The best part of living in the country is that your neighbour like to drop in.
So yesterday was a bit of a write off. It rained all day, so I didn’t really do much that was worth photographing. I did end up helping a neighbour farmer a bit. He is moving farms so I was helping him empty out the last bits from his barn onto a trailer.
The good news though is that April showers bring May flowers…
Now, for today… as you may remember, a couple of days ago, I left a garden plot looking like this…
This is our cucumber bed and was quite boring. So today, I continued…
This is a technique that Eliot Coleman mentions in his book “Four Season Harvest.” He’s never actually tried it himself but rather heard about the idea from a French market gardener. First, you dig a trench about a foot deep and a strawbale width wide. We have two trenches forming a “V” since that’s the shape of the bed.
Then you place straw bales in the trench, sprinkle blood meal on it and cover it with guano. We didn’t have ready access to guano, so I opted for some chicken bedding instead. The blood meal adds a good supply of nitrogen and iron, while the bedding is a good mix of nitrogen and carbon. The hope is that this will begin composting rapidly. This composting should produce heat, allowing us to get our cucumbers started quickly. Of course, this is all an experiment. Perhaps the leftover seeds in the chicken bedding will sprout leaving me with way too much hoeing. Perhaps the nitrogen will burn the plants killing them quickly. We shall see.
Just before lunchtime, I finished my work on this bed. I was supposed to water it, but looking at the sky, figured I’d let Mother Nature do that work for me. She didn’t disappoint and provided a very good soaking. Later, we will move the soil back onto the bed and plant the cucumbers.
Of course, being on a farm offers frequent digressions…
A friend coming to cut down a tree that’s shading the farm’s solar panels.
The obligatory game of fetch.
Chickens showing me their newest magic trick…
In the afternoon, I spent a lot of time repairing a chimney pipe to a cabin on the property. Some guests are using it this weekend and we wanted to be able to warm it up. As I was taking the old pipe down however, a robin’s nest fell out. Five eggs tumbled out, with one cracking on the ground. As you may recall from a previous post, I dislike ruining nests very much. But it was too late. The nest was heavily disrupted and the eggs would never hatch.
This is the size of the eggs. The white egg is a regular chicken egg.
I do have a plan for these eggs but I’m far too tired to go into it tonight. Tune in tomorrow!
Today I stayed here at Russet House and began to work on our cucumber garden. We’re trying something new with cucumbers this year…
First of all, clean the weeds out of the bed. Actually, in retrospect, this isn’t absolutely crucial for this technique. I just detest a weedy looking garden and am a bit of a perfectionist.
And that’s the only picture for today. Apparently, nature decided that today was going to be a rain day. So after working until I was getting too wet, I called it a day. I got quite a bit done besides what you saw… I just didn’t finish the next step and didn’t want to take a picture of a partially completed step. Again, perfectionist.
I also had a meeting with the Fleming Student Association about a possible partnership. I didn’t snap a picture because office meeetings are terribly uninteresting to see…
Hopefully I will complete the cucumber bed tomorrow.
My internship began today. I helped some sheep farmers near Minden with sheep shearing. I didn’t actually shear the sheep, we had professionals do it. I was a sheep mover. Some pictures…
The fleece goes into this bag. Farmers make about $0.10/pound of wool. An average sheep has 6 lbs of wool. It costs between $5 and $8 to shear a sheep.
Nobody is in the wool game in Canada.
The ladies all cooped up and waiting for their haircuts. Normally these sheep aren’t crowded like this. It’s just easier to catch them for shearing. In the background you’ll see a ewe and a lamb. The lamb was born this morning.
These are the razors the shearers use. They’re electric and are attached to motors that hand overhead. The blades are in the leather case. The shearing happens on plywood to keep the fleece clean(er).
Besides getting sheared, the farmer also uses this opportunity to give the sheep dewormer. This tool squirts it into their mouths.
The first two shorn ewes. Notice their udders? Every ewe in here will be giving birth in the next few days.
The expert shearers plying their trade. They’re a mother and son team from Peterborough. Jacob has trained and worked in both Scotland and Australia.
Here, Geraldine is trimming the sheep’s hooves. In total, they can shear, deworm and trim the hooves in under five minutes. I can barely brush my teeth in that amount of time.
Baa baa black sheep have you any wool?
Yes sir yes sir four bags full.
Each bag contains approximately 20 fleeces, weighing about 120lbs each. You would make about $12 per bag though it would cost you between $100 and $160 to get a shearer to fill it.
Why do farmers spend this much money to get them shorn? Health of the sheep. Imagine wearing a wool sweater in winter… awesome right? Now imagine wearing that same sweater in the summer…
Why don’t farmers just shear the sheep themselves? Well, some do. But these professional sheep shearers… they are amazing. Quick, careful and a whole whack of fun. It’s worth spending the money to have it done well.
Until next time!
Near my tent, there are three outhouses. Being a single individual, I decided early on that I would only worry about keeping one stocked with necessities (bucket, toilet paper, sawdust, farmer’s almanac). I chose the one the faced East in order to catch the early morning rays.
Last week was my last week of class for the semester. As a celebration, I invited the students and faculty of the program out for a bonfire and potluck. It was a beautiful evening by the way. Since I was hosting so many people (at least compared to the camps’s usual population of one), I decided to open up another outhouse and stock it with a bucket, toilet paper and sawdust (I decided against purchasing another farmer’s almanac). This outhouse faces South. It doesn’t get the early morning rays, but it does get light throughout the day. It is nice to change views every now and again.
A few days ago, I needed to use the facilities later on in the evening. When I opened the door of the first outhouse and entered, there was sudden frenetic activity above me. I fled the outhouse followed closely by a robin. Apparently few beings, whether humans or birds, enjoy sharing an outhouse, at least a single seater outhouse.
The following day. I decided to check out the outhouse in the day and sure enough, in the rafters, there was a small robin’s nest. A robin’s nest? In an outhouse? This is no place for a nest I thought. After all, I am a human being. I certainly should receive preference over a bird for my use of the outhouse. So I picked the nest up, ensuring that there were no eggs in it, and flung it out the doorway.
I used the outhouse then. I was convinced that I, in my human righteousness, had been right in my indignation. As I sat there however, I began to think. Thinking is usually a side effect of using an outhouse.
I have three outhouses. I don’t really need three. I don’t really need two. One would certainly suffice.
A robin doesn’t use their nest for long either. Though I don’t know how long a robin sits on her nest, I know that certainly, it will not be long before she and her fledglings have left it.
I do enjoy the robins. They are a very welcome sight in the springtime, especially after this long winter.
By the end of the session, I realized how unfairly I had treated the robin.
I reached down, gently handled the nest, and returned it to it’s perch, hoping that Sister Robin would forgive me for my insolence and not mind it being somewhat more tussled than she had left it…
Last night, I peeked in the building and looked up at the nest. Sure enough, there was Mother sitting vigilantly in her home. I decided to start using the South facing outhouse only.
It’s nice to have neighbours.