Fish, Flies and FIELDing Problems – the Farmer in Armor
The problems started a week ago
When Rich and Zeb went fishing
To try and start our winter's hoard
- But that was hopeful wishing!
Richard snagged just a few
And Zeb gave us one he caught.
And in all the things we've learned here:
Cleaning fish in my kitchen - N O T !!!!!
The smell that night started making me sick
And all next day I was struggling
But opening the top half of the Dutch door,
Then closing it, freezing, took juggling
Between that fresh air method and
The burning beeswax - what else was used?
Oh, vinegar! So then our house stank
Of fish AND the latter-- and I was NOT amused.
Three days later, chilly and cold
'Cause the door was open for air
But the houseflies, blackflies and horseflies too
Were now inside and - we hadn't a prayer!
The second the snows melt away in N.B.
The blackflies are on us in swarms
And these aren't like Ontario ones -
They are smaller, and multiply as the air warms...
Only the females bite, they say -
But boy there are plenty of THOSE!
And though we're up high with lots of breeze
And with open land - ANYTHING goes
They are so small, and NOT very black
But the damage they cause is great
While trying to mow and harrow the fields
Richard's temples and neck were well-ate!
And while Mom plants the flowers, and I the veg,
We all three must bundle in armor
And poor Chevy, too, or he can't go to graze!
Ye GADS - the life of a farmer!
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So while we MUST be outside during the day,
With planting and sowing of seed
Mostly Chevy, and Smitty and Cammie too
Are INSIDE, where it's more black-fly-freed.
But with feeling sick from bug bites and flu,
Chevy doesn't want to eat much at all
He's on antibiotics, and pain-killers, too
SO... he's not happy out OR in stall!
And Cammie's twice gotten loose and run out
And eaten tomato plants started downstairs
Then nurtured along by yours truly...
Oh, the problems and woes and cares!!!
When they graze in the daylight, they are eaten alive
You can see their tails try, but in vain
(Especially since draft horse guys cut them SHORT
Which gives Chevy MORE of a strain!)
So Chevy goes out at night to eat
When it's chilly and damp and cold
And Cammie bleats from the barn for her pal
So there's all kinds of unrest in the fold!
And though their summer food is a problem,
Their winter food is now our main thought.
The field's been prepared with that new harrow
And now here we become MUCH over-wrought.
For in the long grass the blackflies rest
Awaiting the approach of fresh protein
That comes with our blood, those bastard swarms!
(If only they sucked FAT and made us lean!)
So we take turns on the back of the pickup truck
Which overheats constantly and stops
And we leave it and go on to something else
Then come back for more broadcasting crops.
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We toss out the timothy into the wind
And pray that many seeds 'take'
We may only get one hay-cutting this year:
But FINE QUALITY, thanks to harrow and rake?
However, yesterday, on the tailgate alone,
Broadcasting and enjoying the heat
('Twas the first hot day we've had
And - less blackflies ? Oh, Gosh- what a treat!)
I let my left leg dangle down
With pant-leg tucked into sock
And my right leg straddled the sack of seed...
I was ready with bug-spray, sun-block!
(All natural, of course, and may not work as well
As the chemical ones from the store,
Because, unbeknownst to me,
The blackflies were. . . EVENING THE SCORE).
Mom and Richard have both had bites
All over their bodies and hair
But so far, I've had better luck,
As I take garlic and dress with great care!
But here's my left ankle yesterday:
I was oblivious to all this going on
As the blackflies anaesthetize first
And THEN it's their major blood drawn.
You can see where my sock was tight
Because my pant leg was tucked in,
But apparently this doesn't much help
As my hairy legs are bitten heel to shin!
And today they are swollen and infected
And of course itchy as hell!
I reapply soda paste 3 times an hour
And curse the Mount of Blue Bell!
Yes the view is amazing and lovely
And the lilacs and tree blossoms too
But this week has been nightmarish for all who live
At the farm aptly named as "blue"....
And now Chevy's form of black-fly fever
May well be setting in to me too
But at least MY antibiotics are 'covered'
And won't break the bank as HIS do!
Taken at the Flood is one of my beloved Agatha Christie’s novels. Published in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide, it is one of her ‘Poirot’ stories. Both these titles are, of course, taken from Brutus’ famous and most wonderfully provocative AND symbolic speech:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, sc 3, lines 218-224
So, in other words, a mix of taking the right road at the fork, seizing the moment (at the ‘right’ time) Carpe Diem stuff and all that. With just a light pinch of Frost’s ‘taking the road LESS travelled’ thrown in for good luck. But in Christie’s Taken At the Flood novel, Mrs Lionel Cloade retorts to Poirot “Doctors, I find, have a very materialistic outlook. The spiritual seems to be strangely hidden from them. They pin their faith on Science – but what I say is… what is Science – what can it do?”
I always thought myself a much more spiritual and artistic person than a science person. Nonetheless, since the controversy about climate change has really spiked upwards (ie: the first 100 days of Humpty Dumbty’s presidency) I have discovered that I now actually find myself on the SIDE of SCIENCE. Despite what some scientists have PREVIOUSLY stated, most now seem to agree (probably since Hawking’s latest conversations on the subject) that we are indeed in the midst of violent global warming which is causing unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters. And yes, this is all because we continue to pollute the earth and mistreat it in every way possible.
Ontario friends complain about the heat and humidity they are already experiencing in March and in April. Out here our winter has gone on well into the 2nd week of April, and then we’ve had so much rain that of course heavy flooding is now happening, partly due to the skies continually dumping on us, but also partly because IDIOTS seem to think it’s o.k. to clear-cut the steep sides of slopes RIGHT beside the rivers (not to mention our short cut into town through Lucy’s Gulch). uh – HELLO? Even a kindergartner knows that’s going to cause erosion, but nope, they do it anyway. As long as there’s a buck to be had, who cares about the land, the rivers, the roads, or the people who try to live around them?
When I moved here nearly a year ago, 93-year-old closest neighbour Greta (the Danes pronounce it with a long ‘e’, so GREETA, just as “Gavin” down by the rec centre is “Gay-vin”) said something that will always stick with me. Though she has no memory of who we are, despite having been ‘introduced’ to her at least 12 times, ( her brain can no longer take in any new information but she is still very lucid when it comes to everything she’s known from the past) Greta looked sadly out her window one day at Bluebell Mountain and said “Oh, I WISH they wouldn’t clear-cut that mountain; it DOES upset me”. Dementia or no, I’m with ya there, Greta.
Here’s what they are doing to beautiful Bluebell.
And here is Lucy’s Gulch, taken from the road below. Imagine what’s going to HAPPEN to said road when everything starts to slide. Oh, no big deal – they’ll just close it off…
This is what happens when foresters and loggers IGNORE the warnings of proven science, and clear cut a steep slope, leaving disturbed topsoil and total destruction of the complex soil ecology and almost all plant and wildlife. And right below this catastrophe is the fork of the Salmonhurst River joining into the Saint John River. This is where Richard was fishing last year (see the lovely shots at the blog post https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/pippis-first-fishin-fable-lores-lures/ – the first pic. shows this bridge, which now has water nearing the road level)
As soon as you turn to look at the other side of this bridge – DEVASTATION!
This entire parkland was where Richard sat to fish while I walked the dog, and where we skiied and snow-shoed one day in January. It is indicative of what many of the lower crop fields are presently experiencing and the potato farmers are already saying there will be a potato rot this year. The WWF states much more succinctly than I can, how devastating all of this is :
“Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and severe issues.
The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding. Sustainable land use can help to reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, preventing soil degradation and erosion and the loss of valuable land to desertification.
The health of soil is a primary concern to farmers and the global community whose livelihoods depend on well managed agriculture that starts with the dirt beneath our feet. ”
Did you think New Brunswick was one of the best places in the world to fish? So did we – until we moved here and found out what all this clear-cutting has caused. Richard was looking forward to many mornings in a canoe catching fish so that we could freeze it and have it on a winter’s evening. But there is very little left to catch in the three rivers that surround us (the Tobique, Saint John and Salmonhurst). We were bitterly disappointed to find out that part of our strategy for living self-sufficiently has been yanked away by those who do not care about Mother Nature, or by those who do not want to live in harmony with her. Remember this commercial in the 1970s?
I cried every single time it aired. I remember going out to the side of the road and holding up anti-pollution signs with my sister and our friend Lesa for entire WEEKENDS. (Two of us would hold the banner between us, while the 3rd would go along picking up litter and putting it in garbage bags for the passers-by to witness).
But this litter (see recent post about the plastic water bottles we should be doing away with!) is NOTHING like the kind of damage being done by huge-scale industries such as forestry and oil.
I was most disappointed to read on a Homesteading page on FB that a huge number of those so-called homesteaders aren’t all that concerned about the ENVIRONMENT. I don’t know how you can have one without the other, frankly, but it seems many homesteaders are more concerned about just saving money or NOT living in a city – but they still run to the dollar store for tupperware and other plastic containers, operate generators off various petroleum products and empty them back into the land, put out chemical weed-killers and bee-killers, etc. And then when I (God Forbid!) comment that that doesn’t seem the best way to receive ‘gifts’ back from Mother Nature, I got a huge backlash, with ignorant comments such as this one ” I didn’t realize that being a homesteader meant we had to be also following eco-friendly trends! “. I couldn’t believe my eyes. (And there were some a lot nastier and more personal, but why bother quoting them – I tried to quickly forget those ones, in fact!)
Richard and I plan on heating as much as we can in winter with what our own small forest can supply. But we will be burning as much deadfall as we can, cutting only trees that are fighting out other good solid trees for sunlight, AND – most importantly – we will be on a REPLANTING regime as well.
Why can mankind not look after our natural resources better? Why are we so greedy that we are killing off humanity and wildlife at an alarming rate? Is there to be NOTHING left for future generations?
Going back to Shakespeare’s “Taken at the Flood” quote, if we do not take responsibility NOW, before it is too late, our chance is lost, and:
“Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
We must RISE WITH THE SWELL OF THE TIDE, and take the last few opportunities left to us to clean up this earth, to prevent the damage that is continually being done. We, homo sapiens, can NOT control these tides, just as we cannot control anything Mother Nature offers. But if we do not learn to go WITH her, rather than against her, we will indeed suffer these miseries for the remainder of human existence on this planet.
A few years ago, in the oft-written-of town of Perth-Andover, this was the scene of the main street which we drive down a few times a month for supplies. It is very nearly at this level again, www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/public_alerts/public_alert.2017.04.0513 thanks to erosion of the mountainsides and over-polluting of our waterways. Stephanie Kelly, editor of the local paper, the Blackfly Gazette, (previously mentioned in former postings in regard to that wonderful publication) and Marianne Bell, mayor (and also choir-conductor and book-club leader , mentioned in this blog just last week) have many things to say about this devastating flooding in the lowlands surrounding us ‘mountain-folk’. All you need do is google their names and some flood-related tag words to read or hear interviews.
And my dear, much-admired Agatha comes up again in this scientific (not literary, as one might expect from my regular reading habits!) book jacket description:
Environmental Forensics Fundamentals: A Practical Guide
“Over 400 pages of essential information in an easy-to-read practical guide to environmental forensics, a discipline that brings together Agatha Christie-style mysteries, scientific information, and environmental policies. This is a well-structured, cutting-edge investigation of contemporary environmental crimes and potential solutions from Ioana Petrisor, Ph.D”
I just wish a few more corporate CEOs, and yes, even Humpty Dumbty himself would read it as well! And note: for the latter, it DOES specifiy “easy-to-read”!
NOTE: While this post may leave you feeling down, prepare yourselves,
loyal readers, for the next 4 weeks of high excitement in our blog. We will
have your favourite - BEFORE/AFTERS of a painted plywood floor in Mom's
upstairs hall, as well as a visit to a Maine dairy goat farm for some lessons,
the building of the paddock and run-in-shelter for the goat and horse,
- (THEY ARE ARRIVING within the fortnight) and the long-awaited shots from the New Denmark
Queen's Pageant, complete with the hill-billy choreography and dramatic monologue coaching
done by yours truly. SO DON'T MISS ALL THE EXCITEMENT!
Many people call Richard ‘Pippi’. While I’ve yet to see him prancing about in red plaits and striped socks, the name does seem to suit him in other ways. Given to him by his sons, instead of “Pappy”, he now looks very much like an Appalachian ‘Pop’ as he set out on his first fishing adventure the other evening. He hasn’t been fishing in over 3 decades! He went down to the Salmon River, but walked onward until he found where it flows into the Saint John River. Thus, from starting out on a chair, he ended up – well, you’ll see. He had a great time, despite not catching anything for our freezer. I warned him that worms are better than his 30-year-old favoured lures. But tomorrow morning he strikes off with our young neighbour, his good friend ‘Zeb’. And Zeb’s bringing the worms! They’ll be going to one of Zeb’s favourite fishing holes, too… a mystery that may not be allowed to be publicly revealed, but their escapades certainly will be! And no doubt he’ll be sharing all kinds of Lore that has nothing to do with truth, but will amuse us all the same!
Just some of the many all-natural or salvaged (or both) Fishing-Themed items that are hand-made from scratch – with no patterns ever! – coming to you from Rustic Revivals, soon to be at Blue Belldon Farm, Blue Bell Corner, New Brunswick. For lots more, see our online shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/rusticrevivals
Part of living self-sufficiently (or as much as possible) is to catch your own fish for a healthy, well-balanced diet (providing the streams and lakes aren’t too polluted for this anymore!) Richard loves fishing, and behind us, just across some fields and forest, are Mazzerole Lake and Back Lake, as well as a plethora of other lakes, streams and brooks such as:
Whenever Richard is off on one of his fishing fiestas, he’ll inform me what’s happening at the chosen ‘hole’, I’ll write it in this diary/category and local fishermen can check in to see what’s biting/when and where! Now, just pray that in his accident-prone propensity, I don’t have to report pulling hooks out of Richard’s backside! P.S. Richard has helped raise more than 20 foster kids, as well as his own two boys. They started out calling him “Pappy”, but the more hair he lost, the more they called him “Pippi” (as in he has no braids to stick straight out at the sides…)