future generations

The Bridge and the Brook

Bridge over trickling waters

Bridge over trickling waters

There is a brook on our farm that collects mountain runoff and empties into the undulating Bay of Chaleur.  The brook serves as a water source for our family and is a favorite place no matter the area on the farm that we find it.  It meanders within a pebblethrow of the cattle pasture through the mixed forest often exposing the root systems of the moisture loving cedar trees that accompany the brook along it’s journey through the farm acreage.  It brings the love of nature and the awe of God’s creation into immediate thought as it is difficult to avoid the beauty in sound, sight, and smell that surrounds you while you walk along this watercourse.  This experience has led me to follow a lifelong dream to make a trail system on the farm that can be used by visitors and family alike to reconnect to everything nature and farm life has to offer.  Family walks were a mainstay for our family growing up and my wife and I continue to do this with our children.

Today’s world is nothing but distractions.  Technology especially.  I say this as I write a blog on a laptop, however, that comes after many years and hours spent enjoying the great outdoors.  Reconnecting with our natural surroundings has been on my mind a lot lately.  At Christmas we purchased tablets for our two kids (to be shared with their parents), which have proven a great deal of fun but have also pulled our kids away from spending more time at the farm.  In an effort to have our kids share in the experiences we had during our childhood I set out to create an area along our hiking trail where our kids could go and play while I worked at the farm or when I had a spare moment to play with them.

A bridge over the brook was first on the agenda.  In the fall of 2015 I promised my neice, Brooke, that we would build a bridge over the brook where we could create a picnic or lounging area in the woods as a safe place for the MacCurdy grandkids to play.  We set two 20′ long logs we had recovered on the beach in front of our property across the banks of the brook in the Autumn of 2015, cut the railings and posts and then waited through winter and early Spring to recommence the project.

This Spring came the assembly.  Over the course of a few days in mid-may we fastened the pieces together.  First we leveled the bridge over the uneven terrain by shimming with 2″ x 6″s. Then I fastened the pieces together in the following steps:

  1. With 4″ spiral nails fasten the 30″ rough sawn 2″ x 6″ with a 2″ spacer between each across the expanse of the bridge.
  2. At the beginning, middle, and end fasten 54″ rough sawn 2″ x 6″ lumber to hold the posts and knee braces.
  3. Using 2 lag screws, fasten the posts at the beginning, middle, and end 2″ x 6″s underneath.
  4. Cut knee braces out of small 4″ cedar posts and fasten to post and 2 x 6″ with 4″ spirals.
  5. Using the chainsaw, saw a v-groove at the top of each post to partially recess the railings.  The middle post will need a larger v-groove (approx. 4″) to fit two posts.
  6. Nail the railings using 4″ galvanized spirals.
  7. Lay down on the bridge and soak in the sights and sounds while the sun shines.
Bridging the generations

Bridging the generations

Along the brook we find items of curiosity like purple trilliums, fiddleheads, small tree seedlings and juvenile yellow spotted salamanders.  Each species has it’s own lessons to teach us as we explore them in their natural habitat.  Some can be eaten, some can be looked at for their color, some can be measure year to year, and some can be observed as they move around their natural habitat.  Adding a bridge to the brook allows our kids to safely cross the brook and explore everything our mixed forest has to offer. It keeps learning in the hands of learner.

Yesterday as I pondered ideas for writing this blog, I decided to take a walk to the brook and have a nap on the bridge.  A little shut eye from time to time is good for the heart and soul.  Listening to the sounds of nature not only put me at ease and took my cares away but it made me realize the wealth of knowledge and discovery that exists at the tip of our senses in our natural surroundings.  Nature’s classroom is a powerful educational tool.  It might even help us cross some bridges.

Categories: Bay of Chaleur, bridge building, family farming, future generations, MacCurdy Farm, trail systems | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Food Awareness in Our Children

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my son’s birthday party at the farm.  For the first time in our long and drawn out Winter we had a day with sunshine and warmth, just below 0 degrees Celsius.  A day to get outside and play.  In today’s society it seems as though our children are always tuned into technology and less with the open spaces of our own backyards…and barnyards.  My wife and I decided to have our son’s party unplugged at the farm.  No smart phones, personal gaming devices, or any other form of technology, just sleds, snow wear, our means of locomotion, and an adventurous spirit.

Hay Parkour!

Hay Parkour!

I thought we’d start the party off with a brief tour of our livestock barns and introduce the kids to our animal companions on the farm.  I knew I had a limited amount of time before the freedom of the farm drew them in different directions so I took them into the world of our heritage breed chickens.   Being an educator I thought I’d pile them into the coop that contains our Plymouth Barred Rock chickens and then fire a bunch of questions at them on chickens.  Although my son is fairly well-versed in poultry talk, I was unsure of what to expect from his friends.  I started with a basic reproductive anatomy question, who lays the eggs, hens or roosters?  It might sound like a simple question, but I can honestly tell you that I’ve had some people ask me if roosters lay eggs or if roosters are required for hens to lay eggs.  Adults say the darndest! My son and his friends unanimously exclaimed, “the hens!”  I continued on with a few more questions, awaiting the hand-raising reflex and the accompanying stares, and to my surprise they collectively knew the answer to nearly every question I posed to them.  (Farmer pauses to smile).  With the exception of knowing where they roosted during the night, my son and his friends were able to confidently give rational explanations and answers about where eggs come from, which birds were roosters/hens, where they laid their eggs, and where baby chickens are made.

After the chicken barn, we made our way into the beef/hay barn.  First, we talked about how to behave around cattle so that they didn’t scare them or put themselves in harms way.  They filed into the barn, one behind another, in to the rich organic smells of hay, dung, wood, and straw. I decided to change my interactive questions to something mathematical.  I asked, “Who can estimate or guess how many cattle are in the barn?”  Some minds started to count, others grouped, and some just scanned.  In the end, after a very close guess, they got hotter until they nailed it, 27!  Number sense is alive and well in this group of grade 1 friends.  After a little chat about calving season being just around the corner and what cows eat, the kids made their way back to the hay pile.  I found myself musing over the agricultural awareness that my son, daughter, and friends demonstrated.  What a wonderful blessing to grow up in a rural area, connected to our food through ways of life like hunting, fishing, gardening, and farming.  I would even argue that children today have a high measure of food awareness unlike what has been purported by Jamie Oliver in his food revolution in America.  In our region, with respect to the aspect of where food comes from, I am compelled to believe that they have a high food awareness in that aspect.  Understanding what not to put in their bodies, is another story.

Today’s society has been socially conditioned to accept the convenience of grocery stores and supermarkets, but this has broken the link between families and the true sources of food, farms.  I jumped at the opportunity to share our family passion for farming when my son’s friends arrived for his birthday party.  I didn’t take a didactic approach to highlight what they should know but rather we took time to celebrate what they did know and thereby make the farm a more inviting place to families who want to have a relationship with their family farmer.  It’s time to place farmer in the same relationship status as knowing your family doctor, dentist, and pharmacist.  Raising children who care for the lives of animals and the health of garden vegetables is the first step in changing the mentality about current food system and it’s degradation away from the once numerous small family farm into corporate monoculture.  Biodiversity opens the mind to endless possibilities for our future generations on small family farms.

Martin Luther King in his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement suggested consumer boycotts to force change through non-violence.  I think this idea can be embraced to a degree to perpetuate ways to support the struggles and labors of farmers in your local communities.  Buying a months supply of meat from a nearby farmer, for example, diverts the flow of money directly into the producers hands, allowing them to pay bills and to continue to grow and raise food with a high level of transparency and in a manner where a sense of community is promoted around something as simple and necessary as food.  Farm visits allow families to learn about the impacts of their decisions when buying locally.  Who better to learn from about how food is raised than the farmer down the road.  Grocery stores may have an assortment of conveniences and goods but nothing beats pulling a carrot from the ground or collecting eggs from nesting boxes.  It’s this type of work that teaches an appreciation for the small family farm at an early age.  I started spending time with my dad in the hayfield around the age of 3.  True story.

Farming, it's in our genes.

Farming, it’s in our genes.

In the days that followed my sons birthday party, I watched with a great deal of agape love as I considered the well-being of my two children.  In front of me, they jumped from hay bale to hay bale, imploring me to catch them or chase them or watch them.  My whole body smiled.  They were playing exactly as I had when I was their age.  I stand resolute in my convictions about doing the work I do on the family farm to make it something better for my children as they grow into adults.  Both of them have a fondness for animals that is apparent in the kindness they show to others including their animal companions.  My son is always trying feats of strength and my daughter has a magical way of showing love to the animals.  This is not something you can teach, but it is something that you can foster.  I know they’ll both be with me in the greenhouse in the next couple months as we prepare our transplants and i’m sure they’ll have something to teach me about agricultural awareness as time goes on.  Perhaps, some day they’ll even have a chance to become involved in our birch syrup production on our farm woodlot.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Should any of you wish to have a tour of the farm with your children,  you can contact us at the numbers provided on the website, 506-684-2297 or 506-685-7741.  The best time of year is from the part of Spring when the ground has mostly dried and all of our seasonal operations are underway until our last harvest in fall when we have our pumpkin pick.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Food Awareness, future generations, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Address to the Future Generation of Farmers

This autumn’s hiatus from our farm blog was not without thought from the wheels of pensivity.  I had much time to muse over material for our next blog.  Many ideas crossed my mind, especially with the arrival of our new greenhouse kit from multishelter solutions but sadly, with an early start to winter I was left with little to write about concerning the greenhouse installation and operation.  But, we have assembled and installed the sliding door entrance this new year so only the plastic remains to be installed.  Raincheck until the Spring rains arrive.  In other words, we’ll hit the ground planting in the Spring with our greenhouse setup.

Greenhouse door

Greenhouse door

Over Christmas vacation, I had the great fortune of spending time with my family and loved ones around many lovely meals, and one that included a MacCurdy Farm turkey (Insert plug for farm here).  During a moment of midday revery I thought about the things I would most like to say to my own children, nieces, nephews, and the next generation, if they decided to some day take up the pitchfork or broadfork and pursue a love of farming.  This is exactly a topic I can pour my heart out about, with no apprehension, to create a fossil record of my insights into multiple aspects of farming.

The Farm Land

Get to know your land.  So much can be learned through the exploration of every nook and cranny in the farm landscape.  Every generation has draws and matters of interest that might pull you away from the farm from time to time, but make it a point of importance to explore anything that might pique your interest.  This is how oral histories are formed and connected.  For example, from our peramblings along the brook that runs through the acreage of the farm we found a multitude of farm artifacts such as horseshoes, cow skulls, pottery shards, and old cast iron cooking pots.  Each item would and will elicit responses of how things used to be done on the farm from the older generation.  I’ve always said that we have to respect the ways of our forefathers and seek to make our own stamp in our own agricultural pursuits.  By making connections with the generation that farmed before us, we find a commonality that elucidates a shared affinity and love for agriculture.  It helps to ease young farmers with  breaking new ground in implementing new aspects to a small diversified farm.

Animal Husbandry

Don’t worry, this term does not mean what you think it means.  Animal husbandry is defined as the practices of care and management of livestock.  As farmers who are parents, new-born animals are often the first introduction for a young child to one of the joys of farming, birth.  I remember the feeling of wonder when I first watched my father and grandfather assist a cow during parturition.  Today, every time I bring a calf to its mother, alongside my father, I ponder the journey the calf takes until it takes a breath and its eyes flutter.  A bond is not only formed between cow and calf but also between farmer and animal.  Oftentimes, I spend time observing animals and I’ve watched my father and grandfather do the same thing over the years.  There is something deeply tranquilizing about studying animal behavior up close.  I took an animal behavior course in university but nothing substitutes for a firsthand experience of behavior between animals in a social group, such as you find in our herd.

Our herd during a pre-storm hay feast

Our herd during a pre-storm hay feast

Read…Alot

Personally, my love affair with reading has come in cycles.  I would encourage you to read as much as you can, when you are inspired to read or your pursuit of knowledge draws you down a road of discovery.  As a youngster, I read books like, “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriott, which deepened my appreciation for rural life, agricultural, and animal medicine. I didn’t read the book on a whim, but rather, I accepted it as a gift from a gentleman who taught me music theory and composition while I was at private school in the USA.  His passion for rural agrarian community reaffirmed my love for farming and my appreciation of the hard work that my grandfather and father put into their operation.  I still think of him and his ability to sing gutturally (throat singing).  As you grow older you will grow to more fully appreciate the people who come and go in your life.  Always lend an attentive ear to those who chose to share their life experiences about farming and life in general to you.  When you’re not farming and not sleeping or eating, read.  Whether it’s a manual, a magazine, or a how-to book, read your heart out.  It will facilitate life on the farm.

Multi-Generational Considerations

At the present time, I’ve been drawn in by author/farmers like Joel Salatin, Elliott Coleman, and Jean-Martin Fortier, who embody my sentiments about small time food production and local food supply.  Joel Salatin touches on the issues of stacking additional portable enterprises on to pre-existing farm systems (e.g., pastured poultry on hay fields) to allow young and new farmers to get their hands dirty without falling victim to capital-intensive start-up costs like buying a tractor or building a state of the art beef barn.  However, these opportunities require trust and trust is built by developing responsibility, accountability, and consideration for others on a small family farm.  Beginning at a young age I started to work in the hayfield (about 10 or 11).  Some farmers joke and equate farmers children to slave labor (perhaps offside) because they get paid very little but I understand now that all of the time I spent working in the hay fields was an investment in earning trust and respect.  I do not believe I would be able to pursue my agricultural interests on the farm today if it was not for that investment of time, sweat, blood, and tears over the years.  Some of us would balk at the idea of lending a vehicle to a friend if we didn’t trust that they would return it in the same condition.  The same principle applies in the transfer of ownership and responsibility on a family farm.  Nothing is privileged, everything is earned.  I am thankful for this type of experience and I would hope that you would embrace it when the time comes for you to test your mettle in the reinventive field of agriculture.  Hardwork is a precursor to a successful business venture and the generation that made footsteps ahead of you will appreciate your devotion.

Oral Traditions

I have a fondness for storytelling because of my grandparents.  My grandfather liked to spin a yarn that made you question every word out of his mouth but in it he had a remarkable ability to bring a smilish grin to your face.  On the other hand, my grandmother always had farm stories to tell.  My siblings and I would gather around the table for cookies with milk in our favorite cat mug, while Grammy proceeded to tell us about how she rode the draught horse bareback to get Grampy in the woods or how her mother-in-law had a hen that would follow her in the house and peck at the specks on the linoleum floor.  When she’d finish sharing stories about the animals, she’d tell us about how the landscape of the farm used to be with its orchard, milk house, and in ground cold storage on different parts of the farm.  Afterwards, we’d spill out of her kitchen and into an area on the farmland that we were drawn to and, unknowingly, we formed our own stories to share with future generations.  To this day, I still listen to Grammy’s stories about the farm, even though I have heard them multiple times, because they bring a great deal of mutual joy to the both of us.  I get a break from physical exertion to recharge the bio-battery and she has someone to sit and converse with about how times used to be.  Always ask questions, it deepens your understanding and it assures a person that you are interested in what they are saying.  In my grandmother’s case, it allows me to tap into her wealth of knowledge about the farm’s history that I can in turn share with you.  I would strongly encourage you to pursue your own adventures on the farmland. We roamed at will as youngsters through the acreage and are no worse for wear.

Farm Safety

I do not believe there is a topic of greater importance than farm safety.  My father always insisted that I read the manual before I used a piece of machinery.  To a great degree I always read the operational and safety portions of manuals when I purchase something for the farm.  However, even more can be learned from listening to those who have worked on the farm before you.  It may get under your skin and, if you are like me, test your pride and patience but in the long run you will be better equipped to work safely on the farm.  Where there are tractors and PTOs (power take-offs) used to run implements there will be injuries.  Unfortunately, livestock operations have a higher incidence of injury than other farm types (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ca-ra2006/articles/snapshot-portrait-eng.htm) so one needs to be even more vigilant.  I’m telling you this, not to scare you, but inform you that farming requires safety training and farm first aid, when available.  One rule that I live by is to never work when I am fatigued to the point that I lose motor control.   When this occurs, accidents happen.  As gung-ho as we may be, take frequent breaks or vary the pace at which you do your chores and responsibilities.  The human body is finite and therefore has limits.  If you are a farmer, strength will find you but use restraint and lift wisely.

PTO safety is a must

PTO safety is a must

Stick by your principles

We are what some might consider organic but not certified and in other cases transitional in terms of our status as a small diversified farm.  This change happened from the principles related to farming practices that both Justin and Jonathan have carried onto the farm in their agricultural enterprises.  We determined, as have many others across the country and world, that the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, destroying soils through deep tillage, and crowded animal housing practices had to be evacuated to build a more sustainably and responsibly managed farm system.  So, we developed a pastured poultry (chicken and turkey) operation and a restricted range egg laying operation.  Meanwhile, we’re steadily transitioning to a higher percentage of grass-fed beef with only oats and barley fed to combat the cold during the winter months.  Pesticides and fertilizers will not touch our soils by our means and as we continue to educate ourselves more changes will take place.  It takes some money to make these things happen, and money takes time.  For example, we are trying to source a chisel plow to get closer to no-tillage in our field practices.  With all this, we stand by our principles by continuing to show a great measure of respect to all aspects of our farming operation in terms of the soil, livestock, and interpersonal relations.

Bonnie, heifer with calf

Bonnie, heifer with calf

Educate Yourself

Approximately six years ago, I had the opportunity to follow in my father and brother’s footsteps and attend agricultural college at NSAC.  However, I felt pulled in the direction of education so I pursued an education degree in stead.  Fast forward 6 years later and I am about to embark on another educational experience.  I’ll be travelling to Maine six times beginning in May 2015 until October 2015 to become certified in permaculture design.  I’ve decided to do this for several reasons, the first being that apart from a life of learning from others on produce and beef farms, I have no formal education in agricultural practices.   Some of you may laugh and say, it’s just a piece of paper but I feel it is necessary to receive this training before the farm comes under direct management alongside my brother.  My father’s generation and those before him have a profound respect for education and I know it will please my father to know that I studied alongside like-minded people to take the farm into new management and help it thrive.  Secondly, community drives farming.  Given our increased connectivity with social media today this course will allow me to network with other farmers in this part of our world.  Thirdly, it highlights my devotion to pursuing farming and keeping the farm alive for another generation.  Most importantly, it teaches my children that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish great things.

Finally, I’d like to close this address to you, future farmers, by saying that this is a living document of suggestions, which you may or may not uphold, and which form the crux of life on family farm.  More importantly, you must come to your own conclusions on agriculture and life on the small family farm that will allow it to not only survive, but thrive.  Add to the list, if you wish.  In closing here is a quote from Alice Waters that really hits home:

“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”

Categories: farming, future generations | Tags: , | 1 Comment

What did the hen say when it layed a square egg?

My grandmother likes to throw little tidbits at me every now and again, often in the form of jokes or old sayings from the Miramichi where she grew up.  I’m not sure why she does it, but her wit brings a great deal of emotive response from me.  Perhaps, this is one of the many ways she exudes her kindness and caring attitude.  I am amazed by her resiliency and her strength of mind.  Her mental faculties, especially memory, are phenomenal.  I’ve told her that I hope I have the same wits about me when I am her age.

Some people tell jokes to bring the limelight onto themselves while others use humor selflessly to brighten a person’s day.  My grandmother knows the power of laughter, in any moment, to generate happiness in those fractions of our day when fatigue, apathy, or stress weigh us down.  Recently, as I prepared my eggs for the cartons, she called out to me from her rocking chair, “Justin! What did the chicken say when it layed a square egg?”  I paused, caught off-guard by the joke, and tried to solve the humorous riddle.  I came up empty.  “Ouch!”, she laughed.   She did this all in stride while she sat, pulling on her winter boots in preparation for a walk to feed the cats in the barn.  She doesn’t skip a beat.  That joke completely turned my day around and although our communication was fairly brief, it gave me a brief hiatus from the mental stresses of getting things done in a short period of time.  I have a window of opportunity, from 4 pm to 8 pm everyday after school, to build infrastructure, give our animals proper care, and manage ongoing projects at the farm.  To facilitate growth and progress, I break ongoing projects up into steps each day so that it always feels as though I am moving in the right direction.  If I try to do too much too quick, it can quickly feel insurmountable.  I have wants and needs, but my focus must remain with my needs so that I can achieve my wants, one step at a time.

Laughter is a good indication, in my opinion, of lower levels of stress.  If I’m not laughing, I’m too serious, and if I’m too serious, I’m not enjoying what I’m doing.  If this happens, and it does, I try to slow everything down.  Time doesn’t slow, so we must make the most of every minute we have to live on this earth.  I slow my rate of work, pause my plans, slow the heart rate and relax.  Humor, in times like these, can counteract life’s stressors and help me to recoup.  It’s not always self-centered.  I find just as much joy making someone else laugh or watching them laugh.  It’s contagious and a staple of family life, I believe, in our region.

This past weekend, my father and daughter, spent time copying each other’s laughs.  We’ve dubbed dad’s laugh as, “the dying horse” laugh as it is a long, windy, drawn out laugh with a bit of wheezing.  It was deeply amusing to watch my daughter squint her eyes, throw her head back, and imitate the laugh.  The power of positivity.  Imagine if each of our actions were governed by the desire to have them emulated by others to bring about laughter, smiles, happiness, and love.  I aspire to do this with the people around me and I am constantly reminded of this when I look at my beautiful and intelligent children.

Recently, I read a poem/speech delivered by Paul Harvey in 1978 in a speech to the Future Farmers of America Convention.  One stanza reads:

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.

This poem, with its strong Christian imagery, embodies the importance of laughter in the family unit.  For members of a small family farm, working day and night to bring something positive to the Restigouche region, the mental image of the hay bale as the metaphorical family resonates with our souls.  Farming is all about bonds.  We see them in stewardship of the land, in loving and laughing embraces, in farmer and implement, with the proximity to livestock, and between generations.  Whenever I hold my son or daughter’s hands while we walk around the farm, I am reminded of the blessing they are to me and I am motivated to create a better future for them with opportunities on the family farm.

Finally, for all you coffee/tea drinkers here’s a little cow joke for you.  What do you call a cow that has just had a calf? You can answer in the comment box below.

 

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

Multi-purpose MacCurdy Farm Brooder

Incubation, hatching, and brooding season is upon us.  Every Spring poultry enthusiasts, hobbyists, and farmers start to set eggs to grow their flocks.  Provincial regulations, say what you will about the quota system, currently allow farmers without quota to have 199 laying hen and 199 meat birds on farm without a quota.  I’ll blog about the quota system a couple of months down the road but for now I’d like to focus on the infrastructural changes currently happening at the farm.  As we seek to grow our farm flock, we must continually build buildings (small-scale) that are multi-purpose to enable us to properly house birds at the different stages of development. for different purposes such as breeding, and to house them if they become ill, injured, or require confinement.  Brooders, such as the one below, allow us to do all of the above.

New multi-purpose home for MacCurdy Farm chickens.

New multi-purpose home for MacCurdy Farm chickens.

MacCurdy Farm Brooder:

You will need 6 sheets of 1/2″ x 4′ x 8′ plywood.

I ripped rough sawn 2 x 6 lumber into 2 x 3 lumber for all studs, bottom plates, top plates, rafters, angle braces, etc.

2 1/2″ screws, 3″ spiral nails.

Staples, and either chicken wire or hardware cloth for the end walls.

Front and Back Wall

Bottom plate: 8′ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

Top plate: 8′ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

Studs: 15″ x 2″ x 3″ (8).  I placed them at 32″ on centre.

Plywood sheet: 19″ x 8′ (2)

Side Wall

Bottom plate: 7’5″ x 2 x 3″ (2)

Top plate: 7’5″ x 2 x 3″ (2)

Studs: 15″ x 2″ x 3″ (8).

Plywood sheet: 19″ x 8′ (2)

Roof

Rafters: 8′ x 2″ x 3″ (3)

Plywood sheet: 8′ x 23″

End Wall pieces:

27″ x 2″ x 3″ (4)

25″ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

21″ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

17″ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

Hinged Roof

47″ x 2″ x 3″ pieces (2).  I used a framing square to cut the proper angle on both ends.

4′ x 8′ x 1/2″ (2)

3″ hinges (4)

Roost

8′ x 2″ x 3″ (1)

End wall side view

End wall side view

The brooder will need to be equipped with different feeders, waterers, and bedding depending on what you plan on housing in them.  At the moment, I am housing my breeding Roosters so I have straw and cedar sawdust as bedding.  I’ll continue to fork it around and add sawdust, wood ashes, straw, and water as necessary as I build up the compost inside of it.  I’m building an identical brooder to house my meatking chicks and turkey poults.  We’ll be purchasing them at the age of 3 weeks when their feather development is nearing completion.  The turkeys will be mixed in with them at the age of 5 weeks.  Chicks will require a different bedding (pine shavings) and chick sized feeders and waterers.

We’re making good time in our preparations for our second year of pastured poultry production.  The chicks and poults have a planned arrival for May 10 and May 31, 2014 on the farm.  It’ll be our first year trying turkeys, but we believe the demand from our farm supporters necessitates growing turkeys and we hope to have our turkeys on your dinner table for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We have some renovations to do on our pastured poultry pens and one more to complete to accommodate our chicks and poults this Spring.  After our meat birds make it to pasture, we’ll begin to break land for our foray into small fruit (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and my favorite, raspberries) production in the community of Point La Nim through a partnership with Natures Estate Farm.  We have an exciting summer ahead.  Look for future installments on our small fruit production and pumpkin patch plans to meet one of our farm goals of making it more family friendly.

MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced

 

 

Categories: brooder, farming, future generations, hatching chicks, MacCurdy Farm, multi-purpose housing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Animal Therapy

Today, I’ve decided to take a different approach to blogging. I normally write my title first, after I’ve spent a significant amount of time ruminating over events in the weeks leading up to the deadline (self-imposed ofcourse). I like to have a loosely defined road to travel with the points of my narrative so that I can get a feel for fluency and voice in my writing. I don’t want my writing to sound staccato and disconnected. One way of overcoming this is to find the pieces of commonality (i.e., theme of your blog post) that exist between the points you want to cover in the blog. I do not write simply to write. I need to feel inspired, motivated, encouraged, or excited to put pen to paper or finger to key before I turn on the creative juices and delve into my opinion piece. So, I spend some time writing down key points I want to cover, researching applicable quotes, selecting suitable photo material, and usually finding a title that catches the eye and gives a preview of the content.

Everyday after teaching math (my other current passion) I drive 15 minutes from Campbellton to Point La Nim to feed, water, and give care to my laying hens and roosters. The avian class, in general, has always fascinated me and it still does, only on a more intimate level. Spending time with the chickens (and cattle for that matter) removes any lingering stresses from the school day. It is remarkably therapeutic. Many people ask how I go from an 8 hour work day to a 3 hour work evening at the farm? My response, “animal therapy.” I truly enjoy watching chickens be chickens. The Roosters posture, watch over the flock, and cock-a-doodle-doo.

Foghorn Legwho?

Foghorn Legwho?

The hens scratch for bits of hidden goodness in their deep litter, turn their eggs with their beaks, establish their pecking orders, and peer at you with a wary eye.
Casting a wary eye

Casting a wary eye


I always take my time around the chickens and cattle. I try not to rush through my chores. It’s my time to slowdown and unwind, if only for a minute. As those who farm know, there’s always something to do when it comes to farming but the only time stress arises, in my humble opinion, is in interactions with other humans, not animals. Animals do not talk back. If they could, I’d want mine to say, “Farmer Mac, you’ve done well, real swell lad.” That being said, there’s always room for improvement, which probably explains my continual renovations to housing, routine inspections of the animal’s health, and fine tuning routines around the animals.

Recently, I had a little sit down and chat with my beloved grandmother, Betty MacCurdy. She is a driven, animal loving, get up at dawn and work all day, lovable, beautiful person. She has, and continues to be our source of family history. I was drawn to farming because of my father’s work ethic and love for animals, my mother’s love of fruits and vegetables, and my grandmother’s ability to bring farm histories to life. As youngsters, we knew we were in for a treat when we heard our grandmother say, “I remember the time when…” I sat with my grandmother, listening to her stories about how the MacCurdys stored their eggs in the milk house on a large tray before the time of refridgeration, cooked chickens in brown paper bags to keep them moist, and how my grandfather had purchased a dozen meat chickens when he was near my age to raise for the family. I hadn’t heard the story before but my grandmother cracked a smile of reminiscence that I’m sure held a memory of my grandfather and his time on our farm when he was with us. Thank the Lord for the positive memories we carry with us through our lives. Taking the time to sit down with my grandmother and listen to the stories of our farm history makes me want to soldier on to write my own chapter of farm history with my family members.

With Spring only a couple months away, now is the time to act on our farm goals. That means purchasing an incubator to hatch our own eggs, building an eggmobile for our pastured hens, purchasing a solar energizer and poultry netting for protection against predation, and increasing our fleet size of triple-ps to 6. Every week i’m emailing and telephoning companies for prices and trying to find the best deal possible. At this point, we have a price on our solar electric fencing set up and a new Hovabator incubator. the ball is rolling and we can begin to chip away at necessary costs to improve our farm outputs. Our farm’s transition towards sustainability will take time and unfortunately a fair amount of money in the beginning while we add infrastructure and technology to the farm. However, it’s an exciting endeavour. We fund it as a sideline and grow it slowly taking care of it for future generations.

Brain Fodder

Brain Fodder


My brother and I are both looking forward to the Spring time. We’ll hatch our own heritage breed chicks, along with 20 Easter Egger chicks. Easter Eggers carry a gene that allows them to produce blue and green eggs. I’m excited to provide green and blue eggs as a novelty item at the Farmer’s market to get young children excited about eating healthy food. Green eggs and ham anyone?
Our little egg eater helping dad take care of the hens.

Our little egg eater helping dad take care of the hens.

Winter provides a time to enjoy the company of family. We can share stories, make plans, and look forward to the upcoming growing season. While the fields lay dormant our active imaginations and creative spirits come alive as we plan for further diversification on the farm. I’m praying for the continued opportunity to make history on our small family farm. Finally, our new business cards will be arriving in two weeks so you can pick one up at the Farmer’s market. Come see us at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market in Dalhousie.

Categories: farming, future generations, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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

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