A day in the life

Hope Ness is about half-way between the North Pole and the Equator. Lion’s Head, the nearest village, is actually right on the 45th Parallel, which makes it exactly half-way. But if you ask me, Hope Ness and the Bruce Peninsula generally have up-and-moved a lot closer to the Pole all of a sudden.

The temperature outside tonight is -14 Celsius, or 6.8 Fahrenheit, for my family and friends and millions of readers south of the border. That’s not so bad, I guess. This time last winter it was a lot colder than that, in -30 C territory. But we’re heading in that direction, with the forecast calling for overnight lows of -22 C.

At that rate, I don’t mind telling you, blowing snow with a tractor that doesn’t have a cab, is a chilling experience. But it has to be done. You – or me, I should say – can’t let that go too long when there’s “blowing snow” in the forecast for the next four or five days.

I cleared the driveway here, and then drove my 50-year-old Mr. Massey Too with the new snow-blower over to Wild Apple Farm about a kilometre away in the teeth of a north wind to clear the snow from around the mailbox over there. I opened up the driveway too just in case my friend decides to come up. On the way back I noticed my nearest, seasonal, neighbours had come up and their fairly long driveway needed some help, so I did them a favour. Patrick was outside with one of those walk-behind snow-blowers. But what would have taken him hours took me 15 minutes or so. He was appreciative.

All the while I was thinking about how on pay-it-forward day a few months ago Bruce at Renewed Computers in Owen Sound had surprised me with the gift of a complete renewal of this laptop, on the house, when all I had taken it in for was to get the data retrieved. I thought it was a goner; but here I am pounding away on it as usual.

Great idea, that pay-it-forward. It’s one of those things that more often than not spreads and multiplies itself from a factor of one, to many. Imagine, if we all did it, what a wonderful place this world would be. There are so many things people can do to help each other that don’t necessarily cost much, if anything, except a little time, energy, and thoughtfulness. And in the end it helps everyone, even those who aren’t directly involved. It’s a big part of what makes a village a community, including a “global village.”

Anyway, I got back to the farm, shut Mr. Massey Too down ‘til the next time, and was happy to be back indoors.

It’s time, by the way, to do some serious garden planning. Hope Ness soil is clay loam, not ideal for market garden vegetables. Adding organic material, including compost and/or well-composted manure in the spring is recommended to improve the tilth of the soil. I don’t have livestock here at the farm. I consider it now and then – maybe a couple of horses, maybe some chickens, and some goats to help keep the placed from getting too overgrown in the summer. But it’s a big financial responsibility caring for animals, and in fairness to them you need a sound grasp of animal husbandry to make sure they stay happy and healthy.  Besides, planting and tending a fairly large garden is enough of a job. And this year I want it to be as good as I can make it.

So, mindful of the soil issue, I’m not keen on getting composted manure from somewhere else; but I’ll have to come up with some way of adding a lot of organic matter to the soil, and soon enough that it won’t leave the soil depleted of nitrogen when the plants need it to grow. Out by the barn there’s a big pile of age-old straw I forked out last fall to clear a space. Hopefully it’s been composting fairly well since then, so I’ll probably look at using it.

I tip my toque to Cliff Butchart, the last of his family to work this farm for 60 years, and to the people who had it before them and worked so hard to make a living. It’s not hard to see it was always a challenge; they had to turn their wits and their hands to a lot of different things: maple syrup in the early spring, a few dairy cattle for cream, butter, and buttermilk for the family, beef cattle and hogs for market, and firewood, lots of firewood to survive the winter.

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