Friday, June 2, 2023

What the Hell Was I Thinking?!

Dear God, that was a day and a half compressed into ten hours. I got a lot done, but I'll be paying for it in the morning.

So, Week One is done. Since I 'retired' from my job, I planted potatoes, carrots, and onions, as well as dealing with pigs, chickens and rabbits. And driving kids back and forth. I forgot about that part of the deal of being home. Well, it's time to be a dad, anyway.

So, today started bright and early; I was working by seven o'clock. And it was raining. Drizzling, really. Barely any precipitation until the afternoon. So, I got done as much as I could before the rains came. And here are the results of my efforts today:
You can see the garlic to the right; that's as far as I got as of yesterday. The heat was too much yesterday to do any planting, so I did other work instead. But today, there are carrots and onion in the garden.

The tall white stick to the left is the marker for the shallots. They go from the top of the bed to that post. Well, she wanted lots of onions; she's going to get them.

This marker is for the carrots that I planted today. That was from one packet full of seeds left over from last year; it wasn't even a full packet. But it made a lot of carrots. Or, it will. I'm going to stagger my carrot planting weekly; next Friday, I'll plant another packet. The following Friday, another one. I expect I'll be able to do four packets before I run out of space on that bed. I'll have to see if that's enough carrots to start; she might want more. If so, I've got plenty of other rows to fill. But staggering the planting means I can have a regular, continuous harvest throughout the summer. And once the first batch is out, I should have enough season left to get another batch planted. We shall see.

These two beds are full of onions. One hundred feet of onions. I mentioned the shallots; this is the other end of the bed. You can see our next-door neighbour's house in the background. The first sticks in both beds mark the boundary of the yellow onions. Both beds have yellow onions up to those sticks. That's a lot of yellow onions.

These sticks mark the white onions. The shorter brown stick on the right and the tall white stick on the left. Again, lots and lots of onions. I think I planted them five in a row for the most part, so they are close together. That's bio-intensive farming, where there's less space between the plants so as to help crowd out weeds. It works best for plants that don't have extensive root systems, such as carrots and onions, since their roots don't compete with each other. Everything I've planted so far is a root veggie (garlic, potatoes, onions, carrots), so they will all work for the bio-intensive method.

That narrow gap between the two sticks on the right is for multiplier onions. I have no idea what they are, but she bought a box of them, and there were only eight in there. So, they get a small area for themselves. Beyond them and all the way to the shallots' marker are the scallions, or green onions. On the left from the stick to the end of the bed are Spanish onions.

So, as I mentioned, that was a lot of work. Not only did I have the planting to do, but I had to get the beds ready. This is virgin territory; the big garden only saw limited use last year, and that was on the other side closer to the barn. So, I had to make all those beds. Snow shovels work wonders for making the pathways, and the rain helps keep the cardboard down. The cardboard acts as a mulch, eventually decomposing from all the rain but keeping the weeds out of the pathways. The weeds in the beds, on the other hand, I'll have to cull by hand. Still, it helps to have the cardboard down. Except when it's windy. And it's always windy on PEI.

The scary thing? I'm not quite halfway across the garden. And I've still got tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, pepper plants, and more to go. Again, what the hell was I thinking? I gave up a comfortable, air-conditioned office job so grub around in the dirt and rain. I must be as crazy as everyone always thought.

If so, the world could use more of that kind of crazy. I wouldn't trade this for anything right now.

Alright, time for some bonus pics. First...a much clearer shot of Samson and Delilah, who have learned that when Daddy comes to the railing, there's usually food involved. Not always, though; this was just for a camera shot.

I have no idea which is which; unless I get a profile from a low angle, I'm not going to know, either.

Finally, here is some inspiration for us all. I mentioned last year that we suffered minimal damage from Hurricane Fiona. One of the things we lost, though, was the heritage apple tree behind the barn, the one we didn't even know about until last year. Fiona uprooted this old tree, which was rather disappointing. But this tree isn't done yet, apparently:

That is a lot of apple blossoms. Here's a closer look:

We're going to get apples this year. We thought we'd be cutting this tree up for wood chips to smoke bacon with (applewood bacon! Yum!). But God had other plans.

Here's the tree from the other side of the treeline. As you can see, it is definitely knocked over. No surprise we expected it to be dead, right? But take a look at the roots:

It's still in the ground, just enough that it's still drawing water and nutrients from the soil, enough to blossom like crazy. It's like the tree knew we'd given it up for dead, and was determined to prove us wrong. And I'm very happy to be proven wrong.

Dannielle wants to fence off this tree and call it 'the garden of Eden'. I can't blame her, really. This tree got taken out by a hurricane and didn't even slow down. There's a lesson there for us all.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Changing Seasons

Good Lord, that was a hot one. The temperature around suppertime was 34°C today. And it's only June 1st. I thought PEI didn't get weather that extreme. Stupid Wikipedia.

Anyway, it's been an interesting week. I haven't got everything done that I wanted to do this week, but I've still got a couple of days left to accomplish a few things. I was supposed to be planting carrots and onions yesterday, but the garden needed a proper tilling first. I still don't have a handle on how the whole tractor thing works, so I had to wait until Ashton got home tonight. But it's done, so I'll be moving in on that tomorrow and Saturday. Along with corn, squash, peas, and beans. Yes, it's going to be a very busy weekend. And it's supposed to rain.

So, what do I think so far? Well, I've put new bunny hutch doors on (much thicker than they were at first), fixed a rooster coop twice, and brought our meat birds out into the fresh air for the first time. They're still young, only developing their feathers, so we didn't leave them out too long, especially in this heat. Still, they had a good time. At least, I think they did. They didn't tell me either way, so I'll assume on the positive side.

The piggies are doing well; they're eating pretty much anything I throw in there, and they're a lot less skittish than they were. It's a good start to their lives here. Oh, and Artemis, one of our bunny-girls, is definitely expecting. Good work, Bugs! Jellybean, on the other hand, hasn't given Bugs the time of day yet. I'm sure it's going to happen soon. The three of them are down in the chicken coop instead of the nice bunny hutch I built for them. Catching the girls isn't easy; they don't trust anyone. Bugs is used to us, but the bunny-girls? Nope. It's like chasing chickens. Except they're smarter and faster.

So, now that June has begun, it's time to really kick this into gear. The gardens are pretty much ready for planting; I've got a big day ahead of me tomorrow, and another one on Saturday. I hope to have at least half the planting done by the time the sun goes down on Saturday night.

Yeah, life as a farmer. What the hell was I thinking?

Monday, May 29, 2023

Day One on the Farm

Technically, it's not Day One; it's more like Day 850 or something. But today was the first day I was officially no longer part of the rat race. That's right, no more alarm clocks for me. I don't need an alarm; I've got roosters and a cat that wants to be fed VERY early in the morning. Sleep? Bah. I'm a farmer now.

So, Friday was my last day of office work, and I spent the weekend with the boys doing stuff. We split a whole bunch of logs on Saturday, after which Tanner was confirmed in the Catholic Church, which was quite the big deal. On Sunday, I cleaned all the straw off the garlic that we put down last year before the snow came. The garlic is doing well.

Today, the big project was getting the potatoes planted. We were storing the potatoes in the basement over the winter, since we didn't get around to eating them all. We were told last year that storing potatoes with apples would cause them to sprout like crazy, so we made sure they weren't anywhere near any apples over the winter. Here's the result:

Charming. So much for the apple theory. And these ones were just the ones inside a bin; the ones that were out in the open air? They had beanstalks growing out of them. Apparently, those can still be planted. So, I cut up a whole bunch of them, keeping the sprouts on, and planted them in between the rows of garlic.

My second major job for the day was putting cardboard down in the pathways between the garden rows. This will keep the weeds down, as well as reduce the amount of dirt I get on my clothes. Because fastidiousness is obviously an important part of farming. Here's the results of my work over the past couple of days:

There's a lot of garlic in there; those are 50-foot rows, garlic on both sides, four garlic bulbs per row, planted about every eight inches or so. We're going to have more garlic than we know what to do with by the end of the year. And I love it.

The garlic has done well under the straw, so it's going to be a good crop in October. There's still some residual straw on the beds, but that's fine; it'll have no effect on the garlic.

And yes, we have a lot of dandelions on our property. Turns out that they aren't just weeds; they're useful in adding essential nutrients into the soil. Not to mention, my wife makes jelly out of it; we call it 'poor man's honey', and people seem to like it. We'll be selling some this year.

So, that's the start of this crazy farming journey. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Very Big Announcement

Well, there's been a lot of soul searching, a lot of discussion with my wife, and a lot of praying. And the decision has been made. It was actually made a couple of weeks ago, but the turning point is just around the corner. So, here it is:

As of this Friday, I am retiring.

Okay, that's rather dramatic. But I am leaving my job, and I'm not looking for another one. I've been looking, but nothing has come up that would fit the circumstances our family is in. And so, as of Friday I am going to be home, full-time, working on the farm. Raising the animals, growing food, doing building projects...yeah, I'm taking the plunge.

Why? Especially in this economy, with jobs being hard to find and inflation hitting us hard? Because it's necessary. And it's a leap of faith, no question. But the truth is, this was inevitable. This is what we've been moving toward for three years now, ever since we started looking eastward for our family move.

I've spent my life jumping from job to job, hobby to hobby, always looking for something that was the right fit. I've worked in fast food, book stores, grocery, teaching, music, insurance, telemarketing, telephone customer service, bookkeeping...and nothing, not even the book stores, gave me a sense of satisfaction, or made me feel I was doing something truly worthwhile.

And ever since we moved here, I've had that feeling when I worked on the farm, whether it was feeding the chickens, digging out a garden, planting seeds, even building a rabbit hutch. This feels like it matters, like nothing else ever has. For the past three years, I've been drawn more and more to this life, and I'm finally surrendering. And while it's scary as hell, it's also exciting and amazing at the same time.

Frankly, when I stop to think about it, it's not at all surprising. After all, what was the very first thing God commanded Adam and Eve to do, after telling them to have lots of kids? He commanded them to till the land and keep it, and to have dominion over the land and the creatures on it. It doesn't get any more elemental than that. So really, I'm just doing what God told me to do.

So far, we've had a lot of support from friends and neighbours, as well as family. Which is gratifying, to say the least, not to mention surprising. In a good way. We will need that moral support in the months to come as we go through this change.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means that I'm going to be able to give the gardens the attention they will need. Instead of a couple of days a week plus evenings, I'll be full-time in the gardens, using them to their fullest capacity. I'm planning to enroll in a couple of courses that will help me maximize the garden's output so we have enough not only for ourselves, but also to sell. After all, there are still bills to pay. And there's a lot of work to do on the farm that I just don't have time to do when working at a full-time job, things that absolutely have to get done.

It's a big deal, I know. And it's going to be an incredible journey, one that I wish I could have taken years ago, but one that I wasn't ready to take until now. But I am ready, and so is the rest of the family. And yes, I'm still going to write. And I'll have more time for that, too.

Monday, May 22, 2023

A Little Pair...A Huge Step

Well, we are taking the plunge for real. Below are the newest additions to the Sprigg family farm: Meet Samson and Delilah.

No, these are not bacon seeds. They are a breeding pair. They are going to be with us long-term, providing us with lots of bacon seeds in the future. Seven weeks old, we picked them up this weekend in New Brunswick. It was a long drive, and they spent hours and hours in that crate in the back of the truck. But they made it, and after spending a night in the chicken coop to get acclimated to the new digs, they moved into our makeshift pigpen yesterday.

And they immediately started looking for ways out. Because pigs do that. I spotted their first attempt at freedom, and boarded it up before they could get through. I thought I was clever, but apparently I'm not pig-clever. Because within an hour, they'd found the spot I hadn't blocked off, and were merrily exploring the barn and the surrounding areas.

Fortunately, I was able (with Tanner's help) to wrangle them back into their pen. Mom was amused, of course. But I'll be at work all week, so if they get out again, that might be a problem. Hopefully, though, I've closed off their last remaining avenue of escape.

So, they're getting used to their new home. We're going to have to make some adjustments to the outdoor area; they're too small for it right now, being able to squeeze in between the wall and the first posts. So, we're going to make a new section that they can work on; that section will be a new garden next year, because that's what pigs do: They till up the ground real good.

Anyway, that's the big news on the farm today. Yes, I'm planning to get back to writing and blogging about writing, but there are some significant changes going on in our lives right now, so adjustments will be made. But in the meantime, it's piggy-time here on the farm.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

More Farm Fun

So, now that we have meat birds, it's time to add to our collection of critters. The chickens are producing lots of eggs, but eggs on their own don't make a breakfast. We need bacon.

So, this weekend we are driving to New Brunswick to pick up a couple of breeding pigs. These aren't going to be like our pigs from last year; these aren't fast-growing, so we won't see any babies until next year. But the babies, when they arrive, will indeed be bacon seeds.

So, tonight we put together the pig pen. It's a temporary one, just to hold them for a week or so while we get the outdoor pen ready. It's the same one we used to hold Peppa and George last year, and they turned out alright. These two piggies will start out there, then expand to a larger outdoor area. We'll have to split them up at some point; the boar will be a little too interested in the sow earlier than we'd like, so they'll have to be separated until it's time to breed them.

Look at me, writing about this stuff like I have the slightest clue what I'm talking about. We haven't even successfully bred the bunnies yet, and we're bringing home some pigs to breed. Man, it's crazy.

Anyway, a short post tonight...but a big announcement coming next week. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Hot Chicks on the Farm

Well, it's springtime, and that means babies. Lots and lots of them on a farm. In our particular case, I'm talking about a box full of baby chickens. Meat kings/Cornish Cross birds, like we had last year. They grow really fast (and eat an ungodly amount of food in the process), and are ready for butchering in eight to ten weeks.

Here's Garrett, holding a two-day old baby chick (with Daddy's help). He's very excited, but he doesn't like having them poop on his hand. Totally understandable; I didn't enjoy it, either. Still, he is enthusiastic about the experience.

They're staying in the house tonight; we weren't expecting them until Wednesday, so we aren't fully prepared for their arrival. There's a makeshift bin with a warming plate, food and water for them, so they'll be fine overnight. Tomorrow, we'll get the bin in the garage ready for them. Much roomier, to give them room to grow. And they will grow. Last year, our meat birds averaged 6.75 pounds. We had a couple reach the eight-pound mark.

And don't worry, the birds will be totally safe tonight; we have a volunteer to watch over them, all night long if necessary.

I totally trust him; don't you?

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Did I Actually Do That?

I've spoken before about my ineptitude with tools, handyman projects, and pretty much anything to do with manual labour. Well, I'm putting all that aside now, because I didn't just finish a project; I finished a BIG project.

Big for me, at least. And for the new occupants, it's pretty big, too.

That's's a rabbit hutch. Doors at both ends, a partitioned area for sleeping and getting out of the wind (we get lots of that here, especially in the wind tunnel that is between our barn and garage), a slanted roof that will shed the precipitation (hopefully), and space for them to move around in. Best of all, we put them in inside a chicken run, so we can let them out to play in the grass once in a while.

That's Artemis, peeking out from behind the partition. The two lines of light at the back are the outline of the second door. The straw will allow them to stay warm and give them a nest for their young, once they have them.

And there they are in the partitioned area; obviously, I came in through the back door for this picture. The brown bunny is Jellybean. Neither of them have any use for people; I had a heck of a time getting them from their barn cage to the new hutch. The problem is that I forgot the first rule of dealing with bunnies: Wear gloves.

There's Jellybean. The hardware cloth is very securely attached, so there won't be any predators getting in there. The only vulnerable spot right now would be the doors themselves, which aren't very thick since I didn't have good material to work with; I repurposed some thin (1/4") plywood for the door section. I'll be replacing them once I have some fresh plywood of the proper thickness. For now, though, it should suffice; as you can see in the first picture, they're three feet off the ground as it is.

We are going to be putting in a second partitioned area so that each of the girls has her own section to sleep in and raise their young. The food and water bowls are temporary; we're going to be setting up dispensers on the side through the hardware cloth this week. Easier to fill from the outside, and more  secure for the girls and their kits once they are born.

So, it's bunny farming time. And Bugs, our buck, is going to be spending some quality time with both of them this week so as to encourage production of the aforementioned kits. Yeah, it's going to be a busy summer on the Sprigg farm...

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Ramping Up the Farm

Well, with everything going on, it's important to remember that there's still a farm to build and run. This week hasn't been productive in terms of getting that rabbit hutch finished, and we have chicks coming next week (meat birds) and pigs after that. Time flies when you don't know what the hell you're doing.

So, this weekend is going to be busy as heck; we have to get the pen ready for the pigs and get a miniature coop ready for the chicks. We picked up a nice little enclosure to keep them in while they're growing, but they'll be too small for that for a few weeks.

Some of the things we're talking about doing include: Purchasing tools to butcher our own chickens. Yes, we're going to be doing that soon enough. We have to; it's expensive to get someone else to do it for us. We had a line on a used chicken plucker that would have been a great help, but it sold right from under our noses. So, we're looking around some more.

The weather is getting nicer; we're expecting the last frost day by the end of the month, and that means it's gardening time. I've got some plants growing in the house right now, but there aren't that many. Still, it's an experiment; we failed miserably two years ago and didn't even bother trying to grow our own seedlings last year. This year...let's see how it turns out.

There's a lot of transition at this time of year, so it's going to be a challenge to get things up and running the way we need them to. But we're up to the challenge.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Fortunate Son: Enterprise Retrospective

I haven't done one of these in a while.

So, this was the first episode to focus on Travis Mayweather, the ship's helmsman. His backstory at this point was basically 'he was raised on a cargo ship and rarely spent any time on Earth'. Okay, that would be an unusual background for that era, less than a century from the invention of warp drive, but certainly possible, even plausible. After all, at low-warp speeds, it takes a long time to get from one star system to another.

So, here's the plot recap from Wikipedia:

An Earth freighter with a crew of twenty-three, ECS Fortunate, is attacked by Nausicaans and Enterprise is sent to help. When they arrive, the freighter is relatively unharmed apart from Captain Keene, who is lying unconscious in the ship's infirmary, but the rest of the crew are secretive and reluctant to provide explanations. While helping repair Fortunate, Sub-Commander T'Pol detects a Nausicaan bio-sign. It transpires that Commander Matthew Ryan and his men are secretly torturing the captive for his shield access codes. Ryan admits the Nausicaan pirate is their prisoner, but refuses to let the Starfleet personnel see him, and Captain Archer threatens to retract his assistance to Fortunate.

Ryan seemingly relents, but as Archer and his away team enter a cargo section of the freighter, the cargo pod is suddenly jettisoned with the away team inside. Before Fortunate warps away, it attempts to damage Enterprise in order to delay pursuit. Enterprise recovers its people and begins pursuit of the rogue freighter. Meanwhile, Fortunate arrives at the asteroid used by the Nausicaan pirates, but discover the acquired shield codes are useless. The pirates attempt to board the freighter and rescue their captured crewman just as Enterprise arrives and begins to engage the Nausicaan ships.

Archer is soon able to broker a temporary truce: if they can return the Nausicaan captive, the boarding party will stand down. Ryan is uncooperative until Ensign Mayweather intervenes, saying that Ryan's motivations are not about preventing future attacks on Earth ships; they are about personal revenge, and doing so simply exposes other freighter crews to revenge attacks as well. Ryan relents. Later, Archer and Captain Keene of Fortunate discuss Ryan's actions and his demotion to Crewman 3rd class. They agree Ryan acted rashly, but Keene also muses that acting on their own is the primary motivation his people are out here — to both challenge and prove themselves.


Okay, so this was our first look at civilian life in the warp era. Cargo hauling has been around since cavemen started trading shiny rocks; only the methods of transport have changed. Imaging long-haul truck driving, except your destination is light-years away and takes four years to get there. That's what life is like on low-warp cargo transports. And when you're out there by yourself, there ain't no cavalry to come riding in to the rescue when bad things happen. Unless, of course, the Enterprise happens to be around.

The Nausicaans are a race that originally appeared in the TNG series; most famously, they are instrumental in the episode where Picard dies and Q shows him what life would have been like had he made different choices. Here, the Nausicaans, much like the humans, are living a much more primitive life than they would two centuries later. We don't get much on their culture; they're basically a 'bad alien of the week' race. But for long-time fans, it's a nice touchstone.

Overall, I'd say this episode gives us a glimpse of what 'Space Boomer' life would be like. The image of the football slowly flying across the entire cargo bay with hang time that would make Aaron Rodgers jealous is a great visual, and the crew's attitude feels authentic. After all, they've been dealing with these situations for decades, and they're not interested in the government (in the form of the Enterprise) sticking its nose in their business. There is a lot that feels predictable (the shield frequency not working, the crew having a Nausicaan prisoner to torment, and Travis' instinctive defense of the Boomers, etc.), but the episode is still decent, if not great. Sadly we wouldn't get much more of a look at the Boomer culture until season two.

So, what rating does this get? I'd say 6 out of 10; it's an average episode, nothing groundbreaking, but not bad. It helps to develop the feel for human culture of the time, which is always good.

I still say that if I were to run a Star Trek game, I would run it in this era. Weaker tech, but so, so much to explore. And there's no telling what else might be found out there.