Marching On

It is the first day of March and the sun feels warm on my skin. It is till getting quite cold at night but daytime temperatures are up to the high minuses, thanks to the beautiful sunshine. There’s lots of snow on the ground still but the level is dropping steadily with the warm days. Will and I are getting in as much skiing in as we can before the snow starts to get mushy. We’ve been really lucky this winter and have had great snow cover on the trail behind our house. The occasional passing of a snowmobile keeps it packed down and relatively flat and the ski surface is just about perfect most of the time. After a heavy snowfall (and we’ve had a few of those this last month!) we’ll usually put on snowshoes as the skis just sink down too far. We haven’t gone to the groomed trails in Grande Digue at all this winter – no need when we can literally ski off our porch (the 5 steps have long since been covered by snow) and enjoy 8 km of trails through the neighborhood. We took a day off a few weeks ago and went to Kouchibouguac Park to try out some different trails. It was a really cold day (-30 with wind chill) but we bundled up and stayed comfortable the whole time. There are over 12 km of trails with cabins every 4 km or so in the park. We stopped at one for lunch but it being a weekday (and cold!) we were the only ones there and had to build a fire ourselves. The cabin was just starting to warm up by the time we were ready to head out on the trails again; we were fine having consumed lots of fatty goodies for lunch plus a whole thermos of hot tea!

February was definitely a month for snow and keeping it all cleared away was a big job. Will was on his own one week while I recovered from flu and tried not to miss any teaching days. There is a huge drift outside the big barn doors and Will did some major digging to get access to the lean-to coldframe, our seed starting area. After yet another snowfall, I dug out the fresh snow and we’re now able to get into that space. It is time to start planting alliums so we need our heated tables. Will checked out all the electrical parts and everything seems to be working just fine. I plan to disinfect the allium trays this year to better manage pythium. We always get quite a bit of this disease in our seedlings but it doesn’t seem to transfer to the plants in the field. I assume the soil microbiology out-competes it once the plants leave the trays, though I could be wrong and pythium could be causing some of our other problems like our onions’ poor storage qualities. I plan to disinfect the trays with bleach before planting and we’ll see how the onions, leeks and shallots do this year.

The planting plan is complete and the record books are ready to go for the season. We don’t have any exciting new crops planned, just some different methods here and there. The big excitement for the season will be field #5, our new field. We ploughed, limed and cover cropped it last year with fall rye. This year we plan to grow vegetables in half and cover crop the other half. We’ll put potatoes, beans, peas and corn in about 25% of the field and the other 25% will be for Sarah and her array of winter veg. She is planning a winter CSA for this year (Nov. – Jan.) as well as extending the farmer’s market sales till around the end of December. Sarah and Carla will be working for us again this year and we’ll also get some help from Stephan and a few different people who want to volunteer a few hours a week. We considered taking apprentices but it looks like we won’t have accommodation for them and our labour needs are pretty much all filled.

We are planning a longer rotation on field #4, though we have some crops planned for this year. Garlic and sunchokes were planted there last year and we plan winter squash, peas, popcorn and sweet potatoes there this year. The rest of the field will be put into a perennial grass/legume mix and eventually the whole field will get a 2-3 year rest from annual cropping. We’d like to put grazing animals on the field, possibly chickens (broilers and layers) but we’ll see what other possibilities exist. We are still planning to put a few broilers on cover crop land in field #3 and Will is doing lots of research to figure out the best forage mix for an annual poultry grazing system. It looks like a couple of clovers plus annual rye should work well. Our next adventure will be trying to figure out a design for the mobile structure and how to move it.

The goats are all doing well and we are now officially into kidding season, though no babies have been born yet. Gem was due two days ago and two more goats are due this week. Yes, in typical goat fashion they’ll probably all decide to give birth on the same day! Everything is ready for them and the goat cam is in place, giving me the opportunity to spy on them throughout the day in the comfort of my own home! The goat cam was a Christmas gift a few years ago from Laura and Derek and it has proven to be a very useful tool. We’d need to keep the lights on in the barn if we were to use it at night, however we’ve been lucky these past few years and haven’t had many nighttime goat births.

I’ve already finished teaching the night class at CSNN and will start my organic gardening course this Saturday. I’ve had lots of interest this year and the class is very full. The following Monday is the start of the day class at CSNN so it will be a busy couple of weeks. Of course this is also the season for AGMs and all the preparations that go into them, too. March is a very busy month and I hope the weather won’t be too challenging. We’ve enjoyed the snow we received in February but March is when we start getting our season started and I hope we see less snow on the ground at the end of the month than at the beginning!


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