Monday, 20 April 2015


Spring has come so suddenly - we went out to Maberly, a small town about an hour north on April 7. I had only been as far north as Godfrey before that.  To put that in perspective for anyone not from this area, it might be like living in Windsor - as far south as you get - and going up to Moosonee after only having been as far as Sudbury...something like that. It was winter that day, as we toured a farm as part of a group of farmers called CRAFT - Collaborate Regional Alliance for Farming and Training.  We looked at a farm that is 30 years into its making.  It is a beautiful project, and yet, after 30 years, there are still too many loose ends to count.

We are entering year two, and with spring having come so cheerfully last weekend, and staying up until this point with consistently nice weather, we have begun the juggling act anew.

I have digressed over the winter to reading and writing about food issues, and those issues remain at the heart of my pursuit of farming.  But the day-to-day farming is made up of projects that are less aspirational.

We moved pigs this weeks, from their space in the greenhouse to a pasture that will be a future garden space.  Pigs go off on their own when you let them out - they don't tag along.  And so we herded, bringing them so close to the doorway to the fenced yard with its fresh grass - only to see them run back into a bush a few hundred feet away.  The dog tried to herd them, and she is good at it, but they have outgrown her.  They just get panicked, and the dog just kept at them hopelessly, but no one budged.

Finally pig A was worn out from the dog's authoritarian trip, while pig B wandered in a patch of prickly ash, seeming to enjoy herself.  I shooed the dog away, seeing Pig A panting, and realized, with about twenty feet to go back to the greenhouse where they had been staying (seeing that we weren't going to get them to pasture that morning) that I would need to coax her.  I scratched her chin, and then took a step back, holding out my hand to see if the promise of more scratching would bring her to me.  She kept stepping forward for scratchings, and eventually we were back where we started.

The morning had been a lot of work for nothing, but projects often come up that have to be done twice.  Farms are unruly.

That evening we managed to move them more easily with a big bucket of grain, and they spent the rest of the evening digging.  I went out at 10:30 to check on them and they were still in a digging frenzy.  They weren't used to their surroundings, and didn't really know where to sleep, so I guess they just decided to keep digging until they dropped.

We moved the goats to the barn the next day and started tearing out the housing infrastructure of a greenhouse, where they had all overwintered.  There was straw and manure that needed mucking, and pallets joined together that had to be disassembled.  It was a dusty, stinky job - maybe the worst job I will have to do all year, but the hay and manure has been piled for compost, which is the heart of our farm project.

The UN has named 2015 the International Year of Soils.  Soils build up slowly in the natural world - it takes about 500-1,000 years to gain an inch, but it's easy enough to erode them.  Soil with high organic matter is better able to absorb water and resist erosion, which is a big part of the point of compost, which gives some motivation to tasks like mucking stalls.  As a farmer, you really have to remind yourself that the resource you are shoveling is better than gold.  

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