Monday, November 30, 2009

Black Sheep Farm publicity

Ok, for those of you who know me well, you know I'm somewhat averse to publicity and attention. Just having this blog is a venture into the public sphere that I was somewhat leery of at first. When I started it, I only allowed permissioned people to have access, but I got over myself soon enough to realize that the sheer volume of information on the Internet would ensure privacy. Only people who knew and cared about me would ever really end up looking at my blog because I would have given them the link. And anyone else who stumbled on it in the course of web searches are likely kindred spirits anyway ;P

But then the documentary filming started, I handed out lots of business cards over the course of the season, gave interviews to various people writing books and articles about food and agriculture, and started selling produce. Publicity is something that the farm needs, and is also good for sustainable agriculture. The more people become aware of the various issues surrounding food production, the more educated they will become about the true cost of food and hopefully make more thoughtful food purchasing choices.

And now, Black Sheep Farm is one of the featured farms in the 2010 New Farmer calendar produced by Everdale's Farmers Growing Farmers (FGF) program. I work part-time for the program, which included designing and producing the calendar. So I got to exercise some creativity :) If you're interested in buying a copy to support Everdale and FGF...and also to have a 2010 calendar which features new farmers who've taken the FGF program, including Black Sheep Farm!...go to: www.everdale.org/node/292
The calendar is 5.5" x 8.5" and costs $12. It's a great gift for anyone on your list who cares about food and farming :)

I have also ventured into the world of Facebook. Not really directly, but rather through my sister who is setting up some sort of Black Sheep Farm fan page for me. The link to that is now in the sidebar of this blog. Apparently I need 100 people to become Black Sheep Farm fans to be able to get 'Black Sheep Farm' as the Facebook URL...or something like that. Clearly, I don't get what's involved, but my sister has kindly taken on the task of managing the Facebook stuff.

Oh, and good news on the farm Internet front - I'm off dial up! The Bell 3G stick works at the farm! So hopefully I'll be better about writing blog posts and uploading pictures since my internet access speed is faster than 28.8 kbps :D

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Home ownership is a lot of work!

All you home owners out there are of course nodding your heads at the title of this post, and I certainly didn't become a home owner blind to all the maintenance that a house requires, and a century home at that! Not to mention outbuildings and equipment...people ask me what I'm doing with my spare time now that the growing season is over, and all I can say is that I don't really feel like I have much spare time.

In terms of home and building maintenance, since moving to the farm, I've gotten the farm house roof replaced, dry walled and insulated part of an upstairs room, and painted half the upstairs. More recently, I had the uncovered portion of the barn filled in with a cement floor and a new beam installed in the lower level to carry the weight of the cement floor and stabilize the structure. My hope is to one day have a barn terrace cafe on that cement floor as the view of the rolling countryside is amazing from there.

I've bought a wood stove for the house so I won't just be burning fuel oil, aka 'money', over the winter to heat the house. I had an Eco-Energy audit done for the house and am now just waiting for the new windows for the upstairs of the house to be installed, and to have the basement insulated. I will also be crawling into the attic to lay down more insulation. All these things are planned improvements for long-term improvements in energy efficiency.

Of course, there had to be a sucker punch in all this building stuff. I couldn't possibly have bought a place that wouldn't have a surprise for me to deal with :( My oil furnace started dripping fuel oil from the burner at some point. I have no idea when it started, only this October, back in April, or even before I took possession of the house. It made a wet spot on the basement floor that I just thought was another water related wet spot. And since I generally avoided spending any time in the basement, I never really noticed that it never dried out. Well, it wasn't water, and technically, is considered an oil spill. Great...the organic vegetable farmer has an 'oil spill' in her basement according to the TSSA (who I had no idea existed until they inspected the oil spot and issued me a test order). Anyway, the furnace has now been repaired, so the dripping has stopped, but now I have to figure out how contaminated the floor is and what clean up is involved and what that might cost. All mysteries to me, and it seems like experts on this are few and far between. Sigh...this wasn't something that I wanted to have to deal with as I got ready to be in Toronto to help my sister with her booth at the One of a Kind show. But happen it did, and I've done what I can for now and will just have to see what next steps to take after I get back to the farm after the show.

There are cosmetic changes that I'd like to make to the kitchen and downstairs toilet room (since that's all it is without a sink installed yet!), but those are definitely not a priority. I guess I'll have to see how much money (or more accurately, debt) I'm willing to spend after all the crucial stuff is taken care of. My housemate has also moved back to Kitchener-Waterloo so when I get back to the farm, I'll be doing post move-out cleaning, and rearranging all my stuff to fill the space. I'll also be bringing furniture back to the farm with me from friends and family, so all that will need to be arranged to make my home comfortable. If any of you have furniture you want to get rid of, let me know! I don't guarantee I'll take it, but I could definitely use some more items!

Well, that's it for home maintenance for now...my next couple weeks will be occupied with helping my sister at the Toronto Christmas One of a Kind show. If you're at the show, come visit me at the 'House of Hsueh' booth in the Rising Stars section and support a struggling artisan :)