Farming plans #1

Long ago, we promised to explain more about our plans for the farm. We have been so busy moving, getting settled, clearing bush, cutting firewood and overseeing a house being built, that we haven’t kept that promise yet. But that is about to change with this post and others to follow over the next number of days and weeks as we try to outline some of our plans.

First, we are planning three types of farming. Each will be explained in more depth in further posts but here is a summary.

1. Beekeeping.

Andrew’s main occupation, livelihood (and a great passion) is beekeeping. He took courses in that in Norway and Sweden and has kept bees, or helped keep bees, in Nepal, Norway, New York State and the Fraser Valley. Currently he has over 200 hives in the Abbotsford and Chilliwack area that he plans to sell before moving here next Spring where he will start again.

When we first visited this property he said, “It is the best bee land that I have ever seen.” Not only is it on a point, quite far away (over 3 kms) from commercial farms with their sprays that harm bees, there seems to be a good demand in the area the for good honey raised as naturally as possible and for bees raised locally and adapted to the conditions. Even more importantly, our pastures and forests are filled with flowering plants that bees love. From Spring through Fall, there are good things in bloom for the bees. More on those trees and flowers in a different post but here is a sampling of just a few of them:

 

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Red Clover
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Goldenrod
wild raspberries
Wild Raspberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Fruit and Nut orchard.

Jonathan has a passion to grow trees that bear fruit and nuts and, as noted in other posts (“Orchard at Sunset”  and(“Beyond the Pretty Pictures“) has already begun developing an orchard in one of the pastures. Since we purchased the property nearly two years ago, he has been buying and sprouting a large variety of different seeds. His interest is more experimental rather than commercial; he wants to see what will grow well here and also he has been collecting seeds of more rare trees such as American Chesnut, which was nearly wiped out by a blight early in the twentieth century. The rest of us help where we can and hope that the fruit and nuts will not only serve the interests of science but help sustain people and livestock!

Included in the orchard are various kinds of apple, pear, oak and chesnut trees and a variety of berry bushes. Here are a few of them:

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Apple tree. Most of the trees are in orange tubes for protection from deer but some are in wire cages.
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Josta berry. A new variety created by cross gooseberry and currants.
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Chesnut. Jonathan is experimenting with a number of varieties of chesnuts developed to resist the blight that destroyed millions of trees in the early twentieth century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Livestock.

We have about 40 acres of pasture. It has been abandoned for many years and is covered with weeds, shrubs and small trees. Yet there is still good grass, clover, alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil in the pastures. Andrew, Colleen and Sheila and I are all interested in raising various kinds of livestock: chickens, ducks, goats, pigs and perhaps sheep. Some members of the family would like to see horses but that is quite a while from now.

We have been reading and talking to people about using pigs, goats and perhaps sheep, in carefully managed rotational grazing to help restore pastures. As I wrote yesterday in Beating back the jungle, I am very interested in using goats, and perhaps pigs, to help clear brush and wild grape vines where needed.

Once we are in the house we will begin to develop livestock accommodation in that part of the property and gradually expand operations from there.

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Birdsfoot trefoil. Good grazing for livestock and attractive to bees.
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Good combination of pasture and tree cover.
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Red cedar (Virginia juniper) in pasture. Some people use goats to help control them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested please watch for more on each of these areas, and some of the sustainable principles that we plan to use, in upcoming posts.

 

6 Responses

  1. Just some additional info regarding the chestnuts: the chestnuts currently growing in the orchard are Chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima). They are seedlings of selected pure Chinese cultivars. Chinese chestnuts are more blight resistant, generally have bigger nuts and are reported to be more tolerant of high-PH soils than are American chestnuts (something that could prove important given the County’s limestone bedrock). In the next few months (beginning this weekend!), I will be planting into the orchard and in the another part of the farm seedling chestnuts from two other sources: (1) chestnuts collected by Andrew from healthy, large, old chestnut trees in B.C. The genetics of these trees are unknown and, if they are pure American chestnuts (Castanea dentata), they will likely be susceptible to blight — my understanding is that blight has not reached all parts of B.C. (2) chestnuts from Badgersett in Minnesota, which are selections from crosses of American, Chinese, Japanese, European and Seguin chestnuts. They have been selected for blight resistance and cold tolerance.

  2. Re the apples: the trees are started in the orange tubes for deer protection and a slight “greenhouse effect”. As they get taller, I am replacing the tubes with wire cages (again for deer protection), to allow for branch structure to develop and to hopefully reduce the disease/insect pressures created by the closed environment of the tube (things found in tubes so far: a bird’s nest, a wasp nest, and some very happy caterpillars). I am prioritizing the grafted apples, and all the seedling apples (Antonovka, Borowinka, Ranetka, Bittenfelder and Prunifolia) are still in tubes but will be transitioned to cages as they are grafted and/or grow beyond the tube tops.

  3. Fascinating reading! Keep the posts coming. Glad to hear the roof in on and that your contractor is putting some pressure on.

  4. Margaret DeBoer

    It’s wonderful to read that the property is ideal for the whole family! Andrew for his beekeeping; Jonathan for the trees; And that you are instrumental in bringing that all together! Blessings on all your work.

  5. Bryan (Unka B) Burkinshaw

    Bob: When your Grandfather Burkinshaw sold the Dairy Farm in Gordon Head, on the outskirts of Victoria, BC effective on the 30th of March, 1946, coinciding with my 11th Birthday, I was delighted, and I am still grateful that I didn’t have to continue to be a Farmer. On the other hand your Dad, Ken was as I recall not very happy with that decision and mentioned to me many times at later dates, that his first passion for a career was to be a Farmer. After reading your recent history, over the past two years, I am convinced that he would be very pleased with this adventure that you and your Boys are undertaking. In fact, his buttons would be bursting with pride. Can you visualize his smile, he had such a winning and approving smile. I suspect that your Uncle John is pleased with your outreach as well. You have farming backgrounds on both sides of your parents, so why am I not surprised by your joint endeavours!!! I just hope that you will be able to have your Mom visit you before it is too late. Wouldn’t it be great if she could travel to see you in the company of your Uncle John. Looking forward to your ongoing Blogs. Unka B

  6. BobandSheila

    Thanks, Unka B! Yes, once in a while I think that Dad would have liked this venture (but probably would have preferred that we give priority to raising cows!) Joy and Ruth are planning to come out with Mom this coming October to enjoy the Fall colours. Hopefully Mom will be well enough for that.

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