Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our 10,000 Page View Celebration

Want to Win A Free Book?
We're just a little family blog, so reaching 10,000 page views is a big deal for us and will happen over the weekend or maybe Monday. It depends on how many of your friends you tell about this. Get them to enter and then give you the book for Christmas!  :)  To celebrate our first 10,000 we're offering a copy of Nicole Faires marvelous book to the reader who composes the best blog entry, question and answer or suggestion for this blog. So get your writers cap on and come up with an original written piece and send it to me, and we'll choose the winner on Monday night. Write about homesteading or growing in your country or something that you think is a great idea, whatever you like. Political, agricultural, funny, we welcome them all! You've got all weekend to write about it. Please keep things rated PG and submit to doulamum at hotmail dot com by Monday noon. I'm excited to see what you guys come up with and I'll feature the winning entry on the blog on Tuesday. Yes, if you're feeling really creative then we'll accept more than one entry per person. Open to everyone in the world but please submit entries in English. If you win I'll contact you to get your mailing address and get your book on it's way to you right away. Let the games begin! Nicole has written a great book and packed full of information. Perfect for dreamers, schemers and back-to-the-landers and the perfect book for reading beside the fire on the cool nights ahead. Also keep an eye open for her next book on permaculture which is nearing completion I believe.

If you're not the winner... this book is also available on Amazon 

The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia of Independent Living

 So it's up to you now. Get writing. Tweet your friends. Share the news and start making plans for next years growing season (unless you're in Australia and the southern hemisphere...then keep up the good work and have a wonderful summer!) 



Do We Have Regrets?

I woke up early this morning and just enjoyed a few minutes of quiet time to assess my life. Which is nice actually. To just take stock of what we're doing, what our plans and goals are for the next few days, weeks and years. And to think about everything that comes along with such a life changing move. Then I got a comment from Helga asking if we had any regrets so I knew I had to write about it.

Frankly, the dust is still settling and we're getting back into the hum drum of family life. Work, school, housekeeping, activities, walking the dog. No matter where you live the basics are the same. But we have more activities to keep us busy here, King Fu and riding lessons, and friends to hang with on date night. We have the opportunity to make enough money in the next 10 years to buy and own our own small farm. That's something we could never do in BC. And we really want that so we can have time together and money to do what we enjoy and something to leave to our kids. Driving along Lake Superior

I was also thinking of the things that we miss. We have some really good friends back in BC and also our 2 eldest kids and our grandchildren are there too. Brothers and sisters, parents, nieces and a neighbourhood so familiar that Steve must know every street in Oceanside. It's a comfortable and familiar environment for sure and we miss knowing where everything is, the best place to buy stuff and who is who.

But for sure the thing we miss most is our family who are still there. It's a hard decision to leave one set of kids so you can move this far and continue raising the youngest 4. But our eldest kids are smart and will always land on their feet. They're good, hard working people and we love them. I do secretly hope that if we buy them land they'll move here though ;)

We do miss some of the stuff we left behind, like some of Steve's electronics and other bits and pieces come up from time to time. Especially in the middle of a project when you need a certain tool you used to own but maybe used once every 10 years and now don't have. But it's also nice to not have clutter. To sit on the sofa and see a clean and tidy house. And so I miss things but at the same time I'm glad the clutter is gone. I'm a recovering clutter bug, what can I say? I'm doing way better at staying on top of the stuff we've got and still find myself sorting through and getting rid of things we don't need or use while trying to not let Meghan run wild with her closet. Each of has something that's our downfall. Meghan's is clothes. She loves them and would happily have closets full. Pity her future husband. Steve's is electronics, mine is books and crafty things, Kate is art and books. Chris luckily didn't inherit the clutter gene so he's free from the curse.

The Maritimes are quite different from the West Coast. The roots go deeper here and the heritage flavours everything. Yes, even junk food. That really is a Mcdonalds serving McLobster (which was $9 and gross in my opinion). There are regional foods I've never heard of and I don't even know what some of the weeds are in the hedgerows. But I seem to remember that moving to Canada from England was like this and over time you learn more and more. It's not intimidating here and the people are happy to explain what things are if you're nice and not uptight about it. This is the Maritimes, not Toronto or Vancouver. Go with the flow.

It also takes time to get to know where things are in a new neighbourhood. I've learned to just ask around and also the amount of driving Steve and I did to explore the area has really helped. Working for Welcome Wagon has been good too. No matter where you live in Canada, you can ask for a visit if you have a new baby, move to a new home, start a new business, retire, all sorts of times in your life when exciting things happen. Drop me a line and I'll forward your info to your nearest rep. if you'd like a free, no obligation visit. I love getting all the gifts and the info about local businesses but also Welcome Wagon gives out terrific and practical community and civic info so it's worth the visit just for that.

I should get motivated and do something useful today while the sun is still shining. I'm coming down with a head cold just like everyone else so I'm feeling a bit blah. But maybe I'll do something fun with Steve while the boys are out tonight at Young Men's. We may have found a cheap second hand van which is great because our Dodge Caravan is ready to give up the ghost I think and it won't pass the inspection in December when it would be due. We'll make some decisions and let you know if anything exciting happens.

Hope you all have a wonderful day. I'm making home made meat balls for supper and spaghetti. A quick easy supper because the boys have places to go.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steve gets a Job... I need wheels.

Steve never did hear anything back from the local appliance company he went out on the road with. He said they seemed really nice and were interested but apparently not, as it's been almost 3 weeks now and not a word. Since it takes some time to get everything ready when you start your own business, we decided to look for work to do in the meantime. Plus the budget makes it important to have an income. Steve had got a job in Sackville, about 90 minutes from our house, doing commercial equipment repairs. The job, as advertised pays $12 per hour for 40 hours a week and it's something to keep Steve busy and brings in some money each month which we need. And if it turns out he can condense his work schedule to work 4-10 hour days then it means he can work here doing appliance repair in the valley for a couple of days a week too. He travels within the Halifax/Dartmouth area as well as up here in the Annapolis Valley so we might see him for lunch occasionally which would be nice.

It does of course mean that we are looking for a new vehicle to buy so that I can get around and drive the kids to lessons and activities. A clunker is fine as long as it has a current inspection and is CHEAP!

Steve has been at his new job for a few days now and seems to be liking both the owners and the work. Plus he gets to spend time at Tim Hortons every time their machines need repair so I'm sure he can sneak in the occasional donut (he loves them!) The commute is boring but at least he can listen to his iPod in peace without the kids telling him that he has bad taste in music. And his new uniform is of course navy work pants (which he owns a bunch of) and some company supplied blue shirts. So in case you are wondering..... YES, he does look like the Maytag repair man, only without the hat, bow tie and bored expression! Still, he's comfortable and happy so that's the main thing isn't it.

Check out this funny car commercial featuring the Maytag repair men from 10 years ago :)

Smile! You're Beautiful

We all take for granted the ability to smile, and to share with others our feelings through our facial expressions. Meghan is probably the best example in our family of a goof. When we were she had my phone for a few hours and took approx. 200 photos of herself. Things like her feet, nose and ears. Even a lovely shot of the inside of her mouth including her uvula. Nice. And a gazillion close-ups of her face making all sorts of expressions. I'll add a bunch of pictures at the end of the post for you to laugh at.

Around the world approximately 1 baby in 700 is born with either a cleft lip, palate of combination thereof. It's nothing that the mother did while pregnant but a defect in fetal development within the first 9 weeks of gestation that causes the 2 sides of the face to not fuse together correctly. Though some environmental or genetic components have been suggested there is still a lot more research to be done before anything conclusive is officially announced. I'm not being very technical about this, I know, but you get the idea without all the long fancy words. The point is, that if you live in Canada then it's a fairly simple thing to have your baby receive the corrective surgery when still very young, often a few months old, and to have it paid for by the health care system we all enjoy. But what if you lived in a developing country? I'm not trying to scare you into donating money to facially disfigured people, but I do want you to watch this short video for one reason, to see the joy light up a little girls eyes when she sees her new face. She's beautiful inside and out and to see the sense of wonder and understanding in her eyes is a beautiful thing to watch. And then after seeing this I'd like you to think about how much a simple smile can change the world for the better. A smile shared with another person can lighten their mood, improve their day, and it's such a simple thing that we in the Western World just don't do enough. We run about our busy lives keeping to ourselves and looking down instead of recognizing that we're all inter connected and that appreciating life's blessings and sharing a smile with a friend or stranger can make society better on a small level. What if 10% of people decided to smile more, wouldn't that make this planet a friendlier place? Anyways, enjoy the video.

And now for pics of the beautiful people in our goofy family. I love you all. Sorry they're not layed out very well, it must be that Animal shirt of Steve's that threw me off, lol. If you want to comment and can't seem to get it to work, please send me your comments to doulamum at hotmail dot com and I will add them manually for you :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Buying Real Estate in Nova Scotia

Want to buy land or a house in Nova Scotia? Read on for some tips and information.

As you know, dear readers, we are looking for a permanent location for our farm and the internet is a wonderful tool because I can sit here in bed in the middle of the night, or half way around the world, and look at what's available in Nova Scotia.

The most popular website in Canada is undoubtedly the MLS - Multiple Listing Service used by realtors. But I still recommend for browsing because it gives more information than is found on a typical real estate listing and also includes recently sold properties so you can get a general idea of prices in a similar location. It doesn't replace actually getting your boots on and going for a walk with your realtor, but it's a good place to get a feel for what you want and to weed out the places that don't appeal.

Buying a house or land in Nova Scotia is both inexpensive compared to other similar locations in the world, and easy. Of course, having the right tools and knowledge goes a long way towards ensuring a smooth and stress free experience for both buyers and sellers. If you're buying then you should make sure that you know the legal requirements and have a basic understanding of what to expect.Transactions can be dealt with by you and the seller, through a brokerage, agent, lawyer or municipality depending on the circumstances. However, the majority of transactions are through real estate agents and the brokerages they represent with lawyers handling the title transfers and legal paperwork.

In Nova Scotia, and in fact all of Canada, the seller pays the fees of the realtor unless they have listed privately and say that they will not pay fees. What does this mean to you? It means that if you're buying, you won't have to pay real estate fees related to the cost of purchasing your home though you may have some occasional fees to cover advertising you request. This would be unusual however and you would have to request this service and authorize any charges before your realtor would do anything. When working with a realtor you would also sign an exclusivity agreement that basically says the realtor represents you and so if you buy a home, they get their commission. It's for a fixed term and can be cancelled in writing. It's a way of making sure that multiple agents are not working with the same clients and then fighting over who gets the commission. Fees you will have to pay are the conveyancing fees to a lawyer to transfer title, the legal paperwork etc. You should do your research and find out the transfer amounts because they do vary greatly especially between the Halifax Regional Municipality and the rural areas in Nova Scotia. Commissions are calculated using one of several variations. Check here for the official word.  

How fees are calculated A brokerage’s fee is most often calculated in the following ways:
By a percentage of the sale price (for real estate)
A flat fee
A fee for service
A combination of any of these

Note: Real estate brokering is a “service” and therefore Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is applicable to all fees. Real estate brokerage fees A real estate brokerage and client may negotiate any terms agreeable to them for the services provided. Any of the following calculations are possible:

1. Percentage of the sale price For example: An Industry Member charges 5% commission on the sold price of a property. The commission is calculated: 200,000 × 0.05 = $10,000 + HST Another percentage example shows a split percentage, with one amount of percentage charged on part of the sale price and another on the balance of the sale price. Therefore, as an example on a $200,000 sale, a commission of 6% on the first $100,000 and 2% on the remaining balance, would calculate as: (100,000 × 0.06) + (100,000 × 0.02) = (6,000 + 2,000) = $8,000 + HST

2. Flat fee The fee is a flat fee of an agreed upon amount regardless of the sale price, such as $10,000 + HST.

3. Fee for service All the individual services provided will be compensated for. The client and the brokerage should agree prior to entering into an agreement of what the service fees will be. The fee for service could be based on an hourly rate, specific amount for each service provided, or in the case of property management, a monthly service fee for specified services performed each month. The number of services provided may require an addendum to the service contract.

4. A combination of fee calculations For example: A flat fee plus a fee for service based on an agreed list of services. Assume the property sells for $200,000. ($5,000 flat fee) + ($5,000.00 total service fees) = ($5,000 + $5,000) = $10,000 + GST

Attention: You need to find out if fees are refundable or not and do not sign any agreement until you have read and understood it—and only then, if you agree to it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good morning. Sorry we didn't post yesterday. We had to help out with a funeral, then had Kung Fu class with Brian Mullen and by the time Steve got us picked up and home again it was nearly 4 so the day was pretty well shot. We're getting ready for church right now, well the kids are. I'm just sitting here typing and thinking about communication with teenagers. It's almost like a highly emotional second language you have to learn with some of them. Chris ticked me off yesterday because I asked to borrow back MY speakers for a couple of hours and he refused. I insisted so he bought them upstairs and dropped them on my living room floor in a pile. Needless to say, this did not make me very happy. He was sulking for the rest of the evening and I'm glad that his room is in the basement so I didn't have to listen to the snide remarks or evil looks. You'd think I'd done him some terrible wrong instead of asking for my speakers for 2 hours. Sheesh. And I was thinking htat after he came home from spending the night wiht the other youth that he'd be nice. But alas, it was not to be.

It's just one of the many trials of patience that we as parents are called to endure. And patience is not one of my strong suits. It might look like that to some people, but it's not true. One year I made the mistake of praying for more patience and let me tell you, that was one heck of a year filled with trials and experiences to teach me patience. I'll never pray for that again!

For some of us patience comes easy. And for some of us it doesn't. But we can all work at it and try to do a little better as tome goes on. It's like Brian Mullen said yesterday...first you start out being able to do 1 sit up. And in a month you can do 3 sit ups. Any gradual improvement is good.

I have a nasty headache so I'm going to lie down now and veg. And make plans to build a dog house. Steve got a job in the city doing small commercial appliance repairs and starts tomorrow. I'll explain it all in a post once my head clears. I can't believe it's hot and sunny today and late September, what a beautiful day!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Are your kids going to the dogs?

A close up of Poppy

I remember the old HomeFront ads from the TV in the 80's. It's great to see the new updated ones with the same message.
It's really hard to balance our time when we live in a world of deadlines, work, kids sports and school events, music and dance lessons and a thousand things that need to be done. It's not even a choice between the good things and the bad because we can fill our schedules with too many good things too. And then we run ourselves into the ground or we end up not doing as good of a job on everything we're trying to juggle. You know the feeling...and don't feel guilty. It's almost expected of our society these days. So I'd like to share some words of wisdom I learned years ago. My teacher stood at the front of the class. The plexi shield was in place to protect us from any blasts or spills and that was good because our teachers eyebrows had only just grown back from the last 'accident'. He stood there with a serious look on his face and 3 large glass jars about a gallon each. One filled with large pebbles, one filled with pea gravel and another containing what looked like sand. He started out the lecture explaining that we were going to learn one very important lesson today and that we should make notes and pay close attention for the next 10 minutes. We did. Pencils at the ready, we waited eagerly for this man to give us his words of academic wisdom. He asked us what skill or ability in life we thought was the most important. Hands went up and answers flowed around like good observation, patience, inventiveness, hard work, ability to communicate with others, boss people around, things like that. Quietly he raised his hands and told us that today we'd learn a profound truth about human nature and the order of the universe. Our teacher took out 3 rocks from their jar and placed them in an empty jar of the same size, asking us "Is the jar full yet'? and adding more rocks one by one until we all agreed the jar was full of rocks. Then he took a handful of gravel and poured it into the jar where it worked it's way down and filled in all the air spaces between the bigger rocks. He asked the same question. "Is the jar full now?" and people were catching on so we said 'no, you can fit sand in the gaps around the gravel' so he proceeded to take scoop after of scoop of sand and fill in the rest of the jar. He gave it a few jiggles and topped it up level. Then the question again..."Is the jar full now?" We agreed that it was, and so just to prove his point he managed to get 2 cups of water in there too, lol. We sat and considered what this teacher could possibly getting at because this was not what we were expecting. We were an advanced high school science class so you'd think we'd get it but none of us did. He asked us "So what can we learn from this illustration?" and hands went up slowly with the concensus being can always fit more in than you think. But we were wrong. This wise man taught us a profound lesson that day that I still remember. He taught us that life isn't about getting more and more into it. The lesson is this....If you don't get the big and important things in first, you can't fit them in once the jar if full.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dirk Becker's Fight and Grass Farms of Nova Scotia

Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw's fight to keep their "Urban Farm" has attracted media attention the world over and I've posted about it several times before as I've met Dirk and believe in the principle of what he's doing, to fight for the right to keep his livelihood and grow food in an 'urban' (that's debatable) area on his acreage. While I believe in the rule of law in most cases, I truly believe that this is one worth fighting mostly because if the back handed way that Dirk and Nicole have been dealt with by their local gov't. It's not really any wonder that an activist would then turn around and fight back is it? I'm amazed that he and Nicole didn't take up arms sooner. All the City of Lantzville has done is make folk heroes out of Dirk and Nicole and bring more attention to their cause. The City (a lot of Lantzville is actually rural and not paved) and mayor in particular look like a bunch of bullies. Here are a couple of videos I thought you might find interesting.

The reason I'm still writing about this issue even though we're now 7000km away is that this is a problem that affects everyone in Canada and in the developed world in general. Don't think it happens in Nova Scotia? Steve and I are constantly dismayed and shake our heads when we drive around the beautiful Annapolis Valley at the hundreds of 'grass farms'. That's what we call the rural houses that are surrounded by acres of neatly trimmed lawn and nothing else. No fence, hay fields, sheep, or anything resembling a vegetable garden. Just one small house and 3 acres of grass. There's a nice house on the way to Berwick that I swear has 12 acres of grass all beautifully cross mowed and not an animal in sight. People buy the houses and then sit back to enjoy the peace and quiet of the country, riding the mower for a couple of hours a week and that's fine but what about those of us who want to grow food and can't afford rural property that's suitable for agriculture because of the property prices being driven up by people from the city buying it and then not using it wisely.? What happened to understanding that we are stewards of the land? Isn't there some sort of balance? Don't we recognize where we're heading as a society? Sadly, the answers to these questions and others about our consumerism is mostly 'no' , we don't get it. For the majority of people things like 'Peak Oil' and 'Peak Water' are just topics for discussion amongst us cranks and conspiracy theorists. As long as WalMart has shelves filled with stuff and the grocery store is full of cans and veggies they feel secure and smug in their own little world and think that life will always be like this. They simply don't understand that something like 'peak phosphorous' means commercial growers won't have unlimited fertilizer for their crops so yields will decrease and prices will go up. That affects everyone. We all eat. Well, those of us who can afford it.

We're biased of course because we've experienced this personally when living on Vancouver Island and so we're living here in Nova Scotia now where land is still more affordable so we can provide a better life for our kids and grandchildren. And we love the people here too.

Well, that's my mini rant for today. Watch the videos and comment.

iPhone 5 Preview Humour

Mostly I was thinking of our sons John and Chris when looking at this picture of what the new iPhone 5 might have for features but I hope you all enjoy it. I personally would love invisibility. I know that since Steve can already fix appliances he'd like the 'flu' app and Chris would use the 'Pie on Demand' app frequently as long as it's not apple pie. He loves Apple, just not actual apples.

I believe the new model is coming out mid October. Just a quick chuckle for you guys. Love you!

Our Family Photos

I thought that since I've finally got some pics ready to go I'd make a post about our last days on Vancouver Island visiting with our family. We had a picnic/BBQ with our son John and his wife Nicole plus our 3 awesome granddaughters and we also had a BBQ with my father Philip and his lovely wife Janet. They're available on Flickr at if you want to look. I don't have them all tagged yet but I'm working on it. This is the first 200 or so of the estimated 1000 pics we took across the country. I'll have those pics uploaded as soon as I can.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Gardening and Lego Greenhouses

Well, despite the problems that Blogger is having, I decided to try and post anyways.  It's that time of year again where the seasons change and summer yields to Autumn's spleandour. The maple trees are quickly turning from green to a fiery red and the poplar trees have unleashed waves of golden leaves upon the hillsides. It's truly the most beautiful time of the year, I love Harvest.

With the cooler nights comes, of course, the threat of frost. And many gardeners extend the season by floating row covers of a light cloth or by means of poly tunnels. Not necessarily the big hoop greenhouses but individual row covers of poly or cloth that help to keep the frost off things like lettuce and spinach that otherwise do well in the cooler temperatures. Mother Earth News has a pretty good article about this over at  If any of you haven't ready Eliot Coleman's books about winter gardening and the year round harvests he gets, then it's highly recommended reading. Even if you have nothing in the ground yet, buy the book and make plans for an early spring garden of cool weather favourites.  You can have a harvest of things like peas and broccoli weeks sooner than without protection.

Another thing you can do is to have a greenhouse. Now many of us aren't lucky enough to have a permanent one so we make do with our poly tunnels. I love mine. I've had them stand through snowfalls, wind, hail, you name it. And if you search this blog you'll find more info about building them but basically they consist of 2- 10 foot lengths of plastic water pipe slipped together and then bent into a 'c'shape and the ends either pushed into the soil or anchored by sliding them over a piece of rebar that's in the ground or on a frame. Once you have them set up you move onto another set of poles, making hoops until the greenhouse is as long as you want. You can run a ridge pole to keep the spacing even and then put over your plastic or shade cloth, whatever you're using. Our poly tunnels are basically 8-12 feet wide depending on how tall you make them and as long as we need. You can extend as far as you like simply by adding more hoops. The ends can be enclosed in any way that takes your fancy or by just grabbing the plastic and tying it out to a stake in front, like the illustration above but on a larger scale. I like to have an end that's flat so I can make a doorway. When it's very hot you can just have a chicken wire wall on the end to provide good ventilation and prevent overheating while still keeping out your chickens and goats and other pesky critters. One thing...give yourself plenty of room to walk in your greenhouse and you'll find that the ventilation is better simply by virtue of having room for the air to circulate.

Here's a great greenhouse. I'd love to build one...and it's made entirely of lego. Made for the London Design Festival, this example of Lego Architecture is getting lots of attention for it's creativity and usefulness too. It's going to be on display until the end of the week in Covent Garden and is made of approximately 100,000 Lego bricks. Even the soil inside is made of brown lego. Not sure how that' going to work for plant nutrition in the long run but certainly eye catching for the present. Right now it has flowers in it and some lettuce. Not what I'd grow, but hey. Think of what a great winter project it would be to build one of these! Bring on the Lego!

Problems With BLogger and Google

We're waiting for them to get a lot of bugs fixed and hope to be back online soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today has been interesting. We had to go to New Minas beause of my Welcome Wagon meeting, picked up Jordan some gum boots (wellies) in a size 11 (big smelly feet that boy has) and some odour blocking insoles for the aforementioned affliction. I also got some fairy wings at the dollar store in advance of Halloween. Maybe we girls will all go as fairies this year. Not sure yet but spent $4 anyways. Then a nice fall afternoon drive west down the 101 to home via the post office. Nobody loves me...there was no mail except the healthcare for the rest of the family. I can't get Medical coverage in NS without a permanent resident card which I've never had because I've been here too long. Sigh. Another way the gov't is getting more $$$ from me, making me get another piece of ID.

The nurse from our insurance company is coming over to take blood from Steve this afternoon and then doing a physical. Hopefully that all goes well.

I bought and promptly read all of my friend Shannons new book. So much for enjoying and making it it all in one sitting. It's a good job the next book will be out soon. I found it on Amazon for 99 cents, downloaded their free Kindle application for my MacBook and then downloaded the book. It's simple and easy to do and there are lots of public domain books you can load for nothing, or so I've heard. And I like the idea of getting a book for a buck and having it right away. Then if it's one I really like I can always get a paper copy later.

Ding Dong...That's probably the nurse now.

Hi again. Yes, that was the nurse. She did all his physical , took some blood samples and recorded an ECG. He has a pulse so that's good. Now we wait to hear about his life insurance rates. Hopefully it's preferred and so cheaper.

The main thing we have to get done this week is to get Steve a job. And I need to get back into finishing my book so I can sell lots of copies and make some $$$. Then I'll have more time for farming and writing a second and third book. That's the plan anyways. There's so much work involved in writing a book and getting it published but I'll just keep plodding along. I also want to enhance the blog with some pics so I downloaded some off my phone and will get them in over the next day or two.

Have a lovely evening.

Riding Lesson Report

Riding lessons are going well. The family that are giving us lessons are super nice and helpful and patient too which is a huge plus as we have different abilities in our family. It's tricky to find a balance between a newbie rider who is slow and deliberate and whose horse acts accordingly, and her sister who is ready to be trotting around the ring. Now that Jordan has joined in lessons it's even more complicated but it's gone pretty well for the last couple of lessons. Jordan has to remember to wear pants and he needs some boots with a heel, but apart from that he's ready to go. Thank goodness for Abby's adjustable helmet! Jordan has a big head and bog feet so at some point I'm going to have to get him his own stuff but hopefully second hand as new stuff is outrageously priced. I have to go to New Minas this morning for a meeting and will check out WalMart for some cheap boots in a size 11 for my big footed son. Heck, anything with a heel will do, just so his foot doesn't slip through the stirrups.

Both the girls are learning on an English saddle and it's good for their balance. Jordan however, used a western saddle yesterday. I didn't ask which he liked better but I'm sre he'll decide over time. It's good to be able to use both and know how they feel under different circumstances. Tina is letting him use her mare 'Fable'. She's a nice chestnut and white girl who listens and responds well so it's making things pretty easy for Jordan. Kate's horse 'Jon Boy' is still protective of her and getting her comfortable. He'd be a great therapeutic riding horse. Kate wanted to trot yesterday but he just refused to do it. When he thinks she's ready, I know it will happen.

We also had a few of the girls friends come with us. I think that if they are going to come once a week that we'll have to get the barn rules enforced and have everyone paying attention. Most of the kids were good but one of them just isn't a great listener so now I know I'll have to watch her more closely. I'm just used to my own kids and enjoy the time we have in the barn with them. It was mucking day yesterday so before they could een go out and get the ponies and horses we had some cleaning to do...what a nice way to introduce the other friends to the delights of horses. Kate was totally grossed out but got it done. Same with Meghan....but Jordan is the king. He just got in there, scraped, shoveled and off he went to dump the wheelbarrow. No complaints. I think he's enjoying riding lessons more than he's letting on.

Steve and I drove out to look at a property which is basically in the middle of Nova Scotia, in Cherryfield. We saw a rainbow reflecting the setting sun and a lovely autumn sunset as we drove. Cherryfield is an hour from our current home in the valley. The house sits on about 30 acres, has a well and septic and is for sale for $37,000. Sound like a steal? Well picture this...the roof comes to a gentle peak about 2 feet taller than the top of the walls so you can't tell from some angles that is even has a peaked roof, and it's got a lot of water damage and neglect showing in the fact that the water has wrecked the ceilings and floors on both levels, ceiling tiles are falling down, mold is everywhere.....reminds me of our house in Hilliers when we first started. It might be salvageable if the outside walls are still ok, but it would mean a real demolition job to strip it down to the studs. The only virtues are the land and the services already in place. But I think it's a bit far out for a family with active kids, and we haven't walked the entire property yet either. We're more about the land than the house. A house can be made bigger and better. Land can be made better to some degree too, but it's hard to make it bigger, more level, or face a different direction :) Since we have no money left and Steve is not working it's sort of a moot point as we can't get anything anyways. But it's still nice to dream and see what the possibilities are. Maybe it could be a summer house?

Gotta run. Kate's lost the hairbrush again and the bus will be here in 2 minutes. Meghan and Jordan are both home sick today. Hope you are well.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Finding A Home To Buy in Nova Scotia

So the search for a new farm has begun. It's good to look and know what comes and goes on the market so that you get a really good feel for the different areas and property types and what their true worth is. Anyone can ask $200k for a house, but is it really worth that? What if you paid $200k and then when you went to sell later on found that you could only get half that much for it? It makes sense to pay attention to the market and unlike other areas in Canada, Nova Scotia realtors do not list everything on the MLS multiple listing service. Often they have listings on their personal webpages or company sights. We highly recomment using and will talk more about them in a minute.

We're looking at the following options for a home and farm property:

1. Buy an already liveable house on a small acreage.

We could do this for about $120,000+/- and would be in the valley bottom closer to town or over the mountain (hill) towards the Bay of Fundy. The bay side of this area is much cooler and less humid during the hot summer months. When it's 33 degrees and we're sweltering in the valley it's a nice breezy 25 on the water side. But on the other hand it's also an extra drive and given the grade of some of the roads I bet it's a bit of a tricky drive in the winter.

Pros. Less work to do. Easier to get mortgage.
Cons. Close to town possibly, More expensive, Might not have much land.

2. Buy an old fixer-upper and renovate.

We could probably do this for about $80-100k and in fact we found a good house in this category that we're going to look at later this week. It's got 8 acres almost and needs some work but as far as we can tell it's got good bones.

Pros. We can make the house into what we want, Cheaper than buying already finished

Cons. Some things about an older house cannot be changed, Unexpected repairs can be costly, If badly neglected it can take a lot of sweat hours to get a place back in fair shape again and the same goes for a yard.

3. We could buy a place that's run down for under $60k, demolish the old house and build a new one. Given our skill level, this is certainly an option too. And since we have a rental home already we can work on a new place and still have somewhere to come home to at night.

Pros. Cheap option to buy initially. Would likely give us infrastructure like power, septic and well already in place and possibly a usable foundation.

Cons. Lots of hours of labour needed plus money for materials and permits etc. Finding a place that we could get a mortgage on could be tricky. Demolition can show up some unexpected and nasty surprises that can be costly.

4. The final option would be to buy raw land for under $40k and build our own home from scratch as money allows. This doesn't always work given the building permit process but it would be possible to live in our motorhome for many months while we build a home.

Pros. Get exactly the house we want. Could buy land outright depending on price. Get the perfect land for us. Could cut our own building materials from our land if we decide on cordwood masonry construction.

Cons. Most labour intensive as you have a complete build as well as land clearing to do. Takes a long time to build. Can purchase land and then not have enough money for house construction after all the service are in. Permits can be difficult to obtain for an owner built home. May take longer than we think.

So given all these options we're just in a holding pattern and not making any decisions until we know what we want to do. In the meantime we're exploring the area and checking out what's on the market. Probably the best tool for buying a home in Nova Scotia is which is a free service listing every single property in Nova Scotia. Then it marks properties for sale in blue and recently (6 months) sold in pink. You can see every lot line, every place for sale and how much the sold ones went for. Invaluable. Easy to search. Good for comparing property. If you click on a property it pulls up the actual for sale listing and gives you map info., price, features and details, photos, street view if available. Highly recommended for market research and to see what's out there.

Well, I should get going to find Steve some work or get him busy around home. Maybe we can do some more exploring today if there's enough gas in the van.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thank You

We just want to say a quick Thanks to everyone who have helped us out in both small and big ways. From a little note on the blog to an e-mail welcoming us to the neighbourhood, or doing things to help us out like making friends with our kids or dropping over some boxes of veggies. Every kind act is appreciated. We hope we can repay you some day or pay it forward.

Riding lessons are going well. Jordan even got into the act last week. We're enjoying it and learning lots. Steve and I spent some time together just driving around the valley some more exploring the different areas and a couple of places on the Bay of Fundy side too. The leaves are just starting to turn so in a couple of weeks it's going to be just spectacular to drive round the country side. I can't wait.

We had our first quick visit to Halifax/Dartmouth today and went to the mall. It was's a mall...what can I say. Chris was in Heaven though because they have a pretzel place...yum! And Katie bought a new outfit for her bunny, gold wings with a wand and tiara. Nice. Our friend Kiandra came too and the girls loved having their adopted big sister along for some shopping. Goodness knows that I'm no fun. I did try and talk Steve into buying me a wedding ring though to no avail. Oh well, I'll keep trying. Maybe we'll have the money some day to afford one.

We got the cleaning done at the chapel again this evening, seems to be a habit for us to get it done on a Saturday night, but since I did all the vacuuming on Wednesday while the girls had their activity, tonight was easy. We also had a nice visit with our friends the Mullens and hanging out with them is always fun. And tasty. Don't tell my kids...they had Kraft Dinner aka. Yellow Death or cardboard-a-roni.

Well, that's it really. Nothing interesting to report. Still nothing on the job front so I think we're at the point of hanging out our shingle and getting our business running for ourselves. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime I've got to get to bed. Have a wonderful week. And don't forget to tell your family that you love them.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Make Your Own Energy Efficient Fridge

There's a video I'll post from Youtube that shows one guy's efforts to save $$ and power from his fridge. Then I'll explain some flaws.

Ok, while I get the general idea there are some things you should know.
1. It's frost free because during the time it's running it actually heats up and melts the frost then re-freezes again. Does that make sense? It's automatically done several times a day if necessary.
2. Your freezer is where the cooling happens. In most fridges the the cool air is blown from the freezer into the fridge compartment to keep it cool too. It's adjusted through a damper or other method of controlling the flow of cool air.
3. This particular fridge is computer controlled to automatically run only as long as it needs to. That's how a thermostat works. Once it reaches the desired temperature, it shuts off.
4. An upright freezer is never an energy-efficient choice as every time you open it you let out tons of cold air. You'd be better to have a smaller fridge and a chest freezer. A chest freezer however holds most of the cold air inside. It's air rises and cold air sinks.
5. It's always better to not mess with electrical and mechanical things like fridges where there are so many inter related components. By adjusting one you can foul up the whole thing. If you don't know what you're doing... then don't! You should call a professional if possible, like us. Nova Appliance Service in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. 765-3819

That's not to say that you can't have an energy efficient fridge that can run off a generator or solar and wind power. You absolutely can. The best thing Steve and I have seen is this chest fridge. If you knew what you were doing you could change out the thermostat from a regular chest freezer for a fridge thermostat (different temp. ratings) and you'd have yourself a nice brand new chest fridge for about $300-400. Or you could convert a freezer you already own.

As much as I'd like to think I have some good ideas, the website for Mt. Best has some great ones. I love the chest fridge and the bubble glazing idea too. So if you're into efficiency or preparedness, go have a look at their site and poke around

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Books I Recommend

I was thinking about you all, and what I could post as an uplifting message given that this is a special Sunday, marking the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US.

So I thought about it...and nothing spectacular came to mind.

Only the thoughts that I am so very glad to live in a free country in a time when as a woman I have more opportunities than any other time in our history. I'm very grateful. There's a wonderful book called 'North to Freedom' by Anne Holm which I recommend as reading for young adults and adults alike. it makes you see all the wonders we take for granted and is a truly heart warming story. There is also a movie based on this novel called 'I Am David' that's available on Netflix. Well worth watching.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will have a special program tomorrow called 'Rise Above' and the link for more info is here. I'm going to try and catch it after church.

Hope you all have a wonderful day and take some time to appreciate even one thing you have in your life that you take for granted most of the time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Feeling Frazzled?

Ever have one of those days when you just can't seem to get your emotions and your brain to work together properly? Your fingers feel like they're typing just fine,only the wrong letters keep appearing and you're just a bit off? Or the stupid 'U' doesn't work and you don't notice until the end of the 2000 words you've typed? The oven is burning everything for some unknown reason, you're mad at the kids or your husband and there's not really a good reason, you're just feeling overwhelmed and there's still a mountain of dishes and laundry and that service project you promised to help out with?

Well, Take A Deep Breath...and let it out again before you turn blue :)

We all have those days but for some they are more frequent. New moms, parents, wives, bsiness people, infact pretty much everyone in this hectic modern world we live in; we're all prone to the busyness of life that leaves us with not enough time in the day to recharge our batteries, let alone have some life altering positive experience. Some day's I'd kill for just an hour to myself without kids knocking on the door to ask what I'm doing or would I fix their broken stuff. But alas, on the days I'm most frazzled and at my wits end, I'm often swamped with expectations of things I want to get done.

So this year I decided to try and NOT take out my frustration by getting all uppity with the kids who are often the cause of my grief. Yeah yeah, I's not always 100% effective, but I'm not beating myself up about it for 3 reasons.

1. I'm getting better. That out of body experience you have when you're getting mad and yelling at people and that little you inside your head says 'what are you doing? Just be nicer, you don't mean what you're saying' doesn't happen to me much anymore. So that's good.

2. Frozen pizza is a perfectly acceptable alternative to cooking a meal if you're at the point of tears or a nervous breakdown. Heck, I've been known to tell them just to eat cereal, I know, I'm a terrible mother.

3. Sometimes the kids really deserve it. Why not show your frustration and disappointment to the kids? If they're being numbskulls they should learn that their actions have consequences that affect the whole family. What's that old saying? 'When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.'
I try really hard to not lose my temper though. There's a fine line between being honest and frustrated with your kids and becoming verbally abusive. That's a line I never want to cross. And on the other end of the scale, I'll never treat my children like emotionally fragile can't do anything wrong little dolls, because that doesn't help them in the real world where there are expectations and consequences. Sorry, no spoiled brats in our house, I don't have the emotional energy.

In the real world there aren't any ribbons just because you participate, there are rewards for performance. That doesn't mean you have to be the best at everything. Performance can be things like honesty, integrity, dependability, good skills, hard work, creativity..the list goes on. I think that instead of coddling children we need to give them unconditional love with realistic expectations. I know this won't sit well with some of you...and that's fine. We raise our children using our own personal values and they're different, and that's ok. We instill in them the ideas that we think will benefit them in their lives and then they go and make their own decisions anyways. Darn teenagers. But we can still try, right?

On those days when all 4 kids seem to be sharing one brain I just take a deep breath and think 'just wait till you have your own kids'. Our mothers have wished it upon us and so we are just carrying on the tradition to wish this for our children too. Maybe that's what's meant in the scriptures by 'the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers...', maybe? No?

I hope you know that no matter where you are or how bad your day is, there's always someone who loves and cares about you. And if you need to vent feel free to send me an e-mail. Sometimes just getting it off your chest can be very therapeutic. Even just writing it down helps you to get things into perspective. Hey, whatever it takes, do it. And don't end up like me...

Just give me a hug and feed me chocolate and all will be right with the world in a little while.

And Thanks C. for inspiring the blog entry for today, you're a good friend and I luv ya!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hens and Sex - Who's Your Daddy?

There are so many different breeds of chickens to choose from that it can be really daunting for someone new to decide which breed to keep. They have different personalities, characteristics, sizes, temperaments and looks. You can choose between aggressive, small, big, curly feathered (frizzles), fluffy, smooth, bald (I'm not kidding), mean, docile and just plain dumb. Backyard Chickens has a great web page that outlines traits people look for in hens such as broodiness, temperament and have the breeds all listed alphabetically right here for you to look at. One thing not mentioned is what some of the traits are good for. Broodiness is important to know if you want to have an egg laying hens keep laying and not always quitting so she can be broody. On the other hand maybe you want to hatch out your own chicks and then that's important. larger birds with feathered feet don't do well in wet muddy conditions but are good int he snow and cold, and those with pea combs are better in cold areas where they are less prone to frostbite as opposed to long red combs that are a target for pecking and frostbite. If you have anyquestions about chickens or don't understand something please just send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I'll get it.

For me, I love Dark Brahmas and Silkies/Frizzles. We love the large size of the Brahmas and also their gentleness. Steve would often walk around the farm with Ben, our Rooster, tucked under his arm getting petted. I'm not sure it did much for his reputation with the other chickens but Steve sure loved him. And 80% of the chicks we hatched were his offspring, so he can't have been doing too badly. He was the #1 rooster in our flock. I also love the look of frizzles and Silkies make great mothers because they go broody and are good setters, meaning they will sit a clutch of eggs and hatch them, even if they are someone else's eggs. On that note...we will not let a hen hatch out ducklings anymore. Having your hen go mad with anxiety on your dock and then pass out because her 'chicks' have just gone swimming for the first time was funny to watch but upsetting for the hen. Who eventually got used to the idea. Here's a gorgeous pic I found on the internet, I thought he'd be a great chick to name Spike, or Elvis, or something Japanese. I think he's a Golden laced frizzle but not 100%. I'll have to do some more research. He looks like a rockstar don't you think?

The picture is of a Dark Brahma Rooster and Americana Hen's offspring. All of our roosters featured different colours and were shiny and beautiful, sorry boys...handsome. When we took them in to be butchered they actually gave us a credit on our bill of $10 and told us they'd kept one because he was so gorgeous. See...sometimes being handsome can save your life!

Here's a copy of a story features on the BBC world news online for Sept 6th. I've been debating about posting it so up till now I didn't. Instead, I've decided in the interest of general interest and education to post his with a disclaimer:

This research is not my own, but the work of the BBC. While I have verified that the information is certainly plausible and was what I already knew about chicken reproduction, it is still not backed up by any sources that I can conclusively verify or any research data.

It is of a technical nature and may be unsuitable for children under 12, unless they already live on a farm and are comfortable and familiar with the general process of reproduction. In which case they won't care about this anyways because it's something they see all the time and could care less about.

I just thought that it was interesting because given our experience with chickens running free with multiple roosters, there were always a huge number of chicks with Ben, our big Dark Brahma as their father and not many belonging to the other roosters. Now I know why...

Hens evolve secret sex strategy

By Matt McGrath Science reporter, BBC World Service

Chicken Chickens have evolved the ability to eject the sperm of unsuitable mates

Scientists have discovered that female chickens have a remarkable ability to choose the father of their eggs.

Wily hens have evolved the ability to eject the sperm of unsuitable mates say researchers working with Swedish birds.

Promiscuous roosters try to ensure that their genes are passed on by mating with as many females as possible.

But by removing the genetic material of males they consider socially inferior, the hens have managed to retain control of paternity.

Many species ranging from zebras to insects use the strategy of sperm ejection - but the evolutionary ideas behind it are often uncertain.

Among birds, male Dunnocks force females to eject the sperm of other suitors in order to protect their own genes.

But this research indicates that among chickens the battle of the sexes seems to be all about female empowerment.

Working with feral fowl in Sweden, the scientists found that many matings were forced, as the roosters are twice the size of the hens.

To cope with the unwanted attention, females have evolved the ability to remove the ejaculate of those males they consider undesirable.

Dr Rebecca Dean from Oxford University carried out the study. She said: "It's really important for females to have the best male sperm to fertilise her eggs so if she can't choose before copulation then having a mechanism to choose after copulation could really increase her evolutionary fitness."

Even when unforced, the females still exercised their right to choose by opting to eject the sperm of males they considered to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

With the reproductive odds stacked against them these low status roosters have fought back by developing larger ejaculates in the hope of increasing their chances of passing on their genes.
Chickens Hens eject more sperm from socially subordinate males

But according to Dr Dean, the shrewd females have worked out a way of dealing with this tactic as well.

"We found that hens will eject a greater proportion of the ejaculate from socially subordinate males, so she is in this way favouring the dominant males both before and after ejaculation," she said.

The scientists explain that domestic fowl would certainly use a similar tactic, but normally they have fewer mating choices than their wild Swedish cousins.

The research has been published in the journal American Naturalist.

Riding Lessons and Horse Care

As some of you know, our girls have wanted to learn to ride for a long time. So I put an ad on Kijiji stating that we were looking to be able to learn how to care for a horse as well as riding. Well we got lots of responses and then a lovely family e-mailed us. They have 9 horses, ride English, have an indoor ring and have kid friendly ponies and horses because they have lots of children. So we went to meet them yesterday. And Hooray!! That was exactly what I'd dreamed about. They live west of us over the mountain (hill) and it takes about 25 minutes each way, but the travel is well worth the money!

Although Mum (Tina) helped, Abby (daughter) was the instructor. She had everything prepared and even had a poster made of the steps and items used in grooming horses before saddling them. She went through everything from greeting a horse int he field, to bringing them into the barn and saddling them and then riding. Kate had a lovely big gentle guy named Jon Boy and he's perfect for her. Calm, stands still when he doesn't understand what you want, and just a nice sweet spirit.

Meghan had Flicka, she's a pony with an opinion. Not as docile as Jon Boy but still gentle and calm but with a bit more pepper in her personalty. And it turns out it was great because Meghan is a more natural horsewoman than Kate and was trotting round the ring in no time at all with no fear. She loved the speed so Flicka is, we all agreed, the best pony for Meghan. Here's a picture but not of Meghan, just the pony. We'll get more pics posted next week now that I've figured out how to e-mail pics from my phone. Yep, I'm cool now!

Kate is learning how to use her reins and knees, and how to turn a horse using her body. She had a great time. Meghan now wants to go back every single day for more horsin' around. We should get a little group of people together and keep Abby busy. Her rates are amazing and apart from that she's just a really nice teenager. I learned a lot about horses just from watching. Now it makes me really want to learn to ride properly.

This is a picture I think from the Spring of Abby, riding instructor extraordinaire and Jon Boy.

The girls are learning to ride English. If you don't know the difference, the saddle is much smaller than a Western saddle and doesn't have the big horn on the front for roping. It's all a bit different but I think it's easier to learn English first and then switch to Western or Aussie. Sort of like driving a standard vs. an automatic. If you can learn on a standard then the automatic tranny is easy as pie.

Here's a good horsey website / blog if you want some more horse info. And I'll direct you directly to the page with pics showing the difference between saddles.

I'm off to scrounge up more apples. Shouldn't be hard here in the 'Apple Valley' and next year we'll just adopt a tree or 4. I'm making pie filling and sauce once our busy weekend is done and right now if you walk into my storage room is smells like fall...apples and potatoes. Sugar and earth. Yum! There's nothing quite as comforting as standing there looking at shelves of canned food in preparation for winter. And while we have to remove some old and swollen cans we are very grateful to Aileen who left us her storage room already partly filled with canned beets, apples, peaches and other goodies. We're going to add to the stash which will make me feel better about not having my usual food storage and livestock. I never thought I'd miss the animals as much as I do, but it gives me something to look forward to.

If you're craving some amazing footage that shows terrific cooperation between man and horse (and great balance) then you've got to watch this 5 minute video. His name is Lorenzo and his style of Roman Riding is pretty cool to watch.

Have a Wonderful Weekend!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Getting Work in Nova Scotia

Hi! Sorry for not posting yesterday...the day just sort of got away from me. Today is going to be busy too with meetings, shopping, meeting the kids new riding instructor (more on that later) and getting more cleaning done. I have a meeting with the area director for the Welcome Wagon. I'm going to be doing the baby welcome in my community which will be great, meeting new mums and babies. Oh, and Steve finally heard back from the appliance repair company he'd called previously. Just when we'd given up and decided to go in another direction. He's not too sure exactly what the plan is but he and the appliance guy are doing a ride along on Monday. SO I'll let you know how that pans out.

This is an area of Canada with about 10% unemployment. Some portion of that is seasonal workers like teachers and fishermen but some are active job seekers. There are also underemployed people working menial or part-time jobs who want better ones. But despite that there is still a lot of work to be had. Depending on your skills and what you're willing to do. If you will pick apples then you'll be guaranteed work for September and October, at last count I found a dozen farms advertising and lots more that just have signs up and spread the information by word of mouth. That's how lots of things work in smaller towns...word of mouth. So it can be hard for a newcomer to get the 'in'. But here it's easy to just be upfront with everyone and let them know what you need. You'll be surprised at how often people will tell their friends that that nice new couple down the road need such and such. You'll get calls out of the blue, we certainly have, from the friend of an acquaintance etc etc.

Other places to look for work in Nova Scotia are of course the local newspapers, bulletin boards, business windows, and the easiest way is online. Here are some links:

Nova Scotia Job Shop is here. This one is Annapolis Valley specific.

To work in Nova Scotia you must generally be over 15 years old unless working on a farm and you must have a valid SIN or Social Insurance Number to work in Canada or to receive benefits like the Child Tax Credit or a Pension. Here's the application to get your SIN or replace a card. Getting your first card is free but there's a $10 fee to get a replacement. I know that for myself I have to get my immigration docs first before I can replace my SIN card. I lost my card years ago and I need to replace it as of course my name changed once I got married.

The current minimum wage is $9.35 as a training wage and $9.65 is the standard minimum wage. If you are a farm worker though and doing piece work you could make less, as Chris and Dave found out last week.

Other ways to get a job are to go to companies in your area of expertise and ask if they are now or will be hiring in the future. Just because they don't need you right now doesn't mean that someone might not leave next week and your resume will be fresh in their minds and on the top of the pile. You should devote as much time looking for a job as you would do working. So be prepared. Comfy shoes, neat appearance, lots of resumes, cover letters and reference letters. Whatever is relevant to your job. Think ahead, customize your cover letter for each individual job and consider having a professional read over your resume and give you advice. Remember, you should point out your experience, skills and qualifications. Be concise, get to the point, and make them want to meet you in person. A resume and cover letter are tools you use to sell yourself and get the interview. The interview is where you can expand on why the employer should choose you over other candidates. What makes you the best employee? Think about the questions you'll be asked and prepare mentally.

Goodness, it's time to get ready for work. TTYL.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First day of School

The first day of school went reasonably well. Everyone found their classes ok, no shoes were lost, and the kids all got on the right buses so that's good. We got kind of worried when the girls were a half hour late but they showed up eventually. The boys got the new runners they need and Steve and I had yet another disappointing experience at Zellers...but apart from that, it was a pretty good start to the school year.

The weather has cooled off and we had a day of pretty solid rain which will be good for gardeners getting their last crops ripened. The humidity is down which is good for me and I'm going to get stuck into some unpacking and sorting tomorrow after I do our weekly grocery shop. While enjoying a leisurely drive yesterday, Steve and I got some local apples and potatoes plus 50lbs of onions so our menu will definitely revolve around them for the next 2 weeks :) Tonight I used up a bunch of leftovers and make an Italian pork stew. Included were 2 leftover chops that I boned and cut into 1 inch cubes seared in the pan. Then I tossed in hot water and one beef bouillon cube. I used up some of the lovely skinny carrots we got from our friend Pam Muise. Kate scrubbed then clean with a plastic dish scrubber and instead of peeling them which would be tricky with skinny carrots they scrubbed up nicely and we just cut them into 1 inch lengths. We also chopped in a large onion and 6 potatoes. Half a head of cabbage diced and about 2 dozen very ripe cherry tomatoes. I think that's about it. Because we seared the meat first it made a nice stock when the water was added and I let the meat stew for 30 minutes before adding the vegetables. I made my infamous 'stuffing dumplings' and served it hot in bowls with no frills or toppings. It went down well with everyone, even the kids, and nobody had to add pepper or salt (the bouillon cube was salty enough) and the whole pot got emptied in short order with everyone having seconds. Not wanting to waste the fat trimmings and bones from the chops I've put them in to boil gently with water after searing them, the onion peelings and the stalk from the cabbage went in too. I'll take it off the boil tonight and cool it then skim the fat tomorrow, remove the veggies and take all the meat scraps off the bones. I'm going to pick up some split peas tomorrow to use with a ham bone I've got so I'll boil the bone in the pork broth until it's nice and rich then use it to make split pea and ham soup with fresh crusty white bread. Sound good and hearty? A meal for 7 and it'll have cost me about $4.50. Don't believe me? Here's the breakdown and usually it would be cheaper because I wouldn't buy a ham bone but use one left over from a previous dinner.

$1.25 Dried green split peas
$2.40 Smoked ham hock from a local farm stand
$ .35 One large yellow onion
$1.00 French Bread made from scratch

$5.00 Dinner for 7 with second helpings. Okay so I was off, it's actually $5 for the meal. But that's not bad for a high protein one pot meal you can cook on the woodstove don't you think? One thing... Steve and I love brown bread but there are some things that are just better with white and this soup is one of them. I think that grilled cheese is another and Steve likes hotdogs on white buns. But apart from that we like brown bread especially if it's from freshly ground wheat, Mmmmm.

Another use for the stock would be to add some veggies chopped fine and some pot barley and make a soup. Then your costs would be about $2 cheaper.

Ok, it's time for bed. I have to get kids up and lunches made so I've got to start going to bed before midnight.