568 Fernhill Rd.

Mayne Island BC V0N 2J2

250.539.3700

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Farm Life


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Haying time is here …

Sunday July 8, 2012 Erin

There is something sort of magical about haying time. On a farm, haying time is like no other. It’s the biggest gamble that farmers make every year. If we cut, will it rain? Do we have enough sun to get the bales in? To anyone else, it may not seem like that big a deal. But to a farmer … it’s the difference between being able to provide nutrition for all their animals for an entire year. It’s the difference of being able to sell the remainder of the hay or not.

Maybe the uniqueness of hay time has something to do with the anticipation of it. The weeks of watching the hay grow, waiting for that moment when the purple waves cover the fields and you just know that now is the time: before the hay goes to seed, before the stalks get too tough for even cows to enjoy; the constant weather checks; the daily phone calls with neighbours and family (Are you haying today? I checked the forecast and …). For a month and sometimes more, life revolves around hay and all that comes with it.

And then at last comes that break in the weather, the precious three or four day sunny streak and suddenly, the farm springs into motion. The tractors are checked to make sure all is still in working order, and the mower makes it’s way down to the fields. The phone calls are made and though mowing is still just a one-man job, suddenly the community-feel begins to manifest. We are haying. All of us. Together.

That first day of bailing, after the initial cutting and then day (or sometimes two) of drying, has a festival feel about it. After all this time of waiting, we are finally bringing in the hay. The neighbours, who have been keeping up to date constantly, show up, dressed in long sleeves and long shirts on the hottest days of summer to sweat under the afternoon sun. They bring pies, wine, beer, and big smiles. Most importantly, they bring willing hearts and bodies. They know, as well as we do, that without them, haying would be near impossible.

Truck load after truck load come in (stacked in just the right way, mind, so we don’t lose the load on the way up to the barn) and the bales in the barn grow higher. We sweat, our hands blister and hurt, the hay stings our skin and gets in our eyes … and still, it’s fabulous.

But the work on the field is not the only thing happening on the farm. For there is another aspect to haying – almost as important as the hay itself. The party afterward. And so, someone is assigned kitchen duty. The tables are lavished with dishes to fill the hungry helpers. The wine is opened to air, the hors d’oeuvres are put out. When the last load of hay is in, the cool pond is more inviting that any other place on the farm and everyone washes off the sweat, hay and dirt before dinner. Dinner is fun, joyful and delicious. The night ends as people drift home, well fed, exhausted and ready to rest up in preparation of another day of haying.

 

Husbandry and the Ethics of Eating Meat

Tuesday September 13, 2011 Don

Waking to fresh coffee, making the rounds and feeding all of our animals is a rewarding experience.

The laying hens are opened to the outside, their feed is replenished, their water is checked, and more hay is added to their bedding to keep them dry. We take their eggs in exchange for this care.

chicken

Moving  up the hill to the barn, the ten 175 lb berkshire  pigs are fed, their drinking water is checked,  their wallow is filled,and the electric fence is inspected. This keeps them in one area until they are moved to new ground. Speaking quietly and gently, I remind the clever and good looking hogs that the smell of hicory smoked bacon, sausages, and baked hams awaits for the Christmas season.

It is  late summer. The  cattle have moved onto greener pastures until the cold, wet weather arrives. They will then return to the barn and expect their morning and afternoon feeding ritual. The young heifers and steers are shipped to the abbatoir and the sides of beef are delivered to our butcher. There, they are aged, cut, wrapped, and frozen. They return in boxes to Mayne Island where the local beef can be found in our freezer section at Farm Gate Store. They are prepared  into dishes such as meat pies, stews, and sausages for our deli case. The new calves are born in the early winter and the cycle begins again.

The sheep hang around the barn pastures all year, never venturing too far. In cold weather they are fed twice a day with our hay and organic grain. The lambs were shipped to Saturna Island last month and Jacquie Campbell processed them in her government inspected abbatoir. They are now back and available cut and wrapped in our freezer section. Very soon our ‘rent a ram’ will visit the sheep and about five months later baby lambs will begin to arrive.

Finally, the ‘meat birds’  are moved in their 10  x 20 chicken tractors to fresh grass, their feed is replenished, their water is checked, and combs are inspected for healthy colour.  Their life is a short one in human terms…just 10 weeks. At 5 to 7 lbs they are ready for market. Good hearty soups, grilled breast of chicken, boneless legs stuffed with chanterelle mushroom,garlic, and tomato, and lemon and chive sausages are on the menu for the future.

ChickensThe Oxford dictionary definies husbandry as the care, cultivation, and breeding of crops and animals. Good husbandry benefits both the farmer and the animals.When farmers treat their livestock with care and respect, the benefits go both ways.

Shanti has taught me the importance of good husbandry.

As for the ethics of eating meat raised with care and compassion…
I have no problem.

What would Victor Wooten do?

Saturday September 3, 2011 Don

ChickensEvery morning for the last two weeks we have been finding dead chickens in their pen. One day it was 12, another it was 8, most days there were 2 0r 3. All had their heads chewed and the blood  sucked out of their bodies.

Contrary to some opinions minks are not cute and cuddly creatures. They are by far the worst predator we have encountered on the farm. Racoons, ravens, eagles, some dogs can be bad but they have nothing on minks.

We have been trying to trap this animal every night but nothing worked. Fish heads, cat food, chicken. Nothing would draw this clever little member of the weasel family into our ” have a heart” trap, which we placed outside the chicken pen.

Until last night.

In a moment of clarity I asked myself “What would Victor Wooten do?” Some of you may know that Victor is one of the finest bass players around today. What you may not know is that he has many other skills One of them is tracking animals.Two years ago I attended one of Victor’s bass and wilderness camps in Only, Tennessee. You can find out more about Victor’s camps at www.vixcamps.com.

I realized I needed to find this animal who had  killed 46 of our birds. I walked the river bed and found his tracks and his worn trail. At the head of this trail I placed the trap with chicken , his favourite food. In the morning our plump furry friend was indeed ….in the trap.

Thanks Victor.

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