some things i’ve learned today.

this is why we (adults) haven’t been eating cherry tomatoes.

(fact : the hens peck and eat only the red ones. the child picks and squishes only the green ones.)

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no one needs 10 zucchini plants. no one. lesson learned.

(fabulous irony : i had just finished loading the zucchini into the wheelbarrow, as no other recipient would hold them all, when a neighbour drove into our yard to offer us a welcome zucchini loaf and some welcome zucchini relish.)

also, even if you vow to be very diligent about harvesting zucchini before they turn into monster zucchini, if you’re kinda zucchini-ed out (and too well aware of the mountain of blanched and grated zucchini already in your freezer), it’s hard to be disciplined about it.

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knowing when to harvest vegetables is as important as knowing when to plant them (especially if they’re under row cover and you don’t check on them for some time. but even then : some plants flower and they’re « going to seed » (and you should PANIC!) and some « are flowering » which is no cause for concern. ou encore, a nice plump vegetable is good, except if you’re a bean, and then slender is really best. etc.)

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No matter how much chard you think you have, once it’s blanched, the whole lot will almost fit in your pocket. immanquablement.

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A calf can do a number on a chicken coop. Some hoof holes in the coop meant some early comings and goings for the hens. Luckily all four are still with us. We patched up the tractor’s edge with plywood and voilà ! the coop will last until D. and I build a fancy roomy one with bike wheels.

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the cows and calves like watching these two buddies as much as the buddies like watching them, je pense.

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to make a floor.

 

You know what’s a lot more fun than it sounds : pouring cement floors.

Given the number of outbuildings and the amount of space we now have, we decided the thing to do was to buy a walk-in freezer. We’ll save on the cost of renting freezer space, spare ourselves the inconvenience of getting to and from the warehouse, and we’ll be able to pack beef boxes as we go, and for shorter periods of time (as opposed to P. freezing his hands off packing boxes in the freezer for eight consecutive hours).

 

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Here’s our freezer, all in pieces. We’ll put it together once our own chest freezer is full (of sweet blanched garden goods!) or as the abattoir season draws nearer. An electrical professional will do the rest.

 

We bought sand, rebar, and some insulating foam. We made the form with 2 x 6s, shovelled in sand, laid the foam, put out the rebar, and used a level and some sidewalk chalk to mark the wall.

 

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Luckily, the truck came at 9am, so no nap times were affected and all got to partake.

 

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The guy backed in the truck, snapped the chute panels into place and let er rip. We all froze when it first started pouring out, I’d say, but the shovels got busy pretty fast. Wet cement was pushed into corners, along the wall, and shovelfuls were chucked to fill indents left by boots. P. grabbed at the rebar, to try to centre it within the layer of cement.

Moving a long board back and forth, we started smoothing out the cement (probably my most hardcore babywearing moment thus far).

 

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We smoothed until we got to one of the beams and started shovelling anew.

 

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Plank and shovel. Plank and shovel.

 

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Turns out that « washing the kitchen floor » trick, whereby you don’t trap yourself into a corner with nowhere to go but wet shiny floor, also applies to laying cement floors. Mopping and cementing, who knew.

 

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Quick word to the wise : due to the caustic nature of wet cement, skin can be burned by the contact. To prevent these chemical burns, it’s really quite advisable to wear gloves. Since my hands are still raw and about as soft as 80 grit sandpaper over a week later, I’ve decided that, when working with new tools or materials in the presence of professionals (in this case the cement truck operator), I will do a quick scan of their own safety gear before jumping in. He was, for the record, wearing work gloves.

 

P. smoothed over the area using a bull float (a big swiffer like tool). We’re hoping that the barn will eventually be able to house a bit of an on-site store. This was a solid first step at occupying the barn, which is remarkably full of strangely shaped, unusable nooks.

 

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I sadly missed the action packed portion where, trying out the mechanical bull float we rented, D. was propelled off the machine and into the fresh cement surface.

 

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Not only is there a sizable mound of leftover sand,

 

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but we also had extra cement, so a sandbox is in the making, and we poured and smoothed a bit of a basketball court at the back of the barn.

Malheureusement, we all forgot to sign our names into the floor, so the true barn residents went ahead and did it.

 

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what the hay.

 

one should make hay when the sun shines, so in a fencing lull, with our eye on the weekly forecast, we went about making plans to cut, ted, rake, and bale a few pastures. we need around eight hundred bales to feed the cow-calf pairs through the winter and i think both p. and i were getting pretty anxious seeing the neighbours hauling cart after cart of luscious golden hay, so the time was ripe.

 

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we were hoping to harvest at least a hundred bales and we figured we’d need at least four consecutive  days of sun and warmth to get the job done. the thermostat was to be in the 30s for a solid mid-week and the sun was set to shine. we embarked. hay making means something like sixteen hour days, endless hours bumping along in a tractor, and being super OCD about listening to weather reports.

 

 

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when p. started talking about us « entering hay season », we were all pretty stoked to partake in this true farm experience.  turns out it’s a lot of taking over someone else’s house chores (cooking, milking, etc.) and not that much excitement. regardless, all of those who wanted tractor shifts got a kick at the can. i’ll admit it was my first time driving the thing. and as a standard vehicle, let me tell you, it’s easier to drive than our focus.

 

 

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here’s the hay tedder. the teeth spin to aerate and spread the grasses out, or to « wuffle » the hay, to expose more of the cut to sunlight, air and wind and thus speed up the hay-making process.

 

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and here’s the awesome warning sticker on the tedder. the words, if there were any, have rubbed off, but that twirly body says it all.

 

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despite five solid days of heat and sun, the humidity and stillness of the air did us in. on the sixth day it poured. it rained like it hadn’t in months. p. managed to bale 30 solid bales of dry stuff, 50 of moist, and the rest is still (rotting) in the fields a week later. so effin deflating. in cities, you just don’t have that sort of experience. my closest is probably when a day or two of freezing rain in february ruins the ice on the rideau canal and the city closes the skateway for the season despite an upcoming cold snap. it’s never been about livelihood for me. and these failed bales totally are. there’s also a significant strain from having a partner away for a child’s entire waking hours, from rejigging house chores, and from not really sharing daily experiences enough for true empathy. mais c’est la vie, these days.

 

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here’s p. rolling in with the dry bales in the pouring rain.

we’re going to be giving it another go in september. and undoubtedly buying a bunch of hay for our first winter.

our first town council meeting.

 

We went to our first Town Council Meeting last week. In part because it seemed like the thing to do, in part because we want to dig under a road to lay pipe and get water to cattle in fields across a dirt road (and we were told that being present at the meeting would allow the mayor and councillors to ask us questions about the proposal directly).

Given that notre village d’adoption has a population of 3,700 people and that these meetings take place at 9pm on Mondays (I suspect because the councillors have day jobs), I wasn’t expecting a huge turnout. There was a whopping 13 townspeople though, and gender parity, both in terms of councillors and citizens present. Pas pire ! Plus the mayor is a woman and during la période de questions, women were as vocal as men.

What won me over during the proceedings (other than the gender parity), was one townsperson’s empassioned defense of the community library. She had been a library volunteer for two years and had stepped down due to a lack of team spirit and willingness to make the space more organized and user friendly. She talked about the coordinator using the space for personal aims (some sort of shady massage business) and distributed copies of the town’s own ethics manual to make her case that this person should get the boot.  It was well performed. I couldn’t tell if she was that someone who always spoke out at these meetings, but I choose to believe that she is a true lover of the written word, une grande défenseuse de la parole écrite et du bouquin.

We learned, halfway through the meeting, that proposals were to be reviewed at a private Council work day later that week. But I did ask the question, receive a kind answer, and got my name in the minutes (which basically means that we have arrived).

Bonjour petit village, nous voici.

 

 

full swing

with the garden in full bloom, in full force, in full swing, i can appreciate why so many of those who garden seem to garden somewhat madly.  gardens are beautiful. turns out you can grow forests of food from tiny seeds. harvests can be almost indecent. and (with a number of really solid cooks around) the meals make it worth your while.

 

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the underworld of squash.

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the peas and the beans.

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the beauty of a pumpkin and of breaking bread with great friends (and exquisite cooks).

 

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harvesting with a child.

 

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and the three top harvests of the day.

a day of gratitude.

 

 

(more later on the joys of our first taste of collective farming and on our first (small) town council meeting.)