RD September Letters 2017

Cozying up with RD
RD: We had a house fire nine months ago and have just got back into our house two weeks ago, so things are all over the place!
    Love your magazine – it brings a slower pace to life and some sanity in this crazy world. Thanks for your work and keep up the cozy feel of the magazine. We really also enjoy “What’s That?” and the answers.
Rosemary Reijerse
St. Williams, Ont.

RD: Thank you for making it so easy to renew our subscription this morning. It’s so nice to phone and talk to a real person – and in Canada! We appreciate all the work that goes into your magazine each month, and really can’t think of suggestions.  Just keep up the great work.
Marilyn Erb
Cambridge-Narrows, N.B.

Lost appeal
RD: I don’t mind letting you know why I am suspending my subscription at this point in time.
    To put my comments in context: I have a family background of farming for generations. While I now live in an urban centre, I retained many rural homesteading practices, and an interest in agriculture as well – both modern and traditional. Of late, I have decided to take on an even more rural lifestyle, which includes buying a rural property.
    This seems to be in line with many others. There is a resurgence in homesteading in the States and Europe. Whether some or many are merely wannabes or sincere, there is a genuine interest in being exposed to traditional tried-and-true methods of homesteading, indoors and outdoors. That hasn’t been the case in decades.
    Of late, I have been interested in learning about traditional Canadian homesteading methods. Mine are European, and they worked very well on our farm and for me now; but I always wondered how traditional Canadian farmer families did things.
    I subscribed to Rural Delivery, to learn. However, Rural Delivery does not offer enough of that, often enough. For example, an article on which apples are best for what – I would rather not misspend my time and misuse them, by trialing them all. Or, an article on goat milk recipes, not just a profile of the farmer. 
    As well, I would have preferred if RD would more often encourage other Canadians to submit articles, or more often write articles about non-Maritime farmers. It is vital to remain insular (protect the Maritime ways of doing things), but it is also vital to expose Maritimers to other farmers’ work, and for readers to experience farmers from across Canada. The latter is perhaps not your mandate, but it could be.
    In short: RD is not meeting my needs at this time. Perhaps someday it will be somewhat different, and so it might appeal again.
Marita Dreger
Toronto, Ont.

(Thanks for sharing these thoughts, even as you bid us farewell, Marita. Reading your note is a bit unnerving, because it is as if you are peering into the soul of Rural Delivery. Traditional homesteading is in this magazine’s DNA. We are constantly having conversations about how to strike a balance between the old and the new – between straightforward practical articles, and personality-driven or policy-related stories that encompass more of life’s complexity. If we have leaned more toward the latter in recent years, maybe that’s because factual information has been somewhat cheapened by the Internet. It may also be a reflection of the fact that many of us who have done some homesteading ultimately come to the conclusion that it is not an end in itself – that small-scale farmers should play a role as community-builders and as citizens. But it cannot be done without basic, time-tested skills and knowledge – and your note is a useful reminder of this. As for reaching further afield to bring our readers some stories from across Canada, this too is a good suggestion. We wish you all success, as you light out for the country.  DL)

Drafting RD for more draft horses
RD: I have been a subscriber to the Rural Delivery since the late ’70s, and both the wife and I enjoy reading, use a lot of the helpful articles in “Household Notes,” also in gardening and pruning trees, and small-scale farming for our own use.
    I also was a subscriber of the Horse and Pony, but lately had been picking it up off the shelf as I really miss articles on draft horses, and the report with Pamela MacKenzie. Hoping to see more on the draft horse in future additions. I will renew anyway, thank you.
Ulysse Doiron
Louisdale, N.S. 

Rural spirit, urban setting
RD: We have moved “ta town” – No more chickens, ride-on tractor, or big veggie garden. But, we have carved out a few spaces for herbs, flowers, and tomatoes around our townhouse; planted sweet peas and Scarlet runners around the balcony as gentle green walls; got myself on the garden committee. Today the committee, tomorrow a composter and water barrel with every unit! We are enjoying Tim Livingston of Strawberry Hill Farm’s CSA boxes, and cruise the Boyce Farmers’ Market weekly.
    Perhaps you could run the odd item about old hipsters (those of us with new joints) migrating to town or city and how we keep our rural spirit alive in urban spaces. 
Sally Crawford
Fredericton, N.B.

Give ’em a rural welcome
RD: I have some friends and family coming to Nova Scotia who are keen on taking in some of the local agricultural fairs and exhibitions. They will be on the road with guests from New Zealand. If there are any friends and family of RD that are busy training their working ox team for competition this year that would like to have some visitors from out west, please contact them directly. 
    Also, anyone involved with local agriculture who has some community event tips, who would enjoy socializing with a couple of fun, retired ranchers, please contact them about their travel plans. Faye and Steve plus New Zealand friends can be reached at fstreet@kootenaylivestock.ca.
David Spencer
Middle Stewiacke, N.S.

Shy of shoddy
RD: The Scything Handbook by Ian Miller, reviewed in the May issue of RD, indeed deserves Peter Redden’s evaluation of “mediocre.” I myself consider the instructional portions of the book just shy of shoddy. 
    Beyond what I consider omissions, the book also contains numerous blunders. A prime example: “American and English scythes are stamped (and thus not possible to peen) and were developed to harvest sugar cane and reed and are therefore not suitable for hay and small grain harvesting.” That statement is simply humbug. Taken at face value, it implies that millions of hectares of grass and grain in the British Isles, North America, and Australia were cut with a version of a scythe “not suitable” for the task. 
    Another set of blunders is actual instructional hints. An example would be the distance of forward advance at a stroke – which this book’s guidelines suggest to be 1 1/2 inches (or about four centimetres). Could it have been a typo (say, he meant four inches instead four centimetres)? If not, I’m quite certain that anyone who has swung a scythe over much more ground than (seemingly) has the author of that advice would shake his head in disbelief, or think it is meant as a joke. Taking such a very narrow sliver off the face of the stand may be fine for the very first few strokes during a beginner’s course. But beyond that?
    Nor does Miller anywhere suggest an average blade’s length, nor does he suggest a good, comfortable, or efficient width of a swath. Both of these are examples where opinions vary. But not to even address the topic?
    All in all, I think that if he re-reads his own scythe-using and haymaking guidelines several years hence (provided he does not, as did David Tresemer, leave the scythe-related learning to become just a short spell in his life’s story), he will want to do a major revision of the text. Unfortunately, in the meantime the book will have influenced the on-the-ground experience of countless people – something that cannot ever be “taken back.”
    In other words, my overall impression is that he ought to have learned a whole lot more before taking on the task of writing a widely promoted book. 
Peter Vido
Lower Kintore, N.B.