Tater’s Takes: Fresh Start Farm Edition

March 28th, 2012 by Potato

Rather than talk about myself this fortnightly update I figured I’d turn it over to my RL friends who are starting new blogs for the spring. First up is Ben, who’s launching a new business venture in southern Ontario in the form of an organic farm. Here’s Ben with the details:

Fresh Start Farm is a project Lisa and I have put together in order to test the waters when it comes to market gardening and earning a sustainable living farming. We are both huge foodies and we’ve been growing all kinds of things for our own consumption on a small scale over the years. At the same time we have both yearned for more space where we could expand our gardening into full-on farming. We both agree that the farming lifestyle is one that we would love to embrace.

After attending the Guelph Organic Conference last year, we both agreed that it was going to be our goal, over the next 5 years, to transition our current careers from what they are now, to full time farming.

We have rented a piece of land, roughly ¼ acre, in Pelham, a short drive from our house in Welland, while we continue the search for a suitable homestead to purchase.

We have invested a decent amount in seeds, soil amendments, tools and things, although the biggest investment will come in the form of our time throughout the growing season this year. In order to sell the produce we produce, we have rented a booth at the Welland Farmers’ Market, which is a fairly large and well attended market very close to our home and farm.

We have created the website in order to blog about our experience as well as get the word out as to what’s going on, what our problems and successes are, and most importantly, what we will have for sale at the market, once that time of year rolls around!

I’m sure most of your readers are in Toronto, so they would probably never attend the Welland Market, but in the future we may start offering a CSA delivery to the GTA. I still have a strong connection to North York, and I would love to get a booth at that market, if possible. In the interim, I encourage everyone to follow us as we go about doing what we do, offer comments and questions, and see that it is possible to be awesome if you want to be!

And also Lenny has launched a blog where he talks about whatever he feels like (so far, making his own pizza dough and encryption).

As for me, I’ve got my first job interview coming up later in the week. This is for a position I applied for in December, so I guess they’re not in a terrible rush to hire someone (and does give me hope for all the other applications I haven’t heard back on yet — there could yet be good news!). I’d say I’m pretty nervous to face the interview, but Wayfare’s way worse. To be fair, she knows how terrible I am at interviewing and the awful turns interviews can take, whereas I am consumed by the notion that I am generally awesome in all things, so it’ll be fine. ;)

Flag football is coming to an end, and much to my surprise attendance never got better. Who are these people that shell out over $100 to join a football league and only show up for one game? After much discussion and debate I decided not to join any leagues for the spring: as good as team sports are for motivating me to actually get out and exercise, there’s just too much uncertainty with a new job (any. day. now.) and baby on the way (same). Plus many of the spring leagues are on weeknights, and I have zero desire — nay, a full-on hatred of the very thought — of commuting around Toronto rush-hour at 6pm to try to make a game half-way across the city. Others may whine, but I’ll take a 10pm Sunday game every time.

I leave London alone for two months, and it all goes to hell…

Another article at the Globe warning about the housing market. I like the way Tom Bradley phrased this: “When I pull together the economic fundamentals, valuation and sentiment, real estate, as an investment, doesn’t look very attractive. The distribution of potential outcomes looks asymmetrical to me – limited upside and plenty of possible downside. But what really screams out at me is how many important factors are at extremes … bad extremes. One or two off-trend numbers can be explained away, but too many are jumping off the charts – price increases, mortgage rates, loan growth, consumer debt and home ownership levels.”

James Randi on scientists and trust and skepticism.

Nelson tries to find a way to short the Canadian real estate market.

Teacher Man, writing for CFB, says the Canadian real estate bubble can’t be denied any longer.

Raccoons and Laser Pointers

May 24th, 2011 by Potato

My neighbour, who lives in the other half of the duplex here, moved out a few days ago. He left a bag of garbage on the front porch. I don’t know what happened to his garbage can (I’m 90% certain the landlord left a can with a locking lid specifically to deter the raccoons for his half), but bags are simply not an acceptable container for food waste in this area, especially not in the summer. So of course, now I’ve got a raccoon outside my front door, frolicking in half a loaf of stale bread. I tried to shoo him away, but apparently I’m not terribly frightening on the other side of the glass. He’d only run as far away as the bottom of the steps, and be back in less than a minute. I don’t really want to risk opening the door to become more menacing, in case I’m not.

So I decided to get creative and try deterring him with my laser pointer. I banged on the door and shooed him off the porch to the steps, then as he was about to put a paw down on the top step, started waving the laser dot in front of him. He seemed to bug out the first time, afraid the porch was protected by an evil glowing raccoon-demon-equivalent or something, and after the second time he went around the side and came across the railing. There, I spun the dot around right where he was planning to land, which stopped him 4 or 5 times from jumping down. But I guess he’s hungry — and he already knows that garbage has food in it — so the little light bug couldn’t keep him off for long. I kept playing with the laser in the hopes that he’d get distracted and chase it like a cat. That’d be fun for me, and also keep him from making more of a mess of the garbage. Unfortunately, though I’ve seen that behaviour on youtube, he quickly lost interest in the laser dot once he figured out it wasn’t a serious threat to his dinner.

Power Outage?

January 26th, 2011 by Potato

One downside to working late I hadn’t considered is the possibility of a large-scale power outage. I don’t know what’s going on, but I can see out my window here that there are no lights stretching for several blocks between the hospital and the river (but there are some lights on on the other side of the river). I’m freaking exhausted here now, and more than ready to head home… but I don’t want to leave the hospital (where there’s power and internet) and walk home in the pitch black. It’s been dark for about 25 minutes now, and it’s starting to freak me out (the sleep deprivation and general anxiety is not helping matters there). On the other hand, I really don’t want to be in the hospital if they decide to conserve the generators and cut off power to this wing… The streets are dark and slippery, but the hospital is creepy.

Accidental Weather Witchcraft

January 12th, 2011 by Potato

You may recall reading (and if you don’t live in London, laughing) about our woes with record snowfalls here in London this year. The snow squalls were bizarre in their specificity, these narrow finger-like bands of cloud streaming off Lake Huron, arrows shooting straight for London. Towns just 30 minutes away to either side still had green lawns in some cases. I just realized now that I may have caused this series of supernatural storms via the application of accidental weather witchcraft.

You see, just before this all started, I was starting to decorate the office for winter (read: procrastinating on my thesis) by cutting out paper snowflakes from scrap paper (and I have a lot of scrap paper on my desk). I then hung them around the office at important power nodes, including a large tissue-paper snowflake guarding my filing cabinet. Perhaps summoning the most power weather magick was a string of snowflakes, of all different sizes, with at least one cut out by other members of the office, that was then itself hung from snowflake garland. This multiplicative effect of snowflake on snowflake, combined with suspension from the ceiling in the psychic centre of the room may ultimately have been too much for the physical realm to bear, and snow squall after snow squall was summoned up and directed directly at London until finally well over a meter of snow blanketed the supernatural signal and it’s dread message could no longer be received in the humid airs above Lake Huron.

To all the residents of London, I’m deeply sorry for this irresponsible — though accidental — use of the dark arts, and I promise it will never happen again.

This oversized snowflake drew power from the filing cabinet and its Dark Contents. The filing cabinet already served as an altar, receiving daily offerings of Coke Zero tainted aluminum.

The combination of snowflakes crafted by different hands and a shiny, sparkly snowflake garland lead to an unstoppable multiplying chain-reaction of weather magicks.

Poor London Squirrels

December 17th, 2010 by Potato

The snow here has been just insane. I wonder sometimes if it’s not real, and just a product of my prolonged illness. Sadly, I can’t wish it away as some kind of fever dream, since I’m not all that sick (just a stupid cough that won’t clear up now).

The city seems to have found some crazy new plows for the sidewalks that I don’t recall seeing in previous years. They cut through the drifts leaving a nearly vertical wall of snow on either side of the cleared path. Though by my reckoning we’ve had roughly 5 feet of snow fall in total over the last week and a half, the general snow accumulation isn’t nearly that high as it has been melting and compacting thanks to bright sunshine whenever it’s not an active snowsquall, plus a final dump of heavy, wet snow last week. Nonetheless, there is still a solid two foot wall of snow lining the sidewalks.

And as I discovered today, that is too much snow for a squirrel to bound over.

I was walking to work and saw a squirrel on the sidewalk playing in the snow. At first I thought he was just having fun, slipping and sliding and jumping around, the equivalent of pulling squirrel doughnuts. But soon I saw he was either very sick, drunk, or exhausted. He let me get very close as I was walking down the sidewalk, then tried to run away from me, but kept slipping over and falling into the wall of snow. I stood back to let him get some room, and then he tried to jump up and over the snowbank to get out of the sidewalk canyon. It took him something like 8 tries, some of which weren’t even close to getting up — he’d try one side, then turn around to go for the other but jump halfway across the sidewalk and land before even reaching the other snowbank, crash into it after sliding, turn around, and try again. I didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically, feel sad, or call animal control over his weird behaviour (I ended up splitting the difference on the first two). He did finally get up and over, and then basically swam through the snow drifts to a tree. Once on solid bark, he just hung there and wheezed.

The paths carved through the snow in London. Note that this was taken a few days ago, and we've had over two more feet of snow since, but the banks aren't much higher due to meltage and compression.