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Notes from 2 years in Nova Scotia

Posted: Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:10 pm
by edibleforestguy
Background: we own a decent size rural property in Cape Breton but live out of province. Here are observations we gathered, in no particular order.

1) It's delightful and lovely in Inverness county.
2) Even though it's very rural, Cape Breton (and Nova Scotia) are not self sufficient in food production. One can even say, relatively little food is produced locally.
3) The Inverness countryside is mostly forest and abandoned farms and occasionally dotted with hay farms and cattle farms. There are occasional orchards but few grains.
4) Casual observation of rural yards indicates that home vegetable gardens are not widespread.
5) My soil is typical, I think, for my region: deep, acidic (pH well below 5), moderately rocky (many stones but few large ones), clay, slowly draining after rains.
6) It's clear why the farms have become abandoned. The terrain is not made for large scale mechanisation, and the soil poor.
7) Having said that, you can grow just about anything in Cape Breton with enough lime and fertiliser. Water is plentiful and you really don't need irrigation.
8) It's natural orchard land. Apples do well.
9) There are wild food sources. Wild apples are everywhere, so are choke cherries. I bet in a SHTF scenario, a guy with a quality apple press has his business made.
10) The most available firewood on many properties are the alder bushes, which, curiously, the locals don't use.

To be continued. Feel free to comment of course.

Re: Notes from 2 years in Nova Scotia

Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:05 am
by edibleforestguy
It's been another year. So, continued,
11) Three years in, I feel comfortable saying it's possible to set up and manage a fruit farm from 1000+km away. We're in Nova Scotia about 6 weeks total per year.
12) The Jerusalem artichoke experiment failed. Soil too acidic? I have tried a second planting.
13) Garlic turned out small but it grew. I wasn't there to clip the flowers, neither did I fertilise it.
14) We set up a vineyard. Grapes are forgiving. We did everything at the wrong time. We got the rootless cuttings in June (2015) when they were no longer dormant. We planted them and were not there to water them all summer. We transplanted them to their permanent location this July and again were not there to water. Most survived anyway, when last checked in November.
15) The wild apple trees are productive. We harvested 70kg, pressed them to 30 litres juice and concentrated that to 4 litres on the woodstove.
16) I did a calculation on wood ash: each kg is worth about 70 cents in terms of lime and fertiliser content. 2kg of ash is equivalent to 1kg of lime. Of course, not a lot of ash is produced. If one burns wood all year, maybe 5,000 kg of wood goes into the stove. Less than 2% of that becomes ash, thus under 100 kg.
17) When clearing land, I keep the food sources for the birds, frogs etc. The beneficial wildlife. Thus, the choke cherries stay, as do small seasonal wet areas.
18) The growth rate of many plants is very slow in Cape Breton. Even the haskap grows slowly. It shows the low fertility of the native soil. It'll become better with the lime.
19) Liming is far more important than fertiliser. A small fraction of nitrogen, phosphor and potassium is actually available to the plants when the pH is 4.5.
20) Community life is delightful.
21) Oh a demolition hammer with clay spade attachment does wonders to help dig holes and help with trenching in the hard stony clay soil.

Re: Notes from 2 years in Nova Scotia

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:28 pm
by Antsy
I appreciate the posts and your observations. We are 'year one' into the same exercise in Antigonish County.

I've noted a lot of gardening, however not in obvious places. People appear to be land rich and don't necessarily keep their gardens by their homes in my area. My in-laws grow potatoes, beet root, carrots, and beans. Lots of canning going on.

I've also noted the abundance of wild apples. This last year micro cider operations were the rage in NS however I am not sure if the fruit is all locally sourced. I've also seen strawberry and blueberry operations around town and in Guysburough.

There is a large dairy operation outside of Antigonish and this is the only large scale agricultural operation I've noted however I'm not scouring the back roads. There appears to be more going on around Truro. The commercial fishery appears to be alive (if not well).

Like you, I appreciate the community. The people are kind and welcoming.

I will look forward to your observations next December.

Cheers.

Re: Notes from 2 years in Nova Scotia

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:16 pm
by farmgal
Great overview, thanks for the read and updates.. please do another one as the time comes.. There is a company in Nova Scotia that sells a few kinds of the Chokes, they would be naturalized to the island and might be worth considering.. I have five kinds now on my farm and the difference between them can be quite a bit..

Re: Notes from 2 years in Nova Scotia

Posted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:18 am
by Skillman
I am on the old family farm in rural Pictou county. The soil here is much richer and far less rocky than up at my in laws in Margaree area of CB. Lots of wild apples, cherries, and several types of berries. Hazel nuts do very well, but you have to get them before the birds and squirrels. Water table has been very consistent on our property for 20 plus years.

I love it here.