Archive for March, 2012

Goats in Action

March 26, 2012

Ruby's new girls check out the great outdoors

The girls out and about; note Gaia's round belly - maybe triplets!

Ruby just has to get into the picture!

Gem's new girl, three days old

March 16, 2012

Life in the greenhouse: onions, leeks and shallots make their appearance

March 12, 2012

The snow is receding

Sweet new goat - very hard to get non-blurry photos because they rarely stop moving!

Maia checks out the new babies

In Like a Lamb

March 11, 2012

Here we are in the month of March and it seems like winter is on its way out. We never did get a lot of snow this year; I think I put on snowshoes less than a dozen times while last year I snowshoed twice a day, every day, for about 2 months! Our third winter in NB confirms to me that no two winters are alike and we really shouldn’t have any expectations about the weather winter will bring.

The snow is almost gone though sheets of ice cover much of the ground. We are expecting warm weather this week and a bit of rain so the snow and ice could be completely gone this time next week. The ground is still frozen and when we get a mild day (12 degrees two days ago), the snow-melt runs along the soil surface into coldframes and barns and carries off driveway gravel. I am especially looking forward to getting the coldframe dried out because I want to get some greens planted for us fresh-veg hungry farmers!

I have been working a bit off-farm these past few weeks. I finished the research contract for the Cocagne group and now they are using some of my findings to raise funds for other food security projects. I taught my first class of Eco Nutrition and am halfway through the organic gardening class. I have a very full gardening class this year, thanks to an interview on the local CBC afternoon show all about organic gardening. They got my name through our La Recolte de Chez Nous marketing co-op and were interested to know a bit about the course and some little details on organic growing methods. After the interview aired the phone started ringing and next thing you know, the course is full and there’s a waiting list for next year! I don’t mind this at all and reckon the more organic gardeners we have in the world, the better off we’ll all be.

Our first seeds have been planted in the heated greenhouse: onions, shallots and leeks, and they are starting to peek up above the soil. We bought most of our seeds from High Mowing Seeds this year through a seed CSA. We bought a couple of CSA shares in 2011 and this got us a reduction of 10% on the price of the seeds we order in 2012. Unfortunately, though, they didn’t tell us they were out of stock of the spring leek seed I’d ordered and I didn’t discover it until I went looking for it to plant and it wasn’t there. It was strange because they’d contacted us about all the other out of stock items before sending off the order, why not the leeks? We’ll have to make sure we double check all the paperwork in the future so this doesn’t happen again. I think we also contributed to the confusion by splitting up the job of seed ordering: Will did the inventory, I created the order and then Will submitted it. When two people are involved in the process it’s easier to miss little things when they go awry. Oh well, it just sets them back a week or so and if we have a good spring, we’ll probably still have a better crop than last year.

Our first goat babies have been born: Ruby had beautiful twin girls. This is rare for Ruby since she almost always gives birth to buck kids. I think I’ve only ever had one girl from her and she didn’t turn out to be a great doe. These little kids are Alpine x Boer crosses and very much take ofter their daddy: very fluffy and beautifully multicoloured. I wasn’t going to keep any of this year’s babies but the thought of having this cross and getting a good milking doe with meat potential for the kids, is quite exciting. I also look around the barn now and see a lot of genetics from one family line (Nessie) and it would be nice to mix it up a bit. Snowball was mated to Keehay’s boy baby (Keehay x Buckley) and if she has a doe kid, I’ll probably keep it to maintain that little piece of Keehay’s line. Keehay was a very nice doe and I never did keep a girl kid of hers and when I did think of it, she produced only boys and then died. This is obviously not something one should put off!

Unfortunately we lost a very fine doe this week. Freyja was having her first kids this year and she promised to be an exceptional doe: very good looking, healthy and friendly. She ended up aborting her twin boy babies 6 days ahead of her due date and then never passed the placenta. I put her on an antibiotic, after talking to the vet, and she was fine while she was on it but then declined rapidly after coming off. I started her on it again but was too late and she died, or actually we had our neighbour put her down because death by full body infection is not nice. I think about what I could have done differently: perhaps a shot of oxytocin to help expel the rotten placenta, but when I asked the vet about this he said he was sure she’d expelled it and ate it (not uncommon though it sounds unpleasant) because she seemed okay. If I’d started her on antibiotics sooner after she started to go downhill again, or kept her on longer she might have beaten the infection, but who knows? Maybe it was preventable and maybe not, we’ll never know. It was really hard to lose her, though, because she was so young and such a nice goat. It will be hard to lose Ruby when the time comes, too, but at least I’ll know that she’d lived a good, long, productive life. There are still three goats to kid and hopefully all goes well from now on.

We are dutifully checking Kijiji on a regular basis this winter as we look for items to add to our home and farm. Kijiji is not as big all over Canada as it is on the East Coast but out here it rules and we buy and sell many things through this amazing network. Kijiji buys: welder, table saw, walk-in cooler, kitchen table and chairs, bed sheets; Kijiji sales: goats, hay, washer and drier – you gotta love it! We’re looking for a hutch for our kitchen to fill an empty corner – yes, when we first moved here we wondered how we’d fill all these cupboards and now we have and need more space! We also need surfaces to put plants on as my houseplant collection grows. We’ve discovered that nice hutches (solid wood, plain farmhouse style) move really fast so you need to check often and submit enquiries quickly. I’m also keeping my eyes open for Boer bucklings for sale as well as a small grain mill (I’d like to make my own organic poultry ration). Will just bought his second table saw for $50, the first one (also bought for $50) cut one board and died. The motor seized and we learned that they are not cost-effectively replaceable. The new one seems to be working fine and now Will has replacement parts for it (except for the motor) because they’re both the same model! There are pitfalls to Kijiji, mainly due to sellers who do not accurately represent their product, however we are better at sniffing these ads out and don’t make too many fruitless journeys (or purchases) these days.

We submitted our organic certification paperwork early this year, in hopes that a timely inspection will get our strawberries and other early crops certified for the farmer’s market. We dealt with all our conditions for certification and one that was a recommendation: to get our water tested. We were planning a water test anyway and knew we’d probably have to shock our well because it is the nature of old wells to build up coliform bacteria. As expected our coliform counts were high, though none of the bad guys (fecal coliforms) so one day while I was out teaching, Will shocked the well. This involves pouring chlorine into the well, mixing it up, running it through the system and leaving it for 24 hours, and then flushing it all out. The shocking process went well and is fairly simple at this time of the year because water doesn’t go to as many places (no veg washing or irrigation). However, since that time we have been getting a lot of silt in our water, something we always have a bit of, but to the point where washing machine, shower and sink faucet plug up every couple of days. Will just installed a filter in the line to try and reduce the silt in the house and we’ll see how that works. We’re supposed to submit another water sample within 30 days of the shocking but we’ve been waiting weeks for the cloudiness to disappear before doing so (we don’t need an automatic failure!). We should be able to submit a clean sample this week and hopefully our water is up to scratch.

We will very soon be planting more seeds in the propagation greenhouse as well as in the coldframe and more goat babies are on their way. We still have a few small jobs to do to get ready for Sarah, our apprentice, though we’re mostly organized. We are collecting CSA payments and half the group has payed so far, not bad for this time of the year. We have two new pickup places and they are filling up nicely so we feel a bit more organized this year than last. We have a lot more full shares than half shares this year which will make for a very different CSA experience though I’m sure every year will be a different experience! We’re also experimenting with a small cheese CSA, which could be very exciting – farming never ceases to keep us interested and challenged!