Newsletter #10 – August 2009

Hello All!

We went off a mile or two up the road (pic above, taken by French wwoofer Nellie) to mow verges this month as you may recall the saga going, out of the bailiwick of Mighty Joe Young, our SuperSize Meself neighbor who dwells in his fabulous new faux mountain-range. With the help of others, including wwoofer Sebastian from New Brunswick, Manu the Frenchman who’s lodged somewhere in our basement, as well as members Eric, Candice and Libbe with his daughter Sointu, we got a sizable stack of loose, dry hay into the Quonset barn.  Maybe half what we’ll need for the winter and still plenty of time for more.  Thanks everyone!

By the way, Mighty Joe’s men actually finally did bale up the now months old grass they cut adjacent out place.  Much of it remained in the thatch of new growth now grasping it, and Manu and I will rake some of this stuff now to spread into the fields to add natural tilth.  It can’t be much as feed at this point, but perhaps he’s only trying to make sure the food quality of what his cows get doesn’t eclipse that of the rest of his industrial crop.

We cut some second growth verge hay too, later in the month, and have yet to rake this – it isn’t quite dry.  In the interim, Eric and Candice alerted us that Raven had shown up with a tremendous gash low on her right rump, it was enormous, at least as wide as Lyle Lovett’s mouth – easily fifteen centimeters – and deep into the flesh.  Emma sported a nasty open puncture, too, right about at the same height on own rear quarter.  A perusal of the paddock area revealed some big nails at matching level where a fence had been recently compromised.  I flattened the nails, gave the girls tetanus shots, a series of penicillin injections, and along with regular rinsing with iodine I figured “that’s that.”  Despite the apparent nastiness of the wounds, they didn’t seem to much bother the horses.  They could still work, and I am told the working actually helps such things drain corruption. 

A few days later Raven appeared with a very nasty scratch below the first wound, on her undersurface.  Okay, I thought, she may have kicked at a gad-fly with a sharp hoof.  I checked the reciprocating foot, and sure enough, there was a sharp tang on the thing that I took off with the nippers.  “That’s that!”  I thought.  We continued working the girls.

We were all set to finish cutting a stretch of grass we’d started a few days later and in comes Raven, limping this time, a very nasty puncture on her left ham this time, blood trickling down.  (At this point I was thinking if she were a steer meant for the deep-freeze, you could simply leave her at pasture and she’d complete her own butchering just in time for fall.)  There would be no working her with this new wound. We searched the whole property this time, and came up with one significant change in the place that might pose a hazard that would result in such carnage.  Our yak bull, Sam, had a newly sharpened horn tip.  We watched him closely, and sure enough, he was clearly focusing some bullish grudge on the horses.  It made sense that Raven was receiving the wounds with this prognosis – she’s herd boss.  We roped Sam and trussed him up and sawed the tips off his horns, a procedure that didn’t seem to ire him much.  Seems he reserves that for the equine contingent.  The horses are now separated from the yaks, and we are going to keep Sam separate until he goes elsewhere or is retired (as a nice bed-cover, perhaps.)   His breeding duties are pretty much finished here, and it’s no secret that bulls continue to change temperament as they mature.  Many farms rarely keep bulls beyond three years for this reason.

Hope you’re enjoying the chard and the turnips.  I am trying to dry the chard into little flakes so I can have it for breakfast, too.  We still have plenty of it in the field, and should still have lots of carrots and potatoes coming.  Right now the broccoli is looking better and better – we just hope there’s enough.  Ditto tomatoes and peppers, some varieties of which are also coming along, although others have produced utterly nothing for the space and considerable supplementary passive heat and rainwater they take. We realize there have been a lot of greens this year, but that’s the year here.  Drought in spring lasts all season even when the rains come back.  We lost a lot of produce of the sort that takes most of the season to mature, but in so doing, gained a lot of knowledge towards hopefully not loosing it under such conditions in future years.  Thanks for receiving us and our offerings so well.  It has been a great year for us thanks in a big way to our members and your continuing generosity.  We here at the farm feel we are working towards something good together with you.  Please refer to the blog for more turnip and chard ideas just now posted by Andrea!  Go to our (Spartan) website at and there’s a link to the blog there.

Oh, and if you ever feel tired of greens, perhaps keep in mind that our mesclun mix that we bring you because it works so well here, for instance, contains five times more calcium, four times more iron, twelve times more vitamin A and six times more vitamin C than a salad of head lettuce from the grocery store!  This according to USDA.

If you had any green worms in your produce lately, I hope you enjoyed the colour but avoided the taste.  Cabbage butterfly worms.  They are the bane of the farmer of any cabbage family produce.  Our place has lately been a significant magnet for these pests, one of the few we have problems with.  However, not to fret – Manu and I have been spraying all the cabbages and cousins (including especially broccoli and cauliflower) with a kitchen-made pesticide consisting of fresh crushed garlic juice and hot pepper in water (as well as the sprinkling of a little dry food-grade diatomaceous earth on the plants), and since then I can honestly say that although the butterflies still abound, the worms are nowhere to be seen.  This is dramatic.  They have had plenty of time since first appearance to really trash the brassica crop.

The worms are not nearly as annoying, however, as the county and their latest scheme.  Our road is again swarming with vehicles and choked in their dust, only this time it is not just the industrial producers of things you can get away with eating for awhile and their machines.  The county of Kneehill, a massive piece of earth, has decided to bring piped-in water to each and every household in this notably sparsely settled district.  The cost?  Like most developments these days, they can readily give you the numbers, but the real cost will remain elusive and cumulative – one more stupid niggling bite out of something precious we can’t retrofit.  So, whether we like it or not (and neither myself nor any of my neighbors like it), we will get piped-in water that we will of course pay for in tax hikes.  And if we actually want it hooked up, we will pay for it again – $6,000 additional dollars.  The water is to come from a river – the Red Deer – that now averages 80% below historic flows.  At a time when many, including my nice and very reasonable young neighbor and their young family in their modest new house a few miles up the road are out of work with no great prospects looming.  In a once insufferably smug province that overnight has posted a near $7 billion deficit.  My Reeve, when I called her and pointed all this out, basically told me, “The province gave us the money so we better spend it.  Plus if we don’t follow through the contractors will sue us.”  I can only hope our motivations become more relevant and thoroughly examined in the future.  I expect the days when the excesses of our culture can act to absorb such fantastic stupidity are now numbered.  Soon, like our ancestors, we may all actually once again be required to pay the real price for our mistakes.  And so finally be required to grow back up, as a culture.  If I could spray the county seat and make it go away like those green worms, I would.  With something from Monsanto. 

Manu has been here for a few months now.  We get along very well, on the whole, except for when we don’t.  We disagree often on approaches to things, and sulk quite a lot in one another’s presence as a result, a sullen and unimpressive pair of brutes at times if ever there was one, but his ideas are usually almost as good as mine.  Actually, they’re often better, usually because they’re about twice as time-consuming.  Which is a common dilemma here – do you have time to do a given job really well, or just enough time to get it done however you can?  I tend to view the time as limited, Manu as generous.  Our relationship can best be summed up by the following story from the other week.  Involving a badger.  Or not.

I love badgers, even if they turn our pastures into moonscapes with their craters – I feel it a privilege to be sharing space with these charismatic prairie wolverines.  Manu and I were coming back from checking hay, when up and over an earth berm along the road (county water line work!) one goes. 

“Looks!” I said, pointing and speaking my best version of Manu’s English dialect for ease of communication, “Dat, deres – Bastard!  Wonderfuls and very famous!  A badger.” 

“What?” he said.

“Didn’t you see you blindness?” I pointed, “Dat bastard wents over the ham just now, the dirt-ham – a badger!”

“Yes, dat – I see dat, yes,” he said indignantly.  “I sees dat animals on the ham.  I sees a cat.”

“It was grey, a badger!”  I corrected.

“What is wrong, you looks,” he went on gesturing up the road, “Orange cat – jus dat!”

Which pretty much sums things up between us.  I see the grey badger, he sees the orange cat.  The future lies in us all working together anyway.

Jus dat.

Thank-you again for your support!

–          Andrea and Jon and Manu.



“He who cannot draw on 3000 years is living from hand to mouth.”

 – Goethe


“All I can say is we are mistaken to gouge

 such a deep rift in history that the things old men and old women know have become so useless as to be not worth passing on to grandchildren.”

– Charles Frazier, “Thirteen Moons”

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