Newsletter 2010-5 October 2010

I went back to see the a man about a cow – same man, same cow.  The man, John, an elderly Hutterite, no longer on the colony.  (I had originally been told by another that he was a Mennonite, but this is apparently incorrect.)  The cow – Prickle – was back with him, visiting a boyfriend.  But first, I phoned.

“Is John in?”

“No.  Who is it?” (his wife.)

“It’s Jon, I bought a cow from you, and it’s back there getting bred to the Jersey bull.”

“I’m doing my exercises… heh-heh-heh,” she said.


“Okay.  Tell John I can get the cow early next week, if she’s done with the bull.”

“We don’t have a bull,” she said.

“You have a borrowed one there, a Jersey,” I said.

“Oh.  Who is this?”

“This is Jon.”

“Okay, I’ll tell him you called.”

“That’s great – tell him I can get the cow next week.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” she asked.

“John’s wife, John up on the Highway 575.”

“Okay, that’s right…  I’m doing my exercises… heh heh heh….”


Well, now Prickle is back, hopefully pregnant.  She now has a friend, Mary Poppins, a Jersey as light coloured as Prickle is dark for the breed, and also much lighter in demeanor.  (Turns out John had this second cow for sale.)  Mary Poppins, and I’m not sure which one of our friends named her, is in milk, and can be milked without fuss pretty much anywhere she is standing, which is the opposite of Prickle, who requires an elaborate setup of ropes and pulleys to get anywhere near a teat.  We have made yogurt, butter, and of course just drank her milk.  It is yummy, and the beaurocrats from Alberta Agriculture would be amazed – we are still alive!!!


Fall is a time for migrating birds.  The big, handsome Rough-legged hawks are here from the arctic now, a sure sign that the seasons are turning.  There are other northern hawks about, too.  The other day I was walking down the paddock and there was a goshawk down and just beginning to eat one of our chickens.  This goshawk was what the falconers call a “passage bird,” a young one from this spring, now full grown of course, on its first fall migration.  Goshawks are a forest hawk, but they come around on the plains in fall and winter.  Fortunately, they mostly do pass.  The odd predated chicken is the price you pay for free range eggs.

the Passage goshawk on chicken


Speaking of chickens, we have a number of young up-and-coming Ameraucanas (blue egg layers) to augment the flock, and new hen-houses are being built.  We endeavor to keep expanding the flock, and the Ameraucanas – a heritage breed – are our favorites – hardy, multi-hued, and dependable.

The CSA season ended with some heavier frosts.  The gardens were dwindling, of course, as once the photoperiod enters its October phase, there isn’t so much growth going on anyway.  The time seems fleeting, looking back.  We had a wonderful season and really enjoyed our members.

So now we’ve just finished the fall plowing with the Clydesdales, doing up some new garden plots as well as attending to the old ones.  It is a challenge in our heavy soils, and even more so when breaking new ground.  The sod on the plains is second to none in toughness, and what might take two or three horses in the east on a two-horse plow takes four to six here.  We do it with a one-horse plow with three horses pulling it.  Spreading manure with two horses on our old red spreader, then plowing with three.  And then in the spring, the compost will go on.  I really love these days working the horses.  There is bound to be some big frustrations here and there, but the rewards outweigh this by far, and the big girls, while relatively young and pretty spirited, behave well, and catch on to their various jobs quickly.  I trust them, and I think they mostly trust me at this point.

Doncaster and Petunia did a good job starting these new garden plots – a scheme we embarked on to help make lighter work of the heavy sod.  They have become large swine, and now are joined by Celesta and Janey, two younger female pigs, or “gilts” as the females are called at this stage.  They will produce litters for us in the future for farm-raised pork.

We have two young German helpers here right now, young fellas.  They may be staying a month or more.  Sven is taller, and more reserved, Manuel is always singing little songs. 

“My life is a musical!” Manuel exclaims.

            “I hate his musical,” Sven confides.

At other times, Manuel pinches his eyes tight, makes little snuffling noises and paddles his hands at the sides of his face, and you wonder what is this? and he says,

“Look at me – I’m a mole!” 

Sven rolls his eyes.  Never a dull moment.

They are both great guys, and we are happy to have them here.  We are very impressed with Germans, overall.  It doesn’t surprise me that they make good stuff, back in their homeland, or when they come here for that matter.  Other than the fact that they make a lot of good stuff, they of all the Europeans remind me of Canadians.  Perhaps that’s why we get along with most of them so seamlessly.  I’m not sure why they remind me of Canadians.  Maybe another person would think they were like some other nationality.  There are other nationalities to choose from, I suppose, when you’re comparing Germans.  At any rate, I have to admit, I suppose, that I have no idea what other people think Germans are comparable to, but to us, they are impressive folks. 

We always feel a bit sad when the season ends, this year being no exception.  We also feel very fortunate indeed to have had such a great CSA membership this year, folks who not only seem to share a sense of what’s important with us, but who are willing to make a commitment through a full season, come what may, to support us in this venture. 

We hope you found the experience to your liking, and it would be great to see you back next year.

Have a great fall and winter!

-Jon and Andrea


When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 
— Wendell Berry

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