Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Auction House - cows, coins and crap

Carleton County Co-Op Auction!
We were up top in the back behind the cows butt.

The thought of taking our billy goat Jack to auction was a little upsetting to me. I tried to sell him online and although there was some interest, when I was completely honest, the deals never went through. I could not in good conscience neglect to tell a potential buyer who lived an hour and a half away that he stank worse than my toilet and was getting violent  with all my livestock. It just didn't feel right to withhold those details. Alas, my honesty created a situation where I had no other choice BUT to take Jack to the Florenceville-Bristol Carleton County Co-op Auction house an hour and a half away. Taking him for sale was a risk since I was certain to spend the $5 to the auction house, $10-20 for lunch and coffee and at least $45 in diesel to get 'er done. That meant Jack had to get me at least $60 to barely break even. Definitely a dicey deal!

My sweet boy Luki!
So early Monday morning, after the kids left for school, Len and I came up with a plan to entice Jack into the back of old Buddy, our trusty truck. We decided to make a ramp into the truck, I would hold a bucket of feed (which we were pretty confident our little piggy would go for) and Len would put a rope around his neck in case he fled. First however, I had to lead Freya into the barn with some feed so she would stay out of the way and then work on getting Jack. Surprisingly with the exception of Luki making a break for it, all went well. Jack was indeed a predictable horny goat and Luki adores me so I was able to get him back into the pasture without too much trouble. 

We made the drive to Florenceville, checking every so often to ensure that Jack was safely riding in the canopy enclosed truck bed. He never fought it, brayed, kicked or bothered us at all, which was very surprising. He did stay standing and close to our window, periodically looking at us longingly like he knew this may be his last ride. I felt bad for him. Who knows, he could become a pet (not likely), he could be bought to breed (marginally possible) or he could become a welcome entree at the local Greek restaurant (most likely.) I didn't want to see him become a shish kebab but what choice did we have? He was attacking everyone and everything... 

My Sunflowers FINALLY bloomed!
Comes with bees!
Without getting very lost we arrived at the auction house. Not knowing the process I saw a bunch of farmers (regulars out for their Monday fun) hanging about to see what animals were coming in and possibly buying them before they ever hit the auction block. I pulled up and sweetly said, "HI! Can you please tell me where I register my goat for today's auction?" The 300 lb bearded pot bellied farmer   with his dirty old ball cap said, "Ya, it had to be here las' Wednesday for today's auction." My face fell! I had driven an hour and a half, spent my last $40 on fuel and had to take Jack home again! Seeing my distress, the other fella's laughed and said, "Don't listen to Dan, he's just messin' with ya! Go see Margie over at that thar door and she'll take him in for ya." My relieved sigh and laugh made them all grin and Len and I took Jack on over. 

A nice young boy of about 17 with his overalls and t-shirt and a mouth full of metal helped us get Jack out. He said, "h'yuk, we can hep ya's out. This har goat should sell jes' fan! He's nace." And off Jack went to join the other animals in wait for the big event. As we waved goodbye for the last time, we walked on through to check out the auction house. This was definitely going to be an interesting day! (Check out the first picture of the auction barn to get an idea of the layout.) There were items for auction from the Co-op, likely last year's old stock and another little pygmy billy goat in a cage. 

Cabbage ready to harvest.
The bug holes are free!
We had about an hour and half until the auctioneer came out to go through the days items so off we went to Timmy's for some coffee and breakfast and then wandered around to check out the Co-op grocery store, gas station and feed store. Then we headed back to the barn. By this time many more farmer's had been in to drop off livestock and the place was beginning to get crowded. We walked in and Len offered to buy me a hot dog or piece of pie. As enticing as it was to eat piece of pie that was sitting open, uncovered on a shelf in a barn, I decided to pass on that culinary delight and simply drink the water in my purse.

My purple broccoli.
All my plants have bug bites.
We started out sitting in the bleachers about half way up one side and then decided to sit right up top in the back since we weren't buying anyway, just hoping for enough to cover our day from the sale of our goat. We sat and people watched for awhile and enjoyed the true rural country feeling that I don't think has probably changed much over the last 50 years since the place opened. Sure, more people were driving in new trucks, not horse and wagons, but beyond that, not much different. We thought there were a lot of kids there for a Monday and realized we were in potato country, namely the world head quarters for the McCain's factories and this was the last ever, potato break for schools. Yes, in rural New Brunswick, farmers still counted on seasonal hired hands to come and work for those few weeks of harvest in September and in this way lots of kids could earn their own money for school clothes and needs. This was the last year for this though, due to poor harvests and increased technology and other financial factors, schools would no longer have a potato break after Sept. 2011. 

I was thoroughly enjoying myself and feeling quite farmy! I smiled at Len and told him, that even though it smelled like a barn, it was fun! He reminded me it WAS a barn. One old guy, maybe somewhere between 65-85, kind of hard to tell, had to get up the bleachers to sit with his friend. The old guy couldn't have been any taller than Jessica, was grizzled and gnarled up and literally had to crawl up the bleachers on his hands and knees and then sat down and was ready to take on the day! As we waited we listened to stories of who bagged a moose over the weekend - the moose hunt is 3 days in the last weeks of September and had just ended. We watched old men compare the harvest, size up the livestock and generally felt like this was where REAL farming was at. 

As the auction started and things quieted down, we were able to distinguish who the big time buyers and sellers were. Who was there just to observe and who wasn't sure what they would do today. Clearly for some people, living out in the country, this was their weekly entertainment. There were about 25 items to sell off before we got to livestock and I carefully struggled to sit absolutely still, my hands under my bum, my eyes motionless and in no way making a move that might be interpreted as a bid. I had NO money today and needed to sell my goat just to get home again. 

Real chocolate chip cookies
My husband however, had other motives which I discovered as he sat and started to join in on a bid that was on the floor. Len was good at it, subtle, experienced looking and clearly knew what he was doing. Of course, I couldn't figure out why he was bothering to bid on a case of gallon jugs of Fleecy that we couldn't even use since it was not organic or biodegradable. I tried to quietly ask him without throwing off his bid, but when he won the bid and turned to smile at me on his success, his smile turned to a frown, when I asked, "Why'd you buy a case of Fleecy? We don't need non-organic fabric softener." He said, "What? I thought I bought that white garden hose?" Nope! ha ha, well, I am still laughing at him over that one! He was subsequently successful on his bid for the hose!

My New Brunswick Biscuits
Finally, Jack came up on the block. I was REALLY nervous now because the pygmy goat only went for $20 while his cage went for $30... this did not leave me much hope on money for Jack. The auctioneer, in his sing song voice started Jack at $30 and all hope fell at that moment as I pictured him going for $10 ... Much to my amazement his price immediately shot up to $70 and he was sold! $70! To BillyBob in the corner! Wow! YAY! I broke even on my day! 

We remained for the rest of the auction because it was fun and kind of exciting at times. I watched a farmer in his dandy clothes - fresh new shirt and white straw boater - bid on almost every cow and bull that came through. My guess is he owns a butcher shop. The auctioneer would announce the bid number, the weight of the animal and then start the bidding at a per pound rate. The lowest we saw that day went for about .45 cents a pound and the highest for about $1.25 lb. The smallest animal in the beef category was about 330 lbs and the largest was over 1500 lbs. Let me tell you, a 1500 lb bull that does not want to be in a small area, is not a happy animal. The last few animals had had enough. They had been waiting all day and were the last on the auction block. Truly, the crap began to fly. A few cows let their bowels loose and then, when a bull came out and sprayed diarrhea, I understood why most people sat high up. One fellow was definitely going to have to rinse his boots and change his trousers from the spray when he got home. Love the kids though, they just all laughed and knew they had something to tell at school next week when the potato break ended!

Cows, coins and crap, yup, that 'bout covers the auction! Y'all come back now, y'hear? 
Apple Pie from our Bear's tree
Blueberry Pie
Below, just a few pictures of things I have been doing out here on the farm!

Wild Cranberry Jelly
Mint Jelly from My Mint

Green Tomato Salsa

Monday, September 19, 2011

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion

The Giving Farm  

Hens give eggs.
Pigs give ham.
Cows give milk.
Strawberries give jam.
Bees give honey.
Goats give cheese.
Farms give food,
I'd like some, please.

(Vicki Witcher)

     Since moving to New Brunswick and falling in love with my new home, community, land, lakes and every other delight that I have come to adore, I finally realized what has made this my TRUE home. I could tell you it is having a house - yes! Or the peace and quiet that we enjoy - yes! There is one thing though that I have finally understood makes it all complete - my community. 
     I have blogged over the past year about the help and friendship we have been offered. I have tried to describe the acceptance we feel, the support received and the peace we experience. This last week it hit home to me. I knew that I felt I was home but I think I now know why. This is kind of how I grew up and I guess as much as I have tried to distance myself from so much in my life, I have gone back to my roots and those roots will start to grow here.
     I made a pact with my family NOT to volunteer for one year and pretty much managed to keep that pact. I have started to help out more as much as I can without draining myself and I believe I have made some life long true friends. My neighbours and community will step forward and help even when not asked. If I indicate something we need to accomplish or acquire, someone shows up to help or finds a way for me to get it used or recycled for a great price.
     I was worried all summer that my teen might not want to return to New Brunswick, since she has spent the last summer in her home town. I  worried that with the bit of freedom she  has had she might stay there. It wouldn't be ok with me, but I know that realistically you can't force someone who is almost 17 to live with you. What does this have to do with my community? They worried with me. They felt my concern and angst that I might have lost my baby. Yes, always my baby until I am gone. My neighbours and friends continuously ask about my girls; when will they be home; are they ok; do you need help to get them bedrooms because we understand the importance of privacy for a teenage girl. My new bff and her husband have brought us trim, flooring, lent their son to donate his time to install the trim because they knew we were just too overwhelmed to do it. THANK YOU ALL!
     Other friends came to help us clean the house and the yard to prepare for the arts festival. People helped us with the prep work, running the event, the community centre loaned us picnic tables and wooden chairs and canopies to work under. So much help, so much friendship, so much community!
     Well my kids did come home and I think that Rachel and I have become even closer since she did go and experience life without mom for awhile. She grew up a lot and she also got me motivated. If it wasn't for her her room would not be livable yet. She primed and painted it. She helped put the shelves together and she carried almost all of her stuff up there herself... and you know what? She was right, it is a good thing! Jess' room is next!

This past weekend was Len's 70th birthday. We invited pretty much everyone we knew but had no idea how many people would come. We were overwhelmed with the turnout (34 people) and the party. It was amazing! Lots of people, everyone had a good time, great food and the best surprise was Len's daughter Brandi flying in with her little family. What a great weekend and good time. I truly feel this is our community! 
     I have closed the coffee shop for the season and feel a great sense of relief. It was great but I am glad for the break and not feeling quite so tied down. Today was cold and I lit my first fire in the wood stove. I was sad to light it so soon since Autumn is still 4 days away but it was COLD! Oh well the warm dry wood heat felt great!

Enjoy the video and have a great day!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Farm, Food, Fun!

Freya telling Jess a secret or looking for food
The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. Time seems to slip away and I feel like I am going backwards some days. I know I procrastinate and can't seem to stop it. Take right now, it is 10:30 pm, I just put in the corn bread to bake for tomorrow's market and still have dishes to do. No reason for it, yes I was busy with other things but I could have baked my regular whole grain yeast breads but NOPE! I manage to do lots but waste lots of time as well. It is a curse I suppose! 

The kids are well back into the school routine. Rachel has a hard load this year with needing to get good Grade 11 grades to get her into a program of her choice after high school. She also has a metal works class with a total of 4 students, 2 of which are girls. I told her she can become a brilliant white smith when she is older. She asked me what a white smith was. Silly! It's like a black smith but you are white so you can't be a black smith. (I think I had her there for a moment!) 

Take my picture!
Jessica is in Grade 5 and is in intensive French which she seems to love. (Of course it is only week 2!) She had a fab field trip today - "Agricultural Safety Day" - yup! How to ATV safely, use a ride'em lawn mower properly, tractor safety, gun safety and so much more! Love it! This was DEFINITELY not in the BC school curriculum! She had a blast though and was excited to put up her hand when they asked who lived on a farm. She really likes helping feed the animals and gather the eggs.

Jess stealing Luki's limelight
Both girls are closer to their bedrooms. Rachel is in hers and it is completely due to her own self-motivation. She primed the walls, painted two colours, helped Len for 3 hours put furniture together and is making me keep up the momentum. I am quite proud of her. That girl has moxie! She has really helped us all get our act together and yes, she was right, we are all doing much better with bedrooms in the making. She can sleep better for school and we, well, you can guess why it is better for Len and I! (Funny we thought she was just being a whiny teenager but maybe she was right!)

Our neighbours, the Leeman's have been instrumental in getting rooms going. Brendan spent hours putting up trim. Bill and Brendan pushed and pulled and got the mattress UP the stairs - we thought it was never going to work! Anita spent so much time helping with inspiration, shopping, putting floors down and painting, I can't thank her enough! And the little Leeman's played with Jess and kept her out of our way!
Luki our beautiful, perfect, loving, working farm dog
Farm life is going along. The chickens are happy little free rangers and if I could get the video I have taken to convert I could show you our wonderful creatures. The goats are pushy and the billy smells. Luki is looking great and has filled out nicely since he moved here. He is funny, 150lbs of puppy when he gets going. Len has painted us the "only red barn" in New Brunswick and done a hell of a job in getting the barn in shape. He is hurting but holding up fine for  a young man who turns 70 on Saturday!

Len on a break
The big party is about to happen! We have invited people from all over - our old home and our  new home. Of course we don't expect any of the Western folks to make it but love them just the same. The plan is for a big sausage/dog BBQ, chili, chips and salsa and a one of a kind birthday cake, made by me! (Maybe cornbread too!)
Well the cornbread will ding done any moment and the dishes are still dirty so I better go. I have to pack the baking and preserves for town. We are off to the farm market tomorrow and I have work to do... oh yes, procrastination, I better check my FaceBook first! ... then to find my town clothes!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Too much or too little?

It is so busy these days that I am trying to keep up. At the same time I feel like I have nothing to say. Weird! My mind won't stop but my fingers and brain won't connect. I lay in bed and so much goes through my mind - poems, blogs, letters... Then when I get up and could do it I am in too much of a fog to think straight or make any sense. I guess it will come back.... For now I am going to try to get some energy after a short back to bed nap. Who knows maybe later I will be inspired!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

GOOD BYE Summer!

The last Sunday of summer is here. Labour Day weekend. It feels as though July and August flew by. I never went anywhere or did anything but worked a lot on the property. OK not completely true, I did go to BC for a fast and furious trip. Although that left me feeling incomplete since the people I did get to see, wasn't for long enough or in depth enough and the people I didn't get to see left me or them disappointed. Oh well, onward and upward.

I was so happy when my girls returned home. It is so nice to have them back. Yes, I did get a glimpse of what the empty nest will be like and have to say, I think I will enjoy it! Having said that, there is nothing like the sound of their voices, the looks in their eyes, the knowing that we all still need each other. My big girl grew up over the summer. She has matured a lot and although she still wants, she seems to be understanding more about wants versus needs. She is putting more effort into making things work here and is preparing for her future... I am really proud of her!

My little girl is so happy to be home. Yes, she still has her moments of "miserable-ness" but overall she is happy with where she is, what she is doing, loves the animals and can't wait for school to start! Yay! I see a lot of growth in her as well. She loves to get on her bike and ride around outside or walk up to the neighbours to visit and of course, Sandy Beach, just wasn't the same without Miss Jessica!

So, here we are, the Sunday before school starts. The kids grasping the last bit of summer and I am sitting in the absolute quiet, alone. Loving it! (Did I mention there is a coffee & Bailey's party at my house on Tuesday morning at 7:30 after the kids are off on the bus? Bring your own Bailey's but I have the mugs and coffee!)

Life on the farm progresses. The rude, stinky, aggressive billy goat needs to go. He has mounted my female enough and if his shots didn't make it then that girl is probably out of luck with his seed. Of course we took pictures and explained to Jess about how an animal becomes pregnant and yes, it is very similar to humans, but we use different positions... (sometimes!) Anyway! Eggs are happening, chickens are laying, more to come as the rest get older. Chickens can definitely be bullies! It seems they do not care for those who look different and they really picked on our Polish girls... so now Len is building the Pole's their own cage. For safety we must segregate them. We don't expect many eggs from them but I am looking into 4-H for Jess and she could use them as show birds. 

Love our dog Luki! He is beautiful, loving and does his job. He is a livestock dog and barks when he needs too. No need to tell him to be quiet because he is just working. I will say it did bother me the other night since there must have been a bear around because he barked almost the whole night. It is a good thing that the neighbours are not close! Soon we will hear some good morning crowing from our roosters, but they haven't quite got there yet. We hear an occasional squawky crow from them but not full out 5am Cock a doodle doing yet!

Sunday is starting to perk up. I baked all day Saturday hoping to do little to no baking today. I have had 9 customers already and I am thinking I might need some more cookies! Time will tell. I plan to close during the week after Labour Day Monday and then open for weekends only through September. I have told customers that baking and eggs WILL be available year round, just closing the shop up. I am starting to dream about cake decorating (planning something cool for Len's birthday and possibly have an October wedding cake to do.) I am also dreaming about chickens in my purse. In my dream I opened up my purse to get a pen, looked inside and saw about a half dozen birds... Araucana's, Rhode Island Reds and Black Australorps... crazy dreams! I didn't find the pen though!

Have a great Labour Day weekend everyone! Enjoy the back to school excitement before we are full force into the drudgery of making lunches, doing homework and ugh, getting up at 6am!