Monthly Archives: April 2011

Aside

Got word from our builder today that construction will start on the barn at the beginning of May! I can’t believe how excited this makes me. Well, yes…. actually I can.  The barn will be mostly built by the time I get out there this summer!!

There are three large 12′ x 12′ stalls, one 12′ x 12′ washing stall with milking station and sink. A 12′ wide centre isle sloped to the centre with drainage reservoir  and a 36′ x 10′  storage room at the end for feed and tack.  The outside walls are made of a concrete composite plank siding which is fire proof and all walls are insulated with earth friendly batting.  Before there are critters housed in there, I suspect it will make a handy flop house for guests as it will be the only place this year with power and water in the same location!  I will post pictures when I am able to get them but for now, here are pictures of the workshop built last year:

I am still in the planning stages of so much of the layout of the rest of the farm and schedule so these next few months here and the summer months there will be spent finalizing all this.

The orchard trees were ordered considering their varying ripening times, to make harvest of fruits a smooth flowing procedure, rather than complete chaos of trees ripening all at once. Our fruits should come into season one after the other from Early May, to November.

Early May – rhubarb, June – strawberries, early ripening blue berries, then raspberries and black berries in July.  At the end of summer gooseberries, early plums and cherries, then one variety of apple, then the pear, then the other variety of apple, the four varieties of quince in October and finally the walnuts, butternuts and filberts in late October or early November.  All will come, mostly, after we have had enough time to process the previous batch of fruit and with a sufficient gap from end of August to September to process all the last veggies from the market garden.

I know, of course, that this is only if all goes according to plan, which it likely won’t.  So, we will play it by ear but with our eye on the plan and figure out where it goes from there.  I expect we will have several ‘operational tweaks’ in our future.

It is with all this in mind that we have decided to spend the first year with only foul. Turkeys, chickens, ducks and geese. This gives us time to focus on growing hay enough to stockpile the year before we acquire any  livestock that would require it. The same goes for oats, and perhaps barley and alfalfa.  Hard red wheat will be grown in a few years, as I would like to make flour and try my hand at storing the wheat berries for future.

A pond would be wonderful, but likely not on the agenda for this year. It would be great to dig, line with clay and wait for next year to watch it fill up but there is still a bunch of research that needs to be done to ensure a healthy pond.  I would love to be able to stock it with fish, but fear that unless it is terribly deep, the water will be too warm to keep fish worth eating.  Lots of questions to be answered yet on this seed of an idea.  I’m sure the ducks and geese would love a swim, too, so I will get these questions answered first.

The lilac grove, rose garden and lavender fields will all be gradual additions and have plants added as we find a suitable variety or a favourite. I will start on a perennial garden this summer and perhaps prepare ground for cut flowers the following year. I am so looking forward to chipping twigs for pathways and having a stroll through all that delicious flower smell!

New Barn!!

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Trellis – home made

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Trellis - homemade

I know that in the west, our material of choice for such things would be willow or dogwood or both.  The heart at the top, here, is bent out of dogwood and the rest is alder.  My son and I, while at the farmers market in the area, met a lovely woman who offered us lessons on how to make trellis’ and chairs for $25.  Well, how could I not take her up on her generous offer?

So the following week, we headed into town to her place where her driveway was set up with buckets of water with twigs stuffed into them, two cordless drills, a mountain of right sized screws, and the fun began.

She gave us tips on choosing the right piece for the right action, (Eg. curved or forked pieces for various designs) and to keep in mind colour and balance.  We were there for two hours and came away with two beautiful trellis’, one of which became a hostess gift for a lovely stay at the lake with family!

At BPoE (aka the farm) we have lots of alder that will need to be cleared to make way for some of the maple saplings, so what better use for these poles? Maybe a porch swing? We’ll see, soon enough!

Got word this morning that the frost has almost left the ground so work on the barn will commence  by the beginning of May! This means that by the time I get there this summer, it will be almost complete.  I will be able to start in on building stalls and setting up shelves for feed and hooks for tack.  So exciting!

Like minded people….

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early morning long shadows

I have had so much feed back lately about all our plans for the farm. Some are shocked that we plan to do all this work at this stage of our lives.  I hear surprise at the initial idea which quickly moves to a level of understanding and then acceptance, then awe.  I am amazed that with all the “wow” ‘s and “that’s fantastic”‘s that there aren’t more people at least contemplating these same things.

The world is in jeopardy, we know this. Our future, our health, our well being are all hanging in the balance. If we don’t figure out how to survive, we won’t.  The only answer, for me, is to find peace in the knowledge I am doing all I can to ensure the survival of my species.  Good healthy food. Clean water. Sustainable agriculture. Happy animals. Use, re-use, recycle, clean up our mess, and make the earth better.

For the last two years I have been doing research about how to do this. How to enrich the soil and prevent erosion to produce the healthiest plants possible. How to rotate crops which will eliminate the use of pesticides by not allowing the little critters that would eat our crops to take up camp in the first place. How to plant heritage varieties that are native to our area because they will be heartier, resistant to diseases, and have the where-with-all to compete successfully with native weeds for an abundant crop of healthy veggies at harvest time.  How to choose the best breeds of animals for our location – ones that can endure our cold winters without frost bite or other cold related ailments and can withstand our summer heat and humidity.  How to shelter those animals appropriately so they are neither exposed for too long or housed for too long. (there are a number of respiratory illnesses that sheep and goats can get if they are left in the barn. Pigs need shelter from the sun but very simple housing) How to ensure these animals are well nourished, allowed plenty of sunshine and pasture, and groomed necessarily to keep them happy and stress free. How to process these animals quickly, painlessly, and cleanly for the highest quality meat.  How to process these animals other products, like fleece, milk and eggs into yarn, cheese and omelettes or new babies!

So, where are all the like minded people?

My daughter’s friend joined us for dinner the other night. She is an Anthropology student and will be heading to Cuba in the next little while to learn about sustainable agriculture. Cuba has been making it on their own for some years now and is leading the world in producing most of what they need on their own soil.  She will be gaining first rate knowledge about how to help this country with it’s own agriculture, the dangers of genetically modified seeds, crops, and animals, and to keep our environment healthy.

She has funding available to her through the provincial government, but in order to access this funding, she will need to find a farmer who could benefit from her knowledge to promise her a job when she returns. This is proving difficult because a guarantee of a job is harder to swallow for some people in this economy.

I know, there are plenty of students who do not have access to funding for their chosen field and do fine with student loans and/or parental support. I just think that when it is something that will do our society a world of good, we should support it.  So, on that note, if there is an Alberta Farmer out there who would like to benefit from the knowledge of sustainable agriculture and the ways of Cuba, make yourself known and I will put you in touch with a terrifically-fired-up-student who would be thrilled to help out! I want to be clear that nothing beyond the promise of a job will be required of you for this to help her.  You won’t be asked for sponsorship or any other financial obligation. Just moral support and a mutually beneficial situation!