Dry times in the merrytimes
For the second year in a row a rabbit is helping itself to my vegetable garden. Like Elmer Fudd, I find myself outsmarted by the long-eared imp who, in fact, is not a rabbit but a Snowshoe hare and one that can find the tiniest hole in chickenwire enclosing the garden.
There is little vegetation to spare right now after three weeks without rain – super weather for making hay, for those not thwarted by the odd thunder shower. We crossed our fingers in the hope rain forecast this past week would break the dry spell. But no. What many of us got for precip amounted to little more than “a pfft” here and there. That’s how Dave Lindsay described the meager excuse for a shower visited on his family’s acreage.
It has not been great weather for unirrigated crops or pastures. My herd of two Belted Galloways looks forward to a daily serving of freshly-mowed Gout weed as supplement to old fields going to seed. Nice to find a use for this incurable invasive. I would grow a sizeable patch – with a deep moat around to prevent its spread – as training ground for anyone interested in learning how to mow with a scythe. Its soft stems are an easy, rewarding clip.
We know of two hand mowing events this summer in Atlantic Canada and would like to hear of more. The first takes place July 30 at the Northville (Nova Scotia) Farm Heritage Centre, and the second, the annual Maritime Hand Mowing Championships, is on Saturday, August 27, at Ross Farm Heritage Museum in New Ross. Over the years we’ve had upwards of three dozen participants and hundreds of spectators.
While hand mowing is the centrepiece of the New Ross event, it is but one among many having to do with harvesting hay and grain with hand and ox-powered tools. There is fun for all ages taking part in side-acts like the hay forking contest and threshing grain with flails and mowing around and beneath a chair without setting off the horn wired up by Ben Pooley, or worse, tipping over the beer bottle resting on the chair’s seat.
From the time of the first Championships sponsored by Rural Delivery a dozen years ago we have tried to encourage others in this province, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, to initiate a hand mowing event for fun and practical reasons. The well-set and sharpened scythe is a marvelous, satisfying, instrument; its swish through dew-wet grass in harmony with the dawn chorus – way preferable to drowning it out in the roar of a gas-powered trimmer. We’d love to see more people mowing with scythes, joining in friendly competition at multiple events throughout the region, culminating with a gathering at the Ross Farm.
An aim this year at the Championships has to be the addition of creative, home-grown foods and beverages to the program. Calling hot dogs and pop food is a misnomer, or, more simply, they are “not food,” as one friend put it.
CBC radio recently re-broadcast an item celebrating robotics in agriculture. Pretty soon no one will have to dirty their hands growing food. A few will have to be comfortable with electronics and pipe-fitting. For the rest? Well, just sit back and eat. It is as if there were no need, let alone deep satisfaction, inherent in making one’s own creative way in the world.
What are people for? So asked Wendell Berry in an essay included in a book by the same title published by the thoughtful farmer in 1990. “Is their greatest dignity in unemployment? Is the obsolescence of human beings now our social goal? One would conclude so from our attitude toward work, especially the manual work necessary to the long term preservation of the land, and from our rush toward mechanization, automation, and computerization.”
(No telling if there will be tickets left by the time this magazine arrives in subscribers’ homes – especially if the posties and CPC can’t sort out their differences – but just in case, Wendell Berry and the Land Institute’s Wes Jackson are delivering the 36th annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, October 22. Find out all about it and the Schumacher Center for New Economics at http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/)
Add the export of manufacturing and import of foreign workers, and there is not much left to do but to become duffle bags on the baggage car of life.
Not so fast! There is much to do and be. That is evident in the growth of farmers’ and artisans’ markets. Obviously, there is more than an ember of desire to be creative and self-sustaining that is hotter than barriers a mainstream economy may throw in the way through cheap food policies, rules, and regulations.
We witnessed another fine demonstration that small farming is alive and well yesterday as folks from miles around gathered at the Bridgewater Farmers’ Co-op to pick up more than 60 piglets. One went here, two there, as many as half a dozen into the box on the back of a half-ton. We all remember with a laugh the day a couple of years ago when a fellow arrived on “pig day” with nothing in which to cart his piglet home. Not a problem. The little shrieker got the back seat of the car all to himself.
Watching the spectacle instilled hope that there will continue to be a market for “Small Scale Pig Raising,” fresh back from the printer after a lengthy exercise updating the book that was written and originally published in 1978. Sales topped 100,000 through about 2008 with the original publisher. Now, thanks to Echo Point Books and Media in Brattleboro, Vermont, it is a better book and on sale once more through, Amazon, Rural Delivery, and finer book stores everywhere!
It is Canada Day, sunny and dry and I am off to run a hose from the Harrison Lewis Centre on the hill, where water comes from a deep well, to the garden with the aim of delivering a soaking tonight. Maybe throw a clod of dirt at that damnable wabbit should it be so stupid as to show its ears. Best to all. DvL
Dry times in the merrytimes