Tim and I are going to move onto the next step of our lives. We are going to continue farming, but have decided we really need more land for our sheep. It will be hard to move from our home of the past 7 years. We have put a lot of hard work into this homestead.
The great thing is All Sorts Acre is ready for some new owners and ideas! If you are looking to have a life closer to nature, but don’t want to give up all the benefits of the city, then this place is for you. Picture yourself on a peri-urban homestead just outside of Guelph, Ontario.
The gardens feature over 10 different types of fruit trees and shrubs, two different types of nuts, a number of perennial edible plants, and lots of mature trees. There are three outbuildings suitable for chickens, livestock, or garden storage. The newly re-roofed detached 1 1/2 storey garage would make a great workshop or teaching space.
Visitors often comment that, like an old farmstead, the house is just comfortable to be in. Sheltered from winter winds and shaded from the summer sun, this well insulated older house is inexpensive to heat and cool. Water from the metal roof currently feeds in to rain barrels which overflow in to swales along the edge of the gardens, reducing the need to water. The three season sun room and covered porch provide a comfortable outdoor space to sit and enjoy the wildlife that also make their home here.
Some of the work has been done, but like any homestead, it is ever evolving. There is still lots of room to give both the house and gardens your own personal touch. There’s lots of potential here for the right person. We have spent 7 years here on our 1.18 acres and have enjoyed our stay very much. For most of our time here we have had a small flock of sheep. We have fallen in love with raising sheep and are selling so that we can expand our flock on a larger farm property.
The MOST wonderful time of year for me is spring. Not only is the world waking up form a long winter dormancy, but it is the traditional time for lambs. I consider this one of the wonders of the farming world.
Few creatures truly embody spring the way lambs do. Up until recently, most of our sheep in Canada were based on mostly British, and some European breeds. The majority of these breeds bred once a year. Like their wild counterparts these sheep mate when the day begin getting shorter for a short time. After a 5 month winter gestation they all have lambs at roughly the same time (depending on the breed). Both here, The US, and the UK, thousands of farmers are all going through the same thing – watching and waiting for lambs to be born.
Lambing is not a passive activity. We are not at the point where it is a major disruption (although I do have daydreams about that sometimes), but lambing can be a really big deal.
Ideally every shepherd hopes every ewe to deliver healthy happy lambs with ease. We try and breed for it. But, even the best ewes can run into issues from a breech birth, to entangled twins. James Herriot managed to get across the challenges of lambing in his vet stories based in the Yorkshire Dales, it became visual in the amazing All Creatures Great and Small television series of the 70′s and 80′s.
Despite the potential heartache and pain of lambing, the joy outweighs it immensely. There is NOTHING like seeing lambs gambolling the spring sunshine and they falling in a heap fast asleep. The amazing thing is that each lamb has it’s own personality that can be evident from birth. SOme of our lambs are skittish, some are people friendly right away. We have found that the personality don’ts change much over time.
Lamb pecking order happens pretty quickly. Often we can tell which ones will be trouble, which ones follow, and which ones don’t want to leave Mum.
As we have so many more sheep this year, bough in with our friend Roger, we have already had more lamb than in the past. Hopefully when lambing is finished we will have a total of 14 lambs.Hopefully at least half will be ewes!
That’s right folks. This permaculture designer, teacher, and farmer plans on NEVER planting another apple tree…unless I want to become an orchardist. Not likely in this lifetime.
So what do I have against apples trees? Well, nothing and everything. I love apples, I mean REALLY love them. I have been know to eat 3-5 during a day. I am SO grateful for apple orchardists for without them I wouldn’t be able to eat me favourite fruit. BUT, I will still never plant another tree.
Apple trees are very hard to grow and tend well. They require a lot of love, attention, pruning, observation, and work. They suffer from a whole list of pests from cedar rust (especially in urban areas), apple scab, leaf rollers, coddling moth, Glomerella Leaf Blotch, Bitter Rot, Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, San Jose Scale, Powdery Mildew, and of course the dreaded Fire Blight.The list seems almost endless.
To do it in an ecological fashion is even more work – removing infected leaves, fruit, selecting cultivars, different formulations of sprays, Integrated Pest Management, cover crops, companion planting, nutrition, etc. But it doesn’t stop there. Then there are effective harvesting techniques, storing techniques, selling, and of course the value added options that many permits site as an the panacea to our low input-high output systems. Being a food product, there is also all the rules and regulations around food safety, traceability, retailing, AND how to actually make the things to sell. That can include recipe development, costing of containers, and labour costs. I have barely scratched the surface here.
I need to learn how to be a horticulturist, orchardist, farmer, marketer, and sales person, not to mention the learning curves of how to do this in a permaculture fashion.
Did I mention that I still have at least 10 other things to maintain, harvest, store, process, and sell? Did I also mention that the price for apples is pretty low? DId I mention that there are a number of orchards in the area (even and organic one) that do this on a far larger scale?
If I don’t want to plant and tend apple trees, or any domestic fruit tree does that prevent me from being a permie? Is that all permaculture is – alternate ways to grow plants?
I don’t think so. I am still very much a permaculturist, but my focus is not fruit trees. My forest gardens feature many different trees, plants, and uses. They have a different purpose that to feed me and my family. Feeding people is only ONE aspect of permaculture.
My understanding of permaculture is that it is problem solving with a set of parameters. The only difference between permaculture problem solving and general problem solving is that the earth, sustainability, and equality are the overarching parameters. Some of the tools that can be used include principles 1-12, but that others will appear depending on the issue presenting itself. Good problem solving is flexible, open, and looks to all possibilities, even if good information is not readily apparent. GOOD problem solving doesn’t become dogmatic not full of itself, claim to KNOW the answer. Heck, no-one knows the answer.
Just because I don’t want to tend apples, pears, or tomatoes that does not mean I am not a true permaculturist. That aspect of permaclutre just doesn’t fit me.
I don’t expect everyone to put their hand up a she’s back end and try and pull a lamb out, so why should I be expected to enjoy tending veg. I am SOOOO thankful for those fruit and veg farmers. I can buy the things from them I don’t want, or have time to do or grow. I will let someone else make my cheese, grow my grains, and tend my apples.I can be part of a larger community by providing them with meat, clothing, bedding, rugs, and blankets from local animals coloured with local plants that provide pollination and habitat plants for local insects that help those wonderful apple trees that I don’t want anything to do with. If we all learn the same skills are we not heading towards the same situation we are trying to change?
It has been quite an intense winter so far. Yes, even I, who loves winter, am beginning to think we have had enough for the year. Saturday Tim and I navigated our way through the slush and blowing snow to get to the Woodbridge Agricultural Fair AGM, where we were the keynote speakers. We did get there, but we were late, and it was a white knuckle ride all the way.
We had a great time at the AGM, and are incredibly honoured to have been given the opportunity to speak to such a enthusiastic group. Luckily the drive was much better on the way back.
In an attempt to feel better about all this snow I keep thinning that this is spring and summer’s ground water. It will refill the aquifers, creeks, streams, and lakes.
So, when you are out shovelling the next few inches of snow so you can get to where you need to go, remember, that this is our future drinking water.