Patricia: I really appreciate ACORN. This year I hosted a workshop on CSA Software platforms. Farmigo, Small Farm Central and HarvestHand presented what they do and how their programs work to support farmers and csa members. I think it was a good session, helpful for farmers looking to explore options.
Lily and Frank joined us. It is neat because they now have an ACORN friend. Every ACORN event they get to play together and we take turns as parents taking the kids to the pool. It is really a wonderful feeling to be around an extended family of farmers and those whose work is to support organic and small scale farmers. It was a good conference and it was great that the TapRoot team was able to swing it so everyone could go. Another fantastic part of ACORN is meeting new people. This year I met Christie Kozier. She and her husband have a small farm in Middle Musquidobit Harbour. He is a sheep sheerer, and she has started a small 5-member CSA this past year to start. Here is a link to their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KozierFarm
Josh: what i thought was wild mustard is really wild radish which is the yellow weed in our vegetable fields. i need to find some rolling baskets for under our g tractor for weed control.
Jem: I really enjoyed my day at Acorn. I ate my first Asian pear this weekend after hearing about the Taylor apple pear at Wednesdays talk and it tasted so good. Any chance of you planting some of those Josh? I'm also going to try eating a grape pie and finding a Purple Passion apple and planting a Dwarf Pinenut tree and digging a swale and lots more besides. Very inspiring. Thanks guys.
Photo to the right is Greta and the other Grow a Farmer apprentices graduating at Thursday's banquet! --->
Tim C: I learned that the farming profession is a collaborative one. We always hear negative stories in the media about the decline of the farming profession. I didn't see any of that in Moncton. I was immersed in crowds of enthusiastic farmers sharing knowledge and ideas, asking questions, building relationships, and planning what comes next. The entire experience was motivating. I felt like I got to see things from the inside, and I am happy to have been involved.Tim
P.S. Also learned that shiny leaves indicate high levels of lipids, how to make lye, basalts are better than granites, salt water is full of minerals, but alas, the salt, stuff like that. I took pages of notes.
Justine: This year at Acorn, like most years, it was a great opportunity to catch up with friends you may only see a few times a year. Hearing what others are up to and discussing problems can really be helpful. I was talking to a man who is starting to breed a heritage meat/egg bird, a cross between Buff Orpington and Delaware. He's just got his first hybrid chicks and it'll be interesting as to how they work out. My husband and I are working on a heritage meat bird hybrid as well so it's very interesting to hear others ideas and experiments.
Jon: I love getting together with organic farmers. There is such a supportive group of farmers across the Maritimes, but we're all too busy to spend much time together that the ACORN conference is like a high school reunion, without the gossip and rumors. There were so many great workshops; that give you great ideas of ways to improve your farm, ways to be more efficient, new and exciting crops to think about. I always come home excited to get back to the farm and inspired to become a better grower.
Falicia: This was the first time I attended an ACORN conference and it was great! I loved the fact there were workshops for the office side of farming. One of the things that I noticed right away about the people attending the conference was how young they were. It's wonderful to see this and future generations of farmers so passionate about being organic farmers.
Teri: This was my first ACORN conference, and I was so happy to be able to attend, proudly wearing my TapRoot shirt. We met tons of great people, including lots of young farmers that we have lots in common with. The two most inspiring parts of the conference for me were: A film shown after the banquet, called Island Green, which was about growing on PEI and some of the challenges and successes; secondly, I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Kittredge's presentation on nutrient content of food, and even more I enjoyed the discussion and thinking that it inspired between Jon and I on the way home (with two people who spend so much time together, anything that inspires good conversation is notable!). Great conference, and I'm so proud to be a part of the TapRoot team (all the time, but especially) at events like this!
We had a free range license for 1000 chickens this year. We grew five flocks of 215, with our first chicks coming in April, and the last coming in August. All the whole chicken we have left, about 250, are in two of these freezers, the rest have been in the meat share this summer. After we use these up in the next few weeks we will be buying in our chickens from local producers. Next year our goal is to produce enough chickens to see us through the entire season, with whole, half, quarters, and pieces on offer. Some of the chickens in the freezers downstairs are quite small, this is because a number of reasons, not because they weren't grown the same length as the five pounders, but because of their feed and how active they were. By the time the chickens are feathered out you can tell which one is female and which is male, and Josh says he notices that the male chickens mostly hangs out by the feed and water, sitting and eating most the time, the females on the other hand are out and about scratching in the soil, looking for bugs and good things to eat. This difference in behaviour can make all the difference in these high performance birds. The other reason is because of their feed. We have experimented with two different feeds, one that is in crumb form and one that is whole crushed grain, or mash. The mash is whole grains, legumes, and minerals, crushed. The crumbs are steamed grains, legumes, and minerals all mixed together and formed into a crumb. When the chickens eat the crumbs every bit they eat has everything in it, whereas when they eat the mash they can pick and choose what they eat, perhaps preferring oats one day and corn another. We like to give the chickens a choice to choose what they feel they need. The upside is that the birds look healthier and more active, the downside to this was that we didn't get very uniform finished weights, with some chickens being 5 lbs and others barely 2lbs. With all things in farming, we are learning and working on how to produce better and healthier food for us all.
Linen fibers have a super long history of use by humans, and a key role in the development of global trade and the colonized world. Linen is made up of bast fibers; they are the long, strong strings that run from the base of the flax plant to the top. Linen flax, hemp and jute are all bast fiber plants, and have been used for ages for rope, cloth and paper. Imagine, 300 years ago a world without bast fibers for rope and sails, it would have been a much smaller and much more limited time.
I have come to appreciate, in handling flax and linen fibers on a daily basis, what high tensile strength feels like. You'll see, in this video Justine shot yesterday afternoon, that 'braking' the plants in order to separate the fibers from the rest of the plant material is a pretty forceful activity. I hadn't really realized it myself until watching this video. The result of this part of the process is a good sized handful of the long and strong fibers that we want for spinning and for fabric. The longer the strands, the finer the fabric, this is because the more ends you have meeting up, the bulkier the thread.
Stay tuned to see what final product we are working towards for Christmas!
What a great potluck on Saturday night! Thanks to all of you who made it out and came armed with delicious goodies. Catherine suggested that we share the recipes, and so far here's a couple:
The World’s Best Brownies (From The Mennonite Cookbook)
1 cup butter or margarine (we are a lactose intolerant household)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon vanilla
Melt butter, if doing it in the microwave, do it on medium heat, making sure that you don’t get it too hot. If it gets really hot the brownies become the consistency of toffee. Which is great if you are making toffee, not so great if you are trying to make brownies! Add the rest of the ingredients except the nuts and mix by hand until everything is well blended, this only takes a few minutes. Add the nuts last and mix again. Pour and/or scrape into a 9x13 pan and bake at 30 for between 15 and 20 minutes! If they are under-baked, they are simply chewier. Frost while still warm, I use Betty Crocker prepared frosting, or throw chocolate chips over them and spread them around when they are melted!
As usual, I brought my camera and then forgot to snap some photos. Did anyone else get any?
In last week's blog post I touched on the topic of sustainable apparel, and I wanted to take a few moments to talk more about the 'why' of linen as a farm product at Taproot. Not only is food purchasing a choice about the kinds of farms and rural communities we want to support, but the textiles we use have an impact on the lives of the people that produce them and the environment we leave in their wake.
Fast fashion is a phenomenon that has accelerated over the last 10 years with the overflow of stylish, inexpensive and cheaply made clothing produced by companies like Walmart, H&M, Joe Fresh – to name a few. Not only are the labor practices in this industry brutal but the volume of manufacturing and post-consumer waste is gross. The desire to wear trendy, provocative garments is co-dependent on an industry that generates new looks for every season – believe me, I know the clothing crush well.
A sustainable fashion and fiber industry has gained momentum because of awareness raising about the impact our choices in this sector. The Atlantic Natural Fiber and Dye Industry Association is particularly interested in renewable fibers which can grow in more northerly climates. Hemp, wool and flax are durable and versatile and there is a market potential for their by-products. Flax is used more and more in the automotive industry for interior paneling, for bedding on farms, as a food source and for fiber.
Obviously, all of this is exciting and cool. Imagine tying up your garden tomatoes with locally made rope. Imagine padding around the kitchen in a linen nightie made in Nova Scotia.
At Taproot our desire to foster sustainable rural economies means that when we fall in love with a project we also think about how we can make it work. It means scaling production so that it makes sense, and developing a line of products that are feasible but also useful and have verve!
Stay tuned for our weekly flax updates to learn more about our exploration of the tradition of linen production and the development of our products.