Fernie Forge is a business based near Fernie, British Columbia and operated by Sandra and Dave Barrett, both master blacksmiths from England. My wife and I had the good fortune of meeting them both during our honeymoon last fall. When we got to talking shop, Sandra expressed interest in featuring some of my work at their gallery, The Eye of the Needle Studio, located in the heart of Fernie’s downtown. It’s a beautiful location that features work from blacksmiths and other artists from around the world. I was honoured that she considered my work good enough to be included in their gallery.
If you are ever in the Fernie area, I highly recommend stopping by their gallery.
I came across an excellent blog post that summarizes the benefits of using a broadfork in the garden. Gardening season is fast approaching; my wife and I are already giving thought to what we’ll be planting this year, and how we can continue build the soil and infrastructure to make our garden healthier and more productive.
I make two varieties of broadfork. The standard, five-tine variety is the one we’ve been using for two years now and find it makes quick work in our rows. Have a look at it here.
The other type is a professional version meant for farmers of all stripes who make a living from growing green things. That one can be seen here.
A neighbour of mine requested I craft a broadfork for her urban farming operation, Guild’s Cage Permaculture, here in Magrath, Alberta. I’ll get right into her review as it clearly shows how effective the broadfork is.
I’m writing to sing the praises of your custom-made broadfork. I simply can’t believe I have managed my garden all these years without this tool! It has made my rows a consistent width, which I can now maintain by continued use of the broadfork in spring and fall. This will certainly lead me to attain my goal of no- or low-dig gardening in the near future. Furthermore, I have never used a tool that is as efficient as the broadfork in deep aeration and subsequent weed harvesting. As I live and garden in the deep south of Alberta, I am constantly waging battle not only with heavy clay soil, but also with the strenuous and resilient grass varieties that propagate through the use of underground runners. Using the broadfork allows me to break up the soil and get well underneath the network of roaming grass roots so I may pull them out with ease. I like having grass and clover in my pathways, as they contribute to soil structure, solidity and increased nematodes, but having to dig or edge the grass out of my rows was a major undertaking in the fall, especially now, as my field garden is nearly 5000 square feet. I have completed over a third of my garden preparation in the past weeks with the broadfork, and will be far ahead next spring, simply for having purchased this tool! I have included pictures of working one of my sections with the broadfork, from weeding to compost topdressing and mulching. Amazing! Thank you!
Amber included the following pictures along with her testimonial:
The broadfork comes in two sizes: standard and pro. The primary difference is the width of the fork. Amber wanted the standard version as its width was perfect for the size of garden beds she prefers to work with.
Diverting steel from the waste stream by upcycling rather than recycling or dumping it
One of the core aspects of my business is diverting materials from the waste stream, in accordance with the permaculture principle of “produce no waste.” The most common way for me to do this is to visit the local scrapyard, auto mechanic or farmer and collect scrap steel which I use to forge into new gardening, homesteading and permaculture tools. Having built a local network of connections, I sometimes am gifted with some incredible chunks of metal, and that always brings a smile to my face.
On the blacksmithing end of things, it’s critical that I identify what uses the scrap steel I get is appropriate for. Tools need to be tough and durable, especially the stuff I make as I want it to last generations, rather than weeks or months. With this in mind, a very important step in my creation process is to test the steel I divert from the waste stream.
The accompanying video shares my system for testing scrap steel for its suitability as tool steel. Specifically, I test an old harrow tooth that was rusting away on an old Saskatchewan farm until a client of mine wanted them repurposed into kama (also known as rice knives). He wants to gift these tools to his brothers and sisters as an imperishable memento of the family farm they grew up on.
Here’s a short video showing how the broadfork can be used for harvesting as well as tilling. Lorinda wields the broadfork with ease to dig up some monster garlic bulbs from our organic backyard garden.
You can find out more about the broadfork I make here.
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be blacksmithing at the Fort Whoop-up interpretative center this summer starting this Saturday, May 20. It’s an incredible opportunity to share the blacksmith’s craft with visitors from all over. The fort represents the late 19th century era in southern Alberta; this will provide a wonderful creative challenge for myself to use only era-appropriate techniques and tools to create. Come say hi and check out all the other events the Fort has planned for the summer.
I forged a set of hori hori for the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge last fall as part of their commemoration of being 50 years old this year. These hori hori have been forged used reclaimed railroad spikes and hockey sticks, making them a truly Canadian product through and through. Spring is definitely in the air and if you want a hori hori right away, they’re available for purchase at the Nikka Yuko gift shop.