Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021
I'm hoping to start a new series where we highlight a customer of ours and feature their farm and products on social media, but I wanted it to also exist in a larger, more permanent format, so to the blog we go!
If you're a superfan, you might have noticed that the photos of goats on our website recently got a major facelift from the stock photos we were using (not having any goats ourselves), to having the sweetest faces of some beautiful Nubian goats that look like they're part of the most bad-ass band cover shoot ever!
Saturday, March 13, 2021
It's a sunny Friday afternoon and this rock of anxiety that has been sitting on my chest all week as the new Environment Minister, Stephen Myers, has bullied and forced his will on our PEI ecology with a certain disgusting kind of joy. So I do what makes me feel better. Write a pointed letter.
"I’m writing today as a farmer in the Wilmot and Dunk River watershed. We farm 550 acres smack dab in the middle of the potato belt. In the last few years:
- we’ve witnessed several new 'ponds' within a 2km radius of our farm (4 in the last 6 months), in addition to the ones built prior to that.
- We’ve had the land around and beside us bought up by the devious workings of lawyers and the ineffective enforcement of the Lands Protection Act.
- The stream that we fish and play in and was pumped below safe levels after the approval of our government representatives during a severe drought this past summer.
- The hedgerows that hold the snow and cut the wind, and the wooded areas that serve as wildlife habitat and corridors have been decimated and removed at incredible rates to make way for larger fields and bigger, heavier equipment.
Premier King & Minister Myers, it is at your own political peril to let the lobbyists and CEO’s of food corporations convince you that the naysayers are merely a handful of pearl-clutching protesters who hold no influence. We live here and visibly witness the continued disregard for the ecology of this area, because the policies to protect it are either ineffective or non-existent. Our livelihood as farmers is threatened not by the climate as much as it is by weak leadership that makes it possible, and even paves the way for an exploitation of our natural resources and landscape.
The rising tide of land clearing, holding ponds, shady land deals, high capacity wells and a dismissal of public concerns is making for some very strong swimmers and we will not be drowned by your turning a blind eye and reminding us that we’re not the boss, as our newest Minister of the Environment is all too happy to share.
A change in tone, a backbone and some policy with teeth (and shorter deadlines) would go a long way in ensuring not only a longer political career, but healthy soil, air and water for Prince Edward Islanders."
Saturday, March 6, 2021
My strong-willed mother turns 80 today and as a way to honour her special day, I wrote a tiny, broad memoir as a tribute. Re-reading it, I realized it sounded like a long form, slightly irreverant obituary. So I contemplated not sharing it, wanting to avoid offending anyone, but I still think it's a decent story of a great life thus far (and I know Mom appreciates a well-written obit anyway-haha!) so here it is:
Born March 6, 1941, few who witnessed the tiny jaundiced baby, struggling in the shoebox by the woodstove would have predicted the spitfire she would become. Never one to let her small stature determine her ability, she flourished as a middle child of four under the guidance of her strong and capable mother, Mabel, particularly during the years that her father, David, was at war. It is likely during those years that the seeds of a fierce independence and an unrelenting work ethic took root that formed the foundation of the determination to come in Winnie’s life.
She graduated early, and top of her class, but don’t be fooled into thinking she was a bookish wallflower. On the contrary, her quick wit, easy smile and smooth moves attracted the admiration of a certain tall drink of water from the country. Seen together at Frankie’s Dance Hall, rumours of Fred and Winnie’s dalliance soon proved true with an engagement and beautiful June wedding. (It’s a rare bride who can still wear their wedding dress at their 60th wedding anniversary.)
Winnie never questioned her desired future and happily jumped at motherhood with enthusiasm. Never one to do things half-arsed, she dove in headfirst and had her first four babies within 2 years. Decidedly in the thick of things, she maintained a pace of bread-baking, diaper washing and face wiping to sustain 8 babies in 10 years. One might think that that would be sufficient, but evidently Winnie and Fred disagreed, proving their agelessness with one more baby a meagre 12 years later, just as their first (of 23) grandkids were beginning to arrive.
Maybe it was her strenuous start to the world, but Winnie is ever-reluctant to show a moment of weakness. A volleyball knee injury in the 80s was the target of a mean-spirited ram a decade later, which brought her down, but only temporarily. Another nasty sheep some years later levelled his tender shepherd with a direct smash to the nose. None of this hardened Winnie’s heart to her livestock and she is always at the ready to fend off even the fiercest beast by whatever means necessary, firearms included.
What she lacks in patience, she makes up for with quick judgement and decisiveness and it has served her well. In turn, she serves her community well, playing leadership roles at several levels of the church, at school committees and boards, at the local agricultural fair and within the sheep breeders organizations. Specializing in the role of secretary, any organization is lucky to have her ability to sift through the extraneous (BS), give a well-timed, murmured piece of advice to a chairperson and keep everyone on task.
She honed the skills as the captain of her home ship, delegating tasks with the expectations of a small but mighty army general. With a low tolerance for laziness, unfinished work, deceitfulness and adult men in gym pants, Winnie suffers no fools.
Some of her greatest joys include looking out at rolling pastures with bouncing lambs, lilac bushes bustling with a rainbow of busy birds, reading a good book beside a sweltering stove, being in the middle of a spirited get together of her kids and tightly-knit grandkids and enjoying a glass of sweet, cold wine while winning at a game of cards.
Some of her skills include, but are not limited to puzzling out connections from the obituary section, shooting a deadly and well-aimed stink-eye, listening to multiple conversations at once, turning a meal for two into a meal for 8 in 30 seconds flat, identifying medical ailments of strangers at 50 paces and in her semi-annual swim, floating effortlessly with her feet out of the water and never getting her hair wet.
A woman whose cookbooks have dirty pages on the best recipes, who can quilt a perfectly straight line while discussing the new babies in the community, whose bread and pie crusts are renowned, who is as likely to have tail docking bands in her pockets as pink peppermints and whose squeeze in church can say either “This is lovely” or “You better sit down and be quiet you little bugger” as clearly as words, is as proud of her kids as she is of their partners, but not nearly as proud as she is of her grandkids and great-grands, who all know her as perhaps her favourite title of all, Poohie.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
What does Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the late and celebrated American Supreme Court Justice have to do with agriculture on PEI? Perhaps not much, but her famous dissentions have inspired this letter. Because like Ruth was, I am a member of a collective in which I am often the minority opinion, and likewise, my opinion is rarely represented or supported by the collective, in this case the PEI Federation of Agriculture. I am a farmer and I support other farmers, which is why I continue to support farm organizations and hold membership with them, expecting them to represent my voice and values to higher authorities.
Sadly, I’ve watched my representative organization continue to rally around decisions that support economy over environment, corporations over small farms and commodities over communities. The most recent push to remove the moratorium over high capacity wells and increase the capacity for irrigation has me feeling like a very small voice in a large room.
I receive newsletters encouraging me to contact my MLA regarding “the water issue”, assuming I will rally support for increased irrigation and water usage. But as I work in the buckle of the potato belt, waking to the whine of sprayers most mornings, watching soil wash into our deteriorating waterways, washing blowing red dirt off my siding, I struggle to get behind the chorus for measures that would facilitate even more industrialized exploitation of our resources.
Three new ‘ponds’ have been constructed within 5km of our farm in the last few weeks and while I of course do not support the use of high capacity wells for golf courses or leisure activities either, I cannot allow those objections to prevent me from acknowledging the short-sightedness of further loosening of regulations around our water. And while I abhor the pressure that farmers feel to take perfectly arable land out of production to build huge well-water-fed ponds, I again cannot let my empathy for their position overshadow my concerns for the water the future farmers and generations will be able to access.
So while my farming organization calls on politicians to consider the plight of drought-affected producers, with irrigation as the solution, I dissent.
Escarpment Blues by Sarah Harmer
If they blow a hole in my backyard
Everyone is gonna run away
The creeks won't flow to the Great Lake below
Will the water in the wells still be okay?
If we don't know where we want to go
Even knowledge that's sound can get watered down
Truth can get sucked out the car window
What do we really need?
But sun, showers
Soil and seed
The aquifers provide
Deep down in the rock
There's a pearl inside
The one that runs across the muscles of the land
We might get a load of stone for the road
But I don't know how much longer we can stand
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Ya know how when Trump first garnered attention as a wild card in the various races to become President and everyone thought he might tone it down once at the top? And then once he was president, with each passing day, we continued to be surprised, and then slowly not at all surprised that he continued to act a bit unhinged and certainly unlike any politician seen or heard before? And next thing we knew, nothing could surprise us and we hardly lifted our heads at the latest headlines, hardly gave his antics much attention at all?
I'm worried I may have arrived at that point with genetic science in agricultural crops. I'm almost not even surprised when even the craziest research has been funded and the latest 'solution' developed, suddenly staring at me from my computer screen, from a CBC Quirks & Quarks article no less.
Go on. It's not a terribly long article, you've got time to give it a quick perusal. (If you REALLY don't, the Cole's Notes is that plants do not do well in compacted soil -surprise!- and scientists have identified one reason this might be; ethylene, which does not diffuse through compacted soil. Fear not young reader, genetic modification is here and will create plants who ignore the ethylene and literally punch through the hard soil.)
- Isn't the most important thing we know about soil at the moment, that we know so very little about soil? Is it possible that this one, singular conclusion about ethylene is missing some other important pieces about how compaction affects the soil biology AROUND the plant and not just the plant alone?
- Are we now accepting that soil compaction is simply a necessity of our food production system? That rather than researching better technologies to reduce compaction, we're throwing money at genetically modified crops to better muscle their way through rock?
- Is it conspiracy theory to suppose that the same companies that sell the chemicals and fertilizers needed to grow these crops that require heavy, compacting equipment, might also hold the patents for the specialized crops that can grow in those conditions?
- Has every consideration been made for how stopping the plant from detecting ethylene might affect the rest of its life, or the life of the soil biology around it, or the animals/humans who might consume it? Are there other roles that the ethylene plays in the soil and in the air that might be altered by mucking about with the plants' detection of it?
Sunday, January 10, 2021
On my Instagram this week, I shared how I get the most out of a chicken, starting with using the breasts for fajita night, simmering the rest for stock and stripping the meat from the bones for other dishes. I ended up making noodle soup and chicken pot pie with the rest of it. It ended up feeding 22 people!!! I had a bunch of requests for the recipe for the pot pie so I thought I'd put the recipe here.
I should include a note that I don't really follow exact amounts very often. I'm a bit of a 'feel it out as you go' kinda gal. So forgive my wishy washy instructions. You Culinary A-Types won't enjoy the following.
It would be helpful to watch this video of me cutting up a chicken to start with. This is how you get the most out of a whole bird, 100%. Once I had it pieced up, I separated the breasts and tenders, and then put the rest on to simmer in the dutch oven for a few hours with a whole onion and celery. Once it was cooled, I pulled all the meat off the bones and strained the stock. I stored them both in the fridge until I was ready to use it.