Wednesday, April 12, 2017

🎡Let's do the Mash! The Chicken Mash! 🎢 πŸ“πŸ₯

The thing about farming is that we are constantly learning, ever-ready to adapt to new systems, varieties, climate, even changing soil microbiology.  It’s fascinating and keeps life interesting but means that we can’t rest on ‘how it’s always been done’.  So when it comes to questions regarding our products, we take extra time to sit back and consider as many angles as we can.  Feed is no exception and when we were considering Pellets Vs. Mash, it was a long back and forth of consideration.  Since it’s a question we’re sometimes asked by customers, here’s some of what we considered (but, as I said, we’re always learning, so nothing is ever static). 

It was firstly a matter of reducing the amount of processing that the grain goes through from seed to feed.  It makes sense to us that the animals get a product that is as close to what it really is as possible.  Michael Pollan, the well-known food author, is oft-quoted as saying, “Eat real food” and we don’t think that has to apply only to people.  Our feed has no fillers or weird stuff and every ingredient is in there for nutritive value, so we wanted to keep it as little processed as possible while still making it accessible to the animals consuming it.  We wanted to avoid any unnecessary heating of the grains and pelletizing would almost certainly contribute to that as well.

Another factor we considered was the growth of the birds, particularly the meat birds.  We’ve read that the pellets result in faster growth and bird ready to market a few days earlier but along with that comes health problems like ascites.  The increased demand on the body of the bird to grow quickly becomes too much and they suffer from, and eventually succumb to symptoms related to respiratory problems.  While the conventional broiler breeds (meat kings) are already a bit pre-disposed to these health challenges, we wanted to make sure that we did not contribute to them, and in fact reduced them if possible.  Using a mash with a more consistent particle size meant a slightly slower growing but healthier bird.  Organic production is certainly directly in line with this thinking, but so too are the desires of any smaller scale chicken farmer.  A healthier bird is the priority when it’s going to be your food!

The last factor we considered played directly into our values statement as a farm:
“Barnyard Organics is a diversified, family-friendly farm with a priority on organic integrity from seed to feed and keeping products fair and accessible to the regional community.“

We have worked really hard at prioritizing the ‘fair and accessible’ part of the statement because we want more organic livestock in the Maritimes and want to play a role in making feed a fair price.  Pelletizing would add an extra step and thus, more cost to our final product and we didn’t see the benefit outweighing the added cost. 

We have several customers who choose to ferment the feed, prior to feeding it.  Our own experience has taught us that the height of the feeders plays an important role and that our hens make optimal use of the feed when it is kept up at least as high as their backs, closer to eye level. 

I love farming for lots of reasons and constant learning and adapting is just one of them.   Who knows what we’ll learn tomorrow!   

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SpBeak the Truth about #henlife

This is the age of 'post-truth', or so we're told.  Whatever that means, it seems clear that we all need to work a little harder to be informed citizens of the world.  Here's my contribution for your real information quota today:
Beak trimming in laying hens is industry standard.  That basically means that when the chicks are hatched they are bustled off to a laser that nips the tip off their beak.  Sounds somewhat innocuous, right?  "Probably doesn't hurt that much" you tell yourself.  Maybe.  Science is a bit inconclusive on that point, so let's give industry the benefit of the doubt here and pretend it doesn't hurt the day olds to have their beaks trimmed by laser.

"Why do they do it?" might be your next question.  "Must be for good reason".  Yes, it's so that the birds don't hurt each other.  Because birds that are bored and miserable will hurt each other.  And birds that are given 500 - 700 cm2 each (approx the size of a piece of paper) in a cage with 5-8 other birds are bored and miserable.

If you've ever had the joy of watching a chicken dust bath or chase a bug through the grass, you will appreciate the incredible natural instincts they have and the beauty of an animal able to express that.  500 cm2 doesn't even allow the bird to stretch her wings.  

I hope that any conventional egg farmer reading this will recognize my appreciation for what they do because the demand for their product is much greater than the demand for mine.  They are able to produce eggs at a much much lower cost than me.  They can do it much more efficiently and keep the shelves at the grocery store groaning with stacks of cheap eggs.

My appreciation stops at the customers who are able to justify celebrating a great sale on conventional eggs while simultaneously crying fowl at that sad video that came out about the dog being forced into churning water on the set of an upcoming blockbuster film.  Or while spending thousands of dollars on their pet.

I don't care if you buy my eggs, but for the love of all that is sane, stop and think about why your cheap food is so cheap and if an animal is an animal is an animal or if you care how the creature who supplies your daily sustenance must suffer to do so.  (If at this point you're having a dialogue in your head about how the hens don't know any different, and are 'only chickens' and you 'can't afford those organic eggs', I hope you don't mind coming back as a conventional laying hen in your next life.  Take heart, it will be short lived.) (This is also the part where I become acutely aware that I'm treading in 'white, middle-class privilege' territory, but is a risk I'm willing to take for the benefit of the point at hand.)

This message is brought to you by a frustrated young farmer who realized that her latest batch of hens has had their beaks trimmed because it is standard operating procedure and NOT debeaking is the EXCEPTION.  Evidently, foraging on pasture, preening and eating a diverse diet are not factors that need considering in a cage.  This farmer's renewed desire to get (fully beaked) hens into the hands of everyone who can have them is fuelled by good intentions, a love of farming and eggnog made from organic eggs and raw milk.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The speech Minister MacIsaac MEANT to give

I was fortunate enough to attend the COPC 13th Annual Harvest Meal last night at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown.  In attendance was our Lieutenant Governor, a representative of the opposition, a couple city councilors, and our Minister of Ag along with his deputy.  Of course, he was given some time to speak and it would seem that the current trend in politics is to appear relaxed and nonplussed, by not having prepared notes.  Minister MacIsaac certainly achieved the unprepared look with a speech that rambled on about farming and fishing and spent more time on the optics of agriculture and the beauty of the province than on anything of any merit.  During the last three sentences he suddenly remembered where he was and mentioned the word organic but without any real conviction or sincerity behind it.
So, I've taken the liberty of preparing the speech I'm sure he meant to have on hand last night. It must have gotten lost when he was spending the night previous reading it over while at the Fall Flavours event at Crowbush that he was so happy to tell us all about because we care.

Thank you for the warm welcome to this 13th Annual COPC Harvest Meal and celebration.  13th annual!?  I think we often underestimate just how long organics has been growing and organizing together under an association like the Certified Organic Producers Cooperative, but this event really serves as a reminder of just how far you've come and hints at the potential for the future.
It's really exciting to see so many young faces at an event like this.  Often, at agricultural gatherings it looks a lot like a political caucus- so many old white haired men ! (har har).  But this crowd is so diverse in age and background and that speaks volumes for the future of your sector! 
Can I get a sense of who are the organic farmers in the room?  Could you all please stand up? Certified organic farmers.  Wow!  That's really fantastic, I hope to get to chat with you all about your operations sometime in the future!  I would love to hear about your challenges and successes and what we can do for you as the government right now on PEI.
For the rest of you, I hope you took note of who the farmers in the room were when they stood.  And I hope you take a moment to appreciate what it took for them to provide this meal for you tonight.  I have little doubt that under the competent guidance of our chef, Ilona Daniel, these ingredients, grown with the care and particular intentions of these farmers will far exceed your expectations.  That's the thing about organic farmers.  They really care.  They care enough to maintain the necessary records, host a third party inspection annually, abide by national standards that ensure your food is free from GMO's, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and that livestock live lives on pastures, eating only organic food themselves.  
While I'm the Minister of all agriculture, not just organics, and I respect and admire all farmers and the work they do, organics is a particular shining jewel in the considerable crown of PEI agriculture.  It is a constantly growing sector, with consistent margins, strong yields and a vibrant community.  Did you know that 73% of new farmers are choosing to farm organically or ecologically?  And 56% of those are women?  Isn't that inspiring? I can talk openly and with conviction about organics like this because I'm not disparaging conventional ag, which we all know has a strong place in our landscape, but I am confident enough to recognize the value of a community like this one and the significance it carries for the health of our province, ecologically and economically! 
In response to what I'm sure will be a rousing rallying cry from Sally Bernard coming up, she'll likely mention soil health and will be correct in saying that soil is the resource we're depleting the fastest here on PEI and it's past time that we do something serious about it.  So I'm thrilled to announce that we're working on a program based on soil organic matter levels, providing funding for new soil tests that show actual soil health and activity and better enforcement of rotation rules.   

So I won't keep us from the food any longer. I hear the chicken livers are particularly tasty tonight. :)  I promise not to continue the legacy of being a Ag Minister dinosaur, living in the past, guided by antiquated ideas pushed by the old boys club who tell me that only conventional food can feed the world and that organics is a blip on the long term radar.  Nope, I will be an effective, open-eyed minister who will stand up and openly admit that organics is doing great things for this province and we will work with you to help it continue to grow.  
Thank you!

Yep, pretty sure that was the speech he meant to make instead of the mess we heard about inconsequential fish kills (YES! He actually brushed off fish kills at an organic supper), the importance of Fall Flavours and pretty landscapes.  Good thing the food was so good I was able to get past the anger lump in my throat.   

Friday, April 29, 2016

Farmer knows best.....?

Once upon a time it used to be said that consumers drive the markets, and that farmers will grow whatever there is demand for. 
In recent years, this seems to have turned on its head and now farmers are spending a lot of time 'educating' consumers on what it is they want.  There's a lot more talking than listening going on and it's going to be the downfall of any sort of economically sustainable agriculture in Canada. 
The recent decision by the restaurant chain, Earl's, to source Certified Humane beef has my social media feeds all fired up and full of furious tirades and accusations from farmers angered by the move away from Canadian beef.
I've read the statements from Earl's and I've read the criticisms from Canadian cattlemen and I continue to be stunned by the ignorance and defensiveness that seems to be growing rather than fading, despite more information being made available each day.
Earl's was pretty darn clear that they made the decision based on the demand FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS.  And that they only went to the US because they couldn't source enough Certified Humane meat from Canada. 
If I were a beef farmer, rather than tearing apart the Certified Humane label, I would very quickly be organizing a delegation and representative to approach Earl's and other higher end restaurants to see if there could be some assurance that if Certified Humane beef was available in volume in Canada, they would buy it (as they have said publicly, they would). 

This is a textbook case of consumers asking for something and instead of farmers seizing the opportunity, shouting back at the consumers that they are clearly idiots and "YOU WILL LIKE WHAT WE GIVE YOU!"

I can't help but compare it to the situation of GMO's where consumers continue over and over again to say they'd really prefer food without and yet, rather than find ways around them, farmers continue to expand their use and even when the benefits don't outstrip the non-GMO options, continue to insist that the consumer is wrong and ignorant to the realities of life. 

There's been a lot of misinformation about the Certified Humane label being passed around and although we don't use it at this point because its less stringent than organic, I read the indepth standards that Certified Humane farms are obligated to abide by and they're really comprehensive, detailed and fair.  Here's a couple excerpts:

H 1: Animal Health Plan

a.An Animal Health Plan (AHP) must be drawn up and regularly updated in consultation with a veterinarian.

b.The AHP(which is part of the Farm Plan) must include details of:

1.Nutrition program

2.Vaccination program

3.Parasite prevention;

4.Biosecurity and infectious disease protocols, including tolerance limits on overall herd performance;

5.Non-ambulatory (downer) animal procedure; and

6.Euthanasia for culling and emergencies

c.  Records must be kept of all medical/animal health procedures that are performed

Or this one:

Any cattle suffering from illness or injury must be treated without delay, and veterinary advice sought when needed. If necessary, such animals must be euthanized.

Or the intro to the Enviromental Objective section:

"The environment in which livestock are kept must take into account their welfare needs and must be designed to protect them from physical and thermal discomfort, fear, and distress, and allow them to perform their natural behavior.

NOTE:These standards are written for beef cattle, which are raised outdoors on range or pasture

 As someone who rents chickens to sometimes fairly ag-ignorant people, I am well aware of the fact that there is some elements of education needed, and that we can't let the public entirely dictate what happens with farming in Canada, I am so frustrated to note the complete lack of listening and learning on the part of conventional farmers.  I know many many beef farmers would meet and even surpass the standards set out by the Certified Humane label, but their resistance to being asked to look critically at their production and marketing decisions is making them look pretty foolish to those with money to spend on food with a third party assurance label. 
So my wish of all wishes is to have everyone ranting and raving, sit back and consider what an opportunity this might be. Are you meeting the standards now?  What would it take to get there?  If you are, can you justify the label?  Do the benefits (higher price) outweigh the extra work (some records and plans you're probably already keeping, or should)?
Let us not be angry with those who want to spend extra money for the assurance of meat raised on pastures, without preventative antibiotics, and the willingness to undergo an inspection and a little extra paperwork.  It won't be for everyone, but why not accommodate for those who can afford it?  I don't know about you, but rather than fire and brimstone, I see dollar signs.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mother Nature can be a cruel teacher

Lucy came screaming out of the hay mow in the cow's barn.  She could hear little chirps coming from under her newly made kindred spirit of the bird variety. 

It started a while ago when Mark discovered the clutch of eggs in the hay mow and mentioned it to me.  I kind of forgot until many days later when I saw a lone hen out wandering around the cow barn, when the rest of the flock was well up in the pasture.  I took notice of her and she seemed to spend far too much time out wandering about to be actually sitting on the eggs so I called to Lucy to get an egg basket and we'd go clean up the clutch before it got even more rotten. I also thought it had been too long since she and the rooster had friendly relations so I felt pretty confident that we were doing the hay mow and thus, ourselves, a favour.

So we gathered up 29 eggs (!!), took them home and did the float test to see if there were any worth keeping for ourselves.  There were some that had obviously been there far too long and some we could even hear thuds as we shook them.  Lucy really wanted to see and smell what a rotten egg looked like (curiosity beats common sense every time) so she was keen to take the floaters across the road and break them open.
"Mom!!!  COME LOOK!"
Two of the eggs she cracked had chicks in them.


So I went into suddenly overly sensitive mode and carefully loaded the eggs gently back into the basket and advised Lucy to quickly take them back and GENTLY set them back in the nest.  Thinking to myself the entire time, "Well, that's likely futile.  First they had a bumpy ride over here, then we dunked them in cold water, shook them around and now we're going to give them back to a hen who may or may not have given up brooding."
Upon her lengthy return she happily reported that the hen had been waiting for her on the nest and let her lift her off, return the eggs and set her back on.  Then Lucy found water and feed dishes, set her all up and petted her and reassured her in only the way she can.

Everyday after that, Lucy would twice daily, sometimes more, refresh the feed and water and continue the soothing petting and chatter.  She christened her "Baby" and brought her flowers and the grasses she found she liked.

Finally, two days ago came the grand announcement of the impending arrival of (can you believe it!) chicks, working away at breaking out of their eggs.  All day, Lucy would lift Baby off to check the status and come back with the ongoing play by play.  "She's got 3!"  "There's an all brown one!" "There's five!!"
At one point she met me in the barnyard with a still wet chick in her cupped hands, looking devastated because "his head or neck or something doesn't work right."  I suggested she let the Mom look after it; he had JUST come out of a tiny egg after all (again, thinking to myself, futile- a brand new, wet chick with a wonky neck, handled by a 7 year old...yeah right).  But shortly after, "He's good now! And he's got brown on his head!"  There was even one egg that hadn't fully hatched by nightfall and I had tried to convince Lucy that sometimes they just don't finish hatching, and it's not good to help them hatch.  She agreed not to 'help it' and listened to my doom and gloom, but obviously never lost faith because early the next morning she was over in the hay mow, her faith rewarded by yet another wee fluff ball, for a grand total of 7 chicks.

We have hatched eggs in an incubator before.  It is a finicky, temperamental and sometimes frustrating undertaking.  The humidity has to be just perfect.  The temperature to the degree.  Turned just right, etc. etc.  And here we had shaken, drowned, moved, carried eggs all over the farm, replaced them under the hen and she had managed to get 7 babies out of it.  Nature is an omnipotent being, handicapped by our interference.

And for some reason, that hen trusted Lucy with her precious cargo.  Any of the rest of us would go in and Baby would ruffle up, purr angrily at us and be clearly unhappy with our intrusion.  Lucy however, could go in, stick her hand under, lift a wing, cuddle the chicks to exhaustion and Baby wouldn't blink an eye.

 So when Lucy decided that day 2 was a good time to bring the chicks outside, Baby followed obediently and then excitedly out the cow barn door and enjoyed a scratch in the late morning sun.  It was incredible to watch the chicks imitate their mother immediately.  Two day old chicks fighting over a tiny spider is a magical thing to see.  Nature just kept surprising us all with Her infinite, innate wisdom.    

Lucy replaced the chicks back in their nest before we did the pasture chores, but by the time we were done, Baby had them all back out again, this time in the doorway of the barn.  Clucking to them when they got too far and happily pecking away at Rosie's straw bedding.

Lucy left them reluctantly to go home for lunch and when I announced that we had an errand run in town, she insisted on checking on them before we left.  So I drove over to pick her up at the barn once the boys and I were loaded up and ready to roll.

What I came upon is what can only be described as a scene of the deepest, gut-wrenching heartbreak.  There was Baby, outside the barn, repeatedly calling out to chicks who were nowhere to be seen and a little girl who couldn't let her heart believe what her eyes were seeing, or rather not seeing.  Crying tears of pure loss, Lucy was first like a frantic mother in a busy shopping mall, checking all the corners and hiding places, then in a moment of acceptance, collapsing beside Baby, saying things to make both of them feel better.  It was equally hard on the heart to listen to Baby not giving up, continually calling babies who would not return.  Lucy gathered her up in her arms and wept and for those moments, the both of them were silent, mutually mourning.  And then they'd find some resolve and go searching and calling again before finding each other for another quiet cuddle. 

Not one for sentimentality towards livestock, I surprised myself when I found myself weeping quietly, watching the heartbreak of a hen who had defied the odds only to lose them and a girl whose faith had proven itself only to be shattered.

The trip to town was replaced with a long cuddle on the front step while we talked about what predator might have been the culprit, how Baby knew just what to do to hatch them, how amazing nature is and mostly just sat in silence (and sniffles).

 I know there is some seriously valuable lessons in this and that if Lucy truly does grow up to be a farmer as she claims she wants to, this will stick with her in a larger way than just the heartbreak of the day.  Perhaps if more of us went through the anguish of feeling responsible for lives so easily lost, we would take the ones we have more seriously and appreciatively.  In any case, it was a hard day here on the farm. 
But as if to soften the blow, the kids and I did the chores tonight while Mark was gone to a meeting and the layer pasture was bathed in perfect sunset light and every last one of them was happily digging, scratching, pecking, dust-bathing, clucking and running about without a care in the world. I noticed Lucy looking resigned and as she held my hand in a rare moment on the way home, I could almost feel her understanding that the circle of life goes on.  


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Election Time on the Island!!

disclaimer: since I'm such an infrequent poster these days, I feel like I can post such a long tirade about local politics because I have so few followers left.  For those hangers on, thanks for sticking around- sorry about the length!  For farm photos and updates, you're much better off watching the Facebook page or Twitter.  :S

I have loved politics for as long as I can remember.  And politics was a favorite topic in our house, at all times of year, at every level of government.  Being heavy Conservatives at home mostly meant that it was easy to get into a good debate as long as someone else was willing to be a supporter of a different stripe.  And hell, if not a different stripe, there were always lots of politics within parties to discuss.  Federal, provincial, municipal, even international, a constant feed of TV news, newspapers and CBC radio gave lots of fodder for lively discussions and I was welcome to participate in the discussions, despite being a chunk younger than the rest of my siblings.
I'll never forget a conversation one night, while watching the news during a federal election and hearing what I thought were some interesting policies from the NDP, who were pretty new on the scene and at that point were totally new to me, a rural New Brunswicker kid.  I remember asking my parents about the 'orange party' and why we never talked about them, and their response being, "Well, they know they're not going to get in, so they can make crazy promises."  And at the time, it was certain that they weren't going to get into power and maybe some of the policies at the beginning weren't actually reasonable, but I also recognize that that belief about the not-blue-and-red parties still exists with a lot of voting Canadians, and I wish it didn't.

As someone who has voted for every eligible party at one time or another, I don't take my vote lightly and let's be honest, I just need a good political rant and Mark won't take me up on it and his family don't have the lively debates that I miss, so here goes!

It's election time here on PEI, and the Liberals have crafted what feels like a plan that has been in the works for months and months, with their too-smooth-talking Wade MacLauchlan up at bat, and acting as if it's in the bag in many ways.  Sadly, the attitude of some people I've talked to is that the party has actually convinced some that it IS in the bag, and voting otherwise is just a waste of time.  I'm generally a liberal 'sympathizer' (note:different than a supporter) but my distaste for the last government under Ghiz and the increasing sleeziness or condescension of this round of reds is really turning me off.  There was the careful exit of the former premier, timed just exactly right with Wade's coronation and the lack of any budget or sitting of the house before the election all just feels...a little too....something.  Something not good. 
Anyway, the point is, that the 'new' Liberals feel NO different from the last bunch and have offered nothing much to suggest it will be any different, so I find it pretty hard to get behind this crew.  Not that I've heard anything from my Liberal candidate whatsoever.  (Also, the way they're rolling out a wierd 'platform' of sorts, one day at a time, like it's a little gift to voters each day who are willing to stop by the website and try to figure out just what exactly they stand for...ugh...just adds to my distrust and distaste.)

As for the Conservatives, or the PC's as they would prefer to be called, I am still waiting to hear ANYthing about agriculture from them. There's been the usual blurbs about the importance of the primary industries and encouraging the use of local food in hospitals and schools, but I don't hear a lot of details behind any of it to give it some traction.  Wouldn't we all love that, but how can gov't make that happen and how can I tell it's a real priority if the word agriculture isn't actually used anywhere in any of the platform information?!  At least my local candidate has been by (I wasn't home dammit!) and left some info and his cell number.  His Twitter account also feels pretty genuine and down to earth, so at least there's that.  :/

Now, I'll admit some ignorance with the NDP this time around.  I certainly admire Mike Redmond, the leader, who spent a lot of time in Province House for the few weeks it has actually sat in the last year or so, and he addressed a lot of very valid concerns that I'm sure the gov't wished he wouldn't.  Sometimes I think the media put him into a bit of an out-there pigeon hole, but his presence in the house certainly made it much more interesting and legitimate than when it was the less-than-a-handful of dysfunctional PC men and the wave of back-patting Liberals.
Anyway, in my district, I've heard I may finally have a candidate, but I don't know who it is.  Someone swung by the farm the other day looking for signatures on a nomination form but he didn't live in my riding and admitted that he hoped the Green candidate in his riding would get in, so not sure he was the orange blooded candidate that the NDP's were hoping for.  I signed his form anyway of course and wished him luck, but I think I heard it was a woman who got the nomination.  In any case, the rather vague sounding 'platform' is another one totally void of the word 'agriculture' and in this case, even food.  (Note: just found out that my candidate is actually Mike Redmond's partner, who lives in Montague...with their five children...)

So now we've come to the Greens, who my parents would certainly have put in the 'will never get in' category. It's worth saying from the start, that I know my district Green candidate quite well and I really like him and his frankness and appreciate his willingness to say what no one else is saying.  He's also a farmer (our pig, Nancy,'s former owner) and has a true appreciation for agriculture of various scales and commodities, locally and nationally.  But he'll also call out farming practices that don't make sense or are unsustainable.
So yeah, it's a bit obvious now where I stand with my vote right now, but even if I didn't know Ranald, my review of the parties and my careful observation of their platforms would still have put the Greens out in front.  Their platform sets out a very specific strategy for agriculture on PEI, including land acquisition for new farmers.  There's actually two whole pages on agriculture!  And yet I can't find even the word from the other three parties!

I know that education, and health, and economy are important.  I pay taxes and use hospitals and sometime my kids will go to school.  But I also live here and breathe the water, drink the air and eat the food, EVERY DAY.  The current strategy with agriculture on PEI seems to be a continued head-banding-into-walls as we try to compete on an international, monoculture scale that is only serving to degrade soil, erode soil, kill fish and contaminate water.  We are too small to compete with Idaho or China or whoever, so why are we trying and then crying when it doesn't work!?  Let's differentiate, let's turn this thing upside down and look at new ways of doing things?  Actually new and not just the PC version of "new". 

Here's my 'thing', again.  Canada exports a LOT of alfalfa.  GMO alfalfa is in Canada and has the potential to cross pollinate with other alfalfas, both wild and otherwise.  Europe and Asia hasn't been real excited about GMO contamination in things thus far, but the Pandora's box of GMO's seems like it's probably a reality that will affect that entire export market.  UNLESS, there was a jurisdiction with like a physical border, maybe water, that could better ensure a GMO-free alfalfa product?!?  Hmmm..growing an Island full of a perennial legume, rather than a soil-exposing, tri-annual root crop?! 

But that's too hard to get our head around, or spend time on right now. Right now we have farm debt and too much big equipment and contracts and no one to buy the farm, and retiring farmers and dead fish and on and on.  Of course the parties don't want to touch it. 
But the Greens have.  And they are offering a short term plan, but also a real willingness and desire to set up a long term goal of legitimate sustainability. 

Yes, it would be different.  It might be uncomfortably different.  But being uncomfortable is a helluva lot better than being indifferent, which is where a lot of Islanders seem to stand right now.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

What I learned on Mark's summer vacation

For those of you who don't know, a couple important things happened around here lately. Firstly, Mark left for a 10 day trip to Chile with his Atlantic Agricultural Leadership Program for their international study tour.  At the same time, PEI experienced Snowzilla like never before (well, since 1923 at least).  Here's 10 things I learned from Mark's Summer Vacation (it was 30 degrees and sunny in Chile).

10. I'm tougher than I thought.
9.  But not tough enough that I don't call a brother in a blubbering mess in the middle of the night.
8.  Certain kinds of snow make for much easier shoveling than others.
7.  Milking a cow can be a very meditative time.  The world can be crumbling around you, but it's a task that requires your presence and patience and must be done, no matter what else is happening.  Despite having to dig a 4 foot tunnel everyday just to get to the door, it became my "be still and know" moment.
6.  I can understand how people get addicted to their cell phones. Mark left his behind when he went, and I came to rely on it for everything when our internet went out, and then had a hard time giving it up when he came back.
5.  Asking for help is still hard, but so effective.  Neighbours, family and friends are so good.
4.  Snow and wind can be very scary.  I've never actually been scared of being outside before, but there were true moments of fear (hence reliance on cell phone for security blanket).
3.  Furnaces are wonderful when they work.  Mysteries of frustration and anxiety when they don't.
2.  I take a lot of what Mark does for granted.  And mostly the small things that really add up.
1.  My role as the mere 'housewife' is a crucial one.  I truly gained a new appreciation for my role and the importance of what it is I do around here.  Twice, I forgot to eat supper until I lay in bed and my stomach growled.  I slipped into Survival Mode and all the extra niceties of life gave way to the bare minimum requirements and it became so clear to me just how valuable all those little things that I do, actually make a difference to not only the household but the farm and our business. 
So for that, I'm very thankful for Mark's summer vacation.

However, he will never go that far, for that long ever again. 
Without me.