Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well! Spring brings a whole new set of work parameters! These are our Hoop houses, built over raised beds for our kitchen garden. Jim & I have been quite turned on by some old-timey garden & agriculture books, mentioned at the side-bar to the right. Perhaps the most eye-opening book is The One Straw Revolution, recommended by my dad, Stan Gauthier of Parksville, BC. The main premise is this:Farming (raising food) is a joy that requires no chemicals, tilling or heavy machinery. Too many farmers (gardeners) spend money they don't have to amend soil that likely doesn't need it, break it to useless bits with equipment that chugs diesel & spews carbon, and ends up harvesting the same edible portion as a natural farmer, who does none of these things. The author's main concern is for farmers & gardeners to take better care of their soil by amending it with the previous year's straw & leftover stalks, vines, etc. and to allow for natural decomposition and build the soil up year after year. No till? Hooray! I hate tilling even more than I hate shovelling! Mr. Fukuoka discusses the Japanese Ministry Of Agriculture's tests on soil quality, crop yield & insect damage, among many other things, and reveals that all things are not as they seem.
He calls his farming method the do-nothing method, or no-till. It is defined as growing cover-crops amongst his main crop, then leaving that cover crop plus the straw to decompose in the field producing an enriched humusy soil that is fully nourished for the following year. This means he doesn't need fertilizer. Because he grows a variety of plants and shades the soil with cover-crops, he also has a variety of insects that benefit his fields, so he doesn't need pesticides. All those roots do a good job of aerating and breaking up the soil, so he doesn't need to till. Refuses to squash this light & luscious soil with a tractor, so he harvests by hand, with a paid crew. No tractor or combine. No diesel. No fumes. No monthly payments. Better yield than a conventional farmer per acre. Doesn't need an outside job. Huh?
The part about Japanese farmers of a century ago having time to goof off in the winter and write Haiku is my favorite! Today, these poor guys have to work part time just to afford all the chemicals and machinery for their crops, plus feed their families. Read The Book! I got it through inter-library loan.
We have started many veggies indoors already, the tomatoes already have flower buds! Some of them are destined for what Jim is calling a One Straw trial. He is going to plant some fava beans in a grassy area, protected from all the wind we get here by scrub (short) Junipers. He will also put in some tomato & pepper plants. I'll keep ya all posted!

Monday, April 6, 2009

CSA, Quest ce que c'est?

Well, you pay for a product before it's grown or harvested, hatched, laid, bought on auction, raised, slaughtered, wrapped in tidy paper packages and delivered to your door! Some folks have veggies delivered once a week, some include eggs. We get pasture-raised meat from Nyman Farm here in Prince Edward County. We signed up for a mixed-pack, it includes all kinds of meat.
Now here's the thing. We don't have a freezer. Or a fridge, for that matter. So Colleen has generously said yes to my request to keep my stuff in with hers. I pick up once a week, which is probably all she can stand!
Nyman Farm is a pretty busy place; she and the WOOFers just packed up the annual maple syrup crop into beautiful bottles, for sale on premises. I should ask her permission to give you guys a link to her website, , I am sure she won't mind!
What we are not doing is saving money. What we are doing is weaning ourselves off growth hormones, anti-biotics and questionable feed sources. No more factory raised "meat" products for us! We feel better already! FYI, factory-raised meat is what you get from super-markets (even if it is labelled "organic". The criteria for "organic" does not include how crammed-in the animals are.) and meat shops. Ask your butcher how the meat you are eating is don't know until s/he tells you.
What we are also doing is supporting a family farm. Nyman's don't want to have to afford to become "certified Organic", as they would then have to bill that expense to their customers. So they just call the meat pasture raised. They raise the feed as well, with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Local eating, buying and being entertained is becoming more and more accessible. It all depends on the choices you make at home. Don't wait for anyone else, including government bureaucrats or industry organicrats (isn't that a great term? I read it in Fields of Plenty, Micheal Ableman), to legislate anything, you'll be waiting until the sky darkens with transport-diesel fumes and your children are all sterile due to growth-hormones build up.
There's my wee rant-y! S'cuse me while I whip up some perogies for dinner. If I pay attention to the quantities of flour/water, I'll give you the recipe.