Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Free Topsoil

This is our view this morning, after yesterdays crazy windstorm of snow/dirt.  The house was pelted with dirty snow all day, so now it's peppered with nice red sand and the snowdrifts all look like those soft ice cream combination cones of chocolate and white together. 
But the particular part of this view that I want you to notice is that clear line that runs through the field in the middle, across the road. It's a winter wheat field and you can see that the top half of it is brown.  I initially thought it was dead wheat, for some unknown reason, but Mark said, "Nope, it's topsoil.  North wind."
The only reason I'm noting this in particular is because across the road, from where the wind came, is a field that belongs to the farm I wrote about who removed all their hedgerows. Granted, there were no hedgerows there before, but if there is a more clear example of the effectiveness of a treeline, I haven't seen it.

So, thanks, for the free topsoil.  Not so welcome on my house, but it's a pretty sweet resource on the sandbar, so we'll take good care of it. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012


I think I've referenced the sheep course I've been taking at the NSAC for the past few months.  It's a four module course, taking place over four weekends this winter and the last one is coming up in April.  Overall, I'd say that maybe I learned a few things, but it has been fairly unhelpful in terms of organic production.  There has been virtually nothing regarding organic in the curriculum and nearly everytime I ask something about organic options, there is a)a dismissal of options or b)an ignorance of options.  But, that's ok. I know that the mind-set takes a while to adopt and the research is either new or non-existant, so I can appreciate that the veteran (as in experience not age) shepherds leading the course teach what they know.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of very small scale, 'naturally-minded' individuals taking the course and are only getting one side of the story. 
Anyway, this isn't about the inadequacies of the course.  It's in reference to a comment made on the first day and something that has been alluded to since.  The main teacher was talking about biosecurity and his experience working with government at the national level.  He said that in one meeting he sat in on with some very senior officials, they said that it will soon come to the point that no one will eligible for gov't funding unless they have a biosecurity plan in place.
So here's the thing, before I go any further.  If you operate a 'farm' that 'requires' biosecurity at this point, and you are comfortable with all the rules that go with that, that is fine.  Our messed up food system requires farmers like you and although I fundamentally disagree with keeping animals separate from the outside world, I understand why it happens and that biosecurity is important to that method of production. 
But there's no reason that I should ever have to implement it. 
In some ways, I suppose I already am. I put in eartags because I can't sell an animal unless I do.  I have had a farm tour dip their footwear when I thought there was a remote possibility of a fellow shepherd bringing in something.  I only buy livestock from farms and people I trust and I try to maintain a relatively closed flock when it's reasonable. So in some ways, I suppose I'm already a cog in the wheel.
That said, here's two reasons I hate the idea of biosecurity.
1)we already have mothers and their kids who are terrified of dirt and germs.  Our own, human immune systems are so full of antibacterial soaps, cleaners, wipes and sprays that we are sick at the first sign of a sneeze.  If we shut animals away from any opportunity to be exposed to germs, what do we expect?  The theory is that if they are never exposed to disease, they will never get sick and never need meds.  But we all know that there is no such thing as a sterile environment with a living being in it and bacteria are inevitable.  If we are exposed to something, our immunity is increased and we are healthier for it the next time.  So, if that exposure never happens and disease hits,there is zero immunity and suddenly the reliance on antibiotics is infinite.  There is no such thing as 100% confinement agriculture under organic standards because a)it's inhumane and b)it makes sense that to be healthy, animals need exposure to the elements.  How is it that our hens who scratch out a living (haahh! awesome pun!) on the lawn are able to survive when according the CFIA they should be dead from bird flu by now.  After all, we aren't preventing contact with wild birds and we don't limit exposure to visitors who often (gasp!) handle them (and then don't wash their hands! double Gasp!)
Pigs like to roll in mud, chickens like to scratch in dirt, sheep like to graze on lush pastures.  They are physiologically designed to do those things.  Removing that and replacing it with clean, washable plastic pens seems like a recipe for a world of antibiotic reliant critters, human and not so human. 
The second and perhaps more important reason that I hate biosecurity is
b)we are already far enough removed from our farms that we hardly need another reason to feel disconnected.  If there is ever a hope in hell of fixing our broken food system, it has to start with eaters.  And there is nothing quite as mysterious and ominous as a huge red stop sign at a giant, non-descript building we are prohibited to enter which apparently contains our next meal?!  Plastic suits, food dips, sign in sheets, etc. are not exactly the kind of welcome mat we should be tossing out to consumers.  The further people get from the real source of their food, the further we get from being a healthy, fair and environmentally sustainable society.

On an unrelated note of frustration, I think I've failed to share this video regarding GMO alfalfa.  It is a cutsey cartoon about a seriously awful idea.  This changes things a lot more than the corn, cotton and soybean that came before it.  It's only 3:00 mins. 

In the political circles, I am curious to see what happens with Mulcair vs. Harper.  He is perhaps what the NDP need to face the blue machine, but he is certainly no Jack.  Wishing him the best of luck. I was thinking the other day about when I was little and my parents would be watching political debates and I would listen to the NDP or Greens and I would comment that they sounded really good and the response would be "They can say whatever they want, because they know they'll never get elected".  And that used to be true.  I'm thankful it's not anymore.  :)

Hope this finds you pouring over your new garden seeds for the spring, fidgiting in anticipation.  :)


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mud Freckles

 On Facebook the other day I watched a trailer for a documentary called "Play Again" about how kids are losing/have lost touch with nature and the consequences of that.  It sure made me want to see the documentary.  Anyway, there is a quotation at the end of the trailer that goes along the lines of "If they do not know it, they will not value it. And if they do not value it, they will lose it."  It seems really obvious, but that could apply to anything of importance.  It also makes me wonder if the federal Conservatives perhaps spent too much time inside and never went fishing, given the latest move to remove fish habitat protection from the Fisheries Act (to make pipelines easier). 
Anyway, partly with that on my mind, but also party due to the tropical temps (ok, not tropical but definitely unseasonably warm), I took Wilson and Lucy on a 'big adventure' today in 'the woods'.  "The woods" is in quotation marks because there's really no such thing as forest in Freetown, but there's a brook runs through our property where a beaver has set up camp and so the dampish areas around feel a bit like what woods might ressemble. I'll rely on the NB side of their heritage to show them a real 'woods'.    :)
 Wilson of course chose the most practical, three-sizes-too-big, fushia rubber boots for tramping through brush. 
 Checkin out the 'GIANT DAM'!
 The beavers had set up camp last summer/fall and then in the winter, a neighbour had found a beaver carcass in the middle of the field, half eaten (coyotes I assume?) so I wasn't sure if maybe there was only one and now it would all fall to neglect, but nope, right away we saw lots of signs of fresh beaver business (and thus, LOTS of tiny stumps for short legs to trip over everywhere).  Lucy was a real trooper and was super interested in everything and would have spent all day treking around.  Wilson, on the other hand will make a great librarian/accountant/model/skeevy car salesman/Cdn. senator.  He likes having clean, soft hands, staying away from jabby things, yelling at everyone when they get ahead and whining when things get a little wet.  I know, it's just the age, but it sure was annoying after a while. 
Anyway, overall, a super great adventure and I'm looking forward to more!
 And since I'm the one who milks the cow this time around, I'm suddenly much less willing to dump the extra milk we get than I was when Mark was the milker.  Strange eh? haha.  Anyway, I've been trying to get creative with it all and had some successes and failures.
The first butter I made was a failure for two reasons: a)the cream had gone a bit sour and the smell threw me off, so I wasn't paying close enough attention when beating it (because I didn't really care if it turned out with that smell) and b) my powerful new food processor turned it into some sour strange consistency of boiled icing.  It literally only takes about 20 seconds in this processor to make butter. It's crazy.  The downfall of using a processor is that it can only take a bit at a time, but at that pace, I don't mind. 
My other projects include yogurt (which turns out, but is not as silky and smooth as I remember having made before.  suggestions?) and ricotta cheese.  I'd only ever used ricotta cheese once before, but after Mark's aunt and cousin recommended it, I thought I'd give it a whirl and holy smokes- it's so good!  I use it a lot now and find excuses to make lasagna and other pasta-y dishes. It melts really nice, but is also good as a super mild feta replacement.  Crumbly, but creamy and pure tasting.   And EASY (although, not overly fast). 
Doesn't look like much here, but after refridgeration-mmmmmm.  The recipe suggests eating it warm with fruit, but I haven't gone there yet. 

 Then, I had to post a pic of these CUTE cupcakes I made for a roller derby fundraiser bake sale.  Original creation and pretty tasty if I could say so myself.  And a great project for helpers too.  The 'nest' is just toasted coconut.  Throw some icing on the cupcake, roll it in the coconut, toss on some eggs and ta da!  Take THAT Pinterest!  :)

I've got some draft blog entries saved up regarding some more serious ag-related issues, but they're not quite ready for the presses, so hopefully one of these days I'll get them posted.  I'm particularly annoyed over this whole 'Bio-security' push that's on in agri-food these days.  More to come on that one.

Well, off to bed.  A 'real' adventure planned for tomorrow- a trip to NB! YaY!  We didn't tell the kids so that they would sleep tonight, tomorrow morning will be chaos as it is.  :)

Hope this finds you dirty, tired and happy.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Mud Season!

Spring has sprung!  Between the melting snow, the oozing mud, the twittering birds and the anxious-to-get-on-the-land-farmer, all the signs of the spring are here!

Get out there and get dirty! (maybe not quite as dirty as Thayne...but channel his enthusiasm for the season change!)


Sunday, March 11, 2012


As many of you know, Mark and I were humbled to be named Atlantic Outstanding Young Farmers for 2012 this past week and as such I feel obligated to write a blog entry.
Not because of the win directly, but because I suspect there may be some new people drawn to the blog due to the media attention, if only for a moment, and I'd hate for the first post they see to me cranking about a lawyer (see Bottom Feeders, below).  So, by posting this I'm taking the opportunity to let any new readers know that I'm not all about ranting (although there is a significant portion of that goes on here), but that this really is supposed to be a blog about the farm and our experiences as young organic farmers. 
That said, carry on and enjoy! 
A highlight of the winning for me, so far, was tonight when I was quickly scanning Twitter and saw that Chef Michael Smith put out a tweet congratulating us!  He has well over 17000 followers and is a bit of a culinary hero to many.  Exciting!

We were super happy to have Mark's cousin Vanessa and her husband Tim come stay at our place and try their hand at farming while we were gone.  Tim is a natural cow milker and Vanessa had this house cleaner than it's ever been, so we know who to call in November when we go to the National event...all the way in Charlottetown.  :)

I hope the time change doesn't mess with your internal clock too seriously and that you don't have young kids to convince otherwise at 5am.