Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Preparing for an Emergency

As a lot of you know, we're Mormons. And one of the teaching of the latter day prophets is to store a supply of food, clothing and other necessities to help in times of need. Now this can mean that using you stored supplies helps with stretching your budget if you lose your job, getting through a natural disaster, and some people believe that if the economy crashes you'll need it too. This advice has been around for many many years though and it's not something new. What IS new are the types of people who now call themselves 'preppers'. They read things about the economy, politics, peak oil, and the many predictions that we as a world are heading for another depression. Probably one of the most famous late commers to the movement is Robert Kiyosaki, author of the famously popular "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" series of books about investing and money management. There's an interesting intervies with him over at Total Investor and I've included the video below.

Now of course several guys mention about firearms and that is a subject I don't wish to discuss on the blog right now. But the other ideas about storing supplies are something that we are hearing the world over and not just from church leaders. Governments and community groups are urging people everywhere to have a 72 hour kit ready so that in case of a disaster they can get by on their own for a few days before help can reach them. I noticed recently that many are now suggesting 96 hours (4 days) or upto a week if you live in a remote area.

If and what you decide to store are very individual choices. Some people simply don't want to store food. Some have limited resources or space for it. Whereas others will go gung ho and spend money on a lot of stuff that's really not essential. I would simply urge you to think about this....If something happens to disrupt the supply of food in Canada (3 days or less), or your neighbourhood, how long can you last? Do you have a source of heat, water, food and shelter? In a pinch this is as simple as a small tent, sleeping bag, cooking pot with matches, water and some canned food or granola bars in the trunk of your car. We're not talking about building a fallout shelter in the back yard. It's best, in my opinion, to start slowly and to gradually store what you will use and eat. Even those on the leanest budget should be able to find a way to store an extra can of soup or a small bag of oatmeal every week. It quickly adds up to the point that you have to begin rotating your food. And if you look closely you can find room to store it. When I was first married I had my boxes of food supporting the mattress of my bed and I used jars of blackberry jam to hold up the individual boards of my shelves. They work just as well as bricks :)Think about a motorhome, it's laid out to have as much usable storage and space as possible. If you need some help, just send me a message.

I have to go get the kids but will finish this post later on what to have in your 72 hour kit.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fresh Strawberries and U-Picks in Qualicum Area

Let's make a list of places that have U-Picks this year. Have you found any good ones? I'm going to add some that I know of and you can feel free to add yours too. Just leave me comments and I'll add to the list. Here's a list of producers in the Oceanside area. From eggs and chicken to garlic.

I only know of a couple of u-pick berry places though...

ASH berry farm in Royston (very nice and easy access) strawberries and other produce in their on site store. I know they are a WWOOF farm also.

Ashprington Farm just north of Courtenay have strawberries and raspberries and other produce already picked.

The season has already started so get out there with you sunscreen, bug repellant, hat and water bottle and enjoy some delicious fresh produce and strawberries that are picked ripe and just bursting with flavour!

Let me know what you do with them, ok? Do you make jam? Shortcake? Here is a strawberry shortcake recipe for you to try. I know you can just use angel food cake from the bakery but this is home made and delicious!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup milk


1 quart ripe strawberry, washed,hulled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream


Prep Time: 1 hr

Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs

1 Preheat oven to 450 degrees; grease a cookie sheet.
2 To make Shortcake, with knife blade attachment on food processor, process flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, butter and 2 teaspoons granulated sugar until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3 Pour mixture into medium bowl.
4 With wooden spoon or paddle attachment on electric mixer, add milk and mix just until it forms a smooth dough.
5 Scoop dough onto cookie sheet in 6 equal mounds.
6 Dust top of shortcakes with remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar.
7 Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
8 Remove from oven; transfer to wire rack and cool.
9 To make Filling, in a medium bowl, mash one-half of berries.
10 Mix with granulated sugar and vanilla.
11 Refrigerate 1 hour.
12 To make Whipped Cream, in a chilled mixing bowl, beat cream with confectioners' sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla until it just holds soft peaks.
13 Add sour cream; beat until stiff peaks form.
14 Cut off tops of shortcakes; set aside.
15 Spoon Filling onto bottom of each shortcake.
16 Cover with Whipped Cream and remaining sliced strawberries; replace tops.
17 Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, a strawberry half and a sprig of mint.

Small Family Farms Are Important

I realize that I'm biased. Being a small family farm, we struggle with weather, crops, selling for a fair price, and competing with the food prices from grocery stores. I know I've posted it before but here's a great video. Although aimed at Canadians, it should make everyone stop and think.

So, would you pay a little extra for your food if it was local?

Supporting family farms is essential to our community identity and makes it possible for us all to know a little more about our interdependence. I can give you lots of reasons why it's better to buy local but you already know. I just want you to think about it the next time you go shopping. If you are a farmer, how do we teach people about the importance of supporting us farmers? It's important that both growers and consumers know what to expect out of our relationship.

Steve just got home and it's late.

***** more later *****

Monday, June 27, 2011

City Dogs and Country Sheep- a recipe for disaster.

It's that time of year again that people are letting their dogs run loose and taking lovely long walks in the country for some fresh air and to enjoy the scenery. The problem starts when they let their dogs run loose and often unsupervised. I know how tempting it is to let them run free and watch the joy of a dog running through the fall finery but please consider this... Just because you think a field is empty doesn't mean it actually is. We farmers move livestock around all the time. And your dog running on the other side of the bushes could be worrying my sheep even if you can't hear it. Startled and running sheep do not always make a lot of noise. Your dog could cause my sheep to have abortions hours after you've gone home to your nice cozy house. And you'll never know. Even if your dog mauls an animal you might not realize. I know that your dog might be perfectly behaved at home but if the hunting instinct kicks in they will chase sheep, and sheep having no natural defenses, they just run. It just leads to a frenzy of adrenaline and the hunt is on, almost always ending badly for the sheep. If sheep are given this sort of fright or brush with death as they see it, they will often abort the lambs they are carrying. And nobody knows about this but the shepherd and possible the vet.

This is why it's an almost universally accepted law that if your dog, no matter how cute and fluffy, is caught on my land worrying my livestock (chasing them, being in their field, mauling them) I have every right to shoot your dog without compensation to you and in fact I could even go as far as to sue you. Most farmers won't sue, and are loathe to shoot a dog. So please do us all a HUGE favour and keep your dog controlled on a leash. And remember that public footpaths and bridleways are on average 6 feet wide so your dog is supposed to stay within that area. Nobody knows what their dog will do 100% of the time until the first incident occurs, it's just the way nature is, unpredictable.

The rules about shooting dogs apply in most countries in the world so this really is a universally applicable post. I think that out of just general respect for your fellow human beings that we could all try to be considerate and get along. We farmers welcome you to the country, and leashed dogs are fine but of course it's always a bad few who spoil it for everyone. I know that this will upset lots of animal lovers out there and I understand, I really do. But what about the rights of livestock? They're animals too. Farmers will always try to scare off or catch a dog and find its owners if they can. We love dogs too and most farmers consider them indispensable, working dogs and family pets alike. But ultimately it's your responsibility to be a responsible pet owner. If you're generally a good neighbour then there isn't too much to worry about. We've had at one time our sheep escape, cows escape and the pigs escape. It happens. But we just round them up and bring them back home, repairing any havoc they've wreaked while out. Similarly, if a dog or other farmers livestock wandered onto my place I'd try to return them home. This neighbourliness is what living in a rural community is all about. It's dogs chasing livestock that cause problems. In the UK the rules say this "The dog owner commits an offence if (a) their dog is in a field with livestock worrying them, Worrying means attacking livestock, or chasing livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock or, in the case of females, abortion, or loss of or diminution in their produce; or (b) their dog is not under control in a field with sheep, even if he was not worrying them, but a police dog, a guide dog, trained sheep dog, a working gun dog or a pack of hounds are all excluded. (Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953).

Here's a good clip from Adams Farm on Countryfile from September 2013 about dogs.

That's all I have to say for now about dogs. Next up....dealing with raccoons.

On a personal note:
It's starting to rain a little so my chances for getting laundry dry today are looking less than promising. But other good things are happening. We still don't have much money raised for the trip but I know it will will work out in the end. We still have 4 weeks to go. And lots of things we can sell. Stephen will be back from the mainland tonight so tomorrow we will be back at work getting things ready.

We are getting closer to making plans for a BBQ fundraiser too. We're going to make all our own sausage and then invite all our friends over. Smokies and a bun by donation...sound good? We'll expect you all to come and tell all your friends. I'll post more details as we get closer to the date.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hello Australia!

Just thought I'd take a minute to say hello to our readers in Australia. How are things in your neck of the woods? It's actually sunny for once here but we're in for a week of rain and showers starting tomorrow. How's your Winter weather so far?

And India. Is it hot there right now? The kids want to know if all your food is spicy. I said not everything but most things. Is that right? A friend once told me that the further south you go, the spicier the food is. Do people eat Western food as a treat like we eat Indian food for a special treat?

Today, as mentioned is sunny and it's breezy too so of guessed it....I'm doing laundry. I figure I can get a couple of loads done and hung before church and maybe one load after. I'm also making a bunch of sausage, our own bacon, and eggs for brunch. Nothing to exciting but filling at any rate.

Steve is off to Vancouver this afternoon. He's going to get the supper time ferry and hopefully be at our daughters by 9ish tonight. Should be an interesting day Monday and fun to hang out with his daughter Lynne. I'll post more about that tomorrow.

It's Sunday so we've got church today and I am going to post a bunch of ads for things on Kijiji and Craigslist. I've got to get selling all the stuff in our storage locker before I have to pay another months storage fees. I think that with Steve gone we'll have a girls only sleep over at my motorhome and watch chick flicks.

Time to go flip the bacon! Best Wishes to all of you, wherever you are in the world. I'll post something interesting later this afternoon.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Canada Post Strike 2011

** It's Tuesday June 28. The mail should be delivered today all across Canada. I'll let you know how it goes. I wonder if the backlog will take them a long time to sort out because I still want my water heater and my seat belts are in the mail too. People shipping USPS can now send shipments to Canada. Hooray!**

***Ok, went to the post office because lots of people in the grocery store said they'd finally got their pension cheques etc. Alas, our box was empty. Nothing. Nada. Not even junk mail. After nearly 3 weeks I didn't get any mail? How is that even possible? As it turns out we spoke to lots of people in the same boat that got no mail delivered today. I guess it will take Canada Post a while to sort things out, only now we have a long weekend coming up for Canada Day so no mail once again. Sigh.Did you get your mail??***

Main Post.
Will it ever end? It's so frustrating not to have mail service. Any payments mailed by customers are sitting there in the system, the hot water heater we ordered should have been here already and no doubt it's sitting in a warehouse somewhere. It's been a couple of weeks now and they still can't get it sorted out. So, the gov't steps in to legislate them back to work and one party, the NDP decide they don't want it so they filibuster the proceedings.

I, Like many other Canadians have had enough. Canada Post employees are certainly worth a fair price for their labour. Notice I said a fair price? I'm not going to get into the debate about how much more than $23 per hour they should be earning but I will say this...I know of more than one hardworking apprentice (mechanic) who is learning and working hard for $12 per hour in shops where the labour rate charged to customers is $85. But right now I just really want my HOT WATER!!!

****June 27th. The strike is over! Canada Post are back to work today sorting mail and delivery resumes tomorrow morning. Hooray!! ****

Ok, enough of the rant. How are things with you all? Steve spent most of the day yesterday playing with his Altair computer that we want to sell, getting it dusted and cleaned up and checking the processor. I got court docs done and went to the lawyer. Chris worked at Qualicum Bay Resort for most of the day and apart from that it was quiet. Oh, I did hang out with my friend Deanna while she was in town getting her car fixed.

About the Big Move.

Plans for today are to check the weather, hit the farmers market while it's warming up, and get a coat of paint on this RV. The weather just has not co-operated recently. We're looking for a day when it is not going to rain for 24 hours so the paint is good and cured by the time any moisture gets to it. There's morning dew to consider so painting early in the day is important too.

I've got to order seatbelts today as well so they are here in time. Steve is going to look at the steering linkage too I believe. It wanders a bit and you can't have that if you are pulling a trailer. I don't want to get a lot of sway and risk jackknifing the rig.

I had an idea for fundraising...we should have a hotdog / smokie bbq and have it be by donation and at the same time auction off our food storage. This will mean finding a place to hold the event and inviting everyone from church both here in Qualicum and possibly Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay etc. If we have it at a place that's got a place for kids to play we'll get more families out and we need adequate parking too. I'm thinking that Community Park might work or Qbay Resort might work too. Any suggestions?

Rats! It's just started to rain. Wouldn't you know it! Gotta run but will check in later. I have pics to post and a camera that will do it now!

Is it worth the extra expense to buy organic foods?

Here's a video that you'll find really interesting. I promise.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Art of Sponge Bathing or How to Save Water

Did you know that the average North American uses about 100 gallons of purified water (from the tap) per day? That amounts to about 600 gallons for or family if we were typical. Which we're not. Since we have lived with such low producing wells for so many years we're used to conserving water through low flow faucets, turning the water off to brush your teeth, low flush (or no flush) toilets, short showers, front loading he washing machine etc etc. But now that we're in a trailer and motorhome our water usage has dropped dramatically and will be even lower when we're on the road this summer.

Here are some ways we use less water:

Porta Potti's and composting toilets use little or no water. And when I say little I mean less than a cup full (250 ml) just to rinse the bowl clean.

Running water to wash hands and dishes. We are acutely aware of the amount of water used for this because it runs right out on to the ground outside so we try to not leave the tap running more than necessary. It is still very important though to maintain good hygiene and hand washing practices.

Limited shower times. The tiny bathroom is not really conducive to having a long luxurious shower. Anything more than a trickle from that shower gives you a total of 6 minutes max before you get blasted with cold water. And it doesn't sneak up on you gradually like a home shower that gets cooler and cooler, this just changes it's mind like a PMS-ing woman who discovered that her husband ate her chocolate, and it blasts you with icy cold well water usually when you've still got to rinse your hair and there's soap in your eyes. The hot water tank is 6 gallons or about 30 litres. That's not that much water really. We also turn the water off while soaping up to save water and we simply take fewer showers.

Sponge baths. Yes, the bath in a bucket. Or 4 litre ice cream pail in our case. You just fill it up with very warm water, get yourself damp. Lather up. Then using your washcloth and the water you scrub and rinse. We can do everything but wash our hair with less then 4 litres. Including your hair you'd probably use 5-6 litres. This gives you a good scrubbing, better than a shower, and uses a lot less water so you can do it while camping or travelling even if you have to boil a kettle for hot water. The tricks are to start at the top and work down, use a good washcloth, and make sure you rinse off all the soap or you'll get itchy.

And we wear our outer clothes (jeans and shirts) for an extra day if we can to cut down on the amount of laundry that needs to be done.

All in all I would estimate that we're using 30 gallons per day for the whole family not including laundry but including cooking, cleaning, dishes, showers, drinking and toilets. And we could use less.

Why is important to use less water? Every time you waste water through a leaking toilet or dripping tap, or through bad habits, you are wasting the chemicals and the energy it took to make that water clean. You're literally flushing it down the toilet. You can do things like have passive or active solar hot water collectors, rain water barrels to catch rain or rooftop collectors. There are so may ways we can all cut down on our consumption. Here's a pretty graph of our water usage according to the EPA. Have a look and see where you fit and where you think you can save. Even if you're on a well and saying that you have unlimited water you should consider that the more water that goes through the system the more wear and tear on pumps and septic systems, the more you pay to heat all that water, and the more you gradually deplete underground water resources. It's true that a well used over time drops the local water table in it's immediate area by a considerable amount and in the case of pockets or pools of water trapped in rock you deplete it faster than it can infiltrate the rock.

It reminds me of the movie Dune where the most precious thing is water because water supports all life on that desert planet. And the still suits they have are kind of cool too, recovering and purifying your sweat back into drinkable water so you stay hydrated. Back here on Earth wars have been fought over water and wells. Right now bottled water from the gas station costs about $2 per litre making it more expensive than the gas. How'd that happen?

Remember that water is a resource like any other. Abundance of good clean drinking water is a gift we all enjoy in Canada and take for granted. But so many other places value it much more highly. Clean water in Africa would save millions of lives each year. The WHO reports that at any given time half the population in the developing world is suffering from some sort of water borne illness. It's sad that we take this for granted when so many in India and Africa have to struggle for it. The lives of some 4000 children could be saved every day just form adequate clean water and sanitation. Makes you think doesn't it? That we should all pitch in this Christmas and sponsor a well being dug through World Vision.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Saving Money on Fruits and Vegetables

This blog is read by a variety of people world wide. Both urban and rural. So how to write about saving money on veggies and things when we get them so differently? I'll just cover both topics because let's face it...even farmers in Canada like oranges and bananas and there's no hope of growing either.

Urban shopping is nearly always limited to 2 sources for produce, supermarket or farmers market. And the prices at a farmers market can be expensive. While I think the quality and whole system is better with buying direct from a farmer it just doesn't work for some people. So how do you save money on store bought produce? I know you're thinking "but I already check out the flyers and shop sales" but what about buying in bulk? No hear me out...I'm not talking about buying 40lbs of bananas and then having to either eat them all or be left with a gooey mess in the box. While our family can eat that many bananas and we often shopped at the wholesalers by ourselves, it doesn't work for most people. A much better way of doing this is to get together with a few families and friends and split things up. So if a case of bananas is $20. And you split them between 3 families and lets say 2 couples, each group would end up with a percentage of the box and a percentage of the bill. Maybe families get 25% each and the couples get 12.5% each. Can you eat 10 lbs of bananas? 5 lbs? So long as you agree and it's fair, you can work it out any way you like. We used to sell produce shares based either on a half or full share and then the entire crop for the week was just divided up accordingly. People then get what they pay for.

How can this work for you? Almost all wholesalers will sell to individuals, did you know that? The proviso is that you often have to pick it up, order a minimum quantity, and buy full cases. A local wholesaler here on Vancouver Island will sell you a minimum order of $150 but deliver it. Sound like a lot of fruit and veggies? It can be but of course if you divide it up suddenly it's much more manageable. And it's almost a festive air when you get together to divide up the spoils or pick up your shares.
I would recommend that someone be in charge of both picking things up and dividing them too. Then all everyone else has to do is pick up. You can make this as regulated or relaxed as works for you.

And this works very well for people who like to do canning or making jam because you can order extra cases of what you want over and above your regular veggies. Fruits in season can sometimes be picked up very cheaply indeed if the wholesaler gets over stocked.

The drawbacks....not everyone likes the same veggies (I HATE celery). One person does more work than the rest and has to be compensated somehow. You will get a little bit of spoiled or bruised produce occasionally and need something to do with it like compost or feed to the chickens. money, try new veggies, share recipes within your group, eat more seasonal vegetables, share something great with your community.

SO....Rural Veggies

Grow Your Own!! Jeepers, how hard is it to plant some peas? Ok, Ok, I know that even we don't grow everything we want. We still get things wholesale but it's less of a regular thing. And we stick to what we're good at and then trade with our neighbours for the other stuff we want. Right now we obviously have no produce and it's driving me a bit nuts actually. So we are going to trade some wheat for rhubarb. Something we already have extra of...for something we want. Same goes for meats. If you raise pigs, farm B raises chickens and farm X raises cows, why not come to a deal and share your meat. There is something great about trading too...the sense of community and reliance is enhanced and you'll be a much happier farmer.

A way to sell your crops reliably is to sell shares in your garden. It's called Community Supported Agriculture. I've written about it before and there's a lot of info available on the web, but the basic principle is that you plan and successively plant enough vegetables to have a weekly harvest of a certain size. You divide each weeks harvest up between share holders. You get the customers for your crops and the money upfront, they get produce, everyone's happy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Solstice

So there you have it...a little bit from each of the kids. It's not quite what I expected but makes for humorous reading anyways.

How are you this fine morning? I was awoken before 5 by an almighty racket coming from the ducks and geese in the barn. So I pulled a cardigan over my t-shirt and went out to check. It's a lovely morning and everything smells clean and damp because a very heavy dew settled in the night. We noticed it before going to bed because Steve and I were out looking at the satellites and stars and admiring the shortest night of the year. It wasn't full dark even at 11pm with a tinge of daylight on the northern horizon.

It's amazing how many constellations we've managed to forget over the years. Some stars are easy to find, Arcturus, Polaris and some constellations including Cassiopeia, and the big dipper.

Speaking of Polaris, the North Star. Can you find it? Right there off the end of the big dipper....It's a very useful star in finding North and also estimating your latitude based upon it's height in the sky. But did you know that Polaris has not always been the north star? As the stars move in the sky (Polaris is a fixed star and so moves very very slowly over thousands of years) the star best representing north changes. Did you know that? Vega was the pole star in 12000BC and faint Alrai will be nearer north than Polaris by 3000AD. Here's the wiki link.

While we are travelling we'll get to see 2 meteor showers, the Delta Aquarids and the Perseids. We'll be reaching some nice dark country by the time the Perseids peak on August 12th and 13th but alas, the moon will also be full and so obscure any but the brightest meteors. The perseids are my favourite shower of the year and having it occur in the middle of summer means you can lie out in a field while camping and watch the spectacular show above you. Want to know what's coming up in your sky? Here's a link to EarthSky Definitely worth a poke around.

The summer solstice has come and gone for the year. Midsummer, or the solstice, is approximately half way through the growing season in the northern hemisphere. And there are many religious holidays surrounding this peak of the suns height in the sky, some representing fertility, some the harvest, and some we do not understand though evidence left in places like Stonehenge show us that the ancient peoples were aware of the significant dates of the calendar and marked them accordingly. Weddings and "June" brides were traditional in many countries as was the 'Honey Moon'. Tradition tells us that the first or only full moon in June is the best time to take honey from the hives. And there is some basis of fact in this. Taking honey now gives the bees plenty of time to build reserves to last them through the inevitable winter to come. We never take all the honey. If you did, what are they supposed to eat if the weather turns wet, or conversely hot and dry killing off the flowers? We're supposed to work 'with' the bees and not to just rob them blind. Part of good beekeeping is knowing how to balance your need to take honey out and the bees need to keep honey in for winter.

Well I should be getting the kids lunches made and getting a start on my day. Enjoy yours and remember that even if things don't go well, nobody can make you have a 'bad' day. It's your attitude that counts and you control that 100%.


Hi my name is Jordan and I am 13 years old. My interests are paintball, video games reading and sports. My favorite book series is the inheritance cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisinger and Inheritance). My favorite sports are hockey and rugby. Its kind of cramped living in a trailer with two sisters and a brother. Its going to be even more tight when we are all living in the motor home together. One downside is that my bed is used as the couch so it gets messed up all the time. Moving should be good. Its going to be fun visiting places all over Canada!

I am very good at math. I have an awesome black lab dog who weighs 85 lbs. Her name is Sarah.

Kate' s Blog Entry My name is Katherine I am 10 years old. I don't know what too say. Hey Mum, don't write that down! Sometimes it's a bit annoying living with my brother because of all the music and PS3. My favourite colours are gold, silver , purple, orange, yellow turquoise. I like art, crafts and watching Netflix which we just got. Hmmm...Mum!

Because it's crowded (in the trailer) and there is not a lot of room I want to live in a house and have my own bedroom. I hate car rides because they make me sick. When we went to my Grandads wedding I got sick every 5 minutes. I wish I was the oldest kid in the family.

People think I talk like a boy, I don't know why. I can't speak well. I'm going to be the most famous back massager in the whole world. I will work at my new house and Dad will make me a studio. It's going to be fancy. It's going to have a pool for relaxing in and a hot tub...just for you Mum.

Ok, I love mac n' cheese made with real cheese and ceasar salad and rootbeer. I love suckers from the Moncton factory. I love tacos and ice-cream, burgers, icing on a chocolate ball. I love playing on the computer. I love chips with guacamole mmm my favourite! My favourite animal is a deer. I like cats, kittens and puppies and dragonflies.

On our trip I want to see the House of Commons in Ottawa. I want to see grandma and grandpa, see nanny, go to Winnipeg campground, go to parties. I want to annoy Chris. I love my mummy and my daddy.

That's it.

Love, Katherine

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Day in the Life of Meghan

Hi. My name is Meghan. I am very good at hula hooping. I use an adult size water hoop and I'm 7 years old. But in August I will be 8. I am trying to save money so we can move but I need your help with that. I am the youngest in my family out of 6 kids. My older brother and sister both had kids. So that means I am an Auntie. I have 3 nieces and 2 nephews.Right now we live in a trailer but only 4 of the kids and me. And I have a bunk and it's my room. I love to share in my family and I have a neighbour and his name is Ethan and we love to play all the time after he comes home from school. We always play at his house but if we are coming to my house we go on the trampoline he has 2 friends named Cooper and Cam. Him and my class did penpals. Cam was my penpal and Ethan he forgot his penpal but it was a girl. I usually play outside. My favourite colour is pink, red white and black and gold silver oh and especially the colour of old peoples silver grey like my Dad's hair he he he. When my dad was 19 my mum was just born and my Grandad was 20 when my mum was born. But I can handle it. It doesn't matter if they are different ages it just matters if you love them.

From your friend Meghan.

The End.

Teenage Life in a Trailer

I was thinking you'd like to know what it's like from a kids perspective so I'll get each of the kids to write a blog entry. Today I asked Chris to write something about what it's like living in a trailer and here's his unedited response.....gotta love teenagers and their cheerful and non-sarcastic attitudes. Of course, it's like the weather, if you don't like it just wait 15 minutes and it'll change.

the trailer is small and cramped. living in such tight close quarters with my siblings is agonizing. i miss not having a big shower and a spacious bathroom. having my bedroom roof 3 inches from my face when i am sleeping is disconcerting. not having a proper stove which results in my mother burning our food on the BBQ is rather annoying. living in a sand riding ring and having sand get into everything i own really irks me. having very little privacy from pretty much everyone is irritating. and being told to post on this blog so people feel sorry for me (which you should) is a little bit annoying. so please save me from this close proximity to my family! and i just had my grade 9 english final so i refuse to capitalize or correct anything. -rant of a 14 year old trailer dweller.

Mum's note: I only burned dinner three times in 6 weeks!

Summer is Here at 10:16am local time.

Yes it's official. Summer will be here in a matter of minutes. And it actually looks like it will be a lovey day. Warm, 21 c. Sunny. Light breeze. Do you know what that means? Laundry!! Yay!! I know it's sad to see someone get so excited about laundry but there's not really anywhere you can hide the dirty laundry in such a small place as this. I've already got it washing and the next load sorted and awaiting it's turn in the machine. The line is hung and waiting to receive wet clothing. After I've got that done I'm going to reorganize the motorhome a little and go on a hunt for knives. It's Jordan's turn to do the dishes and so of course the pile is huge and undone. He's getting it slowly caught up but all our knives seem to have disappeared. Dreadfully inconvenient when we only had 6 to start with.

We're going to do appliance calls this morning then get to the painting this afternoon while the kids clean out their trailer. It really needs a good scrub. Chris wrote one of his final exams this morning and says it was ok except the teacher had them practice an essay for a specific topic she said was on the exam and when he got to that part the question was different, but he did his best. He's got science tomorrow and then I think that might be it for the year. Good, more slave labour!! Just in time to rip apart the trailer and re-build! Poor guy, he probably thinks he can rest and relax for the next few weeks but his diabolical mother has other plans.

I'll add more to this post later and let you know how it's going with the painting.

Best Wishes to all for a happy and productive summer!

A New Budget and Changes to the Plan

Our money situation is not working out quite as well as planned and as such we have modified our plans a little to represent a more austere trip. We'll only be staying in a campground for one night, meals will be cooked on the road and cheaper (no McDonalds for the kids), we won't renovate much inside the motorhome instead making do with what we have or can scrounge up. Some things of course remain constant like the cost of gasoline so there's not much we can do about that. We are also altering our plans to allow us to earn a little money on the road doing some home renovations for my mother in Calgary so that will undoubtedly help us financially. Either way I'm sure it will all work out ok.

Oh, one big change is that we are looking at the possibility of using the trailer the kids already live in as our moving trailer. It would save us the expense of having to buy a new trailer frame plus the bother of selling the prowler before we move. We will simply add some storage room to the existing trailer and rip out the interior except for the bathroom. While we are on the move the boys can sleep in it and the girls can bunk in with Stephen and I. So that's one change that will hopefully make life a little simpler as we are rapidly running out of time.

On one bright note though John and Nic should be ready for the open road one day this week in their beautiful bus, allowing Steve more time to work on our own building projects. Yay!

We are still going to need to sell more of our things to raise the needed capital and to provide for some living expenses once we get to Nova Scotia. I'm confident that Steve can get work fast but we'll need a vehicle and school fees for the kids pretty quick so the more we can raise now the better. Please Please let us know if you have any ideas on how to raise more money.

Here's the new budget

$2500 Fuel
$700 Food
$ 200 Ferry
$ 300 Repairs, upgrades and maintenance of motorhome.
$ 120 Campgrounds
$ 200 Admissions
$ 30 Parking and Tolls
$ 50 Animal food
$ 50 Interior upgrades to motorhome
$ 200 Lumber to build trailer extension and animal pens.
$ 200 Insurance for trailer and motorhome
$ 150 BCAA membership (to cover towing if we need it)
$ 20 Sani-dump fees, propane refill
$ 40 New propane tank
$ 50 Souvenirs

I make this $4810. That's still a lot of dough! Hmmm...I wonder what I can sell. We still have advertising space available for our cross Canada trip if anyone is interested. And we're willing to talk to any reporter who would like to run our story. Please let anyone who might be interested in our story know about us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Watch out for Deer!

Yes it's that time of the year again and the babies are being born. I wish I had my camera with me yesterday because as we were driving down the street a deer crossed the road and a few feet behind her came a little fawn with it's spots, still damp from being born and wobbly on it's legs. The mother had jumped a 4 foot fence and was waiting for it to catch up which seemed unlikely. She was looking healthy though her hind quarters were still wet. Amazing to see them just get up and get on with living so soon after birthing. I'll see if I can get a picture of them sometime and post it because they really were a lovely pair. Here's a pic of what a newborn looks like.

So watch out when you're driving around...just because one deer crosses the road doesn't mean there isn't another one just waiting in the wings to cross and give you a fright as you slam on the brakes! Here in Qualicum Beach and many other places there are signs that say "Expect deer on our roads" and they mean it. Day or night, the deer are out. So pay attention.

We're having roast pork for dinner (gotta use up more pork!) with new potatoes, carrots, peas and maybe gravy too. I have a feeling we're going to be getting creative with the pork so I'll keep you posted.

It's dry today so the kids are outside playing and/or playing video games. The dog is wandering around contemplating where to best bury some of her bones. And the goat has gone to stud for a week or so. So it's pretty quiet. Stephen has gone off to Nanaimo again to help finish Nicole and John's bus before they hit the road this week. They must be so excited!

As for us, well things are happening to get us ready. We still don't have a ton of money saved up but we did get all the prime coats on of the cream colour now and will be working on the blue tonight. We've decided that maybe the best way to get a trailer suitable for moving is to modify the Prowler we've already got. We could simply (well it's not simple actually) extend the back to add 4 or 5 feet, remove everything from the inside such as cabinets, the broken fridge etc. and leave a big open space for storage. It doesn't give us much room as we'd like but it does save our budget from having to pay for a new frame and more plywood. Which is money we don't have right now. We'll manage I'm sure. The boys will have to move into tents while we rip it apart I guess and they say that's ok but I'm wondering...where do they think they're going to plug in their TV and PS3? But we'll manage, no worries!

We've been praying for a place to live in Greenwood NS area and hopefully something will happen soon in that regard. We know the Lord works on his own time frame so we just have to be patient...but it's so hard. I know it's a test of faith. So I'm trying really hard to not let it bother me.

On the bright side Steve is going to write his red seal for appliance service technician soon and possibly electrician so he'll have a much easier time finding work once we move. I'm sure we'll figure it all out. One more piece of our puzzle to put in place. I think it's time we made a list of all the pieces and made a checklist so we can keep track of where we're headed because right now it's just too much to think about.

Ok, I'm off now. Hope you all had a lovely fathers day. We had fun with Steve and had a nice dinner and fairly relaxing day all things considered.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Garage Sale Time!

Every year the youth group from church spends weeks drumming up donations for their garage sale and then has a huge sale in June. Well, it's that time again! We spent last night sorting and pricing everything and now it's time to open! Well, at 8am. You should all come see us! We've got some amazing stuff!

An incredible amount of stuff from camping gear, to sofas, huge generator, brand new cooktop, single over double bunkbed, weight bench with pulley system, end tables, and all sorts of electronics, plus size clothes, toys, housewares, stereos, and hundreds of other things. You never know what you're going to find!

All the money raised goes directly into the fund to send the boys to camp in July at Buttle Lake. They'll be learning outdoor skills as well as doing some strenuous hikes into the surrounding park too. There are 2 youth leaders going with our group and 5 boys.

Please stop by and see what we've got!

The sale is centrally located at the Qualicum Bay Resort on the old Island Highway from 8-2 today only!

Friday, June 17, 2011

How the Painting went

Well, we ended up having to water down all the coats of paint because it was drying right in the tray. Envirogard can be watered down 10% so we did and it made application much easier and didn't dry as fast which meant saving us from a bunch of lines and streaks. We now have all the trim covered in 2 coats, the orange stripe in the middle and on the top are now covered in 2 or 3 coats and any nasty spots are primed. The vent covers and window frames are done too and the paint has adhered very well to the bare aluminum. A slight change in plans though. We've decided to finish up all the cream coloured paint including the cab (which needs sanding first to remove the test paint that got damp and bubbled) before moving on to the blue. I think one more day and the paint will be all done and then it's just a matter of leaving it to cure and attain maximum hardness and durability which takes 28 days. Already it's pretty scratch resistant, Ssshhh...don't tell Steve but I checked it out with a mark!

Beautiful sunset tonight. Off to bed now, goodnight.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Painting the Motor Home / RV

Well, after perhaps up to 40 years, this little beauty is getting a makeover. What girl doesn't like that? She's been scrubbed and exfoliated and is now ready for paint. Stephen finished the taping and we've decided exactly where to paint the blue line up to (just under where the middle orange stripe is now) and the weather looks like it will be good for painting today. We're definitely at the mercy of the weather being outside but this morning dawned bright and sunny without gale force winds so it's looking good.

Here's the plan.

1. Run a tack cloth over the body to remove any new dust or grime.
2. Check that the tape is firmly in place.
3. Apply the first coat of cream with a roller and cut in using a small brush.
4. Apply the first coat of blue on the sides but not the doors or hood **
5. Paint the fenders, bumpers, side mirrors.
6. Go to work/Lunch/pick kids up at school (kill 4-5 hours basically)
7. Water down some of the cream paint 10% with water and re-coat the cream areas with their second and final coat.
8. Water down some blue and apply the finish coat to the main body.
9. Second coat fenders, bumper etc if needed.

**10. After 24 hours tape the lines on the hood and paint the blue accents in 2 coats at least 4 hours apart. We have to wait 24 hours before we can do this because we'll be putting the tape onto the newly painted cream surface and we don't want the tape to pull off the paint.

Et Voila! A freshly painted motor home with a nice somewhat glossy hammered finish. As we're using rollers we will not get a mirror shine like automotive paint, but it will be a durable finish. We are using Envirogard Gloss from General Paint which is a waterborne acrylic enamel. The colours we are using are called sheepskin and malta.

The new finish will be both attractive and durable, replacing the paint that was chalky underneath from many years of exposure. By the time we are done our re-paint will have cost us approximately $120 for paint and materials.

We may consider painting the roof with any leftover paint to cover up the black tar roof and provide a cooler surface which will be particularly nice in the summer I'm sure. We do have some aluminum paint but I'm not sure that it won't react chemically with the tar and make a terrible mess so we'll do some experiments and see. The main thing is to have a good and durable finish on the main body and cab.

So that's what we are hoping to accomplish today. And hanging out more laundry of course, it looks like a good day to freshen up everyone's quilts.

We have 41 days to go until we leave so time is running out! Gotta get to work!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go Canucks Go!

Well what kind of person would I be if I didn't give a little shout out to the Canucks? I'm personally a Flames fan but living in BC and getting down to game 7 is awesome. It's almost 5pm and the whole neighbourhood has an air of quiet tension. There's less traffic on the road, nobody is out walking their dog, I wonder if it's because of the game?

Hockey in Canada is definitely a sport with a following. I don't really know that there are people who hate it. Rather people either love it or are neutral. But it's still a good feeling to be part of the crowd cheering for the Canucks. Win or Lose, this has still been an amazing playoff run this year.

Go Canucks Go!

Driving in Canada for Tourists

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to poke around and 'comment' if you have questions. I'll be happy to answer them for you.

Driving in Canada is quite unlike driving in other countries although obviously some things remain constant the world over (like obeying the posted speed limit). But the amazing variety of terrain from gravel mountain roads to 6 lane highways and driving conditions from rain to snow and ice to dry roads can make preparing to drive here a necessity.

Firstly, if you are driving here because you are on vacation then make sure of a few things before you leave with your rental car.

*Do you have adequate insurance

All car rental companies offer insurance from the most basic liability to the grandest comprehensive and the prices can vary significantly so your $29 per day vehicle may end up costing you maybe $40 per day. One thing to check is that you might also have some coverage through your credit card provider or travel insurance so check before leaving home and you'll save some big bucks $$$.

* Watch for wildlife. I'm not talking birds and rabbits, I'm talking moose, deer, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, wolves, elk, buffalo, and bears. The little ones can give you a good scare and possibly damage your car but hitting one of these big guys could be much worse so pay attention, especially driving at dusk and dawn or at night on open highways. It's believed that between 4 and 8 large animal collisions occur in Canada every hour. It's not something to be scared of, it's just something you need to be aware of.

* Don't Feed The Animals. Leave Wildlife Alone. Please please please do not stop on the road and get out of your car to take pictures. I know that to some of you are thinking "why would someone do that?" but I've seen it a lot, especially in the National Parks of Banff and Jasper. Someone will see a bear grazing near the road, pull over, get out and start walking a couple of hundred feet to get a better view and pictures of this magnificent creature who is quietly staring at them.. This is a 'Break' worthy YouTube video just waiting to happen. It's dangerous because someone may hit your car or the animal may hit you. They are wild creatures so respect them and admire from a distance. They might look cute but if they decide you're too close or if they have babies hiding somewhere they can turn on you in a second. Do yourself and them a favour...stay in the car and roll down the window for pics and leave them alone. Even a gentle and cute looking deer can hurt you so please use common sense.

*Do you have a valid drivers license

You can drive in Canada with a current drivers license from many countries such as the UK, US, France, Australia, and if you have an International Drivers License then you absolutely can drive here provided you also bring along your regular valid drivers license. You can check to know for certain by contacting the hire car company from your country before you leave. Isn't the internet helpful? Most hire companies are going to want you to be 25 years old too but not all. Check it out before coming.

*Are you comfortable driving on the right hand side of the road?

If you've never done so before then give some thought to how you turn, traffic flow around roundabouts etc. It's easy when you're in the flow of traffic because you just follow everyone else but a bit harder on quiet roads because you can slip back into your normal driving habits. Contrary to what most people think though there are not many accidents where a person was driving on the wrong side of the road and were from a different country.

*Alcohol. In a word...DON"T. Save yourself the trouble and don't drink and drive. Canadian police are not nice about drinking while driving and I can guarantee you'll regret it. You are considered legally impaired at .08 and in BC you can't be over .05 which could result from one large class of red wine at dinner or a large beer for some people. If you are coming to a new country for the first time it is better to be totally alert and not drinking if you plan to drive. Penalties for drunk driving range from having your license taken away for 24 hours right then and there at the side of the road to 120 days in jail, a 3 year driving ban and fines. For all the current Provincial rules (they do vary depending on province) check out this Wiki page.

*Winter Driving.

If you are here in the winter when the roads are icy, have you ever driven on ice and snow? Even experienced Canadian drivers have more accidents in the first week after the snow comes in winter. It takes a little bit of time to remember to leave more stopping room between cars, take it easy on the brakes and gas, and change our tires if we're going to. Winter tires and supposed all seasons tires are not the same as far as grip goes. A winter tire has better traction because it's rubber compound is softer and it's tread more aggressive. An all season tire in Canada is really a 3 season tire, spring, summer and fall. Winter tires can also have added grip from studs (little metal grips that stick out of the tire) and from chains that the driver straps onto the tire for driving on snow. Studs are good on ice, chains on snow. There are many roads where it's posted that you must have winter tires or carry chains from October 1 to April 30. If you do not have the mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall of your tires or appropriate chains for your vehicle you can get in trouble both from road conditions (have an accident or get stuck) or from the police. Even a warm province like BC has lots of roads both highways and back roads that are posted this way. So if you are renting a car between October and April, even if the weather is nice, you should check your route to see if you are traveling any posted roads and insist that the rental company provide you with chains. This especially applies to Vancouver. Many people start a vacation in Vancouver, rent a car and drive to places like Whistler, Kamloops, Banff. It's a wonderful way to see BC, I know, but you'll be going over several roads and highways that are posted as winter tires needed. SO please check your routes before renting a car and make sure it's suitable. Oh and one thing to know as well, you can rent a truck or SUV thinking it will be better on snow and it might, but you are still required to have winter tires or chains, regardless of the type of vehicle you have.

But Overall......

You will find that in most of the country drivers are courteous and helpful. Of course there are always exceptions such as rush hour and busy highways in the major cities. For less stress just avoid driving during the busy times 7-9am and 4-7pm. The Trans-Canada Highway system is a series of roads of various width extending coast to coast. You can be sure that they are well maintained and signed. And roads in Canada are generally less busy than other countries so you can safely enjoy your drive, stop at the many rest areas and points of interest along the way, and get fuel of course. But do please pay attention to your gas gauge if you are driving a long way. I have seen a lot of highway signs letting you know that this is the last fuel stop for 260km etc so pay attention. If you're in town it's no problem but out on the highways pay attention to your map. Be prepared for an emergency by having some basic supplies like cold weather clothing in the winter, good footwear, blankets and some snack foods, a shovel, water, flashlight and maybe a first aid kit. Whatever seems appropriate given your situation.

Canada is such a big country that it's hard to understand the distances between places. For instance, Edmonton and Calgary are 2 large cities in the province of Alberta. They're really close together by Canadian Standards...only 3 1/2 hours drive and 300km's. Our move across Canada involves driving 7100km. It's a little different than driving in Europe. So use google maps to calculate driving distance and times, and buy a good detailed map before setting out. Knowing the major cities along your route can be helpful also because often road signs give directions to the next major city and not necessarily the smaller place in between that you're going to. If it does turn out that you get a little lost you can ask for directions from a gas station or roll down your window and ask pretty much anyone on the street if you are in town. Most people are happy to help.

Driving is a wonderful way to explore Canada and I highly recommend it either in a car, van or in an RV. So...welcome to the road and maybe we'll see you on our drive across Canada!

Please feel free to comment and ask questions. We are not professional drivers but we do drive about 80,000km per year and have experience on all sorts of different roads in vehicles from a motorcycle to a school bus. We have combined 55 years worth of experience. And you are welcome to 'Follow us' and check out the rest of our blog.

Just An Update

Gosh it's a bit chilly this morning. Hard to believe it's nearly the first day of summer. I guess this is one of those things you don't notice so much when you live in a home or apartment because the thermal mass regulates the temperature. But there's a lot less mass in a little motorhome and less insulation to so the temperature regularly fluctuates in here from 10 degrees overnight to 26+ with the blinds closed on a warm sunny day. To help regulate the temperature we open the roof vents and windows when it's hot and we have reflective sun shades, you know the kind you put on your dashboard, all around the front cab windows. It's lowered the maximum afternoon temperature by about 8 degrees on a sunny afternoon so they're working very well for the $2 each that they cost.

Stephen has a lot of the taping in place so that a first coat of paint can be applied to the exterior siding and the trim. We've decided to paint the blue paint up to the bottom of where the orange stripe currently is because of course we have a lot more blue paint now thanks to the generosity of General Paint :) If we have any left I think I'd like to see if it will stick to the tar on the roof because the black is no doubt heating up a lot in the sun. As the paint is a latex base I think it might do well on the tar covered roof but we'll see.

To prepare for painting we're waiting for a nice day and today might be it, the forecast is for windy but dry. I should be at least able to get a first coat on and take a tack cloth to the sides to remove some of the dust that's accumulated since it was scrubbed.

Another major thing to get done today is to sort some stuff at our storage locker. Obviously the less stuff we can take the better so I should get photos and put some ads on Kijiji. Time to get up and cracking!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Colony Collapse Disorder - I Have Questions

This is a posting for all my fellow beekeepers out there, both large and small. And to anyone who is interested in bees.

Albert Einstein once said "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live". And while Einstein said many crazy and outlandish things (lots of his stuff was totally off the wall)...there is some truth to this one.

As I previously posted last week in 'the humble bee', bees are responsible for about 30-35% of the foods we eat. But grains like wheat, corn and rice are wind pollinated so we'd have bulk foods in our diets despite what Einstein said. He was right in one sense that although we'd be getting a lot of fiber we certainly would be missing large amounts of vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy and balanced diet. Another consideration is that there would be less weeds too because many of them are dependent on bees for pollination, however while on the surface this seems like a great thing it's not. Nature strives for balance and many of these 'weeds' are beneficial to the soil bringing nutrients from deep in the sub soil to preventing erosion. See, mother nature has it all figured out, it's us humans that throw things out of whack.

I want to know what you know about Colony Collapse Disorder - CCD. Rates for this last winter seem to be up to between 30-35% of all colonies in North America with some people losing no bees and others losing over 50%. I understand there's a documentary out called 'Colony' that talks about this subject mingled with some social and religious commentary. But I'm not too familiar with CCD because it seems to be affecting bee yards a bit less where we are on Vancouver Island. It was only fairly recently that the varroa mite was introduced here by accident (that's another story altogether). Our extended flower seasons make starvation and lack of bee nutrition less of an issue here than it is for the thousands of colonies constantly moved about the US and robbed of honey on a continuing basis. Are the stresses they are subject to contributing factors in their decline? Do they make them more susceptible to something we already know about?

What exactly is going on? What is causing these adult bees to go out for pollen simply never to return home again? Why are they getting lost? Since the exact cause of CCD is unknown but believed to have several contributors such as pesticide poisoning, bacterial infections, mite infestation, weather and climate change, inbreeding, poor nutrition etc. that all cause stress to the colony, what can we do to help them?

If you keep bees I want to know what your management practices are and how you think this affects your susceptibility to CCD. Do you know? Have you thought about this? Do you take this into consideration when planning the care and maintenance of your colonies and equipment?

This past winter saw the loss of many local hives due to bad weather. Obviously it's important for us to distinguish between losses due to known causes such as weather, disease, lack of food, bear attacks etc. so that we can keep accurate records of CCD. Do we need to have some way of monitoring those who have poor practices in caring for their bees vs. those who are vigilant? Then there's the case of conventional practices vs. organic methods of pest control within the hives. Oh this is going to be complicated! And there are more questions than there are answers. But with bees doing over 80%+ of the pollination in the world, it's something we're going to need to look at sooner rather than later, before it's too late.

Painting an RV

Steve has begun the tedious process of prepping the motorhome for painting. We already scrubbed it thoroughly and sanded any loose paint. The edges proved to be a bit of a pain to paint against so we taped it all and will use a roller. Steve removed all the old sealant on the edges of lights, windows, vents and the corners of the body already and yesterday he re-sealed everything with paintable acrylic sealant.

On Sunday we did some experiments with our paint to see what gave the best finish and covered up that lovely orange...watered down 10%, foam roller, regular roller, brush etc. (poor hood looks weird now) And then we went to bed. Well it rained a little during the night and upon getting up we discovered that the whole lot had bubbled! Really badly! We were very disappointed. But we checked it again in the afternoon and it's not only dried out, it's bonded to the surface again. Yay! But lesson learned....paint on a dry morning and let it cure all day before rain or dew fall at night.

The weather forecast has changed and is now calling for rain today so we'll see about painting today.

What paint are we using? We thought about Tremclad after watching so many youtube videos about painting your car with it. But in the end opted for Envirogard by General Paint. It's tough, durable, abrasion resistant, bonds well to different surfaces and expensive! $68 a gallon I think. We got it for cheaper using our wholesale account though so about $43 I think. Oh the best part is it's water based so easy clean-up.

We're using a 3"roller to apply the paint due to the wavy aluminum siding. So far so good. I am going to finish a coat onto everything orange today so it can cure for a while before I put on the main coat to cover everything, that way the orange will be under 2 layers of paint. The roller gives a slightly hammered/stippled look instead of a shiny surface but it looks good and certainly better than it looked before. As the paint is so thick it can be mixed with 10% water and that seems to give a slightly glossier finish but either way looks good. You'll see!

Someone called from Nova Scotia at about 4:30 this morning and while I didn't answer it, I'm still awake. Getting a bit tired though so might try for an hour. I'm still trying to NOT get what everyone else has had recently, I am too busy to be sick!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Farewell to Nicole, John and the girls

Today is a sad and happy day. The bus is almost ready and in a few days (after getting their brakes serviced) they will be heading out on their amazing journey. It's going to be so strange not having them here and we're going to really miss them. But at the same time we are so excited for them too. This is a once in a lifetime trip and they've worked so hard to make this day finally be a reality. We still have mixed feelings though because we won't get to see them for a while.

I'll post pics ASAP.

We have to get going and take our table, chairs and BBQ over to the park.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Apple A Day...

While listening to the CBC on my radio the other afternoon I heard a quote that I loved and it went something like this 'eat an apple on going to bed and you'll stop the Dr. From earning his bread'. Purportedly this is the Welsh precursor to the phrase “an apple a day keeps the Dr. away” that we're all familiar with. During prohibition in the 1930's the apple and cider growers wanted to keep their share of the marketplace and so coined the new slogan as part of an advertising campaign. Since they couldn't sell you cider they encouraged the eating of

The Annapolis Valley is Canada's 3rd most important apple producing region. I was really surprised to learn that because I figured that Ontario and BC with their huge swaths of land devoted to orchards would take all the top 10 spots, but there you have it, we'll be growing apples! We always planned to do this anyways so it's not a huge deal except we plan to grow some English and Heritage varieties for their flavour and not for their ability to withstand thousands of miles of travel. With the exception of one variety, we love Gala! The Annapolis Valley has a big apple blossom festival in the spring which is a lovely way to celebrate the end of winter don't you think? We'll definitely plan to attend and let you know how it is next year.

Here in BC there is a terrific Apple Festival on Salt Spring Island in the fall that we've been to and there are literally hundreds of cultivars of apples, pears, plums and other tree fruits. One particular orchard is all organic and they're called Appleluscious. They use seaweed and compost to maintain fertility for the trees in their orchard. It's not a manicured garden by any stretch of the imagination but the trees are healthy and happy. He actually raises trees for retail sale too so we may order some of his pink apples for our new place. There's a very interesting variety that has a lime green skin on the apple but it's hot pink when you cut it open. Imagine making a fruit salad with that! You'd never buy golden delicious again.

Apples are like most fruit and veggie varieties over the past 200 years, we've gone from hundreds and hundreds of individual variations to a few dozen. There's a group in England called Common Ground and they have a book called Common Ground's Apple Source Book which contains a list of the 2,300 apple varieties grown in the British isles. How many can you buy in the store? How many varieties are available to buy as trees at the nursery? Gone are the local seed varieties and they're largely replaced with the commercially available ones that supposedly do better overall (except for community based seed exchanges who deserve our support for their good work). But I think that by taking away the varieties bred and acclimatized to specific regions not only have we taken away the genetic diversity necessary for survival but we've taken away the vigor and health of the plant world a little. In England valleys and towns were often famous for their veggies and fruits. The British Horticultural Society's annual show was the highlight of the year for home gardeners and head gardeners from large estates to show off their creations and to educate the public about the possibilities available to them. During the Victorian era there was such a remarkable burst of scientific thinking that it trickled into the very fabric of the nation and into it's gardens leading to new discoveries of plants, plant breeding, understanding of chemicals and fertilizers, invention of machines and equipment both for farming (such as steam powered threshers) and for home and estate use (such as hot houses that produced fresh fruit and even pineapples year round). I wasn't kidding about that last one...yes, they raised pineapples in England and even had fresh strawberries, lettuce and peas at Christmas in the large houses. That's better than we have today because our fruit is picked not fully ripe so even if you get your berries in the supermarket in December they just don't taste the same as home grown summer ones do they?

While many of the magnificent walled gardens at estates in England have fallen into ruin or been ploughed under, there are still some lovingly maintained and restored including the ones listed here. It's truly amazing the amount of man hours and innovation that kept these gardens running in their heyday and we can learn so much from the gardeners who literally spent years honing their craft, and producing food really is a craft. Boys would go into the garden as an apprentice washing pots and pulling weeds and gradually through hard work and training would work their way up the hierarchy until maybe one day they would be recognized as a head gardener. A lifetime of work, all the while learning and trying new things while keeping alive traditions handed from one gardener to another. It's very interesting to read all about this and I'd recommend a book called "The Victorian Kitchen Garden" based on a BBC series in the 1990's I think. It's a lovely little book.

Newton's famous apple tree is alive and well in England. Despite falling over in 1820, this 350+ year old tree is a lovely specimen of Flower of Kent. Where the trunk touched the ground it rooted and has flourished since. SO gravity is not such a bad thing after all.

We will have a full listing of the varieties grown on the farm once we're established and plan on keeping as much of our own seed as possible both to plant and to share. Maybe someday they'll name a carrot after me :)

Remind me in the fall and I'll write an article about winter gardening. It's going to be a lot different in Nova Scotia to grow veggies for at least part of the winter. And the key is actually planning now. Yes you heard me correctly, because many plants in a winter garden are started now then transplanted in the summer and harvested over the course of the winter.

So tell me... what are your favourite apple varieties? Please feel free to comment and let us all know.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Steve Marshall Ford

So in addition to the thousand things I did today...I was invited to a 'ladies night' at a very large Ford dealership in Nanaimo by my friend Deanna. No stippers, it's not that kind of ladies night. I wouldn't normally go but she said I'd have a fun and relaxing evening and so I went not knowing what to expect. Well, I'm happy to report that I did have a very enjoyable time and I also learned a lot too. Which is amazing to me because I always have visions of car salesmen as being slightly greasy (do you know what I mean?) and hovering with their sales pitch ready to pounce on you. These guys are obviously in the business not only to sell cars but to sell their service and get repeat customers. Very good business practice in my opinion. And I like being able to have my questions answered by knowledgeable staff who didn't treat me like an idiot.

So what did I learn? Forget the decorating and real estate stuff (though I learned about that a bit too) I was very interested in the presentation of lease vs. finance. I've always held the belief that leasing was a bad option because you pay and pay and don't own it at the end but now that I've had a chance to see how the figures work I think I'm sold on the idea. There are a few circumstances where the financing idea works best but overall for a small business like ours I think leasing a vehicle may turn out to be a really good option financially. But we'd have to find a suitable one. I also learned that you can lease and still put on a lot of km's if that's in your agreement and that you don't have to lease a brand new car if you don't want to, a 1 or 2 year old vehicle might work too.

I'm going to do some independent research and crunch the numbers but I think that's what I'm going to do for Steve's new vehicle once we've settled and got some money in the bank.

I know it's strange to hear me talking about spending money instead of saving it, but this saves me taxes so it's all good!

I did come home with a free 50 point inspection and a lavender plant...thanks Deanna!...and it was very entertaining, the magician was very funny. So would I recommend ladies night? Yes if only I could get them to sponsor us..... :)

****JUNE 23 FOLLOW UP******

Strange though it seems to me, this has become the most read post on my blog for the month of June. Lots of people wondering where they can get the info about lease vs. finance. So here's the good news. Steve Marshall Ford are working on getting some more info out there for us on their website, and of course I still HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you go down in person and talk to Ryan Fife about the details of your particular needs and wants. Or send him an e-mail I promise he'll give you all the info you need with no pressure and let you make your own decision. He's a straight talking and honest guy. If it's not right for you or he can suggest something better, he will. Trust me on this...he'll do what's best for YOU. Oh and my friend Deanna says that if you do buy a car please mention her name because she apparently gets a referral bonus, and why wouldn't you want to help someone out, right? So mention Deanna Scrafton! It doesn't cost you a penny but puts a few in her pocket. And maybe she'll take me out for lunch :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Humble Bee

I'm sitting here in the work van waiting for Steve to uninstall a dishwasher for a customer. It shouldn't be long until he's done, but I wanted to tell you about something interesting I saw. This home is located in Qualicum, right on the old Island Hwy near the beach and backing onto the golf course. They have a very nicely landscaped garden and in fact the gardener is here now trimming the grass. But what interested me was the hedge I'm sitting beside. It is Ceanothus Victoria. It's lovely blue flower clusters are attracting all sort of flying insects including honey bees. It does my heart good to see that there is a colony of these wonderful little creatures nearby. With honey bees so much in the news recently due to the many threats to their populations I'm glad to see that somewhere in town there is a beekeeper doing well. I think that here in Qualicum Beach people are aware of the danger posed by indiscriminate use of pesticides and the golf course concentrates on maintaining trees, shrubs and grass as opposed to ornate flower beds requiring chemicals. Any steps that we can take to help give honey bees a fighting chance helps all of humanity in the long run. Sound dramatic? It's true! Did you know that one bite out of every 3 you eat is dependent on bees? They are used to pollinate not just vegetables, but all the tree fruit, melons, and berries you eat. Just think about your last meal and ponder this...what grew from a seed? That parent plant had to be pollinated and left to make seed. The corn used for biofuel is pollinated by bees. The miles and miles of canola crops grown for their oil are pollinated by bees. Grapes?...You betcha, Bees! Billions and billions of these amazing workers are helping to provide not only the honey you eat but many of your other foods as well. They are moved around the country to pollinate crops as the seasons change and live out their lives quietly and unassumingly pollinating and making honey as a bonus. But their colonies are collapsing due to pests, disease, pollution and sometimes for reasons unknown such as with colony collapse disorder. Bees are threatened, and with them goes one third of our food production. Sure there are other ways of pollinating and other bee species out there, but none so efficient and so helpful to man as the honey bee. So please support local bee keepers by purchasing their honey, by avoiding spray pesticides onn your flowers and veggie gardens, and perhaps see about keeping a hive of bees yourself. It's easy to start, interesting, and will increase the yield of your garden. And I promise you won't get stung as much as you think! I think some stings are inevitable but neither Stephen or myself has even been stung and the same is true for our children. We position the hives so that we people are out of their flight paths and generally interaction is minimal.

Here in Canada you must be registered with the gov't to keep bees but it's a very easy process that simply allows them to keep track of the colony locations in case of disease. A basic hive, suit, hat, veil, gloves, and smoker set up is going to set you back about $250 or less if you don't mind used equipment or can make do without overalls. One way to also save big is to build your own hive. You can buy pre-cut pieces that you just need to nail together and paint or you can consider using a top bar hive. We built and used one and we loved it! We also made observation windows that could open so we could see what was happening without disturbing them. With the current scarcity of bees, a package (that's what it's called when you buy 2-3 lbs of bees and 1 queen to get you started) will cost you anywhere form $80-$200 and there have been some years recently when it was not possible to get them at all, not even from Chile or Australia.

The wax from hives has uses in cosmetics, lotions, candle making and soap production. Honey can be eaten, used to sweeten food and drink, even in first aid as a wound dressing.

If you are thinking that beekeeping might be something you'd like to try there are numerous books and internet sites with very good information available for free. Do your research. Join a local club and get to know your fellow apiarists. Bees are truly one of the most under-appreciated links on the whole food chain.

Feeding a Family on a Budget in an RV

As you can imagine, feeding a family of 6 that includes teenagers involves an awful lot of food. For example, one package of spaghetti noodles weighing approx 900g plus meat or sausage and a litre of sauce makes one meal. Plus dessert. That works out to be about 1 pound of food per person. And that's just one meal. There are also snacks and lunches to prepare and breakfast which is usually oatmeal or cold cereal.

Now I'm cheap, sorry...'thrifty' and so I like to know where my money is going. Consequently we raise a lot of our own food and buy in bulk using coupons where possible. Buying items when they are on sale and having a well stocked pantry are things that I've taken for granted but living in a little motorhome doesn't leave much room for food storage.

When faced with the dilemma of how to do this, I found out that most families like ours living on the road have to shop for groceries every couple of days and some eat a lot more pre-packaged food. So to balance it out we are still buying our basics, you know, the items found around the outside edges of the store such as veggies, milk and bread a few times per week but we are also trying to use up hundreds of pounds of meat too. So we have the luxury of having the deep freeze plugged in and located behind our motorhome right now. That's definitely something we won't have once we hit the road.

The temptation is for us to use paper plates, fast or prepared food, and individual drinks such as pop or juice boxes. But the downside would be a huge amount of garbage and way too much sodium in our diets. It's easier...but not healthier.

So we're getting the hang of cooking one pot meals on the stove, using the crock pot to cook, cooking on the BBQ etc. Having a meal plan would really help us too. It's going to be implemented this week actually so that it makes grocery shopping more efficient and also because we are trying to use up our food storage items. That's one of the only drawbacks of being LDS, when you move house you have food storage to move too.

The USDA tracks food prices and based upon their guidelines for healthy eating calculatrs the cost of food for variouss age groups month by month. They have 4 menu types, thrifty, low-cost, moderate cost, and liberal. The thrifty plan is the basis for the US's food stamps program and the liberal plan would include more meat, snacks and possibly alcohol. Here are the latest numbers for April 2011. Go see how you compare but bear these things in mind:
-groceries are cheaper in the US than other countries and vary by region.
-this is food only not laundry or pet supplies
-this is the total amount spent including eating out.

So how do you stack up? According to this we should be spending about $389 per week on the low cost plan, about $1260 per month or a little over $15,000 per year for food alone. Is it just me, or does that seem awfully high? Even with lunches at Subway and other occasional meals out we're still only spending about half that. And it's often lower. Even factoring in the cost of feeding livestock we're ahead. So I'm feeling good about our food budget. Of course there is always room for improvement and that's why I'm working on a meal plan today. You'll notice that snacks are not listed and of course the kids eat a lot of snacks. Carrots, fruit, cold cereal, oatmeal cookies and juice or milk to drink, that's our selection of snack foods.

Day 1. Breakfast- Oatmeal and a piece of fruit. toast. juice or water
Lunch- leek and potato soup with fresh bread water
Dinner- Roast chicken with roasted seasoned potatoes and caesar salad, lemonade

Day 2. Breakfast- Cold cereal or toast
Lunch- sandwiches, fruit, granola bar
Dinner- Pork chops, rice, seasonal veggies

Day 3. Breakfast- Cold cereal or toast
Lunch- sandwiches, fruit, granola bar
Diner- Spaghetti with meat sauce. caesar salad

Day 4. Breakfast- Oatmeal or toast.
Lunch- sandwiches, fruit, granola bar
Dinner- Toad in the Hole, gravy, mashed potatoes and peas

Day 5. Breakfast-Oatmeal or toast
Lunch- leftovers.
Dinner- Shepherds pie

Day 6. Breakfast- cold cereal or toast
Lunch- soup du jour (whatever I have to make soup that day)
Dinner- Irish stew and dumplings.

Day 7. Breakfast- pancakes, syrup, fruit salad
Lunch- grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
Dinner- Tacos. handmade tortillas, ground meat, veggies.

Day 8. Breakfast- pancakes, fruit salad
Lunch- Macaroni and Cheese veggies and dip
Dinner- Baked potatoes, pork chops, asparagus, dilled carrots

Day 9. Breakfast- cold cereal
Lunch- sausage and potato casserole
Dinner- meat and veggie chili and fresh bread

Day 10.Breakfast- sausages, eggs and toast.
Lunch- sandwiches and veggies and dip
Dinner- chicken pot pie. seasonal veggies.

That's 10 days to get us started. Gotta run!