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 www.viacampesina.org . 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