Monday, April 30, 2018

April- bunnies and building

Winter hung around a lot later this year than it did in 2017, so I'm glad that we had the rabbits to fill the garden gap. Not only are they super cute, but they make a decent lawn mower!

Most of the lot of rabbits had been previously bred and kept for meat, which was our eventual intended use for them given that my partner is a carnivore.  They were 'rescued' from less than favourable living conditions.. even if they were intended to be meat by the previous owner, they certainly deserve a comfortable and decent quality of life.

For the time being, we have a very useful role for them in our tiny farmstead.. they are providing our garden with lots of manure, ready to go! Rabbit poo is one of the few that doesn't have to be composted.

We do have a pet rabbit also, he was kept as a pet before he found us, and is tame. They're all cared for just the same... only our pet comes in the house with us when we're home. The rest live in the 'palace' with plenty of yard time in their 'tractor' pen. A few even like the harness to 'free roam' the yard!

We had finished enclosing our front porch when J found out about the rabbits. They needed a home asap, and although we weren't quite ready for them, our makeshift cages inside the enclosed deck were better than what they had, and a temporary solution until we could get their hutch built.

It was a decent temporary setup, however we had to maintain it for far longer than we intended. Though it was a lot of work cleaning their bedding every second day, it provided us with loads of rabbit fertilized hay to put on top of the sheet mulch in the squash and pumpkin patches.

Finally, the top floor of the rabbit palace is assembled and in use. It took some of the buns a while to get used to the wire, as the younger ones were kept on a bare dirt floor in their previous home, and then moved to our hay lined pens. They've since learned that their hutch is safe, and they are getting used to us handling them. They seem to understand that if we are reaching in, they're either getting fed, or being taken outside to play.

By the way, the rabbit tractor is the best thing ever! Who knew the buns were so pro at lawn care.. They trim the grass back to an inch and a half without eating it down to the dirt. They even fertilize as they go, and their next time around the yard the grass is greener and fuller than before! It's a win-win cycle. They're happy and well fed, and so is the grass!

Now that the rabbits are getting situated, we have time to move on to the next big project.. preparing for goats! More on that in my next post. Our seeds are sprouting and the garden is coming to life, spring is finally here.

Stay tuned for more microfarming fun.. we're just getting started and there's so much going on. Excitement!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018- Second Season in the Valley

2017 was a great year. We yielded roughly 2500 pounds of produce on an eleventh of an acre. Our total monetary input for 2017 was roughly $600 including rental of a rototiller, having a dump load of soil amendment [compost] delivered, stakes and twine, seeds, hoses and fittings- basically everything we needed starting from scratch. Having to work with extremely sandy and rocky soil, we felt we should bring in humus and compost to ensure a good start. Our total 'money value' of food produced would add up to $2500 if averaged at a dollar a pound. I'd say the investment was worth it.

Now that we have established beds, a seed collection from our last season and a compost heap, starting up the gardens this year will cost us considerably less. We've made a point of using mostly reclaimed, found and freecycled items for many of our projects and additions including the bricks for the outdoor firepit, a double door fridge repurposed into a smoker, and various other found materials for our shipping container shop. We carried over the theme from last year into this year's score on a wood-burning stove, free reclaimed windows and doors and leftover building materials to build our enclosed sunroom porch, and to build enclosures for our newest addition to the microfarm.. livestock!

But let's start with the sunroom porch. Our intention was to have a space where we could build shelves to house our seedlings in the spring, our gardening and fishing gear in the summer, our wet gear in the fall and our firewood in the winter. It was to be a properly roofed, fully enclosed space to keep the porch area protected from the elements, and provide us with a transition area mud room so that we aren't constantly bringing so much of the outdoors in with us into our tiny living space.

We started by framing it in with jobsite scraps. 2x4's and plywood and press board patches enclosed the space, and we had acquired some leftover roofing materials from one of our jobsites for free. The glass sliding door was a score, which we made into the west facing wall. It fit perfectly to take up that entire side of the porch. It came with two other large reclaimed windows that fit perfectly into our existing layout, and found a door we cut down to fit on the side of the road. I't now shingled and wrapped in Tyvek and awaiting our siding find. We're hoping to find some cedar to make it look like a little cabin, but we'll see.

Being that it's spring, and a very cold one compared to last year, we were building this addition with lots of light with the idea in mind that we would be using it to house our seedlings until we were ready to plant. Of course all didn't go as planned, with the sudden adoption of eleven rabbits! The seedlings grew heavy in their trays, it's still too cold for them to be outside, and because we had all of our seedling eggs in the sunroom basket, we didn't have another greenhouse structure prepared.

The rabbits moved into the sunroom space instead of the plants. Though we did our best to maintain them, move them outside in the day and back into the kitchen at night, they eventually succumbed to the inconsistent conditions. We had direct sown everything we planted last year, and wanted to get a jump on the growing season this year, but it didn't quite time out the way we'd hoped. The rabbits became priority, and we learned our lesson that we are far better at growing directly in the beds, and it's far more efficient for us given the minimal space we have. We'll experiment again next spring.

So, rabbits... To be honest, we weren't really ever expecting to have animals on this land. The land owner seemed really adamant about enforcing the "no animals" rule he had written into the lease, so we never bothered to dispute it. Until one day we asked why. As it turned out, he wasn't worried about the kinds of animals we were looking to keep because they would not damage the house. And voila! We are now allowed to have animals. We were planning and designing and enclosure for the goats first, but the rabbits came up as an 'emergency adoption' opportunity.

How could I say no?! Look at those faces... and we had the perfect temporary housing opportunity in our freshly enclosed porch- that had been just finished [enough] only a few days before. I was hesitant to take them right away given our level of preparedness, but I felt pretty keen on taking advantage of the opportunity. I'm glad that we got them first as it completely changed our layout plans for the side yard and animal enclosures. We ended up putting the rabbit hutch where we originally intended to put the goat barn, and it turns out it's the perfect spot. The rabbits will need that extra bit of protection from the wind in the winter, and the goat barn will be next to that in the same fenced off area.

Speaking of fences..We've been looking for affordable fencing solutions for a while.. since we found out we'd be getting the goats. We've had some pretty incredible Craigslist finds in a pretty short amount of time, so we kept hitting the list in search. J found an ad for a roll of farm fencing for 40 bucks, and I made the call. The fella actually had several rolls of fencing [that once held goats], and he just wanted it gone. We ended up with the van stuffed full of- and stacked on top with rolls and rolls of wire fence. 40 bucks for the lot!

Needless to say, the first quarter of 2018 has been rather eventful.. and productive! We hope to finish the bunny hotel really soon so that we can work on the goat enclosure. We're hopeful about a potential adoption opportunity that has very recently come up, a pair that would be perfect here on our tiny farmstead. Stay tuned! There's always something new happening out here in the valley.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

2017 In the Valley- Harvest Party Fundraiser!

Hello and welcome! Sandy Shores Farm is a memorial microfarm uprooted from it's original home in Southern Ontario, and [finally!] replanted in the Upper Fraser Valley, BC. It's been a full and busy season here, from breaking ground in February to collecting and sharing bountiful harvests, to building our greenhouse for fall.

Being new to this tiny town and giving our plot such a facelift drew a lot of attention. Our little plot feeds those in our community who do not otherwise have access to fresh grown produce. Through barter, trades and sharing, our garden has had a widespread impact in our town, and no money is ever exchanged. Neighbours come to talk and share gardening tips, youngsters that visit find a newfound appreciation for vegetables [and gardening!], and the spirit of community is enlivened. We've inspired others build gardens like our own.

As our first growing season here is coming to a close, we're already thinking of spring. Because our plot is on mostly sand, we had to invest a decent sum into amending the soil. Unfortunately, we didn't quite have the funds required to enrich it to a preferable state in our first year. We had a decent yield despite the deficiencies, but further improving on our soil quality is priority number one. The more we can grow, the more we can share.

Beyond the dirt, we are designing a more efficient layout to improve yield and make all areas of the plot easier to access. We would like to include a covered sitting area nearby the cook pit, and build a couple benches and potting tables. Enthusiastic youth in our community have taken an interest in hands-on learning on the 'farm', and these additions will make it a more inviting and accommodating learning space.

To make all these things happen, we need a little help. We're not really the type to just 'ask for money' [we don't even accept money for our produce!] so we've been brainstorming ways we could generate a little extra cash. I finally decided to jump onto the Scentsy bandwagon, knowing that friends and family near and far can contribute to our project while getting something in return.

Why Scentsy?

Well, it is a memorial farm... in memory of my mom. In the last years before she passed, we discovered Scentsy together. We bonded over indulging in our favourite scents, listening to music and swapping travel stories. Having a warmer with a wide variety of scents stirring nostalgia and happy memories brought her comfort then, as it does for me now. It's a beautiful thing.

Now that I've finally found a home for myself and the memorial farm, I'm celebrating by getting my Scentsy back... and also joining the team! In doing so, our friends and family can support us while treating themselves. Every super easy holiday gift, stocking stuffer, or scent you purchase for yourself provides our farm a little dough while making your world smell amazing!

So that's it, that's the news! My online Scentsy 'launch party' is this long harvest weekend [Thursday to Sunday]. Every dollar earned from this party, or any other order through my page will be spent on improving our community enhancing, abundantly producing vegetable microfarm. If you dig the idea of kicking us a little coin while indulging in these awesome [and addictive!] products, this party is for you! Help us grow, and smell pretty too!

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more awesomeness!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Celebration of Roses

mom loved roses. wild roses, yellow roses, all kinds of roses. we were lucky enough to inherit a large wild rose bush with this garden space, and we added a mini rose bush in our first year here. the roses are large and lovely right now, you can smell their sweet perfume on the breeze all the way down the street. they are amazing.

 the bush along the house also extends right down the fence, and part way around the back yard. the wall of roses helps us out with some afternoon shade on the back patio, and for the month of June, smells so good. i was sure to take a couple and press them in a book. happy rose season!