Saturday, October 15, 2016

A recap of the season

          This summer, like all before it has gone faster than you can say " Yay, schools out!". With the kids returning to class and the signs of fall clearly arrived, I have a minute to look back and reflect on how little I have shared and how much I have actually accomplished the last four months. My road to making a living doing what I love has not gone as smoothly as I had hoped but major ground work was laid and lessens learned.

           I had started this year with the plan to work on borrowed land about an hour away from where I live, the problem was the land had a gate and when I asked for a key, so I didn't have to haul everything by hand from the car to the cleared site, I never heard back. I didn't feel comfortable building housing for chickens and digging garden beds on land that I didn't have a key to access, even if I was legally given permission to be there. As luck would have it, another person had a previously cared for garden site, in the city, that they would not be using this year. It was huge and fertile but far from a water source and although I was told they would till it for me, all the rain we had this year made that difficult and ended up working it by hand. In the end, I spent hours pulling weeds and planting, only to get very little done and most of what did get planted was rather eaten by rabbits who got under the fence, crushed by deer jumping over the fence to find a place to sleep or mowed down by the frustrated land owner.
          There where a handful of plants to survive but the majority of benefit obtained from this whole experience was the hands on experience I got growing hard neck garlic that had previously been growing there. The owner had come out and shown me how and when to harvest the scapes I had read about and gave me  the homemade garlic pesto that she is famous for. Despite all the ups and downs of the whole garden experience, a new passion for garlic grew. I have always loved garlic and have wanted to grow my own for some time but always seem to miss the time to buy them. (Now I know it is because I am busy with birthdays and back to school and by the time things settle down, they are sold out!) I did manage to get one clove planted last year and used the knowledge given to me, with real time experience (which reinforces learning) to harvest and cure about 5 bulbs. Not the biggest hull but enough to share the joy of homemade beet Gnocchi in a garlic parmesan sauce for my son's birthday. So now not only do I love garlic cloves but green garlic and garlic scapes too! Who knew? This year I made sure I got my order in and maybe went over board order three bags each of Deep purple and German red from Sage Gardens, a friend of mine is also getting Kettle river giant and Georgia crystal from Burpee seeds and looking to trade for variety. I picked Deep purple and German red not only for their flavour and storage length but they mature at different times to extend harvest periods. I am sure there will be many excited posts to come, as you are exposed to just how deep my love for this plant goes.

The most profitable venture this year was with the meat chickens, I only had 15 birds but people came out of the woodwork to be able to purchase a bird they knew was well taken care of. I did participate in the final preparing of the birds but may have it done professionally next time to save time and have it government inspected but knowing that I could if needed is valuable and a necessary skill in my opinion. A lot of farmers I know are not doing the meat birds again but going for a duel purpose bird, for the very reasons I will be sticking with the meat birds. These meat birds where bred for by companies for commercial purposes, to put on as much meat, as quickly  and in as little space as possible because of this they are heavy, don't move around much (which concentrates their mess), can't move around easily to get food and water and they eat a lot (so you spend a lot on feed). Why then, do you ask, would I like them? My answer is because of their problems and the health problems that come with age (they with start dyeing of heart attacks and other problems because there bodies cannot support the mass), I have no problems parting with them, when the time comes. So I will be doing them again but I will be offering more real foods to keep costs down. My birds would eat food that was brought to them, although that was not the experience of other farmers.

The most exciting venture was the honey bees! I will be doing a separate post for them but wanted to mention them here. Due to the hive splitting soon after I got them, there is not enough honey that I feel comfortable taking it from them. I would rather lose them and the honey, then to wonder if they would have made it threw the winter if I hadn't taken any. Hopefully they will make it through the winter and have some honey left over to share in spring.

The last new bomb I want to drop is that I ended up purchasing 31 acres in southern Manitoba, so no more borrowed land! With it comes a lot of work, expense and planning but this is for the long run and I will benefit from whatever I put into it. So I think you can see why I have dropped the expanding my online presence a little, although it is important to me that I get better at it, in order to share my experiences and attract regular followers. Till next time, keep dreaming and working your way towards making it reality, I know I will be.

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