Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hitchhiking: A social Experiment

Recently, I found myself between a rock and a hard place without a drive to the market.  Long story short, my drive didn’t show and my vehicle was being repaired.  Being an opportunist, I thought i’d jump at the chance to take a walk (approx. 5 km) to the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  Dressed in my Redsox cap, jacket, and khakis I set out.  Eventually, I decided to try my thumb at hitchhiking.  Car after car after car passed me by.  As a math teacher, I started to consider the probability of hitching a ride.  It was all conjecture of course, but I figured 1 out of every 40 – 50 cars that passed should know me and feel inclined to offer a drive.  Wishful thinking?  You’d think with the oscillating number of Facebook friends people have these days that someone would pull over.  At any rate, 3 km into the walk with a few familiar faces passing by, I still hadn’t been picked up.  Perhaps, they mistook my thumb gesture as a “thumbs up” for their driving skills?  I couldn’t be sure.

Finally, a kind French Canadian gentleman from, I presume, a nearby community pulled over.  He couldn’t speak a lick of English and it appeared as though his verbal skills were impaired.  Communication was down so I sat in silence on our drive to the market.  Finally, I directed him with my hand to pull over as I was nearing my stop.  My mind turned to thinking about how to express my gratitude so I offered him a smile and a merci for his kindness.  Gratefully, I exited the car and stepped onto the shoulder of the road only to see him turn down the road towards my destination.  I stood and laughed.  What was one hundred more meters of walking?

During the down times at the market I found myself thinking pensively about the gentleman who pulled over.  His actions, in spite of his disability, demonstrated his altruism in placing my needs ahead of any matters that may have been on his daily agenda.  More people in the world need to take this approach to life and place others before themselves.  It brings you a great deal of happiness.  During my first year of raising pastured chicken, I found myself giving whole freezer chickens to family, friends, and neighbours to show my gratitude for their support.  It was not a monetary exchange but an act of goodwill.  I feel it is especially important to show kindness to neighbours so that they can support your espousals for organic and natural food, despite the sounds and smells that emanate from farms.

In the end, I made it to my destination through the kindness of another.  That is the point of today’s post.  We are not islands, we can not stand alone, and we can not live life devoid of social contact.  Pay it forward.   Give freely of your time, love one another, and support causes that promote goodness and wellness in today’s society.  God bless.

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Market Booth Conversations

Every conversation with a customer is an opportunity to learn something new when it comes to food.  In fact, we should always approach our everyday conversations with an expectation of learning something new.  When we do this, we replace our subjectivity with objectivity and spend far less time listening to ourselves and more time learning from others.  As farmers, we need to be educated and open to education when it comes to agricultural topics.  When someone says, “You have to spray, there’s just no choice,” an organic farmer needs to be equipped with a response against the status quo.  Our response has to have more substance than, “It’s not good for you!”

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

We can build this knowledge requirement through a love of reading or open-ended conversation that provides opportunity for discussions on issues of health and food.  Organic farming, i.e., the way farming was done pre-industry, is a tried, tested, and true approach to managing livestock and produce.  It has been researched exhaustively, defeated criticism, and is now on its way to becoming more and more accepted by food consumers.  Conversations against pesticide sprays, chemical fertilizers, and anti-biotics need to focus on the natural defenses of properly managed soil biota and the inherent dangers of mono-cropping to our soils, for example. 

As a teacher, sometimes you encounter questions from students that don’t have an immediate answer.   Sometimes, it is better to listen than to say anything at all.  I congratulate my students on asking a question that stumps the teacher.  It is important for them to know that adults don’t have all the answers.  Our society expects immediacy in everything we do.  (Look at what the chicken industry has done to the meatking, for example.  Meatking chickens have been selectively bred to go from farm to table in only 8 weeks, 8 weeks!  This is done at the expense of numerous broken legs, heart attacks, dead birds, etc. in a conventionally managed poultry operation.)  We shouldn’t set expectations of instantaneous response, it sets our children up for failure.  We should allow time to formulate well researched and thought out responses.  Let the intellectual juices stew a while.

I am always encouraged and enthused by my saturday morning market booth conversations.  Conversations with local people about healthy eating, barefoot running, the minimalist movement, earthing, grounding, unpasteurized milk consumption, herbal teas, etc. lead me to the conclusion that collectively we possess a great deal of knowledge away from conventional thinking within our region.  At one point in my life, I shied away from these conversations but now I whole heartedly embrace them and their significance in my life.  They give me a voice that stands against the oppressive nature of factory farms and the blind faith in our current food system that so many of us have fallen victim to.  I am confident that more and more people will give organic food a chance and at least find a chance to include it in their daily conversation.

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Tapadh Leibh

Today’s post is entitled, “Tapadh Leibh”, which is Scots Gaelic for a formal thank you.  I’d like to extend sincerest appreciation to two friends from the Restigouche region, who donated roofing tin and asphalt shingles to our cause.  Generosities like this go a long way in helping new/young farmers stay out of debt in their agricultural pursuits.  Infrastructure, small or big, along with farm machinery are often the most expensive costs for a foray into livestock housing.  We are able to reduce costs by making our infrastructure portable, which lessens the amount of building materials needed to seasonally house livestock.  One can imagine how deflating and defeating it would be to take an industrial approach to farming and have to go in debt in order to build a new state of the art barn, for example.  Grass based farming circumvents that problem completely.  A more natural approach to animal husbandry allows one to slowly grow their farm.  One can grow with the enterprise and learn how to adjust and correct any unforeseen troubles as they are encountered instead of becoming overburdened and worked to exhaustion.

This year we decided to try our luck with pastured chicken and were successful as a farming family.  This winter we will reap the healthy ovalish egg fruit of our laying hens.  Next spring, we will plant our apple orchard and raspberry field.  As we continue to diversify our family farm, we would like to extend an invitation to those of you who are interested in learning about our passion for farming to contact us about farm visits.  Over the years, members of the community of Point La Nim and nearby towns and villages have often stopped in to assist us with haymaking or harvesting our gardens.  As a youngster, I can still picture family friends and community members pulling into the field with their work gloves and pick-up trucks.  Without their help, we would have had many more days making hay under the moon light.  Farming is, in essence, a community driven entity. We believe in paying it forward.  The help of community members and other like-minded organic food enthusiasts can be paid forward in so many ways when you operate a farm.  Food is usually the currency of choice.

In the words of our Scots Gaelic speaking ancestors, “Slainte Mhath!”  In other words, good health to all of you.

Categories: 0rganics, ancestry, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, scots gaelic | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Our biggest seller: The MacCurdy Beef 50 lb order.

We are now taking orders for 50 lb orders.  Although barbecue season has become a distant memory, most of us are beginning to dust off the roasting pans and slow cookers for those savory stews of fall and winter.  Our 50 lb orders have quickly become our biggest seller over the last few years.  For $225 you get an assortment of steaks, roasts, hamburger, stewing meat, liver, and other desirable meat products from MacCurdy Farm.  Orders usually come with several packages of steak including sirloin, round, prime rib, and t-bone.  You will receive a variety of roasts that include sirloin tip, rump, and cross rib and blade, for example.  Most orders have 15 – 20 lbs of hamburger, which equals approximately 14 – 21 bags of hamburger meat.  Stewing meat (bone-in and boneless), liver, and ox tail are also included.  Should you desire the heart and/or tongue, these products can also be included in the poundage.  You can contact us at the farm 684-4252 (Sandy or Jim) or 684-2297 (Justin) to place an order.

Please be mindful that beef orders are first come, first serve so there is a chance that you will be placed on a waitlist.  We process orders based on demand.  Our beef is professionally butchered at Hornbrook’s Meat Wholesalers in Stone Haven, N.B.  They are a provincially regulated and inspected abattoir.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  We pride ourselves on transparency.

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

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Farm to mind, pen to paper

Sometimes, when a teaching farmer or a farming teacher has a spare moment the experience of rural country life finds expression in poetic form.  Although I’m no Bill Shakespeare, I still enjoy the craftiness one is permitted in blending words on paper or computer screen.  Below is a poem that I wrote for our local Caledonian Society (Scottish cultural society) as a toast to the women of the society.  Enjoy!

To the Caledonian Lassies 
Written by Justin MacCurdy
‘Tis been a while since I’ve seen ye,
Fairest lassies in tartan weave,
How beautiful your countenance,
A pristine Sgian Dubh, unsheathed,
Now, with the beauty of the thistle,
Comes the prickly thorn,
Wrought with anger is the maiden,
From whence a love is torn,
Let the Saltire fly she boasts,
And the heather grow in mounds,
I am the lioness rampant,
My pride across the sea abounds,
Hold dear your celtic soulmate,
Name her anam-charaid,
Place a fond kiss upon her,
a braided knot, I say,
Woman of my clan I vow,
Te always stand beside thee,
To lift my Gaelic Spirits,
To toast my Caledonian lassie.
I will have some more submissions to share as the months go by.  Hopefully, they improve in readability, flow, and depth.  The farm will undoubtedly continue to be a source of inspiration in penning poems heavily influenced by the pastoral lifestyle of a grass based farm.
Slainte mhath!

The saltire

The Scottish flag

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Google Search

Good afternoon! For those of you looking to gain access to the website hosted on http://wordpress.com you can either type https://maccurdyfarm.wordpress.com or google MacCurdy Farm and find the link down the page that says, “Between Two Hay Bales The Official Blog of MacCurdy Farm.”  As of right now, it is the 4th link on a google search and with increased traffic to the site we’re hoping to have it listed as either number 1 or 2 along with our facebook page.

Thank you for the continued site visits and likes!  It is so exciting to diversify, with your help, support, and encouragement, our piece of farming heaven on the banks of the Bay of Chaleur.  Together we can make a difference.

 

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MacCurdy Farm needs

Good evening MacCurdy Farm supporters.  I trust the end of summer is treating you all very well.  On the farm, we’re busy preparing the chicken barn to house our chickens over the winter.  We’re also attaching a run to the side of the barn for outdoor access during the winter months while the birds are off pasture.  Diversifying a farm operation has many costs like feed, infrastructure, material, etc. so I thought we’d list some of the materials that we are looking for to enhance our operation next year.

  1. 55 gallon barrels to store feed. (They must be food grade).
  2. Corrugated tin roofing/siding (We are building another 4 or 5 pens over the winter to be ready for the spring)
  3. Rough sawn lumber or someone with a portable mill so that we can turn our softwood into lumber.
  4. Used portable car ports for chicken/turkey housing while they are on pasture.
  5. Cedar shingles
  6. Asphalt shingles

If any of you have any of these materials in excess or you are looking to sell them, please let us know.  Having the support of our local community members makes things easier when we are trying to gain ground in the local organic food supply market.  We are not asking for anything for free.  We are only looking to lessen the amount of time spent looking for these materials.  A big thank-you to those of you in the past year who went out of your way to let us know that you had these building materials for sale.  As always your feedback, questions, and/or concerns are always welcome.  Should you have any of these building materials you can contact us on our MacCurdy Farm Facebook page or message me via email at justin.maccurdy@live.ca.

Thank you/Merci/Tapadh leibh!

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Autumn: a season for preparation

Autumn is creeping ever closer as we move through the days of September.  Crisp and cold winds reinvigorate the physically exhausted body of the farmer.  In one last flash of color, our rolling hill terrain acts as an easel for God’s spectrum of colors.  We are reminded of the white blanket of winter that is only months away.

In a natural approach to farming on pasture, fall signals the end of production for our meat birds.  Raising birds on pasture is a seasonal event and we have decided to only raise meat chickens outside.  We’ll be taking the same approach with turkeys and pigs next year.   In our first attempt at bringing pastured chicken to the people of the Restigouche region, we sold 170 chickens between the sizes of 3 and 7 lbs.  Next year, we plan to raise 2 cycles of 250 chickens on pasture in their portable chicken tractors in order to provide more healthy meat for your deep freeze and reach a larger customer base.  A primary goal of ours is to start small and gradually grow bigger within our local economy.

Our laying hens are nearing laying age.  Within 2 – 3 weeks our pullets will start to drop their eggs.  They’ll stay outside for as long as the weather will allow it.  However, we’re currently working on building a run attached to their winter housing so that they have ready access to the outdoors during the winter.  We’ll be sealing air gaps and putting shingles on the new chicken barn now that hay season is over and operations on the farm are beginning to slow down.  Getting ready for winter becomes an operation in itself.

Meanwhile, the growing season is still not over.  Our chickens and cattle are still on pasture and our vegetable gardens are still providing fruit.  You can find yellow beans, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beets, cayenne peppers, and other vegetables at our booth at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  They are organically grown products by Jonathan MacCurdy of Nature’s Estate Farm.

Recently, MacCurdy Farm purchased a book called, “The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way” by Michael Phillips.  Our brother farm, Nature’s Estate Farm, has already established strawberry and raspberry plants.  MacCurdy Farm has decided to re-establish an orchard on the farm.  Years ago, my grandfather decided to clear-cut the orchard as it had become unmanageable so we hope to bring that sense of life and apple blossom color back to the farm.  Not to mention, provide apples at the market, make apple cider, feed apples to our pigs next year, etc.

For many, the onset of Autumn brings about a feeling of impending loss of heat and sunlight.  However, for those of us who live in seasonal climates it should be treated as a separate entity with its own characteristics, which is filled with opportunity.  Take a walk in the woods to enjoy the splendour of nature, do some work around the farm or house, reap the harvest of your summer gardens, start a fall project, or simply breathe in the crisp cold air.

Finally, if there are any of you out there who would like to make a visit to the farm with your kids so that they can see the livestock or just get out into the country and enjoy the fall weather, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  We only ask that dogs be left at home as we allow some of our egg layers to free range.  Hope to hear from you!

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New web address for MacCurdy Farm

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Hi all,

To improve the facility of getting to the website I have changed the web address to https://maccurdyfarm.wordpress.com.  I apologize for the continued revisions.  The blog will still go under the name of Between Two Hay Bales.  By clicking on the link, you will be taken directly to the website.

Please Share and thank you for your continued support,

MacCurdy Farm

Categories: 0rganics, farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

To everything there is a season

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (KJV)

Everything has a season.  One of the biggest challenges in undertaking a natural or organic grass-fed livestock farm approach is educating the customer about the seasonality of your product.  In the Restigouche region our growing window is relatively short, although some may argue  it is expanding with the onset of milder winters and earlier first frosts/later late frosts.  Something to be researched, I suppose.  However, with that said, chicken cannot be raised on grass when there is snow on the ground or dead thatch.  The summer months provide the heaviest levels of protein when the shoots have maximal sunshine exposure and lots of rain.  Chickens will eat hay chaff but the protein content makes up a far smaller percentage of their diet than fresh green dandelion shoots, for example.  Any book on raising chickens will speak to this issue.

Grass fed food systems are seasonal by nature, so the extent of change to the current food system depends on your approach to buying organic/natural/grass fed food.  There are many ways to preserve garden fresh foods.  You can can, bottle, pickle, blanch and freeze vegetables.  Luckily, our meat products come frozen, allowing you to stock your deep freeze with vacuum sealed freezer chickens and packaged beef.  Two key points can be made about this type of approach to local food: (1) Buying local food to preserve for off-season eating, limits the amount of food bought from the big grocery chains and (2) we develop a deeper connection to food from our region.  The youth of today’s fast food society have become prone to convenience and the associated health risks that go with eating take-out, fast food, and fried food.  They are becoming further and further disconnected from the natural food cycle.  They are being duped about the definition of “real” food.  How many times do we find ourselves within “western society” looking for the quickest way to satiate our predisposition to fatty and salty foods?  Instead of teaching our children to search out local organic food growers, we are creating an inheritance of health problems from food choices.  Trust me, I’ve done it.  Guilty as charged as they say.  But, the light at the end of that dark tunnel came from embracing the organic local food movement, which is in season and has the potential to propel the pendulum of food power back into the hands of local producers and consumers.   Now, when I drive by MacDonald’s, I ask myself, “Why did I ever?”

In light of the increased exposure of the corporate food industry through documentaries, people are beginning to change their approach to food.  I have talked to many customers about the graphic nature of these documentaries, which has caused many to prematurely press the stop button.  I tell you, watch every minute of these documentaries.  Educate yourself.  Sear every graphic image into your mind so that you never find yourself inadvertently supporting food produced in such a way.  By now, it may sound like I am proselytizing my beliefs about food but the purpose of this blog is to highlight the benefits of eating and becoming connected to local food.  Everything has it’s season but that does not mean we are powerless to extend, prolong, shorten, or terminate the season.  On the contrary, our food choices, to some degree, have the power to give life to small farmers and their efforts to produce healthy organic local food all the while standing opposed to ethical mistreatment of animals in feedlots, the planting of GMO crops, and the use of pesticides and chemicals on our crops.  Is it time to embrace organic food and a return to the natural ways of producing food?  Can we safely and sustainably grow and raise food in a manner that many would label backward? I think the season is upon us to find out.

This blog post is written in memory of Melody Harvey, a dear friend who left to join the saints in heaven.  God bless.

Categories: 0rganics, Bay of Chaleur, farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: | Leave a comment

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