Hot Air, Cool Spring
Well it’s over, and after all that hot air spreading out over the country from Ottawa we are still not much warmer than in mid March. Big shake-ups all around, and according to an opinion column in one of our illustrious national Daily’s we now have a “friendly dictatorship”. I am not sure whom he is friendly to though, as $35 billion on new jet fighter bombers, updating weaponry for the army and a new defense program for our Arctic real estate hardly sounds neighborly. Now if only they would spend that money on defense from the Arctic, some large portable heaters to at least get our early May temperatures above single digits over night would be a start. Then we farmers could get seeding and transplanting done on time, and then we could at least feed the troops some homegrown food!
Talking of growing food this is one of the slowest springs I have witnessed in many years. Back in the day in Manitoba on our old ranch spring was sometimes earlier than this, one year in particular I started grazing on 25th April, mind you, that was in the dry years before they had to teach the cows how to swim. I realize we should all count our blessings with the long list of natural disasters around the world, and be glad of the fact our biggest hard ship will be waiting and extra week or ten days for fresh sweet corn.
Here at the Homestead I have stuck my neck out and planted anyway. I did a truly green act on Earth Day and covered our Market Garden with well composted manure to ensure sweet carrots and corn. I worked it in over the next few days and then got out the seed packets. So far I have potatoes, carrots, beets, fennel, cilantro, parsley and wheat in the soil. Yes you read right, wheat. An old prairie boy like me has to grow some grain, else I’d get miserable, though I hear some do when they do grow it anyway, but they just love the frustration. Weather, future’s prices, grain contracts, CN strikes and dockyard shut downs, broken machinery etc. I was always jealous, seems they had so much more to gripe about at the coffee shop than us cattle ranchers. I used to grow feed grain by the quarter section so three seed packets of wheat seemed a little silly. This wheat though is very special, it is Red Fife an heirloom variety that was commonly grown from 1890 onwards and was latter used as a parent for the newer variety Marquise. This hard red spring wheat is great for bread making and I am looking forward to getting out my old mill this fall and trying some home grown, home baked bread. I will also save some seed and increase my amount grown for 2012. We have done this with corn and had some excellent corn bread recently so maybe I will plough up more of my precious pasture to become a grain farmer!
Our livestock have had a good time this year, lots of lambs and goat kids though with the slow growing grass we do not see turning them onto pasture till 8th or 12th May. The grass needs to be 6-10 inches high before grazing so it can recover for future grazing. We also have chicks for pasture poultry and a couple of piglets to help eat the weeds and scraps from the garden. If that’s not enough my son and I have been franticly building Chicken Tractors (movable pens) as we have more chickens arriving any day. They are layers and will supply our customers with pasture grown, free-range eggs which are high in omega 3s. I was conducting a tour of our farmyard the other day and a young Mom asked me where my “help” was, I pointed to the cat. She was shocked that I did it all by my self. She offered me lots of praise but beat a hasty retreat when I offered her a fork and pointed to a large pile of manure that was ready for turning.
The old Mount Ida hall is coming along nicely, the painters are busy and our commercial kitchen will be arriving in a few days. Now the Hall is moved and settling in at its new spot folks are telling us stories about the building and some of their experiences in it. One of the original doors has one white panel in it because after a break-in our neighbor Doug had no red paint. He showed me the repair he had done, nothing was missing, and so he patched it up with a piece of white plywood. When we repaint it we will make sure the white panel and the story stays. Its now called Doug’s door! If you have any tales to tell about the Mount Ida hall we would love to hear them and then we could keep up the history as well as the building. We are planning on a big Grand opening day some time in June, watch this column and adverts for details. This Saturday 7th May is another first, at Hannahs there will be a Saturday Farmers Market from 9.00 till 12 noon. All the vendors are from Salmon Arm City limits and all are farmers, so the produce will be truly local with a very light carbon footprint, hope to see you there.
Rob farms at Harmonious Homestead and ewe in the city.