Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wood Cookstove

This is our new Enterprise wood cookstove. We're collecting it on Sunday afternoon and bringing it back to the house for some restoration. The enamel looks to be in good shape and with the help of our wonderful friend Dan who is a welder we hope to be able to repair a crack in the cast iron top, but it's very tricky to repair or weld cast iron so we'll have to see. It will be totally up to the professionals to let us know. However, for a small investment in new fire bricks for the firebox and the repair of the crack, we can hopefully have a working cookstove for our new home when the time comes. One of the beauties of having a home to live in right now is that we can acquire necessary things as we go and get a good deal on them. Our investment in this stove will be approximately:

$30   gas to go collect it.
$100 for welding rod and labour
$30   for fire bricks
$20   Sanding wheels to grind down the top and remove rusty spots before we season it again.

Total Cost Estimate = $180

Cost of a new cookstove = $5500+

There is an extra cost for chimney and stove pipe but the cost is the same whether for an old stove or a new one. We'll need a steel liner in a masonry chimney or an insulated steel pipe and collars depending on how we decide to install the stove.

So with luck and a lot of labour we will have a working cookstove that will be useful in the house or in the workshop as a source of wood heat. It's great to be able to make something like this useful again and this particular stove is from the Enterprise-Fawcett foundry that's here in the Maritimes, in Sackville New Brunswick. They recently had a fire and so are not currently working I don't think.

In other news...we paid our first mortgage payment yesterday, one of our cats is 20 feet up a maple tree in the front yard and meowing like mad (yes it's Suzie again) and the parts we need to repair the tiller, the ignition coil and something else I don't remember, have arrived 1 day after we ordered them. Hooray! And the timing is great because I have to go out today and was afraid I'd miss the delivery guy. Ahhh, the week is getting better.

Building with Nature

Using the elements of the property you buy, such as slope, water, sunlight and shade, are all important considerations. If you drive through any urban setting you'll find houses all lined along the roads, square to the street. In many cases the same style of house is turned to face north, south, west depending on which street it's on so that the exact same house on a different street might operate thermally very different from it's neighbour. For example your big living room window that faces south-west is lovely in winter and overheats your house in the summer. Your neighbour whose same window faces north east finds it a heat drain to the outside and a very cool room in their house. I know you've patiently read as I rambled on about passive solar gain, house sites, and using available materials, and I appreciate that. Reading about that is all well and good. Living off grid is terrific. But my goodness it can be expensive!

There seem to be 3 different camps in the solar energy department.

1. The first group have sufficient funds to build a large fancy house and maintain a high consumption of power by installing large photovoltaic power systems or wind turbines to generate and store power or bringing in and storing propane. As pointed out by some of you readers, these homes are costing $300,000 or more to construct. Owners are basically living a modern lifestyle and prividing the same amount of power they typically use, just from an off grid source. The maintenance costs will be expensive over time as batteries need replacing and propane needs to be refilled.  I'm not saying that this isn't a good way to live your life, it's just not for me.

2. The second group are the near opposite of the first group. They will convert a vehicle to live in, build their own small home, live in a yurt and heat with wood. For them living off grid means having no modern conveniences like a refrigerator and possibly not running water. It means going back to the very basics of shelter and the simple, comfortable life. Stories abound in Mother Earth News and online about how to live this ultra simple life and how to re-prioritize your life and find contentment. It's a good life for the many who enjoy it.

3. I would propose that there can be a third group, a middle ground if you will, where each family or individual takes into consideration the ideas and principles from both camps and makes their own version of a comfortable life with the flexibility to adapt and change over time. This is the group that Stephen and I fall into. Yes, we want to use passive solar techniques, generate our own power and live simply on the land. But at the same time we plan to have our home connected to the electricity grid at least while the kids are at home, and we'll run a fridge and stove in the kitchen, at least while the kids require large quantities of food prepared fast.

The beauty of being in this third group though, is that we can adapt as our lives evolve. Maybe I'll become very proficient at cooking on the cookstove and use that instead of my electric one over time. I hope so. Maybe we'll discover that we can generate enough power to run a small circulating pump for water heated on the roof and reduce our use of the hot water tank. Maybe the kids will use less power with their computers because they will be outside more often. Who knows. Well, I guess we will over time. And as we live in a place for some time we can evolve our ideas to suit our site and the changing needs of our family. Flexibility is key to happily living any alternative life. Just think back to my living in the travel trailer with a garden hose hooked to the washing machine!

Here's an example of a brother and sister who took a barn in the hills of Spain and made a beautiful and modern home. They are not back-to-the-landers in the typical hippie sense. They're not growing their own food as far as I know and they definitely have a flair for architecture and design. But the thing I like is their use of the materials and setting they already had and their adaptation to it. I would have used it differently of course but I really admire their vision. I also love the rolling shutters and want to use that idea in our home if it's feasible given the winds here in the fall and winter.The idea that their house wouldn't stand out like an eyesore on the landscape is close to my heart too. Living in harmony with your surroundings is important.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brain Farts, ever have one?

Just for a chuckle, I thought I'd post this video. I promise to add a more serious post later today.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gated Community

Well, probably not the kind of gated community you're thinking of. We're seeing lots of tire tracks from people driving through our new property and I'm thinking that putting up a temporary gate might not be a bad idea. Just 2 posts with a swinging gate that says "yes, somebody owns this place now". While we certainly welcome fishermen, I'm not sure other people need to be driving through with vehicles.

The grass is now several feet tall and in need of a good chewing down. So I places an ad on Kijiji offering free grazing pasture if someone wanted to bring in some animals and come eat it down a bit. I might as well make it useful, right? And who knows...maybe I'll make a new friend. We're also going to plow out a half acre near the bottom in our best land and put up a small greenhouse. But the thing we're most excited to do is to put in a pumpkin garden. We're going to invite all the children at church and their families to come for a picnic and make a marker for their pumpkins and then plant some seeds. In the fall we'll have a pumpkin harvesting party to celebrate our first Harvest. It's just a small and simple way of giving something back to the community, and you're all welcome! Planting day will be June 9th at noon, tentatively.

I've got to get to the bank and pay my bills so I'll write more later.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cordwood Barn

There's a lovely barn near us and on the way to our friends cottage that I've been trying to get a picture of for ages. Here it finally is, and only because Steve was driving. An interesting example of what cordwood can look like. This is near Aylesford, NS.

We said our sad goodbye's to Grandad and Janet today, they're leaving to go back home to BC tomorrow and we'll miss them. Had a lovely week with them though and the boys caught a ton of fish today so everyone's happy.

Real Fishermen...Real Blood

Chris and Dan both tangled with the same hook yesterday, and the hook won both times. I think it's time to do something about those barbs! Chris got hooked in the thumb and Dan got the same hook later in the side of a finger. I'm going to try a tri-hook on my bait because I am getting lots of bites but can't set the hook and hearing me cuss across the lake at sunset might not be so relaxing for the neighbours. Having said that...I did fish until after dark (which made a line repair a bit tricky without a flashlight) but I got to see the moon and Venus reflected on the lake, the bugs disappeared as the bats came out and went swooping low over the water to gobble down their dinner, and the fish were really biting close to the dock as the sun set. I just stood on a rock casting into the little cove and most of my bites were within 15 feet of shore. So after tonights farewell BBQ I am going to fish for a few minutes with my new tackle. Or not...maybe tonight I'll just enjoy a quiet time and forgo fishing until next weekend. Anyways, gotta run but I'll post pics of Chris' first small mouth Bass, and his idea of using human blood as an attractant, eww! lol I think this lure is going back in the tackle box until I squeeze the barbs. I didn't tell anyone...but I manages to stick myself with the same lure last week and got 2 finger tips at the same time, but it didn't stick in like Chris'...that's just nasty! Steve took some pics of me fishing at dusk so I'll see if he'll send me them and I'll post them.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Meghan's Blog

Meghan wanted a place to post videos she likes so her friends can see them. Her address is

Queen of the Sun: A fantastic movie about bees

The boys and I are going to build some bee boxes over the weekend, and Steve has diagnosed the ignition coil as the reason the tiller won't run, so maybe we can get that fixed too. Sounds like we're going to be busy as bees! Our bees should be here within 2 weeks now that the apple trees and blueberries are pollinated and beekeepers will be splitting nucs (frames of brood plus a queen) from their existing hives. We're also making a couple of extras in the hope that we might catch a swarm or two. So if you see a swarm of bees clinging to a branch or other location in the Annapolis Valley (it can look like the picture) don't worry. They're not aggressive, and we'll be happy to remove them to a new home. Bees that swarm are simply hanging out waiting for their scouts to find a suitable new home. The swarm will attach itself to all sorts of places, like walls, trees, I've seen one on a bicycle, but it doesn't matter, in a few hours or a day or two, the scouts will return with a new home location and the swarm will leave. But Stephen or I would be very happy to come and remove them for you! If you want to know more about hives, search Warre hives on my blog and you'll get a great article including links to plans so you can build your own.

If you've ever wanted to know more about bees and their importance then take a little time and watch this video.

Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? - Official Theatrical Trailer (HD) from Taggart Siegel on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soil: The Heart of a Farm

Having land that is 'in good heart' is an English expression that means the soil is healthy. I think it's pretty obvious that in order to have a successful growing operation you need soil that will provide a good growing medium for your crops, giving them moisture and nutrients as they develop.

All soil can be improved by addition of humus, drainage, adding lime etc. but the better the soil you have to start with, and knowing what you've got, the easier it is. The soils on our new place are classified as 2f and 3m. So basically, we are starting with pretty good land, especially for this area. And through adding manure and composts we hope to continually improve the fertility and moisture retaining ability of our soil, and we'll have to lime as well to raise the pH of our acidic soil. On the bright side, raising the acidity to nearer neutral makes other nutrients available, thereby increasing fertility, and it only has to be done once every 7 years according to the local farmers and fertilizer salesmen. I'm hoping to do it once and then go on from there, testing periodically to see how we're doing and maybe using wood ash on the garden to raise the level naturally.

There are plenty of farms for sale with supposedly fantastic soil, and you'll pay a premium for them too. So is it worth the extra money for better soil? In our case we decided that we were willing to take something that was reasonable and could be easily improved over time (as described above) and pay less for it. We basically have 5 acres of good soil, that needs some improvement and irrigation for year-round growing, and 37 acres of tree covered hillside that will remain as a mix of forest, mushroom habitat, summer pasture (that's a project for another year) and maybe a cabin or two. For the $35 thousand we paid, I think we're doing pretty well right out of the gate. It's going to be a lot of work, but at least we have an idea of what we're in for both work and expense wise.

So let me tell you about soil classification in Nova Scotia, and infact in Canada in general. Soils are divided into 7 different numbered categories as follows:

Class 1 - Soils in this class have no significant limitations in use for crops.

Soils in Class 1 are level to nearly level, deep, well to imperfectly drained and have good nutrient and water holding capacity. They can be managed and cropped without difficulty. Under good management they are moderately high to high in productivity for the full range of common field crops

Class 2 - Soils in this class have moderate limitations that reduce the choice of crops, or require moderate conservation practices.

These soils are deep and may not hold moisture and nutrients as well as Class 1 soils. The limitations are moderate and the soils can be managed and cropped with little difficulty. Under good management they are moderately high to high in productivity for a wide range of common field crops.

Class 3 - Soils in this class have moderately severe limitations that reduce the choice of crops or require special conservation practices.

The limitations are more severe than for Class 2 soils. They affect one or more of the following practices: timing and ease of tillage; planting and harvesting; choice of crops; and methods of conservation. Under good management these soils are fair to moderately high in productivity for a wide range of common field crops.

Class 4 - Soils in this class have severe limitations that restrict the choice of crops, or require special conservation practices and very careful management, or both.

The severe limitations seriously affect one or more of the following practices: timing and ease of tillage; planting and harvesting; choice of crops; and methods of conservation. These soils are low to medium in productivity for a narrow to wide range of common field crops, but may have higher productivity for a specially adapted crop.

Class 5 - Soils in this class have very severe limitations that restrict their capability to producing perennial forage crops, and improvement practices are feasible.

The limitations are so severe that the soils are not capable of use for sustained production of annual field crops. The soils are capable of producing native or tame species of perennial forage plants and may be improved through the use of farm machinery. Feasible improvement practices may include clearing of bush, cultivation, seeding, fertilizing or water control.

Class 6 - Soils in this class are unsuited for cultivation, but are capable of use for unimproved permanent pasture.

These soils may provide some sustained grazing for farm animals, but the limitations are so severe that improvement through the use of farm machinery is impractical. The terrain may be unsuitable for the use of farm machinery, or the soils may not respond to improvement, or the grazing season may be very short.

Class 7 - Soils in this class have no capability for arable culture or permanent pasture.

This class includes marsh, rocky land and soil on very steep slopes.

And soils are further sub-classed based on local variations such as lightness (sand) or lack of nutrients, potential for flooding and other things a grower could experience.

Subclass C - Adverse climate: This subclass denotes a significant adverse climate for crop production as compared to the "median" climate which is defined as one with sufficiently high growing-season temperatures to bring common field crops to maturity, and with sufficient precipitation to permit crops to be grown each year on the same land without a serious risk of partial or total crop failures. In Ontario this subclass is applied to land averaging less than 2300 Crop Heat Units.

Subclass D - Undesirable soil structure and/or low permeability: This subclass is used for soils which are difficult to till, or which absorb or release water very slowly, or in which the depth of rooting zone is restricted by conditions other than a high water table or consolidated bedrock. In Ontario this subclass is based on the existence of critical clay contents in the upper soil profile.

Subclass E - Erosion: Loss of topsoil and subsoil by erosion has reduced productivity and may in some cases cause difficulties in farming the land e.g. land with gullies.

Subclass F - Low natural fertility: This subclass is made up of soils having low fertility that is either correctable with careful management in the use of fertilizers and soil amendments or is difficult to correct in a feasible way. The limitation may be due to a lack of available plant nutrients, high acidity, low exchange capacity, or presence of toxic compounds.

Subclass I - Inundation by streams or lakes: Flooding by streams and lakes causes crop damage or restricts agricultural use.

Subclass M – Moisture deficiency: Soils in this subclass have lower moisture holding capacities and are more prone to drought.

Subclass P - Stoniness: This subclass indicates soils sufficiently stony to hinder tillage, planting, and harvesting operations.

Subclass R - Consolidated bedrock: The occurrence of consolidated bedrock within 100 cm of the surface restricts rooting depth and limits moisture holding capacity. Conversely, in poorly drained soils the presence of the bedrock may, depending on depth, make artificial drainage impossible.

Subclass S - Adverse soil characteristics: This subclass denotes a combination of limitations of equal severity. In Ontario it has often been used to denote a combination of F and M when these are present with a third limitation such as T, E or P.

Subclass T - Topography: This subclass denotes limitations due to slope steepness and length. Such limitations may hinder machinery use, decrease the uniformity of crop growth and maturity, and increase water erosion potential.

Subclass W - Excess water: This subclass indicates the presence of excess soil moisture due to poor or very poor soil drainage. It is distinguished from Subclass I - water inundation which indicates risk of flooding from adjacent lakes or streams.

So there you have it, the basics of understanding soil. If you're new to growing and really want to get off to a good start, I recommend having your soil tested for nutrient levels so that you can plan your additions like cover crops and manures with that in mind. Happy Growing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Long Weekend Is Over

It's back to a more normal life for us, though we had a great weekend!

On Friday Steve and I enjoyed a quiet night at the cottage, just the two of us. Ahh...peace and tranquility.

Saturday we came back to town, did some errands and calls, bought supplies for the weekend BBQ, had a great time at the church playing outdoor games and eating a turkey dinner with our kids and friends. Then we went back to the cottage with the kids and the dog.

Sunday morning I woke up at 3 and could never get back to sleep again, I guess I was just excited. At about 6am I went fishing with Chris and Jordan, but due to a slight accident I stayed on shore while they had a great time and Jordan caught his first fish, a small mouth bass. Dad and Janet arrived with no problems, we had a terrific visit and then left them to get some sleep while we headed back to town.

Monday we ran some errands, found out that the ignition coil on the tiller is bad, picked up some fishing tackle, and headed back to the cottage for lunch and an afternoon of fun. Dad took the boys out in the boat and Steve and I took the canoe out. I got way more nibbles on my new fake grub bait that the boys did but it was afternoon and not a great time of day for fishing. Still, time fishing is never time wasted. We all had fun together and a friendly competition ensued on the way back to the dock from the far side of the lake...Yes my friends, Steve and I paddling a canoe are faster than 3 people in a boat with a motor and 2 teenagers paddling like mad :) The girls and Janet made jewelry and they're sleeping over right now, no doubt having a great time.

Today we're having lunch and dinner here in town and we'll take them around and show then some of the sights of this part of the valley, plus of course our property. It'll be nice to see them again before we let them have some personal time. Steve is headed back to the city for work and I am cleaning house for the morning then heading out with my parents to explore the area. I want to show them Nictaux Falls and maybe head over to the Fundy coast or Annapolis Royal.

Gotta run. Hope you're having a good day! Oh and for a farming update, the hens are now laying, the meat king chicks are here and growing like weeds, and we still don't have the garden tilled.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bugs of Nova Scotia

Since the warm weather is now here, so are the bugs.

A mild winter and a warm Spring have made the hatch earlier than usual. If you're not familiar with life in Nova Scotia, insects and other pests are part of life, depending on where you are. The picture to the right is a black fly and below is a mosquito.

Here in the valley we have black flies, stable flies, mosquitoes, ticks, june bugs, ants, wasps and an assortment of other creatures meant to torture mankind. Black flies are particularly nasty in that they give a good bite, they're often found in clouds that can actually kill livestock if they block up the nasal passages and throat, I find the bites to be painful, itchy and long lasting but of course I'm one of those people who just gets eaten alive anyways. Even a mosquito bite will leave a lump on me for a week. When I went fishing the other day I sprayed on Deep Woods Sportsman max protection bug repellent and still got a dozen or more bites. I should have used my old fashioned 95% DEET, I don't think they even sell it anymore, but that's what I'm taking to the cottage with me. For me the only thing that works is a combination of a bug repelling patch (worn on the skin for 36 hours), repellent and long pants and sleeves. Netting jackets for fishing and a hat with a screen are good too. Getting used to these new mosquitoes will mean that in a year or so I'll react less badly too.

Black fly season lasts about a month from mid May to mid June (Mothers Day to Fathers Day) and areas along the Fundy shore don't have them at all. Mosquitoes last from April to the first hard killing frost but may occasionally still be found inside houses. They are most active in July.

June bugs are annoying beetles the size of a nickel and a penny put together, they're covered in fine hairs that make them stick like velcro so they're hard to get out of your hair and clothes and they're a pest for a few weeks in May-June. They're also nocturnal and attracted to light sources so you'll hear them smacking themselves against windows and screens if there's a light on inside.

I have to say that my least favourite bugs have to be noseeums. Tiny little things that can pass through regular screening (there is such a thing as noseeum netting which is much finer) are a nuisance in the heat of summer and make a nasty bite, like a flea bite.

Wasps are a pain, literally, but we make sure that we hang fake nests every year and that seems to help as wasps are territorial and won't make a nest too close to another. Any mud wasps or ground wasps are eradicated immediately because they're just nasty and dangerous. Nobody wants to run over a nest with the lawn mower trust me, just ask Steve all about that! If they're living in the forest away from main trails, fine, I can mark it with a flag, but other than that it's adios amigos!

The worst areas for bugs are long grass and thick lawns, wet areas like lakes and swamps, and shady areas of gardens such as under trees and this applies especially to mosquitoes. Wearing light colours and trying to not get too hot and sweaty apparently helps in not attracting them as does Avon's Skin So Soft bath oil and Listerine mouthwash. Old timers used pine oil/penny royal extract mixtures, soot, mud and bear grease. We're so lucky to have different options these days.

If you're right on the coast, there are almost no bugs due to the constant onshore/offshore breeze. Even if you're on an inland body of water such as a lake or river, find a breezy spot and you'll have way less bugs bothering you.
The thing is...the bugs are here to stay. Learning to deal with them is just part of living anywhere except maybe Antarctica.Using repellent, wearing sleeves, and window screens are all part of avoiding the bugs.

My parents are coming this weekend and staying at a friend's cottage on Butler Lake. The front porch is screened so you can be outside and not have bugs coming in which is lovely because after a few hours on the lake fishing and trying to find a breezy spot to sit and avoid bugs, it's nice to relax and eat in peace. We're very fortunate to have friends who will let us use their cottage as a getaway and it's just far enough away to really feel like you're out of town and away from all the bustle of the city. It's going to be a fun weekend and I'm looking forward to taking Jordan fishing again. I'm also really looking forward to going to the New Ross Farm Museum and Rose Bay to see the beach and collect sand dollars. More about that later!

Also, if you're wondering why I didn't write about ticks, I'm going to do a separate post on them next week, yes, we have ticks in Nova Scotia.

**The Tick post was published Friday June 1st, 2012**

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rain is Coming

Well the long weekend will be here soon and so of course we're all keeping a close eye on the weather. It looks like today will be wet starting at lunchtime and ending the same time tomorrow. It really evens out the daytime and nighttime temperatures here when it rains, for example the temperature here at 7am is 16 degrees with a daytime high today of 18. Overnight tonight the low will be about 14 unless the weather clears significantly. The rain is good news for those berry bushes we planted and the tomatoes and roses that are in the garden. Maybe even my lawn will get greener.

Plans for the weekend are to stay at the cottage Friday, attend the family fun day at church on Saturday afternoon and then go back to the cottage for the evening and wait for Dad and Janet to get there on Sunday evening. Sounds like fun doesn't it? We'll fit in a few other service calls and chores, but it should be a fun weekend and hopefully relaxing too.


Jordan's Birthday was yesterday but after everything else we had going on, we all fell exhausted into bed without cake. So today Jordan got his birthday wish, a machete, and cut his cake with it. Gross, but it's what he wanted. Don't worry, I made him wash it first and after. He's finished all his track and field events so now he's just going to chill for the weekend.

I had another incredibly hectic day and just got home from putting the chickens to bed and the book club meeting, which was great. This past month we read The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, a really nice story. Can't wait to see what's chosen for next month. SO many good books on our list!

And now I'm pooped so I'm going to bed! Good night all!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bees, Blossoms and Shad Fishing

 Chris and I spent some time along the fence line planting both blackberry and raspberry canes in a nice, almost straight row. The idea being to fill in some of the gaps between the lilac and apple trees that already exist along the fence line beside the cemetery. It's a pretty view, but it's also practical to use the space that's available and out of the main traffic and construction areas to plant permanent fruit bushes. We planted them by simply cutting a slit in the earth through the grass, placing a bare root in and then stepping on the sides to close the soil around the roots. The ground is damp but not soggy from the recent rain and the canes will be fairly easy to keep watered for the next few weeks.

Closer inspection of the apple trees along the roadside revealed a multitude of honey bees going about their business so if we are spared a hail storm we should have a good crop of apples come fall. It will be great to see if we can figure out the variety or if they are just a crab apples. Either way, they're useful and delicious.

Tonight we tried a different type of fishing. Shad are currently running in from the sea and into the rivers to spawn upstream, much like salmon do. The difference is that Shad are a very bony fish and that puts a lot of people off eating them. We caught a couple, especially after losing our shad darts (lures) in lots of snags under the water and we lost a few other fish too. In the end, after breaking my line a few times and running out of darts, I just threw on a trout fly with a spoon that was in my tackle box and it got a few nibbles too. I broke my line landing the one in the video, time for something a little stronger I think because these are fun to catch! Currently I'm using my trout rod and 4 lb line which is not meant for such a spunky fish as a Shad. Meghan had her line snap also and it was 6lb. Don't believe me? Here's proof! And special thanks go to Danny for taking us out, sharing a beautiful spot with us, and helping us un-snag line, hooks and land fish. You're a real gem my friend!


Yesterday, for Mothers Day, Stephen and I left the kids at home and went out to the cottage with our friends Pam and Danny. And while Stephen and Pam enjoyed a good paddle around the lake in their canoe, Danny taught me how to fish. He also unsnagged my line from a tree and the shore :) But that's what you get for trying to cast close to the shore on your first fishing expedition. Did I catch anything? Yes I did! My first fish...a little small mouth bass which of course we put back. I did also get a much bigger fish but it go off the hook and escaped. No...really! I have a witness!

So it turns out that I LOVE fishing! It's not just about catching fish, it's also about relaxing and having a fun time with friends on a beautiful lake. I'm going to need a lot of practice but that's ok. I'm willing to sacrifice the time.

I was totally spoiled for Mothers Day. I got to buy some plants, I got breakfast in bed, some lovely homemade gifts and cards, my lawn cut, and a fishing trip. Lovely! The only thing to mar the day were the blackflies. Nasty little creatures. Thank goodness for bug repellant and jackets/hats with nets. Today I'm busy planting blackberries so I'll be out and about again in the bugs. Hopefully not as bad as the lake was though.

If you are under 16, you do not need a fishing license in Nova Scotia. For over 16's, the following rates apply:

Resident: $26.73
Resident Senior (65 years and above): $6.57
Non-Resident (seasonal): $61.73
Non-Resident (7 Day): $33.72
One-Day Licence: $12.71

Replacement cost: $5.75

They are good from April 1st to March 31st of the following year and are available at lots of locations. Here's the place to get all the information you need about angling in Nova Scotia.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Breaking Ground

We can't start building the new house yet, but there are plenty of other things to be getting on with if we want to have a successful farm. Planning things ahead is important, especially since there will so many changes over the next 24 months. For example, we don't want to be planting something permanent like fruit trees or bushes in a location we're later going to dig up or put a septic field or a house on. So having a good and still somewhat flexible plan is important.

Today marks a very important day in the life of our new farm, it's the day we plant our very first fruit bush. Since they will take a while to become established, planting this year gives the bushes time to settle in and grow for a year before we want to be picking fruit next year. It gives us the opportunity to buy smaller plants for much less cost and to put them exactly where we want them. Now here's the shocker...we're planting blackberries.

If you're from the west coast, you're probably wondering why on earth we'd plant these hated bushes that everyone tries so hard to cut back, eradicate or tame. But these are domesticated canes that are almost thornless and bear larger berries. We are planting them near the property line along the fence on the cemetery side. They'll provide a nice hedge away from the driveway and fruit for jam and pie making every year. We bought our canes from a local grower with established plants, so we know that they do well in this climate. We also bought raspberry canes from the same person. The raspberries will be row planted away from animals, the blackberries are fine for hedging in most animals but not pigs or goats who love to eat them. In BC we actually had goats specifically to help clear brambles out of our fields. On our new place there are no blackberries growing wild and since we love this fruit, we're compromising by planting some in a location that's useful.

When we put in the new driveway it will create a smallish triangle shaped field between the driveway, the road and the property line. It's still big enough to be useful, and if the soil is good, we're going to put some raspberry bushes there in nice neat rows for a future U-Pick field. The ground isn't too wet (raspberries don't like wet feet) and it's close to the house and to future parking if we go with the U-Pick idea. If we change our mind at any time, the bushes are more than enough for our family's needs and will give us some extra canes to sell each year.

Today and tomorrow Steve and the boys are going to take the big tape measure, the GPS and the land description and go survey the property while we girls go fishing and plant berries. That's in addition to clearing the house of teenage boys from Jordan's sleepover, cleaning, tilling the garden, helping a friend move, writing my talk for church tomorrow, service calls, driving Chris to work and back, going to Kung-Fu and all the normal stuff we have to do on a Saturday. Busy Busy! Gotta run!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wet Wednesday

It's raining today. Not a downpour, but enough to keep me out of the garden for the most part. I've got some fencing to finish around our town garden beside our house and a few seeds to get in the ground, but apart from that I'm staying inside today and getting the house cleaned instead. The rain is good for the gardens and lawns though so I'm content to let mother nature water instead of me, she does such a better job!

Spring is always a time of hit and miss as far as work in the garden goes. So much to get done. Fencing, tilling, planting, weeding. But on the wet days it's good to be able to take a break and relax. As soon as summer gets here the weeding will become a daily task because the long warm days encourage the weeds as much as the veggies. As much as I'm chomping at the bit to get really growing for the season, I know it's better to wait and get some things in once the ground is thoroughly warmed. Corn, melons, tomatoes, these either have to be in a greenhouse or planted out in June/July. This weekend once the tilling is done though I'm getting my lettuce and salad crops in as well as the leeks, herbs, flowers, potatoes and a few other things. I've got some mint plants to divide so I'm going to root them later today and my Christmas cactus is blooming again so I'll re-pot my houseplants but not that one, I'll wait until it's done flowering in a few weeks. I've got some tomato plants ready for larger pots too and some intended for the porch so I'll get those potted up at the same time. Might as well do that indoors on a day like today.

Well, off to command children, do laundry and scrub the bathrooms and kitchen before taking the girls to their class at church tonight. Hope you're having fun!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Knowing all the Dam Facts

It's important that before we rush to judgement, we know all the pertinent information. Wouldn't you agree? That rather than ratting on a neighbour, or accusing a teenager of something, that you understand what the motivation and facts are in the case by talking to the person first? Don't worry, this isn't about me, I'm good. But I would like to share the following 2 letters and some photos with you regarding the Dept of Environment taking action without all the info. I got a real chuckle, you see a few years ago a neighbour of ours had a ditch on our property declared as 'Potentially fish bearing habitat' which meant that we couldn't do anything within 100' of the ditch. This did not drain into a pond, lake, stream or other body of water, and unless fish can swim through a peat bog, I have no idea how this could bear fish except for the occasional time it was full of water in the spring. It was just a cut off ditch to drain a field and was dry for most of the year. But our neighbour was an 'environmental nutcase'. Solution: Fill in the ditch. She went nuts (the neighbour) but the Dept of Environment said it was fine after they knew what was actually going on.

Here's the other's much funnier.

State of Pennsylvania 's letter to Mr. DeVries:

File No.97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec 20; Lycoming County    

Dear Mr. DeVries:
It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:     

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.   

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.. A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued  Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.  

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations..  We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.  All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2010.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.  Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action..

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.   

David L. Price
District Representative and Water Management Division. 

Here i s the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:

Re: DEQ File
No.. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Lycoming County   

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 1
1/17/09 has been handed to me.  I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane , Trout Run, Pennsylvania     

A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood 'debris' dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.  While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful us e of natures building materials 'debris.'    

I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.


These are the beavers/contractors you are seeking.   As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is:
(1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or
(2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?    

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued.  (Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.)

I have several dam concerns.  My first dam concern is, aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation?  The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation -- so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.

The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names.    

If you want the damed stream 'restored' to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers -- but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.    

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream.  They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond.  If the Department of Natural Resources and Environ mental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).    

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2010? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice by then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area  It is the bears!  Bears are actually defecating in our woods.  I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone.  If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your dam step! The bears are not careful where they dump!    

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.



Friday, May 4, 2012

Today was the first day that our silver laced wyandottes got to roam free, and they loved it! They also stopped beating the crap out of each other. Gosh I don't know what's up with them, this breed is normally gentle and yet these guys certainly are not! Will I keep any of these for breeding? Not likely. It looks like in my other batch that I've got 4 buff orpingtons and 2 crosses and they're all gentle so they can expect a good long life.

Tonight is the talent show at church, it promises to be a hoot! If anyone takes video I'll see about posting it. Kate has her DARE graduation today and she's been asking for me to attend her ceremony so that's where I"ll be at 1:30 plus I'm picking up a load or two of composted horse manure this morning so I've got to get going. Another busy day! I've got to run and hang out the laundry to dry and get another load washed.

I'll check in soon.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To Pee... Or Not To Pee

Yes, we're talking liquid gold today! So if you're squeamish about bodily functions feel free to check out tomorrows entry :)

You've probably read along the way that peeing on your compost pile is good for it and for your garden later on. Why? Because urine contains valuable nitrogen. That's why those spots left from your dog on the lawn turn nice and green. Ok, so why do they turn yellow if the dog pees in the same spot all the time? Because you can have too much of a good thing! And because urine also contains salts. So if you're going to collect and use urine as a fertilizer it should be diluted with 3-5 parts water.

Now, I'm not saying you should pee in a jar all the time. Although that's the easiest method. Many toilets these days have separating features to keep liquids and solids apart for better composting. Handy if you're a girl and don't have a shewee in your pocket. But it's just something to think about in the overall health and vitality of a piece of land. If we're so concerned about putting back on the land everything we take out to maintain fertility then why are we flushing all these minerals and nutrients away? We've talked about composting toilets let's just talk about half of the issue, pee.

These corn plants are part of a much larger experiment involving the use of urine as fertilizer. The ones on the right are fertilized and the ones on the left received regular water. Notice any difference? The eventual crop yields of the fertilized crops were five fold compared to the regular crops. 5 fold!! The only difference was that urine was mixed 3 parts water to one part urine and watered as usual. This being done once the plants had established their first set of adult leaves. The idea was an extension of the arborloo idea where a pit toilet is allowed to compost (and therefore shrink in volume) for a year or two and a layer of soil is added and a tree planted. The trees grow very well in what is otherwise very marginal soil.

Well you might be asking why this even matters to us. We can buy fertilizer cheaply and easily and it's plentiful. Right? It allows us to grow one crop year after year on the same ground without any damage to the soil, right? WRONG!! Almost all commercial fertilizers made this century are derived from petro chemicals. Gone are the guano deposits and easily mined minerals. Gone are the slag heaps from which to get lime. Now it's up to large companies, like PotashCorp to supply the world demand for fertilizer to try and eke out as much productivity from the arable land as possible. Many of the world's subsistence farmers do not have the access to or ability to pay for fertilizer, so being able to use the resources already available to them, like urine, could boost their food security and increase the soils ability to support them and their families.

Steve and I don't believer that's  the best way for our land to be managed. We believe that we can continually increase our fertility by adding compost, manures, cover crops and by rotating crops so that they benefit from the crop that has come before. By planting clover along with our grasses in the pasture we're helping fix nitrogen and by having animals graze the land in rotation we hope to have soil that is light, full of humus and fertile, so that pest problems are minimized by robust plant health. Of course that's the goal. Who knows what will actually happen, but it's a good place to start.

If you're interested in reading about the experiments using urine as fertilizer, check this out.