Today it’s nearly the beginning of July. The summer solstice has passed and it’s shorter days from here on forth for another half year. On the farm here, we have a litter of piglets nearly ready for weaning, our first calf of the year was born a few days ago, Rosie our Great Pyrenees dog is about to give birth, lambs are almost all at the target weight of 90 lbs, and the grass is ready to cut if only we had a few days in a row of sunny, dry, and windy weather for the hay!
I’m definitely starting to feel more like a farmer. I think we all are here. We have chores that definitely involve animals. We have learned a great deal about fencing and the importance of it to keep the animals where you want them to be and safe. I watch the weather religiously and keep an eye on animals for any symptoms of something wrong. I also sweat through my shirt on the regular and enjoy a cold beer on the patio at the end of a day.
It’s been quite a test of my devotion to photographs these last few years as I learn to re-integrate the camera into my arsenal. Most days I’m covered in something that I don’t want to get on the camera. This means carrying a camera has been a challenge for me. It’s also a challenge carrying all the things I like to keep on me, my every day carry stuff. As of right now, I have started to put everything into a ruksack that I take with me everywhere. Inside there is my Lowepro camera bag keeping my camera behind a second wall of defense. It seems to be working, but also quite heavy! But I use it like one would a jacket: I take it to where I’m working and hang it on some hook I can find and then go about my work.
Perhaps these photos will show some of what we’ve been up to where my words cannot elaborate.
It’s hard to place my mind to when we first started on the farm here, to understand the state we were in at that time. We had no animals, but were very keen on getting some, and having the patience was hard. We wanted apple trees to be 10ft high, and it was, and still is, impossible to watch them grow from the small grafts they have started from. Oh, the excitement when we saw the first buds taking!
Now, we have quite an inventory of animals. We have finally figured out how to reproduce them, and have taken steps towards being self reliant in that category. The only stud we don’t have right now for our animals is a boar, and AI on pigs is actually pretty straight forward. At this point in Autumn, however, we shouldn’t have any surprised with a newborn and are expecting to startup again in the Spring, so, all the little ones are getting so big!
Cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, guinea fowl, dogs, cats. Fencing has become extremely important.
It’s been fascinating watching these little puppies grow over the last few weeks. They’ve gone from little sacs with unopened eyes, to jolly little roley poley creatures lapping at your heels to see what goodness might come of it.
We have 15 of them. It is typical for the breed of Great Pyrenees to have 6 – 9 puppies, so we have definitely got a very very large litter. They just seemed to keep coming out of her. We definitely weren’t expecting it as we had been doing everything we could to stop her from getting bred, and it wasn’t until the last few days before she gave birth where I started to notice her teets dropping and said: “I think Rosie’s going to have puppies.”
I think it’s not a farm unless there’s some kind of animal living on it that’s not human. Even just one chicken. It was definitely hard waiting to get animals here until we were ready, as we were all very eager to get on with the farming business rather than building dwellings and preparing proper living conditions and storage for the animals and produce we nurture here.
An example of what I’m talking about is with hay. We got animals before we had a place to store hay, we even got haying equipment! And there’s no way around the fact that over winter, animals need hay. However, we haven’t until this year had the space to store hay, and as a result, we have lost a lot of hay (read: learned hard lessons) to the elements. We did happily take the rotting hay and throw it on our garden as compost, but would have preferred to let the animals eat it all winter without having to buy good feed.
Now, we have quite the array of animals here. I’ve started keeping counts every few months (48 at last count). Spring is coming, so it’s going to be a time of newborns. Here’s a look at some of the special moments with them.
My whole life I have walked these lands, and I hope I will have the good fortune to be able to continue to as long as I live. My family has been here going on 4 generations now. When talking about Canadian ranching, this is a long time. I have built tree forts, pushed cattle to greener pastures by horse, mowed lawns and hayed the fields, crawled under tractors, learned how to jump on trampolines and fire a rifle, hunted for Easter eggs, watched calves being born, branded livestock, fished for trout and frogs in swamps, creeks and lakes, and driven 4-wheelers and dirt bikes here… needless to say I’m dirty almost instantly upon arrival. I love this place, I think of it often.
Sometimes it’s hard to take a different eye at the land you see frequently, hard to motivate yourself to step out of the regular. I think this is where artistic challenge is at its finest; the challenge for a fresh set of eyes upon the similar, not for identifying new equipment we need or location changes. With this frame of mind, everything is a tool, everything is art, everything has potential. It’s a great challenge and just requires a new angle.
These photographs were taken mid May, in the south end of the North Thompson Valley, near Heffley Creek, BC or just North of Kamloops. This region – depending on the industry and map you’re looking at, is referred to as North Thompson, Thompson-Nicola, Southern Interior, or Okanagan.