One if the laments I had the misfortune of hearing too many times from a very experienced farmer on the island was that farm supplies were very expensive and hard to find on the island. He cut his agricultural teeth in California where the scale of most things agricultural is enormous and where, naturally, farm supplies are ubiquitous, plentiful and cheap. All I have to compare to Salt Spring prices and selection are other places on Vancouver Island but, even with this small sample size, I can confirm that yes, things really are expensive or non-existent here.
Because a lot of the things I need on the farm cannot be shipped here economically, I make lists of required supplies and wait until a required off-island trip needs to be taken. Since we moved here, our 13-year-old’s orthodontics appointments have been that reason, most times. Having braces is a joyous experience for a kid so we don’t mind adding to her pleasure with an ortho day filled with ferries, driving and queues. Pauline always tries to get into the act by scheduling a decorating consultation for one of her clients.
The theme of this trip was high tunnel #2 (The Big One) supplies shopping. I needed polyethylene, poly track and galvanized pipe. We also wanted chicken feed, straw bedding, lime and potting mix. This is the anatomy of our trip:
(Prior evening: Pick up Duncan’s F150 4X4 extended cab long box.)
6:30am Wake and breakfast
7:00 Go to town to drop off 12 loaves of bread baked evening before to health food store, feed vacationing friends’ sheep and cat , and pick up almost empty propane tank from transplant tunnel
7:30 Back at home. Load truck with misc stuff for trip.
7:50 Make sure 10-year-old is almost ready for her ride to school in 15 minutes. Leave for Vesuvius ferry.
8:05 Depart Vesuvius
8:30 Arrive Crofton on Vancouver Island
8:45 In Duncan, BC, exchange Mastercrap 3/8″ hammer drill for brand spanking new Mastercrap 3/8″ hammer drill (for the second time. I expect to do this two more times before I realize that I should just throw the gall-dang thing out and stop wasting my time. I mean, you get used to the burning smell after a while). Meanwhile, Pauline shops for shoes for her new job and enquires at Rona about the price of their organic potting mix she sees inside a corral in the parking lot. When the bepimpled teen clerk tells her to go back outside to get the UPC, she realizes she would rather spend her money at the ag store we like in Saanich which is only 7 hours down the road)
9:10 Load up on organic chicken feed and hay at the feed store in south Duncan
9:30 Leave Duncan and travel the Malahat Highway to Victoria.
9:50 Pit stop in Mill Bay for gas. Probably the cheapest gas in BC is on a 50 km stretch from Mill Bay to Ladysmith
10:15 Arrive Victoria. At Evergro, load 32’X100′ roll of polyethylene (which weighs 94 pounds, BTW), 228′ of polylock aluminum extrusion with wiggle wire (more on this in a future post), and 12 bags of lime
10:45 Arrive Victoria Chinatown and find parking on Fisgard for the truck with 3′ of aluminum extrusion hanging off the back (finding a spot this big here will NEVER happen again) while the girls buy 200 sheets of nori (we make a lot of sushi rolls)
11:00 Arrive Pier 1 and purchase counter-height stools for our new rental house on Salt Spring (yay, ocean view and room to spare come April 1)
11:20 Depart Victoria
11:40 Arrive Saanich and have 13-year-old’s braces tweaked. Two more appointments and they’re off. Wait one year and the next 12-year-old can start, cash permitting. I also find watch batteries (on sale!) for a Kill-a-Watt-like device that I’ll use on the farm to keep track of how much hydro we’re using which Mary and Blair are currently paying for. Meanwhile, Pauline meets her real estate agent/boss and exchanges documents. Pauline has a lot of jobs. Such is the life of a farmer’s wife.
12:00 Lunch with good friend Marty from our farm days at Haliburton two years ago. Marty’s specialty was plant starts and she made relatively good money doing so. Family commitments are preventing her from continuing this so she generously gave Pauline all of her planting schedules and sales records from the last year which has been a great resource. This is our thank you to her. In the parking lot after lunch, she slips us some salmon filets and ground moose, both harvested by her husband Steve. We slip her a raisin bread.
The shopping spree actually continued on Salt Spring the next day at Windsor where I picked up 34 20′ lengths of 1.25″ sched 40 PVC and 90′ of 3″ PVC sewer pipe for the top purlin. Why Windsor sells this stuff so cheap I cannot say but, hey, I’ll take it. Also picked up some lumber.
Two-day total for high tunnel supplies: ~$1600
Other ag supplies plus ferries, gas and lunch: ~$450
I’m sure we’ll make that up easily with all of our blue tomato plant starts and produce sales this summer. But seriously, the bulk of the total is capital expense meant to provide a means of income for several years. Many new small businesses have high start up costs and we fit that bill nicely. I do, however, look forward to being mostly built-up on this property and just concentrating on growing stuff and not spending so much cash. Despite these recent purchases for the high tunnels, this year’s expenses should be less than last year’s which were much lower than ’09, when I bought all the tractor stuff. And, presumably, this year’s revenue will be much higher than last year’s.