We had a dream, like so many others before us, to live a simple and sustainable life on our own organic farm... so we drove from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, and we've been here nearly 6 years. We love life, learning, and sharing with others. Follow our adventures as we build a vibrant small family farm and work towards self-sufficiency using a combination of traditional methods, permaculture and original ideas.
Monday, October 31, 2011
After all the wind and rain this weekend it's actually turned out to be a nice sunny day and about 7 degrees here in Greenwood. I'm amazed that a couple of little maples in our yard are exposed to all the elements and yet have green leaves. Most of the trees are getting bare. I'm excited to see how much maple sap I can get out of the trees in Spring. We'll set up the boiler outside and make our own syrup. It's a fun late winter/early spring project. And if you're going to be self-sufficient it's a reliable source of sugar 6 months before you can harvest from your bees. It's easy too...but we'll get into that in January.
How smart do you think you are? Most people think they're above average intelligence, no surprise. But it's easy for us to misinterpret signs, letters from friends, spoken words etc. How many times have we jumped to conclusions and then had to take it back or felt foolish. I know it happens to me. I'm sure we all do it from time to time. Here's a letter to the Editor I thought was worth a chuckle. He's got a good idea...protecting the deer...but has not understood the whole purpose of a deer crossing sign.
Happy Halloween! Hope you all have a safe and fun evening. Tomorrow we can discuss recipes for all your fabulous pumpkins!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Cold, Windy, and Powerless
Since my neighbours obviously know it's going to snow at some point and that wind and rain often mean flooding and power outages, doesn't it seem stupid that they wouldn't prepare?
Well, Who am I to judge another. Rather than gloating about my being prepared and someone else not, why don't I help them out? There are several ways to do this.
1. Prepare and store a little extra. Make room in your home for unexpected guests so that if the heat goes out you can invite them into your home to stay warm and comforted. Have an extra 72 hour kit made ready. Add more to your food stores. What can it hurt?
2. Be a good neighbour, friendly, helpful and tidy. Think about what you can do to make their lives more joyful. Cut their grass if they're struggling. Babysit. Take over a loaf or bread. Rake leaves or blow snow. Look for ways to provide meaningful service and if you just can't find something...then do something anonymously. Everyone feels good when a little treat appears and you know someone cares about you.
3. Get to know them better. Maybe they don't understand about being prepared. Maybe they are really struggling financially or having a personal problem that's not evident on the surface. It just might be something you can help out with and if not, you can at least let them know that they're special and that you value them.
We judge people because we think we're better than them in some way, or to make ourselves seem bigger. Maybe it's to pass the blame or because we're jealous of them. So many different reasons. But no matter what the reason we have no right to judge others. Old, young, rich or poor, black or white, smart or slow, each of has a story of life experiences that defines how we judge others and how we ourselves are judged. It sort of goes along with last Sunday's post.
It's something we are all working on, right? To gossip less and try to be less judgmental. If we're all working together towards a common goal, whether it be in sports, work, church, volunteering, preparedness or anything else, we owe it to ourselves and to each other to help create a positive environment in which we help each other along. Since we all have different strengths and weaknesses we can gain so much more by helping out when someone is struggling, just like we'll appreciate their help when we need it.
Cooperation is the name of the game. It's like the old saying... Thou Lifts me and I'll lift thee, and we'll ascend together.
Hope you enjoy this Sunday message. And thanks for all your kind birthday wishes.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
It's a lovely Friday!
The kids all have a pro-day today so no school. You'd think that was a bad thing but it's ok really because I have a bunch of chores ready and waiting for them. After chores are done the girls and I are going to do some baking. Bread, granola bars and oatmeal coconut cookies. I'm trying to rotate my food in the cupboards to keep it fresh and coconut is one of those things I usually buy and use more at Christmas so before I buy more, I need to use up my current supply. Cookies it is!
I just finished reading The Man Who Talks To Horses - the autobiography of Monty Roberts aka. the horse whisperer. It's a great read if you're into horses. I always wondered why it was necessary to use a bit in a horses mouth because it seems cruel and why some people who supposedly love horses would use harsh treatments and whips. And now I know. It's fascinating to read the beginning of an idea and see how it spreads and starts to change how we humans do something. Proof that man's ideas are still evolving and that we're capable of adapting to new thought processes and trying new things. But I think that it's easy for us to stay in our own comfortable ways of doing things and not take the risk on something new or different. Even if the potential rewards are great I think we get scared of failure. And that's why I admire those who are explorers and pioneers in their fields. Some of them risked their reputations, their livelihoods, friends and family to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth and ideas they felt strongly about like religion, science, exploration, human behaviour, medicine. And in the end their life's work could yield great results or none at all. But are there really 'no results'? Even those who failed to prove their ideas left a legacy of research for others who would follow and know what to try differently or how to build on the research as it stood. So really, no effort is wasted in the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
Steve noticed yesterday that he sees people around that look like people he knew on Vancouver Island. I guess he got used to going to the store and knowing people. When he was growing up he likely knew everyone in town, it was a small and friendly community. As the town grew and became a city he knew less people but still a good percentage from working, church and existing friends. But heer of course we moved knowing nobody. Steve says it's like being in the witness protection program where you move to a new home, job, and community. I laughed and told him he needs to move more often but not having grown up and lived in the same community for 55 years I don't have the same sense of belonging and familiarity to any one place. I can see how that's a good thing though to have established roots as opposed to my ability to adjust to a new place. It's good to have both experiences in our family because we can make informed choices. We know that we want to find a farm and move there once and for all so it's a big decision to find the right place. We are at the point in our lives where we want to have a place that's our own and that we can grow old sitting on the front porch together or reading in front of a warm fire on cold winter nights. I'm sure that's the dream for most of us.
What are you studying at the moment? Anything interesting? Steve is working on an idea for a book that he's planning on writing. And I really have to get cracking on mine too so I've borrowed Christopher's laptop for the morning. Thanks Chris, today you're my favourite son :)
Well I'm going to get on with writing. Any suggestions on what you want to learn about? e-mail me at fairesfamily-at-gmail dot com if you can't leave a comment below. I hope you all have a bright and happy day and I'll talk to you later.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
We're On The Front Page!
I'm trying to get the books and things caught up today. Doesn't that sound like fun? Oh Joy! **I hate paperwork** But on the plus side maybe we can collect some money that's owed to us. And we have to update our Wills. When's the last time you did yours? Do you even have one? Do you know how much of a hassle it is for your family if you don't have one? I'd encourage you to do a will. Even something simple is better than nothing at all and you can find forms for free online.
We got the ownership transferred on the van...$150 later we now 'officially' own it. It's about $12 to transfer the ownership and the rest is 15% tax on the purchase price. And yes...we did declare the correct amount even though the owner left it blank and told us we could pay less tax if we declared less. But that is dishonest so we told the truth about how much we paid.
The next step in the process is to get insurance (I'm waiting for a call back with a quote) and once we have insurance we can go get plates and registration which is $203 for 2 years...so I'll never complain about ICBC again! I'm hoping the insurance is fairly inexpensive. Ok I heard back and it's $686 for the year for pleasure use only, we can pay monthly $57.17 but need to pay 2 months upfront and get our drivers abstracts from BC first. So maybe it's a good idea to bring one with you if you move here. Once you move your license is good for 90 days before you must switch to Nova Scotia.
We're driving to Wallace on the North Shore about 3 1/2 hours away on Saturday to pick up an organ from a local church. They got a new one and are looking for a home for the old faithful one they've got...so Merry Christmas Steve, you're getting an organ! Plus a lovely cross province trip with your wife! Doesn't that sound like a fun thing to do on your birthday?
Gotta run and get back to work.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Cloth vs. Disposable - Diapers and Nappies
Some of you reading this will know that I'm a Doula. A Doula is a woman trained to provide support to a mother and her family both before, during and after birth. So combined with having my own children, I know a fair amount about diapers. Nobody really wants to talk about poo, it's not the 'glamorous' thing to discuss with all those hip mommas out there. But hey, every baby needs a diaper so why not be practical about it?
Cloth diapers are more than just squares of cloth now. Even since I wrote my first article things have changed dramatically in the choices available to mothers and it can be overwhelming sometimes. But no matter what choices you make you just have to remember this...it's your choice and nobody else's business. I'm a big advocate for cloth diapers but I still used the occasional disposable for road trips and to go to church in the summer when having a bunch of smelly cloth diapers in the car can be unpleasant if the bag develops a small hole.
So on the off chance you're interested in knowing what my writing was like 10 years ago or if you really want to find out if cloth or disposable are best for you...I invite you to read the following article I wrote. I will note that recently another company copied my article and it still has my previous last name on it and they used a picture that's not mine either but it's the handiest copy I've got as originally it was just on my website for my doula business and at my friend Phil's diaper store...he owns Gabby's. Oh, and the figures are out of date of course but are still close. My favourite diapers are from Mother-ease and they've lasted through 4 kids. Any way, here it is.
Cloth Vs. Disposables, The Debate continues…
Diapers Throughout History
World War II saw the rise of the Diaper Service as women were forced into the work place and no longer had time for the arduous task of washing dozens of diapers. In the 1960’s plastic covered paper diapers exploded onto the scene, often literally. One wetting and they typically disintegrated. Over the past 40 years there have been enormous improvements made to disposable diapers. Different materials, elastic legs and waists, re-usable tabs and better absorbency have combined to make them the number one choice of many parents today. There are even environmentally friendly bio-degradable one use diapers now on the market.
During recent years in Canada we have seen a resurgence in the use of cloth diapers. Many hospitals are starting out their newborns in cotton diapers because of their softness and the ability of diaper services to surpass the hospital standard of cleanliness. Cloth diapers now come in many shapes and sizes from the flat square you fold yourself to contoured diapers with snap or Velcro fasteners. Some diapers are even all-in-one meaning no covers are necessary. These are in effect almost as convenient as disposables and easy to use, even for dad. In Calgary at the present time there are 3 main options: cloth washed at home, the diaper service and disposables.Fast Facts
- Average time a baby is in diapers : 2 ½ years.
- Average diaper changes per baby : 7,300
- In 1955 – 100% of American babies wore cloth and 7 % experienced diaper rash.
- In 1991 – 90 % of American babies wore disposables and 78 % experienced diaper rash.
These figures are based upon using Gabby’s (Calgary) all-in-one diapers sold at retail.
3 doz. size sm-md = $288.00
3 doz. size lg-toddler = $288.00
2 pkg. of med. liners = $ 20.00
2 pkg. of lg. liners = $ 20.00 = $ 616.00
Laundering is based on energy consumption, water, laundry products, depreciation on the washer and dryer, diaper pails etc. and is averaged per load at $.95 Cdn.
1 load every 4 days = 228 loads over 2 ½ years = $ 217.00
Total Cost = $ 833.00
Total Cost for a second or subsequent baby is laundry at $217.00 and possibly more liners at $40 for a total of $257.00 per baby.
Based on purchasing Mega size bags at $18 per bag and an average of 8 changes/day. Does not include transportation to store or costs of garbage disposal.
Small Newborn to 2 months = 488 diapers 80/bag = 6.1 bags = $ 109.80
Medium 2 months to 6 months = 976 diapers 66/bag = 14.8 bags = $ 266.40
Large 6 months to 24 months = 4,392 diapers 52/bag = 84.5 bags = $1521.00
Toddler 2 years to 2 ½ years = 1,464 diapers 44/bag = 33.3 bags = $ 599.40
Total Cost = $ 2,496.60
Cost for each subsequent baby is $ 2,496.60
Based on figures from Rock-A-Dry Baby (Calgary) using contoured snap closing diapers. Diaper cover purchase and washing is the responsibility of the family.
Birth to one year. 70 diapers delivered and picked up per week = $22.50/wk. = $1170
1 to 2 ½ years. 40 diapers delivered and picked up per week = $16.50/wk = $1287
Total Cost = $ 2,457.00
All diapering choices affect our environment. As stated before, using cloth will result in approx. 228 loads of laundry per child. That’s 228 loads of gray water to be processed at Municipal facilities. The water is relatively benign and the human waste is properly treated. Because cloth diapers are 100% reusable (either for other children or as rags) they qualify for the EcoLogo.
The best choice environmentally is the diaper service as they are able to process large numbers of diapers at once thereby limiting the use of detergents and water.
So Who’s Right?
Disposables use more water in their manufacture than cloth do in laundering. Also, the effluent from the various manufacturing processes can release dioxins, furans, and other chemical by-products into the air and ground water. As composting facilities for disposable diapers do not exist in North America, they make the largest single contribution to our landfills after paper and food containers. In a municipal landfill such as ours, just the right conditions exist to mummify a diaper and thereby extending its life to an estimated 500 years. What a legacy for our children! Another consideration is the spread of disease from improperly disposed of human waste.
While I believe these figures clearly state the cost saving, environmental and health benefits of cloth diapers, who’s to say you would be wrong to use disposables? The choice of diapers is just one of many that we make about how to raise our children. Breastfeeding, schooling, swimming lessons, music classes, sports… the list goes on and on. The time we spend loving and teaching our children is by far the best thing we can do for them and for our society as a whole.
Elizabeth Wall – Stay-At-Home-Mum & Doula
» Lehrburger, Mullen & James “Diapers: Environmental Impact and Life Cycle Analysis” ‘91
» Toronto Board of Health “The Diaper Decision” October 1991
» Journal of Pediatrics- 1959, Vol 54 pp. 793-800 “Relationship of Peri-Anal Dermatitis to Fecal pH” by Drs. Tamio, Steiner, Benjamin
» Clinical Pediatrics- May 1991, Vol.30 “Newborn chemical Exposure from over-the-counter skin-care products” by Drs. Cetta, Lambert & Ross
The views found in this article belong solely to the author and are not endorsed by the DSAA.
Make Your Own Laundry Soap & Tips for Diapers
Arm and Hammer (or other) Washing Soda $6.00 per box
Available at Sobeys, WalMart, Foodland, Superstore etc.
Fels Naptha soap (or other) $2.00
Sometimes found in hardware stores but hard to find in stores these days so you can buy it online or substitute any soap you like including your homemade soap though Sunlight bar soap is great for cleaning clothes and hard surfaces so I usually have that on hand and it smells nice.
Essential Oils. Your choice of scent though a nice smelling soap eliminates this step.
Borax, 20 Mule Team brand is great. $6 per box
Found in the laundry aisle at pretty well all grocery stores. A good deodorizer. It's also useful to increase the size of sunflower seeds when spread on your row before planting because it's a naturally occurring source of boron.
And now you know what to buy...here's the recipe.
Homemade Laundry Soap
1/2 bar of Fels Naptha, Sunlight or other soap. Grated.
3/4 cup Washing Soda
3/4 cup Borax
A 2 gallon bucket with a lid or some empty laundry soap jugs with lids.
Directions. Boil a full kettle of water.
Place the grated soap into a very large pot, add 6 cups of water and slowly heat, stirring occasionally. The soap will melt. Add the washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 4 cups of the boiled and still hot water from the kettle and stir to mix thoroughly. Add another gallon plus 4 cups of cool water, stir to completely mix. Pour into a plastic bucket for storage or into plastic laundry soap bottles if you have those available. Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. The soap will be sort of gelled. I've had it almost jelly like at times and sometimes runnier. Either way, the consistency doesn't matter (unless yours really gels inside a bottle) :)
The usual measure of soap per load is 1/3 c. for a frontloader and 1/2 c. for a toploader. Extra dirty clothes can use upto double the amount. It's a low-suds/no suds formula depending on the soap you use so it won't harm your 'he' machine. For greater washing power for greasy mechanic husbands you can make this recipe with twice the soap. Depending on your level of dirt and the hardness of your water, some experimenting might be worthwhile. I love experimenting but forget to take notes sometimes so take my advice...make notes!
Bearing in mind that the recipe uses only 3/4 c. of borax and washing soda which is a fraction of the overall cost...this entire batch of soap would cost approximately $1.25-$2.50 and would wash 60 loads of laundry at 1/2 cup per load or the normal amount for a toploader. Or 90 loads for a frontloader. This recipe makes almost 7.5 litres of soap or 30 cups or 60 loads and works out to approx. 3 cents per load. If you can get your ingredients on sale or cheaper than I've listed then it's possible to make soap for a penny per load. Also, the easiest way to cut down the price is to use less expensive soap. I've known people to use Irish Spring, Ivory or zest and that's about 35 cents per bar instead of $3.00 so it makes your 60 loads of soap for just under a dollar 1.5 cents per load. And it colours your laundry soap a nice colour. A penny and a half is certainly better than Tide on sale for 15 cents per load. This soap is also safe to use on diapers.
We all know that cloth diapers are the way to go. They can save you loterally thousands of dollars and tons of disposables going into the landfill. I realize that they're not for everyone but almost all people who use them say that after a week to get used to the system, it's nowhere near as bad as they thought it was going to be. I'll make a post about it tomorrow.
How to wash cloth diapers. I recommend soaking your rinsed diapers in Amaze and enough cold water to cover them for 24 hours. Dump the whole bucket into the washer and run through a quick cycle or pre-soak. Add laundry soap and wash on hot then add an extra cold rinse. Line dry outside in the
sun when possible. Even in the winter you can freeze dry them to some extent and finish in the dryer to completely dry them. The sunlight helps kill bacteria and bleach them naturally. If your diapers are getting stained you can use lemon juice on the stain and then leave outside to dry in the sun for 24 hours then re-wash. But if it really bothers you that your diapers are looking grubby just dye them using the best professional dye you can find (not the stuff in WalMart or other regular stores, it fades and bleeds). I tie dyed my diapers using Procion dye and after hundreds of washes the colours were still vibrant. You can buy it here. Make sure the diapers are as clean as you can make them before dyeing and baby clothes with spit up stains need to be grease free. Nothing hides unsightly spit up stains or poop marks like a dye job! And they look so cute!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Do Unto Others
Wow yesterday fairly flew by! I got my chores done (mostly) did my visiting teaching again and had the elders over for dinner. Steve was an hour late so as soon as he darkened the door we took off for riding lessons but didn't get there and ready until nearly 8. Needless to say...after lessons and a visit we weren't home until 11pm. That's WAY too late for us. I can't wait to have the other van up and running so we can go to lessons after school again. Fingers crossed that will be next week.
It's definitely cooled down to seasonal temperatures here in the valley. Still warm sunny afternoons in the mid teens but the nights are going down to 3 or 4 degrees celcius. That's still not too bad I guess. I've just lit a small fire in the furnace to warm the house by a few degrees. Currently it varies from 66-68 depending on the room which is ok but since I'm going to be sitting to write for long periods today I'm going to be feeling the chill and I thought that spending $1-2 on wood for the fire seemed like a worthwhile investment. It's amazing the difference a few degrees makes to your comfort, especially in a damp climate. I imagine we'll burn more fuel this winter than next just because we're still getting acclimatized. I imagine it's much worse for people from the prairies where it's a dry cold because the damp seems to go right through to your bones.
Apple are sending me a new power supply for my MacBook that should arrive this week. I really miss that little white lap warmer and it'll be good to have easy access to the internet and my book again. It's amazing how you get used to one laptop over other computers, familiarity is a very pleasant thing.
So to explain the title for todays post...I mentioned car insurance the other day and now we have a new consideration before buying from any company...how good their claims department are. Why? A very good friend of ours was in a nasty collision on the highway when a car coming in the other direction turned left in front of him causing him to total his van into the passenger side of her vehicle. There was simply not time to react. Both of them are relatively unhurt luckily but it's still a scary thing and the police had to close the one lane on the road and divert traffic for a while. Our friend who was the victim in this is a really nice and fair guy. He said it was just an accident on her part and said he wouldn't press charges or sue or anything. All he really wants is his vehicle replaced as the accident was clearly her fault. No pain and suffering or loss of income, no medical bills...he isn't charging her a nickle. Sounds good for the lady who hit him don't you think? Don't you think she'd be super grateful? Well apparently not. The way it works is that she has to file a claim with her insurance (which she hasn't) before our friend can make claim or get any benefits. So he's been without a vehicle since the accident on Friday and can't get a rental which is covered by his insurance until she makes a claim. Now she's not returning his calls. Nice. He's being kind and fair about it and she's screwing him over...at least that's the way it looks right now but I hope I'm wrong. It's really no wonder that people don't trust each other any more is it? I hope that she gets it all sorted out and treats him as well as he's treated her. When we are fair and kind to other people it makes the world a better place. Selfishness and greed affect those around us and drag society down. Have you ever noticed that some of the poorest people in the world are the ones who are the most generous? They'll share a meal with you, offer a small gift, take time to help you...even if they have basically nothing. They understand that there are some things in life more important than financial gain over and above what they need to meet their daily needs. Charity, compassion, kindness, respect, loving relationships with our family and friends; All these things make us better and happier people in the long run. These are things that money cannot buy. I always say that I'd rather be happy and poor than rich and miserable. And while enough money to pay the bills and have an easier life would be nice...I'm not willing to trade my soul for it. That doesn't mean we don't work hard and spend thriftily but it it means we don't get so caught up in money that we fail to see the beauty around us in the faces of our children and grandchildren.
And now for a word of wisdom from Calving and Hobbes:
Calvin: I've decided I want to be a millionaire when I grow up.
Dad: Well you'll have to work pretty hard to get a million dollars.
Calvin: No, I won't. You will.
Calvin: I just want to inherit it.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
My Handy Husband
In Nova Scotia every vehicle must pass a basic check every 2 years. Without it you can't drive. It's cheap at about $35 for the inspection and covers things like your glass, brakes, wheels, lights, suspension, speedometer, all the things you need to have working for a safe vehicle. Consequently there are a lot less junkers on the road here. Registration and all that jazz are $170 but that's for 2 years. Insurance is fairly comparable to other provinces and is calculated on your address, years of safe driving and value of your vehicle. I'll let you know how ours compares to BC because we had a vehicle exactly like my van when we lived on the island so we can compare apples to apples. Insurance is purchased privately here and not from the gov't like ICBC.
Steve and I plus our fiend Stephan and son Chris all went to cut wood on Saturday. We got a heavy trailer load full which is great and is probably close to 3/4 cord. I'll let you know once it's stacked. Although it blew down last fall and has been sitting all summer, it's still very heavy because it's not completely dead (it is now that we cut it into rounds) and it's oak. But free wood is always a gift. So we're going to split it this week and stack it outside to dry and season some more with the top covered to keep off the excessive rain but still let the wind blow through. By next winter it'll be stacked inside and be dry and ready for burning. Planning ahead for your firewood is especially important if you are cutting your own trees. I think that it's best cut in the winter, split and left to dry for a year then stacked under a roof for another year until you're ready to burn it. Firewood will keep for years if it stays free of insects and remains dry. We have the room to fit about a cord and a half in the basement near the wood furnace so that wood gets nice and dry while the other seasoned wood is in the garage, also drying further. Condensation can be a problem in an enclosed space like under a tarp that's weighted down or inside a home so make sure the wood is pretty dry before you bring it in. Just think about it...if you bring in 500 lbs of wood and it still has to lose 20% of it's weight in water...that's going to be 100 lbs of water going into the air of your house and potentially causing some damp problems. So dry outside for as long as possible before bringing it in.
When buying firewood ask other people around you who they'd recommend. Make sure you know when it was split because that's when the drying and seasoning really gets going. Wood that has been seasoned but only recently split is likely to still contain about 10% more moisture than you want. One way to find out the moisture content is to split a piece and see if it has a dull think when the axe hits it or if there's a dry pinging sound. The ping indicates dry wood. The thunk means water. So make sure you know what you're getting. We used Burndry Wood (they're in Courtenay but deliver to a wide area) when we lived in BC because they're using locally sourced wood left over after logging. They go in and move all the usable scrap logs left over after the logging companies take the premium wood out and before they get in there to stack and burn it in huge piles. It's all legal and firewood permits are available for the general public too. We also found that ordering the wood early in the season meant we got really dry and ready to burn wood and we were very happy with it. Here in NS though we don't have any recommendations and plan to get a farm with some woodland on it already. Either way we'll likely need a few cords ready to burn so that's a consideration for next year.
Cords of wood measure 4'x4'x8' stacked. That's a full cord and should cost you about $200 delivered and split. Stacking may be available for an extra fee so you'll need to ask. Hardwood and softwood are different. For a shorter and cooler fire you're going to like pine, fir and cedar, softwoods. They burn quickly and make a great fire for fall and Spring when you don't need much heat but do make a bit more creosote so be diligent with your chimney sweeping. Hardwoods are the mid-winter and overnight firewoods. They burn hotter, cleaner and longer so if heat is what you desire...hardwoods like oak, hickory and maple are good choices depending what's local. And please always buy local woods. It saves on transportation costs and also doesn't spread pests and diseases from one area to another. I guess that what you burn depends on your local supply. If poplar is what you've got...that's what you'll burn.
There's an interesting idea of how to stack firewood for quick drying on this page but I love the old fashioned stacks pictured. They slope very slightly downwards so rain just runs out and doesn't collect and besides that they're pleasant to look at too. And who says your firewood stack has to be an ugly rectangle?
Hope you all have a great day. I'm going to be offline for most of the time owing to a need to catch up on housework and writing. I know...I'm such a slacker!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Yes, it really does.
Many people talk about and write books about being kind to others. Our parents and grandparents taught us so are we teaching the next generation? For some parents the answer is no. They think that being polite is old fashioned. But civility is an important trait in those who want to get the best out of life. It doesn't cost a penny... but we might need some more practice if we've put aside this virtue. And I mean real action and not empty words. No matter how good you think you are...I can promise you that there's room for improvement. And probably to those you don't notice you even offend. Here's my message for Sunday. Hope you think about it and find something that's useful to you or someone you know.
This afternoon Steve is working on fixing my brakes and also going to get more firewood. We still need a few more cords for this winter so I'm going to help him. SOme time together and practical too. Today seems to be a practical day. Our friends Tina and Carl are working on their horse trailer floor this afternoon too .
Oh, gotta go. Time to do wood!
Friday, October 21, 2011
Come One Come All, To The Harvest Ball!
Today I have only a few things planned. Vacuum the upstairs, clean the kitchen, and
re-work the chapter layouts for the book. Without giving too much away...I've covered different livestock, building methods, tools, crops, some skills and ways of developing a personalized plan for each reader. What would you like to read about in a self-sufficiency book? I want to make sure that there's something in there for everyone so any suggestions are greatly appreciated. And don't assume I've covered it already because one thing I've found is that when you're good at something or very familiar with it, you take it for granted that other people know the basics...and that's often not true. I'm also looking for a proof reader or two that I can send chapters to and who will give me suggestions and critique them. It won't be for a month or two yet but if you think you can help out then give me a shout.
I've been reading the news...depressing as usual to see how uncaring and unconnected some individuals are. But of course the latest economic and inflation figures are out so I had to read. Well my friends...how much do you think food prices rose over the past year? And what about gasoline? Well I won't keep you in suspense but I will let you know that these figures are released by the government and should be taken with a grain of salt until you have done your own research because let's face it...stats can be manipulated for different purposes.
Gasoline in Canada rose 22.7 % over the 12 month period ending September 30th 2011. As of today's date the price for a litre of regular gasoline in Greenwood, Nova Scotia is $1.31.1
Food, which means everything edible basically from bread to veggies to cola, was up 4.3% in Canada which experienced one of the lowest inflation rates in the world, so I'll just relate the rest of this information to Canada. Now that might not seem to bad right? 4.3%. But that's all foods including healthy ones and junk. Do you eat meat? It rose by 6.1% due to grain prices and it's set to rise sharply again in the coming months due to some bad harvests in grain producing regions. Bread and other bakery products were up 7.2%. But worst of all, fresh fruits and veggies were up 13% over this time last year. So if you follow a basic and healthy diet then you bore the brunt of the food inflation. This doesn't mean a lot to people with money. But for those on a pension or other benefit it can be critical. I assure you that government payments certainly did not go up at the rate of inflation. Although they are supposed to be adjusted according to the cost of living index, it's not as smooth and easy as it sounds.Firstly inflation happens slowly over the months and unevenly. Different regions experience different growth trends than others. It's sort of like the frog in the pot. Turn up the heat gradually and he won't notice until it's too late. If we were hit with these percentages all at once then there's be a revolt. Like a frog put into a hot pot just jumps out.
It's the same with moral decay in society. It happens slowly and gradually so we just shake our head sadly and hope it never happens to us but before long the once frowned upon behaviour is commonplace and acceptable. It's sad but true. But this is where goal setting can help. We can use the gradual change to do good things too. Stop smoking. Lose weight. Learn a new skill. Grow a garden. Save to buy a home. I'm sure you can think of lots of other goals. Each one has a series of steps that are necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. Slow and steady progress leads to fulfilled goals. When it's hard to stay motivated we just need to look back at where we came from and see the differences so far. Then get back to work. Recording your progress can be a good motivator, read it and see if you notice a difference. Like reading your teenage diary. You thought you were so cool and mature then but now you read it and think you were a total twinkie (all air and not much substance. Also a term I use to describe some giggling and shallow teenage girls). Maybe we'll think that about our current selves when we're old and grey, I don't know. But it's nice to be able to read and see the difference. Continual progress is a good thing.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Did you miss us?
Migraines for a couple of days but feeling a little better now. Meghan felt under the weather too. Then yesterday Kate was on the receiving end of a swung leaf rake and she's totally swollen and bruised from her forehead to cheek on one side of her face. This morning her eye is swollen shut but at least the weeping has stopped and her cheek is scabbing over. She's beautiful shades of red, blue and purple. We have the annual Harvest Ball coming up tomorrow and she's just going to look fabulous! Actually she wants me to go to Frenchy's clothing store to find her a fancy dress so she feels better about her eye. She didn't go to school today because she felt bad and didn't ride last night either. But she seems more chipper today so that's good. Jordan and Meghan had a riding lesson last night while Steve tuned their piano so everyone came away happy I think. And I found a horse I would like to buy but don't have the money yet so I'm hoping it doesn't sell right away and gets cheaper. It's a draft/quarter horse so would be good both for me to ride and pull a light plow or hoe for the garden. Hopefully nobody out there is looking for a big horse right now. This is typically the time of year when livestock sells very cheaply or not at all because people don't want to have to buy in hay for the winter. Hay here is usually between $2 and $4 per bale with really expensive hay in a bad year going for $5. WAY cheaper than when we lived in BC. Straw is easily available and cheap too. Due to the wet weather this summer there isn't as much cut hay as usual so I expect that the prices will stay higher for the winter this year.
The weather is warm and wet. We're supposed to get up to 80mm of rain but we'll see. It has rained pretty constantly all night and morning so far. It's dull and overcast like BC in the winter but at least the leaves remaining on the trees are pretty. The rain is really coming down now and for the fourth time this year I've lit the furnace but just put on a couple of small logs. We picked up some boxes of those compressed sawdust logs, you know, the ones that come 9 to a box and are supposed to burn for a couple of hours. Well they were on really cheap as a special promo, I think it came to about $4.50 for a box of 9 logs with 13 boxes having the same BTU's as a cord of hardwood apparently. The logs are pretty small but once they get going they burn nice and clean so a couple of those is all that's really needed to raise the house by a few degrees to make it comfortable again so they work perfectly. We also made sure they don't have any weird additives and are environmentally certified. I think we got 20 boxes so for the occasional small fire in fall and spring they should work like a charm.
Unlike BC where most firewood is pine, cedar, poplar and other locally available softwoods, in Nova Scotia the firewood is predominantly hardwood. Oak, maple, apple etc with some other woods mixed in. We're able to get wood for $90 per cord that's been cut into 8 foot lengths and left to season for 2 years. It's nice stuff and once it's finished drying the water from the rain it will burn clean and hot. The amount of heat from wood really varies so do your research and get the best wood for your money. Of course we'll be cutting wood off our property from here on in with any luck and so it doesn't matter what kind it is...we'll burn it because it's free. But hardwood does typically burn hotter and cleaner than softwood so 3 or 4 cords of softwood would perhaps equal the heat available in 1 cord of hardwood.
Managing a woodlot takes a little time and forethought. The first year will be spent picking up and dragging out any blow downs so they can be assessed and dried if still good. Rotten logs can be used for growing mushrooms once inoculated with spores but burn poorly. Snags (trees that are dead but still standing or leaning against other trees) are great for burning because they are typically dry and not rotten. They do pose a fire hazard though so getting them out of your woodlot and into a woodshed is the second task for us to do. The longer wood has to dry and season, the better. I'd be happy to have a 3 year supply of wood or more if we have the space. It doesn't all have to be cut and split at once either. Wood that's in 8 foot lengths is much less likely to be stolen than split wood. And if you have lengths you can use them for other things too such as posts, fence rails, or mill them for dimensional lumber.
Once you've cleared out your woodlot the next thing to do is assess if there are some trees that are too close to others and remove them if there are. Having good light penetration and air flow makes for a healthy eco system. Another thing to consider is long term goals for your woodlot. Hazel and maple trees can both be coppiced which means to cut out the main trunk and let the shoots that come up from the stump, called a 'stool', reach a certain size before using them. This can make for very usable handles, hurdle making wood or slender poles. One interesting note is that trees which are coppiced typically don't reach the end of their natural lives for hundreds of years instead of maybe 50 years for an un-coppiced tree. So planning ahead is important. These trees are going to be around for a while.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Growing Winter Cover Crops
Winter gardening for vegetables does require some planning and work in July and August when you are growing your seedlings and then transplanting them into their permanent locations before winter comes. It seems odd to be working for the winter when it's hot outside, but the roots need time to become established in the fair weather before the sunlight fades and the nights turn cold. Things like cabbage continue to grow and mature over the winter and are protected from freezing by producing sugars as a natural anti-freeze. That's why brussels sprouts which have had a frost taste so much nicer than the ones from California where it's always warmer. Peas grow well if they mature while it's cooler such as in Spring and again in fall. We grow lettuce and spinach until they get frozen and will use a straw mulch if frost is coming. It's not a big loss if we lose some and having fresh greens is always nice. As mentioned before, just try to grow a few inside. And check out your seed catalogues, they will likely have some veggies that are meant to be grown and left in the ground until needed or that mature over the winter or into early spring. In West Coast Seeds they're conveniently marked with a snowflake symbol.
So if you don't have your winter veggies in place already...is this winter a write off? Absolutely NOT! There are still productive things you can do to improve soil structure and fertility and even to get a crop for next year. They are called cover crops and grains feature prominently. Oats planted in the fall will quickly green up and then die off when they freeze. They provide a cover for the ground preventing soil erosion and protecting seed beds from damaging heavy rains. They can help control pest problems, particularly nematodes, and they can provide forage for wild bird populations which will sometimes garner you gov't funding. By spring you just crimp it and plant through the mulch or chop it and turn it into the soil. Barley, wheat and rye provide slightly hardier crops and can be planted up until a few weeks before your frost date. Wheat, if the right variety, will die off at very cold temperatures only to burst forth with new green shoots in the spring and will yield you either grazing for livestock, green manure that can be turned into the soil while still immature or left to mature the seed heads and provide grains for your table and livestock. So think about it, doesn't it make sense to use the winter as a time to grow something hardy or to spend the time renewing the soil through green manures known commonly as cover crops. They're pretty well maintenance free and yet so very useful to organic gardeners. There are several books on this subject and courses available at Agricultural Extension last time I checked if you really want to get into the nitty gritty and chemistry of it all.
Cover crops of more variety can be grown in the spring, things like clover and buckwheat which bees love, but for now rye, oats, wheat...that's the way to go, especially here in Canada. No pests and diseases to worry about, just useful crops for the winter. And if you already don't feel like working outside then consider wheat grass. Sprouting wheat is easy, it's packed with nutrition and you can start a new batch every few days on your kitchen window sill to maintain a fresh supply. It's also cheering to look at something green and growing during the cold dark days ahead while you're standing there doing the dishes.
It's not just organic farmers who suddenly started using cover crops. Farmers for hundreds of years have known the benefits of crop rotation, having a grass ley (a year and a half rest for the fields and grazing for animals) and how to manage livestock to benefit the soil too. This isn't some new fangled 'out there' sort of idea. It works. Even commercial growers are using cover crops now and I'll admit that it's nice to not see bare fields all winter. Grape growers and orchards take advantage of their row systems to use cover crops that repel pests and provide nutrients for the trees and vines as well as a comfortable walkway. So if they can do it, so can you! Once a section of your garden is done for the year I encourage you to plant a cover crop and then not to worry about it again until spring. Every little bit of soil nutrition you can add naturally, built up over time, will benefit you with increased yields, healthier crops and less pest problems. Even raised beds benefit from a cover crop so don't think your patch is too small. My first cover crop was years ago. A cat we'd taken in peed on a sack of wheat I'd left lying around and not wanting to waste it I just broadcast all that wheat onto the patch for next years garden. Seeing that wheat green up even before the grass did was awesome! And it was easy to turn in with a tiller about a week before planting the early veggies. Here's some info from Iowa State University on a cover crop and manure application experiment they did. There's also an experimantal farm in England near where I grew up that has a long range experiment underway using various fertilizers (or no fertilizer in one case) on strips of land for over 100 years now. The aim is to monitor soil fertility in the long term to see what's sustainable and what is damaging to the environment. The more we understand about soil chemistry, the more observations they are able to record that benefit us growers and help us better manage the resources we have.
Just an Update for a rainy Monday
One of the things we researched before moving was climate data so we already knew what sorts of things to expect weather wise. One thing we overlooked though was the humidity and heat in the summer. It's much hotter than Vancouver Island during the summer and it took some getting used to. Thank goodness for fans and air conditioning or we'd have spent our first 2 weeks here living in the basement which was cooler. I think that if you're used to the warmer weather in BC's interior or other humid places in Canada like Ontario then it likely wouldn't make much difference to you. We haven't yet experienced snow, apart from 20 minutes last week when little white pellets fell for 20 minutes and melted instantly. According to our neighbours and friends we can expect the first real snowfall to not happen for weeks yet and often not until after Christmas. We'll see. Other people tell us we'll be snowed in for months. Maybe it's a matter of personal interpretation. Either way we'll let you know how the weather is so you can judge for yourself.
Steve just left for work. He doesn't really like driving and so the commute every day is a real drag for him. In a week or two he is going to move our little motorhome to Sackville and then he'll be much closer to work. The plan is to sleep over a couple of nights a week and to save money on gas. I'm still hoping they can shorten his work week to 4 days so he can work for himself here doing appliance repairs for 1-2 days. His one month review is coming up soon so he'll discuss it with his boss then. Right now he's spending almost $30 a day in gas for the commute so almost a third of his take home pay. But if we can cut down the commute somewhat then he'll be happier and better rested. And if we can get the business going then that will hopefully mean a bit more money too.
The girls did their Primary Presentation at church yesterday and sang a duet as well as spoke. They did very well! And the 'Friend' magazine was there to interview them which was cool. They think they are famous now! lol If they are featured in the magazine, I'll let you know.
Jordan is doing well at both Kung Fu and his riding lessons which is great. And Chris is actually up in time to NOT miss the bus. Hooray! All the kids are disappointed because the school bus drivers strike has been averted so now school is in session. I bet all the parents are happy though!
As you've no doubt guessed, my laptop is working once again, thanks to my wonderful husband so I can research away today online. Tonight we've got riding lessons and Steve is tuning a piano. Other than that it's a fairly quiet day. Hope you all have a great day and learn something interesting. There goes the bus, I sure hope Chris was on it! Nope he's just left, I sure hope that was the early bus! Apparently the clock on my computer is wrong (according to Chris). We'll see.
2:30 pm. Good afternoon! Well, Chris made it to the bus on time. The rain and wind cleared up at lunchtime and now it's a beautifully sunny afternoon. Jordan's preparing to take the dog for a long walk and grumbling about it. And our riding lessons are cancelled due to illness so our best wishes for the family. Nobody likes having sick kids, poor things. I've got french bread ready for the oven and when Kate is home we're going to make dinner and brownies, yum! So that's my day so far. I'm off to go work on the budget and get the money sorted out. Sounds easy, but it's not. After that I'm going to take an hour or two to work on the book now that it's been recovered by my wonderful husband. What would you like to see covered in my book? I'm always open to new ideas. Some things I take for granted that people know so it's always good to be reminded of the simple things. I appreciate all your support. Oh, did I tell you that we arranged for some vegetable garden space at a friend's place? It's just little, about 100x60 feet, but that can be used to grow loads of veggies if planned and executed properly. We're going to till it next weekend probably if the weather allows and then we'll leave the frost to kill any weeds and break up the soil. In the spring we'll put up a greenhouse and till again before marking out the plots.
It feels good to be planning again. We're really missing having livestock and the day to day chores of a farm. There's a certain sense of peace and security having a garden and animals, and we long to have that again. Well, I should get to work on my book and make some money then shouldn't I? I've had migraines for almost 2 weeks but last night Steve gave me a blessing and today I feel better so I can focus and get down to work.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Through Small And Simple Things Are Great Things Brought to Pass
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Weird and Wonderful Nova Scotia Quirks
There is a slight accent. It's a very very soft newfie with regular English words.
People honk at out of province plates as a way of being friendly. This kind of threw me at first but now I don't notice.
Banks are open really terrible old fashioned hours. Here in the valley it's 10-4 Monday to Friday. I think there may be some later hours open till 6 and a TD in New Minas open 12-4 on Saturdays but I still have to confirm that. No 8-8 banking and certainly no Sunday banking. It's a bit of a pain if you work 8-5 because it means the bank is basically never open. There is Money Mart though if you don't mind paying 3%. DO NOT USE the Cash Store. They wanted to charge us nearly $50 in fees to cash 2 cheques and at Moneymart it came to about $15. Still, having your pay direct deposited is a good idea if you can.
Roads are lumpy. Seriously lumpy. You see a sign telling you that there are bumps ahead and wonder exactly which ones they're talking about. Not all roads are bad, just some areas are much worse than others. The main highways are pretty good. Worst roads in Canada from our drive across though...Ontario.
Street signs tell you the roads that come off the one you're on but not the name of the one you're on so it's easy to get lost if you're a newcommer. I think the hwy's guys just assume that you turned onto this road so you must have seen a sign at some point and know where you are. Well, house and street signage is hit and miss so we're constantly getting turned around. Also, they sign intersections in small signs and often right at the intersection, not before, so if you don't know that's your turn you blow past it and have to turn around and come back again. And the street signs and maps don't always agree. It could be signed Bridge Street when you map says Hwy 10. I don't know if having a GPS would help but we have been around long enough now to have a good idea of where things are so we don't even really notice anymore.
School buses here for the kids are free. Woo Hoo!
Kings County, while closer to the cities and having good shopping, is very much a paper pushers delight. They have regulations for everything. I'm not kidding, the SPCA came by yesterday to give me a hand out about our dog. Her house must be 6x8 feet with a hallway and sleeping area, doors 11x13, insulated...... she must be walked twice per day for 20 minutes, given 20 feet of tether and not allowed outside for more than 16 hours at one time.... good grief! Do they think we have no common sense. It turns out that even though she sleeps inside, if she is out for 20 minutes she needs a dog house.
The county rules for building, zoning, permits, and other home building things are tight and well defined in Kings County. In contrast, Annapolis county is much looser and there are properties with no zoning at all. Depending on what you want to do with your property and how close to the city you want to be this choice of counties really can be a deciding factor. Property taxes also vary greatly, being perhaps 4 times larger in the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) than in other areas. I'd estimate that depending on your home, land size and zoning, an average property bill in rural areas will cost you $500-$600 per year whereas it will cost you $1200 in a town or village (because water and sewer are provided) and maybe $2000 in HRM. That's very subjective though so do please check it out.
On the subject of signs, they sometimes tell you the next town instead of the final destination of that road, so have a map with you.
Sales tax is 15% here and provincial income tax is higher than other provinces. But if you have children they get free dental under 10 years old and your Child Tax Credits have a provincial bonus. All in all we'll come out ahead by a couple of hundred dollars a year on our taxes.
Gas is cheaper than Montreal and northern Ontario but about the same as Vancouver Island. Not really that cheap. But not as bad as Europe.
Milk is super expensive in the Maritimes. From the moment you enter New Brunswick the milk quotas start and you'll be paying on average $7 for a 4 litre jug. Or bags if you prefer
Meat is relatively expensive here but fair quality as supermarkets go. Buying from a local farmer is definitely the way to go as it's better and cheaper. Some butchers locally also are good value for money.
There are lots of small farm markets and stands in towns and villages all over the valley. Most are great. But we went to Evans and found it was really not nice so I'd recommend avoiding it. Otherwise these little markets are great for seasonal produce.
Health care is of course free and you can call to request forms to register in Nova Scotia. There are no provincial premiums so that saves us $108 per month over BC. Your previous provinces health care covers you for 3 months after you move here.
Heating your house is done by wood, electric, furnace oil or a combination. Natural gas is still relatively rare. Oil tanks must be replaced every 10 years and firewood is about $200 per cord delivered for hardwood or $100 if you cut it yourself.
High speed internet is really slow in the country and smaller towns. But in the city there is fibre optic and it's slowly making it's way out to other areas. We're keeping our fingers crossed. It costs about the same as other places in Canada and you can bundle you tv and phone together.
Cell coverage is actually not bad all things considered and you have a good range of companies to choose from.
If you're touring around you'll see the occasional "Look-Off" that we discovered is a scenic view or Look-Out.
There are some unusual regional recipes. My friend Pam gave me an awesome book of them and the history that goes with them. I'll have to go find it and share some with you. The book is lovely and very interesting. Now where did I put that.....??
The road surfaces can be red or black/grey. Sometimes both on the same road.
Libraries are all interconnected so you can order a book that's at another branch, very nice.
You don't buy school supplies for Elementary kids, just pay the school a fee of about $40, for us anyways. And Kindergarten is called Primary in NS.
There's some confusion regarding dinner/lunch and supper/dinner and I haven't figured that one out yet.
Most roads do not have embedded cats eyes or reflectors.
There are graveyards EVERYWHERE! Little 6 person family plots to full churchyards right on the main road. It's really quite different from a city where the cemetery is hidden behind trees and bushes and has flat stones. Here most of the stones are upright, looking more like olde England. Some properties come with their own cemeteries too. At least they make for quiet neighbours.
Fences. There aren't any. About 90% of yards do not have a boundary fence. Our back yard and those of our 4 adjoining neighbours just blend together into one large space. Looks nice, but I wonder about the practicality. Maybe neighbours don't worry about property rights so much here. I'm not sure. Either way I'm going to build a run for the dog so she has an enclosed place to go.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
We still have 4 kids at home and as you can imagine, there are lots of worn out hand-me-down clothes that need the occasional stitch or 2 to keep them usable for a little while longer. Why throw them out if you can use them again? Our grandmothers knew how to keep things going and then get more life out of clothes until they were only fit for the rag bag. Socks had their heels and toes mended often but of course today in the age of 'Walmart' socks which are super cheap and of poor quality it's not really worth fixing them in most cases. But good woolen socks and tights are definitely worth it. And it's so simple, taking at most 10 minutes per hole and usually closer to 5.
How To Darn A Sock
Get some thread or wool that's close to the same thickness as your sock. Choose thinner rather than thicker if you can't match it. You can use the thread doubled up too. Trim off any loose threads but don't make the hole any bigger than it already is. Pass your wool through the eye of your darning needle in a long length but do not knot (that makes an uncomfortable lump) and you're ready. Place your sock over a darning egg or mushroom if you've got one or an old rounded light bulb will do (but be careful), really anything that will round out the area will work. Take your needle and start sewing! You need to use a running stitch, it's the basic over under stitch you learned in Kindergarten and using long stitches cover the hole in one direction with a bunch of parallel stitches and having a few stitches either side. Start wide of the hole so that you're anchoring your repair into some good unworn wool, going over and under the existing threads. Don't attempt to draw the sides together, just cover the hole in stitches. Next you do the same thing but in the other direction so that you're going left and right instead of up and down. This time you want to weave the thread over and under the existing threads. Does that make sense? You're essentially weaving wool to fill in the hole. Most holes in socks are round so if you draw the edges together you get an uncomfortable lump in the sock that can rub your foot. This way you're filling in the hole by essentially weaving a patch while maintaining the thickness of the fabric. This might not be a skill you ever use but if you take up knitting socks and realize how much time they take, you'll definitely want to keep them going for as long as possible.
Oh my goodness, it's true that you can find anything on youtube! I found a tutorial on darning socks! She is using a wooden mushroom and you can see that it's handle is helpful to keep a good grip on the project. And since it's the same method I use and described above, it gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. Happy darning! Oh, and do you mind if I change the font again? How's this one?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
How to Feed the World
So where am I going with this little social commentary? We are living in an age of both food scarcity and inflation. Food prices are rising sharply the world over. In Canada the price of wheat has doubled in 14 months for things like animal feed and flour. Gone are the days of 20kg flour for $4.99 And while that makes us moan in the developed world it makes basic food out of reach in the truly poor countries. Places like India and the African sub-continent are experiencing drought and famine like never before. As of 2010 World Hunger estimated that 925 million people as experiencing hunger. That's about 1 person in 7. Here's their definitions and stats for last year. With the bad growing conditions experienced in many of the grain growing regions of the world this year, Canada included, we can expect this number to sharply rise. We've all seen the images of starving babies and the problems seen insurmountable due to the sheer extent of the problem, of conflict, government corruption and our lack of control over the weather. We hear that the world can no longer produce enough food for all.
Well, that's a lie.
At our current population levels we do indeed produce more than enough to feed every person on Earth more than 2500 calories each day. Some estimate that everyone could eat 2700 calories per day and we'd still have lots left over. The internet is full of reports about the annual harvests in each region year by year so we know that this is true. The problem is that food resources are unevenly distributed with some areas not being able to grow or buy food and others literally throwing food away.
Here's a trailer for a documentary that I thought looked really interesting. Maybe it will make you think about what you can do to solve this problem, even a little. Buy from farmers, rely on your garden more and the store less, plan meals and shopping together...the list goes on. I talk a lot about being self-sufficient and making the best of the resources we've got. If we could all truly live like this then food could be more easily transported to poorer nations because it would be more cost effective for growers rather than shipping it to us in the rich west and hoping to get a premium price for it. After all, food is a business. And business is about making money. Let's not kid ourselves.
I know that I'll get a few comments about how famine is nature's way of lowering population and how it's weeding out the strong from the weak. (really the rich from the poor) And that's easy to say when you're not the one who's hungry. But if we give vaccinations to help save lives without regard for population growth, how come we can't give them more food too? Just a thought. And one more reason we as a family are working hard to become self-sufficient.
“Taste the Waste“ — the trailer from tastethewaste.com on Vimeo.
How To Render Lard
The steps to render lard are really quite easy. You'll need a colander, cloth for straining, large pot for heating the fat, a ladle and a slotted spoon to remove cracklings. Decide on your storage method and pick appropriate containers. I like to use glass canning jars with screw top lids. If your fat is not already cut up into little pieces you can have it ground or you can chop it by hand requiring a board and a sharp knife.
Step 1. Get some fat. Ask your local butcher, farmer or keep some back when processing your own pigs. The very best pastry lard comes from around the kidneys (called 'leaf') and this makes beautiful snowy white lard used for pastries. Render this separately if you can. For the rest of the lard we're just going to grind of chop finely all our fat and skin. I separate any bigger pieces of attached meat and give the cats and dog a treat.
Step 2. Heat a large pan on low or use a crock pot on low and fill with your ground or chopped fat. It will slowly melt and you should stir it occasionally to be sure that the bottom of the pot never gets too hot and burns the fat. I usually start out warming whatever I've got chopped up and then add more and more as the stuff in the pot melts and I get more cut. The whole process can take a couple of hours but don't be tempted to raise the heat and risk burning the fat. If you start out with frozen fat then put a little water in the pot before adding the fat. It'll stop if from scorching before the ft melts and the water will evaporate off during rendering.
Step 2 A. Open a window. If you've got the ability to do this outside then give it a go but if you're indoors and don't want a greasy smelling house then open a window or 2 (or 3).
Step 3. Once all the fat has been melted out you'll be left with cracklings (pieces of fried meat and skin) and lard. The cracklings at this stage should resemble lightly cooked ground beat and still be quite soft. Remove the cracklings to a separate container. Set your colander over a large bowl or pot to catch the melted lard. Line the colander with a single layer of cloth and strain the melted fat through. If you leave the lard too long on the heat it will turn a more golden colour and make a yellowish lard. It's still perfectly good but will make any pastry taste a little savoury. Read that as 'porkish'. Fine for a meat pie but maybe not for delicate pastries or cookies. The whiter the lard, the less odour it will have.
Step 4. Pour your strained fat into clean jars and leave to cool uncovered. It'll look like a slightly yellow liquid. Once it's cool, set and turned white or as white as it's going to get, cover the jars and store. Fats that are stored in cool conditions take longer to turn rancid than ones just stored in the cupboard so your cool room is ideal. If properly stored your lard will easily last you until next year when you do this whole process again, possibly in 6 months. Lard that's frozen can last a year. Since we're not making hydrogenated lard like the stuff in the store it will not last as long as the stuff from Safeway. But that's ok because this stuff is better for you.
Step 5. Put the cracklings back into the original pot to continue frying until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt and a little pepper. Eat as a snack or on salad for some extra crunch.
Mine is slowly heating away in the pot as we speak. I've got 8 bags of approx 6 lbs each so that should render me approximately 20 lbs of lard I should think. This lack of fat in today's pork is the reason it's got no marbling and is the other 'white dry meat'. Heritage breeds could easily yield up to 40 lbs of fat per pig and have lovely dark meat that's marbled, just like good beef. For hard working self-sufficient people the amount of calories you need is incredibly high and so you could remain perfectly healthy while eating this fattier meat. Eating meat in combination with whole grain breads, beans and lots of veggies should supply all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. Since we know so much about the necessity of vitamin C, D, A etc then we can plan our gardening appropriately.
We can plan our foraging too. In addition to foraging for greens, herbs, mushrooms and fruit we should look for rose hips, especially in the winter when everything else is gone. Rose hips (the reddish seed pod left over from a rose flower) make both delicious tea and syrup and was widely used as a vitamin C supplement traditionally in the winter. It became popular again in Britain during the second world war when Canada's cod liver oil (the supplement of choice) was not available as readily due to sinking of supply boats by the Germans. It's one of those things that survived because the poorest people were still using it as a remedy so the knowledge was in regular use. It's a fun project to do with kids, searching the bushes at the sides of a trail for wild rose hips on a sunny winter day. Rose hips can be dried and combined with other flavourings for dried tea mixes. Dried apple and rose hip is particularly nice and refreshing. Here's the recipe for syrup. Again, another easy one to do with kids.
Pick rose hips once they are as red as they will go or after the first frost. Remove any sticks, flower parts that remain and stems. Rinse well in cold water. Measure hips into a pan. Add 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of hips. So if you have 7 cups of hips you'd add 3.5 cups of water. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes uncovered until the water has reduced by half. Cool for 10 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag or multiple layers of cheese cloth. Add 1 cup of honey for every 1 cup of hip juice and mix together well. Pour into clean jars and leave until completely cool. Screw on lids (the plastic ones are good for this) and store in a cool and dark place. The syrup keeps well because of the preservative properties of the honey but should still be refrigerated once opened and watched for signs of spoiling. Hip syrup can be taken as it but is more easily accepted by the uninitiated as a sweetener in tea or on ice cream or pancakes! Yum!
There you go, 2 of my fall recipes, well sort of. I guess rendering lard is not recipe, it's a process. Gotta go stir my pot again.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Happy Cheese Day
My project in the planning stages is cheesemaking. Biggest problem of course is sourcing the milk. So I'm going to order more rennet and maybe make soft ricotta or cream cheese using store milk and lemon juice in the meantime. It's a fun sciency/cooking project and it's fast. You can make it and eat it the same day. Here's the recipe and it's super easy. Take 4 l milk. Preferably full fat non-processed but store bought milk can work too. Heat over a low-medium heat until hot and until a light foam appears on the top but don't let it boil. Remove from heat. Squeeze a lemon or two until you have 1 cup of fresh lemon juice. Strain it so there are no bits. Mix into the milk and slowly stir, watching to see the curd form from the reaction with the acid in the lemon juice. Next let it sit for a couple of minutes to cool down a bit, I usually let it sit for upto a half hour. Take a large colander and line it with a couple of layers of clean cheese cloth or really any clean fabric or stocking will do but if you use fabric make sure it's clean and use only a single layer. Place the colander and cloth into a sink or over a deep bowl to catch the whey and then gently pour in the milk mixture. Bring the sides of the cloth together to form a sort of bag and secure with a clip or a rubber band. Let the whey drip from the colander for at least 25 minutes and up to an hour or more if you've got the time. If you have it dripping into your sink be sure that the bottom of the colander isn't sitting in whey but up a little bit. Put your newly formed fresh unripened cheese in the fridge after you have salted to taste (if you want to add salt) and it'll keep for 2-3 days. It's good to eat on fresh bread with jam or on biscuits too. We also use it in lasagna if it lasts more than a day which is rare as our kids like it. We use the whey as pig or chicken food but you can also use it to bake bread in place of the water. You should use a non-reactive pot for heating the milk which means enamel lined or stainless steel. Both aluminum and copper are reactive with the acids in foods.
Here's another more traditional method to try if you have rennet. I'll make up some easy method ricotta and take a picture or two to show you. I know Kate would love to help.
There's the kids bus. I should go and protect my loaves of banana bread from the horde of ravenous beasts.
****UPDATE: I'm so thrilled to report that I found a source for real milk while out getting my side of pork tonight. I guess it really works to just talk to everyone! Woo Hoo! Oh shoot...first I've got to order the rennet.****
Monday, October 10, 2011
Everyone can learn a new practical skill
Not everyone around us is convinced that they should be prepared for food shortages, it's a fact. Despite religious counsel, government suggestion and local emergency management officials who regularly warn people to have either a 72 hour kit or 7 day supply of essentials. In BC even the electricity company, BC Hydro, was selling 72 hour kits at one point. Doesn't that give you a hint? I've heard some people say that if all hell breaks loose then they'll just steal their neighbours food or that the government will provide. But if we look at something fairly recent in history like Katrina, the government could not react quickly enough so they imposed martial law in an effort to protect infrastructure and to keep people from banding together.
So where are you on the prep scale. Let me be quite frank. in my opinion there are only really 3 places on the scale. Prepared. Preparing. And in Denial.
Prepared. You have a 1 year supply of food, fuel, clothing and other commodities and the necessary tools and skills thereafter to provide for your family. You can build a home, hunt, grow a garden, harvest wild food and protect your loved ones. Your supplies are secured in multiple locations and you have a long-term plan for the future should the worst happen.
Preparing. You know that the threat is real and are actively working each week to stock your supply of food with the most practical and nutritious foods so that your family stays healthy. This does not involve a lot of prepared foods that ate high in sodium but lacking in micro nutrients and fibre. You rotate your food supply so that nothing becomes out dated, swollen, rotten, bug infested or attracts rodents. You have a plan of what you want, you have an inventory list of what you've already got, and you've got a water source or stored water to last 6 weeks that's refreshed every 6 months (we recommend picking dates you'll remember so we do ours in October and April). You take the time to learn skills. Maybe it's something like sourcing your own firewood. Can you tell softwood from hard? Or how to grow a cabbage. Maintaining your tools and their proper uses is always important because a good tool makes work easier. Preserving food is another way you can learn a valuable skill that helps feed your family while taking advantage of wild food that's free for the taking. But a word to the wise, be sure you know what you're eating in advance so that you're
not roaming the hills with your stomach rumbling and eating the first thing that looks edible, there are plenty of things that can make you sick or kill you, some toadstools for example. I love this time of year for it's mushroom supply but I'm not going picking here just because I don't know how to identify the edible local species. One thing we are going to do though is go cranberry picking. I might take the kids out to enjoy an afternoon in the sunshine gleaning cranberries from the fields just east of us in Waterville. They're charging $1 per litre so it should fit within my $20 budget for this week and it will teach us about cranberries. If you lack the financial resources to store large quantities of food all at once you still have the best resource available to you. Your mind. Fill it with useful knowledge and skills. Knowledge is readily available, especially with the internet and libraries can be useful too. Skills can be traded for food. Still try to store food, but learning a practical skill will be helpful to a community too. But one thing you must do it get some hands on practice. Skills in your mind are not the same as actually doing them with your hands. An author can make something sound easy and then you'll experience lots of frustration and splinters while perfecting the skill. Practice first before assuming you know how to do something.
Denial. You think that preppers and these 'hippy types' are all nuts and that should anything unexpected happen your family, friends, neighbours or the government will provide anything you need. Well, I don't know about you but I don't want to be a burden on my family. If this is your belief then I wish you well in the future and hope that you are right and that nothing bad happens to any of us.
We all have our own free will to choose what we want to do. And to be honest, most of the people who read this blog are actively learning back to the land skills and/or preparing for a future that might not be as easy as the lifestyles we currently have. A community of people with diverse skills and a vision of the future that makes plans for different eventualities is what I want to build. First as an online community sharing experiences and ideas. And then as a physical place people can come, a teaching school of practical skills where people can get some knowledge and hands on experience so that they can go and share the knowledge with others. There are so many skills that we've forgotten in our rich nations over the last 100 years. And not all of it can be found in books because it was something that was just taken for granted by our ancestors and not written down. Oh, and for the record, this is NOT my store room. Mine has a lot less packaged food and maybe 2 boxes of stove top. I'd rather save the space for more calorie dense and nutritious foods.
And no, the vast majority of preppers and back to the landers are not hippies. Frankly, we're not interested in the 'free love' movement and are too busy tending our farmsteads to even worry about that. It seems to me that every time I cross a chore off my To Do list another one gets added to the bottom. I bet it's the same for most of us.
I see lots of ads online telling us to buy this product or this book that will tell us everything we need to know to be prepared because the end of the world is coming. And I have to wonder if they're just selling things to make money and not to benefit mankind. Scare tactics in marketing work. Well, I'm thinking that when my book is finally out I'm going to offer it as a PDF for cheaper so that it's available to more people. And then if they deem it worthy of keeping, they can buy a physical copy. I prefer to have actual books so that they are available when I want them and I'm not at the mercy of my laptop battery.I don't mean to scare anyone but I do wish we'd all be prepared. For our family it's a real struggle as we're not exactly rolling in money, but when I can't buy something I still try to learn something useful and practice the skills I've already got so I don't become rusty. The only thing is that the more I prepare, the more I realize I'm not as prepared as I want to be. I still believe that we should be hoping for the best but planning for the worst. Getting ready mentally, spiritually and physically will give us all a sense of greater peace and security. Having knowledge and skills also helps us to not give in to panic but to maintain a clear head and make good decisions. This is really important in times of turmoil or crisis.
Now is not the time to panic. It's the time to get ready. Once the ship is already sinking, it's too late to prepare. None of us really knows what's going to happen to oil and food prices in the coming months and years or how long our employment will last. Life is full of unknowns. So what are you doing to prepare? Let's share some ideas. Comment below and I'll compile a list of the ideas to be added at the end of this post. Here are a few of ours.
Have a plan
Buy a new good quality tool once a year
Looking for a farm to buy
Buy books with useful information
Practice cottage craft skills
Learn how to grind and use wheat
Practice growing a garden
Trade with my neighbours and local farmers
Read and know what's going on in the world