2016 in Review

•January 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment
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Early morning adventures on Sea Dragon

It’s hard to believe that it is already 2017!

img_93772016 was a monumental year for me (and the farm). On the first of January I purchased the farm business from my parents – Tony and Fran McQuail. What that really meant is that I was committed to the farm even more than I have in the past and that we were working towards the sale/transfer of the farm land to me as well.

This meant that the majority of my life in 2016 was focused on continuing the process of farm succession and learning all of the ins and outs of running a successful farm business. You can follow the farm’s Instagram here for daily doses of cute creatures and farm adventures.

img_9459Other than that, I was in my first year of being the conference coordinator for Continuing Revolution, Pendle Hill’s young adult Friend conference focused on the intersection of spirituality and activism. The 2016 conference in June was on Integrity as a Radical Act. I worked with my assistant coordinator, Amy Gruelich and I think we pulled off a fairly successful conference. Anyone interested in the 2017 Continuing Revolution conference on Peace and Justice should check out our website or get in touch!

Steve & KatrinaIn the fall of 2015, I accepted the role of co-clerk for Friends General Conference’s 2017 summer Gathering in Niagara Falls, NY. So I spent many hours in 2016 working with my co-clerk, Steve Molhke, and many others starting the preparations for the 2017 Gathering: Ripples Start Where Spirit Moves. This included attending the 2016 Gathering at St. Benedict’s in Minnesota where Steve and I learned a lot about what our roles would entail and had the opportunity to invite all of the attendees to 2017. We made a pretty entertaining skit which included me going over the Falls in a barrel. I hope to see many of you there this July!

img_9307The rest of the summer was spent in full farm mode with a quick trip out to California with Owen and Laurie, a short family canoe trip with Tony, Fran, Rachel, Robin, Elliot and Emily. Always a treat. We did a couple of farm related events in conjunction with Ignatius farm and I had a hilarious road trip down to Vermont with Ellie.

I continued as a PADI open water scuba instructor with Float n Flag out of Burlington, teaching about a course a month, but as we got further into the fall and winter, I’ve had to step back from teaching. I just don’t have the time or energy to make the long drives on top of everything else I am committed to.

There have been ongoing adventures in the Lodge, which continues to feel a little more homey with each project completion. Tony, Fran and I did not go for our annual canoe trip in September due to some farm staffing complications, but I guess that just means that we’ll have to go twice next year!

img_9729The fall was a blurr of Quaker committee meetings for FGC, attending the Lyman Fund annual retreat and my 10 year college reunion! Hard to believe that much time has passed.I continue to enjoy my bookclub and the wild smart women which is what the wild women farmer group has morphed into. I took the fall off from dancing, but plan to start again in 2017.

I had a fun group of friends, some of whom I haven’t seen for 2 years up for my birthday which was the only weekend I was home in about an 8 week period. We’ve been going to the Goderich Makers’ Market throughout the fall and will continue for the winter.

img_0691Christmas was delightfully quiet with no travel, though sadly we ended up with a fair amount of seasonal colds and flus. And I brought in the New Year with some of my favourite people after signing the farm sale agreement with my folks so that I am now the official owner of this beautiful hunk of land.

The first half of 2017 looks to be very focused on the farm, specifically launching our vegetable and flower CSA. And a lot of FGC Gathering 2017 and Pendle Hill Continuing Revolution: Peace.

 

 

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Tony moving hay, winter 2016

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Alone for a Week

•November 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

img_9752Well. It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Mostly because taking over a fully functional farm is a hell of a lot of work. And when I’ve had time at the computer, it’s been to do farm related things… and when I’ve had a down moment, I’ve just wanted to turn my brain off. or. teach scuba. or. volunteer. or. do the organizing I get paid for. or. sleep.

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Care package from neighbours

But. I’ve been (mostly) alone on the farm for a week now. My apprentice went home at the end of October and my parents are in Ottawa for committee meetings and Documentary showings. Which has in reality, left me with even less time to myself and to do anything for me. But it has also provided me with ample material to write about. Oh. And did I mention, that I’m sick. Sick. sick. sick.

We’ll start with the beginning of the week, before my folks left. I was so sick on Monday that I slept for 24 hours straight (with a small break in there to ship 5 pigs). Tuesday we made sure to do the cattle preg check (12/13 knocked up), move in the 7 pigs and the 3 steers to ship Monday so that I would have an “easy” go of it. Tony and Fran left Wednesday morning after we got the apple cider pressed. I got all of the cider bottled off in between phone calls, managed to move the cattle and do the chores. I was blissfully walking up from the chores when I realized that I had completely forgotten a presentation I was to do that evening… for a wonderful group of church women on my eXXpedition trip. Relaxation out the window, and into high gear.

Thursday morning I did the chores super early, swung by our delightful abattoir to pick up meat and headed into Toronto to pick up  my friend Ellie (who’ll be a senior apprentice summer 2017) and then delivered meat to a bunch of our customers. We stopped for a 3 person birthday dinner celebration with our friend Ben since we were all celebrating birthdays this week and then got back to the farm to do late chores and get ready for the impending guests. The first of whom arrived at 3am Friday morning having driven from Vermont!

img_9415I might add in here that the weather was STUNNING this whole time. A very mild and sunny November. Friday we let the late (early?) arrivals sleep in while we did chores and delivered some meat locally. Then Ellie and the crew headed down to the garden to do final clean up of the hoop house and pull up any ground cover so that we can plow. I holed up inside doing computer work and trying not to get sicker… Friday evening the rest of the birthday weekend guests arrived and we had a low key evening. Between my being sick and having the Maker’s Market the next day, I was in bed by 11:30pm. Unheard of!

img_9446Saturday Ellie and I got up to do the chores, discovered that the cattle were out of water… had to make the decision about whether to go to the market regardless or stay home to find and then fix the water issue. With some consultation with the famed Tony McQuail, we decided to head into market and then fix it as soon as we were back. Owen, Ellie and I headed into Goderich. The market was good. An adventure in what and how much of it to bring. Lots of fresh apple cider! And I think they managed to sing me Happy Birthday around 3 embarrassing times. img_9454We got back to the farm, where the rest of the crew had made the bonfire big and managed to have lunch. Then it was off to solve the water issue. Turns out… one of the water lines we’d opened when we moved the cattle didn’t have a stop at the end, so we’d run all the water out of the tank. A decently easy fix. We got the pump up and running, and then watched the cattle for a while to make sure they weren’t fighting over the waterer. They seemed fine, so we left them and headed up to be part of the firewood cadena, moving wood into the mudroom of the house. An annual tradition.

img_9459Part way into the later afternoon, one of the friends came back from a walk, saying she thought the cattle were not where they were supposed to. We poo-pooed her, but she was convinced enough that she went back and took a photo of them. Sure enough, they were NOT where they belonged. So… 3 of us ladies went back to corral them. They were rambunctious and we were losing the light, so we called in reinforcements and managed to get them back into the larger paddock that we’ve been subdividing. Deciding that we’d leave it til sunlight to really deal with them. Insert wonderful, epic birthday party with bonfire, living room dance party and lots of temporary tattoos…

Sunday, everyone was up and gone by 10:30am, having given the Lodge a good cleaning before heading off. This is how I know I’m getting old. Ellie, still here til evening and I did a bare minimum of things, and spent most of the morning visiting with a lovely farm friend who came by for the promise of brunch but got tea instead. Then, early chores, a quick meat delivery and Ellie dropped at the Toronto bus station. Home late.

img_9755Monday morning I did the chores and got ready to ship the pigs. I was expecting our trucker at 9am, so at 9:45am called him to see if he’d forgotten me. Nope. He was right on time for his 10am arrival. Crossed lines of communication. While I was waiting for him I thought I’d move the horses into the last part of the strip they were in. So, I blythly took down the fence, only to discover that the end gates that kept the strip from the ones next to it were open… so obvious. so simple. so… silly. The horses of course took the opportunity to go further a-field than planned, but I did manage to fence them into a manageable area. Then Keith arrived, so, we got the pigs loaded, slap tattooed and off to market. Easy-peasy lemon breezy. Maybe I can make it as a farmer…

I worked on the cutting instructions and other things and then got the barn ready to ship the cattle, which Keith was coming back for at 4:30pm.

P1030492Keith arrived for the cattle at 4:30pm and we got the first one loaded (she’d been penned separately because she was a bully to the others) no problem. Keith got her partitioned off in the truck and then we moved the 2 others into the the pen that led to the chute. We got them headed in the right direction and they were heading down the chute one after the other, when suddenly the second one decided to push its way up next to the first one, which widened the chute (though I had tied the chute gate to the door, I had not secured the gate also to the wall, which would have prevented this) and meant that suddenly the 2 cattle had 2 options. Walk onto the trailer (preferred by me) or escape into the outside and grass (preferred by them).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no way for Keith or myself to get ahead of them, and we couldn’t go around them because when the barn door widened, it went over the person door effectively leaving only one way out of the barn. So… we watched them escaped into the orchard. No problem. We got some electric fence and rounded them up and got them into a small area by the trailer. They just needed to walk back into the barn. Did they. NO!

They busted through the electric fence and went back to grazing in the orchard. Ok. No problem. Obviously the issue was that I hadn’t electrified the fence. So, we did it all again, this time stopping to put power on the fence so that the cattle would respect it. Nope. Broke straight through it again. Now, we’re starting to lose light and are going to be late arriving at the abattoir. This time though, they are riled up, so don’t stop to graze in the pasture but lead us on quite the chase up into the front lawn of the house before we get them turned back towards the barn area, where they stop to graze between the barn and shed next to the bull.

img_9418At this point, we decide we need some help, so I head over to the neighbours and get Jake and his eldest son Andy to come help us. I get back and Keith has built a fort to contain them if we get them back towards the barn and trailer. So, we give it one shot and get them back in the direction we want, only to have them jump a fence and climb the feed bin hill to escape back towards the bull. Ok. We modify. And try again.

The one steer goes around the trailer (not to plan), but then is corralled by the yard fence and heads back into the barn. Surprise success. Why not replicate it with steer number 2. So we do the same thing. Get him into the same spot, where his only option is to go into the barn. WRONG. He busts through the 4 strands of live electric fence on the yard gate and literally gallops off down the hill into the pasture, bellowing his heart out, INTO THE SUNSET. Keith looked at me, completely dead pan and asked if we wanted to keep trying?

At this point, I’ve decided to cut my loses, release my neighbours and kind trucker to the rest of their days and go wallow in my bruised ego. So, I say “No”. That we’ll just ship the two cattle and I’ll apologize to the abattoir for screwing everything up. Keith tells me that if the steer shows back up before 7am to give him a call and we’ll load him and get him there. But I know that there is no way that steer is going to be back in the barn by 7am because if he shows up ANYWHERE it will be with the rest of the herd, in the pasture by the garden. Which is exactly where he shows up.img_9790

There is so much more to this story. But time is short and surely by now, you’ve stopped reading anyways. Thanks for checking in on the rants of a small journal farmer.

 

2014 in review: bullet form

•August 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

IMG_77932014 zipped past in a blur. I committed to returning home to take over the family farm on January 1st, 2015 and so knew that 2014 was going to be a year uniquely without the same level of commitment as the coming many… So highlights from 2014 include:

  • Having a sisters day with Rachel at the Scandinave Spa
  • A girls x-country ski weekend at the farm
  • Weekend trip to Ann Arbor to visit some Earlham friends
  • Downhill ski trip to Colorado
  • Epic St. Patrick’s party with some of my favs in South Bend, IN
  • Running a Tough Mudder and spending Easter in PA
  • Friends 30th birthdays in Florida and Texas
  • Running a workshop for middle schoolers at FGC Gathering, California PA
  • Winding down my time as the Community Collaborateur for 10 Carden
  • Lots of amazing weddings:
    • Emily&Ryan, Mike&Mary, Steve&Lindsey, Race&Sandy, Julia&Aspen,
  • Lots of farm time, including hanging with interns and Huron County friends
  • Being an auntie to Emily and Elliot
  • Annual family canoe trip with my parents in Killarney
  • Being the Clue Characters for Halloween
  • Dressing up for Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Birthday Murder Mystery Weekend at the farm!
  • American Thanksgiving in PA

And So It Begins…

•December 4, 2014 • 1 Comment

IMG_4527For anyone that knows my family, it will come as no surprise that we’ve been holding a succession planning conversation for the farm for about 8 years now. Once a year, my parents gather my sister and me along with (serious) significant others for a half-day long, usually facilitated conversation about the fact that they are getting older and are going to need to retire from the day-to-day of farm life. Would one or both of us have an interest in taking over the farm.

When this process started, I was about 22 and fresh out of college. There was NO way that I was returning to rural Southwestern Ontario to live out my years. I mean, the closest movie theatre is a half hour drive away! But as the years have passed I ended up back on the farm for 2 summer seasons managing our market garden before an epically bad breakup inspired my mom to suggest that perhaps I needed some time away before deciding if I really wanted to be on the farm permanently.

So- I did what any reasonable person would do. I sent an e-mail to all of my favourite people in the world and suggested that if they found me a job that I could get which I loved, I would move to wherever that was. Easy-peasy. The lucky winner was in Guelph, Ontario and I’ve spent the last 3.5 years managing a small social-change not-for-profit called 10 Carden (check it out, they are awesome).

Since our family had been having these yearly conversations about farm succession, but my parents didn’t seem any closer to “retiring”, I’d gotten rather complacent about the whole thing, so fall 2013 when my folks were like- alright ladies. This is it- are you in? It was a shock to the system. I’d thought they’d just threaten to retire annually but never actually get around to it. SURPRISE!

We had the family conversation, and it seemed pretty clear that my sister and her husband, though passionate about the farm and currently really excited about planting out fruit and nut trees, they are not prepared to uproot their lives from the fabulous thing they’ve got going on in Kitchener to move back and take up a profession both of them seem pretty darn allergic to.

So… That leaves me, slowly preparing to start the transition process to take over MPOF as of January 1, 2015. BOOM.

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Short and Sweet 2012 Update

•January 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

2012 in bullet form:

  • 1 new baby niece, Emily Joy McQuail
  • 2 camping trips
  • 3 amazing house mates and 3 amazing house pets
  • 4 Thanksgiving Dinners
  • 5 oil changes to car
  • 6 theme parties
  • 7 volunteer & work trips
  • 8 weddings ( I was not able to attend all)
  • 9 farm visits
  • 10 books read for pleasure
  • 18 worked weekends

Cali

•May 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

If you’ve never met my mom’s cat, you are missing out. Named Calico, but most likely called “Cali” or “Caliqueno”, she is the true master of the house. She might not strike you as such a force to be reckoned with, but don’t let her fool you.

Cali has a very strict morning routine, and heaven forbid that you interrupt or change it. I was watching the farm for January while my parents were away on a trip, and mom warned me that Cali would expect morning snuggles and affection before I could get on with my day. I didn’t believe her, and the first few days Cali was uninterested, expecting that my mother would be back and that she wouldn’t have to make due with a sub-par replacement. But after about 3 days, she relented and would climb up onto my lap after breakfast, expecting attention before releasing me to the day.

Cali also tends to my parent’s fish, checking their water every day for contamination and making sure it is adequately aerated. These are working fish, so their living conditions are important and part of their union contract.

Our yard and entire property really, reap the benefits of having Cali on the farm. She polices the property for voles and the occasional mole. In the spring, summer and fall, I would guess that Cali probably disciplines about 5-7 daily. Sometimes she is so good, she makes herself ill… And of course, she offers at least one of her treasures on the front steps to my mom, because as the master of the house, it is Cali’s responsibility to feed her.

You may wonder why my parents have a house cat. I certainly did, since all of my attempts to make the many barn cats that I adored, house cats were always shunned. But… My sister and I had both just moved away from home, and I think my parents (not that they’d ever admit it) were feeling the emptiness of the nest, and fortunately for them, at the same time there had been a litter of kittens in the barn who needed extra special attention, so Cali… became a house cat.

Pasture Pig Containment and Shelter

•May 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Nothing says a hot summer day like watering the pigs… They love it. They try to drink the water as it comes out of the hose, they play in it and love to have it hit their ears. If you’ve never seen a pig wallowing in a mud, you’re missing out on one of the simplest joys in life.

The pigs on our farm are outside on pasture for the duration of their lives on the farm with us. We move them every week after they have rooted up everything, eaten it all and trodden their waste into the soil.

The section of pasture we had them on, was an area that had been garden, but was in a rest year. Our hope being that they would nibble on all of the twitch, vetch and thistle roots, providing us with a better weeded patch of land for future gardening use.

Our pigs are generally York and Berkshire, but this year we also had a Red Wattle, which I am now completely sold on as a breed.

We keep our pigs in their outside pasture by using electric fencing. Initially we had the electric netting with an interior wire to keep them from rooting dirt up onto the bottom of the electric netting and shorting it out, but after a few weeks they were well enough trained that we didn’t need to put in the interior wire.

You might not think of it but pigs, especially York pigs, are susceptible to sunburns. So, in order to keep them cool, shaded and happy, we build this awesome pig shelter. In order to bend the poles, we had to get a new toy (shucks) called a poll bender, that you can use to bend polls for mini-hoop houses and shelters.

The pigs loved theirs, really roughly, and so occasionally we had to reinforce or replace the polls to keep it going. But… it was light weight so that we could just pick it up with 2 people and move it each time we gave them a new section of pasture.