Newsletter #2010-1… April and May 2010


Now it’s late April.  The wind turns like the second hand on a clock marking the days.  When it hits twelve o’clock, look out.

I type this as yet another blast rages out of the north.  The old timers say that while Alberta was always unpredictable, it has of late become something unknown.  North winds seem almost to prevail anymore, and they are becoming truly frightening.  Another symptom of a climate in unrest, I suppose.  It is the same in Manitoba, suddenly, I am told by a friend there.  And apparently this is to be expected anymore.  I may be off, but it seems we get this hammering pretty much bi-weekly now.  

Nonetheless, we’re ahead of the game so far this year.  The warmest winter yet on Alberta – and global – record is mostly over, and we’re right on schedule and beyond with our seedlings and our bedmaking out in the big garden plots.  The Clydesdales have turned a soil that seems in significantly better tilth than last year, in a condition I wasn’t expecting for a couple seasons yet.  And the beds in the yard around the house are almost all filled with greens and cabbage and kale and scallions.

Most of our yaks are gone now, sold to help save a pasture that was looking sorely worse for the wear following last year’s dry.  We lost three dogs to the road this past year and our water buffalo team – Brock and King – are also gone, victims we guess of their own metabolisms.  Seems a water buffalo that is in very good condition, as ours were, can actually become toxic to itself if it then goes into hyper metabolism of fat, as ours must have done during this last arctic December that collided hard on the heels of a Oklahoman November that saw garter snakes still active into the third week.  We brought them through three winters in good health.  Then, out of the blue, they dropped.  As our neighbor said, “Where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock.” 

We’ll miss the yaks.  We still think they are the ideal bovine meat and fibre animal for Alberta.  Not for Big Ag, but for Alberta, an animal that fits the conditions and makes sense.  If we’d have had the space, I am convinced this is an animal that you could turn out and ignore for ten years and come back and see them thriving and multiplied.  A mini-bison without the inherent danger and expense of bison.  But we simply don’t have enough space here in a dry year, and certainly can’t afford more in a speculator’s market.  So they had to go.  Sustainability is, after-all, non-negotiable, something we mostly don’t understand in our culture.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not dictated by our convenience, but rather by what the land and the creatures are telling us.  Getting the equation wrong is not an option the sane would ponder.

The pigs – Petunia and Doncaster – fared well over the winter, are fat as… are fat, and now engaged in turning the kitchen garden – a space too small for a team to work.  Once they feel they are done there, they will be employed preparing other smaller plots.  They do a good job, and delight us all at the same time with the strangeness that is a pig. 



Okay, so now it’s early June.  Just like that!  The year is now shaping up more like two years ago – somewhat behind after-all, due to plenty of cold and wet spells.  But the fields are well-planted, and with the moisture we’ve had, heat should bring them on well.  Last night we sat out watching the muskrat couple (Brent and Jocelyn we found out their names are) swimming in the pond and it was cool out, but today it is pretty hot.  Good veggie weather at last!  We’re just about to transplant the started squash in the kitchen garden prepared this year, as mentioned already, by the swine couple.

Vincent and Lyra, our two French wwoofers who were here for some time (Lyra since December) built a gypsy caravan in our barn, from ground-up.  Then they bought a horse and learned to drive her, and now they’re off on tour across Alberta.   How good is that!   We had lots of fun having them here.  Lyra especially has a grasp of the English language that was well appreciated here, for instance, a cougar we learned in proper English is actually a “gouage” and a hammer, she taught us in context, is correctly termed a “moof.”  “Pass me the moof!”  We are glad she has corrected us.  Yet Vincent blames us that she has made no improvement in her foreign language skills since being with us, but hey, we hear people speaking regular English every day, and it’s gotten pretty dull and consider her very much an improvement.  We wish them the best and hope the drivers are kind and share the road with this more sensible form of transport.  I’m sure the Gulf of Mexico is on their side.

Ever wondered why frying bacon smells so good?  I always thought it was in our prep of the stuff, but lo and behold when we’re spending quality sty-time, nose-to-nose with the hogs, Petunia and Doncaster, I’ll be a durned possum if they don’t have the aura about them of a Canadian morning fry-up!  I thought perhaps this was imagination, but no, our new wwoofers from Ontario, Jen and J.L., smell it too.  The hogs smell like bacon. I wonder what they think we smell like?  Apparently not truffles.

We expect to start deliveries in late June or early July.  We’d like to be earlier, but not enough produce will be ready til then for a “proper” delivery.  That’s the way she goes up here on the high northern plains.  We’re just happy for those who think local produce is important enough in any clime to support us!

Thank-you all…

Andrea and Jon

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