Friday, April 17, 2015

Planning For Spring Planting

Given the fact the all of Nova Scotia is currently snowed under it might seem odd that we're thinking about planting in April and May. But we don't want to grow just the typical vegetable starter plants, we have some specialty ones we want to grow. So we grow most of our own plants from seed for several reasons. Firstly it's much cheaper, and second we can source organic seeds of varieties that grow well here or some exotic strains that we want to trial.And the snow is finally melting so I have a renewed sense of purpose now. Regardless of what's on the ground right now, in 6 or 8 weeks it'll be very different and we'll be planting in a hurry. So for me starting some of my seeds now is both a way to get a jump on the season and also a way to spread the work over a few extra weeks before wwoofers come to help out. I'm also making a plan of what gets planted where depending on my crop rotations, amount of shade and companion planting. It's more involved than you'd think.

My new Mantis tiller is ordered. While we still believe that a no till system can work, I'm going to use it to get the beds and rows all set up and also to start new flower beds around the front of the property to give us a little more colour and privacy. Picture sunflower and sweetpea hedges. The animals will be confined to the back 4 acres of pasture although we'll see if that really works or not, some chickens are wily.

Here's a video of our new tiller, well one like ours since ours is in the mail. Looking forward to being able to incorporate lime and compost easily and weed between rows if needed. We got the wider model so that 2 passes will result in a 30" wide bed. That's a good size for our use. Although many different options for attachments exist I'm just excited to see how the basic tiller works before committing to paying more money.



The other exciting thing happening is that Steve and Jordan are framing up a lean-to greenhouse for me at the  moment so I'll have somewhere to put my seeds and also some extra heat in the end bedroom of the mobile. I'll let you know when it's done and get some photos.

We're still working on our wood supply for heat and so far so good. We'll have burned just under 5 cords this Winter when all is said and done I think because we're still keeping the fire lit in the mornings. The plan is to cut 2 years worth of wood this Spring and dry it over the summer then store it in a wood shed. Every year we'll cut more, but use the wood stored the previous year so we never run out and so it's seasoned properly. Having a supply of good dry wood is essential to having a comfortable home for us. And it's like having insurance to have extra wood stored.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's April... And Still Snowing

There's not really been a lot to write about because nothing is happening. It's April and not only do we still have 120+ cm of snow on the ground, it snowed another 10cm this morning. It seems like it's just two steps forward (it warms up and melts) and one step back (it snows again). It's been a little colder than usual too so there has been no chance to get plastic up on the greenhouses and we have nowhere to plant anything. It's so frustrating to be in April and still buying all our greens from the store. We have some plants indoors but not enough to really get a start on the garden. The predictions are that we'll have snow on the ground until May 14th but it will depend on how much more snow and rain we get between then.


It's hard on farmers because we're all running low or are out of hay, and we're still having to keep our animals fed despite there being no Spring grass for them. Another frustration caused by such a long Winter. I'm so looking forward to Springs warmer weather and gentle breezes.

It's been a  good lesson for us though to know a harsh Winter. We know that in the mobile we can get through with 5 cords of firewood, less once we get some more insulation done and if our wood is good and dry. But I still can't wait to get a house built that will hold the heat better and give us more space. As for power, the bills have been crazy so we really need to get rid of any electric heat. Now that Chris and Will aren't living out in the other buildings they aren't running heaters all the time which will save us a bundle. But having a comfortable passive solar house will for sure save us energy and money. If it costs us $40,000 to build a basic house that then saves us $3000 per year in power to heat our home and water, then the house will pay for itself in 14 years. Which is a very reasonable time frame I think. Plus it will be a comfortable home for our family.

We've done several designs for our future home but haven't yet settled on a finished plan. We know some of the conveniences we'd like such as a garage, mud room, library and a nice kitchen. But it's equally important that our home is passive solar, has some kind of solar power and solar hot water heating, uses wood heat and is affordable for us. We have no savings yet and are thinking of ways to have an income even after retirement. It's a lot of planning but we think that if we're smart about it now it'll be good for us in the future.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Snowpocalypse continues

It's Winter in Canada so you'd think we'd be used to it, but really, I'd love to have an early Spring. Groundhog Day is tomorrow so according to tradition we'll know if we should experience a early Spring or have an extra 6 weeks of Winter. We've had several large dumps of snow in the last week and we're forecast to get a bunch more this week. I think tomorrow and Tuesday we are expecting upto 40 cm of snow and 40 mm of rain, ice pellet and freezing rain. The weatherman may change his mind depending on how the system tracks overnight but the kids are hoping for another day off school. It's exam week and they already had 2 days off school last week. Jordan's liking the extra study time though for sure and has one final exam to write tomorrow, if there's school.

So what's happening at the farm you might ask? There's not a lot to do in this sort of weather except hope the sheep wait for nicer weather to give birth but they always seem to pick a howling gale and blizzard. I guess that naturally there would be fewer predators out and able to track in bad weather. But I always feel bad for the lambs who are born wet and steaming in the cold air. If they get the colostrum from their mothers right away they are usually fine, they're pretty hardy little things.

We have seeds to start too and some barley to sprout for the sheep. I'll start tomorrow and take daily pics for you.

Stay warm my friends.

Elizabeth

Monday, January 5, 2015

And So It Begins...2015 Is Here!

This morning dawned warm and windy and wet but the clouds have blown off for the most part right now and the temperature is dropping even as the weak Winter sun is doing it's best to warm things up. There's still some warmth in the sun even though it's low in the sky, but it's not enough to offer a lot of heating especially when it's this windy. But it's still nice to have some sunny weather after the cold and snowy Winter weather. It's only a temporary reprieve because it's forecast to snow again later, but at least the roads are clear again and we got a chance to empty all the ashes out from the woodstove. And when the weather was nasty and I was sickest my lovely husband was home with me so we got to cuddle up and watch movies and videos on the laptop. It was a nice vacation. But now we're back to regular life with Steve at work and the kids in school.

William moved out into his own apartment and is loving his own space and freedom. It's been almost a week now and so I'm sure he's settling into a routine. It's hard as a mother when the kids move out but I also know that there are life lessons that can only be learned from experience and so we hope he'll stay smart and safe.

Here at the farm we're just in a holding pattern waiting for the weather to improve which won't be until March at least I'd think. But Winter also means lambing time, starting seeds and planning all the work for the coming year. Today I took Jordan to the feed store and we stocked up on some hay and feed and bedding for all the animals. The owner let me sweep up his hay barn and keep the sweepings for free so I have 5 medium garbage bags of mixed hay/straw sweepings to use as bedding plus I took 3 trips with the car and got a couple weeks worth of feed stacked in the barn so I'm happy. We finished the last load as the snow started. My lungs are still pretty congested and I can't afford to overdo it today or I'll never get better and Steve's in the city so I need to hold things down here at the farm. The boys helped with chores of course and the girls moved a good chunk of the firewood that was stacked on a tarp under the eaves so it's good to have it indoors. I love my family, they're awesome.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year In Review

January - COLD!! Lots of snow and ice. Jordan broke his ankle and we spent a night at Ronald McDonald house while he had surgery.

February - Weather is still bitter and nasty for man and beast. Absolutely horrible out but plans for Spring, food preserving etc. all continue.

March - First lambs are born in bitter weather. Spring is nowhere in sight but life continues and we're working on getting the bare mobile ready for habitation. A $1000 trailer doesn't come with many frills or even a kitchen in our case. It's not a lot of fun working in the cold but it still has to be done.

April - Barely warm but we'll take it. Spring was late coming in 2014. We got the water and power hooked up and house ready for sleeping in. Nothing fancy but it's clean and functional, if small.

May - Time to move! Permanently! And wouldn't you know it one of the ewes gave birth the Saturday we moved. Fun! Gardening begins in earnest, ploughing, planting, seeding and caring for lambs. Our first wwoofers are expected soon so work on the humanure toilet, outdoor bath/shower and cabin had to be finished. All hands on deck! And Steve and the kids and I built a storage shed for all the insulation we were able to get for cheap for later use.

June/July/Aug - If you can believe it, snow on June 4th wiped out all above ground crops. Time to re-plant and gear up for wwoofers and summer. Lots of the usual animal care, weeding etc. We had a fun summer and despite hurricanes that wiped out power for days when it was hot enough to cook an egg, we survived and got lots done. Next year we definitely want to run a solar hot water system after leaving our water pipes above ground for a week and experiencing the joys of free hot water. Better than bating in the slow pools beside the river and coming home with leeches like Meghan did, lol.

September - Harvest in earnest. The addition is going up now. We'd like to get it enclosed before bad weather stops outside work so we work like mad and it's done before the first big rain hits. And yes there's a leak in the roof joint but it's still warm enough to dry out and fix the problem. Lots of apples to process now.

October/November - Apple pie making time! And sauce. And cake. It's time to use nature's bounty to the fullest. There are so many delicious vegetables available and fruits and nuts too. Happy Thanksgiving. We're working on filling in the trench with the water pipes now that they are insulated and have heat tape. The pipes did freeze a couple of times but after lots of exploration Steve discovered that a small spot under the trailer in an access area behind the tub and toilet was blasting in cold air and freezing the main line inside the house. Steve re-ran the pipes and problem solved. Bless him, he also took my suggestion and installed the woodstove we found on Kijiji for $60 in the kitchen where the cookstove will go next year. He even build me a baffle for it and it works perfectly. It's a little airtight thing that I can cook on and with the help of a fan it blows warm air all through the trailer.  Chris is home again and I appreciate the extra hands. He's living in his own little trailer. But the best part of Autumn? I got to attend ACORN conference and it was awesome. I learned a ton!

December - We have the addition exterior finished except for trim. The insulation is in and the vapour barrier too. So we have a semi-heated dining room and future bedroom but for now we're still sleeping in the living room which is warmer anyways. Christmas was lovely, time spent with family and friends with little stress and lots of rest. The weather was crazy with Christmas day being +18 degrees. Now it's turned much colder and at time of writing it's -18 with the windchill. Brrr! Our sheep are safely tucked in their barn, the poultry and goat are in theirs, and the dog is expecting puppies in a month. William is moving into his own place in January so the kids are planning a big bedroom shuffle and are very excited.

Looking back over the year we got a well, power, a septic system and the mobile all set up. We moved in, we grew a lot of food and best of all we learned a ton and fell even more in love with this place. Humblebee Farm, we love you! We'll take care of you and you take care of us. Thanks for all the blessings in 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The End Is In Sight, for 2014 that is.

It's been such a crazy year and there's loads to update you all on so I'm going to dedicate myself to doing a final tally and review tomorrow. We had a great year and learned lots, so it should be fun. I'm just posting this short update to see who is still an active subscriber and to sort things out so that when we begin 2015 I'm more organized.

Best Wishes to you all.

Elizabeth

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WWOOF Canada and Worldwide

Unlike slugs in the garden, my article on slugs has disappeared so I'll have to find and re-post it. Sorry about that.

Today is a very wet one with 40mm of rain expected in the next 12 hours or so and maybe some thunder showers too this afternoon. So what do you do with wwoofers who are wanting to work and learn but can't because of the weather? You give them homework. Now as many of you know, not all work at a farm is outdoors but at this time of year most of it is field work which can be made near impossible by heavy prolonged rain. And I'm not sure I want to be out sloshing over my fields today anyway. It's true that work doesn't stop for the weather but we have to be practical. The animals are fed and bedded down except for a few brave roosters out for a walk and the turkey toms who have only just decided that it's not going to stop raining so they'd be best off indoors. What we've decided to do is clean their cabin, empty the toilet, maybe sort out the tool shed a bit and read up on Humanure. Part of being a wwoofer is learning about life on an organic farm and at our farm it's about composting. Here's the link if you'd like to read all about why composting toilets are so terrific in the Humanure Handbook. We have a basic humanure toilet plus an very fancy Sun Mar model and given the choice I think the bucket method suits me better.

I know I've talked about wwoof before and how great it is to meet young people and have some far help. With Steve gone, Chris working and the kids in school it's always a struggle to get things in the ground and they've been really helpful with planting. This rain is great at least for giving everything a good soak so we won't need to water for the next ten days or so at least. As soon as it stops we have apple trees to plant, berry bushes to go in and an orchard to rescue. We're going to take down the standing deadfall for firewood and get our piles stacked properly for drying. It should be fun and lots of work. 

WWOOF, as an organization and an idea isn't new. Although you may not have heard of them, there have been many schemes over the years to train up new generations of farmers, provide education and help young people find their own path in life. Here's an interesting video about one such scheme in England.

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About Me

Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada