Pot Luck June 2014

Jack, we hardly knew ye
    It’s Saturday morning, sun up before six and a bright morning at that here on Nova Scotia’s western South Shore. Stan Carew is on the bedside radio telling his CBC listeners that most face another gray, cloudy day. 
    Stan’s also relating the sad news that writer (and so much more) Jack MacAndrew died in hospital yesterday morning. 81. Cancer. That was quick. He was only recently back from a holiday in Cuba and cheerfully accommodating editors’ requests for columns and stories here and in his home province of Prince Edward Island. 
    Jack’s capacity to accommodate was enormous. In the very short time he contributed to our magazines his impact was great and greatly appreciated. To those of us who worked with Jack and his stories the news was like a blow to the solar plexus and “Ohh,” the stunned response. 

    My cell phone burbles; a text message alert: “Hi Dirk. We’re just about out of dish soap.” Up the hill Hank the Tank and I go with soap to the rescue of Dalhousie students working out of the Harrison Lewis Centre learning to identify birds by ear.
    These students enrich life here at Sandy Bay through their energy and enthusiasm and ability to cope with most any situation. Night before last, after two days in residence, I was asked if there was hot water. What? Of course. But no. They’d been washing and showering under cold water thinking perhaps. . . what? The hot water heater that worked last week had quietly died. No one was going to complain.
    The birders have identified numerous warblers, monitored a plover nest on Sandy Bay, observed a Great horned owl more than once; the nesting ospreys, and the evening antics of male woodcocks declaring their presence and acrobatic prowess through repeated spiraling flights into the darkening sky. These smallest of game birds, so secretive at any other time of the year, seem oblivious to the presence of curious humans gathering close around their meadow staging area. It must be love.

    With this June issue Rural Delivery magazine is 38 going on 39. No big deal. Next year entering our fourth decade will be something to crow about. Thirty-nine is only a remarkable age because Jack Benny made it so.
    Something I will crow about this time around is the story of milk from farm to glass brought to readers by five exceptional writers. One of those writers, Laura Redman, attended a raw milk symposium at the University of Guelph where those for and opposed to the sale of unpasteurized cow’s milk engaged in constructive debate. I’m on the side of allowing the direct sale of unpasteurized milk from farms certified TB and brucellosis-free. 
    Vermont, the forward-thinking state that just passed a law that will require labeling of Genetically Modified foods, allows dairy farmers to sell unpasteurized milk direct to consumers – with exceptions. These, as I understand it, include the need to daily collect, label, freeze, and store samples from the bulk tank. I spoke recently with a farmer in that state who in the past was doing just that but quit because of the added burden of meeting regulations. Too, there was the potential liability should anyone drinking their milk become ill and blame it on the farm. Maybe it was the alfalfa sprouts from the grocery store but the cost of proving the milk innocent could be crippling.
    After reading, elsewhere in this issue, Rachel Brighton on recent mergers and acquisitions within the region’s dairy processing industry and Scott MacDonald’s post mortem examination of East Coast Organic Milk it looks as if health is less the real issue when it comes to selling unpasteurized milk. The threat of disease is an easy target. Far more difficult to get people excited about is a marketing board’s task of maintaining control over more than one stream of milk, let alone two, and with raw a third stream.
    Which could be why Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia never rolled out the welcome mat for dairy farmers wanting to provide an organic stream. It’s probably safe to say the provincial milk marketing board is not crying over spilled ECO-Milk. 
    All the same, the loss of Atlantic Canada’s own source of organic milk when Agropur replaced ECO-Milk from Cook’s Dairy with its own Natrel brand from Quebec was a blow to local initiative, the “buy local” movement, and food security. 
    One dairy farmer in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County shared with me his concern that despite assurances to the contrary the day will come when Agropur and Saputo begin filling Atlantic Canadian store shelves with imported milk. 
    Now, let’s have a respite from cool, wet weather so crops can be planted and forage harvested. Would be nice. DvL

The date for the 2014 Maritime Hand Mowing Championships has been set – Saturday, August 23, at the Ross Farm Heritage Museum in New Ross, Nova Scotia. This will be the 11th year for the fun day of demonstrations and friendly competition mowing grass and grain with scythes – part of the Farm’s weekend making hay as was done in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Registration to mow (novice, open, or veteran classes) is appreciated. Phone 902-354-5411.)

April Survey Winner
        Winner of the April RD survey draw (and a copy of "Getting Rid of Alders" stories and more from Rural Delivery's first 25 years), is John Kennedy of Pleasant Harbour, N.S., who would like to see more wildlife stories in the magazine and "less highway lighting" overall. Thanks to John and all who took the time to fill out the survey.