Archive for April, 2013

April 19, 2013
Seedlings started indoors awaiting warmer weather

Seedlings started indoors awaiting warmer weather

Some of this season's babies out on pasture

Some of this season’s babies out on pasture

Callie's little girl, Dolce

Callie’s little girl, Dolce

April Snowstorms Bring May Flowers

April 14, 2013

I just re-read posts from the past two Aprils and each one contained a bit of me raving about a snowstorm. 2011 had its final snowstorm on April 1 and last year it was April 8. This year it was meant to storm yesterday but it was more rain than snow and today we are having “Charlie Brown” snow – the type that looks pretty and falls gently. Unlike the last two years, though, this snow is falling on winter snow that still hasn’t disappeared and underneath this the ground is still frozen solid. We have been having the coldest spring of our experience, though the old timers tell us this is the typical “old” NB spring. I am going ahead with a planting plan that requires trays of tender seedlings to be moved out of the heated space into a covered outdoor hardening off area and it is just too cold to put them there. So as I continue to plant new trays (in anticipation of the winter’s snow melting, the ground thawing and drying within the next two weeks) I need a place to put the trays of leeks, onions and shallots I planted 6 weeks ago. We have also started planting in the coldframe – carrots, beets and green onions – and cut the seed potatoes for sprouting. All of these activities are carried out with a certain expectation: that the weather eventually warms enough for the season to actually start! Other than covering things with layers of row cover, there’s not too much we can do but wait for the thaw to come. So the alliums have been moved into the coldframe, the carrots and beets show no signs of germinating and the green onions (transplanted) have done absolutely no growing in the past two weeks. Well, as long as they don’t die I think I’ll be happy!

One of the upsides of this weather is that it gives us lots of time to organize things for the season: machinery repairs, orchard planning and high tunnel construction. We have ordered our trees for the orchard and Will has already cut down the old apple trees and removed the branches and big chunks of apple wood. My Dad is going to try and convert some of the apple wood into something beautiful – salad bowls? Hopefully we will be ready to plant when the fruit trees arrive (second week of May). We’ll need to have fence up by that time so the ground will need to have thawed and the snow melted well beforehand.

Stephan, a friend also involved in the chicken feed co-op, came out and spent a day with Will bending pipe for the new high tunnel. He is interested in learning how to build a high tunnel so will also come out to help put it up. I just discovered that there is a name for having friends and relatives help out on the farm, it is called “social capital”. I’ve always suspected there is a name for everything! We definitely know how valuable our community is: friends, relatives, CSA members, etc. and we nurture and treasure these relationships. I am finishing up reading a nice beginner farmer book called “Farms with a Future” by Rebecca Thistlethwaite and she makes a point of reminding farmers (beginners and experienced) of the value of “social capital”. Especially if you are a small farmer and cannot afford high insurance rates to protect you from all that life, mother nature or whatever you want to call it, throws at you, social capital is an important component of what keeps you in business. Will and I tend towards the introverted so we step a bit outside of our comfort zone every time we plan an event at the farm or open ourselves up to some sort of group activity here. However we both realize that connecting with our local community is incredibly important in so many ways and we always end up having lots of fun at these activities!

The chicken feed co-op, which has yet to receive a name, is getting off to a good start this season. We have managed to find a couple of tonnes of wheat and barley for chicken feed as well as about half a tonne of field peas. We also have a bag of layer mineral pre-mix which we can add for extra calcium for the egg shells. I think this ration will work for birds that spend their days foraging outside, supplementing their diet with bugs and worms and picking up some extra goodies like B vitamins from goat manure. We’ll also give our chickens whey from cheese making and some of our other co-op farmers also have milk by-products to share with their flocks. This is a test year to see how well the ration works to maintain a good egg production. If all goes well and we can get a large enough supply of grains, we would be able to look at expanding our egg flock to a more commercial level.

The goats are all doing well and the babies are growing like weeds. We have a home for one very fine little buck kid and I will be advertising the females on Kijiji very soon. We are running short of good hay and with this late spring, no local farms have extra second cut to sell. We ended up buying some not great first cut hay and separated the yearlings into another space, leaving all the good hay for the milking does. The yearlings are not at all happy with this arrangement and have already managed to escape once, destroy the perimeter electric wire and almost kill themselves getting hung up in it. They are always a handful at this age and this year we have 5 of them including the wether. Once the kids are old enough to be weaned I’ll move the yearlings back to the main herd and keep the boys separate (hopefully the female kids will have been sold). We are only getting milk when we lock up the kids at night and when I weigh the choices of sleeping in an extra hour over having more cheese, sleeping in seems to win out.

Some of the other activities we have going on these days include: Will is learning how to re-spoke a bicycle wheel after driving over his bike with the truck. There’s quite a bit more to this than you’d think (re-spoking, not running over a bike)! I’ll be playing fiddle along with local musician Catherine LeBlanc at the Art and Nature Expo in Notre Dame next week. Catherine is a very talented player and my role is to make sure I don’t play too loud! We have another practice this week and then we’ll do our thing Friday evening and possibly again Sunday morning at the community breakfast. We are getting organized for Gemael, our apprentice for the season. Her partner, Kevin, will be living with her on the farm in exchange for some farm work (he studies and works at Universite de Moncton), which I think will work out nicely. I am also mentoring a new farm in Amherst, N.S. I visited them yesterday and got to see their land and infrastructure. They have a very well-researched and well-thought-out, though very ambitious, 5 year farming plan. I hope I can be of some use to them though I’m sure we’ll learn lots from them as well as they develop their farm and business.

It’s a quiet day on the farm and I should probably put some time into finishing knitting Will’s sweater. At this rate it may be done by August!

April 14, 2013
Our farm today. How can we complain about all this "poor man's fertilizer" on the ground?

Our farm today. How can we complain about all this “poor man’s fertilizer” on the ground?

Storage site for our chicken feed co-op

Storage site for our chicken feed co-op at the Poirier’s farm

The Poirier's ram entertains himself during his off season

The Poirier’s ram entertains himself during his off season

An old corn sheller that still works perfectly

An old corn sheller that still works perfectly