Isn’t spring wonderful when it finally arrives? A friend in New Hampshire writes to say, “Winter was great. More snow then normal, but no serious below-zero cold. The wood stove burned all of January and February. A 3 a.m. feeding is a small price to pay for not having a cold house in the morning. It carries the whole place. Easter morning the loon came back, landing on a narrow strip of open water. That afternoon, the entire basin opened and was free of ice. Ice-out occurred on the average date. Good rains and the lake is full. Hope your crocus and daffodils are blooming.”
Yup, the crocuses poked through the snow here several weeks ago and now daffodils are having their day, soon to bow out, leaving the stage to forsythia, and so on. A first planting of Sugarsnap peas is up, as are garlic and rhubarb. Many started plants from windowsill and greenhouse await their turn for transplanting into the garden – should we get three dry days in a row.
Earlier on, even before the ground thawed and worm castings pocked the earth – true sign of spring – an early-arriving woodcock spent an afternoon in the back yard futilely drilling for a lunch. Since then, little by little, spring has sprung and we have robins and chickens, Song sparrows, and a nesting pair of flickers working the lawn, aerating as they go. Imagine dousing the yard with chemicals and then having to run over it with a machine to poke holes in the sod.
It is fascinating to watch how different ground birds go about finding food. Chickens have their step up, scratch-scratch, step back technique, intent on unearthing whatever. Robins hop, listen, hop, and probe, with earthworms the obvious target. In contrast again, the flicker attacks with woodpecker zeal, “bap, bap, bap,” rhythmically probing the earth as if it were working the side of an insect-ridden stump.
FCC (Farm Credit Canada) reports, “Spring cattle prices set table for stronger industry.” Good news, overall, for cattle producers even here in Atlantic Canada. Despite the fact we do not produce much for export, it is that export market that sets the pace and price nation-wide.
Trump has been hard at work scoring domestic political points by trashing Canada with charges that we swamp the U.S. with cheap oil and lumber and deprive them of free access to our supply-managed milk market. (Meanwhile the U.S. props up their dairy prices by dumping millions of gallons of milk each year.) So far he has left beef alone.
FCC goes on to say it’s a good time to be a bison farmer out West where there are “strong prices and growing markets.” Bison was a good bet for thousands of years before Europeans nearly wiped them off the map. Wikipedia says the species provided a wealth of food, clothing, and shelter, allowing native peoples “to enjoy leisure time and pursue artistic and spiritual interests.”
Last century archeologists uncovered a Blackfoot abattoir in Alberta that’s become quite a tourist attraction. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a cliff over which unwitting herds of bison were driven to their death and processed to provide necessities of life. Crowds of tourists now visit the cliff, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site – just like the pyramids and Old-Town Lunenburg, N.S.
Imagine such a future for Cargill, a scant 50 miles away, where today modern technology has made cliffs redundant as they do in 4,500 head of cattle each day.
Practitioners at Buffalo Jump were lucky they did not have to contend with animal rights advocates like those who descended on Atlantic Stockyards Limited (ASL) earlier this year. Or maybe they did. A story told is that a young lad wanting to witness the jump got swept over the cliff, buried in carcasses, and it was he that got his head smashed in. That sounds like a faerie tale. More likely he was protesting the slaughter and was caught up in the mad rush.
Barricades and gates are an unfortunate result of unreasonable protests over the treatment of farm animals, and at other times a result of potential health issues magnified by ever-larger food production and distribution systems.
Sadly, we are leaving behind the days when farms openly welcomed visitors, and a bumper crop of tomatoes could be dropped off at the local grocer. Commercial pig and poultry farms are all but off-bounds now. How long before dairy and even vegetable farms follow suit? Not so long, really. Only last year, when visiting a large vegetable and fruit grower as part of a small media tour, all were required to sign in before prowling the grounds.
The latest Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA) newsletter tells of a group of people having visited a dairy farm posing as idly curious. In fact, they were from Nova Scotia Farm Animal Save, the same group shadowing the stockyards. NSFA advises, “If someone or a group of activists shows up unexpectedly on your farm: Do not engage them; do not confront them; ask them to leave; call police. . .”
What if that individual or group would like to visit because they find the farm attractive? What’s the farmer to say? “Are you an activist?” That is unlikely, as would be a truthful reply from anyone bent on sabotage. It’s far easier for farms to simply post signs, “Stop! No visitors allowed.”
A pox on self-righteous, self-appointed animal rights anarchists. Another on over-zealous health and safety agencies that from their office chairs in Ottawa cast fine-mesh regulatory nets making life unnecessarily tough on small and average-sized family farms.
Happy planting, and a happy birthday to DvL Publishing Inc. now entering its 41st year, DvL