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May 27, 2010
4H and other long weekend events
The Victoria weekend has passed. I  for one needed it to get caught up and have one last day to sleep in before the end of the school year. Don't get me wrong it was a very busy weekend but it was a good one.

Friday before the weekend my father, Hannah and I went up to Halifax to deliver the beef boxes for our beef csa. Finally I got to meet most of the people who subscribe as well as Janet, the woman from the Grainery Coop who helps us. She was awesome and really gave me a new perspective on the communitty aspect of communitty  supported agriculture. You really need to have a committed,dependable person helping your subscribers get their boxes. The only downside was that Dad and I didn't really know where we were going until we left halifax. It was 10pm by the time we got home and we were all beat. Hannah was happy though because Grampy stopped for fastfood on the way home and that was the whole reason she went.

The Annapolis Royal Farmers and Traders market started early Saturday morning. So much for sleeping in a little on Saturdays; for the rest of the summer we will get up early and go to Annapolis to flog our wares. But the weather was beautiful and it was so nice to see everybody again.

Eben's long weekend started a little differently. The 4H Fluff'n'Buff is always the long weekend in may. This is an event hosted by Annapolis County, open to other counties, where kids with sheep, goats, dairy and beef cows can get together to learn more about animal health, grooming, showing and judging. And just because dairy cows and beef cows both have the word cow in them don't think they are anything at all alike. A dairy cow is a rack of bones because all the animals energy has been bred to go into milk production. (Okay dairy farmers I apologize, rack, while somewhat accurate, is unfair. My beef bias is out in the open now.) When showing the kids dress in white and gently lead the animal in a way that seems trance like and calming to the animal. This is good because an excited animal is both hard to milk and less likely to let you have most of it.

When showing beef the kids dress in black pants and white shirts. The animal is on a lead, the kids have show sticks to help them set up the cow in a particular way and a comb in their pocket. They also try to lead their animals nicely in the show ring but it isn't as calm. This is the reader's digest condensed version of showing beef. More on a day when I have pictures to illustrate the process better.

Anyhow Eben spent the weekend at Fluff'n'Buff. As with many 4H events it needed many volunteers to run successfully. My thanks to all of them especially Shelley Parsons who is always easy going and fun to work with. The kids all did their judging, most 4H projects require the kids to judge a class related to their project, as well as hanging out with one another. Eben is really lucky this year to have 3 other boys doing the beef project with him and here are the 4 amigos:

Eben is the second from the left.

Not all these animals are calves, some are yearlings. As my mother, their 4H leader, slowly retires from farming, she has less animals for the kids to work with. That was fun, let's have another picture:

Here he is combing and grooming Whoopy.

I helped during the weekend with the Saturday supper, lasagna and spaghetti  and then again Sunday morning making westerns for breakfast. I believe that when people are giving their time to help my child succeed the least I can do is help with the grunt work.

Monday morning came and it certainly felt like a day of opportunity. So much so that I finally got the floor mopped after weeks of thinking I should get to that. Hannah was given a lesson in cleaning bathrooms and was tested on the downstairs one. She passed. Eben was out on the field helping his Dad plow.

At times conferences were necessary

Eventually the job was done. The field was then harrowed and today I think Danny seeded it down with grass. When your beef is grass fed it's important to keep your pastures and fields vital and healthy. In a few weeks I will share what I know about making hay. It's a more serious venture than most people realize and involves more than driving around the field in circles.

Spring is always busy on a farm. This year it has started earlier; Danny cut hay earlier this week. Usually we don't start cutting until the end of June. My boss is on vacation enjoying her grandson so here at the farm it's even more frantic than usual. Hopefully things will calm down a little next week. Hot cooked meals will help. Until then.

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May 20, 2010
This Week...
All weeks are busy, how did this week get to be one of the busiest one's yet?

Let's see...On Friday my best friend from high school, Edwina and her husband, came down to pick up some beef and visit. we had a great time. She and Tony walked around the farm with me and we checked on the progress of everything.

Here they are feeding lambs with Danny. We talked about the bottle fed lambs and the ones whose mothers have enough milk. You can tell them apart if you're feeding them regularly or you have them separated from the rest of the flock. I don't feed them regularly and we don't have them separated because some of their mother's have some milk. If I'm not sure I check their knees. That's right, their knees.

Tilt your head and you'll see this lamb has green knees. That's from getting down on it's front knees when it wants to nurse its mother. Think about it: the lambs are growing and the sheep aren't. The lambs are getting too tall to stand under their mother's udders so they have to bend down to do it, hence the green knees. A bottlefed lamb will probably not have green knees as it's not getting under an udder too often.

We also checked out my garlic

As you can tell it's growing well. If you want to see some more pictures from their visit checkout the Facebook page for Bruce Family Farm; they're both better photographers than I am and some of the photos are really lovely.

Tomorrow is Friday and it will be the third delivery of our beef csa in Halifax. We were up after midnight last night making up the bags and cutting beef. I'm rather excited because my father will be making this delivery and as he has never gone before Hannah and I are going up with him to show him the ropes. Not that either of us has ever done it before, a friend has always done it before but we're more use to the ideas and procedures so will help him with his baptism. Personally I think Hannah's main desire to go is the likelyhood of going to Wendy's or somewhere for fastfood with Grampy.

Danny is still walking the fences. I would like to get a good group of photos to explain this process better but in the meantime

Here he is with a chainsaw. He cuts a lot of our fence posts and sharpens them with the chainsaw. Here is the trailer he takes with him and as you can see he is getting a load of fenceposts sharpened for the next field he has to go and check. The lambs are out and next week we hope to have the cows out on grass too.

Here are our strawberries:

As you can see our patch is very weedy. Grass is a disaster in strawberry patch and as you can see we have way too much of that. Some weeds though aren't too bad; take dandelions for example. Dandelions grow from a taproot so you have a rosette of dandelions growing, and they cover a fair bit of ground but they don't compete too much with the strawberries. Grass on the other hand has all these runners and root systems running under ground choking your plants. Great in your lawn of course, not in your garden.

I'm a little concerned with how pollination is going. Everything is early of course but I don't think the bees are. I know the plums and cherry trees in our area had poor pollination and the conclusion I've come to goes something like this: Global warming is happening. For the last several years Spring has begun earlier and earlier in part because of increasingly warm temperatures. However the length of the days, or the amount of daylight hours has not changed. What this means for insects and others is that it cools down faster at night and is slower warming up in the day. In other words while the warmer temperatures are happening during the day, spurring the plants to bloom sooner, the amount of time the bees have to pollinate these blooms is shorter than before global warming started. I think that's why I'm not seeing as many bees this spring and why they seem 'stupid'. 

Busy as a bee takes on a whole new meaning. I hope some of our strawberries get pollinated so I can enjoy strawberry shortcake. See you next week.

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May 13, 2010
Getting ready...
Spring is about beginnings. As we step further and further into Spring this becomes more and more apparent. This week has definitely been about getting ready for beginnings.

The Annapolis Royal Farmer's and Trader's market will begin again on May 22nd. This means I need to get lots of jam made. I've been trying but something always comes up. That and the fact that I am a master procrastinator. But last week i scored a lot of extra hours at the library and on the second to last day my most excellent boss told me she was taking the last 2 weeks of may off. I'm very pleased of course; I like making money. But then i realized that I still have a lot of jam to make and that there won't be time if I am working. So for the last four days that is what I have been doing:

Here it is in all its glory. Strawberry jam, raspberry jam,  french cherry jam, red pepper jelly, rhubarb orange conserve (cunningly named rhubART orange conserve as I intend to donate the proceeds to the Annapolis Region Community Arts Council), best of summer jam and jewel jam. These last 2 are what I like to call, in my more pretentious moments, artisan jams. These are old fashioned, slow cooked jams where I stir and stir for quite some time until the jam 'sets'. What many people don't realize is that proper jam is a chemical state. If you mix the right amounts of fruit, which have high amounts of acid and pectin, with the right amount of sugar, Heat it to the right temperature (235 F I think) then you get jam. Some fruits make jam real easily; gooseberries, plums, currants, fall apples (their sugar content changes when they are stored all winter in cold storage) to name a few. Black currants will gel if you just look at them right. Other berries will usually gel, especially if you add a little lemon juice: strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Peaches and cherries will not gel at all unless you mix them with something else; often old time recipes for these will be 'conserves' which means there will be oranges and maybe lemons present as well. Over the years I've turned into quite a jam geek and I must admit  that I really enjoy talking with fellow jam makers who understand the challenges of cooking stone fruit jams (peaches and plums) or how when you're in the zone you don't have to test to see if the jam has set because you can feel it as you stir. Although I use Certo for many of my jams, it saves a lot of time and isn't particularly evil, I like to make a few the old fashioned way. Gooseberry jam when made with Certo comes out green and not very appetizing in my opinion. When you cook it slowly it turns a beautiful mahogany pink colour. It only takes about 20 minutes once you reach the boil. Sometimes I like to count the different kinds of jams, jellies and conserves I've made and the count is well over 60. After the variety is what keeps it interesting.

Back to beginnings... Danny is walking the fences at last. The saying 'Good fences make good neighbours" is very true. There is nothing worse than chasing after animals that have escaped their pastures and are looking for food in your neighbours garden of worse are on the road staring down on coming traffic. So walking the fences is an important rite of Spring. You walk along and test each fencepost to see if it's still secure or it it needs to be replaced. They rot off and need to be replaced every few years. You check the wire to make sure it's attached, there are no breaks and that it's still under tension. We run three strands of barbed wire on our fences to help remind everyone to stay in. You want your line of fence posts to be straight; as straight as you can make it. This is really important because pulling barbed wire tight, on a fence line that is NOT straight is really hard to do. If you think about it you will realize how much strength is required to pull it tight and how  an uneven fenceline will make this almost impossible. And you want to put the wire on the right side of the fence; the side your cattle are on, otherwise it's easier for them to pull against it and get out. Pastures need to be watched and rotated as they become eaten down too. It doesn't matter how well you've fenced if the pastures are depleted. Hungry animals will get out in their quest for food and you can't blame them. In the fall when the grass is growing more slowly but we don't want to bring them home to the barn yet we will bring them a round bale of hay every day or so to supplement their feeding.

In some of out pastures there are old apple trees. You can tell their old because they haven't been pruned or kept up. yes even tree farms must look after their crop. We had someone staying at the farm last year who knew how to prune trees so our apple trees were all looked after at that time but most of them need to be pruned for about 3 years running in order to be more productive.
Now everybody tilt their head; i haven't found the picture manager program on this computer yet

This is an apple tree in our back yard. You can see a lot of young branches, scions growing up to the sky. If we had time and if we were orchardists we would be pruning and cutting off many of these branches. If you look at a fruit orchard you will notice that the branches all go DOWN, making it easier to pick the fruit in the Fall. These skyward growing branches are just one of the signs that are apple trees are old and not an important part of our farm income anymore. You can only so so many things well depending on your manpower.

The last beginning I want to talk about is the chicks. Several blogs/weeks back i showed you a picture of hannah with three chicks; Butterscotch, Stripes and Freckles. That was the first batch of chicks we had hatched out by a neighbour. When we picked them up Danny gave him 39 more eggs. After 21 days 3 more hatched out (Danny thinks are Aracana rooster is getting old). Never one to give up Danny gave the guy another 3 dozen eggs. This time we got 7 chicks and of course Danny has given him still more eggs to hatch out, (by now I'm getting a little annoyed with him because these are all blue egg layers and I'm not as fond of them as he is). I'll let you know haw many of those work out. However the original 3 chicks are now over 6 weeks old. And they're growing. Danny has kept them in a box in our kitchen. They can be quite the conversation starter but I have to admit I'm not thrilled about hem being here. Anyhow Sunday night one made a startling discovery:

It could get out of the box on its own. The next morning it jumped out of the box and onto the kitchen floor. It's siblings were contemplating a similar break for freedom. "Enough" I said to Danny, "time for them to live somewhere else!". So now they are living in the barn until they are big enough to fend for themselves in the chicken coop.

The days are full, getting ready for the beginnings that growing seasons always promise. This weekend, weather permitting, Danny and Eben will start plowing fields to get them ready for reseeding, where the hay is worn out, or for grain. May all your beginnings be as exciting as ours.

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May 6, 2010
Farm Heritage
Recently Hannah had to do a heritage project in school. For her topic she chose our farm which was established, as you may know, in 1788. The project was a lot of fun for us and my computer skills have increased to the point where i can scan old photos and make them loadable for the blog! (Does that ever make me feel smart!). So in honour of Hannah''s accomplishment here goes:

Bruce Family Farm

The original farm was purchased from Christopher  ?  The farm was already a farm when it was purchased. We believe it was originally an Acadian farm. After the Acadian expulsion in 1655 the land in the area was granted to retired soldiers in the British Army. Some of the ex-soldiers farmed their land; some sold it.


The first Bruce was Daniel Bruce (1760-1843). We believe that he came from Scotland through the United States. He was married to a Mary or a Lydia Messinger.  Mary had family connections in this area with the Messengers that were already here.


The original farm had a stone house (probably Acadian), a barn with orchard, some fields and a woodlot.


John Bruce (1802-1887) eventually took over the farm from his father. He was married to a Myra Messinger (1819-1861) He used the marshes, diked by the Acadians. He made improvements to the farm as well. The woodlot has always been an important part of the farmís income. At that time wood was cut and sent as cordwood to Bridgetown, by oxen, to customers who heated their houses with it. We also cut lumber. John had at least 2 sons.

 Johnís son Wallace Bruce (1849-1901) took over the farm next. He married Louisa Hall.  A house back in the woods was moved to a place near our house on the way to Bridgetown. Wallace lived here with Louisa. This house is still standing today but is no longer part of the Bruce Farm.


Eventually Wallace and Louisa Bruce had the house beside our house, the house my Nanny now lives in, built and they moved there.


Johnís brother Ed lived in the stone house on the farm. The same house that Daniel and John Bruce lived in. He lived in it with his two sisters. At this time farmers were doing very well financially.   Then people with money were building big houses so Ed did it too. This is the same house I now live in.


At some point a water powered mill was built between these two properties. Although there is no record of a gristmill we have found two stone wheels that would have been used for grinding grain. There is record of a lumber mill. It is possible that both existed.


Nova Scotia and the Annapolis Valley were well known for their terrifically awesome apples. The apples from our farm were packed in barrels and shipped from a wharf in Tupperville to England and Bermuda.

(This is Willoughby Hicks, Danny's uncle fixing some barrels.)

(This is Danny as a little boy sitting on some barrels. That's his grandfather Lloyd with him. It amazes me that they were still using barrels to pack the apples in when Danny, currently 49, was a child)


Lloyd Bruce (1884-1965) was probably born in my Nannyís house. He was the only son and inherited his father Wallaceís farm and his uncle Edís farm. He was very prosperous. He hired people to work the farm for him while he concentrated on the business side of things. He married Hilda Stephens (1900-1993). She was a nurse and a midwife. In addition to the regular farm business Lloyd also grew some foxes for their skins. Many people at this time grew fox or mink to add to their income.

(This is Hilda Stephenson, Lloyd's wife, he was in the previous picture, helping to make the hay.)

(This is Danny Amero, the hired hand, with Peg and Daisy. The team of horses belonged to Danny's father Wallace)


By now the mill had been sold to the Lantzís, my Nannyís family.  The Bruceís sold logs here.


Up to now the farming had been organic. After the WWI pesticides and other chemicals began to be used. The main place they were used was in the orchard.


My Grandfather William Wallace Bruce (1926-2001) was the next to farm the land. He married Louise Lantz (1932-  ). He bought the first tractor on our farm. We were one of the last farms in the area to get a tractor. This tractor is still being used on the farm today. He also bought the first car in the family. Up to then the Bruceís had always traveled by horse and wagon.


The orchard became less important in the late 1960ís. Up to then they were picked, packed in barrels, and sold every year. My Dad still remembers doing this when he was a child. In the 1980ís my Grampy and my Dad cut down a lot of the orchard although some still stands. Our main crops became beef and wood.


My Dad, also a Daniel Bruce (1961-  ) started farming in the 1980ís. He married my Mom Sandra Troop (1964-  ). She works off the farm part time. My brother Eben Bruce was born in 1995.We started organic certification in 1996. I was born in 1998. Both beef and wood are still important to our farm. However we sell at farmerís markets and health food stores. We have a website; and this winter we started a beef csa (community supported agriculture) scheme to help market our beef. We have a page on Facebook and we our doing things that my ancestors never imagined possible. We are still doing a lot of the same things they did but we are doing them differently.



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