Signs of Spring

This is a quick little picture of what’s happening on the farm this month. We’ve had a long winter with March being a continuation of cold, snow and ice rather than a transition month. We are now at the end of April and probably 3-4 weeks behind a more typical season. A week ago the farm was still under 2-4 feet of snow and then after 3 warm days, it pretty much all disappeared. The great melt created a lot of water, though we didn’t suffer too much and last year’s drainage project seems to be doing a good job. The coldframe is still drying out and we’re late planting carrots and beets inside, but they’ll get planted eventually. There was a lot of local flooding damage: old bridges washed out and people stranded; the road to Moncton was flooded in many places and traffic had to be diverted to one lane through the middle of the road as we drove through a good foot of water. Things around here are much dryer this week though there’s still a worry about ice jams on the St. John river, west of us.

The greenhouse and start area are packed with seedlings and we’ve moved some into the coldframe, too. Everything is doing well and I hope we can get them into the ground in the next two weeks. The ground is thawing and drying now so hopefully some warm, sunny weather will come along to speed the process. The ginger is sprouting in the bathroom, though it will be a while before it goes in the ground. The bees seem to have survived the winter and Will says they appear to be strong and in good numbers. He put some sugar syrup in the hives last week to give them sustenance until flowers start to bloom. Almost all our little fruit trees are visible – though pears are still in the snow – and unfortunately we’ve had lots of rodent damage on the cherries. We had painted the trunks instead of wrapping plastic around them, as this is what the commercial orchards do. Well we must have used really tasty paint because some trees have lost all their bark, three feet up from the soil surface! The shrub cherries look a bit better and we’ll see how they do once it warms a bit more and they leaf up.

The goats are all doing well. We had one kid with an inverted eyelid, a hereditary condition that is a real pain when it appears – painful to the kid and annoying to the goat keepers! I had one in the past that was fixed by the vet: a few stitches to hold the eyelid in it’s proper place. Since we’ll probably see it again and I don’t want to pay vet bills (which would amount to more than the kid is worth!), I decided to try my own method. Unfortunately the eyelid appeared in an older and quite large male kid so actually holding him still to carry out a procedure was a real challenge. I ruled out stitching because of this and decided to try something else I’d read about on the internet: clipping the eyelid down. I got some one inch alligator clips from my Dad and used a good strong one to grab a piece of skin under the eye, then taped the clip to his face. It hurt for the first few minutes (I tried the clip on my finger so I know it hurts!) but the pain seemed to ease fairly quickly and the main concern was keeping the clip in place. The duct tape worked really well: we taped around his head and around his nose in a formation like a horse’s halter. We didn’t spare the tape but made sure it didn’t impede eating, drinking or other important activities. The lower eyelid swelled up once it was clipped and this swelling seemed to pull it away from the eye so in a very short time, the eye stopped running and looking sore. After three days we removed the whole arrangement and the eyelid was perfect! It’s nice when things work. He’s the biggest kid we have and continues to grow at a great rate so I think our procedure was all-round helpful. Another method that is recommended is to inject some slow acting penicillin under the skin of the lower eyelid. I guess it irritates the tissues and causes swelling and this pulls the eyelid away from the eye, causing it to roll into its proper position. I’ll probably try that next time.

We survived the ice storm with a 1.5 day loss of power – one of the shortest power loss periods around! We’re lucky to be on the same line as a NB Power building as we seem to have very few power outages overall, and quick repairs when big things happen. We were incredibly lucky that this, the year we bought an emergency generator, was the first year of this sort of emergency! We are pretty well equipped for loss of power most of the time: wood heat, water from the pond, lots of stored food and always a 4 gallon supply of stored drinking water. Getting water to the goats was a big job as 7 lactating ladies consume an incredible amount. Will did most of the heavy lifting, carrying buckets through deep snow and an ice storm from pond to barn. We had lots of baby plants in heated spaces at this time, too, and this is where the generator came in. We were able to run it for a few hours to warm the spaces, then turn it off for about 4 hours before the temperatures dropped too low. Fortunately we didn’t have anything under lights as we’d have been running the generator continuously and probably would have run out of gas. The gas stations weren’t operational so this would have been an issue! Next winter we’ll store more gas in case of emergencies, as well as more drinking water. It was an interesting brush with the collapse of civilization as we know it and a wake-up call on our preparedness for such events. Other than the power outage, a lot of trees suffered under a heavy weight of ice in high winds. Fortunately our orchard was still buried in snow so there were no broken fruit trees.

We just said good-bye to Jon and Teri, our friends from NS. They have been coming out for a visit around this time of the year for three years now. It is an annual pilgrimage for them to get in some high quality baby goat time and it’s one of the last weekends of the season we can take off (well, mostly off) from work to spend time with friends. We went to visit the Moncton and Dieppe Farmer’s markets on Saturday, after a short walk in the woods with the goats, and on Sunday we collected and planted some willow shoots in the wet area along the road. This area is part of the drainage problem we are trying to solve with ditches and big O pipe. Will’s also building a chisel plough so we can break the soil up deeper down. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to put a bit of Permaculture to work as well, planting willow along a stretch where all the pine trees had died because of high soil moisture. We’ll see next year, when Teri and Jon next visit, how well our plantings did!


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