Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trees for the future

I have been contemplating how best to use some money that I received for my birthday, and what I decided on was to purchase some fruit and nut trees for our property.  Trees in and of themselves aren't really necessary, because our one acre is almost entirely wooded, with native species. We also have two plum trees, one that produces dark purple plums and one that grows plums that are peachy-blush in colour.

I think that fruit and nut trees are a really great investment in a property, and one that I've been waiting to make until I was living in a place that I knew I would want to stay.  The idea of having a fresh harvest of our own organic fruit each year is a beautiful one, and I love the idea of being able to trade or share our bounty with others.  As a result, I've been trying to decide on varieties that are less frequently seen in our area.  Things that are a little unusual will be fun for us to try, and I also think they may be more desirable to trade.  I'd love to see more of a barter economy here on PEI, where we can share and trade our own goods with those of others. (Too bad you aren't living here, Jackie, or I would definitely be trading you fruit for your honey when you get it flowing!) Food security is very important to me too, and a perennial crop of nutritious food that is a source of vitamins and protein and good fats seems like a good idea.

So I found a nursery in Ontario that will ship to us in the spring, and I just submitted my order, which I am really excited about!

It was a little pricey but I think trees are a wonderful way to keep giving back to our family year after year.  So really, it's the birthday gift that I will receive every year, for the rest of our years here on this homestead!

I have been looking for a Canadian supplier of pawpaws, and while there are a few, the other two I contacted didn't respond.  I can't wait to see how these turn out, never having eaten a pawpaw in my life! They're supposed to be like a cross between a banana and a mango with a very tropical scent and taste but they can grow in our zone 5b climate.  They are supposed to be anti-carcinogenic and amazing sources of vitamins and minerals.  I'm intrigued!

Photo of pawpaws on a tree. I also fully intend to sing to my children, particularly the youngest, about being "way down yonder in the pawpaw patch".  If I'm honest, that might be a strong reason for choosing this fruit!

I was also thrilled to find a pecan variety that is hardy in our area.  This is by far our favourite type of nut so I ordered two for what will hopefully one day be a decent crop. We have native hazelnuts in our area but I have never seen the fruit at maturity and I assume they all get devoured by wildlife before most humans have the privilege of tasting them.  So I ordered two hazelnuts as well that I hope to plant near our house and keep under a watchful eye.

Finally, as a treat, I got a small Natalina fig tree to grow in a container. I think that indoor fig trees are beautiful anyway, but if one day I'm blessed enough to taste a fig from my own tree, it will be a truly wonderful thing and a reminder of my time in my beloved Italy.

I also have plans for multi-graft apples and pears, hardy kiwi, and a lot of berry bushes.  I'm not sure how many I can get in this year, but I wanted to start with the trees because you really can't plant them early enough and I'd love to see a little return from them, at least a few of them, in the next five years or so.  I'll update as my darling seedlings arrive!

What are you planting this year to promote food security for your family?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Planning for Planting

Yesterday's snowfall was absolutely beautiful, seen here in the early morning before the high winds started blowing snow around and causing major whiteouts.

In this never-ending winter of massive snowfalls and school cancellations, it's hard to believe that we have already passed the first day of spring!  But we have. And so this weekend, I realized it was time to get myself organized and write out a seed planting list so I'll know when to plant which seeds. Here's the plan:

Seed planting schedule, 2015

Veseys lists our final frost date as May 15th. They are the gardening specialists, but I think that May 15th is entirely too optimistic. I've based my seed starting on a tentative final frost date of May 30th, and I still think that transplanted seedlings will need some added protection until at least June 2nd, which is the first full moon in June.  I was brought up with that as the key factor in deciding when to plant more tender annuals.  Luckily, this year it's early!  When it's near the end of the month I can't really abide by it.

Seed starting dates organized by number of weeks before final frost date that they should be started.
 You may notice that I don't have any root crops on the list. I love carrots and beets, for example, but since I'm hoping to do some lasagne gardening this year and didn't start my beds last fall, I want to give them time to break down and improve soil quality before sticking root crops in there. I'm still part of my incredible veggie CSA so will lean on those root veggies this year!

Planting tray plans with numbers of each variety.

I might have been a little overzealous when I bought the seed starting trays that I'll be using this year.  I bought them because they have deep, hexagonal cells that I hope will meet the seedlings' needs until it's time to transplant outside. I'd like to skip the transplanting into a slightly bigger pot step.  However, these trays are for the pros and have 72 cells per tray.  I do not need that many! I may give a few seedlings to my dad, since he's planning to put a raised bed out at their cottage this summer, and I hope I can squeeze the rest in somewhere.  Especially the tomatoes!

Just a glimpse of some of our seed packets for this year.
 I have a few seed packages from last year and a few that I bought new this year.  Most of my seeds came from Heritage Harvest Seed in Manitoba, and they even threw in a free package of parsley which was nice.  Some are from Veseys, some from the Halifax Seed Company, and some from Burpee.  We'll see how they all do!

My schedule, drawn up on Saturday, reprinted in good copy yesterday, tells me that I need to plant my lavender now.  So I had better get on that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Buried under snow, but still here!

I have been quiet on this front the past week or so, but our days have been full...

This beautiful boy turned six on Monday!

So his birthday celebrations naturally had to include time at a farm, which means time for his mum to snuggle goat babies!

With two more snowstorms this week, we are desperately trying to find spring where we can.

But the snow doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the outdoors, in fact, it might have made it even better with 6 foot drifts to jump into from the trees!  (And yes, I know my children are standing on twigs, not branches, but luckily they're not heavy enough yet for disaster to ensue...)

The snow also didn't interfere with lots of baby snuggles, especially during bum change time. :)
Forgive the photo quality. Until my beloved has more free time on his hands, I'll be using photos taken with our cell phone, and for those of you that know me, I have shaky hands. But at least it's a glimpse into the beauty of our days!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Application is in, and hopefully being considered!

Last week I went to a public town meeting regarding development on a neighbouring property, and while I was there, I had the opportunity to speak once again to the planning officer for our town, as well as to the mayor.  It was a perfect opportunity to quickly chat about our hopes for our property.

I had already delivered letters to our two adjacent neighbours explaining what we hope to do, which at this point, is to amend the zoning bylaws to allow for the keeping of chickens and small goats for personal use. I included a fact sheet for each chickens and goats, and gave them four ways to get in touch with me should they have any questions or concerns (and asked them to please do so). The night of the public meeting was one week after my delivery of the letters, and there had been no response, so we decided to move ahead with the application.  This was just in time, since at the meeting, the planning officer told me that planning board would be meeting today and that if I wanted to have the matter tabled, I would need to get my application in by Friday at noon.

An excerpt from my planning board letter

No problem!  All I needed to start the ball rolling at this point was a letter of intent, so I whipped one up right away.  The planning officer also told me that were I able to find an example of zoning bylaws that permit the keeping of small livestock which could be easily inserted into our existing bylaws, that would make it easier if this should be voted to go ahead.  A lot of the bylaws that I came upon were more related to animal control, but Seattle's bylaws deal with zoning and they seemed very reasonable to me, with parameters that would work well for the property owner and for the municipality.  I tidied up the look of them in a Word document, included the link to the bylaws, the document including the section relevant to our application, a pdf explaining the bylaws that could be useful in advising the public, and sent it all off--by email last Thursday, and dropping off a paper copy Friday morning.

Today the planning board met and the application will have hopefully been tabled.  Before any decisions can be made, we will have to have a public meeting.  I prefer this way, as it gives those with questions an opportunity to ask them and I would like to be able to answer in more detail. I don't know when I'll hear what the preliminary response to the application was like, but I will contact the planning officer in a few days if I don't hear anything.

I'm so hopeful that this will work out.  Please keep this in your thoughts, as it is a very important process for me!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A little goat love in the winter

This winter has been getting long. There have been so many school cancellations and although the sheer quantity of snow makes for great play opportunities, the wind chill sometimes makes it a little less fun to stay out of doors. One way we've been beating cabin fever is by going to a friend's awesome farm to spend time with some of her animals.  Island Hill Farm has a lot more than goats, but I had to be hands-free during the baby bunny cuddle time to make sure that our children handled them properly; likewise for the cats. The alpacas, pigs, ducks, chickens, donkey and horse are all sweet too, but the only animals I got a chance to photograph the kids with were the goats.

Besides, those are the most important animals there in my opinion! As someone who is slowly pining away for a couple of little backyard does, it does my heart good to spend some time with these ones and it helps tide me over.

Forgive the photo quality, I just had my phone with me. My husband is the family photographer and he isn't always around to document the fun!

This boy actually says that one of his favourite things in the world is "goat snuggles".

I am learning just how much like a goat she actually is--sweet but a bit naughty, getting into trouble and making me laugh all at once.

The sunshine on the straw makes for a cozy place to curl up with a friend.

He loved that this little pygmy was pawing him on the leg; I personally fell in love with that Nubian.

This about sums up my two children right here.  Gentle and calm on the right, wild and wonderful on the left.