The IPM a year later

September 29, 2008

An event the size of the International Plowing Match inevitably changes everything and everyone it touches.  After a year the landscape around Young’s Hill has returned to normal, but it’s a different normal than before. The fields are tilled with pride.  The fencerows and buildings around Forfar are tidier.  The improvement cut and new trails in the woodlot have given it a park-like aspect.  I notice that no one has bothered to close the gaps in the fences opened for the match.

Bob Chant and I were talking a few weeks ago about how little damage occurred as a result of the traffic in our fields.  It turns out we would both be delighted to have the match back again another time.

Rob and Connie Prosser, Jan Bonhomme, and the huge crew of volunteers deserve our respect for the way they selflessly contributed their time, money and equipment to make IPM 2007 the greatest event ever held in Leeds County.

From The Walnut Diary, September 24, 2007

Credit for the best one-liner I’ve heard over the past week goes to my friend Kate Stutzman, who drove up from Reading, Pennsylvania with husband Tom to attend the event. After seven hours on the road they rounded the turn at Crosby and gaped at the enormous IPM Site. Kate turned to Tom and said, “The world has come to Rod.”

It looks as though IPM 2007 has been a smashing success. Certainly the woodlot and the conservation areas received a lot of attention, with 1764 visitors registered for the tours.  We had expected 200.

Neil Thomas and I noticed that visitors to his walnut-cracking display seemed increasingly well informed and interested in growing and using edible nuts.  Canadians spend $20 million on imported nuts every year and virtually none on the domestic product. Neil plans to change that by making the black walnut the home-grown gourmet nut meat of choice. The many visitors who sampled his product seemed to agree that this could work.

Leeds Stewardship Coordinator Martin Streit and Eastern Ontario Model Forest Certification Coordinator Scott Davis did the lion’s share of the tour-conducting in the woodlot. Martin was the first there and the last to leave on each of the five days – on top of a two-hour drive to Cornwall, morning and night. Garnet Baker endured blazing sun and dust on the gate all week until he had to take Saturday off for a religious holiday – opening day of duck season.  Except for an hour trapped in a traffic jam outside Elgin, Jane Topping held the fort with Garnet all week in the heat, organizing woodlot tours and keeping order at the departure gate. George Sheffield and Dwayne Struthers did everything schedule-organizer Rhonda Elliot asked. This usually meant driving the tractor for the wagon tour, but when the crowds grew too heavy they easily slipped into the role of tour guide, delivering lectures to groups on walking tours.

As she had been for the two years of the project, Donna O’Connor was everywhere all week, doing the heaviest of the work, cajoling and inspiring to move things along.  The only time I’ve ever seen her baulk was when the starter on my old Massey refused to work and she had to crank the engine in front of a wagon load of visitors.  Once was enough, so Lloyd Stone replaced the antique tractor with a quiet member of his fleet.

Lloyd probably got less sleep than anyone in the Forfar area over the week. Nursing fifty teams of draft horses and their owners by night and early morning, then driving the tour wagon and fixing and storing equipment must have left him a little ragged by Saturday evening. But he got it done.

Today Rhonda Eliot was still in full work-mode, with son Daniel and daughter Becca in tow.  Signs came down and straw was hauled away in a frenzy of activity.

The Croskery Woodlot display was a project of the Leeds Stewardship Council.  Its success shows the depth of commitment of this group to the good of the community and the environment.

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IPM 2007 By The Numbers

September 26, 2007

A 4H exhibitor stopped to chat with Mom the other day. She told us a friend of hers took her husband and three young kids to the Match on Friday. Curious, she put on a pedometer before she boarded the wagon from the parking lot, then checked it upon their return to the car. How far? Just over eight miles.

Martin Streit reported 1786 visitors to the woodlot over the five days.

I’ll report one 250-gallon load of water dumped on the access road to help keep the dust down.

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Janet Bonhomme has chipped in a few more statistics:

Here are the paid attendance numbers for your use and some other stats:

Tues. Sept 18 – 14,633
Wed. Sept. 19 – 17,972
Thur. Sept 20 – 18,244
Fri. Sept. 21 – 18,886
Sat. Sept 22 – 18,240

TOTAL ATTENDANCE = 87,975 people including visitors, volunteers, sponsors,
exhibitors and participants

144 kegs of beer sold between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day
150 cases of water per day for volunteers
Over 2100 RV’s on site
600 plus exhibitors
180 plus plowmen
A huge increase in local sales – anywhere from 25% to 125% increase reported

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If you have any other interesting factoids which I may include in this collection, please add them as a comment to this post, or send them to me by email at rodcros at webruler dot com.

IPM Galleries: http://gallery.shivamayer.com/main.php?g2_itemId=2186

http://www.studio122.ca/charlie/v/September_2007/

Credit for the best one-liner I’ve heard over the past week goes to my friend Kate Stutzman, who drove up from Reading, Pennsylvania with husband Tom to attend the event. After a seven-hour drive they rounded the turn at Crosby and gaped at the enormous IPM Site. Kate turned to Tom and said, “The world has come to Rod.”

It’s been quite a week. Old friends and new have descended upon the woodlot and Bet’s kitchen in a frenetic, but hugely pleasing manner. Today I guess I had my version of Warhol’s fifteen minutes. A couple from Kingston drove into the driveway looking for Rod Croskery. She was clutching Saturday’s Whig Standard article and he was eager to see this point where the Carolina Forest and the Canadian Shield meet. I gave them directions through the parking lots and they went off to walk in the woods. Ah, fame!

It’s all Rhonda Elliot’s fault. She went all erudite in front of an attentive reporter and that made anything that I said later sound good, as well.

http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplayGenContent.aspx?e=3762

It looks as though IPM 2007 has been a smashing success. Certainly the woodlot and the conservation areas received a lot of attention. Neil Thomas and I noticed that visitors to his walnut-cracking display seemed increasingly well informed and interested in growing and using edible nuts.

Canadians spend $20 million on imported nuts every year and virtually none on the domestic product. Neil plans to change that by making the black walnut the home-grown gourmet nut meat of choice. The many visitors who sampled his product seemed to agree that this could work. Check out Neil’s website at http://www.blackwalnuts.ca/

I guess if I’m allowed a little venom, it goes to the lamebrain who staged a fireworks display in farming country, scaring the living bejezus out of every critter for miles around, and to the idiots who went “Ooo, ah!” and reinforced such destructive behaviour. Jolted from a deep sleep, my mother cut her hand getting a venetian blind open to see what the racket was, but the saddest story was from the owner of Bubba, a brown flat-coated retriever he had left tied outside his trailer while he worked on the water supply for the RV park. He’d had no warning of the upcoming explosions and so she was left helpless, outside, and only a short distance from the conflagation. Bubba panicked, slipped her collar, and disappeared. Unthinking or not, that’s cruelty, and environmentally responsible people should know better. I hope Bubba turns up.

On a more positive note, I’d like to thank the sponsors who provided golf carts and utility vehicles for the event, and also the volunteers who drove them. Mr. Hudson, the Woodlot Crew and the Croskery family thank you for the use of your excellent Club Car.

Leeds Stewardship Co-Ordinator Martin Streit and Eastern Ontario Model Forest Certification Co-ordinator Scott Davis did the lion’s share of the tour-conducting in the woodlot. Martin was the first there and the last to leave on each of the five days — on top of a two-hour drive to Cornwall, morning and night. Garnet Baker endured blazing sun and dust on the gate all week until he had to take Saturday off for a religious holiday — opening day of duck season. Young Dwayne Struthers went with him. Except for one monumental traffic jam outside Elgin, Jane Topping held the fort in the blazing heat. She also utterly charmed my mother. George Sheffield and Dwayne Struthers did everything schedule-organizer Rhonda Elliot asked. This often meant filling in for yours truly. Sorry. Driver Donna O’Connor baulked at the prospect of cranking the engine on my old Massey, so Lloyd Stone replaced it with a quiet member of his fleet. I could get used to a machine like that. So there is a limit to what Donna-the-Dynamo can do.

Lloyd probably got less sleep than anyone in the Forfar area over the week. Nursing fifty teams of draft horses and their owners by night and early morning, then driving the tour wagon and fixing and storing equipment left him a little ragged by Saturday evening. But he got it done.

Today Rhonda Eliot was still in full work-mode, with son Daniel and daughter Becca helping out taking down signs and hauling straw, only slightly bemused by her frenzy. If you get a chance check out her comments in the Saturday’s Whig article. Rhonda proved a credible spokesperson for the Leeds Stewardship Council on this occasion.

Bet prefers to run things from behind the scenes. I think she enjoyed the chance to cook for a group with less persnickety taste buds than her husband. Today she as well was cranking out the baked goods and planning meals for the next week.

And finally I come to Mom, Mrs. Edna Croskery. We didn’t really know how she’d react to the activity of the IPM. Turns out her instincts as hostess and restaurant services teacher cut in and she took an increasing role in preparing and serving the lunches. She particularly enjoyed feeding Lloyd, Martin, and Neil. I think she’ll miss them. We expected her to lie low today, but she was off to church and then to a birthday party, with more energy than either Bet or me.

The Woodlot display was a major effort on the part of the Leeds Stewardship Council. Originally the brainchild of Gary Nielsen, it received strong support from the group and made it clear to all who saw the project that the Leeds Stewardship Council are serious people with a real commitment to the good of the community and the environment.

Vignettes

September 20, 2007

Home for more food.

Feeding the woodlot team out of the farm kitchen has gone well so far. Food and access to the tools we need go a long way toward keeping morale high.

The Ez-Go conked out (electronic/electrical component) on the first afternoon, so since then I’ve used a 4-passenger Club Car from the motor pool. It’s a very effective people-mover, much more so than the many Raptors, Mules and Gators, all of which are hot, noisy, and carry too few passengers for our needs.

The woodlot tours are set up to handle six circuits per day with twenty passengers. Yesterday we had to cram a bit, because 260 people lined up for the tours. Today it went up to 469. By the end of the day the standby guides were rounding up groups and walking them around the course, delivering the pitch. Scott and Martin, the forestry guys, have refined their presentations until they are pretty fine, by all reports.

Neil Thomas and his walnut processing machines are getting lots of attention, as are my poor little trees. I’m finding a surprisingly large number of people who like black walnuts and who don’t seem to find my obsession all that weird.

The woodlot’s a refuge from the hubbub of the fair ground, and everybody loves it.

Saturday will be a big day. Get there early if you want to check things out. Don’t miss the Canadian Raptor Conservancy Show. It’s next to the woodlot and the one presentation which gets unanimous excellent reviews. It’s just one guy with a microphone and four birds, but it earns its billings. One hawk who steals hats off the heads of audience members keeps kids of all ages mesmerized.

I’ve spent a bit of time driving taxi. A couple I picked up late yesterday afternoon seemed ready to drop. The old guy was running on one bad knee and a cane, and the cane was dragging. She wasn’t much better off. I hauled them to Gate 2 and offered to take them on to their car. “We don’t want to go to our car. Will you take us to the helicopter ride?”

A gentleman hailed me this afternoon and asked for a lift to the exit gate at the west end of the property. Turns out he’s in the RV park, so over his objections (“It’s too far out of your way!”) I took him the extra mile to his big motorhome. He’s by himself at the match, having lost his wife two years ago. New Polaris 350 ATV sitting beside the motorhome. A retired farmer from outside Merrickville, 91 years old. I suggested places he could ride his machine, but he admitted that there’s lots of company in the park, and he has a lot to do. No wonder they come for a week, 1850 units so far and counting. Come to think of it, Lloyd Stone’s field grew a couple of dozen on unserviced spots yesterday afternoon. That’s overflow.

This is some event.

Oh yeah, I keep running into Sue Pike and Vicki Cameron around the site. Sue’s editor of a recently-published collection of stories set on the Rideau Waterway. Vicki wrote two of the titles in the book. Turns out Bet had brought a copy home from the Smiths Falls Public Library a week ago, and I’d read Vicki’s stories and most of the others. It’s a dandy little book whose heart is in Chaffey’s Locks, as it should be.

Sue Pike, Ed. Locked Up: Tales of mystery and mischance along Canada’s Rideau Canal Waterway. Deadlock Press, Ottawa, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9780561-0-0

The New “Normal”

September 14, 2007

Travis, Tess and Dave Smith showed up yesterday morning to pick up wood scrap from the forest display area. They’re volunteers from Smiths Falls who run a lawn-services company from their home on my street. They’ve quietly put in several days on the walnut field and the trails through the woodlot, and deserve considerable credit for their efforts. Tess has bonded with my old Massey Harris and won’t let anyone else in the crew drive it.

In the afternoon Mom casually mentioned that she had to re-direct a guy in a small sedan who tried to take a shortcut across the ditch and through the garden on the way to the main road. The remarkable thing about it was that neither of us found the intrusion particularly unusual or upsetting. You get used to seeing strange vehicles picking their way around the property. The drivers are pretty nice people, and they’re all on a deadline.

Still, I was a bit taken aback by yellow tape strung across my accustomed golf-cart route yesterday afternoon. I saw the point of the fellow’s attempt to protect my walnut field and the pristine rocks of the pasture from casual explorers, but I need to drive there, so I relocated stakes enough to allow my normal, narrow trails.

Yesterday was mow-everything-day. The walnut seedlings may be nothing but brown drinking straws by next week, but they’ll be standing in a nicely-mowed field. They also look taller when the grass is short. The butternuts are hanging on, though the leaves are yellowing somewhat.

For sheer unadulterated misery few things can match mowing an orchard loaded with apples.

Today and tomorrow are given over to various Conservation Committee groups meeting at the farm, but I may sneak some time between groups to give some of the seedlings a drink.

This week I witnessed a demonstration of skill with crowbar and shovel by Gord French. I had marked a large stone in the path of traffic on one field. Gord looked at it, grabbed the bar and had the thing out of the ground in an amazingly short time. Then he cut the sides of the hole down with the shovel until the hazard was greatly reduced. When I complimented him on his skill, Gord muttered, “It’s not one I’m all that proud to admit.” I thought it was pretty impressive.

Sunday Ennis and Dwayne showed up in a shiny new red truck, checking for rough spots in the field. We chatted about the topography and I thought I had them pretty well oriented. Then I looked up and saw Ennis blithely driving over the most boulder-strewn half-acre on the property, a place I barely have the nerve to drive a tractor across, and here he is with a brand new truck. When I asked him what he was up to, he answered, “I wanted to see how rough it was.” Man, kids! Doesn’t matter what age they are! Give’em a hammer, and they’ll find something that needs hammerin’.

This is the driest it’s been since I asked my father-in-law if he would arrange a sunny day for our outdoor wedding back in ’72. It didn’t rain for six weeks. Also a clergyman, my brother-in-law tried the same thing for his daughter some years later but lacked his father’s touch. Early snow’s not that unusual in Edmonton, but a blizzard during a garden wedding on the 6th of August? When I kidded him Don muttered something about only being licenced to the Saskatchewan border.

Anyway, I’ve spent so much time standing in that field watering that today the coyote would have walked right by me if I hadn’t tried to start up a conversation. The young red-tailed hawk flew by twice and I made sure I moved enough that he didn’t mistake me for a post. Don’t think I’d like those claws in my scalp, though it would make for a great yarn, wouldn’t it? Zeke’s protecting the big walnut trees from the squirrels this week.

Remember Ranger Gord from the Red Green Show? Another week of watering and I’ll be as loopy as that character.

The thing is, the water helps. Some of the dormant seeds are sprouting, even now. Amid the drought there’s quite a bit of life as I look down the rows, so the patch is blackmailing me. But will the leaves hold on for another week? I fear not.

Almost went ballistic this afternoon when I drove over to the Site. Somebody stuck a tool shed right where The Croskery Woodlot sign is supposed to stand. What’s more, it had logos on it from the sponsors. Turns out the perpetrators were standing there, apparently enjoying my reaction. The tool shed’s a portal, part of the overall landscaping for the site. The builder assured me that the 12′ sign is coming. He designed it. The St. Lawrence skiff will fit next to the portal without blocking the wagons. They measured.

Two weeks to go to the IPM and no rain in sight. The butternuts soaked up a full day of effort yesterday. That’s 1/3 of the display field. Two more days and I can finish it. Of course the other walnut field grows even more parched, not to mention the pine and spruce seedlings which haven’t received a drink yet this year.

On Saturday two horticulturalists passed through the display field, though, and commented on how lively the trees looked in comparison to their last visit two weeks before. They commented that they had thought I was using fertilizer. Unless you count the chocolate residue in the tank, it’s just well water.

I came upon an elderly couple wandering the woods on Saturday. The husband seemed to be tracking the spread of walnuts along the fence rows and into the forest from the parent tree. He commented, “You have a lovely, quiet woodlot here.” He intended “quiet” as a compliment, but I’m not quite sure what he meant. Very smart guy, though. I’ll think about that for a while.

Another guy got off a Gator and walked up to me yesterday. “How old are the trees?” He indicated the butternuts which greedily drank up all the water I would give them. This was a conversation-starter rather like the old standard, “How old is your dog?”

Turns out he’s a member of the tent-erection crew, a farmer from near London, Ontario. He looked at the metal-bound plastic tank mounted on my utility trailer. “I use two of them on a truck to haul water to my cattle.” We agreed that the IBC tank has come into its own on the farm.

He told me about the drought in Western Ontario, and how his own seedlings are drying up. Apparently a single cutting of hay in his area amounts to a catastrophe, because he said it with the same emphasis I have heard from others. I just wish he’d been here three weeks ago when I had to bush hog thirty acres because no one wanted the hay, or last week when I completed the second trimming of the fields.

Vultures continually orbit above the new tents. I don’t know if the mass of white produces updrafts or if they are waiting for them to decay into something edible, but so far the tented city has become a magnet for vultures. They are amazing fliers. If not for their dietary habits, I’ll bet a lot of sailplane clubs would have Vulture in their names.

More entertaining is Zeke, the juvenile red-tailed hawk who has become my field companion. Zeke likes to buzz my tractor or golf cart from behind, then land on a branch to watch me pass. He usually manages a visit every day. One day he and a sibling practiced aerobatics above my head while I tried to mow straight rows. The lesson of the day seemed to be the hover. They took turns riding the slight updraft until they stalled, fell into a spin, pulled out with a sideslip, and then watched the other try the same trick.

The coyotes seem to have given up ownership of the walnut field after a last-ditch night of scenting. Seems they couldn’t compete with a 250 gallon tank and a garden hose. Now I’ve started to see the odd mouse again.

Time to get at it. Later.