Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Wish It Would Rain Down...Somewhere Else

I don`t mean to be unappreciative of rain, so many are going without and we have gone without here even recently.  As a matter of fact, after a wet spring and then a heat wave we were needing a bit of shower activity.  But not the couple of more inches we got yesterday and today.  It is haying time in this area and we could really use a week and a half or two weeks of steady warm with maybe some breezes.

Well, one can hope, right?

As always, it could be worse.  We could have the flooding and landslides that British Columbia, Russia and parts of Asia have been having, or the record drought that I don`t have to tell folks in the US about.

Other than we farming types, all this rain is just what Alberta has been needing.  The water table is replenishing and our marsh lake has never been higher or seemed healthier (although I still know there`s a lot of garbage out there).  The pasture and undergrowth around the forested parts of our summer pasture half section have never been more lush.  We could be pasturing 200 cattle there, easily, for a couple of months anyway.  The less than 15 head there now should fare quite well!

By the way, anyone reading this who might be interested in Grande Prairie grass fed beef, we have 4 steers fattening there now.  They should be available late this fall and into winter.  I`m hoping to get them sold directly so we can keep this excellent beef out of the mainstream feedlot system.

Now that the shameless self advertisement is done, for the moment, I have been meaning to share some garden pictures for awhile.  I took some back in early June but these are from just two days ago.  Luckily I got them taken as its a muddy mess now.

Angie, this is the tomato patch.  In the background are some chickens that think they`re going to get some greens thrown to them.  Turns out they did when I discovered some kind of maggot eating one small patch of turnip roots.

One section of two kinds of beans (the far 3 rows are Pinto, the rest some kind of yellow wax bean that I don`t remember just now).  There are a LOT of beans this year.  I planted about 5 varieties in order to try some changes from our typical green and yellow beans.

A view of the southwest patch.  Some great beets and onions here, but also the turnips that were being eaten.  With all this new rain...I might lose a bunch of this to rot.  Think Ill start processing the beets tomorrow.

Onions in that same area.  They got flattened by a storm a few days ago.  Real strong winds had the tomato patch laying over the same way.  I love how they can go all crazy when going to seed, like the one in the center right of the picture.

North end of the garden.  Some weeds at the bottom, then some lettuces, potatoes, beans, chard, corn, and a thick patch of various pumpkins, squash and cucumbers.  

You can see some of the beans better here, and a small row of kohlrabi.

 More beans and some wimpy corn.  Won`t be much of a corn year again, methinks.  There is another struggling patch that is starting to get its tops, but most isn`t much taller than a foot or two.

These Tonda Padana pumpkins seem incredibly  prolific.  Almost like zucchini.  Some fruit is rotting but I bet there are 15 that are already a decent size like this, and many smaller ones.  I sure hope they taste good.  Gotta find some feeder piglets in case they don`t!

Closer view of the squash and pumpkin patch.  One can no longer tell easily where one variety stops and one begins.  Don`t think I will be saving any seed this year.

This is the plantain that was pointed out to me.  It is the only thing that flourishes in a low, wet spot so I`m going to harvest seed from it this year and if it looks like I can use a lot or sell some, then I`ll plant a bunch in that spot next year.  I now know it grows well in the wild here (when wet anyway) but it looks like I can grow some pretty impressive plants right in our garden, and fill a difficult area at the same time.

So that`s all for now I guess.  I hear it raining again outside...

Peace and comfort.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Goings On

Goodness this new blogger layout takes some getting used to!

Happy Birthday, Canada!  And to our American brothers and sisters, early Happy Independence Day wishes.

It's been a fairly busy month and a half since my last post.  I've been trying to find buyers for the small amount of beef and pork we have for sale.  You'd think this would be a very easy task in a fairly rich city like this but that is not always so.  I have been advertising primarily via Kijiji.ca and have had many responses asking for pricing, but I do not hear back from many people.  This is especially interesting as our prices are currently very low, lower even than most grocery stores.  I worry what raising our prices to actually profitable levels would do.

But at the same time, we have made some new customers and there ARE people who will pay good, conscientious farmers a fair price for well grown food.  Are there enough to support even one such farm?  I hope so.

One of our new customers are newcomers to the area, working here to try to raise some money towards building their own homestead one day.  Honorable intentions to say the least!  I have been really enjoying getting to know this young family a bit, and the female half of the couple is also an herbalist type who pointed out that we have a good amount of plantain growing in our lawn, garden and various other places around the farm.  It looks like plantain  really likes heavy, water logged soil.  Turns out that last two very rainy springs have left a spot in the garden where few things like to grow, other than weeds.  I have been wondering whether there is anything productive that I could plant there and now it looks like I could possibly be able to grow quite a nice plantain crop in this area.  For any readers who might not know, plantain is a very important  herb, known to some American Indians as "life medicine".  So how about that?  Kind of powerful to learn that life medicine grows wild in abundance on our little lake edge.

We have a new bull on the farm as of today as well.  The first Hereford bull on the farm in quite some time.  We have had Red Angus bulls the last several years and thought it was time to bring some Hereford blood back into the herd.  They aren't the neatest looking breed of cattle-beast but they tend to be very quiet, good milkers and have more recognizable markings which is nice in a hands-on herd like ours.  I am also interested to see how the coloring of calves from him with the Blonde sisters will turn out.  They may be pale yellow with a white face.  Kind of rare coloring if it manifests.  Now to most folk it is only the meat that matters, but we handle these cattle pretty much every day of the year so such differences are interesting to us.

I have also started a new blog that I wish to share with everyone, and that I hope everyone will share with the world.  Forever Ferguson Lake is about the lake our farm sits beside, the lake I have mentioned many times here, the lake that has been so much a part of who I am.  The lake to which I may not have such immediate and constant access for many more years.  The lake I know is such an important, but unknown, aspect of the local watershed and ecology.  The lake I want to see remain the amazing ecosystem that has regrown over the last two very wet years, despite the large amounts of garbage which have blown in from the also lakeside County Landfill site.  I`m hoping this blog will draw local and outside attention, putting some positive pressure on County and Provincial government to protect what I can`t help but feel as MY lake...but also OUR lake.  I will be trying to post to this new blog at least once a week.

Now this new blog does not mean the end of Soapboxtech.  I may not post much more often than I have been lately, but I will keep posting here.  I know there will be rants every so often, even though I`ve had difficulty writing them down over the last few months.  Just too many things to rant at sometimes I guess.  But is it likely to get better anytime soon?  I doubt I need to answer that.

But oh well.

Peace and comfort, brothers and sisters.  Be good to each other.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another Overdue Update

Boy, I've really been letting time get away from me here.  Two months with no post is much too much of a habit for me to be in. 

Its become a lovely spring, here in this part of Canada.  After a cool and very blowy start to spring, the last two weeks have been just marvelous.  A few warm, sunny days followed by 3 days of rain that totaled almost 2 inches of rain that was just the right amount at just about the right time.  Then back to sun and warmth so the grass has been jumping out of the ground.   The cows are happy to be out roaming the pastures and the pigs are being backed off grain and finished on more and more grass.  It would sure be nice to be able to turn them into pasture but as we are short on capital but fairly flush with labor, we bring the pasture to the pigs.

The lake is teeming with life, our part of the shore is literally crawling with Canada Goose goslings and soon the ducklings will appear.  I have seen at least two types of ducks that are new to the lake this year so hopefully they will nest successfully and the offspring return to breed in subsequent years.  Once again this spring, it batters me that this fantastic wetland is not protected.  As I mentioned, it has been a very windy spring and despite a much welcomed high fence that now covers half of the east edge of the landfill site to catch garbage...an absolutely horrible amount has blown out of the landfill and into the lake (and onto fence lines and probably 30 acres of hay field).  As always, it shatters me to see this happening and realize how few people really care.

But back to happier notes, rows of green are beginning to appear in the garden.  Onion sets, spinach and peas are particularly noticeable.  Thankfully not much was ruined by the drunken idiot that ended up ripping through our garden last Saturday night after crashing off the road at a sharp but well marked corner.  I really have to take some pictures of the hole those crazy bastards drove through in order to get into the garden.  It is a bit of a miracle that they weren't very badly hurt.  Also thankfully, I had not yet set out the transplants meant for that section of garden.   They even drove past the garden rake and hoe without smashing them.

The greenhouse has been crammed full of various sets that are now starting to get transplanted into the garden.  The 60-some tomato plants now set out in the garden are the most even started right on this farm before.  I also sold some Christmas Grape and Tiny Tim tomato starts today, and a few other things, which pays for somewhere around at least 1/4 of what has been or will be seeded in the garden this year.

Its getting pretty late so I think that will be all for now.  Hopefully I will get my ass back here soon for more updates and commentary on significant happenings in Canada and abroad.  Its definitely not been a slow year so far!

Peace and comfort, brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Righter Still, Alberta?

Well its election time again, here in Alberta. And for the first time in 40 years, it looks like the Progressive Conservative party has real competition. Only its from a new and even more conservative party, the Wild Rose Alliance. I'm not exactly sure who this is an alliance between, but at this stage it looks like they could well unseat this province's long sitting governing party.

I have to admit that it concerns me to see provincial politics seeming to shift even further to the right here in Alberta. Yet I must also be honest and admit that I've not spent enough time reading the Wild Rose position documents. I really must do more of that but I know that I DO find myself appreciating what I understand of their stance on property rights, in the face of a government that has been establishing imminent domain rules which include no compensation whatsoever. Yet it seems that this alliance has a comfy relationship with the oil patch that suggests this stance on property rights might be little more than hot air.

The latest campaign promise from the Alliance is resurrecting an old PC trick from the Ralph Klein government. Dividends cheques ($300 per year starting in 2015) we're supposed to be receiving from the province's oil industry are likely to solidify a large amount of votes for the Alliance. This seems painfully short sighted and small minded to me, but at the same time it is true that the government wastes a great deal of our money. Still, it seems sad that a vote can be bought for any amount, never say a possible $300 3 years into an increasingly uncertain future.

Worst of all, I have a nagging feeling that this party is going to introduce the backdrop for a real secessionist movement here in Alberta. Canada is facing some real troubles and definite imbalances between the east and west, but I cannot help but dislike secessionist talk...inevitable as it may be.

It should be an interesting month.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Late February Update

I guess it's far past time that I shared an update from my part of the north.

I have been away from home for the better part of a month as my brother and his family have now returned to Calgary. Their house, which was rented out while he was overseas, was in need of some renovations so I have been down helping to put in new flooring, painting most of the rooms, and installing baseboards. I've also been helping a bit with unpacking and setting things up, lifting the heavy things, etc. It's looking like I should be headed home in about a week. It will be nice to get home but also a bit difficult as I've come to settle in here a certain amount.

As for back at home, it has remained a fairly mild, though windy, winter. This has allowed mom and dad to not have to do TOO much work by themselves, as there has not been a lot of snow. Depending on how March goes, this may make for a difficult spring since we rely so much on snow melt to get crops and garden going. People joke about farmers complaining about the weather but the reality is that bad weather can be absolutely devastating to all farmers, but even more to the small farmer.

We've had four calves so far, three being heifers that may be kept in order to further expand the herd. There should be four more calves making their appearances starting in early march so we are hoping for similar good fortune with their births. We traded some excess hay and cash to a neighbor in exchange for the heifer that was born to their milk cow a year and a half ago. She has been bred but her calf is not due for several months. She is a flighty, skittish creature so I am hoping that she calms with age and giving birth as did the two new heifers we bought last spring. If not, milking her may prove to be a big chore if she does retain and manifest the milking genes from her mother.

I also bought five weaner gilts late last fall, but lost two of them to an excessive infestation of Round worms. I am carrying some guilt (no pun intended) over this loss as I was stubbornly trying to treat this infestation with garlic instead of an injection of de-wormer. I should have applied the de-wormer much earlier than I did, as it was clear that two of the gilts were in rough shape. It is easy to say live and learn, but not so much when lives have been lost. As my sister wisely pointed out, however, I did not pay for the two lost weaners and they were going to be killed for meat next summer anyway. Doesn't remove all of the guilt but it does make it lighter.

As for the farm itself, I reported awhile back that it was looking like the County would be purchasing the portion of our remaining land that sits on the lake edge. We have finally been informed that the price suggested by an independent consultant is too high for their liking, so it has been decided that we will investigate putting the land up for sale openly. This leaves us in a bit of a bind financially but at least we are being "granted" the sub-division that was applied for two years ago. This will allow us to try to sell the other parcel of land for higher value as industrial land. Not exactly a comfortable option but considering the expanded landfill to our west and the huge asphalt plant to our north east, it's probably the best option remaining to us. It's hard to market naturally produced food when sited next to such nasty developments, after all.

I think I will leave the update there for now, and go back to awaiting the garage door repair people and delivery of a dumpster so all the old carpet, underlay and other renovation trash can finally be removed from the garage. More words to come though, as the global economy struggles along, war remains a looming likelihood, resource constrictions continue to mount, and the climate upheaval continues to increase.

So with that I will wish all peace and comfort once again, in this crazy wonderful world.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day Late and A Dollar Short

So here I am, a day late for Robbie Burns Day, and with kind of a crappily lit picture. But at least it is a picture I took, in downtown Aberdeen, of the late Scottish poet hero.

It was kind of hard to take the picture too, being as it was hidden behind (yet towering over) some tents at the International Market that was going on that weekend. These markets are foods and craft type items from various counties. It was fairly impressive actually, especially in terms of food. One vendor had a whole young pig roasting on a spit right there at the side of his booth. There was no Canadian vendor, sadly. Maybe I should go back and set up a bacon and hockey sticks booth.

Anyway, Happy belated Robbie Burns day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm Blushing Here!

I am honored to have the chance to thank LindaM at hello its me for bestowing this blog with its 2nd award.

I don't feel terribly worthy of this award lately, but I am awful thankful that she thought to pass it my way. It is a lovely impetus to be more active in my writing again.

So, I am to pass this award on to 3 other bloggers and I will choose 3 that I think suit the award title in their content. In no particular order:

1) MoonRaven's Social Alchemy blog touches on a wide variety of topics that pertain to all aspects of health, community, spirituality, social justice and living better in an increasingly difficult world. I immediately thought to pass this award MoonRaven's way, before I even remembered that he awarded my own blog its last award.

2) The Well Run Dry is a peak oil blog that covers the vast range of topics that peak oil is already affecting and will increase to affect. The author is very involved in his local community, working with others to try to build knowledge and an adaptive group of neighbors who can work together to survive the coming difficulties.

3) Kevin Kossowan is an Edmonton blogger that promotes food awareness and local food producers, in a very big way. His blog is visually impressive and chalk full of inspiring food prep ideas, as well as much support for local healthy food producers. A real local inspiration for the Great White North.

Now, the harder part of this award is that I am supposed to offer 7 pieces of obscure information about myself...a task I am finding difficult. But here goes:

1) I love Theatre but I kind of hate musicals.
2) I'm a Calgary Flames fan living in Oil country.
3) I couldn't identify a Led Zeppelin song until I was in my mid 20s.
4) I fucking hate being a shorter than average male.
5) I am concerned that #4 might be a bigger deal subconsciously than consciously.
6) I still haven't seen Avatar.
7) Patience and persistence are probably my biggest flaws, as in not enough of either.

Thanks again Linda.

Peace and comfort to all.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

An End is Nigh

This might be the best forecast for 2012, and beyond, that I have seen to date. Happy and shiny it is not, but rational and honest it very much seems to be.

At the very least, it certainly sums up the world I see as I look around, far more comprehensively than I could do. I especially enjoy Pollock's admiration for the theories and writings of Buckminster Fuller. It is a fresh outlook in a world of Keynesian or Austrian economics.