Monday, August 24, 2009

Blueberries Quite By Accident

The three generation Steeves family ( Raymond, Terry and Cory )became a Limited company in 2004 becoming the Elgin Hiview Farms Ltd., though they have been commercially harvesting blueberries since 1967.

Raymond Steeves of Midland, Elgin bought another farm in the Mapleton area to expand his existing farm in Midland. Here his plan was to grow more hay crops for his herd of beef cattle. Upon closer examining of the newly bought land he discovered fields of blueberries.

Raymond knew the Elgin area was rich in blueberry crops that at that time were being managed and harvested by Bridges Brothers of St. Stephen, N.B. and the Collin family from Nova Scotia. So knowing the potential Raymond began pruning and expanding his new fields. One of the daunting tasks were to pick the fields clear of rock as you can see in one of the photos here.

In the early years of blueberry production the Steeves family hired 75 to 80 local people to rack the berries. It was a family effort and Terry's wife Shirley looked after the cleaning machine's that were set up near the pickers. These machine had a high powered blower that when berries were dumped infront of them the majority of the leaves were blown away. This made the berries ready for the transport to the Oxford Frozen Foods in Nova Scotia.

As the pickers became older and young people less plentyful the Steeves family purchased, in 1988, their first blueberry harvester. These machines aided in making the industry more cost and time effective, as well as picking the blueberries cleaner. In order for these harvesters to work to their greatest potential fields had to be groomed even more. More stone had to be picked and weeds kept to a minimum.

The harvesters pick close to the ground, at a 90% effeciency rate, the berries are then carried by conveyer belt and dumped into 400 lb. capacity yellow boxes at the back of the harvester. These boxes, when filled, are hydrolicly dropped onto the field where Raymond picks them up and delivers them to the 5 ton transporting truck. The berries do not need to be cleaned in the fields, this is all done at the Oxford Plant. If there are no trucks before them the Elgin Hiview trucks can be in and out and back home in five hours.

At the end of each blueberry season the plants were burned off with oil burners, this made that crop dorment for the next year. Then flail mowers were introduced to cut the plants off after harvest, which was a more environmental and cost effective proceedure.

In order for the blueberry fields to have a good yeild they need good snow cover during the winter months. If there is too much rain in the spring the plants will need to be sprayed for blight and fungus. The young blossoming plants need to be cross pollinated by bees. This is another challenge for there's are not enough wild bees to take care of their 250 acres of blueberry fields.

Terry and Cory tend to their 200 hives both winter and summer. There are 1000's of bees to a hive and they need protected from the winter eliments. In late October the hives are transported; with their doors closed, and at night, closer to home. A little honey is left in each hive enough to feed the bees all winter, then an insulated bag put around each hive.

Very cold winters and very wet springs both effect the health of the hive. When these conditions occure an antibiotic is mixed with icing sugar and fed to the bees to keep them in optimon condition. Terry gets all his bee supplies from "Country Fields" on the Coverdale Road.

In early June the bees, once again with their door closed and at night, are taken back to the blueberry fields to pollonate the blueberry blossoms. Once they are all put in their place an electric fence is erected to assist in keeping bears out of the hives as they love the honey they know is inside.

The health of the bees is everything to the blueberry industry. When more bees are needed worker bees or drones are taken from one hive and placed in a new hive. Here they are introduced to a new queen who comes in her own little cage of honey. Once inside the hive she eats her way out of the cage. After a week Terry and Cory check to see that she has made her way out, and if not, they assist her. There is still a risk that the drones may not accept her. If that happens she is killed and the drones then begin feeding one special larva Royal Jelly to creat their own new queen.

Sometimes a hive may become over crowded. When this happens one queen and a group of drones swarm the hive to set up elsewhere. If they do not go too far and Terry and Cory can find them they place a new hive, with honey in it, beneath the swarm and they eventually go in. There is little danger of getting stung during this process because the drones are so intent on protecting their queen.

The threats to the health of blueberry fields are bears, not so much for how much they eat, rather their rolling around amoung the berry plants. Weather, too hot and too wet play havic with fruit bearing. During a hot dry summerthe Steeves boys irrigate the fields from a man made pond on their Mapleton Rd. fields. Snowmobiles and ATV's that go off the trails kill many plants. At one time they had a problem with birds eating the berries, this occured during the spraying for the Spruce Bug Worm. The spraying killed the birds natural food and they resorted to ripe blueberries, but once this spray program ended nature went back to normal and the birds once again fed on the worms.

Elgin Hiview Farms ownes blueberry fields on Gowland Mountain, Collier Mountain, Mapleton and in Elgin.

Friday, August 21, 2009

35th. Reunion of The First North River Gospel Singers


Back Row: (L to R)

Phillip Thorne, Brent Bleakney, Darryl Duncan, Vernon Lounsbury, Gary Goddard, Stephen Eagles, Ron Eagles, Judy Wilson, Shirley (McKinnon) Wilson, Lynn (Goddard) Mosse (pianist)

Front Row: (L to R)

Joanne (Layton) Solomon, Krista (Lewis) Good, Ruth Lewis, Susan (Plume) Goddard, Brenda Wilson, Sandra (Lounsbury) Eagels, Sharon A. Layton-Pollock

In the forfront are the Reverend Larry and Lena Meade

Sunday, August 9th, 2009, a special day. It was a trip back through the paths of time, a reunion.

In 1974 the little country churches that belonged to The First North River Pastorate welcomed a new minister. The United Baptist churches within this pastorate were Lewis Mountain, Wheaton Settlement, Steeves Settlement, Kinnear Settlement and First North River.

The Reverend Larry Meade was new to his calling and new to his job as Pastor, and his choice of a wife, Lena, was suberb. The two of them landed on their pastorate running. Larry's carasmatic personallity and Lena's sweetness was a natural magnet to both young and old.

It wasn't long before Lena had gathered the young people and a few married ladies together and formed The Fists North River Gospel Singers. We were up and singing in time for evangelistic meetings, music tours to various churches in the Maritimes, a record making, church growth and many many good times.

So, needless to say, when we learned Larry and Lena were going to be back on the field for a special occassion many answered the call to re-unite in song. It was as though the years between 1974 and 2009 fadded away as we sang as Lena directed us and smiled at us just like it was yesterday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Westmorland County Agricultural Fair 2009

President Lee J. Burgess was glad to welcome all fair goers to the 2009 Fair. The theme of the fair and parade this year was "Back to Our Roots."

The theme was chosen to honour the man who had a dream for local people and farmers to show their summer's work from their gardens and fields. In 1967 Willian (Bill) Balzer went to Frederiction to obtain a Centennial Grant to begin a Petitcodiac Fair Exhibit Hall.

In 1971 Fred McKillop, who was then Mayor of Petitcodiac, Hilda MacPherson and Marjorie Dickie joined Bill and his dream. Another trip to Frederiction, this time to have the Fair incorporated as the Westmorland County Agric. Fair. This year to honour Bill and his dream, a sign was unveiled at the Exhibit Hall.

One of the first Directors, Herb Keirstead was chosen to be the Parade Marshall. Herb grew up in Havelock, N.B. and has lived in the Village of Petitcodiac since 1954. He and his wife Shirley raised three sons and one daughter, and their family has now grown to include five grandchildren. Herb is retired from Canada Cement Lafarge and throughout his life has always been very involved in his community. Herb was on the committee that started the first Westmorland County Agricultural Fair in 1967. He organized the light horse show for several years. He himself has been involved with horses and horse shows as a competitor, organizer, ringmaster, judge and inspector for the Canadian Sport Horse.

Keeping with the theme the queen of the 1971 Fair Cathy McQuinn, her two princesses Ruth Alward and Terri Sanford took front row and center in the parade.

Youth from the farming communities are important to the life and continuance of any Agricultural Fair. Rob Tait, of Salisbury, organized the Westmorland 4H Club and the Salisbury 4H Club in their efforts of displaying 4H projects they've been involved with throughout the year.

The Fair got off to a musical start on August 2nd. in the Village Arena. Here the crowd was treated to gospel music songs by a southern gospel male quartet who call themselves "From The Cross." The quartet consists of Bruce Johnson, Terry MacKinnon, Don Chapman and Ron Kammermann, all are from the Moncton area.

A fun night was the kids Pig Scramble, and all the little pigs were donated by the Metz Farm in Cannan.

Arbing Equipment from Sussex was a great help to the fair as they donated the use of some of their equipment in various venues.

Also, Bremner Farms of Lutes Mountain brought equipment to assist in many ways.

To end the fair was the show of fireworks. The Westmorland County Agricultural Fair partnered with Hinchey's Rides and Amusements, from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to make the night a memorable one.