Usually I'm on the right path if people in my life think I'm a little crazy. Protesting big oil in the middle of Alberta, going to University after barely graduating from high school, moving to Europe to nanny for a family I've never met, trying to stop the olympics from destroying people's homes, opening a yarn store in the middle of a recession. The list could go on, but all of these 'crazy' ideas have always resulted in some life changing experiences and realizations, so I welcome the accusation that I may be crazy. Which is exactly what happened last week.
"You are crazy Anna. Buy a tractor"
Said my dad (the former grain farmer), in response to my description of seeding my pasture without any sort of machinery - by hand, in 16' by 16' sections.
"Well I don't have the money to buy a tractor, and I'm not really sure if this is going to work anyway, but I think I will keep trying"
So this is where I'm at. My Kickstarter has almost reached its goal - which means that in 2-3 months I will actually be starting a sheep farm. I've never been a farmer before. Actually, I've never really even had a garden before. So yes I may be crazy.
I have spent the last year mulling over 'what next', I don't do well without a plan. I think I read every book there is to read on 'grass farming' and 'restorative agriculture' and 'small farming' and 'sheep raising' and after a random conversation with my bestie (Caitlin ffrench) the idea of a fibre farm and CSA was born.
"This is perfect, this is exactly what I'm meant to do. How quickly can I buy some sheep?"
I could see it on my husbands face when I told him the idea - the look that says, "Well, I better not stand in her way. I better get on board - my wife is a little crazy"
So I started this crazy plan. We didn't buy this property with livestock in mind per se. We wanted a few acres to eventually have sheep, but we were mostly attracted to it because of the acres and acres of forest and 'explore potential'. This means that some work will need to go into preparing it for livestock.
So obviously the answer is to buy three pigs that we will rotate around the pasture in a 16 foot by 16 foot pen that moves (sort of) on a set of skids, and let them root up all the old dead grass, poop all over the ground and fertilize it, and then replant pasture seeds that will hopefully grow into a beautiful lush pasture that our sheep will then graze - all with zero experience and no machinery!
Well, the pigs are totally fulfilling their role - they have done a bang up job of tilling the soil, and the bonus is that they get to be outside, run around and do what they are inherently born to do (root) and they will taste good too (yes we plan to butcher the pigs and enjoy their meat all year long).
Then I purchased a bag of pasture seeds. I have to tell you - people in Manitoba are so damn friendly, the guys at Patterson Grains spent hours helping me craft a perfect mix of timothy grass, trefoil, clover and alfalfa that will all do well in my very wet pasture. I drove home with enough seed to plant 20 acres and I think even some hesitant thumbs up from the farmers who will go home and tell their families about the crazy girl who plans to plant an entire pasture by hand.
So I started planted, I made a 'harrow' from an old pallet and big fat nails weighted down by bricks. It didn't work as well as I hoped, the damn nails keep getting caught on all the roots and the heavy soil. So instead I settled on using a rake. This is how it goes:
Move the pig pen.
spread the manure and rake the ground like crazy.
re-rake the ground and try to bury as much of the seed as possible.
stare at the sky and hope it rains, or stops raining depending on the week.
So last week, I walked out early one morning to feed the pigs and I swear I almost started crying - the most beautiful little green sprouts poking their tiny heads out of the dirt. I may be crazy, but this also may just work!
Footnote: Although my dad's comments are the impetus for this post, I have never felt anything but unconditional support from my family for ALL of my crazy ideas. Love you dad! After-all you are the original 'crazy.'