Saturday 30 June 2012


We left the confines of the compound in order to join the throng.
There was a celebration at the Art Hive in Haliburton, today.
And later there was supper with good friends at BLACKberry fields. (Check them out on Facebook.)
We're fortunate to have a vibrant arts and folk community.
There is more than just natural resource to enjoy in central Ontario.


Friday 29 June 2012

Treasures in my Garden, by Kira

Bee balm for tea.

Peas for salad.

Newt for bug control.

Grapes for jelly.

Yarrow for love.

Calendula for health.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Cacoethes Aedificandi

Most books written about small scale farming and self-sufficiency begin with a chapter dedicated to choosing the right property.
Because we were looking for a starter home and not planning to farm,
the advice in that early chapter fell on deaf ears.
There are so many features to look for in a suitable farmstead, it would be difficult to expect everything.
Of the most important features, there is the existing infrastructure of the farm.
That is, house, outbuildings, utilities, and fences.

There is a common quote that crops up throughout the small-scale farming texts.
Pliny quotes Cato the Elder as advising to buy what others have built rather than build oneself, and thus, "enjoy the fruits of another's folly."
Timeless advice.
Unfortunately, a well established infrastructure also adds value to a property,
and even had we taken that advice to heart while we were looking for a home,
I doubt very much that there would have been something ideal, that we could afford.
Though, I often recall that quote while I'm working on building the next project.

I should admit that I prefer the current arrangment.
The skill set required for maintaining a farm is virtually identical to building one.
Being compelled to build, provides the tools I need to keep everything working properly.
The added value of pride and legacy make building very rewarding,
despite the real possibilty that I'm building for someone else.

I used to daydream about everything I would build if there was enough time and money to do so
There is still lots of dreaming going on, but also some more meaningful planning.
If there was all the time and money I needed when we started out, I would have made a lot of errors.
Hindsight has proven that many of my plans would not have worked well had they been built when I dreamed them up.
Restraint allows time and experience to develop better ideas.
The projects underway now reflect several years of planning.
Of the long term plans we have now, many will be discarded as we grow and learn.
It is a benefit that we are limited by time and money,
but not by any lack of enthusiasm.

The fence and the coop addition currently underway represent a culmination of solutions to many different problems.
The fence will give us much needed control over the chickens, and the addition will allow us to keep more young birds.
In fact, the addition is really just a part of the original building that was never completed, or even started.
The addition is just an outdoor covered porch, that is screened to keep the little birds in and threats out.
We have done without by using the woodshed in past years.
My goal is to use the woodshed before November,
and having it empty will help my resolve.

Sometimes there is loose talk about sellng our home in exchange for something more built up.
But we have made a commitment to see this through, and besides,
life is pretty empty when the grass is always greener on the other side.
There is also the challenge to be efficient in how we produce food.
Fewer infrastructure requirements translate into less cost, less maintenance, and less impact.
Hardy animals, smart design, and favouring plants over livestock, reduce the need for extensive and expensive structures.
We don't have all of the answers yet, so there is no need to be overbuilding.

The undeniable itch that goes along with being in the country,
is the desire to build.
It's hard to resist, and our farm might be a mess if I was able to build everything I have dreamed up.
Fortunately, I have trouble keeping up with the basics list.
In truth, I am looking forward to the next project.
I haven't decided which plan that will be just yet, but it will involve harvesting trees and milling lumber.
Just enough diversion until it is time to build again.


Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Campfire

The firepit used to be where the little pigs are now.
It was one of the first things built when we moved in.
It ended up in with the pigs.
So, we had stoppped using it for a while.
Last Autumn, Auren and I built a new pit.
It's close to the pond, and out of the wind.
We built a little spot for grill in it.
It hasn't had much use so far, but now that there has been some rain,
we are able to use it more often.
Tonight was a good night for a campfire.
One thing led to another.
Kira set the tent up for the kids in the basement.
It was only a matter of time before someone wanted marshmallows.
Our supply of meat needs to be refreshed soon,
so in the meantime, we buy from a local butcher.

Highland Meats
10124 County Road 503,
Gooderham, ON
Tel: 705-447-0129
Fax: 705-447-0130

There's a little grill for the firepit that is just perfect for handmade sausages.
Terry and Maggie at Highland meats make their own sausages.
We're fortunate to have a local source of quality meat,
especially when our own supply is limited.
I won't even try to describe how good they taste cooked over Maple coal.
The marshmallows are store-bought, but not for long.
Kira will be trying some recipes out.
There is no denying marshmallows, when there's a campfire.
Parenting is not a precise science, yet there are a few constants.
Kids, for example, behave well when they are focused.
And few other things get children ( and adults too) more focused than
the idea of sleeping in a tent and having a campfire.

Auren has done a fair bit of camping.
Fern hasn't had the chance to;
she's overdue for the real thing,
Tonight they're in the basement in their tent.
It's camping to them, and I'm surprised they are still in their sleeping bags.
Though, they are very tired from the sausage and marshmallow binge.

If they really want to do some camping,
Kira and I will be more than happy to take them out when we can.
Because once they have a few of the basic camping skills,
we'll hardly see them.


Tuesday 26 June 2012

Chicken Terror

On the farm, setbacks can be a heartbreak.
The growing season has a time limit, and there aren't many instances where you can start again if something goes wrong.
Failure is part of the learning process, but sometimes, disaster strikes from where it is least suspected.

Our Gold-Laced Wyandotte chickens are superb foragers.
They used to go far afield in search of food.
But, with the Fox on the prowl, they have been staying closer to home.
Home is safer, but it is also where most of the gardens are.
The main garden is chicken resistant, but it is not chicken proof.
Our birds can fly if they choose to.
They don't choose to fly very often,
but when they decide that the garden is worth foraging in,
they are capable of flying over the fence to get in.
And that is what they did.

Knowing that it was not permitted, the chickens chose to enter the garden when we were away from home.
Now, you may have heard that chickens are good for a garden.
Once seedlings are big enough, many people let their chickens peruse their gardens in search of pests and weeds.
I don't know what kind of chickens will do that, but ours are scratching, scraping, and digging chickens.
They don't want the plants.
They are looking for tender insect morsels and undiscovered seeds.
In doing so, they tear their way through the garden with no regard whatsoever for the growing plants.

The damage was quite severe.
Mature plants cut off at the root, uprooted, stepped on, and torn.
No doubt they cleared up a lot of insects, but we might as well have used agent orange instead.
Besides, they also gobble up worms and toads, which we struggle to keep in the garden.
(There's a fat, toad-filled snake lurking.)

Kira was in tears when she discovered the damage.
A lot of hard work vanished in the space of a few hours
She would have thrown the chickens straight into the pot,
were they not just as important as the gardens.

The plan is to have a large chicken compound in place to let them roam freely,
but within fencing, to both keep them safe, and to protect the fruit and vegetables.
That is still underway, and it may yet be a while before it is fully enclosed.
Even once it is completed, there is always the chance that the chickens will escape.
They may be deterred, but when a chicken sets it's mind to something,
they are stubbornly persistent.

Kira is equally persistent.
The plants that can be saved have been replanted.
The total losses are produce that we won't have this year, unless we buy from someone else.
There is solace, however, knowing that there will still be an adundance of food from our gardens.
And perhaps Kira prefers some vengeance,
knowing that not only can it be served cold,
it may also be served roasted, or in a chicken pot-pie.

Monday 25 June 2012

Harvesting Chamomile, by Kira

We like to drink tea.
Last year we started to grow and harvest a few different kinds of plants that we could make into tea.
Mint, bee balm and chamomile to name a few.
Today, Auren, Fern and I harvested chamomile flowers to dry for tea.
We cut the flower off leaving little or no stem attached.
We then spaced them out in the dehydrator.
They took about four hours.
I usually like to hang my herbs to dry but it has been very damp and humid;
not ideal drying conditions.
I then put them in a sealed jar for storage.

Chamomile is said to help with sleep, anxiety, cramps,
upset stomach, and many other symptoms.
Chamomile is great as a hot or a cold tea.
You can have it on its own or in a blend of herbs; we like it with bee balm.
It is great with lemon or honey.
This is a great herb for tea drinkers to grow.
It is a beautiful plant, easy to harvest and east to prepare.
It attracts beneficial insects to the yard and it is easy to grow.


Sunday 24 June 2012

New Language

I have always enjoyed learning new languages whenever I could.
Unfortunately, I have never mastered any; just enough to communicate.
It's fun to get to know someone when there's a language gap.
The effort involved in bridging expression promotes a deeper, more meaningful relationship.
Not all languages are like that however.
Computer language may be fascinating for many people; but not for me.
I learned some programming code when I was in school, but whatever I learned is simply nostalgia now.
My interest in language is rooted in the need to communicate with another person, and the interconnection that exists between cultures.
Computer's don't have culture.
I get to know a computer so I can use it as a tool; not for cultural exchange.
Here's an early announcement.
We are building a website to help promote our blog,
and more importantly, our business.
Without revealing too much, too early, the business will be an education centre focused on what you have been reading about in this blog.
Neither the website or the business will be going before the end of July (2012),
but we'll be sure to make a formal announcement as we go forward.
In the meantime, there will be a new learning curve to ascend.
In order to keep costs under control, we will be assembling and maintaining the new site ourselves.
To be sure, we do have an IT man to help support us.
Mike is already renowned for his supporting role at the Feather and Anchor website.
He will be picking me up when I fall.
Aside from inexperience and some hardware limitations,
I expect to pick up the new language despite the lack of heartfelt interest.
The website itself will be fun to create and will be yet another form of expression for us.
However, the nuts and bolts of it all can be tedious and frustrating.
I know what I want to do, but I often find restrictions that require some fairly complex understanding of computer language to overcome.
Having grown up in the computer age,
my expectations of computer and software performance are somewhat high.
When I was boy, I could handle staring idly at the screen while the disk drive loaded up a program.
But now, I expect that fifeteen years of progress should abolish the wasteful act of screen hypnosis.
It has not, and even now, I watch as an upload is wretchedly slow and probably won't work after it's done.
Not unlike the days of Five and a Quarter inch floppy drives.
We will be working hard to offer up a great website that will encompass the full scope of our activities here.
And though it will be handmade with love,
I will have some good help.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Summertime Lemon Melt-Aways, by Kira

These little cookies are so good.
Unfortunately, pretty much all of the ingredients are from the tropics.
We are trying to cut back on foods from distant sources,
but there are so many healthy choices from far away.
So these cookies are a treat and not a staple,
even though we could eat them all the time.
Choosing organic, fair-trade products is the only way we buy tropical foods.
But it is still not local.


1 1/2 cups almond meal
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/3 cup arrowroot flour
a couple of pinches of salt
6 Tbsp honey
4 Tbps lemon juice
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

Mix together all the dry ingredients.
Mix together all the wet. Except the oil.
Add the wet to the dry and mix.
Now add the melted cocout oil, beat until well combined.
roll them into bite size balls,
you can either roll these in coconut or arrowroot powder.
Once you have powdered your balls...Hehe,
lightly smush and place on cookie sheets and freeze.
Yep they are raw. Serve them frozen. They are cold, lemony but not too lemony, with a hint of coconut and they melt in your mouth.
So tasty.

A couple of variations

Replace lemon with water and add cocoa powder.
You can also roll these sweet chocolatey cookies in cocoa powder instead of arrowroot flour.


Replace the lemon juice with lime juice.
I have not tried this but lime and coconut are another great combanation.

Summertime Treats!

Friday 22 June 2012

Building keep who out?

Martin was over today to help string the big fence up.
This was an easy job with two people, but it would have been a trial had I done it alone.
Thanks Martin.

This fence is very important, and I will be glad to have it finished.
More so because fencing is boring and laborious; especially over rough ground.
There are jobs coming up that demand more creativity and finish with a greater sense of accomplishment.

There is still the front line to do, but the worst of the work is done.
The fence won't really be completely effective until the new layer coop is built,
but it should at least slow down the Fox attacks

The fence does add a feeling of legitimacy to the farm.
And the gentle contrast between the chicken yard and the hill is now more distinctive and clean.
Fences can be divisive when used improperly.
But they can also be cohesive, like seams on a patchwork quilt.


Thursday 21 June 2012

Early to Bed, Early to Rise.

Words to live by.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple anymore.
In fact, I wonder how many farmers have actually been able to follow that credo.
Perhaps in simpler and more civilized times, sleep was easy to catch.
But if you want to take control of your life and step beyond meaningless employment,
the day must carry some extra weight.

On May Day, which is the European labour day, I saw an old poster,
posted on Facebook in a few places.
It read, Eight hours for work, Eight hours for sleep, Eight hours for what we will.
I like that schedule and I think it's fair.
Many people propose that we don't need that much sleep, but I would prefer eight hours to seven or to nine.
( Not that I wouldn't do nine if I could.)
And I generally support unions for their work in trying to keep the common man from being led into slavery.
It is apparent that most of us will sacrifice either sleep or personal time for the sake of money,
whether out of greed or necessity.
And that allows unscrupulous employers to take advantage of a disadvantage.

I often reflect on the irony of computers.
The original purpose of a computer was to alleviate workloads, and allow people more time for home and family.
The opposite has happened, though I'm sure many saw that coming.
If you increase productivity,
then profitability goes up.
So why not keep raising productivity?
So it goes.

A farmer is a self-employed businessman.
His hours are determined by the farm and his obligations, and not a schedule on a calendar.
There is no union to step in to set standards.
But the responsibility is to personal goals, and not to the greedy aspirations of another.
There lies the real freedom.
The freedom of choice.
You must take into mind that slavery is not bondage to labour,
but the revocation of the ability to choose.

Self-determination is not all work and no play.
It means that you may exercise your freedom of choice as you best see fit.
When the temperature outside is beyond hot,
you may choose to work in the shade.
When your family needs you,
you can be there for them.
When there are choices, you are able to make them,
without asking someone else first.
When your livelihood needs you however, there is no one who will take your place or fill-in.
That is the Faustian bargain.
The freedom to choose, in exchange for heart and soul.

The chicks are hatching tonight.
You'd think that they would start at nine and finish up by four-thirty.
Apparently, they haven't read the employment standards act.
I won't stay up all night long for them, but I should make sure that nobody stays in the incubator too long once they've hatched.
Chicks don't hatch every night, but there is always something going that pushes conventional wisdom beyond the 'early to bed' point; every night.

Many mornings start, bleary eyed, rifle in hand, trying to focus the crosshairs on whatever is upsetting the chickens; much too early.
The final key strokes to finish a blog post are often met with trouble in the yard,
or trouble in the house.
Yet I rejoice at being able to pick my son up at the bus stop at four o'clock
when most other parents are still at work.
I don't need to check the calendar to juggle my priorities;
my priorities juggle my calendar.

Tonight, the children are safe and sleeping.
But the chicks are hatching, and they need to be tended to.
And so I will.
With a glad heart;
for it is my choice.