Thursday, June 25, 2009

Here Piggy Piggy Piggy!

So as we learn more and more about farming I read more and more about the health of the soil being the basis of healthy farms and healthy and disease/pest resistant plants. I read about farm here on the Journey to Forever website library. The farm in Yorkshire sounded like a bit of deja vu. Pounds and pounds of fertilizer, harvest of pounds and pounds of strawberries and then add on the use of insecticides just to make matters worse. Our farm was in big trouble! It was all starting to make sense. I think Farmer Guy has a history of moving around. I wonder why. Not. I was fascinated and inspired. Perhaps too inspired. I got on the phone with friends who had pigs every summer and asked questions. I got the name of their supplier and called him. It was mid June and really too late to be trying to locate pigs for the summer. The supplier said he could provide us with pigs in 3 weeks or so. Don was kind of going along with me….until 3 days later when the supplier called ready to deliver our pigs, and we had just opened our UPICK Strawberries. We had no fence, no pen, no shelter, no food, no idea about watering them, no nothing and NO IDEA of what we were doing. I had done a lot of reading online, but still not the same as the real thing. The truck arrived backed up to our greenhouse and delivered our 8 pigs into our puppy pen. A pen made from straw bales. Not very stable. And we had customers on the fields, staff to direct and pigs to organize. Don was well I don’t know how to describe someone who has to figure out how to fence, feed and water the pigs at the start of our busiest craziest season!! We knew the best way was an electric fence. Pigs are smart. They also need to be trained to the fence. I read you had to build a small electric fenced area with chicken wire as a secondary fence. When the pig first hits the electric fence, he bolts….into the chicken wire. He learns pretty darn quick not to bolt. Don went out, bought necessary fencing supplies and built a great electric fence. And then stood back and watched me carry a 45 lb pig up to his new pen. It promptly shat on me and screamed in my ear (equivalent to a 747 taking off!) the whole way. Nice. It hit the fence and bolted…..freedom! On the farm! Full of ripe red strawberries! See two book/internet farmers scrambling after baby pig, who likes to scream, with customers wondering WHATTHEHECK is going on!! He put up the chicken wire. I was able to move 2 more pigs before he gave in and helped me……they are strong!!!
The pigs did their job. When strawberry harvest was over we put them on the 3 year old plants and they TOOK THEM DOWN! It was incredible. We now get pigs every year and they are part of our “soil building” program along with compost, horse/cow manure and green cover crops…….

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

10 Reasons to buy organic!

I love this website and I love his reasons......

10 Reasons

Notice how it's all about the health of our planet...which is our reason for changing the way this farm is run!

Reason #1

We were eating dinner. I cooked cauliflower, the first harvest from our garden and some leftover from the store. August says to me, "Mummy, why does this cauliflower taste different?" I said it was from our garden and asked for a taste (I was eating store bought) and OHMYDOG, it was comparing apples and oranges, the flavour and sweetness of the cauli from our garden!

I don't have to go on......

Friday, June 19, 2009

Resistance to the onslaught! EOSF #6

So 25,000 or so weevils decided to walk towards our barrier, what about the 25,000 or so weevils who walked the other way?? Turns out if you whine enough to the government something can be done. We were in contact constantly with the BC Government Berry Specialist about our weevil problem. Mostly getting advice we didn’t want, but still he realized we had a bad problem and short of ploughing in all the strawberries there appeared to be limited options for us. He volunteered to have 1000 experimental plants sent to us that were developed to be weevil resistant. CANYOUBELIEVEIT? Yep, 1000 plants showed up on the bus. We ploughed in the worst section of our field, where there was the most weevil damage and planted the plants, like a big target for the buggers! So 25,000 bugs walked one way to our barrier and 25,000 went the other to the “weevil resistant” plants. The plants on the other side of our weevil resistant plants were only 2 years old but already showing damage, so we had plans to plough them in….Last year we dug up plants from around our farm to check for grubs (weevil larvae) before obvious damage showed above ground. Seriously we had never seen such amazing root systems. Our first year on the farm the roots we checked out were PITIFUL in comparison – but we didn’t know any better. Apparently weevil resistant strawberry plants are, well, resistant! The harvest from them was AMAZING! The plants from the barrier protected field were and remain unbelievably strong and healthy into their second year (this year). Last year we were able to commercially order the weevil resistant variety and planted them as “trap rows” around the varieties we like better. So between 1 and 2 year old fields, on either side of ditches, etc, we plant 3 rows of weevil resistant plants to stop the “migration” of our arch enemy, the evil weevil!

Next: Arrival of the piggies and hubby doesn’t speak to his beloved (nutty) wife for a week :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bug photos


These are affected strawberry plants, these rows were the worst in our fields

The bugs!

The barrier the length of our field....with dying rows in the straw and our newly planted on the other side.

And finally a view of our icecream bucket drop traps...we had to make sure no weeds formed bridges over the barrier - so weeding along the barrier was another chore! You can see the grease keeping the bugs from walking over the barrier. No bugs - spiders - or anything liked to walk on the grease.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Pioneers in Cultural Controls.....EOSF part 5

So what about these dang bugs on our farm? After doing (almost) all farmer guy said, and not really knowing but kinda guessing what he sprayed on the fields in April, we were really really unhappy with the spraying. We were a bit exasperated at the fact that we left HK for the kids’ health and here we were on a farm that required mega spraying.
During our first season all our gooseberries and currants dropped their berries prematurely, and guess what, it was due to a “currant Fruit fly” that comes up out of the soil in the spring, lays an egg in the flower, the maggot grows in and with the berry, causes premature drop, the maggot eats the berry till it’s full, then burrows into the ground for the winter, and then does it all over the next year….And guess what the solution is? Diazonon. Sprayed 2 or 3 times, during bloom, and on developing berries. It’s nasty. Farmer guy forgot to mention the necessary sprays during his berry course…and when we called desperate when all the berries were dropping his girlfriend said, “Oh yes, he sprayed for that bug” We rototilled all our currants and gooseberries. Just not willing to do the necessary sprays, gas mask and all.
So, I digress, as usual, we did a bunch of research about our weevils. We found a lot of neat information and some of it very depressing. In Ontario, government entomologists built barriers between infected fields and new fields to see if they could block the onslaught. Weevils only walk. Weevils do not need to mate to reproduce. After 3 years a commercial strawberry patch is tilled in. At this point all the weevils that have been living and building their population in the three year old strawberries start walking until they find the closest food. Like the rows next door. Which explains the dying rows beside our newly planted rows (that used to be 3rd year plants that were tilled in the season before). Each weevil lays 500 or so eggs. The most weevils are out just at or after strawberry season and you need to “get em” (read spray) before they lay eggs. Grubs (immature stage) in the soil are near impossible to kill. Adult Weevils are nocturnal. Weevils are very very hard to kill, even with sprays. HUH??? Nocturnal? Hard to kill??? So basically all the sprays are basically a big fat WASTE OF TIME since farmer guy sprayed during the day mostly preseason, and KILLING all the BENEFICIAL bugs that keeping a ‘checks and balances’ system going out there in nature. Weevils walk. Adult weevils like to eat strawberry leaves, after eating enough they lay their eggs at the base of the strawberry plant, their grubs hatch 14 days later and begin eating fine strawberry roots eventually stunting and killing fields. They eat all fall and go dormant for the winter. Once the soil warms in the spring they become active again and eat eat eat roots (killing plants with berries) until they become adults, conveniently (NOT!) during strawberry season . So not only were we planting next to tilled in 3rd year strawberries, we were moving plants from one field to another, presumably moving weevils and or their eggs around the fields as well.
I found an entomologist’s report, with an interesting idea. I wanted to build the barrier. A description told us how to do it. I got excited. I read about parasitic nematodes. They enter and kill weevil grubs under the correct conditions. I hassled hubby. I phoned the BC Government Entomologist. I told her we wanted to stop spraying and go organic and how could we? Wow. Her response was not what I expected, or was it. She said we had no choice, we had to spray the hell out of the weevils. Spray spray spray. There was NO other way. I described the barrier to her. She said they’ll just walk over it. I asked about nematodes. She was negative. I hung up super bummed out. Luckily, the barrier was not difficult to build. And hubby was up to it, what a guy.
Basically we have 2 acres of strawberries at one end of our farm. One acre of it we had JUST planted. We had 3 year old strawberry plants beside our new acre that appeared to be badly infected with weevils and were starting to drop (by harvest these rows were DEAD). Something had to be done – We would be tilling these rows in and the bugs had to walk somewhere to eat and didn’t our new plants look yummy! We made the following decisions: 1) We had to stop digging up plants from established rows and infecting our new fields by replanting the plants. We purchased 7500 strawberry plants (at .12 Cents each). 2) The farm had to be divided into age related sections with “barriers” between them to halt the spread of the weevils. Currently the ages of rows within each field were completely random and mixed up based on what farmer guy dug up when and replanted…..3) Any old plantings would NOT be tilled until the fall to halt the mass migration of bugs from old fields to new.
We built the barrier according to instructions. So now we have a 200 foot piece of aluminum flashing embedded in the soil with 10 inches or so sticking out with ice cream buckets embedded in the soil at both ends as drop traps. There is salty soapy water in each bucket. The flashing has grease along the top inch.
Each morning I head out with my mini fish net and fish out bugs. I also start a spreadsheet (based on the Ontario Berry Specialist’s – they caught 800 bugs over 6 weeks….) At first I don’t catch many, but then start getting 2 or 3, then 10, then 18, then one night I get 60! Am I excited or what???!!! Then I start getting two and three HUNDRED a night. I email the berry specialist. The numbers keep going up, and when we till the field in August the number skyrockets to ARE YOU READY????????? 2500 in one night!!! And yes, I counted them. And yes I have pictures.
The kids and I headed out every morning. We found that the bugs liked hiding under things. So all along the barrier we laid leaves and in the morning we would go along, lift a leaf and scoop up bugs. Who “play dead” just to make it easier for us. By the end of the summer, when I’m sick of counting, our spreadsheet ends at about 22,000 weevils, with probably another 2-4000 caught and not inputted. NO WONDER THE ROWS BESIDE TILLED AREAS DROP THE NEXT YEAR!!!!!!!!! I can’t explain the anger I felt at the Government Entomologist (you know, the one who told me a barrier would be useless?!)
At night we would go out with flashlights. The weevils were like zombies from the dawn of the dead. Every inch there was a weevil walking walking slowly marching along the barrier. They are clumsy – they would try and climb it, fall, or hit the grease and fall, or fall into the bucket. It was scary, depressing and exciting.
Once the Berry specialist heard of our bugs he had us send them to a research company (read pesticide testers) in Vancouver, but they had to be alive. So our soapy salty water traps became greased buckets (no bug likes grease) and we sent, daily, our bugs on the bus to Vancouver. They only escaped once. Only 800 of them. We started duct taping and packing the yoghurt containers much better after that. J We can’t imagine what some poor passenger found in their suitcase!
At the beginning, upon fishing them out of the salty soapy water, I would count the bugs and dump their corpses on the driveway. My nephew wanted to see them so we went back to the dump spot. They weren’t there. The BUGGERS were still alive, got up and marched away. I’m so glad I found this out when numbers were low.
The kids loved to carry their own buckets and “catch” bugs too. August would lift a leaf and yell “I found the MOTHER LODE!!!!” Sometimes he’d get more than me. I was always scared they would drop the buckets on the way back down the driveway. Luckily this only happened once. See frantic farmer lady picking up pebble like, dead-playing weevils frantically from matching driveway!
I spoke to the berry scientist lady and told her I was sure we had 4 species of weevils and was told no way. I sent them to her. Guess who was right.
We planted a cover crop in the field and pulled the barrier out the next spring.
I don’t know my writing makes it clear what happened but basically we learned all we could about the habits and life cycle of our weevil, and then used this information to outsmart them. Even the pesticide research company guys who were sending our bugs to said things to us like “these bugs are hard to kill, they get up and keep going” and “they’ll go down for 3 days and then get up and go again” Spraying them was only killing the GOOD bugs in our fields. These bad ones were allowed to reproduce unchecked.
We have sent our spreadsheets to 3 different university/government berry agencies with descriptions of our barriers at their request.
I began corresponding with Richard Cowles, the original barrier guy. He took our data and told us we were “Pioneers in Cultural Controls of Weevils”
We haven’t sprayed insecticides since.
Now ask me if my kids understand Life Cycles, Insects, Ecology, Farming, Counting, name it!
Next: Weevil resistant strawberries

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Berry Farm We Salted - EOSF PART 4

Salt and Strawberries. Do not mix. Ever. It means decreased yields. Big time.
So before we buy the place we hear there may be “salt storage problems” at the highways department (HD) next to us. Hubby does some research and discovers that salt and strawberry farms are a lethal combination. Hubby bee lines for the main office of said HD and is reassured that they follow all environmental protocol, their buildings and standard operating procedures are by the book and we have nothing to worry about.
Our first summer on the farm was hot hot hot and dry dry dry. We had to irrigate a lot often. We had two fields that it was just not possible to pump water to with the aluminum hand move. Hubby, the master of figuring things out, installs a drip irrigation system on those two fields. (Even though Farmer guy told us “Drip irrigation doesn’t work”) So we use a small gas pump to pump water from our upper pond to one field that had 200 blackberry plants, 150 blueberry plants, gooseberry plants and ½ acre of strawberries. We use a city water hose to feed the drip tape on the smaller field with 1/6 acre of strawberries. As the summer progressed the upper field began to look worse and worse. Seriously the plants were blackening. We thought we were overwatering, we thought we were underwatering, we really had no idea what was wrong being the strawberry newbies that we were….But one 20 foot section of one row that had no drip tape on it (we ran out) was looking gorgeous. The field that we were using city water on and watering the same amount also looked marvellous. HMMMMMMMMMM
Late summer we recalled that farmer guy told us that the upper pond was a “spring” and we could hear water running in to it – even after 3 months of no rain. We thought it would be a great idea if we dug a ditch between the upper and lower pond and use the constantly running spring to fill the lower pond to pump on the rest of our fields. As the digger guy dug the ditch and the water gushed from the upper pond into the lower pond it was like the tide going out. A salty seaweed smell wafted out of the now almost empty pond. The lightbulb went on (finally). SALT. STORAGE. PROBLEMS.
We tested the water, we had independent testers test the water. It was off the clock for saltiness. Like 90% decrease in yield salty. Like ½ acre dead strawberries, dead blackberries, dead blueberries…..Yep, now we know why Farmer guy’s drip irrigation didn’t work. I didn’t sleep that winter.
One day on the road that fall I saw a broken down salt truck outside the HD. I got the camera and got some great shots. Of salt. Falling off the truck. Everywhere. It looked like it had snowed on the truck. They loaded the trucks and then bounce across the parking lot to the exit. Basically from one side of their property to the other, the length of our property. Did I mention they are uphill from us and that it rains a lot in the winter here….
We contacted a lawyer.
Who advised us that dealing with the problem ourselves would be “the most economical” way to get a settlement. So with their help we draft a letter and by the next week we had a meeting set up with the HD management.
Apparently after Don’s first visit to their offices they went into a frenzy of salt control and stupidly they now tell us all about it. (I guess we came across as dumb hick strawberry farmers!) They built a “dutch ditch” and they put up cement blocks so “the guys” would wash the salt trucks over the bladder (to contain salt) not just in the parking lot. So much for standard operating environmental procedures. They offer us the moon in work done….new irrigation ponds anywhere we wanted, bypass ditches, ditches on their property but they disagree on the amount we are claiming in costs – ie. Lost income, replacement costs and loss of value of our contaminated property.
The next spring they start work with their heavy machinery by building a road through the woods from their place to ours. A great admission of guilt I’d say. In fact they flat out told us the salt was from them. They filled in our upper pond, built a ditch the entire length of our property to divert water (on to our neighbour’s property…..), levelled and graded where the pond used to be, put in culverts, pumped our lower pond and filled it with freshwater, and ok’d us to have a well drilled. (They still have not reimbursed us for the well which was essentially dry.)
As time goes on we realize more and more the damages are far reaching and never ending. No fresh water on our property (livestock would die drinking this water) where once we’d had a nearly endless supply is costly. We have huge well established trees beside the bypass ditch dying now. Our claims for damages keep going up every time we send them another letter. And they start offering us what we wanted in the first place. If we sign a full release. Which we refuse, of course (remember the salty water going into our neighbour’s property?). We consult our lawyer again and as of now have started full on legal proceedings. They are hooped. Their general manager told us at one point he does training seminars on salt for their BC wide company – and he talks about “The berry farm we salted”. Great.
Bugs bugs and more bugs coming next…..

Friday, June 12, 2009


The promised pictures of the black ladybug....Who appears to be a gentlemanbug....and who knows maybe Holdy's ladybug eggs are going to be half black bugs! Sex education around here is learning by watching ;)

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August continues to astound me with the words he can read. He'll read a sentence or a title or something random that is huge....and then get out a chapter book and stumble. I'm like "Dude that's a huge word, how did you know what it was?" A "What else could it be?" Me, "That's EXACTLY what reading is all about, you gotta figure out what makes sense!" Which brings me to the chapter books and their scripted, formula writing with the word choices limited. What is written in the dialogue isn't always authentic so it's not always what should be there..... Twaddle free literature. Bring on Roald Dahl and his scarey knids. That man was twisted......anyone else JUST figure out what knid is spelled backwards???

Thursday, June 11, 2009

EOSF - Part 3

Farmer guy left the farm in early April taking with him 10,000 plants that he dug up from the rows in the field. A 200 foot row planted with 120 plants will give you about 2000 plants the next year! So when we move on to the farm and we plant 4500 strawberry plants as per instructions from farmer guy in bare dirt he had prepared for us. We have help from Linda-a special person who needs a post all to herself. We dig up his first year rows and replant them 20 inches apart in rows 50 inches apart 200 feet long. It takes 3 of us a week. We phoned everyone we knew for help babysitting. The two older boys had diggers in the field beside us for hours. They loved every minute! (It felt like heaven to have kids be able to play outside all day with minimal supervision and no bugs attacking them!)
The next job was putting fencing around our two huge deep steep irrigation ponds. With 3 young boys and upick customers coming on the farm the wide open ponds made us very very nervous. Not a fun job but seriously necessary.
Then we sit back and watch everything grow. I mean the strawberries and raspberries that is. No weeds grew. The strawberry plants flourished weedless and the aisles between our raspberries looked like a moonscape. I spent a few days in the raspberries tying up fruiting canes and eventually we put down straw in the aisles of the strawberries. We really didn’t have to do much. It WAS easy. The spring was hot and the strawberries were ripening in early June.
The hardest jobs were hubby’s. He had to figure out the tractor, implements and irrigation. ACK! We had to track down and purchase aluminium ‘hand move’ irrigation pipe so we could water our fields. Which farmer guy told us we wouldn’t have to do much. Another misconception. We put an ad in the paper and miraculously someone called us with exactly what we needed. The 40 foot sections of pipe 1500 feet in all were delivered, by tractor in June. Hubby then had to figure out how to set them up and get the water flowing. I had NO IDEA there was so much involved in setting up farm sprinklers – PSI, water flow, gallons per minute, evaporation, run off. And it being a hot hot spring and turning into an even hotter summer, we had to water, a lot. And that’s a lot of sets and a lot of pipe to move around. I can balance a 40’ pipe on my shoulder pretty darn good thank you very much.
I hate to admit but we followed farmer guy’s chemical application advice the first year, well nearly. He gave us a list of sprays we needed and when we needed to spray. So we ordered them all and hubby practiced with water in the sprayer behind the tractor until he knew how to spray ( a whole ‘nother skill that blows me away!) Then he went out and bought a rain suit, a respirator, a rain hat, boots and goggles. He looked like he was going out to fight aliens. I took the kids off the farm. I remember reassuring our neighbour that we weren’t doing anything different than farmer guy, who sprayed without protection. We never did follow his program exactly for pesticides and fungicides. I remember hubby saying to me “God, I feel terrible, I got out and looked at the bugs and there was this cute little white spider that sits in the strawberry flower, and it was dying…..” We never did get herbicides on the fields. Just couldn’t figure out a good time – all we could read said if you did it wrong you’d affect the strawberry plants…..
So all is going according to schedule, the berries are reddening and then we noticed some problems. Strawberry rows next to our new plantings were dropping dead, with reddening berries on them. HAY………What’s going on? Farmer guy didn’t tell us about this happening, did he? We called and he told us it was the bugs. (Remember he also told us he had dealt with the problem and he’d spray his “special” spray in early April and water it in before we took possession that would control the problem for this year….and that he would tell us what the special spray was. – He didn’t so that makes us wonder what the heck it was!) We also noticed other parts of the field going down. We called them “crop circles.” The evil Weevil. You know, the bug he told us he had under control. The bug he neglected to tell us caused him to pile up strawberry plants and burn the whole farm in 2002. (Some of his staff told us later on in the summer)
We started to research.
So we spent a lot of time researching and researching and bugging (pun unintended) the BC Agriculture Berry Specialist. Who knew of our farm and its problems. Isn’t that special.
The saga continues with a different branch of problems involving the highways department and their road salt storage shed on the property just uphill from us…..

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Big Earth

Check out the local blogger about us!

We may have to roast Houdini....He's figured out how to escape and doesn't seem to mind a little shock from the fence. Last night he was running up and down the strawberry rows. JUST what we need! Hubby spent today doubling the shock value of the fence.......

Monday, June 8, 2009

Do you think about your food?

We ate at A&W a couple of weeks ago. I barely enjoyed my burger (not that I ever enjoy fast food burgers) thinking about the feedlot.....I LOVE LOVE LOVE Taco time, but don't think I can eat there again. Stories of the fast food buyers taking old worn out dairy cows, and dirty stinky feedlots have affected me. We watched "King Corn" such an eyeopener - these two guys leased an acre from an Iowan farmer and grew an acre of corn and followed their acre to the produce line...Showing us all involved in raising the acre of corn including all the herbicides, fertilizers and etc that was sprayed not to mention the government subsidy programs in the states. Next we watched "1/2 Tonne Teen" and see where all the corn products are going, SHOCKING. More than 3500 calories a day per person are produced by US farmers, so someone has to eat them.... I digress, as usual. We don't eat beef in our house anymore, I used to diss my mother about all the wild game she fed us, but wow, am I lucky for that influence in my life. Hubby now hunts with her each year and we have a freezer filled with organic meat. If they didn't get anything I'd buy a side of beef from a local farmer. I wouldn't ask the price. Do many people think about what they are eating? Do they see that the $30+ dollars we spent at A&W would buy a heck of a lot of organic strawberries? I ask this because I'm trying to come up with our pricing this year. We jumped up last year a bit and this year I'd like to jump again. We are WORKING OUR BUTTS OFF HERE! More than ever. Do people care? Am I going to hear complaints about the price if we raise it? Do they reallize organic fertilizer is 4x the cost? The weeding cost is unmeasureable - oh for the days of $1oo worth of herbicides taking care of your problem for the year.....not that we ever did this, but the farmer guy did...and it worked. I'm so torn in this year of economic recession and I know that all the long time retired customers will be hit by a raise (actually only wanted to go up less than 3% on prepicked and 12.5% on that's probably not relevant) Are our customers really going to care that our strawberries are organic? I guess that is the question.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

EOSF -Part 2

So the two or three months before we take possession of our farm we go into a frenzy of research to try and figure out what we need to do when. Part of our Purchase & Sale Agreement was a "Berry Course" where The Seller/Farmer Guy walked us through the farm and instructed us. It became quite clear on that day that our idea of a Berry Course and his idea of a Berry Course were completely different. He told us about strawberries but neglected the gooseberries, currants and raspberries (we figured out after we took possession.) Doh! He didn't give me as much full in depth info as I wanted and craved. We had provincial agriculture berry publications by then and were more aware of the general schedule. But he was very vague and nonchalant almost. I think he expected us to fail. Farmer Guy must have just been shaking his head at us when we were looking at the farm implements. Seriously, we'd point at a cultivator and ask "What is this? What do you do with it? When do you do it?" and then move on to the next implement. I can still picture the giggle forming on his face and he was a very serious old country dutch farmer. I don't know what hubby was thinking but I guess I knew he'd be able to figure it all out. I mean really PTO on a tractor - no problem! (Power take off, very important part of a tractor and implements it uses.....very dangerous and well, I had NO IDEA what a PTO was!) We had to BUY a tractor and implements as we were moving from Hong Kong and taking over a strawberry farm, with an 8 month old, a 2 year old and a 4 year old....... WERE WE BLOODY NUTS????? (Remember - Strawberry Farming is EASY!!!) Near the end of our "Berry Course" Farmer guy told hubby that there was a pest in the strawberries but it was under control and he would tell us exactly what we needed to do to control it ourselves. This became a pivotal moment in our strawberry farm odyssey and we didn't even know it.

Things I now know.....

As a mom of 3 boys here are a few things that I thought of today that I didn't know before I had kids.....I'm sure I could come up with a lot more with time!
You cannot uncut toast.
If they find a cool stick, it will become a gun.
If you give them water they will want milk, and vice versa.
If you put ketchup beside their eggs they want it on top, and vice versa.
They wake up at bedtime.
If you buy three spray bottles for them to play with, you will spend the rest of the day dealing with kids mad because they were sprayed.
If there is mud somewhere out there, they will find it.
If there is no mud they will find bright pink chalk.
Bright Pink Chalk is hard to wash off arms and legs.
Rubber boots are to check how far in they can go before the water pours in.
Ooops! Nope! Rubber boots are to see how stuck you can get in stuck that the boots may have to be left behind!
If you throw something out one of them will ask for it the next day.
If you leave a boy alone with a digital camera inevitably there will be a picture of poop on it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Evolution of an Organic Strawberry Farm - Part 1

When we left Hong Kong for Canada we promised our kids there would be trees to climb. In Hong Kong trees and lawns were for show, and playing on them was frowned upon. We wanted property and fresh air. I wanted my kids to find frogs and robin eggs. Build forts and play kick the can. Make mud pies and grow sunflowers. I wanted to open the door in the morning and wave goodbye to their backs as they rushed off to do whoknowswhat! I wanted to ring a cowbell or bang a gong at dinnertime and hope they were still alive and kicking, ok I digress. We were trying to escape the rampant pollution, the acid rain, the meat and fish fed carcinogens and sold to the HK people, the fruit and veggies sprayed with who knows what and really for fresh air. The pollution was sickening (and my kids were ALWAYS sick). When we got to Canada and started looking property prices had soared and everything was JUST out of our reach. Buying a property with an income seemed like a good idea, and someone (sometimes I'd like to shoot him) told us strawberry farming was easy. We didn't know then it would become a lifestyle for us and an epiphany of the harm man can impose on the good earth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Holdy's Ladybugs

Each morning as we weed each row of strawberries we see hundreds of ladybugs all shapes, sizes and colours. And Holdy loves them. A LOT. We have to catch all we see for him and he puts them in his ladybug container. Even ones on top of each other - "It's ladybug mating season mummy" Sawyer found a black ladybug with red spots. I have a picture to prove it! (Coming I promise, when Don has a free minute to move our main computer out of the guest room!) Holdy proudly carries his ladybugs everywhere carefully in his " 'tainer" and then, after a couple of days SURPRISE we have ladybug eggs.....I only hope he hasn't left his tainer out somewhere and cooked the eggs :) I'd like to infect our plum trees which are prone to aphids with the larvae....I saw a larvae out there on a strawberry plant today, they can MOVE...I was surprised, I expected a slow moving caterpillar type thing...but I guess it is a predator, and predator's move fast.
Big news on the reading front August read "The Twits" to Sawyer today. Yep Roald Dahl! And with very little instruction or prodding. Unschooling works!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tell me why....

I don't like stress out Mondays! I remember listening to that song as a child when my clock radio went off in the morning, I can picture exactly where I was lying....Every monday I get stressed about all we have to do, but in fact things are moving along well.
We had to get up early (6 am) to get the irrigation going but wouldn't you know it - a kid needed a hot water bottle at 1 am and the DANG &#*%^*#@$^#*^ woodpecker decided to call a mate by pecking on the metal part of our chimney - at 5:06 am, yep it is the most ANNOYING panging sound you can imagine (think 11 month old with metal spoon on frypan) then he quit for a time until 5:55 am. It is so incredibly loud it is hard to describe. I tried to take a picture of him, but he flew away, so apparently this is what I have to do to get some sleep in the morning! We have to get up early tomorrow too, hopefully he has found his one and only!
It was so dang hot today we all got out and worked 7 - 11:30 and then hit the lake for the afternoon, came back and worked a bit more before dinner...It worked out well and we had some HAPPY KIDS!
I'm such a loser, I've been buying and drinking Organic Mint Tea. Yesterday my kids "invented" a new drink. Here goes, first they picked mint from right outside our kitchen door, put them in their water cups, shook them up, and VOILA! a cool tasting drink "Try! It! Mommy!" So tonight I picked a few mint tips, poured boiling water over them, watched the water go green and it is seriously the BEST mint tea I've ever had. Now how to make my ever expanding mint patch last all winter - dry? freeze? HUH!? (Did I mention it is fertilized with left over coffee every morning? What could be better - caffeinated mint tea!!!!!????
On the garden front our corn has poked thru the ground, the soy beans are up, our new asparagus is growing and I've planted Allysum in the garden. I went to a Bug talk the other night put on by the local horticultural society and the best info I got was "buy a flat of white allysum and plant with your veggies to attract all the good bugs" Also "Let your chinese greens go to flower - they attract good bugs too!!" (This happens anyways because at a certain point I can't keep up to the growth...) We are losing our broccoli/cabbage/caulie to the root maggot, BUMMER! I wish I had known to put a "collar" around them, my mum grew them all from seed and she is going to be bummed. Especially as we wouldn't let her plant moth balls under them for the past two years as this is her cure for the dang maggot! (and it works, but at what cost??)
Well enough rambling, I think I'll have some more of this SUPER tea and head to bed, I can tell there is no caffeine in it :)