Thursday, October 3, 2013

Inspectors, Acadia, Babies, oh my!

It was a BIG day here at the farm. 
We got a call yesterday afternoon from the health inspector who was in the area this morning and wanted to stop by.  After some initial freaking out, we decided this would be a valuable learning experience and since we had made it clear that we were still waiting on a compressor for our cooler, we felt pretty confident in everything else. 
Turns out, we're awesome and he was super impressed!  He seemed to be making an effort to put us as ease right away and it was sort of like an organic inspection in that it was more a matter of him offering suggestions rather than just 'writing us up'.  It was great and we're feeling pretty proud.  I posted a photo tour over on the Chicken CSA blog. 

Then, Armour showed up with a special delivery to the farm, for ME!  Mark had sent a sample of this year's Acadia wheat off to Speerville and they reciprocated with 5 kgs of flour in a fancy bag with a lovely logo.  I immediately set to work to make the first batch of bread with our home-grown heritage wheat, bred especially for the Maritime climate! Even more exciting, Acadia has proven to be agreeable with some gluten intolerances, which we all know is a growing concern for many. 
Here is the Beast at work.  This cleaner is a work of art.  Seeing it in action feels like performance art that is also extremely functional.  Watching all the belts moving and the pulleys turning and hearing the grain falling and sliding and running out, it's so complicated, but not so complicated at the same time.

And here's the proud wheat farmer posing with his fresh flour sitting in a tonne tote bag of Acadia, ready to go!
 Here's my baker's helpers checking out the rise in the new flour.  Beautiful!

A very satisfactory 'bed lunch', as my sister always called it.  Warm Acadia bread, butter & molasses.  I predict solid sleeps tonight with bellies full of that, and the chilly air coming through the windows. Lots of quilts and familiar books, cold night, sunny days and busy bodies, make for my favorite time of year.

A couple more kid shots for those of my family members who read this pretty much soley for those:
 This photo seems to have caught Sol at a funny angle, since it doesn't really look like him, but I thought he slightly resembled Rex Murphy so I wanted to include it.  All he's missing is the crazy eyebrows. haha!
 And here he is, already loving the jolly jumper.  Hard to believe he's that big and strong already! It's a good thing we slow down our development as humans, since going from newborn lump to jumperoo king in 3 months is pretty serious business and I don't think adults could deal with that themselves.

I feel winter air on its way.  The chicken CSA is down to it's last two pick ups, which means we're gearing up for pork!  It's been so long since I had bacon, I can hardly remember what it tastes like.

I've got a bit of a rant coming regarding a blog posting that's gone facebook viral lately among the farming community.  I'm sure it won't be popular with many, but I'm tired of the 'we're doing the best we can' line, when in fact very few of us are doing the very best we can.

Anyway, more on that later.

Hope this finds you making lots of warm soups, maybe piling wood or packing away summer clothes.  Fall is here!!  YAY!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Moral Dilemma

I'm having an internal struggle.
In the midst of my struggle I'm thankful that I have this compassionate husband, a healthy family, this beautiful farm, a solid faith and a place to lay my head.
However, tomorrow morning at 8 am I am going to make a call that I never expected to make and that is making me question all the efforts that I've made in my life to keep my family and myself from poisonous chemicals.  That's an awfully dramatic way of admitting that I am hiring a pest control company to take care of an infestation in the house, but in my state of irritation and exhaustion, it FEELS dramatic.
From where I sit typing this I can hear the beetles falling down the lower steps of the basement, their hard shells clacking on the hardwood.  Mark just came in the front door, cursing at how many are on the entry way steps.  I just came out of the kitchen from getting a drink of water and they skittered at my feet and I could hear them running around in the heating vents under the cupboards.  This morning when Mark took the milk bucket down from its hook in the front closet, which hangs away from any wall, there were 18 of the non-flying beetles in there.  The only place they could have come from is the light fixture directly above the bucket, which means they're in all the walls throughout the house. 
So what's the struggle? 

They're common ground beetles and according to everything I can find online, they're harmless.  They're actually beneficials and the main recommendation for when you find 'the odd one in your house' is to scoop them up and put them in your garden to control pests.  So they eat other bugs, but don't bother people.  It's true that we haven't seen a single earwig all summer, which is something I never thought I'd say, but at this point I'd take the odd earwig over these invaders. And they are definitely scared of people as they scurry away at top speed at the rumble of even the lightest footstep.
They only come out after dark and are attracted to light, so the front step is nearly alive with the shiny black shells.  So despite to invasion after 9pm, there is ZERO sign of anything during the day. 
Again, what is the struggle?
Well, since they're harmless and they're not around during the day, if it weren't for my socialization by society that bugs are inherently gross and dirty, should I really be paying someone to come in and kill them?  What would have been done in the time before chemical sprays?  If they're not REALLY doing any harm, what's the big deal?
The big deal is that they're gross.  They crunch under my feet in the middle of the night when I'm up with Sol.  They don't belong in here and are not in their natural environment.  Even if I could manage to make myself comfortable with them, I couldn't expect that out of anyone else which means I couldn't have people over to visit anytime after supper, which means I'm letting some stupid insect decide my social calendar and abilities, which is just demented.
So, where is the struggle again?
The struggle is that for the past 6 or 7 years I've dedicated a good chunk of my life to ridding my surroundings of synthetic chemicals.  I use all unscented soaps. I buy hippie toothpaste that makes me shiver, but has no fluoride. I look for organic cotton when buying linens and baby clothes. I spend a significant amount of our income on ensuring I buy organic or non-GMO only food.  I avoid eating meat I haven't met. I spend a HUGE part of my day preparing food that we've either produced, grown or at least prepared with confidence in it's chemical-freedom.  We've spent our entire farming careers learning how to farm WITHOUT chemicals.  We've got such a strong belief in the philosophy that a soil without chemicals can be so much healthier and productive, which in turn makes for healthier plants, animals and people.
Yet, I am going to invite a chemical into my home, throughout every room, that is capable of killing a hard shelled insect on contact.  And not only invite it, but pay for it and make way for it by moving all the furniture away from the wall so that the sprayer can get in every nook and cranny.  And then I'm going to leave for a couple days and then come back and go back to life as normal; eating my organic food and washing with my scentless soaps. 
The pest control guy, knowing that we run an organic farm, made sure I understood that he would be using an insecticide and wondered if I had tried glue boards.  I remembered last night as Mark and I tried tag teaming with me ahead, killing all I could see and him behind vacuuming them up, we must have killed 200 in 20 minutes.  Within 15 minutes you couldn't tell we had done anything at all.  How would I stick a glue board to a light fixture on the ceiling.
No.  I know this requires chemicals. And I know that chemicals have their place.  Hell, I'm not an idiot.  Technological advances have made for longer, better lives and chemicals have played their roles all sorts of important milestones in health, agriculture, you name it.  But here I am, after working so hard to keep chemicals out of my home, throwing out the welcome mat, eagerly, frantically, to have them come in and make my life 'normal' again.

Can you appreciate my struggle or is your skin still crawling with my description of their crunch under my bare feet?
Don't fear.  I am making the call, forking out the dough and obliterating the damn things.  They are going to spray one chemical on the outside of the house and another on the inside, all around the baseboards and 'wherever you think they're getting in m'am'.
I've always liked bugs and found them pretty interesting.  Following my plant science diploma at AC I actually had a few meetings with a couple advisors and profs about a masters and subsequent career in etymology.  So I usually don't mind insects and their various habits.  But they've crossed a line and my tolerance level has reached its max.  (That is not suggest that this is an ongoing problem that I'm only now addressing.  We've always had a couple of the critters in the lower level of basement bathroom, but it was just a couple and never much a problem.  This invasion just occurred suddenly last week and has gotten worse by the night.)
Anyone out there with a similar issue, ever?  They're not carpet beetles, despite Google's attempt to convince me otherwise.  It would seem that a ground beetle invasion in the house is actually incredibly rare (lucky me), but they can congregate outside of homes and that is apparently bothersome to many.  I'd be quite happy to leave them alone if they would just stay outside.  Too bad.  They have brought the wrath of a tired woman down and will suffer the dire consequences.

Off to try to sleep. Hope this finds you free of any unwanted guests, six legged or otherwise.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Business versus Lifestyle

Back when June seemed like a good time to have a baby, because "everything would be in the ground, but not ready for harvest", I think we were thinking of farming in the "lifestyle category".  Reality however, is that April-November is very much the height of the "business category" of farming and having a new baby in June is a terrible idea.  When I had Lucy in November and felt house-bound by the weather for the following 4 months I thought THAT was a bad time to have a baby.  Wrong.  I'd take the relative ease of November right now, in a heartbeat.

I have this personal internal struggle with agriculture and this pull between it being strictly business or a lifestyle.  I know that it's really a bit of both, but what a difficult balance to achieve.  I think there's added complication by the fact that I grew up on a farm, different to how Mark grew up on a farm, so we have a different perspective on where that balance lies. 
It's easier to justify the insanity and pure exhaustion that is this summer when we put it in the 'strictly business' pile, insisting that we need to remain competitive, innovative, daring, successful and most importantly profitable.  But then that makes the necessary 'lifestyle' parts of it seem frustrating and annoying when they should be the fun part of the farm.  Like chasing that damned cow around the pasture at milking time because she doesn't want to come in, after a long, hot day.  Why do we keep that cow?!  When you compare the time and resources that go into that cow, to some of the super-efficiencies we've implemented around the farm in other respects, it sort of throws everything up in the air and makes me wonder what the hell we're doing. 

I'm sure sometime I'll look back on this time and appreciate how much work we put in and the foundation we were laying for better days ahead.  I hope that more than the exhaustion and frustrations, I can remember the kids faces as they laugh at Gail getting hosed off and rolling in the mud, or them snuggling up to fuzzy yellow chicks, or them covered in grease as they 'fix things' in the barn.  Because lately it seems often the tiredness weighs much heavier and eats up far more of our lives than the fun. I often wonder how I can create a love of farming in the kids when I hardly look to be loving it myself and am often not making it very fun for them.   

So for starters, we're implementing some changes when it comes to our direct marketing:
  • Our farm business hours for feed, meat or anything requiring our presence at the farm are like most agricultural retailers; 8-4, Monday-Friday.  If you show up at 5, we won't be there and we won't be happy to be called over there.  This does not apply to eggs- my egg customers know the scoop and I'm happy to see them nearly anytime.  This does not apply to my CSA members either, who also know the scoop and how to serve themselves accordingly. 
  • If you want a quantity of feed, you should put in an order at least a week in advance.  Even if you have put in an order in advance, please ensure you come during the afore-mentioned hours or make arrangements that do not require our assistance at pick-up.
  • If you have vague questions about organics in general, GMO's, what 'pasture-raised' means or just want to chat about the farm, please direct your questions to our email so that we can either respond directly or set up a time to discuss your questions.
 One of our ways of dealing with the fluctuations of an emerging market like organics, is to be a diversified farm with many avenues, but having many avenues makes one wonder how much simpler life would be with only one or two to rely on.  What would life be like around here with no livestock?  Or if we relied on one cash crop like potatoes?  Or if we didn't have to market our own products?  Sometimes I wonder what it's like to leave your job at 5 and not think about it again till the next day when you show up.    Or have specific weeks of designated vacation in which life switches from one trail to a very different, relaxed trail.  Or even follow a TV series every week.

Also, just in case you didn't know, I've been writing two other blogs this summer (which is partly to blame for my quietness on here).  One is for the Chicken CSA which is going great (the CSA, not the blog) and the other is a food blog for the veggie CSA I'm a member of.  I provide recipes each week, using the veggies provided by my favorite vegetable farmer, Jen Campbell of Jen and Derek's Organic Farm.  
I'm really excited about the CSA, and loved meeting my first group of members last Saturday in Charlottetown.  The initial set-up of registering people and filling the spots was a pile of work (way more than I expected), but hopefully it'll all fall into a routine after these first few weeks.  Our processing facility is nearing completion, with the electrician at work as I write this.  Our contractor has been doing a fantastic job and we're so looking forward to getting it going.  Having our equipment all set up and ready to roll each week will make a big difference to how we're doing it now, having to start from scratch every week.  The new chicken houses are such a huge improvement over the old ones, I can't wait until Mark has time to renovate more of the old ones to the new model (hopefully this winter along with the rest of the items on an increasingly long list).

Well, rather than venting on here, I should go compose a post for the food blog and draft up a note to my CSA members.  The cool breeze coming in the window is certainly making bed look inviting, given the last couple of hot nights here.

I hope this finds you sleeping well after gratifying days.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Welcome Baby Barnyard #4

Sunday morning at 7 am, little Solomon Mark Bernard arrived on the scene, as bright eyed and bushy-tailed as could be.  

We were convinced he was tiny (and he sure looks it to us), but the scale revealed a chubby 9lb 6oz'er.

Initially disappointed he wasn't a girl, big sis soon became pretty territorial over her new charge.

There's no shortage of attention and curiosity.  Sol will be well supervised for a little while at least.
 His name took a while to come to us, but once we settled on it, it seems to fit him perfectly.  We intend to call him Sol for everyday use and the particular spelling is because in french, 'sol' translates to ground or soil, which is especially appropriate for our family and farm.  Of course, Solomon also means peaceful and wise, so here's hoping he catches some of that as well.  :)

The crops all jumped while we were in the hospital for a couple days and the air is beautiful out there tonight.  Happy to be back on home turf and at such a perfect time of year.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Living Soil

I keep meaning to get out to the farm with my camera in hand to show you all the heart-warming sights around these days.  You've never seen happier pigs than the five we've got slowly rooting their way through the used-to-be sheep pasture.  Or a happier little girl rolling around amongst them, making best of friends with each and every one.  Our new chicken tractors are dreams compared to our old ones, which we were pretty proud of at the time.  They're truly palaces and so far, exceed our expectations.  The new winch system is so much smoother than the old dolly cart and filling water and feed is much easier.  We had a minor miscalculation of how many birds we ended up getting with our first batch, so have three pens on the go, but hope to do an early kill of some of the bigger ones so that will alleviate some of the space crunch as the next ones get ready to go out.  More babies arrive tomorrow (at the wierd time of between 4 and 8 pm?).  Batch number three.

The cow and calf are doing well although Rosie continues to demonstrate her independence and personality by frequently refusing to come in at milking time and making for a chase and round-up situation that is annoying when it's chore time and cranky kids need to get to bed.  Having Duffy egg her on by tearing around, heels kicked up and dancing among the dandelions doesn't help either.
The crops are looking really good.  Wheat and barley is well up and looking 'the best it ever has' (boy am I looking to knock on some wood with this entry so far eh!?) according to Mark and when I look at our cashflow, it should.  We spent some extra resources this spring on some fertility inputs that should balance the soil better.  We also put on more lime than we have in recent years, again to help balance the soil and help make everything as available as possible.  As I've been driving by looking at all the fields of corn and grain coming up around the Island and noticing all the weeds (mostly cooch grass) I've been silently patting Mark on the back for all his hard work because although those weeds in the neighbours' fields won't be there in a week or two when the herbicide kicks in, the true health of the soil can be seen right now, when things are new and before chemicals get to play their part and it seems clear to me that our soil is particularly happy.

I've been thinking more and more about soil and how we so often fail to recognize that it is the living being upon which we produce all the things we use as benchmarks for success.  If we treated it like an animal or a fellow human being, how much healthier would the world be?  How much healthier would our food be?  It truly is a living thing, so indulge me in my little analogy here for a minute.

If we only eat fast food (chemical fertilizers to soil) what happens?  Our health starts to deteriorate.  We aren't as productive, we get sluggish.  But we continue to need more calories to survive and it's easy food, so we become dependent on it.  Or if, in the same vein, we are worked too hard, without a varied diet, we begin to suffer.  If our needs aren't fully met, it begins to show in our production, in our health and in what we can provide.  If soil doesn't have organic matter to help it hold water, it gets dry, worn out, fails to produce.  If the microorganisms are starved for nutrients and worse, killed off by fumigant and excessive tillage, the soil begins to die, literally.  It must be re-filled with synthetic nutrients.  If liquid dairy manure is layered on, year after year, it is so acidic that it literally leaves a wasteland of dead earthworms in it's wake.  We wouldn't wash ourselves in vinegar, why would we think it's a good idea to coat the soil is such a highly acidic input, no matter the nitrogen value?  If I look out and picture each field as it's own self-contained being, living thing, it is much easier to see the importance of a 'healthy, balanced soil' and the importance of NOT treating it as a benign, empty vessel to be used as we see fit, custom fed for our specific, short term needs.
I always struggle to explain to the elementary school kids who tour here, what exactly organic is, but I think this whole metaphor of making the soil the priority and treating it like it's very own animal, is something I can break down and elaborate on, that is visual enough, but also interesting enough to help begin the thought process.  Then again, all they're going to remember from the tour is when that one pig peed on the other pig, so I could save my breath. :)

Have you heard  A variety of GM alfalfa has been registered for sale in Canada!  Get in line quick, you won't want to miss out on this miracle crop I'm sure.

Still waiting on baby #4, but I decided today that instead of sitting and waiting and wishing, I would remember the realities of having a newborn, and enjoy my relative independence right now.  I could use a lesson from Rosie and go for a rip through the dandelions at chore time, rather than being tied down to a rocking chair or bed or whatever other newborn torture device I'll be subject to when it does finally arrive.  So until it comes, whenever that may be, the kids and I are living it up.  We had a bonfire tonight while Mark was gone to a meeting and I don't know that I've ever seen a child with such an endless thirst for raw marshmallows as Thayne.  He had no interest in the roasted ones, but was certainly able to pack away the raw ones in a hurry.  Evidently, he's recovering from his chest infection last week.  If that many marshmallows doesn't kill ya, it can only make you stronger, right?

Hope this finds you enjoying the scent of a freshly mowed lawn or lilacs or the sight of lupins on the side of the road.



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bad Customer Service, Runaway, Jury Duty

It's one of those evenings here tonight that really only happen this time of year.  It was a glorious warm day of clear skies and the air carried a purpose to it, incensing everyone to get to their gardens, or get out for a walk, or at least mow their lawns.  People made good suppers that they maybe ate outdoors and many are still working away.  The kids are sound asleep after a long day outdoors and I'm not far from it myself.  Mark is still in the field, planting peas and barley, hoping to finish before dark.  I love the feel of the air getting colder by the hour and the sound of the spring peepers slowly coming back to life after a couple frosty nights.  I love watching the robins pull worms out of the freshly mowed lawn and seeing all the motorbikes out and about on the country roads for their first rip of the season.

It's not been a week without incidence around here though, nor will it be, before it's over.  We've got two school tours tomorrow morning, an adult writers group on Friday and then another school tour and a tour of Japanese journalists next week.  Thankfully there's lots of animals to see right now, so that will eat up most of the touring time and we won't have to rely too much on filling time with looking at various seeds and trying to make crop production sound exciting to kids. 
We got our four weaner pigs this week and Gail is a happy mama wannabe, teaching them the ways of the farm.  May-May, Beatrice, Sparkle and Runaway are their names and they're pretty darn cute right now.  They weren't so cute when they got out the first night and we spent far too long looking before giving up and letting them come back on their own.  Runaway, after a lengthy house arrest, escaped again yesterday, but surely, has learned her lesson by now.  She will make particularly tasty bacon I'm sure and will be particularly easy to say goodbye to come fall. 
Our second batch of chicks came yesterday and as I type this I can hear another peeping away in the incubator downstairs.  We really messed up this last batch, but somehow three have managed to hatch anyway.  The incubator (on lend from Mark's sister) has an automatic turner in it and we forgot to take it out until the night before they were due (the eggs are NOT supposed to move for the last three days).  Anyway, lesson learned and next time we'll be sure to pay attention and probably even program it into our various technologies to remind us to be better mother hens.  I was looking particularly forward to these chicks since they were from our red rooster, Big Handsome, and our red hens.  But we'll try again.

We've been having some wet weather, although not as wet at some areas of the Maritimes.  It's been grey and cold and on and off showers, but no real heavy rains to speak of.  Just enough to keep the tractors out of the fields.  So yesterday, when it was our first real, sunny dry day of the last couple weeks, you can imagine how happy Mark was to be puttering around on the lawn mower and building chicken pens, rather than planting.  We've had some real challenges in the last couple years sourcing an inoculant for the peas that is acceptable under organic standards.  Much of the dry, peat products we used to source includes irradiated peat, so is no good to us.  This means we have to find a liquid and it turns out it's a lot trickier to source.  Or at least it's been made out to be much trickier.  We've been dealing with a particularly useless local Co-Op manager who has made life rather difficult, despite Mark having ordered the product back in February and being very clear as to what he needed.  Unfortunately this is not the first bad customer experience we've had with the Co-Op, so I suspect we will be moving our (rather significant) business elsewhere, following a letter to the board and manager.

The kids and I planted most of what will be our garden this year, today.  Given my 'condition' and anticipated desire to be weeding and picking, it is limited to onions, corn and pumpkins.  We might throw some tomato transplants in for salsa after a bit, but the rest will be buckwheat to give it a rest and cover and still lots of bee food.  I'd probably be way less happy about this if I wasn't so excited for my CSA share with Jen and Derek's Farm Fresh Veggies this summer.  For 18 weeks I will be getting a variety of veggies from the best CSA farm on the Island and I'll also be maintaining a separate blog with coinciding recipes (to share soon).  Really excited about this!

If things weren't busy enough Mark received his first ever jury summons, to appear June 10th. Could this be some cosmic joke!?  So we're hoping that the "owner/manager/single employee of a large farm business, father of three under 5 and husband of wife expecting baby #4 within a week" qualifies under the 'extreme hardship' excuse to get out of it.  If all else fails, he'll just act like a wacko at the interview/selection part of the process and hope to be dismissed.  gah!!!  Surely there are enough people on EI in Summerside who can fill the spot without causing 'extreme hardship'!!

Wish me lots of patience tomorrow with the elementary school kids and then the highschool kids.  They're both traveling from an hour away (each in the opposite direction), so should be glad to get here when they do.  Here's hoping! 


Monday, May 20, 2013

Spring 2013 Updates

When people ask if things on the farm are 'getting busy' this time of year, the obvious answer is yes.  Although, I don't know if I feel like there was necessarily a big downtime that we're coming out of.  Winter seemed to slip by pretty quickly and as usual, we're still just now catching up on all the 'little jobs' that we said we were going to tackle over the winter. 
We're in the midst of the biggest one, that we've really left to the 11th hour, but that we're both really excited about.  (Note: A mutual excitement over a project on the farm is a rare thing.  We often support each other's ideas, but rarely do we share a common enthusiasm for the initial design and creation of a thing.)  (Maybe I'm the more excited one in this case which is why I don't recognize that perhaps we're both not quite as 'excited' as I claim...)  Anyway, in either case, we're eager to get things moving on our on-farm chicken processing facility.  We're going above board and getting all the proper check marks to be able to sell publicly, so hopefully you'll be able to get some fresh, Barnyard Organics chicken this year, fed, grown and handled from day one to last day right here on the farm!
It's involved a few meetings with some interesting people, and one really fantastic tour of a beautiful facility in Nova Scotia, but I think we're finally getting somewhere.  As expected, for a while we were hung up on waste water management, but I think maybe things are moving on that front so we can start actually pricing and purchasing a few things.  We'll be cutting it close for processing the first batch of chickens which arrived a couple weeks ago, but we'll see what happens.
I can't wait to keep you up to date on the details of this as it goes forward!

In other news, Rosie calved today.  Her first bull calf.  We decided that given the general usefulness of a jersey bull calf that Duffy would be an appropriate name.  It will also make it easy to ship him whenever that day comes.  Hard to get attached to something that reminds me of such a waste of tax dollars and time, and also reminds me of Dead Shark Eyes himself.

Speaking of attached, our pig, Gail Shea has become quite enamoured with Miss Lucy and the two of them are quite the pair.  Gail got out on day two of her stay and we thought she was a goner, but we think she was just lonely, so put Lucy in charge of making her feel welcome.  And did she ever!  They snuggle up together and snort and grunt and scratch and rub and giggle.  It's quite a sight.  Gail's supposed to be our sow so we can have our own piglets next summer, so we've got three more weaners coming this week or next for eatin', so hopefully that will keep Gail happy (and in her pen).  Besides still being a pig, she's so different from the two we had last summer.  She eats grass faster and more efficiently than any cow or sheep I've seen and isn't interested in table scraps at all.  She has rooted up more of her pen in a week than the other two did all last summer, and they never managed to get out once, even when they were new and small.  Anyway, if she knows anything about surviving, she's displayed it by making herself a special place in the heart of the person most likely able to sway her final destiny.

We've hatched one round of Delaware chicks, with pretty good success. We got 21 from the first hatch and now we're trying a batch of red chicks to see how they do.  When we candled them last night there were a quite a few that showed little to nothing, so we were a bit disappointed, but I think they might have sat too long before we put them in the incubator (Mark insists that they're ok for 6 weeks- I'm doubtful).  Chicken genetics are pretty interesting, so I'm excited to see what we get from these ones. The little brown chicks are just so darn cute!  And some of our Delawares have blue legs, which we've been told is a trait of blue-egg layers (and entirely possible since Roosti is a genetic cocktail (multiple layer pun there eh!?!!) mishmash of things.)

My last four ewes are enjoying the pasture to themselves before they go on to their next forever home at an organic farm near Hunter River, PEI.  I'm sad to see them go, but really surprised at how liberated I feel from not feeling guilt over not being able to check on them as often as I'd like/need to.  I will be doubly glad in a month, when moving pastures weekly will be more than I can handle with four babes in tow.

The tour of the chicken killing facility I mentioned earlier also brought us some new ideas on raising our meat birds and a sweet new design for the chicken tractors we use in the pasture.  (Dammit! I have good pictures and blogger won't let me post them!)  Anyway, they're way taller and brighter and drier and airier (word?).  They are moved by a winch system with tractor or four wheeler or some such vehicle, but the birds will be so much healthier and happier for it, I'm sure of it.  So Mark modified one of our old tractors to be very similar so we can try it out this summer and see.  I'm hoping they'll be more predator proof too, since we had one hen miss lock down/lights out/curfew last week and Reddy Fox gobbled her up pretty quickly, so it's not safe to be feathered and on the ground after dark around these parts.

I'm sure the next few days will bring great pictures of Duffy and likely Gail as well, so I'll be sure to post some when the site lets me. 

Mark is off to the barn with a good dairy farmer friend who is helping to deal with preventing Rosie's impending milk fever.  Her ears were cold when we last checked her, which is a first sign, so rather than waiting for her to go down in the middle of the night, we're hoping some calcium injected under the skin will hold it off.  I, on the other hand, have been battling the worst head cold and intend to get some good rest in my own bed (after a fun but tiring weekend away at a wedding in Sackville).

I realize now that I haven't mentioned any of the things that actually make this farm a farm and a business, but the fields are looking great.  Mark got some nice Acadia wheat in last week and is now doing some final tillage to get everywhere ready for the rest of the seeding.  I predict some good results from his preventative weed control/false seed bedding this year. The barn is full of lovely bags of seeds and the equipment is all ready to roll, so with good weather will come busy tractors and happy farmer.  The feed making business is going well and we're considering a non-GMO line as well as the organic, but we'll see how that goes if demand increases and it makes $$ sense. 

I've still got a month to go before I'm predisposed, so am trying to make the most of it without getting too exhausted (with marginal success). :)

I hope this finds your garden tilled, your hands dirty and your sleeps deep and contented.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Science? Barf.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have always struggled with science and math. Just saying the words 'chemistry' and 'calculus' make me nauseous.  Even if you don't know me, you might make the assumption that my Bachelor of English degree is an indicator of a stronger right brain than left.  (You're right.)
I've realized that it's too easy to surround oneself with their own opinions.  I mean, in this social media world where I can link to anyone, anywhere, I naturally lean towards anti-GMO websites or organic organizations on Twitter.  I want to stay on top of the headlines that interest me and staying within my interests is the best way to do that right?  But recently I've discovered that it's even more interesting to stay on top of headlines that interest me by following those who I disagree with most.  It's irritating and causes me to lose sleep thinking about it, but it's kind of refreshing in a maddening sort of way to hear a GMO debate from the other side and listen to the commentators put down organics.  After months of reading the Tweets and comments, I have noticed a recurring trend.  Firstly, that organic producers and their advocates tend to dismissed as uneducated and always naive.  Secondly, that the reason organic producers are naive is because they 'don't understand the science', or 'don't accept the science'.  Science keeps coming up as the be-all, end-all of everything everyone needs to know about the benefits of GMOs.  As if there is no discussion to be had because clearly, science has laid out the answers and any opposition is simply not worthy of hearing, because it's not based on science.
Here's the trouble:
Science is not infallible.  From beginning to end, it is interpreted, executed, reported and utilized in specific ways to reach specific means.  I could point to the 'science' that promoted DDT or asbestos as life-savers and the next best thing to make life easier and HEALTHIER.  Or I could point to the 'science' that led and continues to lead many parents to not vaccinate their kids based on a still controversial study that linked autism with a specific vaccine. But since we're talking about GMO science, let's stick with that.
Firstly, it's well known and documented that chemical companies are some of the biggest sponsors of several respected universities who invest significant resources into 'scientific studies' regarding all kinds of things.  Even if the science is done perfectly, following pristine methods, the results can be tucked away if not agreeable.
But often the methods aren't pristine.  Take a simple trial on PEI, for example.  Researchers who work at a federal research facility invest their time and our resources into 'organic trials', but plant the trials in land that was potentially treated conventionally as recently as last year.  Even if the trials are treated organic, to the letter, for the year of the trial, it's not an accurate representation of what organic soil is capable of.  If it's a variety trial for example, maybe a variety has been bred for use in a conventional system, planting corn for 5 years in a row (ugh....but entirely possible), or maybe it's an organic variety that when planted in poorly managed soil does poorly because it has been bred for more organic matter, or lots of mycorhizzae or whatever it is that is unique to it's make-up.  That's just one TINY example of how what could possibly be reported as an 'organic variety trial study' could be wrong and terrible from the start.
There is an interesting story of a study done that questioned the benefits of GMOs and in the end was critical.  It was published in scientific circles and then the New York Times caught wind of it and planned to put it their weekend paper.  In these days of suffering newspaper sales, their biggest advertiser, the chemical company responsible for the product questioned in the study, threatened to pull all of their advertising money if it was published.  That weekend paper did not publish the study and instead, had a full page ad for the company in question.
So, even if the science is right, how it's reported or distributed can be often and easily skewed.

The moral of the story is, I'm tired of "science" being shoved in my face as the answer to the world's problems.  It's important, yes. I recognize that.  But it's as fallible as the observations a farmer can make with their eyes on a day to day or year to year basis, and even more susceptible to skewing.

Finally, can we all just stop referencing the now ancient notion that GMOs will lead to farmers using less pesticides?  If science hasn't proven this, the bottom lines and margins of chemical companies prove otherwise.  So for all the other reasons that GMOs are supposedly going to save the world, let's agree to leave that bullshit where it belongs- in the defunct pile.

For those of you who made it this far and have been asking for pictures, here's a few that I finally cleaned off my camera today.
The trio on Easter morning in their Sunday best, full of chocolate and ready to sit quietly in church. bahahah!
Me indoctrinating Lucy with anti-GM alfalfa propaganda on April 9th, the national Day of Action, which happened to coincide with a highschool culinary class tour of the farm.

 This is the beast, otherwise known as Mark's preoccupation for the winter.  A fancy shaker cleaner that does a pretty great job, but will do an even better job when it gets a cyclone that keeps the light chaff in check.
This is a scene from today- May 1st, 2013.  I looked out to the sandbox to find no kids.  Further investigation found them in a much bigger sandbox, a freshly tilled field, Tonka's working at full bore, manure spreader and discs in the background just to help set the tone of 'serious work'.  Oh, and completely naked too of course.

It's way too dry here.  Drier than ever, let alone for spring.  But I admit that today's sun was pretty spectacular.  So I won't complain either way, but if I was a good farmer's wife, I'd say WE NEED RAIN!

Hope this finds you digging in some sort of dirt.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Political Patriotism

Ever since I've moved to PEI there's a news story that keeps coming back up over and over that continues to surprise me.
Every once in a while there will be some high level appointment or back room deal in which a well-known supporter of whichever government it is comes out the winner.  And there is usually a big stink made on the news about political patriotism and favoritism and how this isn't fair, etc. etc.
I'm always confused because I grew up in a community that basically relied on political patriotism and those who showed their 'colours' were rewarded when the opportunity arose.  It was, and is, part of life.  Be it a significant contract, a work term, or one day's backhoe work, if you're on the 'right side of government' your chances are much better. 
So I'm always surprised when PEI makes a kerfuffle about this sort of thing.  I've taken it for granted that it's a fact of life and it's a choice whether to support one or another party or to appear to remain neutral.  I fully understand the benefits of being a visible and well-known supporter, but have also seen the negatives of being on the 'wrong side' as well.
It's also taken me a while to get used to the fact that Mark's family isn't particularly involved in politics.  They vote and are probably more informed than many, but there is no 'colour' associated with them.  Where I come from, it's not a Sunday dinner or Saturday evening chat without some political banter of some sort.  And it's not like I've shied away from sharing my political views on this blog either. In fact, I think I've been fairly explicit in some cases, if not sharing my preference, certainly exposing the ones I hate the most.  I'm sure if you searched "Dead Shark Eyes" within this blog alone, you'd come upon more than one entry of a rant of mine regarding the 'current administration' as they are often referred to.
So imagine my surprise when we got the call to be the sight for an announcement to be made by the federal Minister of Agriculture for the national ag. funding program (Growing Forward 2).  My first thought was, "Who is doing the vetting these days!??!"  My second thought was, "No way.  We're not hosting this.  Everyone will think we're Conservatives!!!  GAH!!"  My third thought was, "Is Mark a secret member of the party!?!!?  I can't sleep with a Conservative!?"  (no, I didn't really think that.  there's no way a Conservative-even a secret one- could put up with listening to me and my rants everyday.)
I had several trains of thought following those, but I'll share those another time.
For now, I'm off to get my beauty sleep so that I'll look good on camera tomorrow (filmed chatting to Minister Ritz about GM alfalfa), and have patience to deal with all the handlers and minions who will be running around 2 hours beforehand trying to make a farm look like just the right kind of farm for a backdrop.  I'd like to watch them try to herd the roosters into a convenient spot.
I sincerely hope that Rosie doesn't get out like she did the other night and run completely a muck all over the farm, looking like a big pregnant rodeo bull, with her giant belly swaying heavy with each kick and triumphant jump.
Although that would certainly make the (likely otherwise pretty dry) day more interesting I'm sure. :)

I hope this finds you thinking about your own 'political affiliation' and how that might be expressed, unbeknownst to you.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Mad about Food

Seems like just lately, people are finally getting worked up about the GM salmon I wrote about a couple years ago (yeah, that's a little disappointed smugness).  Many people, who I don't think realize how many other GMO's they're eating on a regular basis have taken on the salmon battle.  We often tend to think in concrete, one dimensional ways about our food, so it's easy to tell ourselves that we don't eat soy, or sugar beets, so we're not part of the GMO experiment.  Sadly, as I've oft pointed out here, 70% of food in the grocery store contains genetically modified material.  But it's much sexier to battle it out against a giant salmon than a cotton ball (also GM), so it's getting a bit of attention right now.  I'd like to suggest however, that there is a far larger threat to our food system than that terrible fish, but it's probably the least exciting crop and feels the farthest from our plates, so may take some time (which we don't have) to get the attention it deserves.

Alfalfa.  Unless you eat sprouts on sandwiches, chances are, you're thinking "I don't eat alfalfa, that's rabbit food."  Well, unless you survive solely on a diet of organic vegetables grown in your own garden, you're bound to be part of the GM alfalfa experiment.
Alfalfa is that pretty blue flower you see in lush looking pastures about the same time that the pink clover is flowering.  It's a legume, so fixes it's own nitrogen and is a particularly nutritious forage for cattle.  It is a bit rich for sheep, but they love it and we recently incorporated it into our newest pasture.  It doesn't make great hay because the leaves are smaller and tend to fall off by the time it goes through a rake, tedder and baler, but it makes beautiful silage and haylage and is a key component to the diet of dairy cattle.  Alfalfa is extremely common across the country and (here is the important part) is a happy hunting ground for bees on the look out for pollen.  The flowers are close together and easy to access and you might actually see honey labelled as 'alfalfa honey' from time to time.  And when bees get involved, well, things can get messy.  So far, corn pollinates itself, via the breezes, and soy doesn't require pollination, so the bees have been, for the most part, able to stay out of the GM battle (although let's be clear, not unaffected as they're enduring the lasting affects of the associated pesticides).
So, the wee bees, unknowingly foraging away in what seems a benign, beautiful alfalfa field, buzz back and forth for as far and wide as they please (1-5 kms) and take GM alfalfa pollen to a not-GM alfalfa field and....oops whaddya we've got two GM alfalfa fields.  It is the same as us not being able to grow organic corn here in Freetown due to our proximity to many GM corn fields due to the cross pollination that could happen by the wind, except that bees travel much farther than corn pollen and they are much more exacting with their transfer, nearly guaranteeing a cross-contamination, rendering an entire field GM contaminated.  And since alfalfa is a forage (and not a cheap one), it can be left in rotation for multiple years, as it is a perennial crop and will continue to come back with good soil health management.  So now, we've got a field accidentally turned GMO and it will remain that way for a few years to come and bees will continue to frequent it and it then becomes a new source of GM pollen to pass along to the next field.

So what?  Think this still doesn't affect you?
 Here's just a few of the ways it could:

Conventional Meats: Chances are, unless it's organic, the grain it eats is GM anyway (soy and corn) so maybe the threat of alfalfa seems pretty minor, but do we really need to add another GM element directly to our food system?  Feedlot or pasture-raised, all ruminants (beef and lamb) receive a significant portion of their diet from a forage and in many cases, alfalfa will play a part in it. 
Grass-fed meats (beef, lamb, etc.)- aim to feed that concerned eater market who want to avoid grain-fed products for a variety of reasons (GM potential, more natural for ruminants to not eat grain, better for the environment, etc.) It would be difficult to maintain a very 'natural' air about grass fed beef, if the likelihood of GM alfalfa in the diet is a near guarantee and beyond control.

Organic dairy-  Dairy is probably the commodity that makes the most use of alfalfa and organic dairy is no different.  Since bees don't understand field limits, contamination is capable for many kilometers and again, beyond the control of the farmer.  So while the farmer may be following every organic 'rule' above and beyond requirements, the very pasture the cows are grazing on could be their undoing.  And if you question the importance of having an organic dairy industry, just ask Quebec.  That agriculture-rich province, at their annual general meeting of all types of producers, just passed a motion essentially banning GM alfalfa from the province.  This was born from a movement within their lucrative organic dairy community, but was supported by everyone.

Grains- we use legumes like clover as part of our rotation, because they grab nitrogen from the air and hold it in their roots so that when we plow them in, they serve as a source of fertility that we would otherwise be unable to access.  Remember how I said alfalfa is part of that legume family?  We often trade a cut of our green manure crop with a neighboring dairy farm in exchange for some actual manure.  Two problems: 1)we might someday choose to incorporate alfalfa into the mix with our clover for variety, and to make our dairy farmer neighbour extra happy (although given the price of it, likely not) and 2)his manure that we've traded for now has that much more GM contamination from the cattle eating a GM forage.

Vegetables- in order to keep soil healthy it must go through a rotation, involving different crops. Rotation prevents disease and pest populations, encourages diversity in the soil, prevents erosion problems and a huge host of other benefits.  Often a legume is a chosen rotation crop because of the afore-mentioned nitrogen fixing.  If it's organic, it's going to be that much harder for the organic farmer to maintain organic standards on land that is threatened by GM contamination.

So, let's say you've decided to not care about GMO's or worry about their threat to human health and our environment, why is this one any different? 
It doesn't offer any benefit. To anyone.  Even the GMO-loving, bio-tech-thirsty conventional, yield-over-all-else big-ag farmer will find marginal benefits from using this crop.  I have no idea how many farmers routinely spray their forages, but I have never in my life seen one do it, or heard of it as a common practice.  In organic and grass-fed circles, it is actually a benefit to have a diversity of plants in a forage mix.  Perhaps you have heard of Joel Salatin's "Salad Bar Beef" branding that he shares, suggesting that a variety of different plants on a pasture all bring different nutrients and benefits to the table so that the livestock have more choice and receive more benefits from what they're eating.  Spraying an alfalfa field would eliminate virtually EVERY other thing in the field, leaving a monocrop.  I guess the perceived benefit of this would be ease in calculating the nutrient density of a silage (and a TMR) and would alleviate weed pressure the following year, but forages are always plowed in anyway, so it seems like a waste of spray dollars.  Or at least hardly an investment of money and time that pays for itself in the end. 
The other crazy part of GMO's that we never talk about is the essential ingredient that makes them work and that's Round Up (glyphosate).  It's seen in most circles as the least harmful of all the pesticides but there are increasing studies and observations that consider its use over time that are showing some really serious problems with soil health.  And even more than bees, our human survival relies entirely on healthy soil. Effects of Round Up deserves it's own blog post, but I won't bore us with that now.

But Monsanto isn't stupid and they have proven time and again how to rope farmers into cycles of relying on them for seeds and chemicals and signing away their rights at the same time.  Given the history of court cases of farmers being sued by Monsanto for having GMO seeds in their crop, due to accidental contamination (and winning!) this poses a threat in the form of uncontrolled contamination and the potential for all kinds of unwitting farmers falling under corporations rules and punishments.

So,the next time you eat something, think about how it could be affected by this seemingly distant and innocuous crop and think about how the farmers you know might be threatened by things entirely beyond their control.
Here's a website with some ways to get involved:

 I've posted this little cartoon video before, but I'll post it again:  

I hope you've got your seed orders in and are looking forward to the growing season not-so-slowly creeping up on us!!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Anyone left out there?

Well, I truly doubt if I have any followers left, so I'll just send this out into the internet-oblivion to prove to myself that I can still indeed write blog posts.  Whether they are worth reading is something else all together.
Too much has happened since I lost posted so here's a few highlights:
1)  I sold my sheep.  Well most of them. I couldn't part with them all, so I kept four ewes (which is a torture as far as Mark is concerned), but I sold the rest.  They are due to lamb any day and I have to say, knowing that, makes the decision seem like a really good one right about now. 
2)  I've been coaching at derby which is way more fun than I anticipated and am considering doing a bit more of while I'm unavailable for skating.  I am bench-coaching at a game this weekend so that will be a good test, under pressure to see how much I actually like it.
3)  The senate has gone to pieces.  Seriously.  What is wrong with these people?  Harper couldn't find a single Islander to appoint back when he plucked Duffy out of the fray?  Well he won't have much more luck around here after this debacle, along with the EI changes and Shea's lack of represenatation for her own consituency.
4)  I attended the Organic Value Chain Roundtable meeting in Ottawa, which was a bit overwhelming but very interesting.  Although not really a top agenda item, the thing that had me most interested was that Quebec managed to pass a resolution at their UPA (basically the entire agricultural producers organization for the province) AGM essentially banning GMO alfalfa from being grown in the province.  It sounded to me like they sent out information to all grain producers informing them of the threat that GMO alfalfa would bring to the organic dairy industry, which (I think) helped ease the way for the resolution at the meeting.  They admitted that there was some resistance in the grain corner, but they compromised by removing the word 'moratorium', which is longer term and very final.  Even a baby step in the direction of acknowledging the threat the GM alfalfa holds is a significant recognition to GMO's in general I think.  Anyway, the whole meeting was interesting, but I was really taken with the progressiveness of Quebec on that particular subject.
5)  Mark has been spending every spare minute on his new grain cleaner.  It's bigger and better and is going to run like butter whenever he gets it going (if the parts and invoices keep on their current trajectory anyway). 
6)  We've decided to switch to an outdoor furnace for heat next year.  I am anxious.
7)  I finally caved and registered Lucy for school in the early immersion program.  I lost a lengthy battle with the district over busing the late immersion school, but I figured I'll choose my battles and there will be more, and important ones to come.  (Which, if you're from the district, know that I pulled my horns back only to sharpen them up for the next round so don't be so rude to me next time.)
8)  Rosie is due in May so we're getting ready to dry her off.  We've got a couple weekend engagements coming up in early March, so we're drying her off a little early to save having to get a relief milker.  It seems like a good idea right now, but I may wish we hadn't when I have to start buying milk again.  Thankfully, Mark geared up a great electric milk separator a couple months ago so we've had skim milk and cream lately.  I've planned ahead and have several pounds of butter in the freezer.  Here's hoping it's enough to get us through to May!
9)  My resolution of getting up before everyone else has been a bit of a failure, but I've new resolve now.  I'm going to give it another go.  I'll probably just be getting a schedule down as the new arrives to throw it all off again.
10)  Despite a couple prolonged cold snaps, the chickens are still laying so we have lots of eggs! 

What finally brought me back to the blog is something that has bothered me...well pretty much ever since I started attending meetings having to do with agriculture.  The word 'efficiency' has been touted as the savior of agriculture and the world ever since I can remember.  If only farmers could increase their efficiency, we'd all be better off.  Right?
Here's a couple of ads put out by an organization called Agriculture More Than Ever, which I think has something to do with Farm Credit, but that's not explicit in any of thier info, so we'll be naive and assume they are some independent organization set up to make everyone feel good about agriculture.  And they do a good job. 

Don't you feel warm and fuzzy?

Well, let's look at these another way.
Firstly, how many people can't consume wheat products anymore?  The current gene pool for modern wheat is so shallow and specific that the things that used to make wheat palatable and healthy for us have been bred out to make way for 'efficiency'.  Old fashioned wheat maybe doesn't yield as well, or maybe it's more susceptible to disease or matures too slowly.  Some traits that don't suit the big-ag, food processing giants have left us with near generations of individuals who have now crossed 'gluten' off their list of things they can eat without discomfort.  At the ACORN conference in November, the bread baker used Speerville organic flours, made from older wheat varieties, grown here in the Maritimes.  A woman attending the conference who typically could not consume wheat, ate the bread without problem. 
So congratulations big-ag, you're super efficient at producing wheat.  Too bad so few can enjoy it.

The second ad builds up the value of efficiency so much that it fails to acknowledge some of the big differences between the state of our land in 1950 compared to today.  In 1950, the soil and its inhabitants had only just begun to deal with the assault of years of pesticide use.  Giant factory farms and feedlots were not yet a norm of food production.  Environmental degradation, including water, air and soil quality were not a regular part of the discussion of producing food- and not necessarily because they weren't considered important.  Perhaps we simply have more reasons to consider them now.  "...with less land and fewer resources."  This sounds like it's straight out of a GMO advertisement for a variety of corn that withstands dry periods better. 
I think I'm the most annoyed that they threw the word "sustainable" in there.  How many studies have to be done showing that small-scale, organic based systems are more sustainable in the long run before we start to acknowledge and support for THOSE systems. 
It's sort of like that much-discussed ad from the Superbowl, by Dodge Ram, using that old Paul Harvey piece called, "So God Made a Farmer".  It's touching and it brings me to tears everytime, because the farmer described in the piece is exactly the kind of farmers I grew up around, and married and aspire to be.  But they are so rare in the big picture of today.  And it's not fair to play that for North America and pretend that those images and those descriptions are accurate to how we're fed today.  A more accurate ad would have had pictures of factory farms and long lines of carcasses in mega abattoirs, and processed foods and people in board rooms selling seed and buying feed based on some futures market 2 years down the road.  It makes everyone feel better about the weird processed ham product they put in their kids sandwich and continues the lie of healthy food that we're fed by big-ag, taking advantage of the cutesy small town feeling of yore.
I am glad that God made a farmer. And I'm glad that two raised me, and that I married one.  I'm just sad that more people don't have that luxury and don't know what they're missing.
Glad to be back.  Hope this finds you putting yourself back on the follow list. :)


Friday, January 4, 2013

Bittersweet New Year

It is with a heavy, but contented heart that I write this post.  I've been thinking, mentioning and agonizing over this decision for a long time now and it feels a bit liberating to have finally made it, once and for all.
I am selling most of my flock.  I am going to keep the four ewes who just lambed, but will be putting the other 9 up for sale later today.
Mark was more resistant to the idea than I was and I feel like I spent the last couple months just wearing him down.  He even at one point suggested that if I would raise them, he would take on the marketing and selling which are the two bits I hate the most.  As if he doesn't have enough on the go.

But he's finally agreed that it's for the best right now.  For the past two years, I have simply not been able to dedicate the time that I need to, for optimum management of an organic flock.  And I feel like I've been suffering the consequences with recent incidents in the flock, that most likely could have been prevented with me taking a keener interest in the everyday goings on. 

Mark and I are both disappointed that we feel the flock has finally gotten to it's prime organic state in terms of parasite thresholds, resistance and management.  They are in the best condition I've seen them and lambs that I've raised under organic standards are now on their second or third lambing.  It's a satisfying labour of love that is difficult to say goodbye to, but as I continued to insist to Mark, we can undergo the same adventure in a few years when we are ready and better able.

SO, with that, I've got nine beautiful, purebred, registered polled Dorsets, bred to a North Country Cheviot ram who has consistently thrown healthy, quick-growing lambs for three years, for sale.  They are certified organic and excellent mothers.  Most were born in 2009, with the oldest born in 2007.  All have lambed, except one yearling I purchased at the Canadian Classic last summer who is marked to lamb along with the rest, starting around Feb. 14th.  All are marked to lamb at that time within a month. 

Although sad to see them go, I am even happier to let go of the guilt that has been nagging me about lack of vigilance and adequate management.  Looking forward to the coming years when I can create a proper business out of a new flock with a new, fresh perspective on it all, and the time necessary to do so.

Hope this finds you prioritizing for this new year and perhaps simplifying your own life in lieu of 'doing it all'.