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MABEL'S GRILL - SEPTEMBER 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 09:00
“So I was up most of the night before last with a sick cow and it was raining again yesterday afternoon so there was nothing to do – I mean you can only check the combine over so many times waiting for the soybean harvest – so I decided I might as well take a nap,” said George McKenzie as he sipped his second cup of coffee.
“I just nicely got to sleep and the phone rang and it was some store my wife shops at with some recording telling her there’s this world-beating sale on for two days only.
“So I go back to the couch and just get to sleep again and the phone rings and it’s some outfit telling me I’d won some free cruise. I’d have told them to take a long trip off a short pier but it was just a recording. After that I figured I might as well get up and make some coffee to try to keep me awake.”
“Yeah, the trouble with those recordings is you can’t even get nasty with them for messing up your day,” said Cliff Murray.
“But at least you can hang up easily without worrying you’re not making Canadians seem rude by snubbing somebody calling from Mumbai,” said Mabel.
“I got that free cruise call too,” said Dave Winston. “They got me with my mouth full of a ham sandwich at noon.”
“My goodness there are a lot of lucky people winning cruises out there,” said Molly Whiteside as she cleared away the plates from the guys’ late breakfast. “Where was this cruise to?”
“Didn’t listen,” said Dave. “I was so ticked to have my lunch interrupted I hung up.”
“Me either,” said George.
“But I mean, you could have had a free cruise!”
“Ah,” said Cliff. “You’re the one.”
“One what?” asked Molly.
“Well I get all these calls supposedly giving me something for free when I know there’s a catch and I figure there must be some people out there who buy in or they wouldn’t be making all these calls. You’re the kind of optimist they’re after.”
“Or sucker,” said George.
“What’s wrong with trying to get a bargain?”  asked Molly.
“When you’ve farmed as long as we have you don’t buy into get-rich-quick schemes,” said Dave.
“I use all my optimism just planting a crop each spring, knowing if the bugs and the weather don’t get you then likely the prices will bottom out and you’ll be lucky to pay for the fuel to harvest it,” said Cliff.
“The calls I get are all from fly-by-night stockbrokers who have some amazing stock that’s going to make me rich,” said Mabel. “Even when I tell them I don’t have any money to invest they try to keep talk-ing – as if I’d give money to some guy who calls me out of the blue.”
“I guess some people must buy in or they wouldn’t keep cold-calling,” said Cliff.
“Then there are the e-mails I get offering me a big reward to help some unfortunate rich person get their money out of some African dictatorship,” said Dave. “How can people still fall for that after all the publicity it’s had over the years?”
“Yeah, but the overhead is a lot lower in the days of e-mail,” said Mabel. “They don’t have to write the letter out by hand and mail it like years ago. They can flood out a million e-mails and hope there’s one greedy sucker to get hooked.”
“It’s not all the bad guys,” said Dave. “My wife gave to some charity a couple of months ago and already they’re back asking for more.”
“It’s the newest fundraising strategy,” said Cliff. “It’s called the ‘moves’ strategy. They figure out the people who already support them can be ‘moved up’ to give more.”
“Not me,” said George. “It’s more likely to not give anything in the first place. It’s like your kids: as soon as you give them something they figure you’re soft and they come back for more.”◊
OF OPTIMISTS AND INTERRUPTIONS
The problems of the word are solved daily ’round the tabke at Mabel's Grill
“So I was up most of the night before last with a sick cow and it was raining again yesterday afternoon so there was nothing to do – I mean you can only check the combine over so many times waiting for the soybean harvest – so I decided I might as well take a nap,” said George McKenzie as he sipped his second cup of coffee.
“I just nicely got to sleep and the phone rang and it was some store my wife shops at with some recording telling her there’s this world-beating sale on for two days only.
Read more...
 
CREATING THE RIPLEY APPLE PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:56
After almost a year of waiting, the  Bruce Botanical Food Garden (BBFG) can finally welcome its newest addition to the heirloom collection; the Ripley Apple tree.
Sustainable food advocate and avid recycler Lynne Taylor, founder of the BBFG in Ripley, took great care in selecting the apple that would be dubbed the new Ripley Apple, and after waiting with much anticipation, the first batch of trees is finally ready.
“A lot went into selecting the Ripley apple,” Taylor explained. “It wasn’t just ‘oh, here’s a nice looking apple’. It had to taste good and be naturally disease resistant, among other things.”
The Ripley Apple was one of two big projects undertaken by the BBFG since they opened last summer, as part of their efforts to preserve heirloom species, including rare and endangered food plants, for future generations to enjoy, not just for their taste, but for the unique qualities they possess and the history that comes with them.
Even the Ripley apple, barely a year old since Taylor and Heather Pletsch, vice-president of the BBFG,  first collected the apples from the trees along the Ripley Apple Rail Trail to choose from, has a history which can be traced back to when the train still rolled along that trail.
The Ripley trail was once part of the Grand Trunk Railway system, which operated in Quebec, Ontario and parts of the United States as an independent company until the 1920s, when it was merged with several other railway companies to form what we recognize today as the Canadian National Railways.
According to Taylor, it was thanks to the passengers who rode the train through Ripley back then that many of the wild apple and other fruit bearing trees were able to establish themselves along either side of the track.
“At the time that the rail was going through, windows were able to be opened on the trains, and as they would come into the station, everyone is getting rid of their fruit waste,” Taylor explained. “So you find lots of pear trees out there, as well as apples and raspberries bushes.”
Aside from its unique origins, the Ripley apple was also chosen from among the wild apple trees growing abundantly along the trail because of the amount of time and effort the township put into establishing the trail as a public domain.
“The township has done an awful lot of work to develop the Rail Trail for the enjoyment of everyone who lives here and who visits here,” said Taylor. “It’s also a very important lesson that we’re hoping to take forward in a program we’re developing, so that people realize how much food is actually sitting there that no one pays any attention to.”
With apple samples from nine different trees to choose from, Taylor and Pletsch were able to narrow the choice down to three. Then, after filling several bags with apples from each of those three trees, they were off to the 150th Ripley Fall Fair, where the winning apple would be decided by the people of Ripley.
“We had a small booth set up, and over 324 people taste tested our apples,” said Taylor.
Once the winning apple was chosen, Taylor set to work collecting scion wood samples from the winning tree, which were later taken to the O’Keefe Grange Heritage Apple Farm in Dobbinton for grafting.
The Grange, run by Bill and Lynn O’Keefe, specializes in growing rare, endangered and heirloom apple and pear trees, and has been doing so for over 20 years.
“The ones that we grow are on the verge of extinction,” Bill O’Keefe explained, “and once a variety becomes extinct, there is no way of ever bringing it back again.”
One of their primary methods for re-introducing an apple species is through grafting, which requires samples – or “scions” – of the desired apple trees to be collected in the winter, kept refrigerated, and then come spring, inserted into the root stocks that the new trees will grow from.
The grafting procedure was sponsored by the Pine River Watershed Initiative Network (PRWIN), an organization which began as a small group of individuals concerned about the water quality in the Pine River Watershed, but eventually developed a governing body and was able to take on other projects.
Even with the necessary funding in hand to move the project forward, there was no 100 per cent guarantee that the scions would take to their new host root system during the grafting process.
“We’re dealing with mother nature,” said O’Keefe. “It’s not always going to be successful. I have had 100 per cent success rates, and I have had 100 per cent failure rates. Usually the percentage of our takes is up in the 90s, so we’re happy with that.”
The Ripley apple, fortunately, was within that 90 per cent success rate. O’Keefe was able to successfully graft 100 dwarf and semi-dwarf Ripley apple trees, which, according to Taylor, would indeed produce delicious apples, but not necessarily store-quality ones.
“Apples you get in the store are selected for the store,” said Taylor. “These are being grown for their history and the fact that they have delicious flavours.”
Much like snowflakes, no matter how many varieties of apples there are, you would be hard pressed to find two which looked or tasted exactly the same. This is what drives the O’Keefe’s to keep those species alive that would otherwise have been lost.
“Most modern varieties are created in universities and agricultural settings, so they don’t have the history that the old varieties have,” said O’Keefe. “We’re as much about the history of the fruit as we are about preserving the fruit itself.”.
There are currently 50 dwarf and 50 semi-dwarf Ripley apple trees for purchase on a first come, first serve basis. Order forms can be downloaded from the BBFG website at www.bbfg.org.
People have the choice of either purchasing a tree to take home and care for themselves, or they can pay a bit more to have it planted in the BBFG as part of their commemorative orchard, which would be cared for by volunteers for the garden.
“People are welcome to come harvest apples from the trees anytime,” said Taylor.
For more information about the apple trees, contact Lynne Taylor at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call project coordinator for the BBFG Alex Lamont-Thomson at 519-395-3735.◊
CREATING A NEW APPLE VARIETY
By Emily Manns
After almost a year of waiting, the  Bruce Botanical Food Garden (BBFG) can finally welcome its newest addition to the heirloom collection; the Ripley Apple tree.
Sustainable food advocate and avid recycler Lynne Taylor, founder of the BBFG in Ripley, took great care in selecting the apple that would be dubbed the new Ripley Apple, and after waiting with much anticipation, the first batch of trees is finally ready.
Read more...
 
KATE PROCTER - OCTOBER 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:38
One of the great things about farming is that it is rarely boring. Sometimes I am amazed at the number of hats farmers have to wear in order to just get through the day. I have never heard a farmer say “not my job”; usually they just get busy, figure things out, and drive on.
Farmers work as builders, plumbers, mechanics, electricians, veterinarians, and marketers. We have to know about soil, geology, weather, accounting, genetics, plant and animal diseases, pharmaceuticals, sprays, fertilizers, and don’t even get me started on computer software. Having had computers on our farm for over 30 years, I’ve lost track of the different software programs we’ve learned and forgotten during that time.
Not only do we have to know different species of plants, but countless varieties within those species. As our world becomes more complex, we have to know increasingly more details about all of those things. Every year when we sit down and plan for our next season’s crops, we have so many variables to consider. Of course, the number of crop heat units is the first one that helps us narrow the choices. After that, it is a numbers game. We pull out the most recent yield trials – for one crop alone, there are many different variables that we analyze, consider, and weigh the importance of in order to narrow it down to one or two.
We need to have an understand-ing of the world from many different viewpoints – physical, biological, mechanical, political, and social. Of course, most of us are more comfortable dealing in some of these areas than others. Whether they are siblings, spouses, or parent and child, many farmers specialize at least somewhat. One person prefers to work with the animals, while the other likes to be out in the field. One prefers to stay on the farm, keep a low profile and get the job done, where the other likes to be out in the thick of things trying to make a difference at a municipal, provincial, or industry level.  In order to have a successful business, all of these skills are important.
As farmers, sometimes it is easy to get caught up with thinking that we need to do everything ourselves. Sometimes we don’t have the option of hiring someone to help us, sometimes we’re just too stubborn to admit we don’t want to do something or that someone else is better at it. However, taking some time to reflect on this can help not only the farm business, but also the people side of things.
Whether you have employees on your farm, or whether you are a one-person show, considering interests and strengths can go a long way toward making your operation more successful. People are usually better at doing things they are interested in. While we all have to do things that we don’t really love doing, the more we can stick to the things we like, the better job we do. Of course, sometimes it is good to get out of our comfort zone and learn new skills.
But when you’re pressed for time or other resources, being honest about what you like to do and what you’re good at doing can go a long way to figuring out the best way to use those resources. If you really enjoy working with your animals, or growing your crops, hiring a book keeper to keep on top of the day to day financial operation of the farm may provide just the right kind of help that you need to make everything better.
Over the years, with increasing complexity, we have come to rely more and more on specialists to help us. Where we used to have a veterinarian who would deal with all of our farm animals, now we have specialists who deal with one species and helps us manage overall herd health, rather than dropping in to deal with emergencies. We have crop advisors who help us select pesticides, and diagnose diseases and other problems in the field. We have marketers who spend 100 per cent of their time watching markets, world conditions, and weather to help us sell our crops more profitably. Our farms themselves have become places of specialization, which helps us take off one or two hats and devote more energy to doing a few things well.
With all of this help available, it may be easier today to find the help you need. But don’t forget to think about what you do well and enjoy doing, what you could use help with, and what you could hire someone else to do for you. Considering that can help bring greater success and peace of mind to both your business and your personal life.◊
FARMING’S A COMPLEX WORLD, SO FIND WAYS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR DECISIONS
By Kate Procter
One of the great things about farming is that it is rarely boring. Sometimes I am amazed at the number of hats farmers have to wear in order to just get through the day. I have never heard a farmer say “not my job”; usually they just get busy, figure things out, and drive on.
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KEITH ROULSTON - OCTOBER 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:30
Rural communities, perhaps more than anywhere else, depend for their existence on the entrepreneurial instinct of individuals and of groups that come together to better their community. The last month I’ve seen both in action.
Don Nott, who hosted the Biomass Field Day at Clinton, September 5, is a prime example of the kind of inquiring mind and determined personality that has helped build our communities.
A decade ago, when prices for corn, soybeans and wheat were at their lowest, he decided there had to be a better answer for farmers in the future. He became interested in growing switchgrass, a warm-weather perennial grass native to North America that produces for years with low input costs.
Not only did he plant a crop of the grass, but he put his creative mind and knowledge gained by decades of growing crops to work solving production problems. Switch-grass grows all summer and the original harvest method was to cut and bale it in late fall. The weather in November near Lake Huron, as Nott’s farm is, is seldom conducive to drying and baling. He came up with the idea of cutting the grass and leaving it, piled on a long stubble to keep it off the ground, over the winter.
His son Dan then pioneered planting switchgrass with spring wheat as a nurse crop, giving an income in the first year of the three years it takes switchgrass to reach full potential.
Nott has pioneered finding markets for the crop including ways to combine switchgrass with plastic from recycled bale wrap and other sources, to provide new, stronger composite materials. What’s more, they have shared their knowledge with other switchgrass growers.
If biomass crops like switchgrass reach their expected potential to be a major farm crop, Don Nott will have been a big part of the reason.
Nearly every rural community also depends on the kind of group entrepreneurialism that has created everything from fall fairs to farm co-ops. My own community in Blyth recently saw an outstanding new example of community entrepren-eurial spirit.
Fare on 4 was a  a gourmet meal for 1,419 patrons right in the middle of the village’s main street organized by a new group called the Blyth 14/19 Campaign. It was an audacious idea: that you could attract 1.4 times the village’s population to an outdoor meal, but not only did they sell out, they had a long waiting list for seats.
Selling the tickets was one challenge but could they then bring off this massive undertaking? Directed by Peter Gusso and Jason Rutledge, chefs of two main street restaurants, a team of 100 volunteers spent days preparing the food then serving it with breathtaking efficiency. The crowning moment came when 1,419 people rose in a rolling standing ovation as the chefs walked end to end in their blocks’ long “dining room”.
Fare on 4 is just part of something larger, however. The group is trying to reinvent a community that was founded as a service centre for local farm families who now tend to shop elsewhere. 14/19 is raising money to renovate Blyth Memorial Hall, home of the Blyth Festival, one of the main economic drivers of the community these days. Beyond that they plan to renovate the village’s abandoned public school as the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, boosting economic activity in the process.
The pioneering individual and the community coming together to make things happen that are beyond the ability of one individual but that needs to happen for the community’s good – these have been the keys to rural development since the bush was cleared. We still need both if we want healthy rural communities.◊
GETTING AHEAD THANKS TO INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP EFFORTS
Rural communities, perhaps more than anywhere else, depend for their existence on the entrepreneurial instinct of individuals and of groups that come together to better their community. The last month I’ve seen both in action.
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MABEL'S GRILL - OCTOBER 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:24
“So will your family be home for Thanksgiving this year?” Molly Whiteside asked Dave Winston as she filled his coffee cup the other morning.
“No, we’re all getting together as my sister’s daughter’s place in Toronto,” said Dave, letting out a deep sigh.
“Why the sigh?” wondered Cliff Murray.
“My niece is a vegetarian,” said Dave. “I understand she’ll be serving a tofu turkey.”
“That’ll be honouring that longstanding Thanksgiving tradition of when the pilgrims went out and shot a soybean,” said George McKenzie.
“She probably got it at the vegan butcher,” said Cliff.
“How can you have a vegan butcher?” wondered George.
“I read about it in the Toronto newspaper,” said Cliff. “They serve people who want things that are like meat but don’t want to kill anything or eat meat. So they have things like beet burgers, steaks made from mushrooms and coconut bacon.”
“Sounds hypocritical to me,” said Dave. “You don’t want meat but you want something that makes you think you’re eating meat.”
“It’s all those consumers that want it both ways,” said Molly. “Like those ads for margarine that they claim tastes ‘buttery’.”
“I wonder if that vegan butcher might be picketted by the fruitarians for cruelty to vegetables,” wondered Cliff.
“Fruitarians? What the heck is a fruitarian?” asked George.
“They’re people who believe you shouldn’t ‘kill’ vegetables,” said Cliff. “You’re only supposed to eat something that has already died or fallen from a tree.”
“Sounds fruity to me, alright,” said George.
“So that would mean they could only make apple pies with windfalls,” said Molly.
“Wouldn’t you be kind of like a vulture feeding on dead bodies?” wondered Dave.
“I guess that would end us eating tomatoes,” said Mabel from over at the counter where she was unpacking a big basket of tomatoes that had just been delivered by the local Mennonite market gardener. “I’m sure not going to want to eat any tomatoes that fall off the vine because they’d probably be rotten by then.”
“What about potatoes? They can’t fall off at all,” said Dave.
“I suppose if the vine has died they would consider it okay to exhume the bodies,” said Cliff.
“But the tops usually don’t die off carrots and parsnips and they can’t fall because they’re already in the ground so what happens there?” wondered Mabel.
“I guess if you’re hungry for carrots you’re just going to have to be a murderer,” said Dave.
“I wonder how much it costs for beet burgers or coconut bacon?” wondered George. “Probably more than for real meat.”
“These kinds of people seem to have it to spend,” said Cliff. “They’re the kind of people who will pay a buck for a bottle of water they could get free from the tap but then complain about the price of milk.”
“Lots of places in the world people are just glad to get any food to fill their stomachs,” said Molly. “People in this country just have too much money.”
“Tell me about it,” said Dave. “Did you see the film on the news of all these people lining up to get the latest iPhone the minute it went on sale? I mean most of them already had a phone that was only a year or two old but they just had to have it, today!”
“I liked the guy who was so proud to be first in line to get his iPhone then he was showing it to the reporter and he dropped it and it broke,” said Cliff.
“Hmmm,” said Mabel, “a dead Apple. I guess even a fruitarian would approve.”◊
What about vegetable cruelty?
The problems of the world are solved daily ’round the table at Mabel's Grill
“So will your family be home for Thanksgiving this year?” Molly Whiteside asked Dave Winston as she filled his coffee cup the other morning.
“No, we’re all getting together as my sister’s daughter’s place in Toronto,” said Dave, letting out a deep sigh.
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