Thursday, August 21, 2008

puting down roots

I've decided I'm in Vermont to stay. I should have a new, more permanent farm home here in southern Vermont in a few days.

While in Nova Scotia I found myself getting homesick after a week on the road. Strange. Over the last few years I've spent so much time traveling that I'd begun to feel at home only when I was in a new place. But the funny thing was that I wasn't homesick for Minnesota, but for Vermont. I took that as evidence that I should put down some roots in the Green Mountains.

I believe its the most progressive rural area in the country, and a place I could see myself raising a family and making a difference. I've met fantastic folks to work with, and feel a part of a strong and vibrant community.

It feels like home here. Come visit anytime.

something in the water

For a boy from the prairie, its always a treat to spend time around the ocean. While passing through Yarmouth on my way back to Maine, I stumbled upon the annual "Shark Scramble." Basically a bunch of dudes killing sharks for no good reason. Atlantic fisheries have collapsed to the point where tourist events are the only way fishermen can make some money.

The "winning" shark was 367kg.

I did make about $30 busking on the wharf during the weigh-in though. So I guess it wasn't all bad.

Nova Scotia farm life

After my time in Halifax, I spent a week on the Bruce Family Farm in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia. Located in the Annapolis Valley near the Bay of Fundy (largest tides in the world!), the Bruces raise organic beef, chicken, and lamb. They are the sixth generation on their land, and are leading the way in their area in organic production. A really fantastic family who were generous in sharing their home and knowledge.

The Annapolis Valley was formerly the bread basket of Atlantic Canada, but has suffered in the last decades due to imported agricultural products from the west coast. The result is fewer and fewer farms being put to use, and the economy has struggled as young people leave for better paying jobs in oil-boom Alberta.

But agriculture still has a strong presence in the area, which was evident at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition. The Bruces are active in 4H and organic agriculture organizations, so we ended up spending pretty much every evening at the fairgrounds. There was livestock, giant pumpkins, and quilts. Very much akin to a Midwestern county fair, except more people speaking French while munching their mini-donuts or poutine.

Most fascinating to me was the draft horse pull (I apologize for the 2002-era video quality!):

If you notice the horses put their whole weight and strength into their pull, jumping off the start in order to move that big sled. This may get the most torque and movement, but makes these horses not much use for practical farm work. It wouldn't do to have a team pull your plow clean out of the ground!

Nonetheless, it is in incredible to see how much these horses can pull. The winning team pulled over 11,000 lbs of dead weight! Who needs a tractor, right? Many folks in the area still use teams of horses or oxen during the winter to pull logs out of the woods. They can get into tighter places than tractors, and can obviously do the job that needs to be done. And animal traction is becoming more and more attractive to small farmers and loggers as the price of fuel goes through the roof.

Maybe the Amish are on to something.

Nouvelle Ecosse

After disembarking the ferry from Maine in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and a very pleasant 90 minute interview with Canadian Border Control, I was granted entry to our great neighbor to the north. I spent the night with some folks from (the best way to travel!!!) who gave me a whirlwind tour of the area. We visited some of the Acadian francophone towns, and took in a very odd parade:The next morning I hitched up the coast to Halifax, where I spent 3 nights with a friend. Its a beautiful city on the sea, immensely walkable, and supports one of the best farmers markets in the world. I highly recommend a visit.

A Brief Vermont Farewell

A few weeks ago I bid Adieu to Peaked Mountain Farm. I was having a tough time working for some folks whose business practices and personal philosophies I couldn't appreciate. But I left with the skills I'd started out to learn, and I don't regret my time on the mountain.

After leaving I picked up and split for Nova Scotia.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oyster Mushrooms.

I found these tasty fellows while walking up the mountain yesterday. These are one of the easiest edible mushrooms to identify. They are bright white, attached by a thin leg to a log, where they grow in large groups. They are firm fleshed, and have a rich mushroom aroma.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

King of Turnips

The constant rains and cool weather of the Green Mountains have their benefits. One being some major league turnips coming out of our garden! Huzzah and cheers!