Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Plight of Compassion Farm

Remember Dirk and Nicole up in Lantzville, who have spent hours of time with me on their farm, teaching me about farming, and making money in a sustainable way?
The city of Lantzville has given them a Cease-Farming order.
I guess some grumpy neighbour with nothing better to do decided to complain about a pile of compost in their front yard. (I've been there... there is no odour or anything untoward coming from their compost piles). Anyway, during the investigation into this, the bylaw officer decided that Dirk and Nicole shouldn't be farming on their 2 1/2 acre property. It wasn't zoned for that. They have been farming on this property for over 5 years now. Before they purchased the property, the previous owner had stripped the entire area, and sold off the topsoil and gravel, leaving a lifeless, barren land. This, to me, is just so sad. No one complained about that! There were no earthworms, no bees, no butterflies. Dirk and Nicole changed the entire property, one wheelbarrow full at a time. Now it is a healthy, happy land with lots of critters and bugs. You know how excited I get about having lots of earthworms and bugs around! (with the exception of slugs...)

Anyway, Dirk and Nicole have decided they need to get the by law changed that doesn't allow for urban farming. Many areas have already got on board with this (including Victoria, BC) and have changed by laws to allow for urban and sustainable farming. No matter what the zoning you live in. Lantzville is behind the times.
We are all helping in any way we can. Both my cousin, Lorelie, and myself, have written letters to the mayor and the powers that be in Lantzville, asking for change. There are many, many other people who are using their voices, as well. The more people who ask for change, the faster change will come.

If there were to be some sort of disaster on the Island (earthquake, etc) and we were cut off from the mainland, there is only 2 days of food supply for everyone. We import 95% of what we eat! That is just sad. We cannot live without food. This is such an important issue, that affects everyone, everywhere. Everyone should be encouraged to grow food... anywhere they can.

This is what Dirk and Nicole would like everyone to do:

We have recently been instructed by the RDN, at the request of the District of Lantzville, to cease "all agricultural activity" on our 2.5 acre far due to us being "residentially zoned". This followed a letter in September telling us to "remove the piles of soil from the property" (which we worked out with the Bylaw Enforcement Officer and agreed to and moved the one pile in question within 48hrs).

Our goal is to have the bylaw updated to reflect the current awareness and future needs of our communities. Yes, we could apply for rezoning, however this would only help "us" not the many people who are urban farming or SPIN farming.
We are writing to you because this issue impacts all of us on Vancouver Island. Many of you are aware that only 5% of our food supply is grown on Vancouver Island, thus 95% is imported. It may shock you to know that there is only 2 days fresh food supply on Vancouver Island. That means, that any disruption in ferry service, trucking or problems at the US border (75% of BC's food comes from California) would have a dramatic and immediate effect on our food supply.

To us, "urban farming" is much more than a growing "trend" throughout North America. It is the way of the future; and the future is now.
Each year:

- land prices increase, preventing new farmers - especially younger ones - from acquiring land.

- remaining farmable land (even including the Agricultural Land Reserve) is forever swallowed up by development, further reducing our ability to sustain ourselves and increasing our already extreme dependence on imported food.

In light of this, we strongly believe it is our responsibility as individuals and as a community to stop and reverse this trend of complete UNsustainability and at least work towards a model of self-reliance.

Our intention:

That together, we see this as an opportunity to "change the system". Please understand that we do not want the focus to be "us". When you read the attached letter we received from the RDN, keep in mind what they are saying means: ALL "urban farming" and SPIN farming is illegal! (Small Plot InteNsive - where young farmers use people's city backyards to grow food for sale). This includes: honey, vegetables, meat, eggs, plants, flowers, fruit, nuts - you name it! Of course, this affects Urban and SPIN farmers at the Bowen Road Farmers' Market as well as other farmers' markets in Canada where municipal bylaws have not been updated to reflect support for sustainable, local food production.

We are asking:

That you contact the individuals whose information we have provided below beginning with Lantzville Council members (and anyone else you feel compelled to). We suggest that you approach this issue in the more general terms of local food and sustainability rather than what "the authorities" are doing - focussing it on our specific case merely limits the potential for us to work towards meaningful change in broader terms.

Please share whatever is important to you about this issue (links are posted below). In your letter, make sure you ask questions, especially if you want a response. If your children would like to write, that would be great.

It is likely that Lantzville council and the RDN will respond by telling you that we can apply for rezoning (which may or may not pass). This certainly does not help the SPIN farmers in downtown Nanaimo! Again, our goal is to have the existing bylaw changed for the benefit of our entire community

(much like what Victoria and other cities have done - http://postcarboncities.net/node/3686 )

This is the letter I have written. I am not very good at doing this sort of thing, but I feel very proud that I am taking the time to step up for this important issue. I've never written a letter like this before! I am asking anyone who feels this is important to contact me, and write your own letter. I have all the contact addresses for you. My email is crazydogfarm@gmail.com. I will send you all the information you need to help!
Letter I emailed, and will also be sending via snail mail to the powers that be in Lantzville

I was astounded to learn of the shut down of Compassion Farm in Lantzville.

Since buying my own farm in Crofton two years ago, Dirk and Nicole have been instrumental in helping me learn how to farm sustainably, and teaching me about how important it is to have fresh, local food available. If Vancouver Island were to have some sort of disaster and we were cut off from the mainland, we would only be able to feed ourselves for 2-3 days. That's it. Set aside the fact that local, fresh food is way healthier and nutrient dense, and just makes more sense!

I realize we have set aside ALR land for such enterprises, but it is expensive, and super hard to find. It took me over 2 years to find a small piece of flat, suitable ALR land that I could barely afford. If we only allow farming on ALR, we will be making a serious mistake. There just isn't enough of it to support the growing population. Added to that is the fact that we lose ALR land to other projects and construction each and every year. One day, there will be no more ALR. Then what?

I implore you to start working on changing this outdated bylaw. We need to step up, and become leaders in both urban and sustainable farming. Victoria has already taken great steps forward, and we need to follow suit.

We need farmers such as Dirk and Nicole, not only for the food they produce, but for the education and value they give freely to the fellow farmer and backyard gardener alike.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wind Chill

I just read this on the weather report....

Clearing this evening. Windy. Low minus 9. Wind chill minus 18.

To a cold hater like myself, this is the most awful thing ever. I want to go hibernate! However, I am grateful for my cozy, warm little home on days like today. I am grateful for lots of furry little friends to snuggle up with, grateful for a fully stocked fridge, so I don't have to drive into town, and grateful for my business being really busy right now, so I don't have to worry about paying the bills.

Ok, so life isn't so bad... it's just the cold I could do without!  What I wouldn't do for some seed catalogues right now to peruse, and plan for the spring!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Snow

Well, yesterday we had our first snow of the year. Already, we've had more snow this year than ALL of last year. I miss last year. It was the bestest, mildest winter ever. Wish they could all be like that. It is bitterly cold out, and supposed to get colder. Over the next few nights, it will go down to -9 c. Of course, that's what they said 2 winters ago, and it actually got to -18 c. Stupid weatherman, doesn't know what he is talking about most of the time.  I don't like the cold! I want spring! I want the sun! I want warmth! And beware, as I will be whining about the cold for the next 3 or 4 months, until we start seeing the sun again on a regular basis.

I am counting down the days until the winter solstice. That is my favourite day of the year, 'cause then it starts getting lighter later. That's my day to celebrate. Then I get funny... it will be 2 days into the increasing daylight, and I will start to say " I notice a difference already!" My energy level will start to come up a bit. Right now, I am sleeping a lot. Especially compared to the summer. I miss the days when I was getting up at 5:30 or 6 am, and enjoying it! Now, I am hard pressed to crawl out of bed by 7 or 7:30. If the dogs didn't need to go out and I didn't have to work, I would most likely sleep in until 8.

I am supposed to go to flyball practice today. It was cancelled last week, and it feels like forever since I've been. But, of course, it started snowing again about an hour ago. It's starting to accumulate. I am way too chicken-shit to drive over the Malahat in the snow. Especially since I have bald tires and no brakes. I keep telling the Universe I need my new car NOW, but it is taking it's own sweet time in manifesting me a new car. It had better hurry up! My dogs are getting chubby, and we all need some flyball practice!

I'm going to go watch the snow fall and sulk for a while now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Muscovy Ducks

Remember a few weeks ago when I was going to ask more questions about getting some Muscovy ducks? I've been doing research on them, and in the process, I found a lady who was just giving away 7 of her ducks! Normally, people sell them for about $14 or $15. That's what I was going to have to pay in the spring for some.
So, two days ago, I ran out in the pouring rain and mud, and got myself a little flock of ducks! They are about 4 months old. They reach sexual maturity at about 7 months, so they will be of breeding age come spring. What a score!!!

Muscovy ducks

There are 2 definite females, and 2 definite males, and 3 of which I am unsure. You can eat their meat and eggs, and sell their chicks, so I think my investment will pay itself off. They are also extremely useful around a farm. People who have them around horses, etc, report a reduction of up to 80% in the fly population. They also eat slugs (my nemesis!!) and other bugs.

Makeshift 'quicky' shelter for my new ducks!

I made a quicky shelter for them out of pallets, hay, and an old tarp. I am going to make a bigger, better shelter for both the ducks and my layer hens, and put them out in the pasture, so the chicken coops can recover and grow grass and weeds again. Right now, they are just stinky mud, and it is getting quite disgusting. Pasture raising is also the healthiest way to raise your poultry! I am just hunting for a used car canopy (cheap!) to use for them. Also, because the Muscovy's have REALLY sharp claws, they will be excellent to put for protection for the chickens. I was worried about 'coons and such, but I think these ducks should solve that problem.

I have never had duck before. I guess these ducks are super-lean, and look more like beef, but aren't gamey or anything. I will try some next fall, and let you know!

What else can I tell you about these ducks? Oh! They are quiet... no quacking! And they are roosting ducks, not swimming ducks. They can swim, but don't need or usually want to much. All in all, very interesting, and should be alot of fun!

Electric Chickens

My poor chickens.
Last week, I was wanting to put a light into my Dorking coop, as they have completely stopped laying, and I need more eggs. I was rearranging my extension cords, so I could make it all work. I plugged in the cord in my coop with the layers in it, and went to rearrange the light. Suddenly, there was a great SQUAWK behind me. One of the chickens was laying by the fence, it looked like her foot was caught or something. I ran and picked her up. His foot wasn't caught, she was just acting funny...
I shrugged and went on with my rearranging.
A minute later, the chickens all freaked, and flew from one side of the pen to another. Then, they freaked again. Then, another big SQUAWK! and one of the chickens looked like she got sucked into the fence. She just lay there, looking at me. I picked her  up, put her down, and she walked away like nothing had happened. The birds kept freaking. I couldn't figure it out!
Finally, I noticed the plug I had just thrown carelessly over the fence was actually touching the fence with the prong parts...
It all came clear.
I was wearing my gardening gloves, which just happened to be coated with rubber for waterproofing. This is why I didn't get zapped! The poor chickens got it anytime a feather even went near the fence.
I don't think I should be allowed to work near electricity anymore;-) What a dumbass.

Poor chickens!
They all came out fine, no one was permanently damaged, and lets face it.... it was really funny to watch!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Scrape...

Well, I got myself into another funny scrape this morning.
I am caring for a coonhound. She is a lovely girl, but very independent, and does not yet have a recall built in. She just does what she wants for the most part.
Somehow, she got under or over the back fence this morning, and into my neighbours yard. I still can't figure out how she did it. She is NOT a small dog, and I really can't figure out how she materialized over there! I tried calling, but she gave me the 'screw you' look, and trotted further away. I silently freaked inside... sometimes hounds will get on a scent, and just GO, and no looking back. They can cover a lot of territory, and could be really hard to find or catch.
I had to walk away from her direction, along the fenceline, until I found a portion I could manipulate and squeeze under. It has been raining on and off for days, and the ground is wet and mushy and cold. Not pleasant!
After I got to the other side, I saw that the naughty hound had gone under yet ANOTHER fence, into the mobile home park behind me. Great! Joy! Happiness! NOT!
So, off I go crawling under another fence. This one was a bit higher off the ground, and not so squeezy. Miss Hound saw me coming, and booted it the other way. She new I was going to get her! I scooped some treats out of my pocket (thankfully I always have a pocketful of treats for such emergencies) and she hadn't been fed yet, so I guess she was hungry. She looked at me, then made the decision to come get a treat. WHEW! What a relief! There was the great chance she could've gone the other way, and I would've ended up chasing her forever and ever.
I snapped a leash on her, and crawled under the first fence, and enticed her with a treat to follow. Then she pulled me over to the fence to visit the rest of her friends who were so patiently waiting for me. I then led her back to the fence bordering my yard. I looped the leash around my wrist... I was NOT going to risk losing her again at this point! and started to crawl back under. Going back was WAY harder than the other way. Of course, what should happen as I'm half way through the fence, all contorted and trying to squeeze myself as small as possible?
The phone rings!
Of course, being a business owner, I don't want to take the risk that it may be a new or existing client, and they may not leave a message for me, they may just call someone else...
So, I reach into my pocket - not an easy task, as I am in a position I can't even describe at this point, and get out the phone. I notice it is one of my favourite clients, so I press the button and answer.
Then I started laughing so hard, my client couldn't even talk to me! Thankfully she is one of those wonderful people with a sense of humour, so I told her the predicament I was in (meanwhile Miss Coonhound is pulling as hard as she can to get away, which makes my situation just that more difficult!). We both had a good laugh at me, made our appointment, and hung up. Then I had to wiggle and squiggle and worm the rest of the way under the fence.
Then I had to lure Miss Hound under. Not as easy as it sounds, as she is a big girl!

We are all safe and sound on the right side of the fence now. I have changed into clean, dry clothes. It is now raining out, so I am glad I wasn't crawling under fences later than I was. I fed everyone, and put them in their beds for a little bit so I can recover. Luckily, it is a holiday day today, so I can relax a bit. I will tell you that Miss Hound has completely lost her freedom privileges, and will be on a leash for the rest of her stay here. I am not taking the chance she escapes and decides to run the other way!

Flooded Driveway

Flooded Driveway
Too much RAIN!