Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallow's Eve

I just cannot believe that we are already at the end of October.  I feel like this year has gone by faster than any other.  I keep forgetting what season we're in and sometimes feel like maybe it's spring and we're headed for summer, rather than the snowy clime of winter.  Had a stark reminder last night though as strong winds blew in some rain mixed with snow, and lots of cold temperatures.  We didn't get any accumulation like New Brunswick, but I think our winds are always stronger, so we made up for it in naked trees and Halloween decorations in the ditches.

My evenings have been eaten up by my trying to organize a presentation that I'm making at the ACORN conference as part of the opening keynote and I've really been struggling.  I enjoy public speaking, and I know once I get going, it'll be fine, but I've had a hard time articulating what it is exactly that I want to say.  Due in part, I think, to the varied audience.  I've speculated that because it's in Halifax and has been well advertised in the young-concerned-eaters circles, there will be a number of new-to-farming or even just thinking-about-one-day-having-a-nice-garden-farmers who may or may not know the ins and outs of organics, but also some of the pioneers of organics in the region.  So it's a mixed bag, and I don't really feel like I have a lot of offer either of those demographics.   Anyway, I'm plugging away and Mark assures me that so far, so good.  Any advice is welcome. 

Mark spent a couple days in the combine, working away at the beans, and thankfully was able to make a joke or two about the sad state of the yields this year.  The weeds really won the battle this year and at this point, I think we just want to be done harvesting and start thinking about next year, and how we're going to source enough beans to fill the market we have.  (If you have organic soy beans, we want them!) 
I haven't had a chance to post anything about the new dryer than we purchased, for the big tank.  It's pretty cool and despite my initial concerns, seems to do what it claims it would.  I'll get some pictures up soon.  I wish I had taken pictures of it being installed since, although not quite as smooth as shown on the manufacturer's website, was still pretty slick; especially since it was put in after the tank was built.

Ran my second 5k race on Saturday morning. I wasn't totally prepared in regards to training, but I thought it would be good practice and it was fun.  Everyone was dressed up in costumes and it was a real laid back affair.  I've been training with Thayne in the stroller this time and it's an added challenge for sure, so I wasn't too surprised that my time was down from the last race, but a little disappointed.  Also disappointed that I didn't win the costume prize, what with these..err...voluptuous legs decked out in flames!
Well, the kids have had enough of me being on the computer and we have a costume party to get to if we can get ourselves pulled together this morning.

Looking forward to the slower days of winter.  Those are coming right?  How long do I have to talk about them for them to actually arrive?


Saturday, October 22, 2011

camera clean out

I cleaned out my 'other' camera tonight and found a few treasures from the summer, and from recently, so here they are!

Firstly, a picture of our latest addition.  Well, actually we've had him for a few months.  Mark's sister kept a few chickens at her house up the road, in the woods and they promptly became a fox lunch, except for one hanger on, a young chick who came to Barnyard Organics as a safe haven.  The poor thing wasn't here a week until it somehow managed to survive yet another fox episode at our place that fateful night.  Anyway, it stuck around and was always too 'boney' to bother sending with the meat kings to the abbattoir, so we kept it in with layers.  It became evident throughout the summer that this wasn't just any regular old chicken.  We had ourselves a Delaware rooster.
I'm not overly excited about having a rooster around, but Mark is keen on it, with varying reasons, but mostly I think he just feels outnumbered on the farm with all my 'ladies' in the pasture and in the coop, and Rosie.  So for now, the rooster stays.  He is consistent with his crowing if nothing else.  6 am every morning whether you like it or not, he wakes up the farmyard.  So far he's only living with the young hens (who have finally started to lay! yay!), but one of these days we'll let him out with the old girls and see what happens.  Probably just a lot of strutting around, if I know men. 

This is one of those pictures you forgot you took, but find on your camera as a special surprise.  All summer, as the field beside the house went through clover, cutting, baling, plowing, harrowing, a ditching project, planting, harrowing again, the kids revelled in every stage, but especially the one that involved scaring the seagulls only to watch them land and scare them again.  I love this picture of Lucy so carefree, stirring up seagulls as she balances on a furrow. 

Something that was a topic of conversation in the farmyard this summer was the pending doom of a HUGE elm tree next to the farmhouse that had contracted dutch elm disease and was showing evident signs of imminent death.  Many of the larger branches were already dead and the discussions of which way it would eventually fall were not optimistic, so it was decided to bring it down before it fell down.
Apparently Mark fancied himself an arbourist one weekend while I was gone and decided to borrow a boom truck to take down the monster.  Wendell maintains enough caution for everyone, so I should have know it would go fine, but coming home to find a camera full of pictures of a novice woodsman, chain saw running over his head, 50 ft in the air, was somewhat unnerving. Anyway, the thing came down without a hitch and the giant stump that's left tells a tale of a tree at least 150 years old.   

And apparently during lunch that day, when Mark looked out, there was a woodpecker working away on what remained of the tree (at that point, the main trunk was still there).  I am convinced he was cleaning up the beetle that carries dutch elm, and lets hope so for the sake of the even bigger, beautiful tree in the backyard.  
The kids and I cleaned up the garden today and I finally gave in and admitted that my huge, unintentional squash yield had ripened all it could ripen. Here's the kids picking out their favorites.  Taking all squash recipes/suggestions. 

Well, I have been completely exhausted for the past couple weeks and when I mentioned to Mark tonight the possibility that I might need my thyroid tested again he replied, "Yeah, can you get a transplant?" so I think I need some sleep, as it doesn't take a rocket scientist to read into that response. 

This last picture is from today on a slide at the local elementary school playground.  What a glorious day it was!  I LOVE this time of year and the surprise warm, sunshiny days that always feel like 'the last one' before winter hits.  Like a present you would be foolish to waste.

Hope this finds you enjoying the leaves and breeze and taking time to have some slide and swing time while you still can.  


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

bizzy bizzy

There is something about this time of year, and the air that seems to carry a real sense of anticipation for the slow-down that is coming.  And I think that anticipation is what carries us through this crazy time to the winter slow-down.    Because while fall is beautiful and crisp and the perfect ending to summer, it is also such a busy time and the cool nights make for much needed deep sleeps for tired people. 
 Too bad those sleeps weren't just a little longer.

Anyway, Mark and I are both really busy with our church community these days as we all get moved into our beautiful new building and get routine started up again.  Sunday School is back in full swing, but we are also in the process of looking for a new minister, so there is a small air of chaos around everything.  And of course, there's Christmas around the corner already, to get concerts ready for, etc. 
The ACORN Conference is coming up in November and is looking really good, but as a board member that's another plate to balance. 
We're also each in the process of a couple personal items which eat up our evening time so by the time our heads hit the pillow we're torn between catching a wink of sleep and hashing out our day since we haven't really seen each other, besides passing one another in the hall to get a kid to the bathroom, or a meal on the table, or...the things that we dream of as parents and a couple. 
So, life is just as it should be right now isn't it I guess?

Unfortunately for the blog though, it's taking the beating.  I've got SOOO much I want to say, it's driving me crazy, but I guess that'll just make for more interesting winter reading.  Speaking of interesting reading, the Rodale institute just completed compiling and publishing their 30 (yes THIRTY!) study of Farming Systems, comparing organic and conventional and the results are...well...undeniably astounding. 
Here's just one tiny quotation for you to sleep on-if you can sleep after this:

"GM crops have led to an explosion in herbicide-use as resistant crops continue to emerge. In particular, the EPA approved a 20-fold increase in how much glyphosate (Roundup®) residue is allowed in our food in response to escalating concentrations."

One of the favorite claims of GMO proponents is that because one spray does it all, it means using LESS, but this has been disproven so often, it's not even news anymore. What gets me is the second sentence which indicates firstly, just what a hold the chemical companies have over our public system, but also the glaring fact that we are consuming 20 times more Roundup in our FOOD than before.  And how much was allowed BEFORE!?  Ugh. 

So on THAT note, I'll leave you with some shots the kids and I took around the farm the other day.
The first is my fat sheep.  They did so well on pasture this year, I am increasingly concerned over them being too fat to lamb easily, but that's really a good problem to have, if you have to have a problem, I guess. 

This the farm from the back field.  I love this angle with all the shiny grain tanks and equipment nestled in what looks like a bunch of empty fields. 
This one of the leaves was taken by Lucy because it looked like a 'rainbow' and I thought my Dad would enjoy seeing that PEI has a few pretty leaves, even if NB doesn't.  wink wink. 

 And here's my big man, crawling around full bore, doing his best to keep up with his older counterparts.  He's pretty happy for the most part, but these last few days is honing the skill of getting attention by whining, fussing, crying and hanging off Mommy's legs. I'm pretty sure it's due to teeth and maybe a growth spurt, but time will tell.  Here's hoping.

Yawn.  Sleep calls.  If only I would answer more often and earlier.

I hope this finds you sleeping deeply in these cool nights and not giving up on my blog.  More to come, I promise!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Internet is the new electricity.  I had NO idea how dependant I was on it until I didn't have any.  That ridiculous storm knocked the main tower sideways or something and couldn't be fixed until today.  It really couldn't have been worse timing as we missed a couple fresh chicken sales due to not being able to check our farm email account, but by today I was sort of almost getting used to it.  I suspect it would be something like if I had a cell phone and then suddenly didn't.  For the first couple days it seemed like EVERYthing I wanted to do required an internet connection but by today I had remembered how to use the telephone, turn real pages in my own cook books, write a cheque, listen to the radio for the weather and news, etc.  Amazing.

Anyway, of course while not having internet, I had what seemed like constant blog entries floating around in my head and now that I'm sitting here, nothing seems worthwhile posting.  So here's one I wrote the first morning after the two day storm.  Please keep in mind that the weather was insane.  Winds of 100km, rain, sleet, ice, hail, SNOW, more rain, more ice pellets.  Also keep in mind that we were planning on shipping these chickens TWO days after the storm.
But the chickens actually were fine.  I literally crawled in with them and they were actually cozy and completely wind and wet free.  How could I know that at 2am!? 

The title of the blog would have been " Those %$&*@ Chickens!"

"I wrote this mentally last night and had our house been a bit warmer (yes, that’s right I haven’t started the furnace yet) I would have snuck downstairs to type it up.   I hadn’t slept for a couple hours and knew that getting out of bed would be easier on a slumbering husband than the tossing, turning and sighing that I was currently perfecting, but it was just too damn cold (and we find out this morning that the furnace won’t start for some reason).  Here’s the sleep-interrupting conversation that was going on in my head, pretty much verbatim.

“Those *%#k*&$ chickens.  There are literally ice pellets hitting my window in sheets right now and those damn chickens are still out on pasture.  This can’t fall under the organic ‘humane conditions’ can it?  I know we turned the pens so that they’re sheltered and when we left them at 7 they were cuddled together looking fine, cozied up on the soft, dry pile of straw that I lovingly shook in amongst them, but it wasn’t ice pelleting then!  And the wind is stronger now than it’s EVER been!  Ugh!  Chickens.  Eff.  Here we are, going to ship them on Friday, I guess that’s tomorrow now, and there’s still another full day of this weather.  Great.
I keep trying to wake up Mark without him knowing I’m waking him.  I need some reassurance.  I know exactly what he’s going to say. He’ll say, “Oh gawd, they’re fine. The chickens are fine. They’re not frozen, they’re not dead.  And if they are, too late.  Go to sleep.” 
But what if it’s like that scene on Titanic where everyone huddles around the smallest chicken to save it from the cold and the ones on the outside die first?!  What if all that’s left is the smallest chickens!?  We’ve got people lining up on Friday afternoon in a parking lot in Charlottetown waiting for their prime Thanksgiving chicken and all we’ll have to offer is Tiny Tim of the meat kings.  Or not so meat king in this case...
Oh Lord, Sally, just go to bed.  Obviously Mark is not going to do anything tonight and you can’t do much on your own, so just go to sleep.

BUT LISTEN TO THAT ICE, RAIN and WIND!!!!!  It’s horrible! It’s a nightmare! 
‘Mark!  I can’t sleep. I’m stressed about those chickens.’
‘Snort, stir, sigh.  The chickens are fine. ‘
‘But you’ve been sleeping through the weather!  It’s a horrible night out there!’
Yawn. ‘The wind is blowing against the back of their pen.’
‘But if I’m cold here in my bed, in my house, on a sheltered lot, just think.....!!!’

The steady breath of a sleeping person is his response.
Oh man, 4:26...Thayne is going to be up soon.  Ugh.  I hate these chickens for stealing my sleep.  And tomorrow morning I’ll have to be up at another ungodly hour to load them in the crates to take to the abattoir.  Won’t that be fun.  Let’s just hope Mother Nature gets the worst of it out of her system by 5 a.m. tomorrow morning or she’ll have one ugly chicken catcher on her hands. 
Well, I guess at this point it’s true.  They’re either dead or fine. 

 So this morning at breakfast I said to Mark,

“When you get out there to do chores this morning, take a good look at the chickens and if they seem cold, I’ll help you move them inside and we’ll get a heat lamp on them.”
A look of loss-of-my-credibility washes across his face, but only for a second.

“They’re going to seem cold Sally.  If you want to move them, we can move them inside.”
Translation:  “Enough.  Let’s both pretend that I’m going to do that, because we know I’m not.”

As I write this, only a short time after this conversation I realize, now that THAT is a response rooted in caring patience, because it COULD have been an outright dismissal, rightly deserved.
Or just a really high tolerance.
Either way, I suspect that somewhere on Mark’s mental ‘ToDo’ list today is “Get the furnace going.” And “Avoid the house and have confident reassurances at the ready.”  "

Hope this finds you enjoying the fact that our seasons are JUST the right length, at least if you're in Atlantic Canada.  For the rest of you, our seasons are JUST the right length. NA na na NA na.  :)