Hello Lovely Eaters,
Spring has been slow in coming, but all the same it appears it is here, as birds are singing, calves are being born and green grass and perennial plants are hesitantly peeking their sprouts from below the soil surface!
We had a great time last month at our Farm-to-Eater Delivery, going back to our former pick-up location at Vimy Ridge Park with friends from The Dogs Run Farm. They had their pastured pork for offer, and along with our grassfed beef and lamb and raw honey, customers had a great selection of local food to choose from, all in one place! This month, we will be back at our North St. Vital location, offering a variety of options.
There are always 1 million jobs to try and get done in the Spring, as the melted snow uncovers all of the unfinished jobs or dormant areas you were able to forget about for the Winter months. My (Michelle’s) inclination to get out there and work outdoors for long hours is put in check by the fact that we now have an 8-month-old, who has a limited patience for being outside watching Mommy fork quackgrass, especially when the weather has not yet been top-notch, so I am figuring out how to calm my nervousness and enjoy some time with my son!
In related news, we are seeking some labour help this Spring and Summer, for a minimum of 2 weeks, to help give us a hand in some of our many farm enterprises: beekeeping, cattle and sheep production, but also our non-commercial activities like laying hens and vegetable gardening. We are looking for someone who is not afraid to work hard, jump right in and work independently, and ideally a person who might have aspirations of farming on their own, one day. If you or someone you know if interested, please shoot us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Calving” time is upon us now, and we are about 25% through it with around 10 calves born, and 30 to go. Our cows and heifers (first time mommas) calve out on a piece of pasture, with some straw to bed in on the cooler days, windbreak panels for shelter, and lots of space for the wee ones to kick up their heels! (They totally do this, during the ‘twilight hour’ in the evening, a calf only born 48 hours earlier can be very energetic and speedy!) It’s fun to see the new babies, and we hope that things continue on going alright. Our calving is fairly small compared to many other operations, such as my brother and Dad, who calve out around 250, most during a 6-week period of time! All the same, we keep close watch, as we want to make sure everyone born is happy and healthy and bonded with their mother. See photos Troy took of some of them, below!
We recently introduced five ducks to our gang of poultry birds, 2 drakes and 3 females, Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin, laying breeds – thanks to Maria from McDonald Farm for them! They are so sweet to watch walking around the yard together, ideally they might help in keeping insect populations down in the backyard here but who knows. We anticipate getting a couple dozen new brown egg layer heritage breed laying hens in the next month, as our old girls were chicks 2 years ago, they are getting on and laying rate is waning. They are excited to be outside finally, pecking and scratching around the yard, preparing to make dust baths in my flower gardens, as they do.
Apparently folks are saying that the frogs (‘peepers’) are chirping already, but farming lore says that their mouths must ‘freeze shut 3 times’ before it’s safe to plant in the ground. I haven’t been counting, but I’d be a little unsure whether they’re done freezing, just yet. All the same, I’m antsy to get into the garden – we grow all of our own vegetables for the whole year (or as much as we can, anyways) and it will be nice to finally have our own veggies again. We’ve recently succumbed to buying them from the store, as even our local market gardening gurus at Brown Sugar Produce are sold out of their winter root crop supply. They just aren’t the same coming off of the grocery shelves!
Part of the reason we’re consuming lots of veggies, and also a lot of meat, is that Troy is trying a new protocol with his diet, called ‘Autoimmune Paleo’. We normally eat a diet that is pretty close to Paleo (lots of meat proteins, veggies, non-grain starches) but the auto-immune aspect makes some extra restrictions, including no grains (even gluten-free, with the exception of some white rice in our case), no eggs, no dairy and no nightshade vegetables. So – although I (and Syd) are not adhering to this menu all of the time, you can imagine that it has made our from-scratch meal-planning a tad more complicated. Our Holistic Nutritionist suggested we look at Once a Month Meals, which gives you a resource for doing ‘batch freezer cooking’ aka making a pile of food all at once to make easy-to-grab meals when you are busy and need something, which also prevents ‘cheating’ on the protocol, which just isn’t helpful when you’re trying to re-set the gut flora and do it right. Anyways, if you or your household is in a similar situation with a more restrictive diet, perhaps looking at meal planning and batch cooking would be helpful for you, if you don’t already do it. It really just requires setting aside a full day (which I know, is pretty hard to do) or afternoon, once or twice a month to make sure you’re stocked with a good selection of meals. We feel fortunate to have a great supply of diverse meat proteins as the base for this diet, and hope that we might be able to help anyone else out there that needs to source good quality meats for a similar type of regimen. Get ahold of us if you want to chat about ways to be economical about it, if you forsee needing a larger amount of meat.
I guess some of the bigger news over the past month is that fact that we discovered how drastic our overwintering losses were for the bees: around 85%. This was especially hard for Troy to swallow, as even though they are insects, they are still our “livestock” and we take pride in caring for our livestock. Losses were due to a combination of factors, including a weakened state from mites/disease, and a very cold winter with not much snow to help insulate the hives. We’ve had great overwintering the last few years, and it hurts the pride (and pocketbook) to experience it go so far the other way. We had some insurance, however, so luckily we can re-coup some of the costs of buying back the bees we need to carry on for this season. Troy announced recently that the hives that did survive are thriving quite well, so we are glad of that. We don’t doubt that we will be able to supply you all with enough raw honey to satisfy your needs this season – so no worries! Remember, if you can’t buy directly from us, there are a number of great retail locations that sell our honey across Manitoba. See the full list at the bottom of this page.
The sheep are doing well…quite pregnant, waddling about and excited to graze the first green grasses coming up in their paddock. The sheep shearer will be here in a week or two, and hopefully by then the temperatures will have warmed up for them to present their ‘naked’ bodies to the world! We anticipate lambing will start right around the beginning of June. We have a new Dorper ram, so are interested to see the hybrid lambs (with Polled Dorset mothers) that come from his genetics!
And what about Syd the Kid, you ask? He is doing well…he has been enjoying walks outdoors (well he’s not walking, but you know), swimming at the Mary Ann Moore Wellness mineral pool (he’s a fish!), and putting everything in sight into his mouth. No teeth yet, but he does not a bad job gumming away at whatever takes his fancy! We are doing ‘Baby Led Weaning’ method of baby feeding with him, so he generally eats most things that we do for our meals – bits of meat, veggies, rice, fruits and more. Who knows, maybe by the next time I write a newsletter update next month he’ll have mastered the art of crawling? Syd especially seems to enjoy visiting the animals on our farm walks, he gets quite entertained with the chickens and ducks in the backyard. He will be ‘helping’ before we know it! (Yeah, right.)
We enjoyed spending some time at a friend’s farm the other day, helping them complete some intimidating jobs as a good old-fashioned style ‘work bee’. We got a lot accomplished and know that they were very pleased and relieved. It was also fun to get out and work with some of our farming friends who we generally only spend time with in a social setting, when we tear ourselves away from our respective farms and farmwork. To collaborate was really refreshing, and we know it was hard for them to gather the courage to ask for the help – we are all busy and don’t want to generally ‘bother’ others with asking for extra hands to help get our own needs met. However, it helps to provide a better space within our friend group, to feel like it’s okay to reach out and ask. It won’t always be possible for everyone to pitch in, but we will all do what we can when we’re able.
Did you catch the video by The Prairie Climate Centre, featuring Troy? It’s part of the PCC’s new Climate Atlas tool online, which makes understanding what we are up against with climate change now and in the future, in very tangible ways. This video has Troy and another local rancher discussing some of the methods of using grazing animals to try to improve the land and help sequester carbon. Despite what many articles or documentaries might be saying about the devastating effects of agriculture and livestock production on climate change (not to refute that these exist), there are some real efforts and solutions being made by agriculturalists that want to see those effects turned on their head. In some cases, there are people out there who are regenerating the soil, plants and land in general, while decreasing their dependence on fossil fuel and synthetic inputs, and these folks are mentors to us in our quest to practice ‘regenerative agriculture’.
However, the statistics around climate change are becoming very real for us. For example, the Climate Atlas cites that by the near future (between 2051-2080) we will go from having about 57 annual days above 30 degrees Celsius, to as many as 102 days. This would mean that our southern Manitoba landscape looking and feeling more like what the southern US states experience now. As compared to when I was young, the weather is pretty erratic – we never used to have tornado warnings, and 2 summers ago we had at least 3 quite close calls with twisters or tornadoes. As I mentioned earlier when referencing the bees, we did not get a lot of snow this Winter. After a dry late Summer and Fall, and some of the lowest precipitation levels we’ve seen in April, we are DRY. If we don’t get some Spring rains soon, things are going to get pretty real in terms of facing drought conditions this Summer. Our soil is also quite sandy, so it drains faster than the Red River clay soils that hang onto it. We depend on moisture every year to help jump-start the grasses and legumes in our pastures, not to mention help to grow the seeds which we sod-seed every Spring to revitalize our pastures, to keep our well going that supplies both our home and all of our satellite cattle waterers, and to help grow the hay that we need to harvest for feeding over the Winter. It also helps the plants produce nectar that the bees feed on (in order for them to thrive and make lots of honey). For now, we are going to cross our fingers for some rain and keep in mind some contingency planning if things were to indeed be very dry.
Anyways…how about those Jets, amiright? *ahem* We hope all of you reading this get a chance to get outside and enjoy the upcoming warm temperatures, perhaps fire up the barbeque and enjoy some good food and company over the May Long weekend! We hope you’ll allow us to help stock you up, and look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday May 17th at the delivery in Winnipeg. If you are in a more local area, please let us know if you’re interested and we can find a way to connect with you, too!
Michelle and Troy (and Sydney)