on the farm! Mom will come and mind the place while I’m teaching on Saturday, just to make sure the lean-to doesn’t get too hot and to keep the goats’ water topped up. Imagine her joy when I told her Keehay is due to have her babies that day! Goats are rarely right on time and I would guess that Keehay will be a day or two late, however I think Mom may want a lesson in goat midwifery before I go! I had planned on checking out the Farm Machinery show on in Moncton that weekend but will wait and see whether it’s a day I’ll feel comfortable being away from the farm.

Other things going on: we now have another 100A service hooked up to the steel building. Unfortunatley another metre also means another power bill but there was no other way of doing it. With the cooler, welder and other big stuff plugged in there, we needed the upgrade and I was amazed at how quickly the job was completed. Will had organized a hydro upgrade on our farm in BC and I’m sure that experience helped him here.

I’ve copied in a short blurb from the Moncton Times & Transcript newspaper about backyard poultry:

“It’s rare that politicians have a chance to do a deed most fowl and be praised, but Moncton City Council is being asked to create a bylaw allowing the raising of up to four egg-laying hens in what would be backyard mini-farms. And it is a great idea, good for the environment, good for sustainability in an uncertain future and good for people’s food budgets. Moreover, a year-long test run of just such a backyard chicken coop has proven highly successful, producing no complaints and no problems. It’s an idea whose time has come. And while naysayers can undoubtedly paint all kinds of potential scenarios to scare not-in-my-backyard types, the reality elsewhere and with our experiment is innocuous. Of course, council must ensure that such ‘urban farms’ do not include pigs, cows and elephants. Even in the bird world, peacocks screech, emus can escape to chase kids and turkey vultures would probably eat the chickens. Common sense must be applied, but Post Carbon Greater Moncton backing the idea knows that, proposing a ban on roosters.”

It sounds quite promising and if the bylaw passes, it may pave the way for other cities to consider it as well. And now I will wrap this up and get on with my day. I hope you are all also enjoying some signs of spring.