28 August 2010

If *this* were my job…

… I tell ya, things would be different.

If my job were keeping the house and farm running, keeping up with everything would be so much easier. The fences could be mended as the problems are noticed, the heavy lifting could be done a little at a time, and the garden could be visited and weeded every day. Of course, the bills would rapidly overwhelm us, which is why keeping the house and farm running is *not* my job … but boy, it would be nice to be able to do the house and farm work every day, instead of all crammed into the weekends or evenings.

What amazes me is that I feel this way even though I have a kid and husband at home during the week who actually do take care of the majority of things! I must be getting old.

Today’s mission was to start on Chickenville. We’ve been lucky enough to free range our chickens for the past several years, and have had no noticeable losses (we lose a few, yes, but nothing substantial). This summer, though, we had about 30 chickens when everyone got let out of the winter coops … and now we have fifteen. There’s been a hawk circling the property and The Reluctant Farmer saw a coyote sneak in by the garden the other day when the dogs were all on the other side of the house … so those two critters might explain our dramatically reduced chicken count.

Thus, Chickenville is in progress: a pen over by the barnyard, within sight and smell of the dogs’ usual sleeping spots, and in the centre of the pastures, so that no matter where the sheep happen to be (which is where the dogs will be), the chickens aren’t far. We’ll still let them out to roam and scritch in the dirt, but we’ll be bringing them in at night for their own safety.

The Boy and I also realized today that we’ve not seen the littlest bottle lamb at all. She was weaned a few months ago, but would still come up to you if you were outside. The Boy and I saw her ‘adopted sister’ (the two usually hung out together) today and realized that the bottle baby was nowhere in sight. We can’t seem to find her – so perhaps whatever took the chickens took her too. She was tiny enough to sneak out of the fences if she wanted to, but she always went back in on her own. I suppose without a mama to keep an eye on her, she wandered off too far. <sigh> Farming has rough spots, that’s for sure.

The bright spot, though, is that the demand for local, grass-fed meat is huge! We could easily have double the flock we’ve got and still sell out every year. Unfortunately, as this is *not* my job, we can’t scale up … not yet, anyway. Maybe someday, though …

Maybe someday, when I finally grow up, I can be a farmer.

19 August 2010

Independence Days Update

Wow, not even sure when the last time I posted one of these was. I’ll just kinda go from ‘recent memory’:

Planted: I put in more beans, and found some potatoes that were in a bin with sawdust and sprouting so I put them in the ground and I see leaves coming up. Cool.

Harvested: Pulled up some carrots (oh, there’s nothing like carrots fresh from the garden!), some lettuce, radishes, and the first fresh green beans. I took carrots and beans to work, sliced them, microwaved them, and served them over rice (we actually have a rice maker in the office kitchen – I work at the coolest office). Oh, and some onions.

Also harvested some more herbs – calendula blossoms, plantain leaves, more yarrow, and some red clover (some of which I shared with a friend who is suffering terribly from The Change). The plaintain leaves are awesome for bug bites and burns.

Preserved: Mom brought me a new hot water bath canner (huge, and on sale for $17 in her small town store!) and several baskets of peaches, so I made peach/strawberry jam and peach syrup. Dehydrated the aforementioned herbs. The greens from the carrots are dried and crumbled into a big bucket for the chickens over the winter – no point composting them when we’ve got critters who would think they were a treat come the snow.

Waste Not: I suppose drying the carrot greens probably counts. I’ve also conditioned my coworkers to keep leftover food and such for the chickens, so we’ve had several ‘gifts of leftover rice and snacks’ for chicken food. The dogs have also been eating bones and scraps from the freezer. Ah, yes, The Boy took apart an old chicken coop in such a way as to salvage the metal roofing that was used (the wood bits were all sent to the dump for burning, but they were beyond recovery).

Want Not (Preparations): Not much happening that fits this precisely: The Reluctant Farmer did get the siding completed on the outside of the house (which will help with heat loss, aside from looking much nicer), we have the second woodstove here (but still not installed)… oh, we did chop and stack more firewood, that counts. I actually moved the existing piles to a new location, raised off the ground (for better drying) and closer to the house (better accessibility even in winter). The fourth pasture was also enclosed for sheep this spring, and I always include infrastructure work in this category, so that counts too. Oh, and the new sheep shelter has all the walls built, it just needs a roof.

Community Food Systems: Had a contact from a local farmer who has a ‘Garlic Festival’ at her place in a couple of weeks – haven’t actually responded, but I hope to attend. Have had more people looking for grass-fed lamb – we could have twice the flock we have now and still sell out every year, it’s amazing.

Eat the Food: Carrots and lettuce, beans and carrots. Not a lot else just yet. Oh, I have used sleep tincture made from the wild lettuce and catnip I’ve grown, that counts.

06 August 2010

The shoulder is not safe: get right off the road!

Today’s lesson: if you stop to help at an accident, PULL RIGHT OFF INTO THE DITCH IF YOU CAN!

On the highway today, I noticed a dust devil in the centre median … which seemed odd as there was no car around. I looked into the median … nothing. Looked in the rear view mirror at the ditch … ah, there, way in the trees, down the ravine, was a car, stuck. Clearly they’d just gone off the road.

We had time, we had a cell phone, we knew what to do, so we stopped.

The people were okay – banged up and shocky, and their car was embedded in trees and swampy muck, but they were okay. We called 911, got them checked over, got the RCMP on their way, and The Boy (who was in better shoes than I was) cleared a path from their vehicle up to the side of the road.

As we were waiting for the RCMP to arrive, we heard a bang.

Even with our flashers on and being well off the road, our car got nailed. A big semi (we think it was a flat bed with a second flatbed on top) was, presumably, checking out the original accident, looked up and saw he was almost in top of our little car, swerved to miss it, didn’t miss it, swerved back into his lane … and then didn’t stop, either. We looked up to see him weaving a bit and were all expecting to see him pull over … his brake lights were on, then off, and … and he kept going! Wow. Bad choice on his part. I mean, maybe he didn’t hear the bang (hauling a big trailer is noisy business), but, he should’ve checked to be sure. A commercial vehicle stopped later and radioed other trucks in the area to be on the lookout for sideswipe damage, so maybe the driver will stop later on and turn himself (herself?) in.

The whole passenger side of the car (given the reverse orientation of our Japanese vehicles, the passenger side was next to the road) is scraped, the rear corner is dented in, the front passenger tire is completely flattened and whacked out of position, the mirror is gone … it’s rather nasty. Had The Boy been in the car he probably would’ve been hurt (but he was out with me, helping the original folks).

We did have an EMT stop by and check out the accident victims (nice lady in an industrial EMT vehicle - good of her to stop on her way to or from her other job) and the RCMP officer who came by was very helpful as well.

So, no damage except to vehicles, thankfully – but the lesson is clear: park *ahead* of the original accident (in case someone hits you and does a bump and raise) and even if you think you’re far enough off the road … you probably aren’t. Get RIGHT off if you can: onto the grass, the dirt, whatever. Be way out of the way.

A few minutes or a few feet different, and our family could be in a waiting room at the hospital, wondering.

Be careful – slow down and go around accident scenes!