Winter work

I’m sitting at my dining table, looking out the window at the snow falling, writing this blog post as procrastination from putting my tax numbers together for last year ;P I’m hoping to measure out my lower field soon with the help of Mark who’s visiting the farm this week. It will be good to get some winter snow walking exercise after the excessive eating of the holiday season! In a two week period I participated in eating turducken, roast duck, follow up duck congee, roast chicken, follow up giant pot of chicken soup and a hot pot feast. Tonight, it’s time for lamb and goat hock tagine! Last night I had the first test of eating straight to the freezer chard (i.e. not blanched first) and experienced a very numb tongue (a sometime reaction to eating chard, beet greens, etc.). Not sure if the lack of blanching contributed to that. Will try boiling the frozen chard before adding it to anything the next time and see if the tongue numbing still occurs. Straight to freezer kale cooked up beautifully in a pumpkin and black bean stir fry the night before.

People often ask me what I have to do once winter rolls around and I don’t have vegetables to tend. I’d like to say nothing and that I’m on vacation for 3 months, but really, winter becomes the season of paper work and planning. Especially this winter since I’ll have a new intern coming aboard and we’ll be setting up my permanent vegetable field. That means I have to be much better planned than in the past 2 seasons as the permanent vegetable field will have 4 plots that will come in and out of a 3-5 year rotation (period still to be decided) to ensure soil fertility is increased over time. The difficult thing is to choose one way (for now!) out of the thousands of possibilities that are out there. And I have to make the tractor/no tractor decision for the season. I’m still heavily weighted towards no tractor, but then I need a plan in place for keeping down the natural flora of the field leading to the vegetables so that access won’t be a problem. Right now my plan is to use sheep and goats in moveable electric fencing so I can march them back and forth across that stretch of field. But I’ll have to keep an eye on when the goats get big enough to jump over the fence as it would be disaster for them to get into my vegetable field! Perhaps it would be more prudent to stick to just lambs for this year…

This year will also include work on more permaculture plantings around the farm. I will plant a cedar, silver maple and oak windbreak between the road and my vegetable field. There’s also the fruit orchard and separate nut tree area to plan out and hopefully start with at least a few trees this year. A plot for future asparagus, blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb and maybe other perennial fruit shrubs also needs to be started.

This is also the year that I hope to start managing my wood lot which looks to currently be 99% spruce trees (I think that’s what they are). I’ll be bringing in a forest consultant to plan out cuttings to thin out the tree canopy so that light can get in to the hardwood saplings so that the planted soft wood forest can succeed to a hardwood forest. Not sure I’ll live long enough to the see the results of that, but hopefully I have more than 25-30 years left in me!

And then there are all the building projects I have in mind. First off…an outdoor composting toilet and shower. Then I’ll no longer have to rent an outhouse (icky chemical toilet) for the yearly farm open house, or any other event that has more than 20 people at the farm. Multi-day camping visitors would then be accomodated as well! I also want to build an outdoor bread oven (yummy, crusty loaves and super duper pizzas!) and solar dehydrator (to dry chanterelles, tomatoes, fruit slices, even make crackers!).

But before all that fun stuff, I’ll have to get in a well contractor to raise my well head above ground level and seal off the top so that there’s no possibility of contamination by surface water or things falling in. And at the same time, hopefully I can fix/insulate pumps/pipes/pressure bladders/ that I never have to worry about anything freezing in winters to come.

Once all the above is planned, then I can start livestock and pasture planning. But I’ll leave that for another post ;P

This is the story of my journey into sustainable agriculture. From the streets of downtown Toronto, to the farm land of southern Ontario, I hope to discover the techniques and practices that work for me in both mind and heart.

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