Spring is Coming

It is the end of the first week of April, as well as Easter weekend, and it is cold outside! We hit an all-time record for low temperatures last night at -14 degrees Celsius, not a distinction I care to experience again this season! There is still a lot of snow on the ground, between 2-4 feet, though it is melting very slowly. The long range forecast is for more seasonal temperatures 6 days from now and I can only hope their predictions are correct! We have seedlings started in the lean-to coldframe and usually at this time of the year I would send all the alliums (onions, shallots and leeks) to a protected outdoors area to make room for the next round of plantings. Well, with the temperatures predicted to hit highs of only 2 degrees this week, I think I’ll keep them indoors a bit longer. We fortunately have our indoor start area, too – not huge but it will hold about 16 trays – to keep me on schedule. Though having said that, I actually bumped the planting of a few of the faster growing veggies forward a week because I find it hard to picture the ground being ready to plant in just 4 weeks from now! I do know from experience that when the melt starts, it goes quickly so it’s possible we could lose all this snow in the next two weeks and then get some serious warming to thaw and dry the soil and be ready for an early May outdoors start. We shall see!

It being Easter Monday, my food of choice for the day is chocolate. I am trying to be a bit disciplined and, fortunately, we also have some lovely fresh spinach that over-wintered in the coldframe. It is crispy and sweet and I eat it every day. The coldframe is a bit wet and will get wetter as the snow melts so I’m holding off preparing beds for the early plantings of carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce and green onions. This means I can keep eating the fall-planted spinach a bit longer and this isn’t a bad thing! I made a big batch of caramel squares as Easter treats to share (yes, we feasted on a few of them ourselves!) and traded that recipe for one for an old Acadien favourite, Pet de Soeur, which translates beautifully as “Nun’s Farts”. I guess the name arose because they are light and sweet (!). I’ll see if I can do them justice.

The goat kidding season has come and gone and everything went really well. We had 4 sets of twins and one set of triplets. I had been expecting the triplets based on the size of the mother and the fact she’d had triplets before. She is a great mother and never seems to have any trouble feeding all three. I think this is because she breeds devious kids who are very good at stealing milk from the other mothers whenever opportunity presents itself. This mother of triplets always produces two normal sized kids plus one miniature. The mini is always very friendly, probably because it is showered with affection throughout its life, being forever smaller and cuter than the others. This works better with females than males and I’m happy to say that this year’s tiny kid is a girl. The overall ratio is 7 girls to 4 boys and we’re quite happy with those numbers. Last year we had 10 boys which necessitated some changes to the area they are raised in post-weaning and made for lots of extra work at the end of the season. We weren’t able to sell that much goat meat and ended up turning two of them into ground goat to keep Will supplied with hamburgers. We have two people who’ve already requested some female kids (buyers from previous years) so I’m hoping we get the girls sold off pretty quickly. With smaller kid numbers and fewer does to milk, I’m hoping that this year won’t be as busy on the goat front as last.

I’ve also finished my teaching for the season and it was a really busy few weeks. I ended up doing a make-up class for students in my organic gardening course (quite a few missed one day due to the March break) so had to squeeze an extra day into an already over-flowing week. I made it through, though, and the classes all went really well. I had record numbers in Organic Gardening plus a list of 11 names for next year’s class. I always meet great people in these classes and a few of them are in contact years later. There are also usually some aspiring farmers and Will and I have helped them with more detailed information through their early growing seasons, following the course. We are also mentoring two new farmers this year from nearby Ste-Marie de Kent and Cocagne. I’ve mentored new farmers before but this year I’m actually creating some structure for the process: a training plan with goals and indicators of success. One of our mentees is applying for funding for the process so I need to step up my game a bit and make sure we have measurable goals. This is a good thing and I think it will help Will and I become better mentors in the long term.

Will has been working on a cover crop plan for this season on the farm. We always cover crop half our land while growing vegetables on the other half, then switch the following year. The idea is to use cover crops to improve the soil and manage weeds. Well, we started out really well but our cover cropping in the last few years had become rather formulaic and was not as successful at meeting those goals as we’d like. So we now have an actual plan with different crops planned for different fields, depending on their particular needs (build soil organic matter, break up hardpan, manage weeds, add nitrogen, provide grazing for poultry). We met with Claude, our provincial organic specialist who also happens to have a love affair with cover crops, and with his help, managed to fine-tune the plan. We’re quite excited to be trying some new crops (yellow sweet clover for nitrogen, bee food and deep soil conditioning; Japanese millet for building organic matter in the soil and choking out weeds) and to better manage our cover crops all-round. I feel that putting some effort in here will help us in the long run with our weeding costs as well as improve crop yields – we will see how it all works out.

So we wait for the weather to improve and the snow to melt and meanwhile, juggle trays of seedlings in our sheltered spaces. The goat kids have discovered they can walk over and through the fence in a few places so I try not to encourage them to visit these areas. They’ll be happy to have more field to explore and to eat something other than hay and grain. Will and I still have lots of projects to work on in preparation for the season ahead so we’re not going too stir-crazy yet, though we’ll be very happy to get some sunshine and to see the soil when the time comes.

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