Category Archives: The Feelz

Old Red

Red bought the farm yesterday. I didn’t think it was time for her to go yet, but she had her own thoughts, as she always did.

She’s on the left. It was when she was pretty new.

I wonder if it ever gets easy to say goodbye to your chickens. I was glad that this was quick, unlike when Henny P bit it, but it was still pretty hard for me. At least Henny had the decency to just die and freeze before I found her.

It was easier that way to give her to Roger so he could teach his kid how to trap a marten.

Red kicked the bucket too far ahead of the winter, so she didn’t get to enjoy the part of the circle of life where you become bait. She only gets to be the end and the beginning.

Well, I guess that’s not true. She’s probably baiting blowflies and a plethora of bacteria and other bugs that help with decomposition.

I tried to find a good infographic of the circle of life to support my claims, but all I got from Google images was this.

So, right from the death of Henny P, Red was my favourite chicken. She was the smallest, but she was also the lead chicken. If I would find a bunch of bugs somewhere, I would call the girls, but Red was always the first one there to get her fill. She had no fear of me, that’s for sure. She would peck and scratch my shoes if she thought I was hiding a worm under them.

I called her the ant sniper

The other chickens didn’t bother with ants very much, but Red would get in there and eat tons of them when I’d flip a rock over that was housing the little buggers. The others would stand around and try to eat some of the eggs, but Red would jump in and run them off. If she was going to do the work of getting all the ants, you can bet she’d be the one reaping the eggs. Even chickens know how delicious eggs are.

Another thing I loved about her was that she would jump up in my lap if I was sitting outside. She would get really close and stare at my face. I’m sure she was just hoping some mealworms would fall out of my nostrils or something but I like to think that she just liked the cut of my jib. It would explain why she liked to get all flirty when I would go to pet her.

She was always so envious of Henny’s bra.

In all seriousness though, when I went out to give them the melon guts last night, only three of the girls came running. I looked out to see where Red was but there was no sign of her. I peeked in the window to see if she was laying, but her head was hanging way out and bobbing up and down.

That got me worried

I went in and saw that she was having a hard time breathing and her eyes were closed. I put my hand under her and her crop was empty and her neck was really bony. She could barely open her eyes. I thought I took a bit of video and went in to show Gerri but I guess I didn’t hit the button.

We talked about how she was just out the day before running around the yard and eating lots of grass and bugs. It just seemed like there was no way she could have started failing so soon.

But she was.

By the time I got back out, she was looking even worse. I carried her outside and sat with her on the swing. It was taking all she had to breathe and I sat there crying and debating on the best way to ease her pain.

By this time our cat, Tubs had jumped up beside us and was smelling Red’s face. He started rubbing into my arm and being the sweetest cat you could ever imagine and then I noticed the old butcher knife on the chair. I thought that I would just go over to the fence and cut her head off in one quick motion. It seemed to be better than wheezing to death.

When I lay her head on the fencepost, I moved the knife over her neck and her blue eyelids opened to give me this horrified look and then she jerked her head back.

I, of course, took this as a sign that she wanted to live! Yes, that must be it. She’s letting me know that it’s just something stuck in her throat and if I could just get her to the vet, she would be back eating and drinking in no time.

I went back and sat with her again on the swing. Tubs gave her another sniff and she just laid her head down on my leg. I was back to crying again. She started to convulse like she was having the dry heaves and then she had a shit on my leg.

I had to act fast. I grabbed her neck and snapped it while getting up out of the swing and walking to the fencepost where I lopped her head off to be sure she was dead.

She was.

I put her in an old feed sack and wiped the last of my tears on my sleeve, which as it fell to my side, got smeared in the turd on my leg. Fitting.

I went into the house and solemnly thought about how there was no way I was taking a two and a half year old chicken that hadn’t laid more than two eggs a week for the last three months to the vet but I used that as an excuse to selfishly spend a few more minutes with my friend as she was going into the throes of death. I hope that she was comforted a little.

I’m going to miss my ant sniper and I’m happy the bylaw officer moved away two days earlier and gave her the chance to be a free-range girl again, at least for the last few days of her life.

Red knew that having her own dirt was better than sharing with two others. She would get all the worms.

Why Don’t Nobody Shoot Straight No More?

Yeah, I know that this isn’t a new phenomenon. I have worked for a lot of people over the years and a lot of them have been manipulative and try to use psychological tactics on me. This is one of those stories.

First off, I should mention that I have never asked an employer how much I would be getting paid to work there. My thoughts were that I would do the job for a few months and if I don’t think they are paying me what I am worth to them, I leave. I don’t barter. I don’t threaten. I don’t want to work somewhere that operates in that manner. Pay me what I’m worth to you.

That said, I have been working as a temp on a road maintenance crew. I have been there for two and a half years. This last year and a bit I have worked straight through, but there were a few times I was worried about getting laid off. It’s hard enough getting by on full wages, I couldn’t imagine doing it at 70% or whatever unemployment gives you.

Being a temp, I am in the union but don’t have the benefits of a full-time, permanent employee. Like full dental, drug plan etc… I also don’t get vacation time and can’t buy shares in the company.

This was all fine and good until recently when a bunch of companies came to town and plan on working here for a few years.

They pay very well.

We could actually put some money away towards our dream of going off-grid.

People keep telling me I should go work for these companies because they are looking for people and I live right here. My answer has always been that I like the job I have and that I was sure I’d be offered the full-time position soon.

Then I was told the other day that I wouldn’t be getting it. This was from a coworker who had talked to someone, so I figured I should ask the big boss, face to face.

I was told that unless one of the full-time employees quits, I would not be getting on full-time with benefits. I thanked him for letting me know and left the office.

I was a little miffed, but at least I knew where I stood and could now look into other options. I got back to our crew and the next morning I mentioned it to the coworker that had told me I wouldn’t be getting the full-time job. I just told him that if I got a better offer, I would be leaving. Maybe I could even train for a trade that would benefit me as a future homesteader.

I guess he mentioned it to another employee and next thing you know we are having a staff meeting and I have to explain that I will leave if a better offer comes in, as we have kids and ourselves that need glasses, dental work, prescriptions, etc… My inhalers alone are over $100/month and I only get about $200 in my health spending account. I had to explain that it was pretty sad that my teeth are needing some repair work, but after everything is said and done, there is never enough left for my teeth.

They all understood and realize that I’m not thinking of leaving because of them, but because I need to think about my family’s future.

An hour later my foreman came out and told me that he had spoken to the president and I was asked not to do anything rash until they could see what might be able to be done about getting me on full-time.

This pissed me off, almost worse than when they told me, sixteen hours earlier, I wouldn’t get it.

If there was a chance that I could have it, why tell me there wasn’t? Why is it only after I mention entertaining other offers that there might be something that can be done?

If this was the old days and I was single, I probably would have left for that reason only. Now I have others that rely on me, so I called my wife. I just love her so much. She was very supportive and told me that whatever I chose would be fine.

That was two days ago and I’m still pretty upset about all this. It just makes me mad that people don’t lay their cards on the table. If I’m not worth the extra five or ten thousand dollars per year, then tell me that, or just let me go.

My real problem is deciding whether I even want to stay. I like the people I work with now, but who knows what will happen when we have to double our manpower for the winter? You never know what kind of crew you’ll be working with. I also get tired of working with machinery that has been thundered pretty hard.

I think the best part of the job is that I only work forty hours a week and about thirty-six in the winter unless it’s snowing. Then we get overtime. This means I get plenty of time to be with my family and can actually have balance.

It’s also the devil I know.

It’s the first time I have been in a union and I can’t say I’m a fan, but I do see the appeal for established employees. The union has sort of messed me around, but at least I may also be established soon and can take advantage of whatever benefits have been negotiated prior.

On the other hand, I can sort of see why the company might dick employees around when they have to play by the union’s rules. I’ve seen a lot of people abuse every last bit of their available perks. I understand that it was negotiated, but come on; lets at least be fair. If you’re not really sick or hurt, don’t use all of your sick days. You get plenty of holidays already.

Anyhow, I have never done anything to make the company think I was being less than honest or out to get more than I was paid for. If I have to leave early, I always fill out the paperwork and deduct it from my pay. I have never taken anything unless it was getting thrown out and was okayed by the boss. I am not a partier, so I don’t refuse work because I’m to messed up to drive and I haven’t wrecked the equipment too bad or done any public damage.

I guess I just want to be treated as I treat others. You know, innocent until proven guilty, the benefit of the doubt, and whatever other cliches fit the bill.

Anyhow, this is my first ulog, so be gentle on me. I’m sure it’s not exactly what a ulog is supposed to be but I will learn as I go. It’s also going to be entered in @penderis contest, so if you haven’t, go check his posts and find the one named Abject Sleuth. The info is in there.

All photos from pixabay.com. Thanks, Pixabay, and all of the photographers that give their free images.

Gardens And Reflections

All winter I was dreaming of building some river rock, raised- bed gardens in the backyard. I had everything planned out in my head and had read many articles on mortars and techniques in preparation for when the snow disappeared.

We were going to have a mixture of reclaimed logs and stone to try and keep everything natural looking.

We still might.

 

For now, we are going to work with the logs. They are free and doable.

As usual, I forget to take photos when I’m doing things, so I rely on Gerri to document our progress. I don’t think I even took a “before” picture. Luckily she showed up before I finished, or it would just be me trying to describe the process to you.

I suppose I found the stonework daunting, more than expensive. It’s hard to admit that, mostly to myself, but there it is. I kept saying that I was going to buy cement and mix it up for the footings, but I never did it. There was always something else that the money was needed for. The rock is free, but when I started to think about building the wall, and the sheer weight of the rock I would be wheelbarrowing into the backyard, I sort of froze up. Mentally and emotionally.

I can’t think of anyone I would rather be beside when I’m feeling down or inadequate. Even just having her near me gives me everything I need to keep going. I love when she comes out and tells me to wait, just so she can take a selfie of us, or asks why I’m doing something a certain way.

Sometimes it’s just nice to take a break, put my arm around her and stare at the tomatoes while we cool down and talk about things we would like to do if we had the money.

It’s never anything grandiose or even expensive. It’s simple stuff, like a rock waterfall and a little fish pond or to replace our dilapidated sheds. A little piece of property and a sawmill.

We really don’t want much.

We talk about how nice it would be if we could use the property behind us to plant some gardens in. It gets excellent sun and under all that grass is a gravel parking lot. It used to be a theatre but now sits empty, except for a room upstairs that the cable company uses to broadcast it’s twenty-six channels from.

Don’t tell them, but I cut down a big poplar on their property last year that was full of carpenter ants. I didn’t know about the ants until it hit the ground. The real reason I cut it down was that it was blocking all of our sun.  We threw the branches and limbs in this garden as sort of a hugelkultur garden.

We also threw in our old compost pile. It wasn’t completely broken down but mostly. Just like us.

It was filled with kitchen scraps, old chicken bedding and last years tomato plants, along with an uncommon amount of ants. I was thinking about how to safely poison all those ants but then I thought better of it. They really weren’t hurting anything, and possibly were helping break things down.

I did take a few particularly infested clumps and threw them in with the chickens.

Circle of life and all that.

We mixed in 4 loads of wood chips to the mix and then got ourselves prepared for shovelling the trailer load of manure into wheelbarrows and moving them to the backyard and into the new garden.

That was when I had an idea!

You know, I never thought I’d make it to forty, but here I am at forty-six and I feel like my life has just started. I finally feel like I have a goal, and I also have someone to strive for that goal with.

It took me a long time to find someone who appreciates the simple things in life. A crackling fire and some s’mores, pruning some tomatoes, or just getting high in her fort and dancing. She’s so much more than I had ever hoped for, yet feels like she’s sometimes not enough.

Even though she’s the reason I even want to do anything. The reason this got built, and anything after it.

I’ve finally found someone who appreciates old, weathered wood, and realizes that rich soil is one of the most valuable things that we can have in our lives.

With rich soil you can grow anything.

My First Foray Into Veterinary Medicine

***First off, I wouldn’t have done much at all had I not joined the BYC community. Almost everything I have learned about chickens, so far, has been from reading articles and interacting on their forums.***

A few months ago I saw Henny P doing a weird dry heave thing, but not opening her mouth. I followed her around and watched her, but other than that, she was acting completely normal.

This is what it looked like.

Not knowing much about chickens, I just figured it was because they were all different and had their own little quirks. Then, a week or so after I noticed her odd neck movements, she quit laying and her chest was all puffed out like there was an orange stuffed in there. You can see it in the above video, as I took the video after a few weeks of this behaviour.

I went online and started Googling everything I could about what I had noticed. I narrowed it down to sour crop and possibly egg bound.

From what I read, the egg bound thing was most urgent, so I brought her into the grow/soap/worm room and drew her a warm epsom salt bath.

Sorry, but this room is not equipped with a bidet

She spent a day and night in the house, while I massaged her crop, gave her mineral oil, and kept her from eating grass and other unknown substances. She was very calm, and after her bath, I inspected for a bound up egg, but there was none. I then went to the pharmacy and picked up a 150 mg capsule of Fluconazole (Canesten) and opened it up to divide the powder into three portions.

The Pharmasave store brand capsule was $3.90, but they only had one, so I got Gerri to pick some up while she was in town. She went to Walmart, and they charged more than $13 for a generic capsule there. That seems like a lot, when you can get the same thing from Canesten for $19 and it comes with other things as well.

Luckily, our pharmacy was able to get some more in within a couple of days, so we were alright.

I then mixed up the powder with probiotic yogourt and some powdered calcium, and gave it to Henny P under the tongue with a medicine syringe. She was not very fond of that, but in two days she was better, so I was okay with her discomfort.

After her water balloon crop had gone back to normal, I noticed that she had a ball of impacted hay, grass, or twine in her crop. It was also pendulous, which means it had stretched out and was hanging down too far for her food to get into her gizzard.

There is such a thing as a crop bra, that would have been easier to use, but It seemed like a long time to wait, so I went to the thrift store and bought a few old pairs of hockey socks and some compression socks to try a few ideas of my own.

The hockey socks turned out to be a bit big, but I think a kids pair would have been snug enough. The compression sock was perfect, but it only took her a week to pretty well shred it. It also took her a few days to get used to it, but she was okay after she did.

I would get the frayed edges sewn up, if I had to do it again.

I spent a lot of time each day carrying her around and massaging her crop ball, which paid off when I went out one morning about a month ago and the impaction was gone! I made her a new bra, to keep her crop up above her gizzard, and everything was going great.

Until last week.

I went out in the morning to turn their light on and gather the eggs, and I noticed Henny’s chest was puffing up again. I came home from work and gave her another dose of the Fluconazole/yogourt mix, and started back with the massaging. After a few days, it wasn’t getting better, and she was back doing the crazy neck movements again. I thought that I was going to have to put her down, but she seemed to be enjoying her life still, so I didn’t have the heart to do it.

She was always the first one to the cup when I brought the mealworms and other treats out, but she was spending more and more time with the two new hens in the coop. She slept in the nest boxes, or under them, and was eating and drinking as she normally would, so I figured I would let her keep going.

And going, and going.

Probably two months ago I told Gerri that I didn’t think Henny was going to make it through the night. I had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t smart to take her to the vet(if one would even see her) and spend $150+ to get crop surgery for a hatchery chick that might have a chronic condition. She had been like this for all of her adult life, as we only got a week or two worth of eggs from her before this all started.

This is her fancy hockey sock turtleneck for autumn walks and cool nights in the run.

Well, I’m happy to say that she made it about two months after my initial diagnosis, and sad to say that I found her dead on the coop floor this afternoon. I had been preparing myself for the day I would find her there, but I didn’t think it would affect me like this.

I guess it was because I had spent so much time with her while she was ill, that she seemed more like a pet than livestock, but in the end she was a sick chicken that didn’t lay eggs, and I guess that’s why I’m not really broken up over it. She was my favourite, and I hope that eventually I get another girl that loves to get picked up and carried around like she did, but hopefully it’s under healthier circumstances.

Anyhow, sorry for the long post, but it’s been a while. I guess I just needed to get some motivation to write.

Chris

A Little Autumn Update

The Soap

We got a big box of fragrance oils in, and amongst them were some holiday scents that we hope to get out before next spring. There’s some pretty nice ones, so we have been smelling bottle caps for a week or so. Nobody has passed out from the fumes yet, so that’s good.

We also had the fall fair last weekend, where we entered Wildfire, the shampoo bar, and Gerri put in some red pepper jelly.

The soap and shampoo got first place and the jelly got third, so we were pretty proud and happy while we manned the Dirty Bird booth there.

Next year we hope that someone else will put in some soap and shampoo to go up against us.

Oh yeah, our friend Sarah made us a shelf and a bunch of soap holders. These are them.

The holders are teak and the shelf is reclaimed pallet wood.
The holders are teak and the shelf is reclaimed pallet wood.

The Chickens

So the last update told you that Red was laying, but now Henny P is laying too!

She also uses the nesting box, which pleases me to no end, but the really cool news is that I noticed a trend that I hope keeps happening.

Red started eating earthworms and ants, and a few days later she was pumping out eggs. Same thing for Henny P, so when I was digging out the slabs of stone in the walkway, I was pleased as punch to see one of the Barred Rocks steal a worm from Red’s beak and gobble it down. Then she started actually standing her ground with the Rhode Islands and digging up her own worms. Yahoooo!

I am guessing that it has to do with them knowing that their bodies need protein to keep up with the egg laying, just like the oyster shell that I see them peck at now and then. I will probably look that up, but not right now, as I want to see if I’m right about the trend on my own.

This is either Oreo or Pepper. They're identical twins to me.
This is either Oreo or Pepper. They’re identical twins to me.

We are starting to get the amount of eggs that we use, so it shouldn’t be long before we are getting abundant in them. I hope that leads to more cakes and other treats being baked, but I would settle for just knowing we have enough food for us and maybe a friend.

It’s a pretty good feeling when things work out.

The Harvest

I told you about the apricot and plum trees, but I had no idea at the time about how amazing the plums were going to be. We didn’t think they would amount to much at all.

This is what we shook off today.

The egg was harvested at the same time. Good old Henny P.
The egg was harvested at the same time. Good old Henny P.

Altogether we have taken about three gallons of plums from what we thought was a waste of a tree. I don’t know what kind of plum they are, but they are very sweet and juicy. I am going to try rooting a few cuttings from it, and planting a few seeds, because if it is hardy for this area, then I want to keep it going.

It is also pretty diseased now, so in case this is a last hurrah, I want to have some sort of stock for the future. I would hate to think that it will last for years, only to lose it in the winter.

The Boy

Since Blue got away in the spring, and decided to run rampant through the mountains, he has slowed down considerably. He did go for a little toot through the neighbourhood last weekend, but other than that he sticks pretty close to his folks.

Sometimes he gets tired after a few chases of a toy.
Sometimes he gets tired after a few chases of a toy.

We aren’t quite sure what he tangled with, but his slight limp hasn’t gone away, and he doesn’t like running for much more than a kilometre or two any more. We are okay with that.

One thing that I was worried about when we got the chickens, is that he would always try to chase them, but after a bit of gentle correcting, he is actually more timid with them than they are with him. Unless he’s running towards them, then they get out of the way.

I actually think that he would make a pretty good farm dog, and we hope that he makes it long enough to see that. He’s slowing down a lot, but I like to think that he’s just pacing himself for when he has acres to roam leisurely about.

Here’s hoping, Boy.

Chris

Hey, Thanks A Bunch

I got a wonderful email today from Amazon.ca telling me that they had deposited a payment into our account. Wahoo!

As we’ve mentioned before, if you go through any Amazon link on this site and buy anything from Amazon within 24 hours of clicking through, we get a referral fee from Amazon.

You can learn more HERE.

Well, some of you have done this, and we just wanted to thank you for that.

It’s not going to make us rich or anything, but if the monthly amounts keep going the way they have been, the money earned will be enough to pay the web hosting fees for the year.

That’s a nice savings, and it is appreciated. The way we look at it is that every little bit helps, and we don’t want to take anything for granted. I just wanted you to know that it means a lot to us, and the money is actually going somewhere that is really helping out.

So thank you. Thanks for clicking and putting a bit of dough back in our wallets, but most of all thanks for stopping by. We really love hearing from you, and because we are horrible at keeping in contact with our friends, this is generally the only way we do it.

Hopefully that doesn’t make us bad people, we just get caught up in life, and time gets away from us. It’s not that we don’t want to talk to anyone.

You understand, right Mom?

Anyhow, the mealworms and the composting worms are doing fantastic, and the chickens are good, but Red keeps laying eggs while roosting. I went out at about 5 AM and put her in a nesting box, and when I opened the coop at 7, she had a beautiful little egg that wasn’t smashed on the floor, so I will keep doing that until she learns, I guess.

We are also looking into black soldier fly larva, sprouting grains, and aquaponics for the future, so that’s pretty exciting. For me. I’m a real nerd when it comes to this stuff.

Chris

 

Cute Chicks And Dumb Boys

Well, I brought our new girls home todayyesterdayrecently.

I think the one on the left is a Barred Rock and the other is a Rhode Island Red, but could use some verification.
I think the one on the left is a Barred Rock and the other is a Rhode Island Red, but could use some verification.

I guess they aren’t chicks still, but I already had the title in my head, so I misled you. Sue me.

I have to tell you that I am in love with the Barred Rock. She absolutely melted my heart when I closed them up for the night.

I didn’t realise that they roosted when they are this young, or at all when they are laying hens. I just assumed that they nested, so I put a bunch of shavings in the box and left them to their own devices. When I went out at dusk to lift the ramp and close them in, they were sitting on the edge of the water dish and teetering.

They looked so disoriented that I felt sad for them. I started stroking them and then the Barred Rock climbed onto my hand and up my wrist. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, so I just let her go. She then nuzzled her head into my armpit and seemingly fell asleep.

I felt so happy that I was contemplating taking her in and letting her sleep in the bed with me, but then I remembered my mom telling me about this. (It’s only thirty seconds long. Go ahead.)

Remember The Waltons? I wish they made shows like that still.

She remembered it as Jim Bob, and she used to laugh so hard about how gross it would be to have a chicken pooping in your bed all night. (It’s fine when she does it, but when it’s a chicken, that’s gross.) 😉

Anyhow, I didn’t take her to bed, but I did make them a roost the next morning.

We're still working on names. I picked Mary Ann and Ginger, but we have to have a proper vote.
We’re still working on names. I picked Mary Ann and Ginger, but we have to have a proper vote.

You know, when I was a kid, I hated our chickens. I only remember the dirty, overweight, white meat birds, but I know we had Banties, pheasants, and quail for sure. I don’t remember any of them being as friendly as these two, but that could have been that they sensed my surliness at having to clean out the coop.

I don’t know why I hated doing it so much, but I know I did. It was probably an hour job, but I think I dragged it out over a few days. I guess it was because I was a spoiled rotten a–hole back then. I must have thought I was too good for that job, but I know now that I wasn’t. It’s funny how the realities of life and time change a person’s attitude.

Well, I know it’s very late, but I’m sorry Mom and Paul. I promise I will care for these better than I did for yours.

I’m also sorry that I didn’t see your vision in raising our own food. It was hard to see that growing things for ourselves and caring about what we nourished our family with didn’t mean that we were poor.

It meant that we were smart.

Now that I’m trying to eat as healthy as I cana bit healthier than I was, I see these things a lot clearer, especially when we’re trying so hard to make ends meet. I’ve really come to appreciate the lessons you guys taught me, so long ago.

I also wish that I had realised the happiness you could get from chickens, and the different personalities that they have. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to mind looking after these girls at all.

The little salt and pepper lady is very loving and sweet. She seems to step aside and let others go first, and I’ve really taken a shine to her. I can feel her nervous tension release a bit when I hold her tight, and it makes me feel like I can make her life easier than it could have been. I think that she will be the broody one, if there is one, and I predict that should a rooster sneak in there some day, she will make a great mama hen.

I'm the king of the castle...
I’m the kingqueen of the castle…

The redhead has a really spicy flare to her. She is adventurous and tries to get her head out every time I open the door. I see her eyeing up the great big world and wanting to be out in it. Also, she has so far lightly pecked my partially blackened fingernail, my nose and my arm when I was petting her sister. It wasn’t hard, like say a glass Coke bottle, but I noticed her doing it and wondered if it wasn’t a warning. She doesn’t do it when I pet her, so I don’t think it’s from fear.

Do you remember earlier, when I said that I wanted to name them Mary Ann and Ginger? I’ve changed my mind. I think I want to name them Pat and Brenda. It’s just as fitting, and it will mean a lot more to me.

Now if I could just find a golden feathered cockerel. 😉

Chris

P.S. I originally named this post, because of the way the dogs were acting since I brought the birds home, but it turned into me being the dumb boy.

They were definitely curious, but mostly they seemed insecure. I figured I was imagining things, but I woke up like this in the morning, and I knew that something was up.

Dover is well camouflaged in the duvet. Blue wants to stand out everywhere.
Dover is well camouflaged in the duvet. Blue wants to stand out everywhere.

I guess there’s only so much “How are my pretty girls?” that a dog can take.

P.S.S. Sorry for the vague, personal jokes, but Pat is my mom, Brenda is my aunt, and the cockerel is my uncle Keith.

When Someone Makes Your Dreams Come True

I remember being about 25 years old at our hunting camp north of Apsley, Ontario, and thinking that I could live there. No phone, no power, except for a small generator and pails of water from a crystal clear spring. I figured that was all I needed in my life.

I was freshly out of another very short relationship, and had given up on ever finding the girl I had dreamed of since I was a kid. You know, the yin to my yang and all of that nonsense. I knew she existed, but didn’t know where, and figured she probably wouldn’t like me anyhow, even if I were to stumble upon her at the Legion karaoke night.

So I started truck driving, and then moved to Chilliwack to live in the mountains and start planning my move to the forest. I had my brothers there, Chaddy, and Alex, but it was very lonely. Then I moved up north, and I worked.

A lot.

Most of the time we were working at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we didn’t have time to be lonely. We were just a whole bunch of guys, stuck in a camp in the middle of nowhere. Most of us were in the same boat, so we just found the people we liked there the most, and became friends.

Then the work slowed down and I got very lonely again. A lot of years had passed, and one failed long-term relationship, so I had again given up on finding true love. I loaded up everything into my pickup and 1980 camper and started heading east. It was April 2010, and I had found a bunch of cheap property in New Brunswick that I was going to homestead. I figured I’d stop in Ontario for a month or so, just to let things warm up, and catch up with my family.

Then I met Gerri for the second time.

She was fun, sort of sweet, insecure, but also confident. I immediately liked her.

We've had some pretty great times, her and I.
We’ve had some pretty great times, her and I.

She had also given up on true love. I didn’t think that there would be a future with us, but I did foresee a long friendship, mostly with me telling her that her choices were bad, and then helping her work through the repercussions. I completely forgot about New Brunswick, and rented an apartment three doors down from her little love nest.

I had also given up on homesteading. When I saw this on her coffee mug, I just figured it wasn’t going to happen.

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You can find other Anne Taintor stuff here.

She told me on several occasions to not get attached to her, and in a way, I didn’t. Sure, I was falling in love with her, but after many heartbreaks since my teen years, I was quite used to rejection and loss. I’d become fairly well adapted to getting over things.

Then, all of a sudden it was the next winter and I was back out west trying to get rid of my debt. When I came home, she realised that she was in love with me too, and then it began. By the summer of 2012 we were married, and now we are in northern British Columbia, trying to eke our way.

It’s really odd how friendships happen. She has turned into my best friend and a constant source of support and encouragement that I never thought I would have in my life. I know that I would be completely happy if it were just her and I getting old together on a farm somewhere in the bush, and that’s how I know she’s the one.

Ever since our first date, I didn’t dream up a new life with anybody else that I met. I have never even thought about what my life would be like without her. I don’t ever want to know.

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We have a deal that I am not allowed to die before her, because she wouldn’t want to live without me. We both know that I am stronger, so I have to stay alive for two days after she’s gone, to make our arrangements, before I die from a broken heart.

Luckily we aren’t planning on fulfilling that prophecy until we are much, much older.

I don’t know how many of you have found your Gerri, or maybe Jerry, if you are into dudes, but I urge you to keep looking for them. You’ll know it when you find them, because they will make you not want to always be out with your friends, and they will make you always feel appreciated. Always.

I was really happy when I thought I would get to spend my life with my best friend, even when I thought I was giving up my dream of a simpler existence. Now, we both share that dream. A dream of living to live, instead of living to buy more stuff that we don’t need.

It’s been a slow process, but we can see beyond the horizon, and we know that not everything we have learned before is the truth, so we are already half way there.

According to G.I. Joe, anyhow.

I love you, my sweetest of darlings.

Happy Birthday!

Chris

A Visual Update

I have had a blog post brewing for awhile now, but it’s one of those hard ones that doesn’t want to come out on its own.   I am never sure how to start things off when I haven’t said much in awhile.

When I was going through my Google photos, I was smiling so much and thinking of all the images and stories that come to my head when I am reminded of the things I think important enough to take a photo of.  These are moments that strike me as particularly interesting, serendipitous, or just plain funny.  I see the way I use photos to communicate with everyone in my life.  Rather than spending a lot of time waxing poetic, I would like to invite you to a pictorial update of life here in BC, via my phone photos.

 

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This is Alwin Holland.  It’s one of my favorite places to go.  In the middle photos you can see one of the tea cups, or tea kettles, whatever they call them.   We come down here with our fur sons, and sometimes our real children too.  It’s spectacularly beautiful and it’s not too far of a walk from our house.

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Sometimes the mist sits on the river and it’s so insanely beautiful you just want to take a million photos but it’s never as good as it looks in real life.  About this time,  we were playing HayDay and nerding it up pretty good as farmers.  We were doing some volunteer hours at the ski hill and we literally ran across this possible mine site (not really) with a free shovel and axe just hanging around there.  If you play hayday, and you had a nerd sister in Ontario that would find it funny, you would send it to her.  Then the three of you would laugh like idiots and feel that warm burny feeling when people you care about are very far away.

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This was the epic visit to the Liard Hot Springs. I mean, look at the photos.  It’s bloody magical, isn’t it?

I don’t need to tell you much about it, but you might try it in -27 degree weather.  Don’t feel bad if you chicken out the first night because it’s really dark and cold, and you are afraid you will freeze to death on the walk back to the waiting van.  The good news is that you do survive to tell the tale, and there is nudity involved.  hftos_22

I would say this series accurately sums up a few weeks we had in January.  It was very cold indeed, and there was a lot of beautiful sights.  We felt victorious that we made it outside each day.   I am told we had a ‘Kelowna Winter’ this year, and I believe that’s probably so.  I’m not complaining.  I have 3 seasons until WINTER IS COMING again.

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The last set and the ones below are on another path I take to the river.  I like to hang out there because it’s beautiful, and peaceful and it’s a great hike.  I love the rushing brooks, the waterfall, and the views of the mighty Peace River.  One the way back up the hill, there are all kinds of rusted out old cars laying in various states of decomposition.  I always look at those cars and think about how they got there, and if there are any good shady stories.

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Sometimes I fill my backpack with light wood, firestarters, a beer, and I hike to the river.  You can hunker down at the river and have yourself a wee fire to do some sort of ceremonial cleansing, or just to roast weenies…whatever you like.  The river bed is full of all kinds of beautiful rocks, and if you know me, you know I love me some rocks.

 

The soapmaking…  hftos_28 hftos_29

We’ve been making the soap.  Maybe he’s mentioned it?  Anyhow, we have been blowing through the supplies we inherited in our soapmaking score.  We have created some cool combinations and we are pretty excited for it to hurry up and cure.  I guess we have another 3 weeks to wait, but someone already pulled some of the cut ‘endsies’ and put it in the bathroom.  This would be the soapmaking equivalent of opening your first present in November.

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Çhris is holding the lye cup in his hand, and sporting a kleenex nose plug. Don’t ask, but I assure you, I am holding us to much stricter safety controls than he does.

I like to send my sister back in Ontario a semi-daily snapshot of how things are going.  Some days I like my hair and I send her a nice photo, but most days she gets the real me.  I’m including them because they are funny, and they remind me that it’s a lot easier to stay in touch with people than it used to be.   Also, today is my sisters birthday, so it’s nice to think of her celebrating today.

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Ha ha.

 

In other news, the ski hill stuff has been really fun.  We’ve enjoyed our volunteer time so much we are committed to stepping up even more next year.       It’s starting to look like we are going to productive members of society after all.   hftos_38

 

I wanted to make a note about the weather.  The next two series were taken on the same weekend, a day apart.  One day I was looking at a frozen tundra wasteland of ice and snow, and gray for miles.hftos_39

The next day I was sitting in the lotus position overlooking a valley view of a mountain-fed, emerald green river.  There is natural steam vents here which make the earth warm and relaxing to lay on.  The hike in was pretty hairy, and the descent to the view was a bit perilous, but totally worth it in the end.     I have enjoyed every day of spectacular views here.   The feeling of being closer to the land is the feeling of coming home.

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I walk a lot here.  I have put few hundred kilometers on the blue suede shoes I picked up at the thrift store before Christmas.   They are awesome to hike in because they are extremely rugged and comfortable.  When I bought them, the lady at the thrift thought they were so hideous she slashed the price to less than half.  Those blue suede shoes don’t owe me a dime.

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That’s all I’ve got for now.  So long from the other side.

Preserving Our Future

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I had to make some space in the back room for putting soap up to cure today. That meant condensing the canning shelves into a few spots from their once sprawling positions. If this was Risk, the preserves would own North America and Australia, which as you should know, will win you the game in a hurry.

While I was doing this, I started thinking back to last summer and fall, when I brought a completely overwhelmed family from an hour east of Toronto, to a town of about 1000 people in the middle of nowhere, BC.

I remember being so worried that everyone was going to end up resenting me for uprooting them from the life they knew and plopping them into a town where this year’s graduating class is four students. I can adjust to pretty well anything, but I know from experience that not everyone is like that.

I mean we went from $45, unlimited bandwidth, ultra high-speed internet to $90, 80GB limit, sometimes fast enough to watch The Office Xplornet. You can see why I might be worried, right? Two teenage girls with computers and gadgets don’t like to wait for Miranda Sings or PewdiePie to spread their wisdom with the masses.

But they do wait.

Without complaining.

And I love them for that.

I was worried about the culture shock that Gerri would feel when she got here as well, and I know it was really hard for her to deal, so she completely immersed herself in canning to keep her mind busy.

It started with Saskatoons, when a friend showed her that there was literally tons of berries within a mile of our house. I think she got tired after about her tenth gallon, and it trickled out from there. Then there was a PSA (more on them later) about a lady bringing a truckload of fruits and vegetables from the Okanagan. I think we got a case of nectarines, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, and a bunch of other things that we don’t grow.

We need to expand our back room soon. Maybe a new shed for worms and soap curing?
We need to expand our back room soon. Maybe a new shed for worms and soap curing?

After that, it was our abundant crab apple tree and a tarp under it, with Gerri and Lannie shaking the multitude of fruit down to make jelly, butter, and applesauce out of it. (I was able to get a bag out of the freezer later, and add it to some jars of moonshine. It really helped to cut down the harshness of the liquor.)

Then came the Fall Fair. She entered three things. I believe it was mango chutney, raspberry lime jam, and salsa. This was the result.

There was a little excitement.
There was a little excitement and I don’t know why it says Alberta Horticultural Association.

So needless to say, we had a few shelves packed full of canning, and now it’s reduced to part of a shelf. I would always decide to not grab something when I was in there, because I would tell myself that it had to last all year.

Well, all year is almost up now. We made it through nine months of our new life, and everyone is relatively unscathed. I say “relatively”, because I think the girls are adjusting to it, but they haven’t completely left their life in the east. I know it took me a lot of years to be comfortable being away from everything I knew.

Yes, the snow is melting in our sleepy town, and soon it will be green, with budding trees and flower lined streets and parks. Soon the fruit will ripen in the bushes and the cycle will begin again.

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So I’m putting some of these roasted peppers on my pork chops, and I bought a huge vat of vanilla ice cream to smother in canned peaches and Saskatoons, because we don’t have all year anymore. We only have a few months.

It makes me feel really good when I eat something that the person I love the most in this world put so much effort and heart into. I know that it was done when she was struggling to make sense of her new world, and to try and put her old world to rest. I also know that there are so many other “addictions” she could have turned to to help cope with this change. The fact that she chose canning over heroin or booze has proven that she not only loves her family, but that she loves herself, and to me that is more important than anything else.

Thank you, Baby. For everything you’ve done, and continue to do for us.

And for continuing to wear my toque. No matter how much it makes you look like a gangsta hobo.
And for continuing to wear my toque. No matter how much it makes you look like a gangsta hobo.

Chris

P.S. At the top left on the side bar are the social media outlets that we are currently employing. If you could choose your poison, we can let you know of future posts that way. I’m sure fans of other pages/communities are getting sick of me hijacking their space.

Also, if you are on Google+ we have started a community at Backyard Homesteading.