on trenches and beauty

 

we’ve been digging a lot of holes, as of late. we hired someone with an excavator to come and dig seven thousand feet of trench five feet underground, then put a wee one and a half inch pipe in, and close it back up.

 

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i convinced kiddo that watching from inside actually afforded us a better vantage point.

 

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the first thousand feet were dug, starting at the house. the pipe went through the wall and into the basement so that we can get water to the herd throughout the winter. p. ordered some great winter pasture pumps (more on those later).

 

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d. and p. also dug a trench from the barn to the house to get an insulated ethernet cable from our walk-in freezers to our wireless router. that way we’ll receive emails and text messages if the temperature doesn’t stay within range.

 

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it’s really remarkable that these projects are either under way (the water pipe project) or successfully completed (the ethernet cable/monitor solution). we’re breathing easier. but with all this turning over of sod and gravel, this place is looking very chantier-esque. and with the rain this aft, we have a pretty unfortunate mud moat around our house and most outbuildings.

 

 

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on most days, i appreciate that while this farm isn’t yet beautiful, it has sexy infrastructure and a great deal of potential.

we’ve totally cleaned up the inside of the barn, turning it into something really ‘old barn pretty’ and useable (hopefully as a store front, eventually).

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as for the barn itself, the paint job and colour scheme discourage me to no end, but it’s already proving to be a useful building, in terms of hay storage, walk-in freezer area, winter hen coop, and onion (etc.) drying area.

the shop, while hideous, is a great space for building, fixing, for tools and equipment. it’s heated, has fans, windows, and a solid concrete floor. the land that is part of the original farm is tile drained and bouncing back admirably from its GM soy days. the soil is otherwise rich and eager to grow foodstuffs.

 

but man oh man, that post-digging mud lot look sure isn’t doing very much for my feeling of home. having been blessed with quaint urban homesteads, and having taken the time to paint and fix up all of those homes, it’s hard to be in the midst of mud and building supplies and rock piles and wood stacks and tractor parts and compost and shit without it getting to me on the greyer days. and given the sheer scale of all of this, tackling these eye sores takes, if not scaffolding and special equipment, then at least considerable funds and time. both of which we’re low on at this point in time.

 

 

on a brighter note, operation harvest-the-remainder-of-the-vegetables is right on track. the carrots are done, the beets are on their way, which leaves only the potatoes.

 

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it’s probably not a year’s worth (and they’re definitely not prime carrots), but it’s really not bad, all things considered.

 

i expected to find an excellent how-to on storing vegetables, but came up with pretty wishy washy, contradictory, and unworkable advice (« only preserve the highest quality produce » good one! we didn’t do all this work to make compost). after eating some very leathery textured blanched zucchini though, i’ve decided not to put all my eggs in one basket with the rest of the crops. half the carrots went to sand buckets and the other, to bags. both in the walk-in cooler which will be equipped with a space heater when the weather gets very cold. we’ll see which fare better.

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another dumbfounding issue is drying. no matter what i try to dry the popcorn, it still won’t pop. on the cob, off the cob, in the oven, air dry. last i read, the cobs need to be cooked at low temperature for 8+ hours and then hung for a few months. we’ll see what that does. and the pumpkin seeds, i’m still unclear. i fear storing still-moist seeds and finding mason jars of mould in a few months time. given the number of seed pumpkins, i’m thinking of just roasting them and sparing myself the surprise. unless we can get our hands on a dehydrator.

 

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another week, another adventure.

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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.)

power tools, poison control and other lessons.

 

Sprouting tips have started coming up all over the garden. I feel as though I am witnessing a great springtime miracle. The potatoes are up, the sweet corn, the popcorn, the brassicas, the beans, the onions, the leeks, the beets, the winter squash. The summer squash and pumpkins, the peas and the basil. Plus the tomatoes survived the late transplant and the rains of the past few days mean that I get evenings off from running around, moving our single sprinkler around to make sure everything gets a good soak.

(on that note : having an « A » shaped garden makes it really hard to water. maybe there’s a reason people typically have rectangular shaped plots. 20/20 hindsight.)

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The grasses’ slow takeover is hard to keep up with but keeping up I am.

The fields that had been left bare have now been cultivated and seeded, the last of the kitchen wallpaper has been ripped off, and we’re keeping up with Ursula Franklin’s milk production. Busy and good days.

 

Some thoughts and lessons from the last few days.

 

1. there is such a thing as too frugal. sometimes you need to just get rid of rusty, old, bent nails.

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2. no matter how many times i see these pasture pumps, i’m still quite taken with how smart the technology is. the cattle essentially come to the pumps, see the bit of water pooled at the back and, in trying to drink it, they push the lever, which pumps more water into the trough portion.

 

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3. i too can make attractive looking butter.

 

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4. like human beings, cattle love shade on hot sunny days.

 

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5. sometimes, a kick in the ass is needed to DIY. you need to feel quite badly that the dairy cow has no shade to pick up some power tools (for the first time ever!) to build a shade structure some for her.

(and on that note : do me a favour, if there’s a kid in your life who might not otherwise learn how to work tools or machinery (and you do know), offer to teach them. i’d give a great deal to have the same tinker-confidence as the menfolk around here.)

 

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6. Even if you have had a very urban appreciation for animals (as pets), when you inherit 10+ barn cats, you become a bit more pragmatic (especially when a number of them have seen better days. and are in heat. and you spot a litter of kittens.)

 

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7. mixing seed by hand (because the folks seeding have run out and you need to rush to the store to shell out a big lump sum to get more and have it ready asap because the rains are coming) is a very esthetically pleasing process.

 

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8. sometimes you accidently purchase seed that’s been treated with a fungicide. and sometimes that seed will be spread all over the place. and sometimes your kid will put some in his mouth. having the number for poison control on your refrigerator is always a good idea (and man are those people awesome! courteous and quick help. having a few tele-health ontario fiasco phone calls under my belt, let me tell you, those poison control people are fast and pleasant).

 

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9. even if their boots have cracks in them and their feet instantly become really cold and mud-wet, kids will gallivant in a downpour, in the rain, through the puddles for as long as you’ll let them.

 

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10. even if you curse all the laundry that needs to get done (see number 9), you still think your clotheslines look really beautiful in the evening skies.

 

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sow focus.

i finished seeding the bulk of the garden.

 

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i recognize that this planting thing — especially so late in the spring game and with no transplanting/seedlings whatsoever — is a total gamble. and there’s already something so unlikely seeming about the whole ‘potatoes from a potato’ or ‘beet from a little seed nugget’ thing (for me anyways).

what’s been really eye-opening about it all though (and joyful despite the toddler pulling out my hair as i try to back carry him down the rows, or as i barrel towards him as he stomps all over the freshly planted beds) is how this work is exactly the opposite of the bulk of the jobs i’d been doing for the past yea long. instead of having to remind myself to focus, to concentrate, to stay on task, i get irritated when i’m interrupted, when i have to stop mid seed packet or mid row. while it’s still multi-task heavy work (i still can’t really wrap my head around the multidimensionality of successive plantings, crop rotation, and companion planting), it doesn’t scatter or bewilder the way the constant clicking back and forth between tabs and browsers and email accounts does.

despite the exhaustion, i may feel healthier yet.

 

p. interrupts me with : « do we want to get a kilogram of cheese salt? it’s not iodized! »

and i wonder : in who’s life have i landed, pray tell?