Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Digesting a M.E.A.L. and General Updates

Anyone need an extra chin? (He'll hate me for this one someday.)

I did a quick review of my latest posts and realized that I haven't given a very indepth update of things going on.  Upon further reflection however, I feel like I have little to report.  Not only because I'm more of a house resident than a farm participant, but because winter hasn't really left yet in the sense that the farm is still enjoying some down time before the spring rush hits.  

Mark was down with a couple bouts of the flu or 'the diabolicals' as we call a certain symptom thanks to the colourful vocabulary of my brother.  At one point I made a comparison of Mark's ailments to Old Man Winter's case of the...er...dumps.  Then Mark went into a few days of the sweats as his body rid itself of the bug, the same point at which Old Man Winter happened to be warming things a little too quickly- hence the water in the basement.  (OMW has since gone on the warming strike however and we're back in frigid temperatures again.) 
I kept wondering why Mark was taking so long to recover and didn't seem to get completely over it the first time before it hit again.  Then I found this picture of him during a day of 'recovery' here at the house.
We're pretty much done lambing with two old girls holding tough and who may or may not be just fat rather than pregnant.  This is my first batch of lambs from my new ram and I had hoped to be able to sell some registered polled dorset breeding stock since quality breeding stock is in high demand around here these days.  Of course of the five lambs I've had up to now, only one is a girl.  I have my eye on one of the rams as potential breeding stock, but since I had wanted to keep a ewe or two for myself, this looks like a bit of a 'growing year' as they say. Thankfully I've had a number of requests for lamb lately, so when I ship these ones that were born at Christmas, I shouldn't have much trouble selling them.  

 As for that Local M.E.A.L that I attended, I am still shocked at how much fun it was.  I don't usually get very stressed about public speaking, but the format for this was really wearing me out.  I got there a bit early in order to get my bearings.   I was under the impression early on that it would likely be a small group of concerned young people so when I settled near the front with my friend and fellow presenter, Jen Campbell, we grew increasingly concerned as we kept turning around to a room getting fuller and fuller.  The organizers kept digging out chairs from all over the building and the noise level grew.  As the room filled up, we kept catching glimpses of pioneers in our respective agricultural fields who we felt had far more to contribute than either of us.  When I stood up to speak I would estimate that more than 200 sets of eyes were watching my pictures and trying to keep up with my quick words (I did warn them that I would be speaking fast so they better be ready to listen fast).  I was aiming for an overall message about the importance of organics using our farm as a reference and although I was obviously preaching to a choir of concerned eaters, the energy in the room was invigorating and impressive.  Apparently the presentations will be available online sometime in the future. 
  The precision timing required meant that I could not get off on a tangent or cut myself off prematurely.  And given the topic (organics) it was difficult for me to stay reigned in.  I actually made three different presentations before I settled on the one I went with.  I am happy with what I ended up choosing and got a great response from the crowd.  I had sort of asked to go early on and I'm glad that I did, because I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the presentations (8 in all).  And as a listener, the Pecha Kucha format is really ideal.  Six and a half minutes is just the right amount of time because if you don't like the speaker or the topic, it's only 6 minutes and if you do enjoy it, you're intrigued and wanting more.  There are no questions from the floor at the time of presentation, so it means the discussions afterward and very one on one and personal.  It was really an excellent night.  The organizers did an amazing job and I can't help but think that this event was more successful, attendance wise, than if it had been organized by farmers.  That's a whole other post though.

Despite the temperatures not really climbing, apparently the maple sap is running a bit at home and that always makes me wish I was in West Branch this time of year, sipping warm syrup from a bottle with a whittled wooden stopper and re-learning the rules for 45's, again.  I hope for a trip home soon, but with various church activities tying up our weekends and the weekdays starting to ramp up it's never a sure thing.  For the sake of family here's a few pictures of the kids. 
Climbing trees is much easier in the winter!  Hard to believe this was only taken a few weeks ago. 

 I had asked Wilson to go entertain Thayne one day as I was trying to do something in the kitchen.  This is the sweet scene I found when I peeked around the corner. 

Some smiles from my boys. 

Hope this finds you eating some locally produced, free range eggs purchased from your favorite farmer.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hockey sticks as a farm implement

This is a disclaimer to any of you animal activists out there who've never dealt with cattle- you won't like this post.

When I first came to Mark's farm, maybe even for a visit before we were married, I remember seeing a broken hockey stick being thrown out.  I promptly said, "Don't throw that out if you really plan on having cattle someday! You'll need it!" 

Growing up, when we moved the cattle way up the back road to the summer pastures, we were all equipped with various sticks and shovel handles and placed strategically to prevent cattle, by whatever means necessary, from going where they weren't supposed to (into to the graveyard, or Grammy's house, or the wrong drive way, or down the big hill, etc.)  Probably when we were smaller, the hockey sticks were meant more as a security tool for our peace of minds rather than an implement of cattle discipline.  But as we got older, it became apparent that something about the shaft of an old hockey stick is a very effective means of moving a large beast.

When I showed my dismay at the tossing of the old stick at the Bernard farm, I was met with a face of utter dismay and the statement, "We'll NEVER use hockey sticks on cows here." 

Now let me be clear, it's not like I grew up beating cows and calves for fun.  We weren't put through any sort of cattle beating training and we didn't use them unless we had to.  But until you've tried moving a big Charolais steer into a shute, or separating a Hereford from her calf or teaching a stubborn Angus calf to lead, you cannot possibly understand the strength and stubbornness that comes with 1200lbs of refusing muscle.

Anyway, the point of this story is that Poppy escaped yesterday afternoon while Mark was mucking out the barn before feeding.  Up at the front barn I heard him whistling to the dog and looking a bit disgusted standing at the barn door while Poppy ran at high speed through the muck and the mud going everywhere but near the barn and near her bawling mother.  While trying to keep Rosie in and coral the wild beast, the dog was being of NO assistance (read:being a royal pain). But between the two of us we somehow got her close enough to the door to grab her; with me behind twisting her tail and Mark holding onto her collar, trying to drag her in.  Mark is not used to not being able to move something with sheer strength. 

I'm pretty certain that if I could have seen into his eyes they would have been saying loud and clear, "Dammit, I could really use a broken hockey stick right now."

The moral of the story is to watch those things you say you'll 'NEVER say'.

Hope this finds you looking for signs of spring around every corner- it's coming!!!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alive and Dry

I have been itching to get a post done for what feels like weeks now. Between a couple rounds with the flu, some water in the basement, a trip to the ACORN conference, a night owl baby and the daily rigors of life, leisure computer time has fallen pretty far down the list, if not off the list completely.

But I just wanted to let you know that Barnyard Organics is alive and well.  The aforementioned ACORN conference was really great, again, and it was a special treat to have a two night stay in a hotel room with only one kid in tow! A big thanks to Poohie and Grampy for that vacation!

I am working on a project right now for a night called A Local M.E.A.L. (Meet, Eat And Learn) involving chefs, farmers, sellers and eaters where I will be presenting a talk called, "Why Organic Matters", using examples from our farm.  This is a particular challenge for me in that there is a very specific format for the talk called, Pecha Kucha, which is new to me.  It means that each speaker provides 20 photos/slides with each timed for 20 seconds so that the entire presentation cannot be longer than 6 mins 40 seconds.  It has been a real challenge for me to reign in my words and make each one really count, since 20 seconds is NOT VERY LONG!  Especially when it's something that I'm so passionate about.  So that has been eating up any spare computer time, but I think I've started to get it wrapped up.

Well, according to the kids, time is up, so that's all you get from me for now.

Our website and email is back up and running so life goes on.  I hope to post more soon.
Lambs have started to arrive and spring feels like it's on its way after all.  Whew.  Life goes on.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Please note that our email (info@barnyardorganics.ca) and website (barnyardorganics.ca) is currently down.  Our alternative email contact is sallywb@gmail.com.

Looking forward to figuring out our technical problems and getting back on track.