I met Jenni Blackmore in late summer 2015 at the Musquodoboit Farmer’s Market in Musquodoboit Harbour, NS. She had a vendor’s table next to mine. I was selling my homemade goat milk soap and novels I’ve published (several of which I had written), and she was selling, amongst other things, copies of her book, “Permaculture – for the rest of us” – Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre.
As a long-time gardener who began learning about building a food forest and permaculture only a few years ago, Blackmore’s book intrigued me.
The reasons I bought the book after talking with Blackmore were:
- I wanted to learn more about permaculture in general.
- I wanted to learn what Blackmore experienced from growing food in similar weather conditions and climate zone as I grew in.
- Although a long-time gardener, I wanted to see if she had general garden knowledge to share that I had yet to learn.
- Speaking with the author provided an insight not available when buying the book online or in a store, and I got the sense that Blackmore not only had a passion for gardening, she knew what she was talking about. She not only wrote the book, I believed she had valuable hands-on experiences to share.
- I wanted to support a local author.
I’ve been gardening since I was a child, playing beside my mother, watching her plant potatoes, beets and carrots, and listening to her explain the different methods of planting each vegetable. She learned her gardening skills from her parents in the 1920s in a small community on the shoreline of Newfoundland where if your crops failed, you went hungry.
Several months ago, I noted that March 2016 marked my five years of homesteading. Although I thought about homesteading for many years and seriously researched it for more than six months beforehand, the first animal didn’t arrive on the property until March, so it officially became the anniversary date for this crazy life style I’ve started.
To be clear though, I have been gardening most of my life, but not in a homesteading style: to provide food for the table in such a way that it creates a path for food security. I grew a few strawberries, toyed with potatoes and harvested more onions than I could use, but I couldn’t sustain myself for even one week with the food I grew in one season.
But my flowers looked beautiful even if I couldn’t eat them.
On that five-year anniversary, I said I would review my years of homesteading, see what worked, what didn’t work and to take that assessment and plan the near future. You can read that original post here.
The review will appear in a series of posts over the next several months. I’ll discuss everything from gardening to goats, building shelters to chickens and pasture rotation and diseases. I hope my review will not only help me improve my homestead, but help others who are on this path, solve issues they may be having or possibly avoid them all together.
I’ve tended to livestock for five and a half years and occasionally I would find a bee floating in a water bucket. It usually amounted to about three bees each year. This year, however, I’ve been finding bees in water buckets every day since early September.
I scooped five bees today. They are still alive when I find them and hopefully they live after I set them free. I know how important bees are to the ecosystem and our food cycle, so I never kill a bee. I wonder why bees are ‘falling’ into the buckets. Is there something going on we should be concerned about? Are they particularly dumb this year as the weather cools and the days become shorter?
I don’t use chemicals in the garden, no herbicides or pesticides. It’s as organic as I can get it surrounded by large commercial dairy farms.
This morning we found Snickers, my son’s three-year-old Toggenburg doe, in heat. If you’ve never had a goat in heat before and don’t know what to look for, here are the clues:
- They aren’t as interested as usual in eating.
- They pace the fence line or gate gazing longing at the buck or in the buck’s direction.
- They call out more than usual. Some don’t call out at all. Others call out only when they see the buck. We have one that calls all day regardless of where she is, what she is doing or where the buck is standing.
- A cream-coloured discharge is visible exiting the vulva.
- Some act stupid and race around and do silly things.
- They aren’t themselves.
- The flag their tail, which means the stick it straight up and wave it back and forth.
- If there is a buck with them, the buck won’t leave them alone. He’ll give chase, smell her butt and stomp a front hoof on the ground. He’ll urinate on himself, all over his face and into his mouth. His top lip will stick up as he smells the air, and he’ll stick his nose in her pee stream. The noises he makes will be nothing like he makes at any other time.
As I mentioned in my previous post Brutally Honest: No Males Required – Part I: Chickens, after more than five years of homesteading, I’ve come to the conclusion that a homestead does NOT need male animals. The disadvantages to having them far outweigh their advantages. In most instances, they do not produce anything (note there were a few exceptions).
In that post, I discussed male chickens, ducks, meat birds and turkeys. In this one, I’ll discuss in detail goats and add a few notes about sheep.
Goats, both does (females) and bucks (males) browse, eating down overgrown grassy areas, unwanted trees and invasive shrubs. They won’t eat everything because some plants are poisonous to them (buttercup, yew), but they can clean up a vacant lot fairly quickly when left to their own devices, and they eat some plants that are poisonous to humans, such as poison ivy.
Goats also leave droppings a little larger than rabbit manure. They remind me of large, chocolate covered raisins. If your goat isn’t pooping chocolate-covered raisins, you may have a health issue. This manure and their urine mixed with soiled hay or straw is a great addition to the compost pile. I’ve made lovely soil over the past five years from the manure gathered from these animals.
I used to tell lies. I didn’t know it at the time, but lies were coming out of my mouth every time a customer asked me about Round-up.
Back in the early 1990s, I worked at a popular gardening centre. It was one of the busiest places in the city that sold everything a gardener needed, including herbicides (aka weed killer, aka plant killer). If gardeners had an invasive weed or a little dandelion in their driveway, we were taught to sell them Round-up.
Round-up, we were instructed, was a systemic weed killer, which means it could be sprayed on the leaves and the plants ‘circulatory system’ would deliver the poison right to the root of the problem: the roots. Once the roots were attacked, the plant–regardless of how wild and large–would die. Most plants would die, anyways. I don’t remember if it claimed to kill alder bushes. But it would kill your favourite rose bush if you sprayed it by mistake.
The fact it was a systemic killer was the first selling point. The second was that it broke down in the soil and in short time–a few weeks or a few months–it would dissolve into nothing. Gone from the soil without a trace. In other words, Round-up was advertised as biodegradable and as leaving the soil clean after use.
That was a BIG FAT LIE.
Sunrise to start a beautiful first day of autumn.