Gon Out. Bisy. Back soon.

In Which Dawn is very Busy and Cannot Find Time to Write the Blog, so Decides to Let Faithful Followers Know that She Has Not Forgotten, but is Just Busy and Will Get Back to Writing the Blog Eventually.  

But rest assured, the layer hens are producing lots of eggs, have not bust out of their new fencing – yet, and the honeysuckle is reviving but at a pace I can cope with.  The new brushcutter is a wonder, and I have cut huge swaths in some brambly areas.  Today is the last burn day until October, but things are too wet to burn, so we are now relegated to making piles of cut brambles ready for that time, unless our friend Mike has time to do some chipping for us (he’s an arborist) before then. The Veg garden was tilled last week by Hay Guy, and I’m hoping to be ready to plant peas and potatoes tomorrow – a little late for both, but not by too much, I hope. Onions and tomatoes are in seed trays, basil too.  Speaking of Hay Guy, he cut some hay across the road last week as well – the earliest in my memory – I think in his too.

One teen is back from her Spain/Italy trip – loved it, despite the rain over there.  Barcelona and Pompeii were definitely highlights.  She is gearing up to stage manage the upcoming school musical, among other busyness, and is thoroughly enjoying her Chemistry class.  The other, finished university for the year, and soon to be no longer a teen, is heading to China with a friend in a month, so is also fairly busy pulling together last minute details.  Hubby’s business is booming, and he is looking at hiring yet another team member this year.

Pigs are supposed to arrive the end of May – maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in time for a post then, and broilers some time after that.  This is a year in which the focus is to maintain the status quo.  I have moved to a full time position in a larger branch of the library, just a short commute down the highway from here.  Not as close as the small local branch I’ve enjoyed so much this past year – but – full time.  I couldn’t pass it up.  Double the pay, full pension.  You know.

So. Working full time and farming full time is not as easy in my fifties as it might have been had I been twenty years or so younger.  I’m not totally sure how I’m going to manage everything when I already found myself fairly stretched last year, working part time. And it’s not like I farm at a scale even approaching what most would consider full time.  We’ll see.  I have the younger teen on hand to help out, unless she gets a better paying job elsewhere.  It seems obvious that I need to spend my “spare” time carefully – and screen time, even in the form of blogging, may not be my best choice.  I have more than once this past month caught myself passing up family time to sit in front of my computer screen, and that’s backwards.

So this is just to say, we’re still here, still doing our small farm thing.  Among other things.  I just won’t be posting about it very often, at least for now.

I hope you all have a great summer/winter (depending which hemisphere you’re reading in).  I do check all your blogs pretty regularly, but I may slow down on commenting (maybe that”ll be a good thing for some of you!).  I look forward to hearing about winter in Christchurch and Melbourne, summer in northern BC, Ontario, Washington, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, PEI, the UK and France.

P.S.  I tried to find a classic Pooh image of the “Gon Out. Bisy Back Soon” quote, but couldn’t find one I liked.  The Disney version gets the point across well enough. Here’s an image of the classic version to satisfy my Engilsh soul.

bisybackson1

Poisson d’avril

Or April Fool’s Day, depending on your background.

For years on this day, there was a lot of back slapping and hugging around my house as the kids endeavoured to tape paper fish to everyone’s backs surreptitiously.  It’s a French tradition, brought into our family through the girls’ Franch Immersion in school, where all their teachers were from France or Quebec.  For a charming example of some fish, check out Brat Like Me’s blogpost today, which is what reminded me of the tradition.

But my kids grew up, and the tricks got trickier.  The most outstanding one in everyone’s memory is the year my youngest used food colouring to change the colour of the milk – blue.  A 4L jug of milk, brand new – blue.  Do you know what colour macaroni cheese becomes with blue milk?  Or tea?  Or porridge?  It was the joke that lasted for days.

I keep thinking my kids are growing out of childish traditions, but apparently not.  This morning, while I was outside doing chores, the youngest, now 17, taped paper over the electronic “eye” on my computer mouse, and dyed the coffee cream pink, and then left for school.  I guess she was being easy on me – pink is not so bad in coffee, and I troubleshoot mice all the time at work, so it was a matter of a minute before I figured out that one, but…

Is it immature of me that I toilet papered the whole doorway to her room?

001

Blackberries Beware!

I got a new toy today.  There were a lot of jokes at the feed store about my new method for decapitating chickens, but in fact, this toy is a serious piece of equipment.  With this thing, I have a fighting chance of keeping the blackberries at bay.  Maybe even the hawthorns.

Meet my new Husqvarna 545 FX forestry saw.

002

Weighs about 18 lbs empty.  You should see the harness, it has it’s own instruction manual.  (well, kind of).  The harness will make this large cutter possible for me to use for longer periods.  It will handle blackberries, hawthorns, small trees, tall grass, and broom.  Not as entertaining as getting goats, which were highly recommended, but will do the job in my limited time off.

This is a thing of beauty.  I can’t wait to get going with it.

Living the Dream Girls

living the dream girls

Melanie, me, Khaiti and my eldest daughter

Today was International Women’s Day, so it seems highly appropriate that Farmer Khaiti of LTD Farm (Living the Dream) in Wisconsin and her sister Melanie, Wwoofer extraordinaire recently returned from South America, came by for a visit while they were on Vancouver Island for a family wedding.

farmer Khaiti

Khaiti picking kale

The sun shone, the air was warm, the coffee was great and the company better.  Khaiti and I met through blogging and commenting over the last couple of years, and when we finally met today in person, it was like continuing a conversation with friends we knew well but hadn’t seen for a bit.  We wandered around the farm in the sunshine, and when Khaiti saw the self seeded kale running amok in my veggie garden, her face lit up.  It wasn’t long before we all had dirt under our nails and on the soles of our shoes.  In the manner of farmers the world over, we traded what we could provide from our own bounty – they took home a couple of grocery bags stuffed with fresh picked kale and a dozen eggs, plus some lentils grown by my friend Bryce of Saanichton Farm.  All the way from Wisconsin, Khaiti had brought us a cornucopia of different varieties of the goat milk soap she makes so well, and a jar of home made herb infused salt (16 herbs) – I don’t know whether to use it as a rub for chicken first, or try it as topping for foccaccia.  Maybe we’ll do both.

soap and salt

We were a choir of farmy, foody voices singing from the same score.  Over and over again, our conversational ideas resonated and heads nodded or pitch changed in excited agreement or sympathetic indignation.  We have similar values regarding livestock, food, and culture, and it felt good to be with fellow travellers on the same journey.  I love what Melanie wrote in our guestbook, because I think it should be said to everyone who reads this blog, so many of whom are trying to make a difference in whatever way we can:

“Thanks for working for the world!  Rock ON!”

 

Grumpy about Geese

My fields are wet.  It’s winter, we are on heavy clay, so when we’ve had a lot of precipitation it takes a while for things to dry out.  Swales would probably help, but that’s a topic for another day.  When the fields are wet, the rule is to stay off them.  Except that I am force to go for a brisk walk down to the bottom almost daily to send off the wretched Canada Geese (and who decided these things are Canadian anyway?)

I’ve never been crazy about these birds since I worked on a naval base where there was a nesting goose right near the door of the building I worked in (low traffic zone) – and every time I had to enter or leave, the mate that was off the nest would attack.  Those birds are big, I’m telling you.  Fearless military type that I was, I made sure to carry a broom with me going through that door.

Back to my fields – one of my kids suggested that I should be happy to have them because of the poop.  And if that was all they were doing, that would be great.  But they are grazers, these geese, and they eat grass, and their favourite is the greenest tenderest grass.  Where I’ve had the broiler pens, or where I’ve spread composted bedding, they congregate in the “good” spots and their webbed feet and their sheer numbers do pug up the ground.  Their constant grazing of patches of grass in a season when nothing is growing is doing some real damage.

So I shoo them off most days.  It’s kind of a routine between us now. They see me coming through the gate and start honking. but not moving, waiting to see how far I’m going to come. I usually have to get within about 20 feet of the outliers before they’ll take off, and depending on the size of the group, the ones on the other side might decide to hold their position in case I stop there.  I’m onto that.  And I’m onto them flying over the hedge into my other field too.

Today was the first day I remembered to take a camera with me, and the group in the photos is small – about 50 birds.  Most days I’m sending off about 100-150 and one day about a month ago, I counted more than 200.  They don’t very far – Hay Guy’s field usually (sorry, bud).  They live here year round now, probably due to lack of hunting and predation, and the number of corn fields around here.  They are a nuisance in corn season too, and the air guns go off at any hour of the day or night.  Bryce of Saanichton Farm has a right old time with them in his wheat and barley.  Chasing them used to be easier when the dog was still with us, because it gave her great joy to go running at them, and she was far more effective than me with my pitchfork.  But younger daughter might just have hit the best solution yet.  If she gets sent down in my stead, she takes a big frisbee and wings it ahead of her into the group from a good 50 or more feet away.  Works a charm.

Honeysuckle

I’ve been working on that ruddy chicken fence some more today.  I’ve had to start on the section I’ve been avoiding all season.  The HONEYSUCKLE.  It’s probably about 25 or more years old.  I brought it home from a friend’s garden in Vancouver as a gift for my Dad, who used to get all nostalgic about English honeysuckle in gardens when he was a child.  The three or four cuttings I brought all thrived under his TLC and became rampant creatures that took over entire fences, and in the past couple of years, have begun demolishing the fences board by board.

047small

June 2012, see the chicken house back there?

 

The problem for me is that in the chicken run (Run #1 for anyone keeping track of where I’m at with all this fencing) the honeysuckle affords wonderful shade and shelter for the hens when they’re in that run.  From the house side of the fence, it’s just so darn pretty.  I really don’t want to take it down.  I want it to be there.  Plus, it’s under the walnut tree, and walnuts are well known for exuding juglone, which lots of plants don’t like and won’t grow near.  Honeysuckle apparently thrives on it.

046 small

June 2012, outside the chicken run

 

On the down side, I have to get in there and cut it back pretty hard every spring anyway because it has big ambitions to take over the walnut trees and sends up huge runners every year, that twine themselves around the branches of the tree. Also, the fence under the honeysuckle is falling apart.  And somewhere under there, there is a hole in the wire.  I know this, because the last flock of chickens used it as their entry to the great beyond for their free ranging forays, pretty much daily.  Also, I see the cat emerging from somewhere in there occasionally.  I hate to cut off her access to the rat population, but I do want to contain the chickens, so…the fence has to be re-done, and the honeysuckle has to be dealt with.

Run # 1 Honeysuckle 001

Inside the chicken run, just before I started cutting today

 

My plan is kind of fluid.  I’m hoping that my destruction is not complete enough to stop the honeysuckle from starting again, so to that end, I decided to just clip back one side at a time, so that I can see where the main trunks are coming out of the ground, and so I can get the wire off, replace the boards and hopefully leave a few stems of the honeysuckle to come back and take over again.  I don’t know if it will work.  My neighbour and I cut one back pretty ruthlessly about 10 years ago so he could put in some fence on his side, and despite his care and attention, that honeysuckle has never really been as strong again.  Well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Having finished clipping one side today, I have learned that the hole the chickens and cat were/are using is not under the honeysuckle.  Bother.  So why does it look like that’s where they’re coming through when I’m watching from the other side?  I guess I’ll find out eventually.

Run # 1 Honeysuckle 006

Where the chickens are not getting through, but a big part of why I need to redo this part of the fence.

 

Rainy Days and Mondays

Here’s what my driveway looked like this morning:

Rainy day chair project 003

Yup, not good fence building weather (happy dance!).  Options included taking down the Christmas tree (necessary but depressing), housecleaning (urgently necessary but boring), or starting one of the many rainy day projects on the back end of my long term list.

Rainy day chair project 001

The fabric store was having a big sale, almost as though they had been waiting for me to come in, so that I was able to get a material I wouldn’t normally have been willing to pay for.

Rainy day chair project 002

Then it was home to YouTube and a cup of coffee while I learned how to re-cover dining room chairs.

After that, it was time to actually knuckle down and do it.  You can see how direly we needed to make this project happen.

Rainy day chair project 004

001

…et voila!   If only I’d known that this project would be finished in a single afternoon, I might have done it a little sooner.

The lovely chairs make the falling apart curtains look a bit more obvious, but fortunately I’m pretty much guaranteed more rainy days before Spring comes.

Birthday celebration for hubby at dinner tonight – we’ll see if he notices the chairs.