Thursday, May 14, 2020

Challenging so-called spring so far

Boy, has life every been busy since I last wrote. Not that farm life is generally known for down time, but each week has been going by in a blur. Marisol started working at the farm at the beginning of May, coming for 1-1.5 days per week. So far, we've been prepping beds in the vegetable field for direct seeding and transplanting. I'm so happy to have Marisol working at the farm this season, and looking forward to when school's done (yes, there's still online school) so she can come more each week.

Laying down the woven landscape cloth so that all vegetation dies off over a few weeks of occultation (yes, this is a word in no-till circles, which means blocking out the sun;P) has proven more challenging than I had hoped...because it's so damn windy at the vegetable field! I've always appreciated that the field has good airflow, so we don't end up with some of the plant diseases which come from lack of airflow, and there are fewer mosquitoes to deal with, but in the past few years, it seems that a nice little breeze has turned into an almost constant stiff wind. I need to have the chin strap tight on my sun hat most of the time I'm working down there. And to keep the landscape fabric from blowing off the 125 foot long by 3 foot wide beds, requires 10-12 sandbags per bed, plus rocks or bags of rocks holding down the edges for both long edges of the landscape fabric...that's 250 feet...for one bed. It's totally insane.

On a brighter note, we did bring the laying hens and their moveable coop down to the vegetable field once it got warm at the end of April, to help us prepare vegetable beds by scratching things up and eating up most of the green weeds. The chickens have done an amazing job, so that after they're done with a bed, we can wheel hoe it and it's ready for seeding/transplanting! We did have to hurriedly bring the chicken coop back off the vegetable field when we had the 10 cm snowstorm last weekend. The winds on the field just felt too frigid for us to leave the coop down there with the poor shivering hens. Skyler had to scramble around at twilight with the tractor to bring them to the shelter of the barnyard, and barely made it up our big hill as the ground was starting to get slick from snow. We've only just brought the hen coop back to the field this morning, as it has been too cold until now.

And really, did anyone enjoy that blast of February that we just had to endure? I had an electric heater running full blast in the greenhouse for the whole duration of freezing cold...which was a whole 7 days! This is the first time in 12 seasons of farming that I've had to have the heater on in the greenhouse for more than a night or 2 in May...and this year, it wasn't only on at night, but had to be on during the day too!

Of course, with this frigid spring, the pastures have been growing at a snail's pace, so the sheep are still in the barn and we've had to buy in extra hay to feed them, twice already. They've been let out to certain warmer patches of the farm where we can sacrifice the grass, for half days here and there, to get the lambs used to going outside and starting to nibble on grass. So the flock knows the grass is out there, and really don't want to be in the barn any more. If anyone ever needs a soundbite for zombie hordes, a flock of sheep baaing for fresh pasture sounds just like the movies ;P

Finally, we've only been able to get the tractor down to the field twice this year, as the road to the field is still partially submerged in water. Thank goodness I've gone no-till or there's no way any beds could be prepared for planting at all by tractor! We're currently debating what to do with the road, like bringing in loads of stone and gravel, maybe installing a culvert or drainage if I know what I'm talking about :P Luckily, we had already delivered a load of compost to the field last fall, so Marisol and I have been plugging away at getting it spread on various beds via wheel barrow and manure fork. If that sounds labour intensive to you, it definitely is. Trying to figure out a form of mechanized compost spreading for the future is definitely a priority, as my back is not happy with me these days. Hence the need to figure out this road business, as mechanized generally means tractor pulled.

The good news is, sugar snap peas have been direct seeded, with salad greens hopefully seeded tomorrow if it doesn't rain too hard. And there are thousands of seedlings started in the greenhouse, scheduled to be transplanted to the field late May/early June. I definitely enjoy soil blocking and seeding...tons more fun than spreading compost ;P Great arm workout without any back strain :)

I'm sure there's other stuff I should be writing about too, like this pandemic and the anxiety it brings, but if there's any cure for that, it's physical farm labour and the sweet sleep that brings at night. Hang in there everyone, as it seems like there is a light at the end of this long tunnel. I'm just happy we still get to eat :D

Friday, April 10, 2020

Wishlist for a New World Order

I have been very anxious these last few weeks, and I don't think I'm usually a particularly anxious kind of person. I haven't left the farm since March 22, my last day going in to the tax office to work. I've still been swamped with work at home, between various contracts, farm planning, CSA marketing, lambing season, and returning to field work. And of course, taking turns with Skyler, caring for Emma. So there hasn't been too much free time yet for introspection, which has probably led to this build up of anxiety.

So this is how I'm going to blow off steam. I'm writing my wishlist for a new world order. Off the top of my head, un-researched, naive, optimistic, cynical, cheesy...just ideas that have been spinning away in my thoughts and dreams for decades. I'm releasing them into the ether, in hopes that after the global pain of this pandemic has passed, something better for humanity will be chosen, not this broken, hungry, despotic, economic system which, even without this pandemic, is already bringing us to the brink of extinction due to climate change.

Universal health care...medical, dental, visual, pharmacological, psychological. If any person needs treatment, they can get it.

Universal housing, clean water, basic income for all.

No more interest. No more debt. No more misers (aka billionaires). Wealth from interest only increases through unlimited growth, which is physically impossible. It is also why the gap between haves and have nots keeps getting wider and wider. Resources should circulate and benefit humanity as a whole, not just the ones at the top...there should be no top. Imagine if every organization had a cap on CEO pay of 7 times their most entry level position? This isn't even new, but an idea that has been around for decades, and is actually practised by some companies which have succeeded for decades too.

Research for the public good, led and funded by public institutions, not by private corporations, so the research is directed by need, not just profit.

Circular manufacturing, where industries which make something, have to take back what they make and re-use/recycle components and be responsible for any resulting disposal. Full life cycle manufacturing.

Fixing things! Patching clothes, soldering electronics, re-upholstering chairs, not everything needs to be replaced with something new. Our economy needs to find a different way to work than by pushing consumerism.

Education for all...not to train an obedient workforce, but to teach empathy, problem solving, reading, writing, arithmetic...the basics to give everyone an equal footing. School shouldn't be for teaching people how to do jobs...employers should be responsible for should teach people how to learn.

Decriminalization of all drugs. The so-called war on drugs has failed. Instead, prisons are full of victims; countries where drugs are produced are full of victims. The money and lives wasted on 'enforcement' could go instead into community initiatives to address the roots of addiction, which are societal failings, not people failings.

Community, housing, water, goods...all produced in local communities for local consumption first. Global trade should be reserved for those items which can only be produced in specific geographic areas, and production of those items should not supercede those communities basic needs. Feed everyone in their own countries first before exporting anything.

Airfares and travel should reflect their full environmental cost. No more cruise ships please. The tourism industry should not destroy the places they service.

No more fossil fuels removed from the ground. A global 'war effort' made to research and develop green renewables (solar, wind, vibration from roads, magic crystals...we don't even know all the possibilities yet!), which also don't exploit and pollute poorer nations.

No rights to corporations...people and the planet always come first.

An end to xenophobia and religious persecution. No nationalism. No racism. Just all citizens of planet Earth.

NO MORE PATRIARCHY. No more women abused, enslaved, kept down, paid less, forced to bear children. A world where gender is meaningless; we're all just persons.

No more 'second class citizens'...indigenous people, people of colour, people with disabilities, peasants, women, the list is just too long.

No more chemical agriculture. No more factory farms. Farming should be a good and healthy occupation, not requiring a full-time off farm job and not indebted to all the input corporations bleeding farmers dry.

A world where at least 50% of people work in food production, whether this be farming, butchering, baking, cooking, serving, transporting food, making cheese, starting seedlings, hunting, making compost, safeguarding water that our societies can no longer be so separated from where food comes from, how it is made, how it gets to everyone. This shouldn't be a black box, but at the very centre of our understanding as a we are all fed every single day.

On this Good Friday, when those who believe in Jesus Christ mourn His death on the cross, we should mourn all our dead, the old, the sick, the young, the healthy, who are being taken by this coronavirus pandemic, directly or indirectly. And as we hope for redemption, for resurrection, which is the very heart of the Christian faith, which gives us a chance to be right with God, I hope for our redemption from this pandemic, our chance to be right with humanity, with the planet on which we live.

We need to take these lies that we tell ourselves, that our country helps all its citizens equally, and make them true somehow. Hold our leaders to account. Push for change. Don't let them take more power than they need. And when vaccines or cures are found, and our collective efforts to keep down the death toll are no longer necessary, then let this world that we emerge into be a better place for everyone.

And yes, I did watch Pitch Perfect 3 recently with Emma (she likes the singing), so there's the cheese for you ;P Thanks George Michael.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Prepping takes a coronavirus pandemic for me to take the time to write a blog post. As any of you who have children know, having young children (Emma's turning three in May) means you have no free time. Or actually, no time in general. Especially now as day cares are all closed. I'm not going to lie, I'm only able to write this post now because Emma is watching 'If I Were an Animal' on Netflix right beside me.

We knew life would change when we had a child, but I don't think Skyler and I were prepared for how frustrated we could be by the loss of 'productivity' in our lives. Essentially, I can't get anything done efficiently while Emma's in my care. And when you're a one-person market gardener, being efficient is the only way that the garden can be managed. So I am hiring part-time help this summer, mostly for harvest day, and Skyler's going to have to watch Emma during crucial garden task times. The trade off is that if one of us is watching Emma, the other person is running flat out to get as much done in their work time as possible. Sigh...I'm definitely feeling my age these days ;P

Last year I also caught some sort of flu for 3 weeks at the end of June, right when it was most crucial to get vegetables transplanted and beds direct seeded. Again, a reminder that I'm not 25 any more ;P So the transition to no-till vegetable growing continues to have a sense of urgency, and I'm very happy that I already have all my landscape fabric/mulch delivered to the farm, ready to be laid out on beds to prepare them for planting, as soon as the vegetable field is snow free, which is pretty much any day now.

And let's not forget the farm animals! We have had a great lambing season, with 27 lambs born to 18 ewes within about 4 weeks...a tight lambing period, which means our new Gotland ram knows what he's doing ;) This means our barn currently has 72 sheep in it, between the breeding ewes and ram, their new lambs, the non-breeding ewes (we don't breed them until they're over a year old) and ram lambs born later last year. At this time of year, Skyler and I get worried for our hay supply and watch the pasture fields obsessively for growth. Every fall, we stock more hay than we think we'll need, but we also ended up keeping more sheep in the barn than originally planned, so we're really hoping the pastures will be ready for grazing early this year, unlike last year! Is it too much to hope that as our world deals with the societal changes required by the coronavirus pandemic, we can have an ideal growing season to produce as much food locally as we can??? My fingers are crossed anyway...I could definitely use a really good vegetable and pasture year.

Anyway, I'm super thankful that despite what's happening outside the farm these days, we're ready to go for food production this year, with all of our seeds, soil block making supplies, row cover, etc already at the farm. Increasing local food production capacity may actually become a priority issue for society in the next little while, and we're ready!