April Has Been Lovely Now Summer On The Way

“No, I don’t ever remember seeing a better April week than this” James commented today at dinner… An ordinary dinner it was: roast beef, potato, turnip, a relish and for dessert (thawed) strawberries. Ordinary, it  came to mind but eaten in that peace and quiet of surroundings that older folks appreciate. Though at the time James’ mind was not as serene as ours, because of an event of some moment already shaping up in a piggery across the yard.

“Good beef” he offered, sampling a slice. “Plenty fat” he nodded. “Tender too, and of nice flavor. It’s a cut the butcher said from an animal raised by a farmer over at the shore. From a good stable you can tell.”

“No ‘yellow weeds’’ through it!” we chuckled.

“And I’d say from a good beef breed. Though” he considered the matter “when it’s crossed with some of the dairy breeds, it gives not a bad animal for beef. We have some fair- good crosses ourselves —yes, not bad ones” he offered. 

“The potato won’t taste quite so good today” we said passing him the quaint vegetable dish of ironware -china”, the market’s slipping.”

“But” he smiled, “turnip with the price they are, should taste delicious. Expensive feed, ours were, for the stock — but good” he said.

“We’ll soon have chives” we remembered.

“And before long there should be cress up the creek.”

“And dandelion greens. M-m!” we said.

Fields dried today – dreamed. The light happy wind whispered “Take your time now. There’s no great hurry!” to the little clovers in the new and older meadows about. For had not James said only this morning “If we get to the land in April, we’ll be mowing hay come june? And not too many years back there was some June-haying and no great harvest of it either. No it’s against Island farming to get too early to the cropping. It will come in good time.”

Our road “the best byroad of the Island” at present, a traveller commented today with it may have been more or less exaggeration, allows now nice passage for the children who cycle to school though our lane, deepened by years of traffic makes Granddaughter and Mack follow still the shortcut of field to get to lane’s end.

“I’m afraid Ellen” James says coming in now at peace with the day which so graciously kept us, and incidentally brought younglings of calves and potential bacon to the place “you’re apt to hear frogs piping in April. A few more days like we’ve had and a few mild nights — that will bring them to it. And it won’t be too good… When’s new moon?”

“Tomorrow” we say.

-Ellen’s Diary, April 24th, 1958

Source: Islandnewspapers.ca

Soiling Versus Pasture For Swine

This is a point I would like to see the experimental farms take up. The fact that they would seem to strengthen the impressions now general among farmers that these farms are of doubtful utility. The soiling of dairy cows has been experimented with to some extent, but the system has not become popular. Those however, who reported the result, speak highly of the system. Soiling cows and sheep requires, of course, great attention, and the majority of dairymen prefer to pursue the less irksome system of pasturing or partial soiling at most. All admit that fully three times the number of cows can be kept by the soiling system as by ordinary pasturing.

But the soiling of swine would not seem so irksome, for pigs are soiled, as it were, in the majority of cases. When pigs ate feed in the pen, and not pastured, they are said in a measure  to be soiled. What I mean, however, by soiling is not feeding pigs in a pen with meal, milk, or boiled feed. Pigs on pasture to attain early maturity must not be allowed to depend on the grass alone, but require an addition of meal and grain. By soiling them, I mean cutting the grass and feeding it directly to the hogs in a large paddock contra-distinction to permitting the hogs to cut and feed on the grass at their own sweet will.

Pigs do very well, and probably attain greater weights by simple pen-feeding with milk, whey and meals than by either soiling or pasturage. But pen-feeding is expensive at the prevailing prices of hogs. We want to lower the cost of production to a paying point, and to this end endeavor to supplement the feeding with green feeding crops, to be fed either in the pen, or allow the pigs to harvest the crops for themselves The meal fed pig, in a close pen, does not make a good bacon pig, because exercise is precluded; the digestive organs become inactive, and there is a surplus of fat. Green feed then is apparently indispensable, either fed in the pen or allowed to be eaten on the field as it grows. Which is the more effective method? If heavy weights are to be attained in the shortest interval, I believe soiling the pigs in the pen will be found the most satisfactory. Pigs having the run of a pasture field waste a good deal of energy, and make too much muscle growth. It takes a hog, even in the best pasture, quite a while to graze the bulk of a bundle of grass that may be cut and thrown in the pen. 

 The object sought is another thing. If the pigs are intended as breeding stock, the exercise and fresh air obtained in a pasture field is quiet essential. If breeding stock are soiled, i.e., the green feed cut and carried to them, they will make greater weights in  a given time, but they will require very large yard and paddock I would not care for a breeding sow or boar that was fed all its life in a small pen and had gotten no soiling food during its growth. Good breeding stock can be produced without pasturing if the precaution is taken to have a large paddock connected with the pen, and green crops such as rye, clover, peas, corn, rape and turnips cut and thrown into these large yards, upon which there should be a generous feeding floor. Stock grown in this way should be very nearly as good as those kept i the Pasteur, and may be grown as cheaply. Grown in this manner, the pigs should make good breeding stock and excellent for the packer. This method of growing either breeding stock or bacon pigs will cost a little more, but maturity will be attained in a shorter time.

Better breeding stock, however, will result from pasturage, and it is quite essential that the brood sows have unlimited pasture from spring to fall. I do not think it well to have the pasture lot too large; an acre lot is large enough and is quite sufficient for 30 pigs. Pigs will not make much of pasture before they are three months of age. A good rule is to have an acre of pasture crops coming in in regular rotation to each three brood sows. If litters come in February, a field of rye will be right in month of May; when this is eaten down, a field of clover should be ready; after the clover peas, and alter the peas rape and the second growth of clover. The rape would be grown in the rye ground. Allowing an acre for the pigs of three brood sows, or 30 pigs, would mean three acres to carry them through the season, or, in other words, one acre of land to each brood sow on the farm. These three acres of land devoted to pasture crops, coming in regular rotation, as from the feeding of four tons of the best ground feed of a mixture of shorts and corn or barley, peas and bran.

At prices of ground feed in the older parts of our country, the growing of pasture crops makes quite a saving in cash laid out for purchased feed. Pigs grown on continuous pasture will not come to maturity, or be ripe for the  block, so quickly as if penned up all the time, or even as if soiled. Even fairly good herding stock may be produced by soiling, and maturity will be attained sooner. But this system does not give as good results and the cost of production is greater. It is a very good system, though, to produce bacon pigs. Pen-fed pigs I would not tolerate for breeders; but If I wanted to finish a batch of spring pigs for market in the shortest time, I should confine them in the pen all the time and feed as heavily as they would stand; and if these pigs were of the right breed, and from healthy, robust parents, and intelligently fed and managed up to weaning time, I would have no fears; but at five or six months of age they would be ripe for the block, and make good bacon pigs too. 

The points are: 1 To have the correct form and breed of brood sow. Never confine her. Let her roam the fields at will and the yards in winter; feed her intelligently while suckling, and wean at six weeks; then force the youngsters for all they are worth till five or six months of age ,and sell. 2. Breeding stock must not be confined in a pen. They must have unlimited pasture crops right through the season, or they may be confined in large paddock, and soiled. ― J. A. MacDonald, P. E. I., in Country Gentleman

– Pigs and Other Livestock, The Charlottetown Guardian. August 30, 1898

Source: Islandnewspapers.ca

Experiment With Millet

In the fall of 1942 a reader who takes an interest in these notes sent me three small packets of millet seed which she received from the neighbourhood of Winnipeg. Two of the samples were yellow and unnamed; the seeds in the third sample were of a glossy brown and were labelled “Early Fortune ”’ There were all together about four tablespoonsful.

I put the seeds by, in a cool dark place for the winter, and the following spring (1943), when the soil was well warmed up I planted them in the garden, in several short rows, mixing the two kinds (illegible) I did so. The year, as you will remember, was anything but ideal for the experiment,  but the millet grew amain, and towards autumn branched into the loose spray of the true millets – not the spiky heads of what are called Italian millets. (The latter are related to the pernicious foxtail grassss [sic] of our potato fields)

As the grain commenced to ripen my troubles began. All the birds of the air came a-prying and a-robing; and a flock of late chickens which were small enough to squeeze through the picket fence, found out about the millet and made good use of the knowledge. However, at the end of the season I had two large sheaves, and when I threshed them out I had two and one-quarter pounds of good seed.

Had the season been normal this millet might have been cut and cured as hay, while in an earlier stage But the summer and fall were very wet, and as I wanted to see how it succeed when sown for grain. I did not try that part of the experiment.

Millet is used for human food in some eatern countries, the seed being simply parched. Some who are the epicures of these lands, pound the grain and make it into a light paste with melted fat. I have heard that it was imported into Britain as poultry feed – for which it seems well adapted – but I never saw it used in the North of England. There is little notice of it in books from the U.S.A., in my possession; yet it must be grown there, as they advise farmers to sow about 25 lbs. to the acre, Canadian seed lists say it is grown for hay or live-stock feed. It would be an added interest if the generous donor of the “Early Fortune” seed, could tell us how farmers in the neighborhood of Winnipeg make use of this millet.

-Newsy Notes by Agricola, April 8, 1950

Source: islandnewspapers.ca

Days Of Horse And Buggy Had Niceties, Drawbacks

“… in the good old horse and buggy days,” a radio-voice sang to us in the kitchen this evening. The work of day was ended. James had come to the old armchair and his reading. Granddaughter, curled up on one end of the couch, where we sat darning the heel of one of James’ work-socks was lost in the pages of a book… Since a small one, reading has been a love of this one girl of the name. And even though she had expressed the thought that “I suppose by rights I should be studying.” we could appreciate the relaxation and rest after her days at classes, and the sheer delight she was enjoying then.

James smiled. “It’s all very well for them to sing about the good old horse and buggy days, Ellen,” he offered, lowering his newspaper, “but they had their drawbacks too. I was thinking that when I was tending to the chores in the piggery this evening. I couldn’t help comparing the easy method of feeding now with the toil of days gone by. Now there’s nothing to it- you put some meal and its balanced ration into the troughs, and you reach for the water to a tap. And its done But in the olden times what work there was to dragging up baskets of small potatoes from the cellar to cook in the farmers’ broiler: bringing in kindling and wood there… and water.”

“But the sight of the fire, the sound of the water bubbling as the potatoes cooked, and the mingled scent of it was good.” we remembered.

He sighed. “Pail after pail of water was carried from the pump in the yard — and wasn’t it good to have it to carry, instead of having to haul it in casks from the stream!”

“There was poetry in pumping a pail of water in the out of doors there was so much to see and hear in the world about. And sometimes you’d catch sight of a bit of blue sky, or a leafy branch in the pail, as well as the choice drink to be had”

A woman with a horse and covered buggy (with fringe) on the sand dunes on the North Shore, Prince Edward Island, ca. 1920-1930s.

“Poetry!” Granddaughter murmured smiling absently.

“There wasn’t too much poetry to it in winter,” James said. “The sleigh-bells- remember hearing them on a market-day on the teams off to town?”

James nodded, smiled. “Now I’m not saying. Ellen, the old days hadn’t their niceties…

They did. Many a one comes to mind. And often. But there was more toil to the living of then. The machinery of now…”

“And the coming of electricity,” we said.

“Have given us a new way of life.”

Today with Alex, we counted tulips reaching up to the sun and sky from the lawn-border.

“When they bloom…” he began

“The hummingbirds will be here,” we said

“And the swallows!” He smiled to think of it.

“There’ll be lilacs then.”

Lilac clouds, like islets floated away from the sunset this evening. And there was scarlet flame behind the firry treetops, great ribbons of it against the blue. The rich colors lingered before fading to a rose-hue which glowed and spread away from the gates of the west. And east? The Lady Moon came smiling down serenely on this valley, on the houses and barns sitting so content in their fields.

-Ellen’s Diary, April 26th, 1962

Source: islandnewspapers.ca

Kindness And Care Is Given To These Animals

This Monday was radiant with sunlight. And the morning had a ribbon of robin’s trill about it, to call us back from our dreams. James smiled across his pillow.

“Listen to that, Ellen!” he said. Another run of notes flooded the air-waves of the sunny blue day. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for all winter” he offered. And here over every wind of chimney and snowstorm, past every white drift and as well every delight of the season, the time of the singing birds was here. The words of Solomon’s Springsong came to mind: “My beloved spoke and said to me… come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle is head in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell…”

“This is no time to be lying in bed” James said, presently throwing off the covers.

“With the sun burning a hole in our backs” we giggled finishing the quote.

The small terrier which is Gages pet and delight is to Granddaughter’s mind “the cutest thing” now. Mack was careful to close the door against his pup this morning when he lifted and carried a lamb the length of the sheep-shed. “Just to see the ewe follow me.”

“It’s as though she is marching” he smiled over shoulder. “She’s keeping time to my steps…There now” he said putting the youngster down gently before her, “you were afraid I was going to harm your baby, weren’t you? You should know me better than that. He liked being in my arms. Why, he was so happy he didn’t even bleat… They’re something like little pigs” he nodded soberly to us “it’s all in the way you pick them up.”

In 1959: 4-year-old Sharon Stewart hugs a yearling Cheviot at her father’s farm near Charlottetown.

“See this, Mrs. Ellen!” our friend sparrow called resting something on the rosebush beyond the window today.

“Now, what is it?” we asked perring out. “Cord perhaps? Ravellings from feed-sacks the farmers open?”

“It’s better than that— look again!”

“Why, it’s a piece of yarn!” we said softly.


“Soft pink yarn!” we exclaimed intrigued at the sight.

“Call that pink! I’d say it was a pastel blue.”

“Well whichever… where did you get it?”
“Again I can’t say” he nodded with a mysterious grin. “But as the old lady in the fairytale said, “There’s something in the wind somewhere I’d say.”

“And you won’ tell?”

“Can’t— to be exact.”

“Oh dear” we sighed turning away to our work.

Today is going now— out on an amber sailboat of moon, over a silverblue sea. It came in on the warm thrill of a robin-to-be —all in all, a good day

-Ellen’s Diary, April 15th, 1957

Source: islandnewspapers.ca