Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tapping Maple Trees - How To Make Maple Syrup

This weekend begins our sugaring season. That is, turning the sap from our maple trees into maple syrup. We'll use plastic jugs, taps, a drill fitted with a 5/16 drill bit and a large pan for boiling. It's not a complicated process at all, and it's sort of fun too with a long tradition in Canada.

Pics to follow.

Normally you'd tap sugar maple trees because they have the highest concentration of sugar in the sap. But other trees will make syrup too. Regular old maple trees, birch and walnut will all make a delicious syrup if you boil down and concentrate the sap. After all, the sap is basically a sugary liquid that the trees use to store their energy over the winter. And you don't even need any special equipment either. The natives used carved taps or hollow reeds. Today we use plastic taps attached to hoses or metal taps with a hook on them for holding a bucket or jug. The thing is to find what works for you and does the smallest amount of damage to your trees. The basic method hasn't changed, just the equipment.

But why make your own syrup? It's time consuming to say the least.

Well, because it's a good sugar substitute, you can sell it, if you buy it in the store it's expensive, it makes a great gift or bartering item, and it's also then part of your food storage. Once you've bought the taps you can re-use them year after year just like the other equipment.

Ok, so have I convinced you to try it? It's's how.

Determine the best time of year. It's when the night time temperature is below freezing and the daytime is above. Usually in February, March and April depending on your climate.

Locate your maple trees (or birch, walnut, hickory) and determine both the south side and the diameter of the tree. You shouldn't tap a tree of less than 9 inches diameter and then you can put one tap for every 9-12 inches of diameter. Really, the fewer the better for the health of the tree. If there are any large roots or branches on your tree, that's a good area of flow so tap there.

Drill a hole between 20-30 inches off the ground with a very slight upward angle using a 5/16 drill bit and make the hole approx. 1.5 inches deep. Preferably on the south side. Put your tap in and gently knock it into place using a hammer. It'll take a minute but the sap will back up behind your tap and then start flowing down and out of the tap.

Here's where your choices come into play. You can hang a milk or water jug on the hook on the tap or put plastic tubing over it and run the tubing into a central collection tank. Or you can check the trees daily and empty the jugs into a bucket.

Run your collected sap through a filter. A clean pillowcase over a bucket works for this. You basically want to get out any dirt, bark or other bits before you boil so as to not leave a nasty flavour in your finished syrup.

Boil your sap for as long as it takes to reach a temperature 7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than boiling water in your area, which changes with altitude of course. Here near sea level water boils at 212f so we boil until the syrup is 219. Use a candy thermometer for this part. And really keep a close eye on your syrup once it's getting close to 219, it can scorch so easily and be ruined. One other thing to takes approx. 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. That other 39 gallons is going to come off the boiling sap as steam and water vapour and trust don't want that going on inside your house for the 12-24 hours of boiling it could take. So boil outside over a wood fire (free or cheap) if at all possible. Turkey fryers work too. We are going to build a little fire pit with a sturdy support for our boil off this year and hopefully the neighbours won't complain.

After the syrup has cooled for a few minutes, run it through another filter to remove any sugar crystals that have formed. Bottle and enjoy or better yet, trade with your neighbours!

See, I told you it was easy. I'll let you know how it works out for us. Maybe if I get brave I'll tap the trees before Steve comes home this weekend and get a batch boiled down for breakfast on Sunday. I guess it depends on the weather and the sap flow.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Snow Day!

There's no school today so we're hanging out together. Jordan has a science fair project due tomorrow, the girls made me breakfast in bed (eggs and toast) all by themselves which made me a bit nervous, and Chris is just hanging out online as far as I can tell. There's not too much snow though, maybe a couple of inches, and the plow has already been up and cleared and salted the road. Either way I'm not going out anywhere today because the transmission went in Steve's van so he's taken mine into the city for work. We did find a cheap little clunker that runs ok for $700 so we're going to get it and fix it up. It's 2 and rust, so we'll be doing some body work and a few other repairs in order to get it to pass the required Motor Vehicle Inspection that's mandatory in Nova Scotia every 2 years. We will get the transmission fixed in the other van...but it'll take us a while to save up the money. A rebuilt transmission installed will run us around $2000. A used one about $900 but of course there are no guarantees with a used one and the labour to replace one is $500 per time. It's cheaper to get the little car up and running. I think we'll call it Rusty. We name all our vehicles (call it a family quirk) and Rusty is a 1997 VW Golf hatchback. Perfect for Steve to run around town in. His tools all fit, it's not too bad on gas, and you can fit appliances and coffee machines in the back with the seats folded down. If we save some $$$ on gas then it'll pay for itself eventually as well. Heck, it's supposed to get somewhere around 23 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. Compared to the 14 mpg city and 20 highway of our van, it's going to save a few bucks in gas each week...possibly as much as $200 a month. Wouldn't that be nice! Especially given our nearly $1.40 per litre gas prices at the moment. We used to have a little Subaru Justy that Steve just loved too. Not great for driving around kids but certainly good for everything else except going to Costco :)

It's lunchtime now. I've had some distractions and the morning had flown past. Jordan's study buddy is coming over soon. Chris has some shoveling to do. Kate is doing her chores and I'm cooking up a delightful lunch of perogies baked with cheese on top, sausage, grilled onions, roasted yams and sour cream. Easy and filling for a nice cold weather meal. Dinner tonight is unknown. Either shepherds pie or fish. I'll decide later and see what I'm in the mood for.

After lunch I've got a bunch of work to get done as well as some reading, research and hopefully some writing. I'm woefully behind schedule.

It's lightly snowing again on top of the 3 inches we now have. But it's not overly windy so that's good. With the wood we've been burning recently I think we've used a couple of cords now to heat the house. We haven't used too much wood because the weather's been pretty warm and also partly because we keep the house cooler and the furnace doesn't run 24 hours a day and the house has good insulation so it holds it's temperature relatively well. Unless of course Jordan has his window wide open...which he often does.

I've gotta run. I'll finish this update later.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fuel Prices are on the Rise

It's official, gas is up again, for the 8th time in 9 weeks. It's now 137.1 per litre. Sigh. Here in Nova Scotia, the gasoline price fluctuates only once per week. On Thursday, you'll hear a 'best guess' prediction on the radio and if it's going up you'll often see line-ups at the pumps too. Prices here go up on Friday.

That property is still for sale...$40,000 and all 97 glorious acres of it are ours. So if you know anyone who does private mortgages...let me know. Heck, we'll pay upto 10% interest if it means getting the land we want now.

And just when we thought that things were going pretty good...the transmission is gone in our work van. It's not good.

But on a brighter note... the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day. I got a new jacket at Frenchy's (the used and new clothing store) for $6 and my meat order will be ready tomorrow. I got some great news froma friend that her long awaited divorce has come throgh and I got some clothes for a friend who needs some. I got to go visit with my friend Somer which is ALWAYS a delight...and so I'm feeling like no matter what happens with the van, we'll manage. Together we'll get through our trials. I can say 'together' because Steve is coming home today. He'll have to get the van towed home and is planning on catching a ride with the tow truck. I'll just pick him up at the garage in Nictaux. Anyways, I'm enjoying htis glorious day of warm and sunny weather before the snow comes tonight. Thoughts of Spring are dancing in my head and I'm thinking that picking up my taps for the maple trees is a good idea right about now.

This written work by Elizabeth Faires is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Please attribute back to the author.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wild Critters in Nova Scotia - Snakes

You might be wondering about the wildlife that lives here in Nova Scotia. Well, compared to other places we've lived there's not much. Certainly this area has been long settled by humans so the vast deer populations are no more. I thought we'd discuss some of the supposed menaces over the next week.

So let's begin with snakes.

Around the world there are approximately 125,000 fatal snake bites per year. But in North America the snakes are generally less venomous (poison injecting). Various rattle snakes, water moccasin, coral and copperheads are all natives of North America and pose a threat to humans, livestock and pets. But just how much of a risk? In all of North America there are approximately 8000 bites to humans by venomous snakes annually and of that number about .1% die, or 8 people. Why such a low number? Not every snake will inject venom, many will in fact give you a good chomp the first time to get you to clue in to what you're doing to tick the snake off. If you don't smarten up then they'll give you a second nastier and juicier shot. Some snakes are more poisonous than others...even within the same family. Rattle snakes vary widely in how much damage their venom will do. But besides the issue of the exact species of also depends on where you get bitten (closer to the heart or head is very bad) whereas a foot is better because you can slow the spread of the venom and give your body a chance to fight back. It also depends on if you're being given a glancing blow of a full on bite and injection of venom by a large snake. If you're a small person, child or pet then that's not as good as if you're a horse or a 250 lb man.

Either way, clearing your immediate home site of potentially deadly snakes is a good idea. Having them live out in the fields miles from the house is one thing...having nests in your woodpile or pasture is another. Why flirt with danger when you can just take care of the problem using the age old solution...bird shot. You don't have to worry about having the anti-venom if you don't get bit in the first place.

So, back to Nova Scotia. You'll be pleased to know that there are NO VENOMOUS SNAKES here. And in fact most snakes remain tiny, averaging a foot or so in length with 3 feet being the very largest for a few individuals. Certainly not the rattlers seen in the west. Yes, Alberta has the black widow spider, prairie rattle snake and even scorpions that are native. Nova Scotia has little grass snakes.

Venomous snakes abound the world over, but not here in Nova Scotia. Here's an identification of our local snakes courtesy of the Government of Nova Scotia.

The Garter Snake - common to all areas of Nova Scotia and widely distributed in Canada. We have the Maritime Garter in Nova Scotia. This little snake is brown with 2 lighter stripes down it's sides and averages 45-65 cm in length. Eats toads, worms, frogs, salamanders, fish and small birds. Found near water and hibernates from Sept. to Apr.

The Eastern Smooth Green Snake averages a foot to a foot and a half in length, eat spiders, snails, moths and other insects and are great tree climbers. This little green guy is commonly found on lawns and gardens in town as well as near water in the wild. They hibernate Oct. to late Apr.

The Norther Ringneck Snake has a yellowish band around his neck and a yellowish belly. They average only 25-35cm and eat salamanders, frogs, worms, insects and other small snakes. This woodland / wetland snake is active at night and hibernates from Sept. to mid May.

The Northern Redbelly Snake has an orange to red belly and a back in varying shades of grey, brown or black. The average size is 30 cm but occasional 90 cm snakes have been seen. They eat mainly slugs (I love this snake) and live in grassy areas near water. Active in evening, night and cloudy day times, they hibernate from Oct -Apr.

The Northern Ribbon Snake is black or brown and has 3 yellow stripes running down it's backand sides. Averaging a foot and a half to 2 feet long, this snake is easy to identify. It eats insects, spiders and amphibians and lives near quiet streams, pools and wet areas. They hibernate from Oct. to late Apr. and are active during the day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Poor and Homeless in America - Did we create this problem?

Really, this covers people in many parts of the world. Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific...homeless or extremely poor people are everywhere. Here's an interesting report to view from the BBC if you've got a half hour. But it does show a political bias and seems to blame the bad things that are happening on a lack of welfare programs and employment. And while I whole heartedly agree that the imbalance of wealth is causing some real suffering, I also believe that the education and daily living skills we give our kids, that ability to make do and make the best of a situation, the desire to work for the basics, these are the foundations of a community that can weather storms be they economical or physical. Increasing resilience is important in this next generation of spoiled and coddled children who can barely hold down a 1-5 job at the grocery store because it might interfere with their 'personal life'.

Now I'm not saying that all poor people are lazy. But some families and communities definitely have an accepted idea that it's ok to not work year round or to just not work at all and live on welfare. This kind of culture is evident in many places. And it's this lack of expectation for something better that leaves people trapped in a mindset that poverty is someone else's fault. It's such a complex problem and there really are no magic pills or easy fixes. It's going to take years to educate people so that they want to move forward and so that the work and skills they'll need are there for them.

That's part of the reason that I'm so much into self-sufficiency. If communities can form around the basic idea that we all work together and we share the skills we have for the benefit of the community, then that's great. I'm not talking about communism where we are all equal; Communism does not work. I'm thinking about a community where we all do our own thing and are largely self-sufficient but where we trade and barter too. Those who work hardest and have better skills will do better but those who are less skilled. Sure they won't have all the luxuries but at least it will be a decent life and everyone can reap the fruits of their own labours. The sick are taken care of, children are taught to work and are treasured, the elderly are valued for their wisdom. We all look out for each other. Sigh. This can only happen if we are willing to accept that we are not all equal but that we have a common goal. It's how villages work, and what's the world really but a collection of villages all linked together.

If I had my way, I'd find some like minded people and buy a piece of land (I found a great piece near here that's almost a hundred acres for $45,000) for us to live and farm on. We'd legally divide it up and build our own homes and farms. I'd have some say in who my neighbours are and I wouldn't have to worry about people stealing my firewood or letting out the goats because they would understand and respect our farming philosophies. We'd all have our own homes and farms but maybe we'd trade my honey for your eggs. If this sounds interesting to you...let me know! 2 more families would be really welcome and I can send you pics of the land. :)

But since that seems unlikely to happen right now, we just focus on teaching our children the practical skills that many have forgotten. No teenager wants to be learning how to grow and cook beans when he could be out with his buddies, but we really hope that in the future it will turn out to be useful information and that by building both character and work ethic we have children who are happy and successful adults no matter what they decide to do with their lives. Maybe if some of the people featured in this video had a garden or some food stored away, they could have weathered the tough economic times better or at least bought themselves some time to figure out what to do. Maybe they would realize that food in the cupboard is more important than payments on a new car or computer. Maybe they'd remember that times have been tough before (think great depression in the 30's) and people had sayings they lived by like this one:

Fix it up, wear it out, make do or do without.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Starting Tomato Plants From Seed

So today is the day I start getting everything in order for beginning my tomato plants from seed. SO obviously that means buying seed. This year I'm getting mine from a couple of different places...Incredible Seed and Annapolis Seeds. Both are local to me and sell heritage varieties. I should be able to save seeds from this year for next so I can see what performs well in my garden and hopefully repeat the success for following years.

Here's what I've ordered:

Sunberry - it's actually a fruiting bush that is grown as an annual and the berries used for jam and pie. Grows like it's tomato relatives.

Garden Peach Yes, it's actually fuzzy.
Pink Boar
Berkeley Tie Dye
San Marzano Great for making sauce
Amish Paste Ditto for this one
Chiapis Wild Lovely flavour for snacking
Chadwicks Cherry
Yellow Pear
Pineapple Lovely flavour
Clear Pink
Elizabeth Hey it's my name so I thought I'd give it a try.

This selection has me covered for beauty, salads, sauce, canning, and snacking in the garden. If I get even a 50% germination rate then we should be looking at 160 plants for the garden and I'll likely sell some to the neighbours for a few dollars each. Just think...If I can sell 40 plants for $2 each then I'll have made back all my seed costs and soil and potting expenses. Plus I'll have a bunch of plants for myself. And maybe I can sell more...who knows! If it goes really well then I might try selling a few at the Farmers Market at the local mall...I know that I find it really hard to avoid buying plants once the weather has warmed up. Maybe there are more people out there like me.

Some people will start their tomato plants under grow lights but I favour the more labour intense and cheaper method of starting the trays inside and then transferring out into the greenhouse during the day a month later. On cool nights I'll haul all the trays back indoors again. I won't likely start my seeds until the end of Feb. beginning of March simply because I don't want them to get too leggy before I transplant them into the garden in May. If I figure that I'll keep them 8-10 weeks before transplanting them out then it makes sense to just count back from that date to see when to seed my trays. And the same goes for any early crops you're thinking of planting out after the frost is done. You can get a real jump on the season and increase your chances of getting 2 crops in a garden space by planning ahead. But one word of wisdom from me to you...don't put all your eggs in one basket...a late snowcover could decimate your plants even in May so reserve some seed or plant in the summer. It's a gamble every year to see if I can get an earlier crop than my neighbours and not lose everything to a frost. Maybe I'll put a little wood stove out in the greenhouse this year...we'll see.

I'll post up some pics of these tomato varieties later bt right now I'm due over at the church for a craft meeting. I'll talk to you all soon. Hope things are looking good for you all.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wow it's been a busy week!

Got some good things planned to write about tomorrow but it's already late and I'm tired! Chris was an hour late finishing rugby practice so that put a wrench in the works. The rest of the kids are in bed though and I'm heading there in a few minutes. Tomorrow...tomatoes! But to give your spirit a lift, here's a link to a good photo essay showing the beauty of agriculture around the world. Enjoy some lovely pictures!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day For People Who Hate It

Happy Valentine's Day.

I know that not everyone appreciates this day, writing it off as something for people with a sweetheart, new lovers, or as a way for the card and flower companies to make a fast buck. And maybe that's true. Restaurants busiest days are Mothers Day and Valentine's Day, same for flower delivery services. But does that make it inherently a bad idea to celebrate love? People were against mothers day when it was first introduced and the idea took decades to get off the ground. Same for Fathers Day. I think that any day that celebrates something positive can't be a bad thing. If it means that some grumpy old guy shows his tender side by buying flowers for his sweetheart of many years...that's good. If a schoolgirl makes cupcakes for her friends...that's good too.

There are many ways to celebrate love and it doesn't have to be romantic love at all. Love for your children, family, friends, and even your pets could be celebrated. Giving selflessly of your time to help another shows love and caring. Sort of like the 'Christmas Spirit' that fades by this time of the year. So rather than dwelling on those we miss, or our own loneliness, maybe this year it's a good idea to do something nice for someone else and to feel good about ourselves. Loving yourself is really hard for some people and it might take some practice so why not start this year.

In our house we're celebrating in some odd ways. I made the kids a nice pizza dinner yesterday and the girls requested sausage casserole for dinner tonight. I helped the girls make several dozen cupcakes and they had fun decorating them...I should have taken a picture. Tonight after I pick Kate up from dance class I'm heading down to Mt. Uniacke where Steve has his motorhome parked and I'm surprising him with dinner (the aforementioned sausage casserole) and maybe we can just hang out and talk about plans for the future. Hopefully the roads are good enough for me to drive. It's sunny out right now so I'm going to shovel off the driveway this morning in an effort to dislodge my van.

Have a good day, however you celebrate it. Love yourself and remember...everyone is

Orkut Scrap Graphics in their own unique way.
Orkut Scrap Graphics

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Well the dance and the potluck went really well. Everyone had a great time and we weren't hampered much by the weather. But I got sick during the night so I was glad when church was cancelled due to snow. I just thought I'd send this little update and let you know I haven't forgotten about you. I'll write again tomorrow. Promise.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wild Weather for the Sweethearts Dance

We've got the decorations all finished and the desserts half done so now it's a matter of getting all the kids ready, getting their hair done, getting myself ready, Steve has 2 service calls, and then we're off in the rain to the Sweethearts Dance and Potluck at the church. It's going to be a fun night. I'll take pics for you to see.

The only possible snag is going to be the weather. Here's the current alert, and it's been raining pretty much a light rain for the past few hours. So right now it looks rather innocuous but it could change rapidly. Here's the weather report:


Kings County
11:00 AM AST Saturday 11 February 2012
Winter storm warning for
Kings County continued

Snowfall amounts ranging from 15 to 30 centimetres combined with blowing snow and freezing rain tonight.

This is a warning that dangerous winter weather conditions are expected in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

An intense low pressure system will bring rain, snow and freezing rain to Nova Scotia tonight. The precipitation has begun this morning as light rain and will intensify later in the day. A rain/snow boundary will set up near the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border this evening then move southeastward later in the evening to lie along the Annapolis Valley to Colchester County region and continue to move southeastward overnight. Heavy snow can be expected north of this boundary with heavy rain to its south. A mix of snow and rain is expected along the boundary combined with an extended period of freezing rain which could lead to significant icing. The bulk of precipitation should end over Western Nova Scotia overnight and by Sunday morning over eastern mainland Nova Scotia. Over Cape Breton, periods of snow may continue through the day Sunday.

The storm will also produce a storm surge. This in combination with a run of high astrological tides will produce higher than normal water levels at the high tides tonight and Sunday. This will be particularly so for the Atlantic coast of Eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton at the high tide near midnight tonight when rough and pounding surf is also expected. Additionally the Northumberland strait will experience some ice rafting at the high tide near noon on Sunday as strong winds drive the ice onshore along north facing coastlines. The ice in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence should limit the development of rough and pounding surf.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Groundhog's Day 2012

According to our local groundhogs, winter is only supposed to last for 2 more weeks. But it's cold and snowing today so I'm not sure. All I know is that at some point in the summer I'll be begging Steve to turn on the Air Conditioning and wishing it was cold. This morning has brought fresh snow and minus 6. So all in all it's not too bad for the beginning of February and we'll see how the rest of the month, but more importantly March, turn out. A nice warm spell in March would mean I can get working in the garden. I'll probably put up the greenhouse at the beginning of March too.

Meghan was excited to get to try curling her hair so she got up early this morning to make her lunch and then we spent some time getting some big curls into her hair. I'll attach a picture. She's prancing and singing all around the house flaunting her new bouncy hair! lol It's hard to believe that I gave birth to such a girly girl. :)

I'm babysitting today for the afternoon and evening. Should be otherwise a fairly quiet day. I'm going to go look for some sewing stuff I need to make some white clothes and maybe some seed starting stuff too, if it's on sale. Lots to do before lunch time so I should get going. TTYL.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We Are Not Perfect....

Here's a good lesson for anyone, but particularly for women because we do tend to compare ourselves to others around us. It's a quote from an address given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf during the most recent Women's Conference.

I hope you can appreciate all the good things that you do in your life. You are a good person, and you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and get better every single day. After all, life is a journey of miles made up of single steps. Each little thing you can do to become a happier and more loving person is a blessing to you and to those around you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spring Shearing

It's that time again...time to book the shearing of your animals for when the weather warms up in a few months.

Shearing your animals is an annual ritual for many of our wooley friends. Alpacas, sheep, llamas and some goats are all kept for their wool among other reasons and to get that wool off you have to shear it which involves using clippers and giving them a buzz cut. It doesn't leave them bald, it leaves about an inch of wool on them, so that they stay comfortable. After all, they have a wool coat to keep them warm and dry. And in my experience, we always seem to get a cold snap right after we shear. Here's Rod in action a few years ago. He now has a lovely table that he uses for shearing but using the clean grass was fine too. That's a temporary pen Steve knocked together for the boys to wait their turns in. And here's a before and after picture. See how skinny and funny looking they are afterwards? Even the other alpacas were laughing at him. Don't worry, they appreciate having a lighter coat once the weather gets hot and it grows back in plenty of time to keep them warm in the winter.

Why shear? Well, for the wool of course that can be spun into yarn, made into felt, and used for other products. Wool and fiber are as much crops as hay or corn. Personally, I just spin and felt my fiber. But I'll talk about that another day. Shearing is also part of a health maintenance program. By inspecting your fleeces you can see if there's a problem with the individual strands of hair which might indicate a problem with diet, you can check for insect infestation in the fleece such as worms, lice and other nasties, and you can of course see the skin more clearly so it's a good time to check for any abnormal looking patches of skin that might indicate a problem. If you don't shear your animals, their coats can become matted and cause discomfort as well as harbour pests. I have almost never had a problem with bugs but after shearing we would use a watering can to drench them with medicated liquid or sometimes use diatomaceous earth sprinkled on them which works into their fleeces better when they are freshly shorn. Some people never treat their animals, it's a personal decision.

So, how do you shear yourself? Well, for the most part, people don't. They save their animals the stress of an inexperienced shearer (you and I would take hours to do it) and they hire in a professional or they take their animals to a larger farm to have them shorn at the same time as someone else's animals. SOme of the best shearers in the world can shear a sheeo in under 50 seconds and they do hundreds a day during shearing season in places like Australia and New Zealand where farmers have mobs of sheep numbering in the thousands. We just have alpacas and sheep normally. We used a lovely couple from BC for our shearing and Rod came out to the farm which meant no transporting our animals. He'd come, shear, and be gone in under an hour. Of course we prepared first by having a clean and dry area for him to work in and having the animals penned nearby. If you'd like to contact him he's at shearingbc at yahoo dot com. He does all of BC as far as I know and other places too. He moves around depending on the weather and does the warmer places earlier in the year and the cooler places a little later. But give him a shout if you're looking for a reasonably priced guy who has plenty of experience.

Now I'm not saying that you CAN'T shear your own animals. Of course you can. That's what a lot of small holders have done for centuries either with shearing clippers that look like flattened scissors or with electric ones. I'm just saying that it might be one of the chores that you bring in help for. And the clippers can be pricey. But if you do want to learn I'll post up a video for you. It's a pretty good instructional video but there's really no substitute for hands on experience.

Nick mentioned that I should add some clips from that BBC show we all love so much called Edwardian Farm so here's the first. This episode is split into 4 parts on YouTube and wouldn't you know it...the shearing is at the end of part 1 and the middle of part 2. But they're both worth watching in their entirety and maybe you'll learn not only about shearing but silage, bordeaux mixture for your potatoes and making soft cheese too. Enjoy! And don't forget to click on part 2 of episode 10 to see more shearing.