Archive for April, 2011

April 2, 2011

With little else to do in the barn, Keehay decides to volunteer her time as a rooster rest

Little plants on their heated bench

The assembled and almost completed walk-in cooler in the steel building

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Spring Is Far Behind!

April 2, 2011

Mother Nature’s April Fools joke: a snowstorm on April 1? No, this can’t be happening! Well, it did, there’s about 8” of snow on the ground and it’s still snowing today (April 2). This last snow is falling on top of all the snow from last winter that still hasn’t melted! We had rashly promised our CSA customers their first boxes by mid-June and I’m starting to wonder whether that will be possible. I’ve been putting off buying compost because there’s still no place to dump it and it will definitely be a while before we even contemplate getting equipment into the fields. We are pretty much otherwise ready for the season, though, so when spring hits (and I think it will come fast), we will be able to leap into action.

Our lean-to coldframe and heated start area are working just fine and the onions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, kale, lettuce and beets are up and looking happy. Today I start the tomatoes, peppers, Cape gooseberries and a few others (chard, celeriac) so will have to bump a few of those happy seedlings from their cosy heated berth onto the unheated bench so the heat-loving newbies can have the prime space. After this crazy snow, things are supposed to warm up a bit and next week looks like lots of sun (one rainy day) and night temperatures barely below zero. I can cover the benched seedlings with row cover and help them handle the worst of the nighttime temperature drop.

We received our Dubois order a few weeks ago: black plastic, black landscape cloth, frost protecting row cover (heavier than what we use for insect control) and some heavy wire for hoops. We shared delivery with Alva Farm, hoping to reduce the delivery cost a bit (Dubois is in Quebec) but it still cost $500 to send the total order to Bouctouche! I can only dream that NB will one day be a horticultural hot spot in Canada and that these inputs and equipment won’t always all be coming from Quebec and Ontario.

The goats have all had their babies: a total of 9 kids from the 5 does. One kid died in utero (one of a set of triplets) and all the rest are healthy, happy and bouncing around like fools. The does are all well and the second new mother (Gaia) is having no trouble with her twin girls. It was a year of boys with 6 of the 9 (plus the one born dead) being male and just three girls. It is also the year of the black goat: three predominantly black kids with no black mothers! Last year, every kid came out brown, looking exactly like Buckley. This year, the black kids are split between Buckley and Pinto-bred does so it is quite the intriguing mystery as to how/why this colour appears now. Nessie, the retired doe, is black and two of the mothers of the black kids are related to her so this probably accounts for two of the three black kids. They’re all so sweet and Rej, the little guy rejected by his mother, is doing fine.

The goats are pretty much barn-bound these days. The snow has melted enough to allow them to get out and about but unfortunately a big stretch of fence fell down under the weight of snow. It took the goats about two visits before they found the broken fence and make their joyous escape. It was a day while I was in Moncton so Will got to be the one to try and get them back in the barn. He did so with great skill – a testament to the number of times we’ve had to do this in the past! So now the girls are locked into a small area near the barn while we wait for the snow to melt enough to fix the fence. I contemplated shovelling the snow away to get at the collapsed wire but there was just too much of it and I’ve already shovelled so much snow this year!

Quite a few things have fallen down, or are at least looking a little worse for wear after this season’s very heavy snow accumulation. Our front porch needs to be rebuilt and the trellis supporting the honeysuckle fell apart. The roof over the outdoors firewood storage (this wood goes in the barn this summer for next winter’s burning) let go in one place though Will managed to prop it up and prevented worse damage. Our poor little white pine seedling in the front yard lost almost all of its lower branches and I don’t know if it will survive, but we’ll see. I also see a lot of interesting things appearing in peoples’ yards as the snow melts: mainly Christmas ornaments since the first big snowfall came the day after Christmas. I guess not everyone was on the ball in getting their creches, plywood reindeer and inflatable Santa Clauses off the front lawn before they were buried for the winter.

The very busy month of March is over, I’ve pretty much finished all my teaching commitments and I’m done with my French classes for the year. The organic gardening course went really well and I enjoyed teaching it immensely. I’m finishing up the eco-nutrition course now and enjoyed it as well though I want to take a bit of time next winter and change a few things. This year it sort of snuck up on me and, before I realized it, it was suddenly the week before classes and I had no time to do much of anything new and exciting. I did download “The Meatrix” (http://www.themeatrix.com) and showed it to the group. I was amazed that no one had heard of it before but then when you think of the load of material on the internet – especially short films on youtube – its no wonder that The Meatrix came and went a few years ago and is now virtually unknown. Well, there’s one group of eco-nutrition students who will be putting it on all their Facebook pages so there may be a resurgance in its popularity!

I really enjoyed my French class at Alliance Francaise. Their teaching methods are excellent and our teacher was great. The class started out with about 8 people though had dropped to four by the end of the term. I feel like I’ve learned a lot though still need to practice speaking, listening, reading and writing. I know lots of French speakers so there’s no excuse for not practicing! However, it takes me such a long time to put thoughts into French words that it takes a special person to listen and converse with me. I need to be spoken to like you’d talk to a 5 year old: slowly and using simple words.

Will had a big day yesterday: he finally got to write his citizenship exam. He got his appointment in the week before his exam so he spent a few frenzied nights studying Canadian history and learning more about our political system than most Canadians will ever know. The exam turned out to be quite easy and the rest of his appointment was just spent in a short interview and a review of all his paperwork. He will be contacted soon to get the date of his swearing-in ceremony in May. Unfortunately he will miss out on voting in this next federal election though I’m sure there will be another one soon enough!

Will has been working on the walk-in cooler these past few weeks and has it pretty much finished. He put the walls together and Dad and I helped with the roof panels and door (big and heavy). He also managed to fix the cooling equipment (evaporator, thermostat, compressor) into place and wired everything up to the panel. Yes, I was impressed! Now we are waiting for someone to charge the compressor and get the system going. It’s great to have all this done way ahead of schedule because this late spring will make us even busier in May than we’d originally thought we’d be. Will needs to wait for the snow to go before building the wash station and we’ll have to do some drainage after that to make sure our wash water doesn’t end up in the coldframe. This will be happening while I’m cultivating, composting, spreading manure, planting cover crop, planting and transplanting, as well as ploughing up some pasture for reseeding (plus fencing it to keep out goats) – which will all be happening as soon as the snow is gone and the soil is dry enough to handle equpment! Yes, it will get pretty busy in another month or so. Unless of course Mother Nature has yet another snowy surprise in store for us before we see spring.