GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE, GOING GREEN!
Wouldn't that be cool. She and daddy and papa (hopefully still spry and mobile into his 100's) can all work on their tractors together. Simply out of our desire to be stewards to this earth, we practice being environmentally-friendly each and every day. As time moves on, we can employ more environmental strategies, though we need to have a balance between passion/work and down-time. To this point, we haven't succeeded in the later - none of us, Matt, Taylor or myself, seem to find it easy to just relax and put our feet up, when we know there are things we want to do (not things that necessarily need doing right now though!)
I am reluctant to call us organic, as with that come Government Regulations, paperwork (tonnes of paperwork), fees, and expectations. As our farm is the farm where Matt grew up, we know for sure that the land has not been sprayed with pesticides since around 1986.
When we bought the farm in summer 2005, we later applied for (successfully) organic status. We maintained our Certified Organic status for 2 years. We are a very small operation, with only 10 acres of workable land. We simply could not justify the cost (annual fees, price to purchase organic seeds, etc) to the return we would get on such a small parcel of land. Now we have the field planted in hay, and will keep this crop for 4 years to 5 years, replant something new for one year to replenish the nutrients on the soil, and plant back into our hay. We keep the hay for the sheep, goats, and bunnies.
We continue to practice spray-free farming. This is best for our animals, the earth, and the children who come over and run through the field!
Even before we became a little flock, a miniature breeder with BIG dreams, we put a lot of thought into the place we call home, and how we treat the land we own, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. In February 2010, I completed an Environmental Farm Plan with the Government of Ontario. This is a course designed to make farmers and producers aware of how they can improve their operations, all the while employing measures to be most earth-friendly in daily life on the farm. And while are only a farm of 25 acres, this is our farm, our pride, blood, sweat, and tears. Perhaps someday when Taylor grows up she will want to take over the farm from us, and this could become a third generation farmstead.
our little sheep houses
In the summer of 2010, an acquaintance of ours who helps run the Skills Canada Competition in Waterloo, Ontario, informed us that once the student competitors have finished their building project, or have run out of time, the projects would be available for a monetary donation. The building project for this year would be little playhouses, though framed following the same rules as framing a house. At this time, we knew we would be completing new fencing in the spring of 2011, and would be in need of some sort of shelter for the sheep, so jumped at this opportunity to reuse and re-purpose these little playhouses. They came in various stages of completion - I would imagine that once the first student has successfully completed the build project according to standard, the competition was over. We ended up purchasing 5 shelters - 1 for Taylor, and 4 for the sheep.
The playhouses came in various stages of construction. Two had sheeting on the roof, the rest didn't. Some had trim around the door and window openings, others didn't. Not to worry though, I hired my trusted carpenter husband who finished out the houses after which I stained and numbered them. For a while, people who drove by may have thought that we were starting our own Smurf village, though once they get out in the paddocks, it should all make sense.
By purchasing these little playhouse/shelters for our little animals, our little flock was able to contribute financially to a local organization that showcases student talent and achievement, while keeping lumber out of the landfills. Skills Ontario, Skills Canada has been around for years. My husband Matt competed in a few different competitions when he was in school. To find out more about this great local organization visit the Skills Canada - Ontario website.
Here is one of the shelters that is located behind the barn. It has since had shingles put on the roof. We have a "shade sail" mounted off the north-east side, so that when the sun is high in the sky, the shelter and the sail provide a nice patch of shade for the animals. Of course I have stained all the shelters in the matching stain colour as the paint in the barn. That would just be logical - right? What you don't see very well in this picture is that our 2 largest sheep, Sampson and Jamie, as well as our large puppy Bruce, are all smushed into the shelter together, snug as 3 enormously big bugs in one very small rug!
Natural Water Trough Cleaning
A water trough, although vital to our animals out in the paddock, is a standing pool of water, and exceptionally great breeding ground for mosquitoes, and living surrounded by a bush, we know mosquitoes! Not only did I not want our water troughs to be hatchery for any more of these pests, I did not want to make our sheep, goats, dog, (and eventually, once they grow bigger, pigs) sick or more vulnerable to West Nile Virus. In the spring of 2011, we will be expanding our fencing, and creating 3 more paddocks, and will be able to rotate our little flock through up to 5 different paddocks each year. This means a water trough in each one. In the warmer months of 2011, we employed goldfish to keep the troughs free from larvae, and as well, they work at eating the algae off the sides of the trough. As we can't over-winter these "working" fish in our big pond out in the yard (how would we ever catch them all in the spring...), they get to over-winter in the backyard pond at my mom and dad's place, a nicely sized backyard pond, where we can easily retrieve them in late spring. Of course, they have a "shelter" in the trough, as how frightening would that be, as a fish, to see a big sheep head coming straight for you! UPDATE: the goldfish pooped more than they ate and the labour of employing this fish was quite extensive - not to mention, the alpacas would stand in the trough and try to step on them! The goldfish moved to the big pond in our yard once the summer of 2011 was over.
Solar Energy Production
In the summer of 2010, we had a local company, Arcadian Projects Inc., come and install a 11.96kW Solar Array on the roof of our barn. Who would have thought that when we were building the tractor-shed addition onto the barn last year, that it would later house a spectacular array of solar panels? This south facing roof was ideal for the installation of these panels, and it looks brilliant! This is a Micro-Fit installation (under 10kW production), a program run by the Government. Now, while the program itself has some kinks (read some important kinks) to work out at this point, I still feel it is a great program, and certainly offsets, and then some, our carbon footprint here on the farm. We generate way more power than we use, and this is a great achievement for us. I honestly never considered that we would have the opportunity to achieve this level of environmental responsibility.
Composting and waste reduction
We recently invested in a second composter - well, actually, it is called a digester. The "Green Cone" Solar Digester eats just about anything. Years ago we started to make a menu before grocery shopping in town once a week. Just this simple action alone greatly reduced the amount of waste we produced each week. As our local municipality is not in the current decade for waste management and recycling plans, we have taken it upon ourselves to reduce in all areas of our lives. Unlike a composter that turns waste into compost soil, the Green Cone eats about anything - meat, bones, fats. We grew our own vegetable garden in 2010 as well, though anything that wasn't eaten by the humans was fed to the sheep. They benefited as much from the veggie garden as we did! We got our Green Cone from our local Township Office, though there are many websites online that sell the cones as well.