Stories From the Farm ....

September 15, 2022

A few random stories from the farm this month ...

AUGUST DELIVERY DAY: 3:25am the alarm goes off. Ugh. I regularly wake up at 4:30 to get some extra project time in but seeing the clock anytime before that is painful. The pain however, is easily offset by the beautiful drive west and seeing all of your smiling faces at our drop points. I always come back home after deliveries saying "man that was a great day!" and this time was no different until we rolled back into the farmyard at 11:30pm to find our neighbour’s bull had pushed right through the fence and was in one of our pastures fighting with our bulls.  Who doesn’t want to chase and sort brawling black bulls in utter darkness at midnight after you’ve put in a 19 hour day?!?!

WASP ATTACK!:  A couple of weeks ago in the cool of the evening Travis and I went out to fill the water cubes for the pigs.  (Each group of pigs has a 250 gallon water cube placed on a stand of pallets next to their pasture paddock so that we can ensure they have plentiful and clean water several times a day.) During the hot days of August keeping these cubes filled is a constant job.  After a long day of sweaty work, Travis and I were out enjoying the cool air and golden light of the summer evening as we finished filling the water cubes out of the pond. We were enjoying watching the calves go for their evening run & romp.  Right before sunset the coolest thing happens round here.  I’m not sure what causes it, if it’s the change in air temperature, the waning light of the day or just an innate desire to make the most of the moment, but the calves often come together as a group and zip back and forth across the fields kicking up their heels and running with complete joy and abandon. It's like they absolutely must use up every last ounce of their energy before the sun goes down and watching them never gets old! Also on this beautiful evening, the dragon flies were zipping across the still water of the pond while the sand pipers were hopping around its edges.  Yellow and gold butterflies congregated along the margins of the water in the soft, dark, mud that they love.  The sun was sinking low across the valley, lighting the sky with pink and orange flames of light and hordes of minuscule moths fluttered about in the air around us, their wings reflecting and amplifying the golden evening light, lending a magical feel to the whole twilight show.  Glorious!  Absolutely, stunningly, glorious! Travis and I lingered through our task just to enjoy an extra few minutes of this incredible life but eventually, as always, duty called and we reluctantly jumped on the tractor to head back up the hill and carefully place the water cube on the pallet tower next to the pig pen.  Just as we were finishing the task and the shadows faded into nightfall we had the great fortune to drive over an in-ground wasp nest.  Completely invisible under the long grass and fully obscured by the cover of dark we never had a clue they were there.   Have you ever fought off a horde of angry hornets protecting their territory?  Have you ever done it in the dark?  Let me tell you, it’s pretty darn hard to do when you can’t see the little mongrels coming.  We were chased the whole way down the hill back to the farmyard by the angry insects.  We can look back and laugh now that the incident is over - I’m sure we looked like absolute fools swatting at what from what at a distance must have looked like nothing but it was no laughing matter at the time.  It seems that wasps prefer fresh, young, meat as poor Travis got stung 5 times, while this tough, old, leather hided Mama got nary a one. Poor kiddo. 😬

PILE O PEAS:  One afternoon Travis and I spent an idyllic hour picking peas in the garden (Trav's getting a considerable amount of my full and undivided attention these days since he’s the only kid at home right now.  Lucky him right?!?! 😜)  He’s such a goof and most days he's really fun to work with.  We call our little work crew the ‘Dream Team’ and he always keeps me laughing. Anyway, later that evening, Rick and I shelled the peas together while we watched a movie.  The whole time we were shelling them, I was enjoying the fact that peas are designed with a built in zipper.  How genius is that?!?!  Twist off their top, unzip their little coats, coax the peas down the slide in a neat little row and plop, plop, plop, plop, into the bucket they go.  It doesn’t get more satisfying than that ... until at the end of all that work you're left with green nails, a ginormous pile of pea shells and only a wee tiny bit of actual peas to process and preserve.  What looked like an impressive amount to begin with turned out to be pitiful in the grand scheme of “what’s on the menu this winter”. If you’re looking for "what to grow to stave off starvation" this is definitely not the food to look to!

SOMETIMES THE WHEELS FALL OFF ... literally!: Rick was out doing some fencing on our rented pastures in preparation for moving some groups of cattle around. I called him that evening to see how things were going and he cheerfully told me "I should be home soon, I'm just about finish ... oh wait, hang on a second". In the background I heard metal grinding, a distinct clunking sound, and perhaps an expletive or two (I can't be sure, it was all rather muffled. 😉) He gets back on the phone. "Never mind, I'll be a while yet ... the tire just fell off of the quad." Good grief! Some days the wheels just fall off! Literally.

STORM SEASON:  Things were starting to get a little crunchy around here.  August almost always does.  In the heat and unrelenting sun of late summer things can dry out quickly.  We work hard to graze well and keep a thick layer of mulch on our pastures all summer to hold the water and keep things growing throughout the drier season.  Our winter feeding bill is directly linked to how much forage we can grow in our short season and how much grass we can stockpile for the shoulder seasons.  An overly hot and dry month of August can potentially cost us a great deal in forage production.  Not to mention, we live in the midst of a whole lot of timber and we are all familiar with what can happen to tinder dry forests.  Needless to say, we keep our eyes to the skies.  When the forecast was predicting thunder showers we held our breath in hopeful anticipation of a good soaking rain and also in concern for potential forest fires. Late that night as I was cleaning up the farmhouse kitchen, putting away the dishes and sweeping the floor, Rick came to the back door and said “you gotta come outside and see this!’  I stepped out onto our back deck and watched in fear and fascination as the sky lit up in flash after flash of sheet lightning.  Growing up on the prairies of southern Alberta seeing sheet lighting is a fairly common event.  Extremely hot days meeting fronts of cool air will cause impressive shows of lighting but I hadn’t witnessed a lightning event like this since we moved to BC many years ago.  It was nothing short of magnificent!  It started out on the distant horizon. Sizzling blue flashes lit up the whole length of the sky. When I was little I would hold my breath and count the seconds until I heard the deep rumble of thunder that always follows a flash of lighting.  If its a long time, then the storm is a long ways away, if it’s only a short second or two then the storm is really close.  We watched for half an hour as the system crept steadily towards us.  Before long the wind picked up and started whipping through the treetops along our perimeter fence.  The crashing thunder now followed directly after the flashing lighting and it was time to get inside!  For the next hour Rick and I laid in bed watching the magnificent show out of our bedroom window and listening to the riotous sheets of rain hit the roof. It was both unnerving and impressive. In the morning we found one of our apple trees broken right off, several large old trees down on our fence lines, and all of our pastures saturated a much needed soaker.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LIFE:  So there's no doubt that we have a pretty great life here on the farm and Rick and I love what we do, but as with anything there are always some 'er shall we say 'challenges' involved. We work at what we're passionate about, and it's wholesome, purposeful, edifying work but it's most definitely still work. 

Living so close to the elements of nature is both beautiful and punishing.  It has a way of putting you in your place and showing you how small you are in the grand scheme of things. It builds us up with hope and joy in the pure beauty of what life can be and mercilessly brings us to our knees at times. 

I imagine you can relate. We’re certainly not the only ones with challenges. Everyone’s got their own thorns and thistles to deal with in their work and personal lives. So we just wanted to tell you that we appreciate you. THANK YOU for doing what you do!  Thank you for working hard to excel in your area of expertise.  Thank you for your serving in all the ways you do!

We think you're pretty great and we are incredibly thankful that you choose to support us in what we do! Thank you for letting us be your farmers! 🥰

Joy Stephens

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