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Die ersten beiden Kapitel meines zweiten GorTara Romans heißen „Zwielicht“ und „Blaulicht“. Ich fand das beim Schreiben einfach nett, außerdem passte es inhaltlich ganz gut. Jetzt habe ich eben beim Surfen auf LastFM gesehen, dass es ein Lied von Element of Crime gibt, das „Blaulicht und Zwielicht“ heißt. Und beim Anhören habe ich dann gemerkt, dass ich das sogar kenne, also zumindest irgendwan schonmal gehört habe. Vielleicht war da also bei Kapitelbenennung mein Unterbewusstsein im Spiel. Witzig. Irgendwie sind die GorTara Romane ausgesprochen musikalische Bücher, obwohl gar nicht so viel Musik drin vorkommt. Nicht von ungefähr heißen die beiden Antagonisten Sibelius und Bartok.

Eine kanadische Folk-Sängerin ist dieser Tage von zwei Kojoten getötet worden. Bitte? Ich meine, dass Kojoten wenig Scheu vor Menschen haben, ist mir aufgefallen, schließlich habe ich meine ersten Kojoten mitten in Vancouver gesehen, im Stanley Park nämlich, da laufen die so rum. Und letztes Jahr sind mir auch immer mal wieder welche begegnet, meistens, weil sie in der Dämmerung über die Straße laufen. Dass die Farmtiere reißen, ist klar, nicht von ungefähr stehen in Kanada oft Lamas oder andere Schutztiere mit auf der Weide. Aber dass Kojoten Menschen angreifen, noch dazu einen erwachsenen gesunden Menschen und das ohne Not, das finde ich ziemlich unglaublich. Den Cape Breton National Park, wo das passiert ist, kenne ich ja, da war ich letztes Jahr. Ehrlich gesagt stehe ich den kanadischen Nationalparks ziemlich skeptisch gegenüber. Meiner Erfahrung nach haben die meist mehr mit Tourismus als mit Naturschutz zu tun. Und darum sind die Tiere, die in diesen Nationalparks leben auch häufig etwas degeneriert. Das kommt dann immer mal wieder zu Unfällen, weil Leute meinen, den niedlichen Bären, der da in ihrem Beisein die Mülltonne durchwühlt, jetzt auch noch füttern oder streicheln zu müssen. Blöd. Trotzdem, Kojoten? Wäre die Frau stattdessen von einem Elch überrannt oder aufgespießt worden, hätte mich das nicht im geringsten gewundert. Hätte auch bestens zur Jahreszeit gepasst. Aber Kojoten?

Dienstag hatten wir Hausversammlung. Das machen wir manchmal, wenn es so wichtige Themen zu besprechen gibt wie: Sollten wir mal den Flur aufräumen? Brauchen wir eine neue Geschirrspülmaschine oder lässt die alte sich nochmal reparieren? Hat jemand Lust bei der Gartenarbeit zu helfen? etc. Das ganze ist außerdem meistens verbunden mit etwas zu essen (Dienstag gab es z.B. frisch gebackenen Apfelkuchen) und einer Menge Ouzo. Ich mag Hausversammlungen. Als wir eigentlich den offiziellen Part schon für beendet erklären wollten, kam Tomke noch mit einer Idee. Sie will Hühner halten, ob wir da was gegen hätten. Dagegen? Ich find’s toll. Ich wollte immer schon Hühner. Und jetzt wälze ich Bauanleitungen für Hühnerställe im Internet und lese alles, was ich über verschiedene Hühnerrassen finde.

And what a year it has been. The things I was allowed to experience this summer in Canada, the people I met, the work I did on the farms, changed my perspective on, well, pretty much everything. I have been blessed.

Top ten memories for 2008:
– stacking haybales on the trailer in the hot summer sun
– seeing a moose bull on Gross Morne Mountain
– the look in Stephan’s and Gerlinde’s faces when I returned to Green Dragon Farm unexpectedly
– saying goodbye to Kevin at the Equinox party (may our pathes meet again)
– seeing Connor the newborn Highland calf the morning after he was born
– discovering the „Outside the Lines“ bookstore on Quinpoole in Halifax
– surprising Kate with a newly built kitchen shelf
– steering the „Gute Seemannschaft“ on the Hunte in Bremen for the very first time
– coming back home
– drawing the first curtain on the premiere night of Scrooge

There and back again, the adventures of a wandering hobbit. Tune in for the sequel next year … no title yet, just a soundtrack: „I am sailing“ by Rod Steward.

What can I say? It is over, I am back home. The four and a half month I spent in Canada went by oh so fast. After leaving Green Dragon Farm in September I stayed on Cape Breton Island for three weeks, on Brookes and Kates wonderful Oldmanfarm in Middle River. Fabulous autumn colors, amazing animals (goats, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, sheep, chicken and a pet rat), three equally amazing and sometimes very energetic children and a breathtakingly beautiful hillside view are the fondest and most important memories I take with me from their place.

I slept in a sunroom which was attached to the porch and which sometimes got a little cold at night, so I used to take a hot granite rock from the woodstove with me when I went to bed. There is nothing better to heat up your sleeping bag. Brooke gave me one of the smaller rocks to take with me when I left. One day I will return to recharge it on their stove again.

My next and last stop in Canada was Montréal, or rather Otterburn Park, a suburb where my fathers cousin Horst lives. Horst immigrated with his family more than 30 years ago. I had never met him, but I was always mesmerized by the thought that I have relatives in Canada. Unfortunately Horst was on a business trip to Australia, but his wife Brigitte gave me a warm welcome and I was happy to get the chance to meet three of my second cousins with their families and talk on the phone to a fourth one who is currently working in Korea and will move to Berlin next year. They were almost as excited about the fact that they had a cousin from Germany that they had never heard about as I was to be there.

Now I am back home. Many of my friends have called or mailed to ask how I am doing, so they have not forget me while I was gone. And even so I enjoyed this summer so much and really was blessed with warm hospitality and met so many wonderful people, at the moment it just feels so good to be back home, to have all my things around me again (like an internet connection which always works and clean clothes to choose from and all my books and my celtic harp and my bike and and and …). I did not really actively miss all this during the summer, but at the moment if feels just so comforting to have it all back. I am sure that wanderlust will grab me again, in a few month, when spring starts, probably, but at the moment I am home and that is exactly where I want to be.

Thanks to everyone who kept reading about my adventures during the summer and of course thanks to everyone who made my trip oh so enjoyable. Cynthia, Gerlinde, Stephan, Niyma, Billy, George, Kevin, Collin, Nairne, Marina, Brooke, Kate, Eben, Liam, Linnaea, George, Carleen, Brigitte and many more, the people who have stopped for the desperate hitchhiker at the roadside, the people who have opened their homes to a perfect stranger, the people who shared their opinions and ideas on how to make this world a better place. You all have a special place in my heart now. May our pathes meet again.

Me too! I finally left Green Dragon Farm (again) and travelled east to Cape Breton Island to stay on another homestead/eco-farm for two weeks.

I celebrated the fall equinox together with Gerlinde and Stephan, which was a nice way to close up my time there. After more than three month at their place it really was hard to leave them and all the other great people (and of course the faboulos animals) I met there. But it was also good to finally move on, I had kind of overstayed my visit there anyway and the two of them will be glad to have their little house to themselves for a change, I guess.

The last weeks there were exciting, but not always in a good way. Somebody stole hay from their barn, somebody reported a free-running fallow deer (which had been out of the fence for a while) to the authorities, which put a lot of stress on Stephan, because he had to find and shoot it out of season while he actually would have prefered to be on the hayfield, trying to make up for the lost bales. One little drama seemed to follow the next and the atmosphere on the farm was tense, to say the least.

The only good thing happening was Tuennes, a little tomcat which moved into the house and got to stay in my room. It kind of broke my heart to leave the little fellow behind when I left, because he was getting very attached to me quickly.

The place I am staying now has wonderful people (a couple with three kids, 5,7 and 9 years old), a bunch of dogs (5 if I counted correctly), two adult cats and three tiny kittens (three to four weeks old, the cutest little things), fourteen highland cattle (with the calmest and tamest bull I ever met), five goats, two pigs, several Soy sheep (a rare breed from the St. Kilda archipelago, I had read about them, but never seen any of them for real and never expected to find them in Canada of all places) and a few chicken.

Even though there are (as is to be expected) a lot of things which need to be done before the winter, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than on Green Dragon Farm (which might be due to the fact that Kate is working full time, so the family income does not have to come from farming). Today I took a long walk through the forrest together with Brooke and some forrestry consultants who offered to look at the development potential of the woodland here and brought some firewood in the house. The rest of the day I spent petting cats and dogs.

I have a nice little room with windows in three directions which allow me to see the beautiful sunrise over the valley, see the cattle on their pasture and some of the woods which are just starting to turn red. Cape Breton is famous for its Indian summer.

I think it was a good choice to come here, even though I miss Tuennes and Gerlinde and Stephan.

I booked a new flight, BTW, I will now return to Germany on October the 18th and stop at my parents place for a few days, so I should be back in Muenster around the 22nd or so. And I start to look forward to that as well, it will be nice to see my friends again and have all my books and musical instruments and computer and whatelse available again.

(English summary below)

Die meisten von euch werden die Bildergeschichte von Janosch mit dem kleinen Baeren und dem kleinen Tiger kennen, die eines Tages in ihrem kleinen gemuetlichen Haeuschen unruhig werden und sich von Reiselust gepackt aufmachen in ihr Traumland, nach Panama (denn Panama riecht von oben bis unten nach Bananen, wenn ich mich recht erinnere). So gehen sie also los. Und wie es der Zufall will, biegen sie dabei immer links ab (denn rechts wohnt der Bauer, und wo der Bauer wohnt, da kann nicht Panama sein, so die bestechende Logik). Sie treffen jede Menge interessante Leute und lernen eine Menge Dinge, die sie vorher nicht wussten. Und am Ende kommen sie wieder da an, wo sie losgelaufen sind und sind eigentlich sehr zufrieden mit der ganzen Angelegenheit.

Warum erzaehle ich das alles? Na ja, ich bin auf meiner Farm in Tatamagouche Richtung Sueden gestartet, nach Truro, bin dort links abgebogen, um mit dem Bus nach North Sydney zu fahren, dann wieder links, mit der Faehre nach Norden, nach Neufundland, die Westkueste herauf und bis nach Labrador, dann wieder links, nach Quebec und per Frachtschiff zurueck nach Westen und in Rimouski bin ich schliesslich in die Busstation gegangen und habe ein Ticket geloest. Und zwar nicht, wie eigentlich vorgesehen, weiter nach Westen, nach Quebec City oder Montreal, sonder geradewegs zurueck nach Sueden, nach Truro, um von da dann schliesslich wieder nach Tatamagouche zu trampen. Ich bin also wieder da, wo ich angefangen habe, auf Green Dragon bei Stephan und Gerlinde. Und bei meinen Ziegen und Katzen und Huehnern und dem Hund.

Warum? Weil ich solche Sehnsucht nach der Farm hatte. Ich bin hier einfach noch nicht fertig. Je weiter ich auf meiner Tour gekommen bin, desto groesser wurde der Wunsch, zurueck zu gehen und am Ende habe ich eigentlich nur noch nach einem Grund gesucht. Fast war ich enttaeuscht, als ich in Blanc Sablon doch noch ein Ticket fuer das Frachtschiff bekommen habe, das eigentlich schon ausgebucht war, weil das sonst ein Anlass gewesen waere, zurueck zu gehen. Und am Ende war ich soweit, dass ich mir gewuenscht habe, dass jemand mein Gepaeck klaut oder so, damit ich sozusagen gar nicht anders kann als wieder nach Nova Scotia zurueck zu gehen. Das war dann der Punkt wo ich mir gedacht habe: was soll das eigentlich? Wem muss ich was beweisen? Wenn ich lieber auf Green Dragon Farm bin als irgendwo anders, wenn meine Sehnsucht nach diesem Ort soviel staerker ist als meine Neugier auf etwas Neues, warum gestatte ich mir das dann nicht einfach?

Und so bin ich dann (nach einer vierzehnstuendigen Busfahrt und einer interessanten Nacht im schaebigsten Hotel von Truro) wieder bei Stephan und Gerlinde angekommen. Ich hatte vorher nicht angerufen oder so, sondern stand einfach mit Sack und Pack wieder bei ihnen auf dem Hof (eine typische Jutta Aktion, also). Sie haben sich gefreut und mein Zimmer war auch noch frei.

Jetzt ist alles wieder wie vorher, Ziegen melken, Salat schneiden, hervorragendes Essen, viel Arbeit, kein Internetanschluss. Ich bin gluecklich, aber die Blog-Eintraege werden vorraussichtlich etwas langweiliger ausfallen.

Wie es von hier aus weiter geht und wie lange ich hierbleibe weiss ich noch nicht. Die Rueckkehr nach Nova Scotia hat meinen gesamten Zeitplan natuerlich endgueltig gekippt. Ausserdem ist mir klargeworden, dass ich auf die Kanada-Durchquerung auf dem Landweg ohne Auto keine rechte Lust habe. Entweder ich versuche einen billigen Flug nach Calgary zu finden und nehme dort irgendwo in einem Monat oder so meine Route wieder auf (wobei mir das widerstrebt, weil Fliegen ja nun noch beschissener ist als Autofahren, nicht nur wegen CO2, sondern auch noch aus einer Reihe anderer Gruende) oder ich lasse meinen Flug ab Vancouver verfallen (ist ein Billigflug ohne Umbuchungs- oder Stornierungsmoeglichkeit) und bleibe bis Oktober hier und versuche einen guenstigen Rueckflug ab Halifax zu kriegen. Genaugenommen ist das ziemlich wahrscheinlich eine ganze Ecke guenstiger, denn egal wie ich Canada durchquere, es kostet mich auf jeden Fall eine Menge Geld.

Paula, the smiling goat

What goes round comes round

Just to keep my English speaking readers up to date (if any? yell if you can hear me …): On arriving in Rimouski after a four day freight ship cruise along the lower north shore of Quebec, I spontaneously decided to return to Green Dragon Farm in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. I bought a bus ticket to Truro (14 h bus ride), stayed in a crappy motel for the night and hitchhiked back to the farm the very next day.

Stephan and Gerlinde appear to be happy to have me back and I am very happy to have made that decision. I just have missed this place too much and for some reason I have the feeling that I am not quite finished here just yet.

I still have to decide how to continue, I can either stay here for the rest of the summer and book a one way flight back to Germany from Halifax or I can still try to make my way west (most possibly by airplane since I am way behind schedule now) after staying here for another couple of weeks.

Either way it will be boring talk of goats, salad greens and organic farming again on this channel and no more travelling adventures for a while. Stay tuned if you can stand it 🙂

Canada’s youngest province is named Newfoundland Labrador. Newfoundland is an island, Labrador is the north easternmost part of the Canadian mainland. While quite a few tourists find their way to Newfoundland, only a very small number of them also ventures further north to Labrador. Anyone who has ever travelled with me will know that I am mostly drawn to places where no one else goes. Since time does not allow me to visit the Yukon or North Western Territories let lone Nunavut on this trip, I decided I wanted at least to dip into Labrador for a couple of days.

Broken telephone pole in deserted village of L'Anse au Cotard

Labrador has two highways, one from the Quebec border along the coast up to Cartwright and a second one from Labrador City (again directly on the Quebec border) to Happy Valley / Goose Bay. Between Cartwright and Goose Bay there is a piece of highway missing. It has been under construction for quite a few years now, the locals tell me that they have trouble finding rocks to build it with (for anyone who has seen parts of Labrador, that is a difficult theory to believe in). The Labrador City side of the highway is the only one that has a connection to the mainland highway system. The other part, the one I am on at the moment, can only be reached (and left again) by boat. There are three ferry lines that connect this part of the world with the rest, two from the island of Newfoundland (I took the one from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon, the other runs from Lewisport to Cartwright) and one from Blanc Sablon to Rimouski.

Actually, Blanc Sablon is already in Quebec, just behind the border. At least now. Historically it belonged to Labrador, the Blanc Sablon River, west of the village, was the traditional borderline. When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1948, this border was redrawn. It now runs along a hilltop east of Blanc Sablon, causing the village to fall over to the officially French speaking province of Quebec. Does anyone around here care? No, not as far as I can tell, everyone I met speaks English around here. There is just one small community named Lourdes de Blanc Sablon, some 7 km along the road, where people are of French origin.

L'Anse au Claire seen from a hilltop

I stayed for two nights at a B&B in L’Anse au Claire, the first village on the Labrador side of the mentioned hilltop. It is run by Gloria and Norm Letto. The Lettos run about everything else in L’Anse au Claire as well, it seems. They have always lived around here and have many stories to tell about the time not so long ago, when official rules and regulations had not reached this remote corner of the world yet. For example, no one of the people who have lived here for more than 20 years has ever purchased land. There is virtually no privately owned land. People just built their houses wherever they wanted, making sure that the neighbours agreed with their choice and that was it.

A family from Nova Scotia who stayed in the same B&B offered me to ride with them up to Red Bay and back. Red Bay is where the paved part of the road ends and a 400 km gravel road to Cartwright starts. It is pretty much the end of the world for most tourists who come up here. Only very adventurous tourists would dare to go further. Only very stupid hitchhikers would even think about trying to go up there.

Even down here in the south, where the road is good, Labrador is a pretty barren, almost hostile place. I was surprised how much colder it is here than it has been in Newfoundland. After all, the island’s north tip is just 100 km south of the Labrador coast. There are hardly any trees at all here, only in some protected valleys you might find some small fir or spruce trees, not higher than two or three meter. The rest of the land is covered with moss, berry bushes and wildflowers.

Gloria and Norm told me that the foundations of their house were built from wood from a shipwreck that washed ashore in 1954. I totally don’t understand why people don’t build stone houses here. There surely are more stones than wood around.

So, that is Labrador as I experienced it: a harsh landscape, friendly people (yet They are very patriotic, the Labradorians ...not as humorous as the Newfies from the island, grimmer and darker) and awful wheather.

This morning I took a last walk along the coastline, up to a broken cliff that the locals call „the ugly place“ and the wind had finally stopped. That made a world of difference, the land suddenly seemed only half as bad to me, once I was able to keep my eyes open and the hair out of my face. Then a swarm of blackflies closed in and started nibbeling tiny pieces of flesh out of my ears, my neck and my face. Could I get the wind back, please?

Travelling to Labrador is a little bit like Bungee Jumping. You do it once, just to prove that you can. There should be a T-shirt: „I did it … Labrador“ or something like that. I am glad that I was here, it was interesting to see and all that, now I am definitely glad to go somewhere else.

The Ugly Place

After six and a half weeks I finally left Green Dragon Farm. And man, do I miss that place! So far there hasn’t been a day, maybe not even an hour, that I did not think back to Gerlinde, Stephan, Nyima and all the animals there. I wish I could have stayed. Well, I could have stayed, I suppose, but Canada is a large and amazing country and it would have been a shame to just stay in one place for the whole summer and miss out on all the rest. So I finally packed all my gear together again and set out to the island of Newfoundland (pronounced Newfinland, with a stress on the first syllable).

view over Rocky Harbour Bay

Newfoundland is tremendously beautiful. I have not seen a stretch of it yet that I did not like. It has steep hills and mountains that seem to rise out of nowhere and form wonderful remote valleys, a rugged coastline and large moorlands and tundras further up north.

I limited myself to travelling up the west coast, since travel without a private car is very difficult around here and I did not want to end up doing to many kilometres without really finding the time to experience the country.

Hitchhiking in Newfoundland is … well … adventurous, I suppose, even more so than in other areas of the world. Sometimes you get picked up right away, literally right away, before even lowering your backpack to the ground or anything, and at other times you get stranded beside the highway for hours. There is not altogether that much traffic, except for the tourists in their RVs and rental cars. Tourists very seldom take hitchhikers. Actually I tended to say that tourists don’t take hitchhikers at all, but I got picked up by a nice family from London, Ontario travelling in an RV, so I have to make amends there.

Mostly it is locals that pick you up. 80 % of them are fishermen on their way to or from their boats. They go only short distances, from one little village to the next, and they all have the same kind of stories to tell: about traffic accidents with moose, about how slow and difficult fishing has become, about their children who moved to work in the oil fields in Fort Mc Murray, Alberta. But also about hunting moose in fall, about riding ski-dos in winter and about growing their own potatoes at the roadside in summer (they actually do plant little potatoe beds, all neat and fenced in, directly beside the highway … the Newfoundland version of guerilla gardening … mostly because it is the only level piece of land they can find). If the old ones ever travelled it used to be with the military. Most of the young ones come back after a few years from Alberta and other places, slightly desillusioned. Newfoundlanders really love their home.

They also have a great sense of humor, very blunt and self-ironic and politically completely incorrect. In that respect they are not very Canadian at all. Most seem to have a talent for music and play one or more instruments. Their music is simple but beautiful, close to celtic folk with the odd bit of shanty mixed in, the kind of music you would expect from a seafaring people.

Gros Morne Mountain from a distance

I stopped in Gros Morne National Park for four nights and climbed Gros Morne Mountain. That was a strenous 7 hour hike, very steep in parts, but well worth the effort. I saw a family of moose up there, bathing and drinking from a pond, just a few meters off the trail. Actually, the bull moose was almost too close for my comfort, but rut is still a few month off, so it was quite safe to pass him. Actually, when I came back down the same way five hours later, he was still standing in the same spot. I started to suspect that this bull moose was payed by the park management as a tourist attraction.

Moose on Gros Morne Mountain

I met two other hitchhikers, David from Quebec City with whom I travelled from Port aux Basque to Deer Lake and Dan from Australia, who was picked up by the same car that had picked me close to Cow Head. Dan and I got stuck in the tiny village of Green Island Cove, far up the northern peninsula the other night and shared a room in a B&B there. We went on the L’Anse aux Meadows to visit the Viking settlement there and to St. Anthony and then split up again, because Dan was eager to get to St. Johns for the George Street Festival, while I wanted to stay up north and catch the ferry to Quebec and Labrador. It is good to meet travelling companions like that on the way, even if it is only for a day. It makes the long waits beside the highway much less annoying. It also makes me feel a little more secure. Not that there is much to be afraid of up here. Crime rates are very low and people leave their doors unlocked and their keys in the car at all times, even in the towns. But I swear to you, when you stand beside the highway for an hour or two on your own, your mind can make up all kinds of weird stories, from marauding black bears to hitchhikers died from starvation.

This morning the lady from the B&B offered me a ride down to „the lights“ (which means the only set of traffic lights in St. Anthony and very probably all of the northern peninsula). We started chatting about this and that, religion, politics and the world in general and she just kept driving … she took me all the way back to the ferry terminal, just over 100 km, bought me a tea there, equipped me with a handful of Watchtowers, Awakes and other Jehova’s Wittnesses material and left. I can live with that. Actually, she is an amazingly bright and smart person to talk to and I really enjoyed our conversation. I really cannot imaging her falling for the whole Bible-Creation-Armageddon deal.

In a few hours, the ferry will carry me north, away from the island of Newfoundland to the even remoter shores of Labrador and eastern Quebec. Not many tourists go that far and I am really curious what I will find there. I am also a little afraid to get stranded there, but if worse comes to worse I can always get back onto a ferry to Newfoundland, they run at least twice a day during summer.

Travelling like this is expensive though, even if you are hitchhiking. Since I do not carry a tent, I normally have to stay in a B&B every night. That’s nice and cozy of course and grants me nice little extras like free tea and internet access, but it costs at least 50 $ a night, more than I am keen on spending and in the long run more than I can afford. I hope it will get better when I get back towards the more densely settled areas. I have a couchsurfing arrangement for Quebec City (provided I make it in time).

Just to prove that I was really there ...

Ich habe es ja letztes Mal schon angekuendigt: diesmal schreibe ich ueber die Ziegen. Ausserdem tue ich das ausnahmsweise mal auf Deutsch, weil ich gerade keine Lust habe, Englisch zu schreiben.

Auf der GreenDragon Farm gab es bei meiner Ankunft 20 Ziegen: 5 erwachsene weibliche Ziegen, 14 Zicklein und einen huebschen aber grantigen Ziegenbock namens Harry. Die Zicklein sind, obwohl nicht mehr ganz klein, unglaublich niedlich (und unglaublich nervig manchmal). Die grossen Ziegen haben ihren eigenen Kopf und sind enorm verfressen. Harry ist in erster Linie sehr respekteinfloessend, ehrlich gesagt bin ich immer froh, wenn ich mit ihm nicht so viel zu tun habe.

Drei von den fuenf Ziegen kann ich inwischen melken: Paula, Pepper und Bella. Ziegen melken ist weniger schwierig, als ich es mir vorgestellt habe, erfordert aber enorm viel Kraft. Ich habe allen ernstes regelmaessig Muskelkater in den Fingern. Und da waeren wir dann auch schon bei Ziegenmelkgeheimnis Nummer 1: nur nicht zoegerlich sein. Die Tierchen sind erstaunlich unempfindlich wenn man ihnen an die Zitzen greift und mit vorsichtigem Rumgezuppel ist da keine Milch rauszuholen. Ziegenmelkgeheimnis Nummer 2 ist: Zitze abklemmen und ausdruecken. Man greift die Zitze moeglichst weit oben und verschliesst sie mit Daumen und Zeigefinger. Dann drueckt man sie mit den anderen drei Fingern aus, wie man es z.B. mit einem Schwamm machen wuerde. Wenn man das richtig macht, wird man mit einem weissen Strahl und einem befriedigendem „Psch“-Geraeusch im Eimer belohnt. Na ja, im Eimer nur, wenn man auch entsprechend gezielt hat. Das ist Ziegengeheimnis Nummer 3. Ziegen stehen eigentlich nur still, wenn sie gerade was gutes zu fressen haben. Man muss sich mit dem Melken also ein bisschen beeilen, denn wenn die Ziege ihre Portion Getreide erstmal aufgefressen hat, hat sie keine Lust mehr still zu stehen und das Zielen wird deutlich schwieriger. Eigentlich verbringt man in dem Moment dann deutlich mehr Energie und Zeit damit, den Eimer zu verteidigen und die Ziege an Ort und Stelle zu halten als mit dem eigentlichen Melken.

Um die Sache etwas einfacher zu machen, stellt man die Ziegen auf einen Melkstand, eine Art Holztisch mit Halterung fuer den Ziegenkopf an einem Ende. Dadurch kann die Ziege zumindest nicht weglaufen. Das haelt sie aber nicht davon ab, mit mehreren Beinen gleichzeitig in die Luft zu springen oder um sich zu treten. Am besten ignoriert man das oder gibt der Ziege als Antwort einen freundschaftlichen Knuff gegen das Knie. Das sagt sich etwas einfacher als es tatsaechlich ist, die ersten paar Tage bin ich immer schier verzweifelt. Spaetestens, wenn die Ziege ihr Futter aufgefressen hatte und anfing, unruhig zu werden, musste ich Stephan zur Hilfe rufen. Bis der nach drei Tagen oder so die Schnauze voll hatte und stumpf erklaert hat: „Nee, da muesst ihr jetzt durch, die Ziege und du.“ So habe ich dann einen harten Kampf mit Pepper ausgefochten und versucht, die Ziege an Ort und Stelle zu halten ohne die Haende von den Zitzen zu loesen (dem einfachen Argument: „Je mehr du zappelst, desto laenger dauert es“ ist Pepper nicht wirklich zugaenglich). Es war ein harter Kampf und es ist auch einiges von den insgesamt etwa 2 Litern Milch neben dem Eimer gelandet, aber ich habe es geschafft und danach lief es besser. So konnte ich nach und nach dann auch Paula und Bella komplett und alleine melken und Stephan oder Gerlinde mussten mir nur noch Phlossy und Donner abnehmen.

Nachtrag: ich schicke diesen Beitrag mit einer Woche Verspaetung ab, weil mein Laptop letztes Mal mitten im Tippen abgestuerzt ist. Inzwischen kann ich auch die anderen beiden Ziegen melken und das gehoert nun zu meinen taeglichen Aufgaben. Ich brauche etwas ueber eineinhalb Stunden fuer alle fuenf Ziegen, das ist langsamer als Stephan (der braucht eine Stunde), aber fast so schnell wie Gerlinde das kann und darauf bin ich ziemlich stolz.

Salad greens are the cash crop on Green Dragon Farm. Everything else is more or less a hobby or grown/produced mostly for private use. A small bag of salad greens (150 gram, enough for one large salad or two to three side salads, I’d say) sells on the Tatamagouche Farmers Market for 3.50 $, a pound in „wholesale“ (meaning larger quantities going to restaurants in the vicinity) costs 8.50 $. That’s a lot of money for salad. Yesterday morning it finally became clear to me what makes this lettuce so special and why the price is rectified.

Salad greens have to be picked very early in the morning or late at night, because they will wither quickly when it is too warm or they are hit by direct sunlight. So cutting or picking salad means a very early start on Green Dragon Farm (get up at 5, start picking at 5.30 am or something like that). Finest quality is what gives the Green Dragon salad greens its advantage over the cometitors, so in addition to being grown only with organic methods, every leave is checked for damage (like feeding holes from carterpillars, bruises or the like) and only perfect leaves of just about the right size end up in the batch. Everything that is questionable is put into a seperate bowl and will be eaten by the family later (and even those „leftovers“ are better in quality than any salad greens I have eaten before).

The salad is handwashed and then carefully spin dried, keeping just enough water in it to keep it fresh, then it is packed either into 1 lb bags or into large plastic containers. The chefs who use Green Dragon salad greens in their kitchens proclaim that they can use it just out of the bag without further washing or picking out any wasted leaves or the like. That is what rectifies the high price for them.

It is hard and uncomfortable work to pick salad greens like that. You never know how to position yourself in front of the garden bed without putting to much strain on your back and legs. I kept alternating between sitting, squatting and kneeling and still my legs screamed after just a few minutes. Sometimes you get the feeling of making no progress at all because you have to throw half of your harvest away due to lack of quality. It takes a lot of time to get the pounds of salad green together which are needed.

And sometimes it just does not work out. Things take longer than you thought in advance or there just are not enough salad greens ready for cutting. You are working against the clock, because at about nine o’clock (or maybe at ten on a cloudy day) it gets too warm to keep cutting.

When you grow salad greens in your garden for yourself, they are about the easiest thing to grow and you can just go out and get some whenever you feel like eating salad. I even had salad greens on my balcony for a while. But the difference in effort between growing salad for private use and making a commercial product out of it is amazing. The same is true for any other kind of agricultural produce, I would guess (note to self: never even think about commercial farming).

This is one of the many lessons I learned in Tatamagouche so far, maybe the most important one. Commercial farming is much much more than just doing what you do in your vegetable garden anyway on a slightly larger scale. It is completely different. And that is not even talking about the annoying things like bookkeeping, marketing and organic certifications.

I can milk one of the goats now, by the way, but I think I will write about that next week. It is worth a chapter of its own. So tune in again next week when you hear Capella scream: „Hold still you ferocious beast!“ Upcoming side project: making goat milk yoghurt.

Hey folks. I have arrived at Green Dragon Organic Farm in Nova Scotia where I will be staying for about six weeks. They only have modem connection to the internet and my laptop was not equipped for that up to now (I just downloaded the drivers, so hopefully it will work out now), so I had no access to the web for a few days. There is a wireless hotspot in the Tatamagouche library, though, so I will have highspeed internet for a few hours on Saturdays. That is my time off, after I help Stephan setting up the market stall and deal with the first onrush of customers.

Stephan and Gerlinde have immigrated to Canada eight years ago and started farming. In the beginning they just tried to be more or less self-sufficient, but by now they have started to sell salad greens and venison to make a living. Even though their farm is quite small (especially by Canadian standards) it is amazing how much work there is to do every day.

I help with the goats (feeding mostly, I have not managed milking yet, even though I tried and I am getting better with it, it’s a little tricky and requires a lot of strength in your fingers and hands, much more than I thought, actually).

I have not taken any photos yet (too busy), but I will upload some as soon as possible. Apart from the goats and deer there are some chicken (most annoying creatures), several cats (one is called Erich and looks a lot like Garfield) and a dog. I could more or less entertain myself the whole day just with petting them all (minus the chicken, that is), but there are garden beds to clear, salad greens to be harvested, washed and packed for the market, new vegetables to be planted. Yesterday I planted 36 pepper plants in one hour and was quite satisfied with myself.

It is quite exhausting to help here. I work a lot less than Stephan and Gerlinde (who manage to keep the house clean, cook wonderful meals and manage their business in between their outside work), but at night I more or less fall into bed and don’t even have the strength left to read or write in my journal. I totally enjoy it, though.

Tune in again next week to hear Capella scream: „Who let the chicken in the goat stable again?“

Juni 2023