Tuesday 31 July 2012

When water is a treasure.

It was early in the growing season last year that I had started putting the irrigation plan together.
The weather was hot and dry.
The gardens were just getting underway when it looked as though
there would be no rain.
One hot afternoon, I frantically cobbled together what I had on hand in order to pump water from the pond up to where the gardens are.
And then it rained.
The rest of the season was wet, and so I neglected to finish putting the pump system together.

In all fairness, it's a pretty challenging job.
It was simple enough to get the pump and pressure tank out of storage, and build a platform for them near the pond.
But to get everything going, there needed to be a trench dug to the house for the hundred feet of pipe and the wire to provide electricity to the pump.
Hoses needed to be joined, and the wire run into the house and hooked to the panel.
I had also built the water pick up last year, but it had failed to work properly even before the system was put together.
I remember now. That's when I gave up.

This time, I waited until the last minute.
There would be no produce at all if I didn't get some water to the gardens.
Sure, there is the well, but even that is getting low and would likely run dry if we were to put as much moisture to the plants as we wanted to.
Besides, the pond is the logical choice for water supply because the water is warmer and contains additional nutrients that the well water lacks.
Despite being the lowest that we have ever seen it, the pond still holds enough water to liberally soak the gardens and fruit.

So now, the pump is hooked up and running.
The gardens have been given lots water.
And it's raining.
Yes. Merciful rain.
And though it is late, the rain is still welcome.
The irrigation system is still a necessary part of the farm, however.
Regardless of whether or not we continue to use an electric pump,
the pipe from the pond up to the gardens will continue to be needed.
The goal is to have water run to every corner so that we don't need to drag
two-hundred feet of garden hose all over the place.
There is also the option of setting up self-watering stations for the animals,
thus eliminating one of the daily chores.

This all depends on there being enough water in the pond.
If it gets that bad, we'll be going to plan F, if you get what I mean.
In truth, there are options beyond the abundant water that we have become accustomed to.
Alternative moisture harvesting and conservation techniques are used throughout the world where water is a treasure.
We would simply modify our current irrigation system as necessary.
Interestingly, I am already working on a plan to maintain a consistent pond level, as well as make the pond suitable for swimming.
This would involve some of the same practices needed to cope
in a semi-arid climate.

Even now, as I write, it rains.
Today is the first substantial rainfall we've had for a very long time.
It's enough to make me forget that there has even been a drought.
But by not finishing the water project last year,
I put us at risk when the rain did not fall this season.
It's a lesson, to be sure.
I mustn't take our water for granted,
for it may not always be there when we need it.
And so the job isn't done until we're better prepared.
This drought may have been mild compared to what is to come.

Monday 30 July 2012

Lemon Sponge Pie, Oh my, Oh my! by Kira

This pie is very tasty. You will most likely have all the ingredients on hand.
The beaten egg whites make this simple ingredients pie special.
It is gooey, tart, sweet and fluffy, sitting on top of a flaky pie crust.


1 1/4 cup of flour. I did a blend of whole wheat, almond meal and rye.
1/2 cup cold, cubed butter or a mix of lard and butter to equal 1/2 cup
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 tbsp of cold water


1 cup sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs separated
3 tbsp flour
6 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 cup of whole milk

Make the pastry:
Combine flour, salt, sugar.
Work the cubed butter in with pastry knife, add water and work into a dough.
Do not over work.
Shape into a disk and refrigerate for about an hour.

preheat oven to 425F

Roll out dough and work into a round 9 inch pie tin.
Place dough in pie tin and press edges.

Make the filling:

Whisk together the sugar, butter, egg yolks, lemon juice, and salt.
Whisk in the milk.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks,
gently fold whites into lemon mixture.

Pour filling into pie shell and bake for 10 minutes.
Lower temperature to 350F and bake for about 35 minutes. cool on rack.
Serve at room temperature.


Sunday 29 July 2012

Saturday 28 July 2012

Bicycle Races

It's not everyday that four large school buses park at the end of our driveway,
so I thought it best to investigate.
It turns out that they were part of an outdoor adventure race and were simply parked to the side knowing that there were four buses worth of cyclists coming down the road.
I went to get Auren.

This neighborhood is a popular destination for all kinds of offroad racing.
There is a very large enduro race every year that travels through our property.
The jeeps used to come en masse, but as a large group, we haven't seen them for awhile.
It's good to see the mountain bikes come through; they may be damaging on some trails,
but mountain bikes won't leave a trace on these trails.

I don't really want the kids to get into competitive sports, but if they have the inclination to do so,
these kinds of races would be my first choice.
The race today included mountain biking on the road and on the nasty trails, but it also included paddling and trekking that involves orienteering.
Success is rated by a points system, and I suspect that many of the riders were looking to achieve personal goals; not actually win the race.
Some were serious looking, but most were as relaxed as they could be,
considering the heat of the day and the challenges that lay in store.

Auren thought it was great and it inspired him to spend extra time on his bicycle today.
I haven't been working on his freeride track, but I'll get to it soon.
In the meantime, he has his own track set up on the lawn.
I'm not much of a bicycling role model,
so it's good for the kids to see first-hand what bicycling looks like.
And it's even better when the pace car is playing AC/DC


Friday 27 July 2012

A Day Out.

There was a festival in town today.
Actually, it kind of felt like a festival,
but it was really more of a bazaar.

The kids have been brought up in a very rural setting,
so it's a different experience for them to be around so many people.
It was a bit much for them, and there was little intended to tempt children.

The princess booth was great, but the novelty wore off quickly.
The bright sunlight and persistent heat were all the kids felt.
As beautiful as the crafts were, the experience itself was pretty dull.

Five minutes in, the ducks swimming across the lake were more interesting.
Since we have ducks in the yard,
I suppose that wild ducks are exotic for the kids.

Lunch at the local ball diamond was much more fun.
A shaded picnic spot away from the throngs of people.
We could have done this at home, but then again, the grass was cut.

After lunch, we headed to Ted's.
I have posted about this place.
It's a re-store of epic proportion.
No-name, no-profit.

Way more fun than a craft market.

But home is even better.


Thursday 26 July 2012


Every year we pick berries for the winter.
Normally, it's strawberries.
The organic strawberries didn't do well this year, so we banked on a bumper crop of blackberries.
In the last few years, the blackberry bushes have produced abundantly,
and it looked like this season would be no different.

There are plenty of blackberries around our home.
Easy to find and pick, we wouldn't need to go far for fruit.
But the recent drought has been too much for the plants to handle.
We watched in dismay as the plants withered and the newly formed berries shriveled up.
And though we did not plant this crop, we were counting on it all the same.

Being able to eat berries throughout the winter is a staple that we have become accustomed to.
The blackberries had given us hope when the strawberries failed.
Now that hope seemed dashed.

Being a wild crop, there are blackberries in places other than close to home.
Even though the berries here ran out of water,
there should be other places that held enough moisture to keep the fruit succulent.
I felt it would be best if I scouted out the woods in search of survivors.
At first, healthy berries were to be found, but were sparse.
A little further in, things looked promising and large clusters of plants, nursed by natural wetland, persist in good numbers.
I didn't check the best places for fear of finding them too dry,
but there may be enough out there to make up for the losses around the house.

I suspect that there is much less topsoil where our home is situated.
And though there is a natural spring running through the yard,
there isn't much storage capacity should the spring dry up as it has.
In the forest, where there are both springs and soil, the plants have fared much better through the drought.
The drawback is that the blackberries are spread out,
and the overgrowth of brambles makes for some nasty picking.
I mean, getting bloodied kind of picking.

So the land will support us.
Our faith in the blackberry crop will not leave us hungry.
Though there will be blood shed to pay homage to the great resilience of the blackberry canes.
Among the brambles are also some raspberries and thimbleberries.
The harvest baskets will be coloured purple and red.
Picking won't be a calm and relaxed family activity such as we had imagined for this year.
But there will be fruit for the winter all the same.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Tools for Money.

It takes money to make money.
That's the truth of the current economic system.
The more of a financial investment you can make,
the more you stand to gain.
If you don't have enough money to invest, you can work for someone else.
But then your investment of time profits both you and your employer.

As much as we would like to reduce our consumption,
the fact is that if we would like financial independance,
we will need to invest more than simply time and effort in order to make money.
And we must make money, in order to buy our house and pay the property taxes.
Every project we undertake requires materials and equipment.
And that compels us to consume more.

Setting up for welding has taken a fair bit of investing thus far.
Much of the equipment is used, but there were a lot of blanks to fill.
I have all of the elements needed to get started, but not without having to do some buying.
Some big items, and many small items.
Scrounging is a great way to pick up necessary tools and materials,
but that takes time and money just to runaround from place to place.
Though there will be some scrounging yet.

I console myself with the prospect of generating income for the homestead.
There is also the fact that welding is a great skill used to repair items;
thus reducing consumption.
I will have the ability to weld virtually any metal at any thickness.
Beyond repairs, I will also be capable of creating and producing goods that would otherwise need to be bought from a store.
Manufacturing is mostly done far away from us, so making our own objects helps reduce the impacts from shipping and poor labour conditions.

Of course, I can't make everything, so the buying continues despite the best of intentions.
It forces me to ask myself if this is necessary.
Well, if money was out of the equation, simplicity would preclude a great many of the steps we have taken to ensure our ability to survive within this culture.
Where to draw the line is unclear.
And that is very frustrating when trying to stamp out my own hypocrisy.

Properly cared for, the welding gear has a very long lifecycle.
I continue to use the equipment that was passed to me from my father.
And there is no reason to replace it other than the need to be able to weld a greater variety of metals, of varying sizes and shapes.
I hope that Auren will get to use this rigging, and won't have to buy as much as I have in order to ply skills.
The accumulation of skill and knowledge seems to be of equal importance to accumulating tools and equipment.
In truth, I hope that my children need more knowledge than tools.
And perhaps in the world they grow up in,
money will not be important at all.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Gardening in a tutu, by Kira

Red Kuri squash patch.


Borage. A favourite amongst the bumblebees.

Green bush beans

Lemon cucumber


Hot banana peppers

Despite all of this dry weather the gardens are doing remarkably well.
So far we have been enjoying fresh greens for salads, kale, herbs for seasonings and the few remaining yellow sweet peas.
Within a week we will be enjoying lemon cucumbers.
There seems to be plenty of green beans growing so within a few days I will make a batch of dilly beans. These are a favourite with the kids.
Lots of tomatoes too! I am not sure how many exactly or of which varieties.
I would like to keep notes on this for the next growing season,
but I cannot even get into my tomato garden it is so dense.
So is it better to trim the plants and stake them or let them grow freely?
Which would have the higher yield? I have a little research to do.
I'm planning on posting as fruits, veggies and flowers are ripening and blooming.

Projects, crafts and recipes to share:

} Dilly beans
} Calendula cream
} Sugared flowers
} Nasturtium 'capers'
} Hot sauce

Monday 23 July 2012


Every day is different here.
You never know what's going to be going on.
And that makes life fun and interesting.
But for certain, there are chores that get done every single day,
regardless of what might be happening.

Evenings are more or less the same each night.
And they have been ever since we started keeping chickens.
Some nights have been hilarious as we try to get the chickens into the safety of their coops.
Other nights are tiresome and frustrating for the same reason.
If the birds don't go inside, they'll likely be taken by the night.

The mature chickens take care of themselves;
all we do is close the door for them.
The younger birds are fairly independant too.
At the moment, the bulk of the little chicks, the three remaining young roosters, and the ducks, all sleep in the same building.
They each have their own spots so there is no conflict.
The trick is to open the door at the right time.
Too early, and the older hens will cause trouble.
Too late, and the little roosters will roost outside.
The ducks are good at waiting for the door to be opened for them.

Once eveyone is inside, the door is closed for the night and they will all be safe from harm.
Then it's time to collect the eggs and close the door for the older birds.
They're in a separate building.
By evening, all of the hens are done laying so there are no feathers to ruffle.
That is, as long as there are no broody birds.
The broodies need to be taken off the nest and put elsewhere,
if we don't want them sitting on eggs.

Some nights, it's tedious to stop what you're doing to take care of the birds.
Especially if they are at the uncooperative age.
But it can be a beautiful time of day.
A contented quiet fills the yard, as all of the creatures are settling in for the night.
The collection of the eggs signals the last of the day's duties.
There may be time enough to survey the grounds and reflect on what has been accomplished,
and what lies ahead.
And then we settle down too,
for sleep is always welcome after a day on the homestead.