Oct 31, 2008

Healthy, ethical halloween

i just published an impromptu rant about scary costumes and corporate candy called Blood, Sugar and Explosives - enjoy.

Our pubescent chicken is growing up fast - her egg this morning (one of 6, i might proudly add) is still a bit mushy, but much stronger than yesterday's mush, which galen carefully carried to show & tell today.

ok, time to go clean out noxious amounts of rat poop from the crawl space. hope your day is as fun...

Oct 30, 2008

Half-baked Eggs

In our egg offering from our chickens this morning was a wispy-white malformed egg with a shell as soft as paper. It doesn't break when being handled, but miraculously molds to the shape of the fingers pressing into it. This soft shell can be from insufficient protein, in which case we need to give crushed oyster shells. But since the other 3 eggs are just fine, it's more likely that this is just one of the new hens finally starting to produce. She is literally learning to lay eggs. My little girl is growing up!

Check out my three recently-published articles (and again, if you can leave a comment, that'd be great):

Oct 28, 2008

Leaving the Farm

Leaving home for a weekend is a bit different than it used to be. New priorities, new passions, and new responsibilities.

After lighting a fire to warm the house, preparing an oatmeal and home-grown-egg breakfast, cycling with Galen to school, and shaking down the schoolyard apple tree to get the last fresh, unbruised and unbitten offerings for our Vancouver friends, Zekiah and I got right to work. We buried the chicken that died from old age (we think), and put in an extra feeder and water can for the surviving flock who'll have to stay in the coop for the whole weekend. Set out the rat traps too - they outnumber our egg-layers by atleast 3:1.

Next we broke open another 20 bulbs of garlic, re-hoed the last row we'd fertilized last week with seaweed, and planted all 140 or so cloves. We raked heaps of maple leaves onto a big blue tarp and hauled them down to cover all 3 garlic beds for the winter. We also did a quick harvest of our own apple and pear trees to take to Vancouver.

Set out fresh food, water and litter for our cat Syd, then had to find him to lock him in the basement - a weekend of rat-hunting in our crawl space should earn his keep. Checked on the new storm windows to make sure they'll actually stay up in a storm.

All this time Sarah was juggling preparation for teaching a weekend birth class and processing the last four batches of carmelized apple butter - a continuation of last night's midnight apple sauce marathon, finally finishing the 2-child-bike-trailer-full load of apples from the schoolyard and Brock & Heather. Also finished baking some bread to go with our apple butter and fresh CSA farm produce for our Avoid WhiteSpot ferry picnic.

The house may have been left in a mess, but the new thing for me was my strong drive to get things done outside. I really wanted to get our garlic crop in and mulched, and to finish processing the apples for our winter sustenance. I felt a compassionate responsibility to treat the old dead chicken well, and a deep concern to take care of our chickens as well as our cat. And we deeply wanted to share (OK, and show off) our natural island bounty with our Vancouver friends.

If this is what being "tied to the land" is like, I think I'd rather call it "connected", and I think I like it. At some point out in our garlic field, a bumber sticker came to me - Old hippies don't die, they just go back to the land.

Oct 19, 2008

Time to be good neighbours

In the four city houses we lived in, we never once had dinner with our immediate neighbours (except for the occasional big potluck.) Here, it took two weeks.

On our way to pick apples at the old schoolyard, our boys insisted we invite the 3 neighbour kids along. Their dad Adam happily agreed, then invited us for homemade soup whenever we got back. We threw in our homemade bread, and voila, we have neighbours.

It's not just that people are friendly and welcoming in this rural valley, and not just that we're incredibly lucky to have good people next door with kids who are 1, 3 and 4 years older than Zekiah and go to the same school (both the parents are also teachers there). It's also that we and those around us just have and take time for people. Adam and I didn't pull out our Blackberries to schedule a get-together 3 weeks hence. It just sprung up and we were there and it worked.

Thanksgiving Day's another good example. We arranged to visit nearby Beehaven Farm sometime in the morning to pick up garlic bulbs for planting. When we arrived and started chatting with Gail (the beautiful healthy urban refugee woman we'll be in 15 years), she offered to show us around the farm. In our past life we probably would have been already late for the next appointment and had to refuse, but here we naturally strolled with her in the light rain to the garden and bee hives, along the way learning all about her history, how high a deer can jump, and who finally bought the big dairy farm around the bend.

Then down the road to Makaria farms to buy chickens from Brock and Heather, a young Victoria couple in their second year of homesteading. They both dropped their tools and took us first to see the rabbits, then helped us choose chase and finally catch our new egg-layers, adding in lots of free advice about how to care for them. Heather then took the boys to help collect eggs while Sarah and I picked apples from the tree that's too prolific for their limited time. On the way out they threw two old truck tires onto the trailer for the boys to play on, while we invited them over for an evening apple kuchen dessert made from some of their apples.

So, a simple shopping trip took us not to any paved parking lots and witty flirtations with check-out girls, but rather to neighbours and connections. Instead of a chocolate bar or People magazine, our impulse buys were homemade honey, free windfall apples, truck tires, and a date with new friends. And rather than feeling perennially rushed and late for the next item on the list, we feel right on time for life.

Oct 16, 2008

Published and Poultry-full

Two bits of good news on a rainy Thursday as I prepare to start making 30 storm windows with my father-in-law (these ancient single-pane windows are gorgeous but not so efficient):
1. The other two missing chickens showed up the next day, and they all somehow got into the coop last night, so we're not quite the miserable failures as chicken farmers as I feared.
2. I just had a new article published about not wearing black (Mom, you click on that blue highlighted link to go read it on the CarrieandDanielle.com website...)


Oct 14, 2008

A lousy farmer, that is

In the farm paradise piece below, I started to write about the thrill of harvesting our first 3 eggs from the 6 new chickens we bought yesterday, when I realized I'd forgotten to get them safely locked into the chicken coop for the night. After 1 hour with a flashlight scouring our land (and cursing how big 5 acres really is), I managed to find and carry 3 of the 6 back to their new home. When Sarah gets back from yoga we'll go look again, but I deeply fear I've made easy prey for the raccoons, ravens and minks tonight.

Not that I love chickens in any deep way - picking them up still scares me, to be honest - but I'm feeling more than just a loss of eggs and investment ($10 each). We're slowly embracing the real responsibility we've taken on to steward this land - growing food sustainably, managing the forested area, protecting the creek - and even more so to steward the animals. In my first night as a chicken farmer, I've failed to protect half of my flock. And the 3 I did find did nothing to assuage my guilty conscience - these same birds who feistily pecked then ran away as we tried to put them in transport cages yesterday were scared little baby birds tonight, sitting docile and relieved to have Papa Ricky carry them to safety, giving me that same "all the other mommies were here on time" look our kids give us when we're late at school pick-up.

Some couples get a puppy to see if they could handle a baby. Good thing they don't start with chickens, or we'd have a serious population decrease to deal with.

PS - an hour later now, Sarah and I did find one of the missing 3, but not before the raccoons had found her. We just hope the other 2 found better hiding spots, and that they forgive me more easily than i'll forgive myself.

I'm a real farmer now

well she might'a took my car keys
but she forgot about my old John Deere

Yup, that's me this afternoon, straight out of a Vince Gill country music video, driving my tractor for the first time, out to the new compost pile with a trailer load of chicken-coop hay and poop and dead rat remains (judging from the puncture wounds, i'd say our cat is finally earning his keep.) Then pulling weeds and turning soil to prepare for tomorrow's full-moon naked midnight planting of the 40 garlic bulbs we bought from Gail 5 farms up the road. Each bulb can produce up to 6 new bulbs, so we may end up with 240 garlic bulbs next year as testimony to our overzealous first planting.

Yesterday we took the 3 neighbour kids plus ours up the road to the old schoolhouse, where i climbed and vigorously shook an apple tree, producing a hailstorm of organic apples upon the heads of 5 screaming delighted children. In one hour we filled up the 2-kid Chariot buggy. We've already washed them and cut out the previously-enjoyed bits (Sarah discovered 5 different types of bugs still enjoying them) and made a winter supply caramelized apple butter and apple sauce, and haven't even begun harvesting our own 5 trees.

At the farm up the other street, all of Armande's basil died in the heavy frost last week (these natural events now mean more to us than just an icy car to defrost), but we managed to buy the entire remaining basil supply from the produce store on the highway for the winter supply of pesto. The kindergarten teacher Katie brought us 4 bags of the heaviest, meatiest tomatoes in the valley, from which we've put away sauce, salsa and ketchup for the year.

It's not just the local seasonal foods - that's last year's excitement. It's the intimate connection to the growers, and our growing identity of being amongst them. And it's our connection to our own land. We've loved past houses and neighbourhoods, but never felt tied to or responsible to the land. Now we are regularly called outside, rain or shine, to be part of it and steward it, walking around in Joyful reverence, in wider and wider circles of knowing, quietly pledging to make the most of this time and place. To misquote Corduroy, "I think I've always wanted a home."

Oct 8, 2008


To explain yesterday's hasty posting a bit further, both Sarah and I have been hired as regular contributers to the newly expanded website of Carrie and Danielle, the Vancouver-based authors of a popular book called Style Statement. The book helps people analyse their wants and patterns and characteristics then come up with two words that describe their core - contemporary exotic, enduring bold, sacred dramatic, etc. Readers then try to make all parts of their lives reflect that truth - clothes, friends, vocation, hobbies, etc. Gimicky, yes, but the idea of aligning all of one's life to a basic understanding of self and values is a good one.

The website (www.carrieanddanielle.com) features articles about intentional living, spirituality, environment, fashion, etc. No doubt there's a high-tech widget way to do this, but for now I'll just post links here anytime we're published. Here's what we've got up there so far:
  • Love is in Fashion - a call to express love as openly and fully as we do for our children
  • Beyond the Checklist - we have to go beyond the standard 10 simple steps (low-flow showers, recycle, cfc lightbulbs, etc) and make some deeper shifts if we truly intend to save the world
  • Down the Drain - the one i mentioned yesterday about water conservation and teenage fantasies
  • Locavore Thanksgiving - Sarah's article about eating local
One of the goals of this new phase of our lives is for me to finally have the chance to write. For over a decade i've been believing there's a book or two inside me ready to come out, but as with most important things in life, just never had time. Now here's the time - kids in school, no job - and it is rather intimidating. No excuses, just gotta do it. This website, and this blog for that matter, are giving me a chance to start doing it, to start writing and sharing in small chunks that will I believe come together into a larger body of work when the time is right. For now i get to learn about the fine art of blogging, writing, being edited, receiving feedback (I absolutely cherish any comments you care to make on my writing - it's a huge help), getting published, etc.

So, thank you so much for reading, for being part of this new journey. They say writing is a lonely world, but so far I feel well supported and part of something. If you'd like to actively help, here's how:
  1. keep reading!
  2. post comments on the carrie and danielle website - it gives me feedback, and also shows that people are interested which makes others want to read
  3. pass along my writings, blogsite, etc to others who might enjoy
  4. send ideas of things i should be writing about

Oct 7, 2008

Published article

I've had my first article published - something about saving water and showering with Rhonda Warwick... Check it out (and please leave a comment there when you've done) at: www.Carrieanddannielle/com

We've also finally moved into our new house -more about that soon, gotta go unpack before Sarah catches me on my blog...