Every newby farming family really needs an experienced neighbour to offer tried and true advice and an occasional helping hand. Luckily for us “Wild” Bill and his wife Marie are the quintessential next door neighbours that fulfill this role.
Bill taught us the benefits of a hinged style hoe for clearing a row of weeds in a hurry – though still with much effort. He has also donated hundreds of heirloom dahlia tubers that are of a lineage that belonged to his father. Back in the day, these tubours were so popular they cost 50 cents each, which would been half an average man’s daily wages, according to Bill. His wife is also generous, she provided us a bunch with of vases and has offered up their pristine and abundant blueberry patch to our kids who pick until their bellies are bursting.
Though some may not consider Bill’s outfit high fashion, I am on a serious hunt for a light weight pair of coveralls. If I plan to be a farmer into my golden year I need to protect my skin and nothing covers skin better than coveralls. They would also keep my clothes cleaner, so less laundry and also allow for a quick change and transformation between farmer, florist, school mom and other less dirty life roles. A hat is vital for out in the field and I am trying to adopt the hat wearing habit. Pockets to keep small tools and cell phones from disappearing into the field are also a must. A careful observer will see a small transister radio in Bill’s pocket. We are definitely in need of this – you see there is no WiFi out in the field so a radio could help ease the burden of weeding and planting.
Yup – Bill has it figured out, and we are thankful he and his wife are our neighbors.
This is our first spring on the farm so it has been exciting to see the rolling wave of blooms our perennial gardens have been pumping out. Our front garden and side border have rhododendrons and azaleas of various sizes and colours and as one plant starts to fade another comes into bloom.
A view though the weeping birch in the front island.
I’m looking forward to discovering the future colours and details of the many buds that are waiting their turn to burst open.
When my 6 year niece was asked if she would accept an interview about her chicken farming experience she excitedly replied “ooh I didn’t know chicken farming was so fancy.” For sake of protecting her identification I asked my niece to pick an alternate identity and she requested to be referred to as “Rhubarb Muffin”.
Q: What do you have to do to look after chickens.
A: Give them fresh water, clean the wood chips and collect the eggs
Q: How many eggs do you get everyday
A: Sometimes 1. sometimes 11.
Q: What is the hardest part of being a chicken farmer?
A: Changing the water because it sprays me
Q: What do you like most about your chickens
A: They go “bock bock”
A: How much does a dozen eggs cost?
A: 5 dollars
Q : Do you know what organic means?
Q: Is it hard to pick up a chicken?
A: Yes, but I am good at it.
So Rhubarb Muffin may not have vast insight into the world of organic agriculture and animal husbandry but she is learning a lot about responsibility, empathy for living things and math & accounting skills (if I drop 2 eggs before getting to the house will I have enough to sell to get my $5?) There seems to be a fair amount of fun in the chicken business as I’ve seen RM and my daughter spending a lot of time playing with the docile and friendly hens . In the picture below “dress up” and chicken farming merge well for 6 year-olds. Maybe tomorrow I’ll don a tiara and add a skip before heading out to work too.
We knew early on that we needed covered growing space to extend the flower season. I remembered that friends of ours had purchased a used hoophouse from local farmers that moved away and it was still sitting in their carport months later. I inquired as to their plans for it and as luck would have it they had decided against setting it up and it could be ours for a little work exchange to help install a wooden swing set for their daughter. Perfect.
We set about installing it in the fall. We put the wooden perimeter together and got all of the PVC ribs up in no time. We even draped the plastic over the structure and clipped it on front and back PVC ribs. We were feeling good about our progress. Then the first storm blew into town and blew the plastic off. Not deterred, we put the plastic back on and used wood lathe to attach it down along the sides of the structure. We didn’t get the end walls in place before the next storm arrived. This time it lifted the entire structure up, like a giant kite, base and all, ripped the plastic and broke many of the PVC ribs….. This bruised our spirits a little but we persevered. The engineer on the farm took on the challenge and dug concrete blocks into the ground to anchor the structure and added a wooden ridge beam with supports to add strength. He also got the end walls with doors up before the next storm. The other night we heard the wind blowing hard again and I lay there wondering what condition the hoophouse would be by morning. I awoke to find the hoop house standing strong. It appears so far that the third resurrection of the hoop house is a success. Here’s hoping it stays strong in the storms to come and keeps the flowers within warm and plentiful.
Shannon Roberts, Farmer Florist