Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Importance of Children

In the past two years I have spent an increasing amount of time on our farmland.  After the regular work day as a math teacher I hurry to the farm to get the animals fed and other ongoing projects completed.  The 2 or 3 hours that I spend on the farm each night affords me a great deal of mental therapy through physicality.  My worries lift, my tense shoulders subside, and I am invigorated by the sights and sounds of the farm.  In essence, I savor a taste of my childhood on each occasion that I am at the farm.

As youngsters, my siblings and I roamed every square foot of the acreage.  No hayfield, brook, wood lot, road, garden, pasture, or hill was left untrodden.  In many senses of the word, it was our classroom.  We were free to explore the expanse of the farm with little worry.  We felt empowered by our freedom to explore the natural world and thankfully we did not regress to the savagery of the children depicted in the Lord of the Flies.  The wood lot helped us learn the difference between a rotten and a sturdy tree when we ran through the woods kicking down potentially decayed windfalls.  The fibrous decay brought about by fungi gave us a visual lesson in forest pathology.  We learned that the decaying log housed a myriad of insects.  These insects inspired great curiosity about life below the soil.  The hayfield offered us the opportunity to fall, roll, and hide amongst the perennial grasses.  As we lay, in silence, chests heaving heavily from a high-stepping run, we would watch the field sparrows and other types of birds jump from timothy to orchard grass and then fly away while the breezes softly teased the hayfield’s mane.  A love for wildlife was born.  The brook teemed with life and sound.  Amphibious salamanders caught our eye and were a chore to catch for closer inspection.  But, we always returned them to the safety of their home in the brook after satisfying our piqued curiosity.  Somehow, each of us knew, in our child like innocence, that to remove something from its home without due cause was wrong.  No parental lesson needed.  Such is the treasure of the natural world, we learn a great deal outside of the regimented classroom without any intention of acquiring knowledge.  The pasture, as we came to know it, was one big playpen for the mainstay of the farm, cattle.  We learned through oral history at an early age the names of the breeds that made up our line of cattle and through this process we became cattle lovers.  We’re not afraid to say it either.  Cattle are amazing social creatures.  In walking the fenceline or through the pasture we would observe, firsthand, the pieces of vegetation that cattle preferred.  Thistles and wild rose bushes were left untouched while wild apples provided a sweet treat.  The mothering instincts of cattle are unparalleled in my opinion and, as we learned, the cows made their presence known by placing themselves between the calves and the bi-pedal onlookers while the bull nonchalantly chewed his cud in the background.  We learned the safety of distance from animals in close proximity and how to jump fences, if need be.  Every day we played our experiential knowledge grew significantly.  We could often be found skipping along the farm roads, stopping to browse something colorful that caught our eye like a purple trillium or a plump wild raspberry.  Interspersed with our scientific pursuits we talked sports, food, games, etc., always making sure that no one was left straggling behind.  We knew their was safety in numbers and we cared about each others well-being.  Something else, I suppose, that did not necessitate instruction.

Today, as a father of two, I find myself looking to provide these same experiences to my children.  I want to foster an appreciation for the natural world in them that will hopefully inspire them, if their hearts desire it, to find joy in pursuits that involve the great outdoors.  My son, Cameron, is the best helper.  He rolls hay bales over, he carries wood, he helps measure boards to be cut, he collects eggs, he tends to the chickens, he runs errands, and most importantly he asks questions, which I answer to the best of my abilities.  Sometimes he asks the question, “Can we go now?”, other times he inquires, “What does that mean daddy?” or “Can I do it?” or “Can we go for a walk to the woods/brook/hayfield?”  Having my son with me (my daughter is only two so her chance will come soon) is a learning experience in itself.  I have to learn to trust him and be mindful of his whereabouts at all times, I have to learn to give him freedom to explore the animal life on the farm and not place demands on him to stay continually by my side, and use opportunities to share my knowledge with him even if it means stopping the task that I am working on.  He takes priority.  I want him to know that when an important event takes place in his life that I will be there when he wants or needs me to be.  Society can wait, work can wait, and leisure activities can wait.

Recently, I came across a quote by Margaret Mead, which reads, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”  Although I agree with the distinction between what and how, we can’t treat children as tabula rasa and just fill their blank slates with what we think and how we think, I do not think children necessarily must be taught everything.  Although our experience in the natural world with others does not happen in a vacuum, it can happen free from parental or adult instruction where we learn a great deal through our curiosity without being taught how to ascertain those pieces of knowledge.  I endorse those parents who see the importance of connecting their children to the real and natural world.  There is permanence and retention of knowledge in self-discovery.  It’s as though the mind says, “Aha! Now I get it!”  Then we can begin to formulate our thought processes (how we learn) to assess the truth of the matter and formulate opinions on issues.  I see this very process take place in my daughter as she learns how to use words.  She is constantly receiving feedback from her environment, listening to us use words, correct her brother’s pronunciation, and suggest alternate descriptive words to him.  It then appears as though suddenly she learned a new word when in fact her brain is processing how and when to employ the use of the word.  You should see the smile on her face when she discovered how to propel herself on one of her little vehicles.  It was nothing we ever taught her, it was self-discovery, it was priceless.

I feel very fortunate to have been raised on a rural small farm around animals, wildlife, and the natural landscape.  The experience still permeates my thought processes to this day.  It has given me a passion to share the experience with my wife and children.  Most importantly, it has helped me realize that this is something to be shared with and protected for future generations.  Everything I do on the farm is done so that one day my son or daughter, or neice or nephew, can do the same, if that is what speaks to their heart.  Hopefully, it will.   It’s the reason why the multi-generational representation of MacCurdy Farmers wears a shirt with the logo, “Faith.  Family.  Farming.”

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Categories: farming, future generations, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: | Leave a comment

Get your fresh beef here!

Market day is tomorrow November 9th, 2013 at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market in Dalhousie.  Our newly processed beef has arrived so we are taking orders for 50 lb boxes, quarters, and sides.  Our market deep freeze is stocked with steak, hamburger, roasts, stewing beef, soup bones, etc.  We have the following steak cuts available:

T-Bone

Packaged t-bone with two steaks

Packaged t-bone with two steaks

Porterhouse

Packaged porterhouse with two steaks

Packaged porterhouse with two steaks

Sirloin

Packaged sirloin with two steaks

Packaged sirloin with two steaks

Prime Rib

Packaged prime rib with two steaks

Packaged prime rib with two steaks

MacCurdy Farm Beef

MacCurdy Farm Beef

MacCurdy Farm Beef

Our hens are currently laying steadily and this week we will have 10 dozen eggs with us at the Farmer’s market.  These eggs are guaranteed to show the difference between a farm fresh egg from chickens who have access to vegetable and grass feed and a factory farmed egg.  They are currently selling for $4/dozen.

MacCurdy Farm eggs

Farm fresh eggs

Farm fresh eggs

Nature’s Estate Preserves and Veggies

At our market table you can also purchase preserves and veggies (carrots, onions, cabbage, and potatoes) from Jonathan MacCurdy.  Prices are available at the market.

Nature's Estate preserves and veggies

Nature’s Estate preserves and veggies

Hope to see all the locavores from all over the Restigouche region tomorrow at the market.  Please share this blog post to help us get the word out about our grass-fed beef, pastured and free range eggs, and beyond organic veggies.  See you at the market booth tomorrow!

Categories: 0rganics, farming, grass fed beef, Locavore, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Music to my ears

The farm is like a symphony of nature’s instruments.  The cows moo, the cats meow, the chickens cluck, dogs bark, and all other passersby add their sound to the mix.  These sounds, to a farmer, are music to his ears.  Definitely, music to my ears.  I sometimes stop in my tracks, raise my hands in the air, and soak in a plethora of sensation.  I call it farm therapy and it helps me to keep my sanity in today’s demanding society.  Lately, with winter encroaching on our warmth laden afternoon days, I’ve found myself scurrying to complete unfinished jobs that must be addressed before snowfall.  Having handily prepared to complete these jobs, I’ve found a little down time to pursue a lifelong interest, learning how to play guitar.  My ambition is simple:  I want to learn how to play songs around the beach fire, learn some blues songs, and play some good ol’ gospel songs at church and with family.

In keeping with my philosophy on supporting local farmer’s and artisans, I jumped at an opportunity to take music lessons from a local music school in Dalhousie, N.B., named Musicpro Restigouche music school.

Musicpro Restigouche

Musicpro Restigouche

I feel it is vitally important that the arts, along with athletics, receive support within our communities.   Musicpro Restigouche music school offers lessons in percussion, guitar, piano, and bass so I jumped at the chance to pluck some guitar strings.  I didn’t know what to expect, having taken guitar lessons in Maine over a decade ago, so I went to my first lesson with an open mind and the intention of learning what I could.  I came away from the lesson with a great amount of confidence and a determination to return the next week to further develop the calluses on my finger tips.  A big shout out to Paul Jensen for his differentiated approach to guitar lessons.

My family is a very musical family in terms of appreciation of the art form and our memory capacity for songs on the radio, which allows us to sing along to every lyric of every song on the radio.  Do some people get annoyed? Yes.  Do we keep on singing away? Yes.  (Insert laughter if you wish).  We appreciate the universality of music and it’s threads into every aspect of our lives.  Some farmers have even told me that playing certain genres of music in a cd player for their chickens helps to increase their laying rate.  I haven’t empirically verified this report but I can say that animals are very much in tune with rhythm and melody.  Often times, I’ve sat in the barn listening to the cows methodically chew their cud.  Each of them chewing in unison.  Then with an approaching ambulance or a whistling farmer, they stop, ears pointed towards the sound until they determine its relative importance.  Then, as though they hadn’t stopped, they resume their rhythmic mastication.  The same happens among the chickens when I share my “vocal” abilities with them.  They stop in their tracks, turn their heads to the sound of my voice and patiently wait for the noise to cease before they resume their collective clucking and cock-a-doodle-dooing.  It appears, in the name of common sense, that animals as well as human beings have an ear, or two, for music.

Last night, as I plucked clumsily at the strings of my wife’s guitar I found myself closing my eyes momentarily to try to make sense of the sound of the note, while other times I peered intensively at the neck of the guitar to find the exact location for my finger placement.  My farmer hands and the small neck of the guitar didn’t mesh together at first.  My instructor, Paul Jensen, remarked on the overwhelmingly physical nature of playing guitar.  Building muscle memory through practice helps us develop our musical playing abilities into extensions of ourselves where we simply touch our fingers to the strings and strum away without a thinking about the next note to make.  I’m a long way off from that level of mastery but I can say that by the end of a 1 hour lesson my confidence level had boosted.  My memory and musical ear allowed me to play the notes of the new scales in my head while I plucked away at the strings.  While I write this blog post, I am forever trying to connect this experience to that of farming but I think I should just let it stand alone.  Perhaps, when I’ve written a song about the farmers blues or the fight for sustainability I can meld them together via a celebration of local farming in the form of a concert with food and drink at the farm?  A couple of years ago, my brother suggested the idea.  No doubt, it is an endeavour requiring a lot of planning  but, I think it is a foreseeable opportunity to bring local music and food together.  More on that in the spring.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide our readers and farm supporters with the contact information for the Musicpro Restigouche music school.  They currently have openings for guitar, piano, bass, and percussion lessons.  Lessons are provided on the second floor of the NBIP building on william st.  You can contact Tim Harquail at 684-6472 or search their Facebook page on Facebook.  I attempted to hyperlink the website in this post but it wouldn’t work.  Thank you for your continued support of local entrepreneurs, farmers, and artisans.

In a side note, our eggs are now available at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  My pullets have come into their laying cycle and, despite the shortening daylight hours, they are laying very nicely.  I will have approximately 8 – 12 dozen each saturday for the time being until we get more chickens.  Enjoy!

MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced.

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Categories: farming, guitar lessons, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, music school, Musicpro Restigouche, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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