Wednesday, 30 April 2014

More Birds

We brought in a new batch of laying hens recently. The old ones became very snooty and refused to mingle with the new recruits. One hen got sick and when chickens get sick, they stand still with a scowl on their faces (if chickens can scowl) and sort of tuck their head in towards their bodies (sort of like when a thin person tries to make a double chin). We put it into a separate area, and began nursing. We gave her olive oil drops and water diluted with apple cider vinegar a couple of times a day. Eventually the head started sticking out again and she looked more relaxed and so we put her back in with the rest. It's a good feeling when you see an animal rehabilitated, especially when it doesn't require major interventions.

We have another small batch of heritage birds (Barred Ply Rock for those of you who know the varieties). They are a beautiful,  ash-colour and white striped pattern when they are grown.  For now, they are a fuzzy dark brown with some white spots.  We just taught them how to drink water, which will come in handy.

This is a very busy week:  not only do we have these to add to our roster, we will have another batch of meat birds by the week's end, as well as a dozen Asian chestnut and date trees, and a big bag each of Shiitake and Oyster mushroom spawn.  Seedlings are quickly wanting to be real planted plants, and we are doing our best to get beds ready for them, while keeping up with the continued demand of our planting schedule to keep succession batches of seedlings coming. At this point the work day is long and one thing weaves into another, but thankfully the chickens and seedlings are able to do most of the work for themselves.  As Eliot Coleman said:  "Drop a seed in the ground and it wants to grow."  

Friday, 18 April 2014

Long Road "Easter" Eggs

Have a Pleasant Easter
This Easter I completely forgot it was Easter.  I had plans to run errands on Good Friday, then realized that everything is closed.  I keep forgetting it is a holiday and have to stop myself from making farm-related phone calls about things like hogs and geese.  Most people are setting aside the day for nice ham or turkey suppers.  Farming, especially in spring, especially in the first spring on the farm, is a wheel that spins faster and faster.  There are many things that need to be done, other things that should be done, and an infinite number of things that would be nice to do.  There are plans in the works for some decorative vine work on the front yard; plans for getting firewood ready for next year so that it has time to season; cedar fencing that needs sprucing up...then there is the logo design, the wooden crates that will hold veggies for CSA and market.  The list goes on, with items jumping into my head and leaving before they are written down.  It's a perpetual chase.

That said, the farm is running.  We have a lot of laying hens laying nice eggs.  Colourful eggs of various sizes.  It's nice having a farm project that does most of the work itself.  These chickens are quite self-sufficient.  As long as they get a bit of mash, they will wander around the yard, finding earthworms, and making sure they make eggs they can be proud of.  Something like that.

I've mentioned permaculture in previous posts.  The idea that one can create a farm where the natural world works to the farmer's benefit is appealing.  Most of the time, entropy rules and the farmer tries to decide what parts of it to challenge and what parts of it to accept.  We were excited by the idea that the pig would dig up our garden beds.  He would methodically dig up the grass roots and then beg for another project.  But the pig does not aim to please.  In the greehouse patch, where we had him fenced in for a few days, he managed to dig one massive crater about six feet in diameter and leave the rest of the grass neatly intact. Then, after a long day of lying on the field, he tore out the concrete tiles in his pen and dug a hole so deep, I couldn't imagine how he climbed out.  One can't really be upset with him for the fact that his priorities differ from ours.  

Then we have beavers in the pond at the back of the property taking down tree after healthy tree.  We have been taking the trees they have left lying around for our own use.  I don't thing either party is really winning.  I wish they would stop taking the trees down; they probably wish I would stop taking the trees that took so much effort to fell.  

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Back from a Trip to the Prairies

I'm glad that my current line of work does not require that I travel often.  In fact, it doesn't allow for much travel.  There is something about flying that irks me.  The usual irritations: security check, delays, airport food.  The hassles of the trip I took recently back to my hometown in Alberta was typical enough.  A three-hour delay on my connecting flight, a food voucher, a $10 mozza on ciabatta that tasted like cardboard. That is all irksome. Then there is the feeling that you are in a HSBC world, being propelled into its future, where corn and cotton compete as commodities, where technology and nature are one. We've all seen it in the bridge to the plane, but I have to look away.

I won't harp on that. What really pained me, on this particular trip, was a moment that was very much routine, but wasn't for me, not this time. Like Dostoevsky and the flogged horse, or Byron and the dead Goldfish, I was deeply upset by the chucking of my jar of honey at the security gate. I had forgotten about the restrictions before I walked in with my backpack, which held the honey jar in a bag of clothes. Though I am used to packing my shaving kit and its lotions in my checked luggage, and though I never bring yogurt as a snack, the honey didn't register when I was configuring my bags. I guess because I just haven't come to see honey as a lethal weapon like I have yogurt and lotion. Maybe because it was creamed and it seemed so solid. I don't know. I know that most people think, “well, you should have known better.” And they think that the people there were just doing their job when they took the bulbous jar, and tossed it into a big plastic bin, where it landed with a woosh on the black plastic lining and with a thud on the base. Indeed, they were just doing their job. I had said, “don't throw it out, it's good honey” and it was good honey, it was not pasteurized and sold in a store but was sourced from a local source, it was not a commodity to be traded along with BT corn and cotton. And they said languidly that they couldn't keep it because it would be like taking a gift, which was against their policies. And who knows if it might be laced with something or set to blow up.

When I reached for a different jar of honey at my home, the one that was to be followed by the one that got chucked, after arriving late last night and getting a piece of toast ready, I felt a twinge. Now, I'm afraid that whenever I see honey, I will feel the thud of the jar as it went into a garbage, to be trucked to a landfill. It's not an occurrence that has brought any particular resolve, like “I am never going to travel on a plane again,” though it has made the experience of going through airports sourer than it was. No, it just makes me sad.

I should mention briefly that the fields are drying and the seedlings are thriving, which is some consolation.