Since the new year, we have been busy planning for the year ahead.
Denise has been researching different seed trials carried out in Belgium and France for varieties that will grow well in our Maritime climate. Because of our shorter growing season, we are looking at seed varieties with good youth growth. We are planning to grow five acres of flax this year, with the majority of the fields being planted with the Melina variety. We have planted Melina before with good success. We will also plant some small test plots with a range of newer varieties.
As we increase the amount of flax we are growing, we have to solve the harvesting issue. Last year, our one-acre plot of flax was harvested manually over several weeks. This harvesting method is clearly not a viable option with our production increasing to five acres. The team has been working on finding a solution to our harvesting needs.
We have decided to include roving on our list of products. I have been carrying out research to determine a fair price for this product.
On January 15th, a group of farmers, weavers, spinners, and other interested folks started an exciting discussion about forming a collective fibershed here in Nova Scotia. We will be continuing the conversation on February 12th, at 1 pm at Bishop Hall. If you are interested in joining the conversation, or interested in learning more, please join us on the 12th.
Last year, we were contacted by a flax and linen study group in New England about a symposium they are hosting in August of this year. We are happy to announce that Patricia and Mike (our engineer) will not only be attending the event, but will be presenting. And, we are looking into the possibility of taking our equipment with us. I have been conducting some research into the necessary paperwork we need to have in place to cross the border with our machinery.
Back in December, we were asked to write some content for TrustedClothes.com and the first two blog posts have been published. It was nice to work with Shannon at Trusted Clothes and we are looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for this organization.
Patricia brought in her mother's knitting machine and I am working on getting the machine into operational condition. Once operating, I will learn how to knit dishcloths on the machine using our linen yarn. In addition to this, we are working with Jonathan McClelland at Western Valley Agri to develop a firelog using our flax shives.
Our second piece of equipment, the breaker, was brought to the farm last week. After some tweaking, I will be able to start breaking mechanically. I am super excited as this means no more tired shoulder!
We are in the process of setting up the flax processing room on the farm. We have started testing our third piece of equipment, the scutcher--this machine will remove the shive from the linen fibres--and construction of our fourth piece of equipment, the hackling machine, has started. This piece of equipment will remove any knots and shorter linen fibres and leave you with long line linen fibres that are ready for the intersector.
There are more new piglets. There are now more than thirty six piglets running around the barn at various ages. The two sows that had piglets last week are sharing the seventeen piglets between the two of them. Yesterday when we peeked into their stall, all the piglets except one were snuggled up together to one mama, and there was just one with the other sow. They like to pile up together to keep cozy and warm. Then one mother will roll over so the piglets cannot nurse anymore and they will all make their way to the other mama. These piglets are getting very pudgy very quickly.
The pigs are currently being treated with an abundance of mouth-watering Honeycrisp apples! These apples are culls from Noggins Farm's dried apple chip production. The pigs go crazy for them! Even the piglets get caught up in the excitement and gobble them up.
This potato and sausage pie uses sausage, but you could also use your ground pork if you still have it in your freezer. Just spice up the pork a bit first. To use your sausages, let them thaw then break open the casings.
Please note this week the value of the shares are larger because of a mix up from last week when the values were a little under what we wanted them to be. We will be back to normal next week.
As I dropped Nathan off to do chores on Saturday, Josh had just been by with a bin of apples for the pigs and cattle, and they were chowing down very happily. I couldn't help but snap a picture of them all sharing the space together.
Tales from the barnyard:
This morning when Nathan arrived at the barn, he was delighted to find that Orena and Blackie had both farrowed (gave birth) just a few hours earlier. We now have 24 piglets who seem to be doing very well. The piglets have a heat lamp to go under for extra warmth, when they are not nursing.
The whole chicken in the full monty meat share is a stewing hen. These hens need a slow and low approach to cooking them, if you do this you will be rewarded with the most flavourful and tender meat. Great for stews, soups, pot pies, coq au vin (see recipe below), etc.
Coq au vin, is a recipe for an older rooster (coq) or hen, who since they have used their muscles so much more have gotten tough and need a longer cooking time to make those muscles tender.
We took a beef in on Monday to the butcher. It will hang, or dry aged, for two weeks before it cut up. Hanging has a few different purposes; it allows the natural enzymes to break down the tissue making it more tender and it drys out the meat concentrating the flavor.
One of the concerns we had before we installed the water lines was how to keep the water lines from freezing. So far this winter we have only had the lines freeze once. That was on a particularly cold and windy night and some of the doors were inadvertently left open. However, once the doors were closed, it only took a couple hours for the lines to thaw again. It is amazing how much heat farm animals produce. Most of time the barn stays between 4-8 degrees celsius, even when it is -15 degrees outside. We have found that as long as we are attentive at opening the doors in the morning and closing them at night then we can keep the barn above the freezing point. (The doors being the openings for the pigs, hens, and cattle to go through to have access to the out doors.)