Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another SoapBox Update

I can't believe that this is my first post in February. The reasons vary, I think the greatest being the sheer number of big things to talk about. As usual in this part of the world at this time of the year, however, few of these things are happening here. Yet I feel that this is very much as it should be.

One of the aspects of farming in this part of the world (with our current levels of technology) that I really appreciate, is the downtime that comes with winter. If one desires to retain some simplicity in this increasingly complicated world, it is necessary to accept and enjoy this downtime and to use it appropriately. In the past, I have used this time to educate myself in some new areas and to develop outlets like this blog. But this winter I feel I have slipped back into something of an escapist mode.

I see so much rapid change in the world, from the obvious social reform being demanded (and hopefully won) in North Africa and the Middle East, to the increasing social unrest due to exploding inequality in North America, to increasing tension between various nations due to increasing resource scarcities and/or religious ideologies, to climate craziness thanks to a La Nina cycle that might just be strengthened by our industrial activities, to ecological catastrophes that are most definitely the result of our industrial activities and addiction to fossil fuels. I would certainly like to be part of discussions about all of these issues but I often just don't know where to start.

As such, I thought I would stick with the primarily escapist theme and offer a bit of a brief SoapBox update, albeit a picture-less one this time around.

I've been doing a slow vermicompost harvest over the past few weeks and it looks like I'm going to go into spring planting with about 4 10-litre pails of good, moist worm castings. It is a little more moist that I would prefer, but I'm not sure how to do much better in the rubbermaid tub environment. I really hope I can figure out a way to take the next step up in scale. Lord only knows we have the shit to feed a good amount of manure worms. On a side note here, I am now a great fan of the molded packing filler made from shredded cardboard. It makes fantastic bedding, whereas the polystyrine and other oil derived packing fillers are just chemical waste as far as I am concerned. I just tore these molded filler pieces up like I do drink trays and it works like a charm. I hope people understand what I'm referring to here as I have had no luck finding a picture or some kind of reference online, to show what I mean.

While the future of our cattle herd is somewhat uncertain, its age has decreased significantly. A period of melting last week allowed us to take advantage of strong prices and sell 3 old cows. These animals had been on the farm for nearly 20 years so it was somewhat sad to see them go, and it is my sincere hope that they came to as humane an end as possible. One of them was a bit of a knot-head that liked to boss the others around, but the other two were quite gentle and all delivered many many excellent calves. We are now just a few weeks from a nervous period, as 4 heifers will be calving for the first time and I may be the only one around to monitor the activities. It'd be my first time being of prime responsibility at such a time.

Actually, it should be 5 heifers but one of the Blonde D'Aquitaine's we bought last year is having a difficult time conceiving. I think she'd be solidly on the selling list now but for the fact that the bull we have now is young and small and seems like he might still be a bit hit and miss in the breeding department. She seems a bit immature in that area still, being quite skittish when he tries to mount, plus she is quite tall and has what I think is an odd angle of "entry". Her sister, however, is heavy in calf and has filled out beautifully. If she calves well, in a year or two she is likely to be our largest and best looking cow. There will be pictures of her here before too long, likely after she calves.

Our feeder hogs have done nicely too, and are starting to be ready for butchering. Its kind of a bad time as we still have quite a bit of snow and March can be kind of stormy. Thankfully we are not selling at market so we don't have to worry about being docked if they are a but over weight. We are also trying a new butcher that is almost an hour away as we are quite sure the big local butcher did not give us our own bacon last year. The bacon we got was fatty and substandard and there's just no way it came from the fit young animals we delivered. But with the price of fuel spiking again, this could prove to be a costly experiment. Any butchers want to start a small shop in northwest Alberta?

It's getting to be rather late here so I think I will leave the update here. I will see about sharing some pictures soon, I promise.

So for now, peace and comfort to all.