Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year In Review

January - COLD!! Lots of snow and ice. Jordan broke his ankle and we spent a night at Ronald McDonald house while he had surgery.

February - Weather is still bitter and nasty for man and beast. Absolutely horrible out but plans for Spring, food preserving etc. all continue.

March - First lambs are born in bitter weather. Spring is nowhere in sight but life continues and we're working on getting the bare mobile ready for habitation. A $1000 trailer doesn't come with many frills or even a kitchen in our case. It's not a lot of fun working in the cold but it still has to be done.

April - Barely warm but we'll take it. Spring was late coming in 2014. We got the water and power hooked up and house ready for sleeping in. Nothing fancy but it's clean and functional, if small.

May - Time to move! Permanently! And wouldn't you know it one of the ewes gave birth the Saturday we moved. Fun! Gardening begins in earnest, ploughing, planting, seeding and caring for lambs. Our first wwoofers are expected soon so work on the humanure toilet, outdoor bath/shower and cabin had to be finished. All hands on deck! And Steve and the kids and I built a storage shed for all the insulation we were able to get for cheap for later use.

June/July/Aug - If you can believe it, snow on June 4th wiped out all above ground crops. Time to re-plant and gear up for wwoofers and summer. Lots of the usual animal care, weeding etc. We had a fun summer and despite hurricanes that wiped out power for days when it was hot enough to cook an egg, we survived and got lots done. Next year we definitely want to run a solar hot water system after leaving our water pipes above ground for a week and experiencing the joys of free hot water. Better than bating in the slow pools beside the river and coming home with leeches like Meghan did, lol.

September - Harvest in earnest. The addition is going up now. We'd like to get it enclosed before bad weather stops outside work so we work like mad and it's done before the first big rain hits. And yes there's a leak in the roof joint but it's still warm enough to dry out and fix the problem. Lots of apples to process now.

October/November - Apple pie making time! And sauce. And cake. It's time to use nature's bounty to the fullest. There are so many delicious vegetables available and fruits and nuts too. Happy Thanksgiving. We're working on filling in the trench with the water pipes now that they are insulated and have heat tape. The pipes did freeze a couple of times but after lots of exploration Steve discovered that a small spot under the trailer in an access area behind the tub and toilet was blasting in cold air and freezing the main line inside the house. Steve re-ran the pipes and problem solved. Bless him, he also took my suggestion and installed the woodstove we found on Kijiji for $60 in the kitchen where the cookstove will go next year. He even build me a baffle for it and it works perfectly. It's a little airtight thing that I can cook on and with the help of a fan it blows warm air all through the trailer.  Chris is home again and I appreciate the extra hands. He's living in his own little trailer. But the best part of Autumn? I got to attend ACORN conference and it was awesome. I learned a ton!

December - We have the addition exterior finished except for trim. The insulation is in and the vapour barrier too. So we have a semi-heated dining room and future bedroom but for now we're still sleeping in the living room which is warmer anyways. Christmas was lovely, time spent with family and friends with little stress and lots of rest. The weather was crazy with Christmas day being +18 degrees. Now it's turned much colder and at time of writing it's -18 with the windchill. Brrr! Our sheep are safely tucked in their barn, the poultry and goat are in theirs, and the dog is expecting puppies in a month. William is moving into his own place in January so the kids are planning a big bedroom shuffle and are very excited.

Looking back over the year we got a well, power, a septic system and the mobile all set up. We moved in, we grew a lot of food and best of all we learned a ton and fell even more in love with this place. Humblebee Farm, we love you! We'll take care of you and you take care of us. Thanks for all the blessings in 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The End Is In Sight, for 2014 that is.

It's been such a crazy year and there's loads to update you all on so I'm going to dedicate myself to doing a final tally and review tomorrow. We had a great year and learned lots, so it should be fun. I'm just posting this short update to see who is still an active subscriber and to sort things out so that when we begin 2015 I'm more organized.

Best Wishes to you all.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

WWOOF Canada and Worldwide

Unlike slugs in the garden, my article on slugs has disappeared so I'll have to find and re-post it. Sorry about that.

Today is a very wet one with 40mm of rain expected in the next 12 hours or so and maybe some thunder showers too this afternoon. So what do you do with wwoofers who are wanting to work and learn but can't because of the weather? You give them homework. Now as many of you know, not all work at a farm is outdoors but at this time of year most of it is field work which can be made near impossible by heavy prolonged rain. And I'm not sure I want to be out sloshing over my fields today anyway. It's true that work doesn't stop for the weather but we have to be practical. The animals are fed and bedded down except for a few brave roosters out for a walk and the turkey toms who have only just decided that it's not going to stop raining so they'd be best off indoors. What we've decided to do is clean their cabin, empty the toilet, maybe sort out the tool shed a bit and read up on Humanure. Part of being a wwoofer is learning about life on an organic farm and at our farm it's about composting. Here's the link if you'd like to read all about why composting toilets are so terrific in the Humanure Handbook. We have a basic humanure toilet plus an very fancy Sun Mar model and given the choice I think the bucket method suits me better.

I know I've talked about wwoof before and how great it is to meet young people and have some far help. With Steve gone, Chris working and the kids in school it's always a struggle to get things in the ground and they've been really helpful with planting. This rain is great at least for giving everything a good soak so we won't need to water for the next ten days or so at least. As soon as it stops we have apple trees to plant, berry bushes to go in and an orchard to rescue. We're going to take down the standing deadfall for firewood and get our piles stacked properly for drying. It should be fun and lots of work. 

WWOOF, as an organization and an idea isn't new. Although you may not have heard of them, there have been many schemes over the years to train up new generations of farmers, provide education and help young people find their own path in life. Here's an interesting video about one such scheme in England.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Budget Food Ideas from WWII and Earlier.

The toast sandwich and other hyper-cheap meals


At just 7.5p a serving, a toast sandwich is the cheapest lunch option, says the Royal Society of Chemistry. What other ultra-economical meals - of a similar order of simplicity - could be revived in these cost-conscious times?
As recipes go, it's even simpler than boiling an egg and as cheap as chips (even cheaper, in fact).
For a toast sandwich take a very thin slice of bread and toast it. Once cold place it between two slices of bread, also sliced very thinly. Butter optional. Salt and pepper to taste.
Devised by Victorian domestic goddess Isabella Beeton, this recipe comes from her 150-year-old Book of Household Management. Now the Royal Society of Chemistry wants to revive the toast sandwich to help the country through hard times.
But what's the appeal, beyond saving pennies? She recommended it as "very tempting to the appetite of an invalid", whose weak digestion was thought to benefit from plain food. Some who have tried it enjoy the textural variety between the cold crisp filling and the soft outer layers.
Children eating carrots on sticks Wartime treats - carrots on sticks
Food historian Annie Gray says Victorian era recipes aimed at invalids fit the bill of cheap and quick to prepare. As well as the toast sandwich, beef tea was another favourite.
"That's as simple to prepare as simply boiling up beef bones to make a stock."
The toast sandwich isn't the only recipe in Mrs Beeton's compendium to use cold toast as the basis for a meal. She recommended toast soup - 1lb (0.45kg) of bread crusts boiled in 2oz (0.05kg) of butter and a quart (1.1 litres) of "common stock". Or for a refreshing drink, what about "toast-and-water"? Made with, you guessed it, a slice of stale loaf toasted, then soaked in a quart (1.1 litres) of boiling water until cold.
"If drunk in a tepid or lukewarm state, it is an exceedingly disagreeable beverage," warned Mrs Beeton. Quite.
Steerage soup
Another Victorian cookery writer was Charles Elme Francatelli, a former royal chef, who wrote A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes in 1852.
Illustration from Mrs Beeton's book How Mrs Beeton envisaged supper
"His recipes ranged from Sheep's Head Broth to A Pudding made of Small Birds - the type of dishes people are too squeamish to make today," says Gray.
He recommended starting the day with pumpkin porridge, which involved little more effort than simmering chunks of pumpkin with a little butter and water and adding a little milk before eating.
"Cheap eating largely revolved around loading up on carbohydrates to fill you up so you didn't need too much meat, which was much more expensive," says Gray.
An old Scottish recipe for Fitless Cock was equally economical as it contained no meat. It was a chicken-shaped oatmeal pudding which "fooled no-one", says food writer Stefan Gates.
To make Fitless Cock mix together oatmeal, shredded suet and a finely chopped onion with a beaten egg. Form into the shape of a chicken and boil for two hours.
Mock goose
A similar recipe dates from World War II, when the Ministry of Food introduced rationing to cope with food shortages. As the system gathered momentum, the ordinary ration came to encompass meat, cheese, butter, margarine, bacon and ham, tea, preserves, sugar and cooking fats such as lard.
To help war-weary home cooks, its austerity recipes ran in newspapers and on its daily radio broadcast. As well as mock cream and myriad uses for spam and dried egg, it devised this recipe for mock goose, complete with stuffing.
  • 150g (6oz) cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 pint water
  • a little lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • for the stuffing - breadcrumbs (made from two slices), chopped onion, fresh sage
Simmer the lentils until all the water has been absorbed. Add lemon juice and season. Then to make the stuffing fry the onion in a little water, drain and add breadcrumbs and chopped sage. Place half the lentil mixture in an ovenproof dish, then layer on the stuffing and top with the remaining lentils. Cook at 180C (356F) until crisp.
Accompany with boiled potatoes and shredded cabbage cooked in a modicum of water. Reserve the cooking liquor to make gravy. Doesn't appeal? Tough.
Oyster seller Oysters used to be food for the poor
When the Titanic set sail in April 1912, its hold was loaded with goodies such as wine and fresh asparagus. But not all passengers dined on such fine fare. A typical dinner menu in steerage included rice soup with cabin biscuits and corned beef.
Rice soup was made with chicken stock, rice, onion and celery, with salt and pepper to taste. After two hours in the pot, it was strained and cream or milk added.
And finally, how about something sweet for afters? A carrot perhaps? Mrs Beeton recommended carrot jam for those unable to afford fruit. In WWII carrots stood in for stone fruits in desserts such as apricot flan, or were made into carrot fudge with gelatine to set and orange squash for flavouring.
But some recipes do not translate today because cheapness changes over time, says Emily Angle, editor of BBC Food.
"Oysters were food for the poor until they were all eaten. Their rareness transformed them into food for the rich."

Out To Pasture - Where Our Meat Comes From

We believe that animals are meant to be free to move around, skip and play, roll in the dust or wallow in a puddle on a hot day. And because of that we raise all our animals on pasture, even the ones we are keeping for meat. Sheep are the last animals to come into the barn while they deliver their lambs and then they are the first back outside once the weather permits. They have shelter from the wind, rain and cold as do all our animals from Chickens with their hoop houses to our upcoming pigs who will also roam free and have small huts for shelter.

Because we plan on using our animals to renovate the fields that have been left in such a sorry state of neglect, we have a specific plan to use them in rotation:
-First the sheep will graze down the grass, benefiting from the lush growth for a few weeks.
-Next the pigs will come behind them plowing, treading and rooting up the soil.
-The chickens will come last for their turn and after they've scratched through the turned up soil we'll plant a cover or grain crop depending on what we need.
-After we harvest our grain crop we'll have the sheep back up again for a trim up before planting a winter feed crop of turnips, mangles and kale for the animals to graze.

Somewhere in this rotation we'll include turkeys, probably in their own fields away from the chickens to avoid that horrible disease 'Blackhead'. The goats have a specific purpose in that they are going to clear out the brush in and around the pasture. And if I haven't totally lost you up to this point you should be wondering what happened to the pigs? Where did they go? Well, for the hottest months we'll have them in the cool, shady and damp area between the orchard and the river where they can wallow, root through the woods for interesting things and enjoy the sunny pasture or shady woodland as they desire.

The benefits to this system are that the animals will not pass any parasites to each other and so they'll die off due to lack of a specific host, greatly reducing numbers of worms without medication or other chemicals. We feed Diatomaceous Earth already which helps. Another benefit is that we get to feed our animals good grass as part of their food and they are helping to prepare the soil for later plantings. Their dung is increasing the soil fertility and after the winter feed crops are eaten we'll be seeding new pasture seed which benefits everyone. To cover the 5 cleared acres we've got should take 2 years to do it well but of course it will depend a lot on the soil fertility and moisture in July and August, none of which we can control.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Misty Weekend

We're getting so much done with our wwoofers it's great. And we're having a great time too. After getting sunburn yesterday we're spending a couple of hours this afternoon tidying up the yard and getting rid of some junk. Meghan and Markus are out breaking up old furniture that's no good and getting it ready for the fire. Meghan's calling it the 'German Smash'. It's a misty rainy afternoon so they're keeping busy still which is good because it's too wet to work in the garden.
Caely and Steve are fencing which they seem to have been doing a lot recently. My small garden is now almost fenced and chicken proof which will be nice because I only want them in there to get bugs on my terms, not to dig up my seeds and make a dust bath in the middle of the pea patch. We re-did the main fence across our pasture so now theoretically the sheep will stay in their place. And soon I'll actually have a front yard too which will be great.

The cabin is as done as it's going to get right now. Over the winter I'll cover the joints with wood trim. It's pretty squished in there but hopefully it's comfortable enough. Markus and Caely are super polite and nice so I'm not sure they'd say something anyways. I hope they would though. They really are a great help. It seems like they've been here for ages and it's only been a week. I'm going to miss having them around when they leave.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Weekend Showers

Well we're back safely from the city. We drove the boys to a dance last night and arrived home after 1pm only to get into bed and listen to the mournful bleating of a lamb. After I couldn't stand it I found a flashlight and went out into the rain to investigate. And there he was, running around and making a racket inside the Wwoofers cabin. I got him over the fence but the other sheep came running over and got out so William and I were rounding up sheep at 2am in the rain. Not so much fun when you're tired. This morning they were out again and we've now got half the flock in the front field and the other half in the back field. Time to get the fence finished once and for all. It's another wet day which is good because the ground's had a nice deep soaking and already the grass and trees are looking perkier. Most of the damage done by the hard freeze a couple of weeks ago has been fixed except for my poor fuschia which took a nasty hit. But the trees are leafed out now and it's definitely Spring/Summer.

So what are we upto? I've got a whole list of stuff to plant but first we're finishing off the roof on the wwoofers bathroom and painting the ceilings and walls. It's a lot of work but once it's done then we can move on to other projects. Caely and Markus arrive next week so it's a bit of a priority to get it all finished before Steve leaves on Monday morning again. It's supposed to be showery today but nice tomorrow so if it's dry enough I can finish the painting and have everything done.

I'll get some pics later and give you an update.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Troutpocalypse and Ticked Off

Happy Monday!

Well it was another busy weekend. Our fish arrived but there were a few kinks getting them set up and happy. We seem to have solved the problems by adding a couple of air stones and covering the pond with a pallet to provide both shade and protection from the dog and her drinking habits. She literally scared them right out of the pond. By the time we found them they were clinging to life but Steve did manage to save a few. The dead fish went into the chicken pen so that at least they weren't totally wasted. And this morning there were a few more which made me pretty angry and frustrated but now I'm pretty sure there is something hunting them. I can't imagine why they would jump out of the pond and then make their way 6-8 feet away. I'm going to cover the entire tank with a cover that goes all the way over and see what happens overnight tonight.

Also, a yucky discovery this afternoon was a new mole on the top of my arm, a mole with legs. Yes, my first embedded tick of the season. I've managed to get them all just brushed off so far but I must have gotten this one yesterday so it had all night and morning to decide a good place to stop for a snack. The first thought with a tick is always 'I've got to get this thing off ASAP' and so there's a small irrational bit of panic. Well, I grabbed the dish soap and a clean cloth and covered it in the soap before placing the cloth over. After a few minutes that seemed more like 20, I was able to get it off and take a pic. Now it's floating in a bottle of citrus cleaning solution until it's dead and relocated into the compost. But just thinking about it still gives me the willys. Bleuch!! Just to creep you out too I'll post a photo. The blue on the cloth is the soap. The brownish red stain is, well, you can guess. It didn't leave too big of a hole and I covered it with some Melagel so it'll heal faster and keep out any infection. The tick wasn't very swollen so it can't have been there long so I'm sure I'm fine for not getting Lyme disease.

There's a good steady rain falling so I'm using up a batch of sourdough starter and making bread. The rain will be good for the garden and that means tomorrow I'll be able to go plant some more in nice damp soil. In the meantime I'm stuck indoors and working on stuff so it's good because I have lots to catch up on.

Well, our fish experiment has so far been a complete failure. Due to people knocking off the air supply hose and the water hose being left on, we have effectively managed to suffocate all but a meager few of our trout. It's a very sad disaster, and not one I will repeat this year. I may go down to the brook and catch some wild trout but we'll have to see how I'm feeling about the whole thing later today. I think I'm just going to work on fencing today and planting. It's pretty depressing. I think I'll go empty our composting toilet as it needs doing anyways. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Getting things done feels great.

Today we got a whole bunch of the yard cleaned up, scrap wood burned and out of the way, and the straw bale house for the sheep is no longer needed to William and Meghan (with a little help from Kate) got them all moved down beside the compost pile. We located our humanure and regular compost piles as far away from the house as practical and far enough away to keep down any unpleasant odours but we shouldn't be getting any anyways.

The bugs have gotten pretty bad. I think they all hatched at once hungry and desperate so no matter how much I spray on insect repellent, I'm still getting bitten. It's very annoying! Reminds me of a song you might like about the black fly.

Anyways I'm pooped. I'll write tomorrow hopefully.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Sheep Are Naked!

Alix taking the wool off a ewe
3 grown men vs. ram
 Here are some of our photos from shearing yesterday. It was such a wonderful day for it and not too many bugs. Of course the sheep now look really slim and bony without their thick winter coats.

Tyrone our Cotswold Ram before his trim
It never fails. No matter how late we shear the sheep we're almost guaranteed a cool night or a wet one and last night was no exception with temperatures getting down to the freezing mark. Seems to be Murphy's Law. But they're sure happy to be able to scratch their skin and not be so hot in the afternoons. The lambs did look at them a little strangely though and Tyrone our ram decided it was a good time to try courting these new ladies which was less than acceptable to the girls, lol. They didn't take long to all calm down again though so everyone's happy. Although it was down to the freezing mark overnight it dawned sunny very early and it's already in the low teens now at 10am. so it's a perfect day for gardening. I plan on getting out there in a half hour once the dishes are washed. A couple of the kids are home today so I have some extra slave labour.

Tomorrow is another big day in our family. Jordan turns 16 so he'll be able to learn to drive and start dating if he wants to. I think that tonight we'll have a BBQ and cake because Steve will be home and then we'll let Jordan decide if he wants to do anything on the weekend with his friends. So we'll have 3 boys at home all able to drive soon. Scary!

I spent a good amount of time with my companion planting charts designing our vegetable rows for this year and I think I've got it all done now. So all that remains is to get planting. I've got to get my peas and beans in but I think it's still too cold for corn. I might try it and see how it goes though over a small area. If it doesn't sprout then I can just re-plant. But corn and beans really don't like cool soil. Cabbages, lettuce and peas of course like cooler weather so they're good. A garden always involves quite a lot of planning because so many factors affect them. Temperature, light requirements, and maturity dates. It really is worthwhile taking some time to plan your years growing and including your different successions as the seasons change. It helps with knowing when to start transplants and what plants will shade others in hot weather, which ones will take a lot of water and which will take a lot of fertility or put nitrogen back into the soil. Anything that helps you out is a blessing.

So now you know what we're doing this week I have to get going and get to work. Have a wonderful day!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mothers Day

Yesterday was Mothers Day in Canada. And here at the farm it was a reasonably productive day. We started out with breakfast in bed for me consisting of a fried egg sandwich, a toasted bagel and juice. Yum :)  The we were off to church for the remainder of the morning. After we came home and had lunch we decided to take advantage of the good dry weather to get some planting done and  William had fun on the little garden tractor. He got 2 furrows plowed and he and Jordan got about 200 feet of potatoes planted. We planted Superior because they're supposed to make really good new potatoes for summer eating. I can't wait and I'm sure they'll be good for our market stand too. The girls and I planted at the other end of the garden where it's a little rockier on our more sloped area. We put in 75 strawberry plants, 20 raspberry canes, a black currant bush and a rhubarb plant. We still have to get the remaining strawberries in and the apple trees too but since it's dawned cool and damp this morning I'm thinking we'll wait until it's dry again tomorrow. Besides, I have enough work to do indoors and I'd like to get the rest of the garden planting written down so I can stay a bit more organized this year. If it warms up then maybe I'll get the boys out into the old pig pen with the tractor to pick rocks and then give it a dig over. It'll make a great greenhouse area for tomatoes in summer and lettuces in the cold weather.

Steve and the boys got the inside fence of my garden changed over from electric to wire mesh because the electric just wasn't working to keep the animals out. Last year the pigs ate all our potatoes and the sheep are reasonably insulated against the shocks so that's not good either. So far the mesh fence is working, but only as long as the gate stays closed. Chris came home late from the drive-in movies, parked his truck on the driveway and then went to bed. We awoke this morning to honking because our sheep had gone exploring on the road and were nextdoor eating the grass at the churchyard again. I got them back with a bucket of grain and shut the main gate, but I'm thinking I'll have to come up with a way of fencing the sheep on the back of the property so this isn't an issue. When we have WWOOFers come this year I'm thinking fencing will be a priority. It's be nice to have an area around the house that's animal free so I can plant flowers and walk around without needing boots.

Hope you are all having a good growing season so far.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sunny Spring Day in May

Well despite the cool overnight temperatures for the past few days it's been sunny and warm in the afternoons. Spring, I hesitate to say it, is finally here.

So what are we doing at the farm at the moment? Well, apart from the ongoing construction we're settling back into life as usual. The kids have school, Steve and Chris have work, and gradually life is returning to normal despite our still having no septic or additions. Steve and I are sleeping in the living room, The kids each have a bedroom or trailer, and we have a composting toilet in our bathroom beside the washing machine. So far it's working well and as long as the vents are properly connected there's no smell to speak of. It'll only be a few days before it will be emptied for the first time to go to a maturing compost pile in the garden to finish the process and then it's straight back on to the flower gardens and trees.

The water in our well ran very muddy for a few days and the settled into a slightly hazy colour but now seems fine. I think we've worked out any sediment issues. We're going to put a filter on as well but we've been blessed to find that unlike our previous place there's no iron showing in the water and so hopefully our white clothes will stay white now. I guess time will tell how the well works but so far we love it. The pipes are still running above ground but soon Steve will bury them and I won't have a 200 foot ditch running across my pasture. Before winter we need to build a cover for the pump and well head too so that it's insulated in the winter cold.

All our lambs have their tails done and are happily running around this morning. They range in age from 1 week to 7 weeks and are so fun to watch. It's truly the best sign of Spring to see lambs playing in the grassy fields. Beethoven, our sickly little lamb, still has his moments where I think he's injured or not doing well and the next day he's bouncing along with the best of them. He's growing at a good pace so I think he's going to be fine. But I'm very happy with one lamb in particular. I'm not sure he's been assigned a name yet but he's a magnificent looking ram lamb. Long straight back and sturdy legs, he's all muscle and proud attitude already at the ripe old age of 4 weeks. I'm seriously tempted to keep him, especially if continues to grow at the same rate. He's not as friendly as some of the other bottle lambs but he's a fine example of Cotswold Rideau cross.We're in a 'B' year so his name will probably end up being Brutus or some such. I think Bastion might be good for him too. His colour is sort of fawnish at the moment so it will be interesting to see what colour he matures to. His mother is white and his father is a black Cotswold. He's got golden brown legs and an off white body at the moment. If I can get him to stand still I'll see about getting some pics today.

Our friend Perry popped over and tilled our garden for us. It's approx. 100x300 feet so not a bad size for the main crops. 30,000 sq ft though is a lot of weeding if it gets away from us so we have some help coming for the summer and we're mulching where practical too. Our sweet potatoes will all be planted under black plastic and I'm tempted to do the same with some of our other crops too that are hard to hoe around. We'll see. The plastic is expensive and is one more thing I'd have to tidy up and recycle at the end of the year so I'd like to use it as little as possible. I'm going to plant the strawberries with straw and mulch the peas with straw too I think. I guess we'll make use of what we've got here at the farm.

This afternoon I want to pick the rocks out of the area the pigs cleared last year and then get a greenhouse up. We'll see how that goes with boy help. It'll be good to get the tomatoes in the ground. Many of them didn't make it through the move, having been left outside overnight but we can start again. 

I'll check in later.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eastlink Internet Complaint

I just have to give this rant about Eastlink because of their appalling customer service to us. There's nothing I can do about it as there's basically only one service provider here in NS (unless you live right in the city and can get Bell). For the past few months we've been paying for Internet 40 so you'd think we were getting nice fast speeds but we usually got 4Mbps, not even close to 40. And yes, we know to disconnect every other device from the network before testing. They tweaked the equipment from their end but the best we ever got was about 15 Mbps and it lasted a half hour before reverting back to it's old ways.

'No Problem', I told the kids and my husband. 'When we move everything up to the farm we'll get proper internet again'. There are often 6 of us on the computer at once. The kids stream Netflix, Steve and I are working online or doing research or blogging, so it's busy. We know that. Which is why we ordered a business bundle to handle our business traffic as well as our day to day computing needs. So we call Eastlink 3 weeks before we need service (they asked us to give them a week to 10 days notice) and find out that a site survey was done last September and that they want to charge us over a thousand dollars to hook us up. WHAT?!?!? The lines run right on the poles along the front of our property and their big pole mounted switch box or whatever it is is a few hundred feet down the line, I can see it from here. So after trying to explain this to a rep. and getting nowhere fast  I asked them to check again and for the survey guy to call me. He does ( 2 days after not coming ot our appointment because he was too busy) and says no problem, it'll be a couple hundred dollars to run the new line from the pole roadside into our building. GREAT we think, let's go!
Fast forward to April 23rd. We get our contract from Eastlink signed and try to fax it back. No joy, their fax won't receive so I just email it back to the rep. Finally we think the ball is rolling. Only it's not. He sent the info to the 'engineering dep't' and is waiting to hear back from them. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. A week goes past and still we haven't heard. We move and still no phone or internet. This is not good for business.
It's now May 6th. We just got emails yesterday saying that we've been approved and they will be another 3-4 weeks getting us hooked up. Seriously!?!? I was absolutely livid and fired off 3 nasty emails to my rep and to the company. Still waiting to hear back, not that I think it will do much good. So it looks like we could potentially be without any internet for another month. And what really gets me is that we asked them to call us on our cell and let us know and they didn't. They just email knowing we can't check it ofter because we don't have internet. We can't speak to a live person because their chat service is only for their residential customers. And their technicians came yesterday and were working not 200 feet from my place, it's like a slap in the face. Sure, come here and work only don't hook us up while you're at it.

Very frustrated and going to complain about it until I get some satisfaction so watch out Eastlink! Bottom line, go with Bell or Telus over Eastlink if you can. If you have to get Eastlink make sure you're getting what you're paying for. In Greenwood they charged us for Internet 40 but their infrastructure only allowed for 20 so they were charging us for something it wasn't possible to get. It's like leasing a luxury BMW and then finding out you're getting a perfectly functional Kia hatchback instead. I am not at all impressed with their service.

This concludes my rant for the day. 

UPDATE: We were finally hooked up yesterday, May 27th. It seems to be working well except for a short range but that may have to do with the location of the wireless modem. We'll tweak it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Water Water Everywhere

Steve and I spent the long weekend getting a ton of work done at the farm, particularly getting the pump hooked up between the well and the house. It still needs a little tweaking and I need to run water a little more to clear it because when we started the taps for the first time the water came out looking like coffee. Ew! But as it runs it's getting clearer. Thank goodness.

The kitchen walls are done and I'm working on finishing the living room so that we can get some of the furniture moved in this week. Of course the place isn't finished yet but we'll make do. Steve and I will be sleeping in the living room, Chris is outside in his caravan, the girls are sharing a room as are Jordan and Will for a few weeks. Or maybe a month or two. But at least we'll have hot and cold running water, a composting toilet and power.


Just a quick update. We're moving today so we're pretty busy, tired and exhausted. But also happy that this is hopefully our last move until we build a house. We don't have our new internet connection yet so we're going to be offline for a few days. Wish us luck and fair weather.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Power and Poo! Woo Hoo!

Yes, I realize it's not something that people usually celebrate. But having a toilet and power at the farm means we can now move, build with power tools, and see what we're doing after dark. And that's a wonderful thing that most of you probably take for granted. As I type this NS Power are parked in the driveway running 200 feet of wire across the paddock and up to the pole. I think they have to also install a transformer on the roadside pole before we're good to go but it will be so wonderful to be able to switch on a light. Now it means I can also get the house painted inside because I can run a small heater to boost the temperature so the paint will dry. Guess what I'm doing tonight! Having the power also means that we can plumb the trailer this weekend and hook up the pump at the well. So we'll have running water, just nowhere for it to go right now as we don't have a septic. I'm thinking a grey water recycling bed will be the thing to build and we have the plastic and the gravel so we're good. We'll see.

So incase you're wondering if we're using a 5 gallon bucket again for compost, you'll be pleased to see that we've taken a big leap upmarket and bought a second hand and hardly used Sun Mar Excel high capacity composting toilet. Here's a pic of what they look like new. Ours is older and a bit yellowed with age but it works and nobody will see it anyways. It's a self venting composter and they're rated very highly for the lack of smell and ease of use. I'll let you know how it works out. We've got the special bulking material to use with it (peatmoss and hemp coir) and microbes to get it composting quickly. It has a drum that turns, just like some of the barrel composters you've no doubt seen and after you make deposits (you poop in it) you just add a cup full of peatmoss mix and close the lid. Turn the drum a couple of times a week and you're well on your way to making compost for the flower beds. It's got a small fan and evaporator in it so it draws in air from the bathroom keeping the smells inside and dries everything up as it goes. There's a cut away diagram below and we'll write more about it once it's up and running and we're not so busy.

Beautiful Canada - Photography and Beavers

One of the most amazing things about Canada is without a doubt it's natural beauty and the variety of landscapes from verdant forests, to rocky shorelines to rolling prairie. From the warm hazy summer evenings to the cold deep frozen winter nights. Now I'm not much of a photographer but I admire those who can take pictures that evoke emotion, to me a photograph can be as artistic as the finest oil painting. And in our family we're lucky because my soon to be brother-in-law is a photographer among other things. He's just launched a new website at emta.ca if you'd be interested in having a look. And if you're looking for a photographer in the Comox Valley, he's your guy!  I'll write more about his work at a later date but I just wanted to give him a shout out for taking an incredible series of shots for yesterdays eclipse and for allowing me to post it. Thanks Ash!

I also found a video that shows a small family of beavers repairing their dam during a warmer spell in Calgary this winter. Watching them work makes me think of Chris and Steve just working away getting their stuff done. Today is turning out to be a bit wet and wouldn't you know it, it's Chris' one day to help me with chores. But he'll move wood and haul stuff for me like a champ.

We had another lamb born last night, just a single and it's nice and healthy. So we're up to 6 lambs for the year which is a nice number and we know our ram is working. I'm doing the night shift so I'll go check on them all shortly. It's 5:30 am and I'm not needed here at the house until 7 so it's a nice quiet time to check on the mums and babies. As soon as NS Power has us hooked up I can turn them back out into their small field but for now they're indoors staying dry. I have to get them all moved ASAP though so that we can use the shed for it's original purpose which was storing our boxes.

We may have been lucky enough to find a composting toilet, a Sun Mar model, which would be brilliant. It has a fan and dries everything out so because of the continuous venting there's no smell indoors. And with us living on the farm I doubt there will be a noticeable smell outdoors either. They're great but usually very expensive so if we can get this one it will be fantastic and SO useful. Much more so than an outhouse or porta-potti. And to extend the capacity of it I'm going to ask the boys to simply pee on the compost pile I think.  :)  Anyways wish me luck getting it.

Have a wonderful week! And a very happy Easter to all our Christian friends.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 2 week countdown

It's now 2 weeks until we move permanently to the farm. And the weather has finally taken a turn for the better. No more snow and heavy rain. The fields are drying out although some still look like lakes and even have ducks on them right now.  But as I type this I'm flitting back and forth between the computer and the deck. There's a total lunar eclipse happening and the moon is a beautiful reddish orange. I tried taking a photo but I think those are going to have to be left to the professionals with good cameras.The roosters are crowing so it won't be long now until dawn and the rest of the country will have to watch it without us maritimers.

I haven't written anything for a couple of weeks so I thought I'd catch you up on all that's been happening with our family. Our wiring is complete and passed it's final inspection so now we're waiting for Nova Scotia Power to come and hook us up. We chopped down some branches and they put in a pole. The funny thing is that you'd think we'd notice a 35 foot treated pole 20 feet from the front door ... but apparently not. We're so used to trees that we didn't notice and must have just dismissed it as a naked tree or something subconsciously. I only noticed it because the ground was disturbed around it, lol. Anyways every morning I go up there and hope to see the wires attaching us to the grid, but not yet. I wonder if I'll get as excited to see us get unhooked from the grid again in a few years time? Probably, I don't get out much, LOL.

The sheep are moved back to the farm. And Steve got a new storage shed built (for storing our boxes) just in time for me to use it as a lambing pen. It's currently home to Dolly and her triplets plus our soon to be re-named lambs Merry and Pippin. One of Dolly's lambs is an interesting guy who was born very weak so we took him off her and he's bottle feeding. I wasn't sure he'd make it but he's now strong enough that we moved him back outside a couple of days ago and now he's threatening to jump the row of bales we're using to keep him in his own little area. So far Merry and Pippin can hop back and forth and I guess he wants to try too. Our best ewe Freckles unfortunately had 5 lambs born, that's a litter!!, but none of them survived. Angel may be expecting, I'll need to go check her udder to see if it's full at all, but we have 2 ewe lambs so far and 3 ram lambs. All Cotswold crosses. And so far all are doing well. It'll be so nice once the power crews and the septic guys are done because then we can turn them loose to graze on the grass that will hopefully be appearing soon now that the freezing weather is over.

Just went to check the eclipse. Alas, the day dawn is breaking and a cloud bank has moved in so that's it for this one. It's still nice and warm out though so I'll just enjoy that while I can. It's supposed to be much closer to seasonal temperatures as the week goes on and that's okay. But it does mean I'm going to try and get some painting finished at the house while it's warm enough to wash walls and dry paint.

It looks like we'll be moving into the house with power (hopefully) but no septic. It's just been so wet and freezing that the ground isn't good for heavy equipment to be working it. We're looking at having a composting toilet and just roughing it for a little while. Steve's going to run the water lines above ground until we can get the appropriate trench dug. We already have a pump and the pipe. It just needs to be plumbed and wired and have power so that's obviously his department. It seems there's always something holding us up. But in the meantime we're still trying to get a zillion things done so we're keeping busy. And we're 2 weeks away from moving so the pressure is on!

Our lovely cat Mandy was hit and killed instantly by a neighbours truck the other day so we had a small funeral and then she was laid to rest beneath a weeping cherry tree near our farm gate so that her spirit of love, welcome and fun can live on. See you in Heaven Mandy, we'll miss you. The girls are still sad but time heals and they're being kept busy.

And the man to really tell you about is Steve. He's keeping super busy as usual. So much so that he took a nap Sunday evening and I could hardly get him up to eat supper. Now most of you know he's a very practical guy. And you also think of him as being very reserved if you meet him in person. But here's a look at his farm side. In addition to moving trailers and building buildings he had to move the old broken down addition out of the way for the septic guys to be able to eventually get in with their equipment. So he jacked the whole thing up and placed logs under it for the building to skid over. When it didn't work to push it along he simply resorted to the more aggressive ramming method with his tractor. I'm not sure if you can see his grin in the video but trust me, it's there.

We'll get the walls painted this week and then the counters and cabinets in their final resting places this weekend so that my kitchen reno will be complete. Well, so I'll actually have a kitchen I guess. It requires lots of plumbing and wiring as well as the other things you'd expect so Steve and I will be doing that while the kids pack the house. Did you hear that kids? You're packing! It's going to be a crazy busy couple of weeks but I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it will be to never have a landlord again.  My kitchen may be small, recycled and used but it's still going to be terrific. Steve even got me one brand new item, an Over The Range microwave. It was actually cheaper than most of the hood fans I was looking at and we needed a new microwave anyways so it's brilliant and we're hoping it fits in perfectly with our high cabinets.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Living the Simple Life- Part 4 WORK

Work, sometimes called a 'four letter word' because people dislike it so much, is a fundamental part of the self-sufficient or back to the land movement and philosophy. Many western societies are losing the work ethic among the younger age groups and so there's a growing divide between those who know how to work hard to achieve something and those who don't see any point in putting in any more effort than they need to. Am I calling them all lazy? By no means, but some definitely are. It's different from those who have the brains to work smarter rather than harder, that's admirable and efficient. What I dislike is the fact that so many young people are avoiding hard work at all and preferring to not work and live on the handouts of society when they're physically capable. In Canada at the moment there's a debate going on in the media about why we bring in so many migrant workers. Here in Nova Scotia where the unemployment rate is over 7% I believe we are still bringing in workers from Mexico, the Phillipines and Jamaica by the hundreds. They work lower paying jobs doing hard physical work at farms and in restaurants that frankly Canadians are either too proud or too out-of-shape to do. I guess that means you know where I stand on this whole thing. I think that if someone isn't willing to do the work then they can't complain when a farmer hires someone from overseas who is grateful for a job. I was listening to the radio last week as a farmer in New Brunswick told his story. He runs a dairy farm and needs to hire a farm manager to work 7 days a week. The pay was about $12 per hour I think and included a house and truck. He's been looking for 2 years for someone and had 4 or 5  replies but nobody suitable. So he went through the appropriate channels and found a worker from the Philippines who's experienced and really wants to work. He got his work permit and is on his way, but Canadian callers to the radio station shared their dismay at the farmer not hiring a local. This is a classic case of a job that's hard work which nobody will do.

Part of living the simple life is work. The simple life, at least at first, is going to be much more work than most of you are used to and more than you expect no matter how good your plan is. So if you have ideas of just buying a farm and sitting back in a comfy chair on the porch you are either enjoying retirement or have hired a farm manager and have lots of money in the bank. If you're not like that though then you have to expect a good amount of work and time will be invested in your farm. But it's just that, an investment. We found that the biggest drawback in renting a farm is that you put lots of time and energy into it and at the end of the day it's not yours. And while it's admirable to improve the land for someone else I still think it's better to do it for yourself.  Buying even a small place that you can call your own is a better way to go. You can always rent a field somewhere if you need more space or intensively and wisely farm your own small acreage. Amazon sells numerous books on making a profit off 1/4 acre or other small pieces of land. That's where planning and work collide. The better you get at planning then the more efficient your work will be. So plan ahead. We used our pigs last year to dig out the ground that is going to a garden this year. They loosened up some rocks for us, removed the sod and roots, turned it over and manured it at the same time. And now it's fenced too. We rotate our sheep around the pasture for several reasons. By moving them frequently we keep down the number if intestinal worms and parasites, they fertilize as they go, they eat the grass but while it's young and more nutritious, and it prevents a fire hazard of long dry grass in the late summer. Of course there was still work involved such as fencing and building a house for the pigs but once that's done then the work is minimal (unless the sheep make a hole in the fence and escape).

Work is good for you mentally and physically. One of my favourite quotes from the movie Star Trek Insurrection is this "We believe that when you create a machine to do the work of a man, you take something away from the man." This is from the leader of a group of people who have given up their technological lives in exchange for a simple rustic and self-sufficient village life. I'm not saying that we all need to be luddites and avoid technological advances. It's smart to use tools and resources wisely. But what I am suggesting is that there's something fundamentally good for humans to work with their hands. If you start out modestly and respect that it's going to take your body time to get used to it then you'll be less likely to strain muscles and hurt yourself. So start now getting into better physical shape if you know that this summer you're going to be gardening or splitting firewood. And pace yourself. Some jobs have to be done right now because of necessity, and some you can spread out over time such as getting the winter wood chopped and ready. Oh my back is aching just thinking about it, lol. Time to take my own advice and get moving.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Living the Good Life - Part 3 Planning

Living a good or simple life is a dream for many people the world over. If you've read my blog for the past few days you'll have seen how we decided on our current course of action which basically involved selling all our worldly goods and moving across the country with our children in hopes of a better life. I guess that really does make us modern day pioneers or homesteaders. But like the homesteaders before us we needed to have a goal and then a plan of how we were going to achieve it. They had to build or buy wagons and handcarts, stock them with provisions and then set out towards a new land. None of them went without planning it first.

Planning takes time but is worthwhile because it can help you foresee and avoid some difficulties ahead. Planning gives you time to consider the things that could go wrong and also the various ways in which things may work out. For example, if you are a pregnant woman and you know you'll be going to the hospital you may keep your fuel tank topped up and do a couple of practice drives to try out different routes before you go into labour. You might also put aside money for a taxi along with their phone number or arrange a ride with a friend. Either way, the planning can give you a sense of direction and purpose, and also security. That's not to say that things will always go as planned but if you've thought about it ahead of time you can make several contingency plans in the event of something unexpected such construction or a flat tyre.

When you are making plans to change your life or lifestyle by going back to the land there are so many small decisions that they can all blend together and seem insurmountable. The trick is of course to break it down into smaller steps so you don't get too overwhelmed. Writing things down and keeping your notes organized is a good idea and I recommend the use of binders because you can divide them into sections with loose sheets  that can be changed or added to as needed.

If you find that you're getting bogged down in your plans and can't seem to find the way forward I have some advice. Start from the end and work backwards. For example:

I want to move to BC from NS. I've planned the vehicle I will use and how my things are going to be transported but after that I'm at a loss to know what to do. So I imagine myself arriving in BC. Okay, where specifically am I going to arrive? What will I have with me? Where did I stay the night before? What am I doing for meals? Often imagining a thing from the end to the beginning can kick start your thought process and get it going again. I can now see that I need to arrange and budget for places to stay and food. I need to have a specific destination and starting point. Before I can start my journey I must have taken care of things such as closing utility accounts which will remind me to arrange to start new ones, and I'll have to either sell my furniture and buy new when I get to BC or I'm going to have to move it somehow. So I need to research moving options and do a comparison budget before I make a decision. When you've made a decision don't second guess yourself. Just stick with it unless you get more information that changes your mind. But endless worrying and speculating serves no useful purpose and will only make you more tired, stressed and overwhelmed.

Asking for help and using available resources such as realtors moving guides can really help you find a place to start and get organized.  My friend Justin is a realtor here in Nova Scotia and he deals with military and RCMP moves to Greenwood as well as general moves, but because he's used to helping customers who are moving here from other provinces he has information on his website about the local area and different neighborhoods, he can tell you what to expect for weather and local schools and other information that people new to the area need to know. It doesn't cost anything to have a look and see if there's something useful for you too. His website is http://www.justinveinot.ca and if you need anything I know he's always willing to answer questions. He's a good honest guy and while it's true that it's his job to sell houses he is also interested in having happy customers who are going to love their home so he's definitely a real estate agent who will listen to what you want. If you happen to need a realtor I highly recommend him and you can tell him Elizabeth Faires sent you.

Monday, March 31, 2014

How To Live The Simple Life Part Two - Deciding What You Want

Part Two is going to help you decide what you want to do and why, and then tomorrow we'll get discussing the 'How' of the whole thing.

This will be the most difficult post to write simply because of the fact that we all want something different out of life. So I would like to share some of the considerations from my own list. But first I want you to go grab a piece of paper and something to write with...I mean it, go get them, I'll still be here when you get back.

Does your pen work? Okay, then I want you to think about your dreams and aspirations regarding your life in ten years. I say ten years because this is less of an action plan and more a dream. It's about finding out what is fundamentally important to you. Now write a list of the things you want to be able to do. Just scribble away and we'll look over your list later. Here's my scribbles:

quality personal time
time with loved ones
time for recreation
making a living
reducing consumption
having a quality of life - what does that look like?
teaching myself new skills
trying new things
teaching my kids my values and some practical skills and appreciation for work
building my own mortgage free home
having autonomy
livestock, I like having them around
be environmentally aware, off grid maybe, self-sufficient
freedom to prep. and have a root cellar
sense of security
sense of belonging and rootedness for myself and my children

Now that we've got a list to work with it's easier to divide it up into categories. I think they should be
feelings and ideas,  physical space,  physical activity and work. But that's just for my list.

Feelings and ideas
This includes all the things that are intellectual and emotional for me. I want to have time to spend with my loved ones, particularly my husband and children. I think it's vitally important that we teach our children a good solid work ethic and that they learn to value things of worth. I have seen so many teenagers who get whatever they want and then complain that the new car their parents bought them wasn't the colour they wanted or doesn't have a sunroof. And that drives me crazy when I see other kids who work really hard for everything they get. But I think that the kids who work for things appreciate them more and take better care of them. I think it makes them better adults too, but that's just my opinion. Other feelings I want to have are the ability to just wake up with an idea and try it without a landlord telling me I can't. I want to have that feeling that the farm is mine and nobody can take it away from me. That it's going to always be mine as long as I want it and that my children and grandchildren will feel a love for the place too and have that sigh of peace when they come back to visit the ol' homestead. Sort of a secure base from which they can venture into the wild unknown but always can come home to. Does that make sense to you?

Physical space
Many ideas and feelings in my list relate to a specific space. Stephen and I realized several years ago that we'd need to actually have a farm, so we started working on that and eventually looking for our own place when we realized that rentals weren't going to work for us. Of course that led us where we'd never have guessed and here we are in Nova Scotia due to the attitudes, climate and land prices. It took lots of research and soul searching but we finally found a place that checked off most of the boxes on our wishlist. We had a general idea when looking and our list included at least 5 acres of arable land, some woodlot, a river or body of water, reasonable distance from town because of the children's school activities and jobs, high speed internet (Steve made me take photos of the power lines so he could check if I was out looking at a property by myself), nice neighbours who aren't too close, some south facing slope we could build on, and we even knew which county we wanted to live in due to building restrictions. It really pays to do all the research you can and then you'll be a much more informed buyer when the time comes to compare properties. Of course we had to have a real vision for our place as it didn't have a house, well or septic. Just 42 acres with a porta-potti. This wasn't the first place we put an offer on, but I'm SO GLAD we were blessed to get this place and not the other, it's a much better fit for us in the long-term.

Physical activity and work
To be realistic, by getting our farm we've opened ourselves to a never ending list of things that need to be done, and they greatly outnumber the list of things we'd like to do. But none of them are beyond our ability to learn. When it comes time to build our house, we'll already have practiced by building 2 additions, and then another barn and a garage. We can incorporate strawbale building, lime plaster, timber framing etc. into all our smaller projects until we're confident enough in our skills and planning abilities to tackle building our home. As well as all the projects around the home and homestead we still need to be able to make a living that lets us pay our bills. Having 5 teens isn't cheap so we have to find ways to feed them, pay our taxes and have some fun too. Life isn't free, and while we're aiming for self-suffiency we're not there yet.  Most farmers start either with savings in the bank or with one person working off the farm. We have no savings so of course Stephen has to go to work. While we don't owe money on our house we still have a mortgage for our land that's got to be paid off.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you have to be flexible and you must understand that this is a lifestyle shift that takes time. Your plan, your farm or garden, your whole being are a work in progress. If it's something that's really worth doing then it's worth taking the time over. Whether you're starting out small growing lettuce and tomatoes on your balcony or retiring and emigrating to Canada, if you have a clear vision then it makes planning easier.

So have fun tweaking and musing over your list, and if you skipped actually writing one then I encourage you to take 5 minutes and dream of a better life.

I'll be back tomorrow with Part 3.


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Simple Life In Canada - How To Guide Part 1

This is Part One of a Multi-part Guide.
Please check back tomorrow for the next installment. And thanks Dad for giving me a great reminder to write about things that might be useful to people. Here's photo of my dad taken on a nice hazy summers day last year. He's the best!

What does that mean to you, living the simple life? Does it evoke memories from your childhood of picking peas in your grandparents garden and chasing fireflies or frogs on warm summer evenings? Do you think of the Amish people with their wonderful farming and craft filled communities devoid of cars? Or is it something much closer to home for you, as close as growing herbs and lettuce in your garden? Because we're all individuals and at different points on the path of life we all see and experience things in ways totally unique to us. And that doesn't change if you decide to abandon the modern day rat-race and head for the country. Even out here in Nova Scotia you won't find 2 farmers who do things exactly alike. Some like chickens, some like vegetables, and some just farm trees.

My point is this; before you can even begin to make plans to move towards a simple life you need to assess what that means to you. You need to have at least a goal to work towards and then you'll be able to put the other necessary steps in order. What exactly do you want out of life? I find that the simple steps for this are as follows:

Have a Goal. It's okay if this evolves and changes over time.
     *Why do you want this?
     *How will it benefit you?
     *What steps do you need to take?
     *Can you afford it?

Decide how long you'll take to achieve your goal.
     Sometimes our dreams are tempered by the fact that we need to put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies while we're working towards something better. And that generally means for Canadians that we have to work at a paid job and work on our own projects in our personal hours. It's the trade off of hours available for work vs. a need to get paid. Sure, we'd all like endless time for our own projects but the reality is that most of us can't do that. We need at least a small income.

Make a Plan.
     Having something written down that shows the logical steps will help you to organize the work that's necessary. Just as a builder needs a set of blueprints and an understanding of the progression of a build (permits before walls,walls before plumbing etc.) so we need a plan that allows us to make the most efficient use of our resources. It helps you avoid some of the pitfalls by considering what could go wrong and making plans accordingly. Plans shouldn't be written in stone but they should provide a framework for you to build upon.

Do a realistic Budget.
     Sure we can all make our budget look good on paper, but saying you'll only spend $200 on groceries and eat lots of pasta and then actually doing it are 2 very different things. Maybe you hate pasta but didn't think it would be so bad. Who knows. I'm simply suggesting that you take into account that things may change in price, medical bills might happen, the car may break down. Be realistic and plan for some emergency funds to be set aside if you at all can.

And Last But Not Least ...

Get To Work!
     Nobody is going to feel as passionately about your goal as you do. It's your baby. You're the one with all the hopes and dreams so it's up to you to take the leap into the unknown and be adventurous! Learn new skills, try things you've never done before, make new friends and invest yourself in your project. When you can commit yourself to something it's more likely to be finished and finished well. It's not going to be easy for the most part but it will definitely be worth it.

Periodically, whether it's once a week or once a year, you need to sit down and go over the written plans and goals you have. See how you're doing and if there's anything you want to change or add. Take a look at how much you've accomplished and be honest with yourself about how you're doing. This is a good time to modify your goals and then start off re-energized and re-focused. If things haven't gone as planned figure out why and take steps to get back on track. Maybe you need to go in a different direction or get some help from a professional. Maybe you simply need more time. As the saying goes 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. The point of having goals and projects is to improve your life in some way. Otherwise why would we do them? And anything that's worth having is worth the effort to get it, even if it takes longer than you planned on. If you're getting discouraged then break down your goal into smaller goals and keep track as you accomplish things so that you can see yourself making progress.

Just remember this... every pyramid was built one block at a time.

Good luck with your goals for 2014 and beyond. Check back tomorrow for more information about starting a simple life in Canada.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


It's hard to believe that at the time of writing this entry it's March 27th. The wind is howling and slamming in fits against the house and the snow is being driven into deeper and deeper drifts. We've got category 1 hurricane strength winds and it's been like this for 12 hours now, since later morning yesterday and it's a little after midnight. Oh my goodness am I ever glad the animals have some shelter from this weather. They're ready to move up to the farm this weekend so as soon as the snow clears we're going to get them trailered. We'll get the barn yard fenced so that they're out of the way of the heavy equipment when they come to do the septic system installation. I also want to separate the ram and shearlings out from the pregnant ewes so that I can manage their feeding a bit better.  It's very important to feed the pregnant ewes well for the next few weeks because the lambs inside them will put on a bout 70% of their growth during this period. We want to keep them all healthy so we have good lambs and healthy ewes with lots of milk to feed them.

Anyways, I just wanted to catch up while the power is still on and let you know that we're sick of this winter weather so would you please pray for Spring to finally come? We really could use some good weather in a hurry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chickens: The Gateway Animal

Like most of you dear readers, I'm on Facebook and enjoy being part of a local farmers group. It gives us a chance to connect with other people who don't fall asleep when we talk about lambing or cringe when we mention castration. People who understand that your chickens are more interesting to watch than 99% of what's on TV. With the obvious exception of Adam's Farm and Countryfile and other farmy shows. One of the very posts I've enjoyed watching recently is a video about the dangers of backyard chicken raising. I chuckled all the way through because as a chicken person I can relate. Hope you all enjoy.

And keep checking back because we're going to be adding a forum for discussion and to build a community of like minded individuals so that we can share knowledge and have a good time too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Swimming Hole or Natural Pool

At the farm we're working on basically 3 sets of lists. Just like a lot of families do. First there's the list of things that need immediate attention. Like replacing the car brakes or fixing things that are broken. Our second list is things that need doing soon such as wiring the new house and building the additions. But after that comes the third list, and it's the most fun list of all! The third list is basically my wish or dream list. Build a wood fired hot tub. Build some cottages for guests. Put in a micro hydro system. The sort of things that add pleasure once you've got the basic day to day living phases out of the way. And one thing I would love to have is a pool for swimming in the hot summer weather. Now a building a conventional underground pool would cost us more than we paid for our home, and even an above ground 4 foot deep pool bought cheaply from WalMart would cost $1200 by the time you put a small deck around it. Not to mention the pollution caused by all the chemicals used to keep the water clean and clear. We want something that's pleasurable, low maintenance and environmentally friendly. So how about a swimming hole? Swimming holes in the river side are fine but to just dig a hole in the middle of the field would quickly land us with a pool of green algae covered water. So the solution is to take a design for a natural pool and change it to suit our needs. The combination of deep water and a naturalized shallows really appeals to me. It's beautiful, functional, and pretty darn self sustaining. I know it's way down on the list of projects to build but it's one I'm really looking forward to. Check out this website for more info. natural pool
Or this one too http://www.inspirationgreen.com/natural-pools-swimming-ponds.html

Here are a couple of pics taken from the internet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Looking for the bright side

Here we are in March. Spring in the rest of the world but not here in Canada. Many years we have warming Spring sunshine over wet and muddy fields that gives us a promise of things to come. Not this year. The Weather Network, yes in Canada we have a whole tv channel dedicated to weather (very Canadian), just issued their Spring forecast and it's not looking good for growers or people trying to put in a septic system. The prediction generally is that it's going to be mid April before any consistent Spring weather arrives. So I better get cracking on building a greenhouse for my seedlings because they're not going outside any time in the near future, not even for day trips. This morning was -20. BRRR!!

It does make for some lovely sunsets though and when it's crisp and clear the stars are amazing in the sky with Orion clearly visible and the big dipper turned around on it's end. It's worth taking a minute to appreciate the amazing sights that nature gives us even in the coldest weather. When we lived in rural northern Alberta we'd lie outside in January in -40 weather with our winter gear on and a sleeping bag and watch the northern lights or aurora borealis. Amazing some nights.

Here's a pic of yesterdays sunset at our rental house. And here's the link to the Weather Network's Spring Forecast for 2014 for Atlantic Canada.

I'm going out to tap a maple tree and get firewood for a few more weeks supply. Hope you're all staying warm and dreaming of your summer projects. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Canadian Weather Rants and Videos

Yes, it's March, and Spring is supposedly just around the corner but in true Nova Scotia style we're in for another bout of -15 degree weather. Tomorrow's going to be a nice day and then cold and snowing for a few more days. I'm sure I speak for all Nova Scotians when I say "Winter, your work here is done. Now get lost!!" It's common for March to swing between cold and warm weather and it's not all bad because it does slow down the thaw and help to prevent too much flooding. In years where we get a lot of snow it's never good to have it all melt at once as our flooded basement in January could attest to. But I'm happily staying warm at home and just waiting for the warmer weather to come now :) Every time it snows again I go to check the weather because even if it snowed 3 feet tonight I'm going to hope that tomorrow it's warm so I don't have to shovel!

There's an old saying that I've quoted here before, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing choices" so I'll go grab another sweater and head for bed with my laptop and Netflix. Hope you're all staying warm and have a nice weekend. Here are a few videos of the beloved and very funny Rick Mercer to make you see how much a part of Canadian life Winter is, lol. The ocean temperature at the moment has cooled down to a nice chilly 31 degrees farenheight, that's -1 celcius so yes, the water is colder than freezing. it's a bit warmer usually when we do the polar bear dip though. Anyways, enjoy some colder weather videos.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"The Earth Is Where We Make Our Stand..."

That's a quote from Carl Sagan. He's not talking about some movie to defeat aliens and save the planet from invasion. He's talking about making the most of life on Earth right now. February is nearly finished and so winter is drawing to a close for another year. The Vernal Equinox, when the sun is half way between the summer and winter solstice, is coming in 3 weeks and we can clearly see the days getting longer here in the northern hemisphere. It's now light when we go to work and school and when we come home. The long dark is over.

With the growing height of the sun in the sky we're starting to feel more warmth from the light even on days that are bitterly cold. So it's time to think about the early plants for the garden. March in Nova Scotia is always a mix of bitter cold winter weather and warm springlike days. So planting things out into regular garden beds is still impossible because the tender young plants would just freeze solid on a bad day. But to get a jump on gardening we're starting our seeds indoors and thinking about setting up a lean-to greenhouse or some other way of having our seedlings get the light and warmth from the sun during the day and still stay warm at night. The reality for us at the moment means we'll be moving trays indoors at night and outside to the lean-to when it's warmed up. That's not for another week at least though as we just had a -14 night. We're not our of winter yet. But we're hopeful. Next year we will have a year round greenhouse located behind our home and that will allow for a lot more out of season growing so stay tuned for more details as the year progresses. Our first plastic greenhouse covers will be here shortly and we'll let you know how they work out.

Meghan's lettuce seeds and radishes she planted in cups have come through and their little green heads have brought her a huge amount of joy. There's something that's always amazing about seeing a dried up little seed put forth it's first root and leaves and it never fails to strike me as glorious! She'll no doubt have pics up soon.

This year I'd like to encourage you to try one thing each week that's good for the environment. Or maybe something that's good for mankind. Maybe you'll switch laundry detergent to something less polluting or grow lettuce for one meal. Maybe you'll participate in Earth Hour and switch off some lights or hang your clothes out on a clothes line to dry instead of using the dryer. Whatever you do, can you imagine how great it would be if a billion people were doing something at the same time? Each person on the planet, one time per week. That's 7 billion things each week.

Sometimes we have to start small with the world around us. Teaching our children, exploring new ideas, being kind to someone else. It was Mother Theresa who said "we can do no great things, just small things with great love" and she was right.