Thursday, October 14, 2010


Hello to you all. I am now back on line with a computer that works. I am now an I Mac user and wished I had one years ago. They say they are hard to use, and it depends on how you problem solve and think. Well it allows you to find out and do stuff visually not with masses of bloody orders from popup boxes. More a ranchers tool. It also has a screen big enough to use as a life raft so at least I can now read whats on the screen!
I have kept up writing in our local newspaper plus several farm publications here in Canada and the USA. But with the farm and summer the blog was left out in the cold. Below are a couple of samples of recent articles.
Interviewing Sheep

There is a nip in the air and the leaves are slowly going yellow as I write. We had our first frost here on the farm around the 22nd September; just enough to blacken the leaves of tomatoes, pumpkin and peppers, but not enough to stop the zucchini yet, darn it. With all the rain a week or two back there was no need to irrigate so I packed up all the pipes and hired an air compressor for the morning to blow out the lines in case we have a real winter which could crack water filled pipes. It’s the time of year where winter is still a way off but we know if we don’t start getting ready it will sweep down over the hill and catch us with our pants down. Not only is this a nasty sight but it does not slow the advance of winter in any way.
With the above in mind we have been slowly and reluctantly hunkering down for old man winter. (Talking of which why is spring and summer viewed in female terms along with Mother Nature but we guys get the blame for the cold and miserable weather.) Picking fruit and vegetables, putting things by in the form of freezing, drying and canning or storing in cool dark places is the order of the day right now. Typically, we have not had a frost since our first one two weeks ago, it was just a warm up to get us in gear, and Jack Frost is just sitting back chuckling at our antics.
On the animal side of the farm we brought the sheep home from the other side of the river and weaned them. This involves separating the lambs from their Mums as they are now teenagers and can look after themselves. Most two legged ones that I know would welcome the chance to separate from Mums watchful eye, but not these four legged woolly ones. We had them in the corrals and were serenaded by a sheep symphony twenty four hours a day for three days. Bleating and bawling constantly even though they could see each other and were all well fed. Thankfully it is now quiet; they have either got used to it or lost their voices! They now call to me as I am the new Mum, arriving twice a day with green hay and barley with their mothers a distant memory.
The ewes (mothers) are happy in the next pen free of their children, well fed and starting a new year in an old job after passing the interview. Interview? You ask. That’s right when we separate the flock they all come by the shepherds all knowing and all seeing eye. The ewes are checked and interviewed for the next years job. First of all, general appearance; fit not fat, and defiantely not too skinny. Twiggy’s rarely conceive let alone produce the twins we need. Next teeth, a full set are preferred, though a few short is ok so long as a svelte body condition shows adequate nutrition. Feet must be sound with no signs of lameness or stiffness. Lastly, the udder (mammary gland for those who remember biology, or boobs for those who slept through the class), there must be a minimum of two teats, no hard lumps, or cuts and scars as these can harbour mastitis and infections when feeding lambs. If she gets this far a quick check on the records to see she is giving us twins every year and if so she is hired on for another year. The only exception to this would be if she was wild and cranky, upsetting me when being handled and the rest of the flock around her due to her back to the wild behaviour. These particular cases make excellent sausage for the shepherd’s breakfast. ‘Revenge is best served cold’ as they say, but I prefer mine fried!
With the interviews over the girls that are hired are treated to a holiday until November when a tall woolly handsome stranger comes a courting and the whole cycle of life starts again.
Upon reading the article so far I wish to point out that the farms interview policy for hiring two legged staff is significantly different than that of four legged. I trust this will clear up any miss understandings.
On the world scene I see La Via Campesina (the Peasants way or road, the international organisation for peasants and small farmers, which our Farmers Union in Canada is a member) is declaring 16th October “International day of Action against Agribusiness and Monsanto”. They tell us that since 1900 we have lost 90% of the genetic diversity of our agricultural crops, which means loss of disease resistance and drought resistance in many cases. Monsanto now owns 25% of the worlds patented seed market and with the top ten seed companies controlling 70% off the worlds seed, Monsanto is eagerly buying them up to have full market control. Monsanto now also has the Bill Gates Foundation on side to help push the GMO seed onto African nations who have so far resisted it as a form of aid. I think this sound’s like the Haitian story I told you about earlier in the year, “we are from Monsanto and we’re here to help”, yeah right. To read more on this go to . That’s it for this month; I’m off out side to prepare for those icy blasts, and build the wood pile so I can enjoy the cold weather whilst staying warm inside.
Rob Fensom farms in the city at Harmonious Homestead and Ewe and can be reached at
Choice, waste, and customer service.

With all the new shopping centres springing up in town we shall certainly not be short on choices. In fact one wonders if with so many places to shop we just might be short of shoppers! When one considers 50% of us are male and if like me shopping is strictly a walk in, buy it, and go home again affair, with window shopping considered the occupation of teenage girls and folks with too much time on their hands, I truly wonder if they will all survive when we get back to normal population levels in November. As that’s when we start recognising people on the street and for the next six months needs rather than wants affect the shopping priorities of most folks, with the exception of Christmas.
Along with choices there is always waste. You can only sell what you have in stock, so shelves are stocked with everything the heart desires. The most obvious place to see this is the produce and meat section of any large grocery store. Piles of produce, enticing the customer, all fresh and prime. I do not know the percentages but one only has to go behind the store to see the large volume of over ripe produce, or just unsold, along with meats and baked goods gone past their due dates. A good store manager lives and dies by the management and control of those waste numbers. Of course its not all dumped, some ends up in soup kitchens and the like, and I know more than a few pigs in their time have enjoyed baked goods for breakfast.
It seems choice and wastes are linked, we can not have one with out the other. The key is to use the wastes in other ways so they are not waste. The other place in town where I ran into this was at the Farmers Market. It seems the market managers feel there should be no more choices, (read produce vendors) until the present produce vendors sell out. This would mean no more produce grown by different vendors who grow different varieties and hit the market at different times giving you the consumer more choice. The existing produce vendors must sell out and go home empty before any new ones are allowed entry into the market. ! The only produce I have seen sell out in a store is in Soviet Russia where a lack of produce was the issue not the abundance we have in this valley. This means that you the customer would have to buy things you did not want to ensure vendors sell out so that other vendors are allowed entry and only then can you have more choices. The only produce vendor you ever see sell out is “The Peach Lady” but hey, that is the crack cocaine of the produce world. The trouble is in a free market capitalist society where choice and sales are every thing, the market management are denying choice to the customers and sales to the vendors. In the long run this stagnates the market and does a disservice to the community it is supposed to be serving. It appears a few want market control much like Monsanto and Cargill before they are willing to share, if at all. Perhaps they have not figured out what to do with the waste and end up just dumping it. As for us, any thing that comes home from the market it is either preserved and stored for our own winter consumption or fed to our pigs who become the middle men in the process. I always preferred bacon over veggies!
Rob Fensom farms in the city at Harmonious Homestead and ewe