Sunday 30 September 2012

For everything there is a season.

Now that most of the vegetables have been harvested,
it's time to consider bringing home the bacon.

The weather is cooler and the winter draws near.
Our farm animals are no longer little babies.

A picture perfect fall includes a brisk north wind,
the sound of geese flying south,
and the business of storing up meat for the winter.

The slaughter and butcher of our farm friends is where many prospective homesteaders draw the line.
It's easy enough to kill a carrot, but animals are much more like us and that makes the issue personal.

The fact is that when we consider the death of an animal we do so selfishly.
Our own mortality faces us with real blood and death throes.

Understanding an animal's place in the great cycle is impossible if we don't first come to terms with our own role.
For we too shall become food.

Having narrowed our food choices dramatically,
Kira and I find it much easier to grow and process animals for meat.

We love our animals and care for them as we care for our pets.
Our intention is to only eat meat that was grown organically and treated ethically.

We take responsibilty for the meat we eat.
It's so important for everyone to better understand what it means to eat meat.

Because of the cycle of life on our farm,
we eat almost no meat during the Spring and Summer.

Having gone without for so long,
the appetite hungers for chops and roasts,
grilled treats, bacon, fried chicken, and pot pies.

So there is certainly sadness to see our friends turned from beautiful vibrant creatures into hearty homemade dishes, but.... it goes.

( Hey! Why is there a picture of Ursa in there? )


Saturday 29 September 2012

Autumn Memory

Fall is exactly how you remember it.

Cool and windy,
or crisp and bright.

Dark and restless,
or fresh and colourful.

Anxious and foreboding,
or friendly and compelling.

A chill in the air,
or hearty and comforting.

I hope fall captures their hearts,
like it captures mine.

Friday 28 September 2012

The Schoolhouse

Some of you might be curious about the elusive project that comes into glimpse every so often.
In the beginning I had intended to share every detail of the progress.
In the end the decision was made to keep it in the background.
The tedious development of a building isn't universally appealing.

This building will be the physical focal point of our new business.
It will be an education centre for the purpose of teaching our friends and customers.
The space will also help us homeschool our children by providing a separate area for more concentrated learning.
Many of the design features will make it appropriate for entertaining;
somewhere to stay up late once the kids have gone to bed.

We are building this with our savings that were set aside during my years as a mechanic.
I am building every part of it,
with a little help from here and there.
Most of the lumber comes from Romard lumber down the road.
The remainder is store bought.
Originally, my hope was to mill the lumber myself.
But that proved impossible because of the time needed.

It will be an open space with a cathedral ceiling.
Almost every inch will be clad with wood from Paul Romard's forest.
We found lots of windows on Kijiji so the room will be bright and airy.
There will also be a wood cookstove for heat and cooking that has been contributed by my Mom.

The purpose of this building will be to do a lot of good.

A place to share what we have learned.
A place to share the bounty of our farm.
A place to share time with family and friends.
A place to educate our kids.

It is built of concrete, steel, and wood.
It is shelter.
But when it is full of people,
it will embody everything that we are working for.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Creamy Rutabaga Soup, by Kira

What will I make with a rutabaga?
When I was young, the only way we ate this root vegetable was over-boiled, mashed, smothered in butter with lots of brown sugar....Yuck!
So when Andrew brought home six huge rutabagas,
I was not overly excited...
...until I started searching for recipes.
I found a few that sounded great.
I want to give this veggie another chance.
Today I made creamy roasted rutabaga soup.


1 large rutabaga
1 large sweet potato
1 bulb of garlic
1 large onion diced
1/4 cup of hemp seeds
Olive oil
Natural soy sauce to taste
Nutritional Yeast to taste
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.
Peel and dice the rutabaga and the sweet potato.
Toss with some salt and olive oil.
Cut the top of the garlic bulb off, place in tinfoil and drizzle with olive oil and wrap it up.
Place the Rutabaga, sweet potato and the wraped garlic onto one or two cookie sheets and bake for about 50 minutes.
When the root veggies are golden pull them out and put them into a large pot. When the garlic has cooled enough sqeeze the insides out into the pot as well. Add the onion and hemp hearts, fill with water to about two inches above vegetables.
Simmer for about a half hour.
Add the nutritional yeast and soy sauce.
Let this cool enough to put through a food processor.
After the soup is well blended return to stove add some salt and pepper.
Then simmer for a few more mintues.

I think there just might be some room in next years garden for some rutabaga!


Wednesday 26 September 2012

A Rare Opportunity.

Our free ranging chickens sure do attract a lot of predators.
We do our best to protect them, and trespassers don't often leave if they are discovered.
As a farm, we are permitted to defend our livestock in any we see fit, provided we inform the authorities if we destroy a protected animal.
But predators are protected for good reason, and I don't like to kill anything if it's needless.

During breakfast, and still in my pyjamas, a Northern Goshawk descended upon the yard, aiming for one of our young roosters.
Kira saw it first, and I didn't see anything until the hawk was on the chicken.
I raced out of the house to intervene.
We have never shot a bird of prey, and likely never will, so I went out without a firearm.
I figured some yelling would be enough, but the hawk was determined to get away with it's meal.

Our chickens are a hefty size, and weigh too much for a hawk to escape with.
They need to kill it, and then eat it on the ground.
I suppose they might be able to leave with it once the chicken was dead, but that didn't happen here.
The hawk had a firm hold on the chicken, but so did gravity,
so the two birds were in a death grip; in equally life threatening positions.

The rooster was whimpering and the hawk was out of breath from the struggle.
The rooster did manage to drag the hawk around the yard a bit before trying to get underneath the barn.
That's where I caught up with them,
and so I carefully seized the Goshawk.
I did pause for a moment to ponder what the hawk might do to me.
I have never handled a hawk before, and they are certainly equipped to do damage.
But I do have a basic tactic for unwieldly birds that I use on roosters.
A hand around the neck lets the bird know to stay calm.
The hawk was tired out though, and was no problem to pick up more comfortably so I could show the bird to the kids.

This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity,
to handle a wild hawk and let our children get a close up look.
As we deal with threats to our chickens, we do our best to strike the balance between the principle of live and let live, and the imperative to protect the food that we invest so much of ourselves into.
Our children should be taught the value of all life; including the animals that we consider damaging.
It doesn't always work out the way I'd like.
But the hawk got the message that we're dangerous.
I don't expect a return visit from this one.
So it was released once everyone had a good look.
A very beautiful creature indeed.

(The rooster? He wets his bed at night now, but otherwise he's fine.)

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Garden Salsa & Drying Herbs, by Kira


This past week has been spent nursing colds and preserving the last few goodies from the gardens.

The kids and I made a big batch of salsa. I experimented with the recipe.
I can never seem to follow a recipe.
Nor do I write out a recipe when I have made something awesome,
relying on my memory for the next time I make it.
I really should use a log book.

The ingredients that went into the salsa:

A mix of heirloom tomatoes
Green tomatillos
Green peppers
JalapeƱo peppers
Lemon juice


Drying the last of the Herbs!
I cut and strung the herbs and hung them outside for the day.

We moved them inside this evening to finish drying.

For seasoning:

Lemon thyme (one of my favorites)
English thyme

Drying for Teas:

Blackberry leaves

I am thinking how nice it will be to come home from snowshoeing this winter to a hot cup of peppermint tea

and a cozy fire!


Monday 24 September 2012


Our friend Martin is a big fan of the yard sale.
'Obtainium' is what he calls the rewards of a fruitful search.
Quality goods for next to no money.
I tend to agree with the principle of reusing and re-purposing,
but I can't picture myself ranging all over the place just to score some great deals.
Especially if you come home with things that you never intended to buy.

Having said that, I have been using Kijiji more often.
If you don't know what Kijiji is,
it is an online classified service, much like a well organized yard sale.
It is informal, with no online payment system; cash only, in person, pick-up.
It costs nothing to post a simple ad, and it costs nothing but time,
to peruse the thousands of items available.

Though I have used the service in the past,
I find myself turning to it more and more.
Normally, I type in a keyword and do a search.
But last night, I caught myself browsing categories aimlessly.
Not unlike Martin picking his way throughout the tables, scrutinizing the boxes in search of precious, overlooked treasures.

I must admit that the draw of very low priced goods has put me in danger of accumulating more than I need.
To date, I have done well procuring what we need,
avoiding the new goods in the box stores.
I fear that my recent successes may turn me into a rabid online shopper,
being sure to turn the screen off as Kira passes by.
Like an obessive gambler; sneaking around, hiding my filthy addiction.

As I use the site more frequently,
I am better able to zero in on those items that I covet most;
building materials to feed my other addiction for constructing.
Though, I found myself drifting through the guitars for sale, and wistfully choosing the ones I prefer.
"Hey, that's pretty cheap! Maybe I should....."
But no. That's not on the list.
I was looking for one window and one door.
Which I did find, and bought today.
$50 for a brand new window that is just the right size, and $85 for two solid pine doors that are beautiful.

And now look at this.
I have been searching for Baltic Birch plywood for some special kids toys.
Lo and behold, up comes a big pile of it for $125.
Can you believe it!
But I only need about six sheets.
Only, the price is so low.
But how do I get it home?
I'll have to go and look on Kijiji to see if there's a good trailer for sale.


Sunday 23 September 2012

The Firewood Season

So, it's that time of year again,
when I complain about not getting the firewood done.
Each year is the same; I put it off for any number of reasons, and find myself scrambling to the get the wood in.
In all fairness, we never go cold.
But it would be nice to have dry wood on hand all of the time.

We burn from September to the end of May.
Whenever it's cold, cool, or just damp, we light the fire for comfort.
More recently, we have been using the woodstove more for cooking.
There is nothing as comforting as a hearth fire.
So we take advantage of our stove and fuelwood whenever we wish.
Of course, there needs to be wood to burn.

Take a quick look in the woodshed and you will find lots of chickens,
but no wood.
It's been like this for years; the woodshed simply makes a better coop than wood storage.
There is wood out in the forest that I felled last year,
I just need to go and get it....
.....and buck it.....
.....and split it......
.....and stack it....
Oh! And build a new woodshed too, because we have decided to keep the old woodshed as permanent chicken housing.

Here, me an' Diego got some splittin' to do!
Sure glad I don't have his job!

The new splitter from my cousins should help us out quite a bit.
Normally, I build up a pile of wood,
then rent a splitter and do everything over a weekend.
This way, I can build the splitting into a routine.
Once I have everything set up, it really doesn't take too long to put the wood in.
Only now it's cold outside,
so we're grabbing whatever we can from around the yard.
It sure helps that we have a building project underway.
The lumber off-cuts are going straight to the woodstove.

I need to get the process going this week.
That way, I can do a little bit everyday instead of doing a major blitz in November.
Doing the wood is hard work, but fun work.
It doesn't take any calculating or problem solving skills,
other than keeping the log skidding organized.
At this time of year, there's no better place to work than in the woods.
It's quiet and cool as the forest takes a breath of fresh air after a scorching summer.

So maybe I'm not complaining about doing the wood at all.
I'm just looking forward to getting to it.


Saturday 22 September 2012

Unwelcome Guests

A lot of the time, troubles are of your own making.
But sometimes, trouble comes regardless of how careful you've been.

We have had problems getting the feed we need from our usual source.
Merrylynd runs a clean show and the only complaint we've had is not being able to get the feed we need, when we need it.
They try to help us out by getting us by with what's on hand, but this time,
we bought from another mill to get us through until our order from Merrylynd could be filled.
You might think that unpredictable supply is a big enough issue to switch to another provider.
But organic feed is hard to come by and the local option is far superior to the rest.

So for now, we bought organic feed from a feed store.
The feed was brought in from elsewhere; I don't know from where.
I discovered today, that the bags are likely old,
and contain Red flour beetles and larvae.

We run a pretty clean show ourselves, so it's horrible when we have unknowingly brought a pest to our farm.
Being fairly isolated, we don't suffer the pest problems that more densely populated areas do.
And this isn't like a Raccoon hitching a ride.
This is thousands of little insects, eggs, and larvae just waiting to explode.
Not only have bought inferior quality feed,
we have introduced a new species of pest to this land.
It is tragic.

The first step was to identify the pest.
At very least, these are grain pests and won't directly affect the animals.
They will, however, perpetuate themselves in spartan conditions such as coop litter,
so we needed to make sure that they stay clear of the animals' quarters.
We normally keep our feed in the house, so the most immediate threat is to our own food storage.
We had bought six bags of feed.
It looks like the larvae of one bag hatched; there are hundreds of beetles in that bag.
The remaining five bags contain larvae that haven't hatched, and presumably eggs too.
Some research shows that they only lay eggs at 20 deg.Celsius, and only fly when it's over 25.
I put the bags outside to get them away from the house and into the cool air.
Now that I think about it, the bag with the hatched beetles was the one near the patio door, which probably heated up during the day.
The hope is that the cool temperature halts their development while I try to contain the damage.
The next step was to spread diatomaceous earth everywhere.
In the bags, on the bags, around where the bags were, all over the place.
We can't have them gaining a foothold in our home.
As long as there is no food at all, they should die out.
The trouble is that we will be getting our feed order soon, so that feed will need to be keep in a separate location, until I have decided that the threat is gone.

I suppose we need to be prepared for these setbacks.
And our defense approach must be focused on prevention, since we would never use insecticides.
Still, it's frustrating when you pay good money for something that is supposed to be fresh,
but instead is old a full of bugs.
One more reason for us to be producing more of our own feed.

Friday 21 September 2012

Honey & Peppermint Tea, by Kira

Tea for a Cold.

For one cup:

Two sprigs of peppermint.

Four or five dried chamomile flowers.

Hot water.
Tea ball.



Add peppermint and chamomile to the tea ball and place in a mug.
Pour hot water over ball, let steep for about five minutes.
Remove tea ball and add honey to taste.
Serve hot.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Good Business

Now that we have a good stock of chickens, it seemed like a good time to put an ad in the classifieds to see if anyone would like to buy some birds.
I am surprised by the response so far.

We have had two buyers come here to purchase birds, and some others have contacted us asking questions.
Our Gold-Laced Wyandottes appear to be harder to find than I thought they'd be.
The demand may not last long, but it helps to convert some birds into cash.

There are a couple of things that I didn't count on when we posted the ad.
The first is that customers would like to know the age of the birds, and that makes sense, but I neglected to keep track of that, and so I will have to pay closer attention in the future.
The second is that we are attracting people who we share at least one thing in common with; that being the interest in the breed of bird we keep.
But also, there is a good chance that the people who find our prices fair, and prefer the heritage breeds, also share many of our beliefs and passions in regard to food and lifestyle.
Not only are we selling chickens, but we have also created an opportunity to meet interesting people.

Though we have raised the question of socializing our children, we often neglect to consider our own socialization.
Living here, we need to be more proactive when it comes to keeping in contact with community.
Our online presence has helped quite a lot, but it's better when we can actively socialize in shared space.

Now, our fledgling business activities will be bringing people here more often.
What products we choose to offer will determine, in part, who chooses to buy from us.
Making our passion a business looks like it will put us in contact with people who share those passions.

We are proud of our chickens and are happy to sell them.
Not only are we able to promote this breed, but can create revenue that helps keep us going.
More importantly, we are creating an opportunity to be part of a network of souls,
whose passion for quality living enriches our lives and society as a whole.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

A new approach to 'deep-litter'.

Alex spent her first full day here today.
We started her off easy with some landscaping work.
She had the chance to visit the mill down the road,
and drive a truck.

There is a lot of sand and mud around the house and buildings.
Mostly in places that see too much traffic to grow in with plants.
The sand gets everywhere and harbours no-see-ums, which are a biting fly,
and fleas, which are a nuisance.

The big plan was was to pick up as much shavings from Paul's mill as we could,
and spread them all over the place.
And so Alex did a few runs with Auren and Fern in tow.
They did a great job.

Then later on, we got a surprise.
Paul's friend was moving logs with a dumptruck, and they decided to bring us a full load of shavings to save on our driving back and forth.
A dumptruck can carry quite a lot of shavings.
Much of the afternoon was spent spreading it out.
It looks great and should do well to keep the dust and mud at bay.
We also hope it cuts down on the pests.

The chickens approve of the new surroundings and proceeded to help spread the shavings out.
There are better products for this sort of job, but the shavings are a waste product and it makes sense to use them for landscaping.
We don't want mud and sand; nor do we want any grass to keep trimmed.
Eventually, the shavings will darken and blend into the ground.
But I did feel like a hamster when walking around the yard.