A new heifer calf born among the ferns last evening is a joy to behold. While there is a guarantee of good food in the smallest-scale farming and gardening the likes of which we practice here, there’s no money in it. There are profits, though, like coming on a new calf, the arrival of a box of chicks, and time to smell a rose or two.
There was none of that for the dairy farmer asked if there were any cats on his farm. I know I have mentioned this before. His reply is etched in a wee fold somewhere deep in my grey matter. “Nope. We’re in the milk business.”
At the other end of the farm business spectrum, tucked in the same fold, I recall the comment of a large fruit and vegetable grower in New Brunswick, as a family of mallards waddled across his yard: “They’re my entertainment.”
For that farmer entertainment, for others, ducks are coming on strong as a commodity. “Canadian duck producers to double output as demand grows,” read the headline on a Canadian Press story in the Halifax daily a couple of weeks back. Why? The blame was placed principally on celebrity chefs, and “the arrival of immigrants from duck-eating countries.” Plus, as yet not a controlled enterprise.
There’ll be no time for joyful contemplation for the folks at Brome Lake in Quebec or King Cole Ducks in Ontario as these two giants get their ducks in a row.
Truth be told, it is only the last week or so that life has quieted down enough for me to contemplate much of anything, as we scramble from one deadline to the next. Triage time. This chore is beyond help, the other can wait another day – time to try our level best to rescue the project in this corner.
There have been magazines, and now a newspaper going to press, some event to look after like the Hand Mowing Championships, or a workshop at the Harrison Lewis Centre. On top of which comes the need to find feed for the cows and weed the garden and feed the new pullets just laying and the meat birds fattening.
Now Hand Mowing is history for another year, and there is but one more event on the Harrison Lewis hill, and that one a simple matter of looking after a gregarious gang of Dalhousie biology graduate students becoming acquainted with one another. I have put out the word I’ll trade a flat of beer for help getting mattresses stored away in a squirrel-proof cabin at the end of the weekend. What are the odds I’ll have takers?
With the aid of the Internet and Google, the mind can work in curious ways, allowing the creation of chains linking the darnedest things. For example, what might barrel-bombed Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, have to do with Saskatchewan lentils? There is a link – a chain: Bangladesh, or selenium, or both.
Between gazing out to sea and skyward yesterday morning, I heard CBC’s Quirks & Quarks host Bob MacDonald interview University of Calgary Prof. Judit Smits about research into feeding selenium-rich Saskatchewan lentils to Bangladeshis to combat arsenic poisoning.
The arsenic is in deep well water in that Asian country. Selenium can combine with arsenic to create a harmless molecule that’s filtered out of the body. Smits arranged for a shipment of Saskatchewan lentils to Bangladesh, fed it to villagers in their traditional dal soup, with positive results.
Bingo! A market for Saskatchewan lentils.
But what about lentil farmers in Bangladesh? It is the number one pulse grown and consumed in that country. Where would the importation of Canadian lentils leave them?
The person to ask might be Dr. Ashutosh Sarker, lentil breeder at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. He was the lead author of a 2004 report on lentil improvements in Bangladesh.
I have emailed Dr. Sarker but doubt I will have a reply. His centre was based in Aleppo. Its trial fields and buildings and labs are likely in ruins.
Key individuals have become refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere. Maybe Saskatchewan. Dr. Sarker, where are you? We hope you and your family are safe and that you may have an opportunity one day to help develop a lentil that manages to extract selenium even from Bangladeshi soils deficient in the mineral.
Speaking of deficiencies, got to go move cow and calf to better, although not great, pasture. Too dry. Many reports of farmers already feeding hay intended to carry their dairy and beef herds through the winter. Second cut? What was that? For many, not much to nil. On that cheery note, bye for now. DvL