Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wheat and Oats Workparty

Brian, Gerry and I got out into the beautiful weather on Tuesday morning and planted our grains -- 
First weeding out the tiny maple seedlings that had taken root during the winter, flattening last autumn's labyrinth, and then tackling the big pile of compost that the Vancouver Parks crew had left for us, spreading it by wheelbarrow and shovel; then marking out beds, excavating shallow paths between them, planting, raking, and weaving a mesh of string overtop to discourage the birds.

Gerry heaves compost over the fence into the corner where the  Chinook wheat will go

Brian hauls compost; "Now I remember why I left the farm..."

Gerry takes a break from raking over the seedbeds to observe Brian carefully sowing in rows

The beds of grain with their rudimentary anti-bird measures -- Brian and Rebecca are both having nightmares that the crows will eat it all!

Brian and Rebecca proudly posing in the half-planted garden bed; the flax will take up the remaining area in May, planted later so that the main harvest will (weather co-operating) coincide with some of the grain harvest in early September.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Seeds in Hand... but not in Puddles!

Black Einkorn wheat, grown at Woodgrain Farm in the Kispiox Valley, Northern BC

Yesterday morning I went to the Vancouver Parks Nursery and picked up our seeds: 2lbs of flax seed ordered from overseas, a special variety intended for processing by hand; and a variety of grains from Saltspring Seeds, including "Rodney" oats, "Chinook" wheat, "Utrecht Blue" wheat, and "Black Einkorn" wheat -- from the photo above, you can see how gorgeous these are going to be! Going to be amazing, worked into some traditional wheat weaving...

Unfortunately, the weather didn't agree with our plans for planting today --
With heavy rains starting late last night and another 50mm of rain in the forecast for the next 36 hours, it's just too wet to work in our compost and plant our grains -- even the sandy, dry soil we've got at the Flax Field!
Darn! wish we'd gotten out there last week.... but in the time-honoured words of wisdom regarded by everyone who works on the land -- from British farmers to Canadian tree planters -- "IT IS WHAT IT IS". So, no regrets, let's just move forward.

We'll be trying again on TUESDAY MORNING, APRIL 22, roughly the same time frame, 9:30 to 11:30.

In the meantime, I'll be on Vancouver Island over the Easter weekend and hope to meet up with some members of the Victoria Flax to Linen group to watch how they process their flax -- these folks have been at it for a few years now, and seem to be leading the country in the resurgence of linen as a folk tradition! Their Facebook Group is fantastic -- always updated with new and interesting flax news and resources, and they're getting new members from across the country.

So, see you Tuesday!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Seeds in Hand...

The compost has been added, the weather has been lovely and mild, and it's time to plant the grains! Brian's farmer senses are tingling. Just to be thorough, we read up on soil temperatures for germination and Brian went and checked the temperature of our soil. We have sandy, "fast" soil (meaning it heats up faster than loam or clay soils in the spring), and sure enough, it's plenty warm -- 16*C was the reading that Brian got. Warm soil means warm, germinating seeds.

I'll be going to the Vancouver Parks Nursery tomorrow morning and picking up the bulk of our seeds -- wheat, oats, and a variety of flax grown for hand-spinning which they ordered especially for us.

Then on Wednesday morning, April 16, Brian and I will be down in the Flax Field sowing the cereal crops from about 9:30 to 11:30.
If you're around, why not join us?

see you there...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Aberthau Hedge Lay photos

The weather was volatile for our Hedge Lay event on March 29th, but the bit of rain that fell was hardly enough to dampen the fun. 
At the end, the sun came out and favoured us with this glorious warm light just as we were driving away...

Check out Sharon's Flickr set for the complete tale of this amazing event.

For those of you interested in the details, the fence was constructed of the following:
- Stakes of willow and red osier dogwood from MOP and Cottonwood Community Garden.
- Red osier (bottom layer) weavers from Vancouver Parks Board 
- Yellow willow weavers from Cottonwood Community Garden
- Hazel weavers (top edge, brown, twined) from MOP
- Quince buttresses donated by local community member

The bottom row of red osier weavers were planted into the soil at a 45* angle with the intention that they will root, and transition this structure from a fence into a living hedgerow.

What is Morris Dancing, anyway?

Tiddley Cove Morris Dancers
The remarkable Tiddley Cove Morris Dancers came out and sparked our Hedge Lay with dancing and music -- it was fantastic!
Brian Jones has been involved with Morris Dancing since he was a young lad on the farm in Britain; being a third generation BC girl, I was only vaguely aware of it, so he found this really helpful link to explain it to me:  on the Britannia website, writer Chris Whitcombe says:
The origins of Morris dancing are lost in the mists of time. It survives today as a form of folk dance performed in the open air in villages in rural England by groups of specially chosen and trained men and women. It is a ritual rather than a social dance which the dancers take seriously. It is felt that the dances have a magic power and serve both to bring luck and to ward of evil.
So Morris Dancing is ancient, pre-dating Christianity, and no one seems to be really clear on how the name 'Morris' stuck. The dances are rituals -- as opposed to folk dances, in which everyone may participate -- and linked to the cycles of the agricultural calendar. The photo above is of some of the dancers in their 'summer' costume, full skirts and handkerchiefs; for our Hedge Lay event, they came in their 'winter' costume -- Sharon got some great photos and posted them in her Flickr stream here.