Category Archives: The Olden Days

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.) ūüėČ

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. ūüėČ

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.

Our Dump, Is A Very Very Very Fine Dump

With two vans in the yard. Behind them a couple cars. My shopping is so easy ’cause of you.

Apologies to CSNY for ruining their lyrics, but that was what came to my mind.

I love the district dump. It reminds me of my youth.

When things were free a little more free than they are today.

Our dump back east never really allowed you to scavenge. Luckily it was probably some drunk kid that got caught with a stolen bag of sheep manure or breaking a $12 window that was doing their community service hours at the landfill¬†(*cough* Brad Campbell *cough*), so there really wasn’t any worry of getting busted for taking home more than you brought in.

I remember my stepdad and I taking our trash there and finding a bunch of old cast iron cook stove lids and parts, and throwing them in the backseat of the Bronco, because we needed them for the cabin. When we went to weigh out and pay, I had to walk around the back side of the scale shack. Not because we were trying to rip off the dump, but because we weighed more leaving than when we came in. Apparently the dump doesn’t like to pay you money to drop off your garbage.

The last time I was there, there were security guards running the scales and they made sure that nobody was getting any of their garbage. It was a shame to look down into the bins and see so many useful things that were going to be crushed into a cube. Never to be enjoyed again by anyone.

Not at our dump though. We have the Share Shed.

Sometimes it's quite full.
Sometimes it’s quite full. Usually in the summer when folks are cleaning out garages.

If you have something that still has some life left in it, or maybe has some parts that someone else can use, you can drop it at the share shed before going to the garbage bin.

You would be surprised at how much the share shed has helped us, and many others, to get through tough, and not so tough times. I hope that Gerri will write a post about when she first moved here and was at the shed almost every day. I have many great stories, and the day she staged the Share Shed is probably my favourite of all. She always seemed more relaxed when she came from there, unless she found a treasure, then she would be pretty giddy.

There is also a wood pile at the dump.

Need some logs for firewood, or a couple of 2x4s with a few nails in them? Help yourself.
Need some logs for firewood, or a couple of 2x4s with a few nails in them? Help yourself.

I haven’t had to pay for lumber yet, except for two sheets of OSB for the shed wall, but speed was of the essence there. If I had thought of it before, I could have pieced together something for free.

When I took this picture, I got five 2x4x8, a 6x6x8, and a pretty good sawhorse out of the wood pile. That’s¬†a pretty good start¬†to¬†the chicken tractor I want to build. I wish we burned wood for heat, because you would never have to buy it again. This stuff will just get pushed up into a pile and burned, I think. They might push the tree parts into the compost pile. I haven’t been there while it was getting done.

The scrap metal pile belongs to another guy, and you aren’t allowed to scavenge, but you used to be able to¬†donate to the fellow if you found something that you could use. I think I have donated $4-$5 and have a decent arbor, some angle iron, and a bunch of pieces of pipe that I wanted for some worm bins. He’s not going to make much off of scrap, so it probably worked out better for him if he can get a few bucks and not have to haul it an hour away to get very little money for it.

Sometimes you just need a bit of scrap metal.
Sometimes you just need a bit of scrap metal.

If I was handier, I think that the metal pile would be a lot more useful. I am thinking of taking a welding course or something along that line, because when we do get our property, it will be nice to be able to fix things myself, rather than have to rely on someone else’s schedule and rate. I have always envied handy folks that could do that.

Anyhow, I think that everyone should push their local councils to start working towards a truer “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” way of life, instead of a “Crush Everything and Buy New” society that we are in now. Tell them that you want a Share Shed at your local dump. There’s no reason not to have one. If they’re worried about insurance, sign a waiver before going to it. I can’t see it being any more dangerous than the rest of the dump, but you know how bureaucrats can get.

Throwing them in the trash isn’t that chance.

Chris

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.

not camping
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

We Rendered Lard!

Yep, that’s right. We bought half a pig from a local farmer, and I asked him to save the fat from it, so we could render it down for soap. I would never have thought of it, but the lady we get our eggs from had mentioned it to us one day this fall, and we decided, after reading several accounts of how nice the soap is, to try a batch or two and check it out for ourselves.

So this morning I started the process. She had told me the basics of putting some water in a pot, then put in the fat. Seemed simple enough, so I took my large hunks of frozen fat and threw them in the pot. Then I started to watch a YouTube video on rendering lard the proper way.

I was quickly running to the pot, pulling the chunks of fat out, and cutting them up into small pieces.

That was a handy tip to know. As it was, the rendering took about ten hours, but apparently it would have taken much longer if I had left them in huge chunks. Everyone on the internet says that it is way better to get it ground up by the butcher, but those people maybe didn’t get one of these when their Nan died.

That old grinder has had a lot of use.
That old grinder has had a lot of use.

She used to grind up everything with that thing. I haven’t used it since it was in her kitchen, but if we end up with a bunch more fat, I am going to pull it down and put it to work. Even if it’s just for nostalgia’s sake.

So after a day of hanging out on the stove we ended up with this.

Apparently, that is good lard. I really don't know lard though.
Apparently, that is good lard. I really don’t know lard though.

and this

We weren't sure about the cracklins, but after a bunch of salt, pepper, and onion powder, we came around.
We weren’t sure about the cracklins, but after a bunch of salt, pepper, and onion powder, we came around.

So this weekend, we will be trying out the lard in soap. There are tons of recipes out there, so we will try a few of them and see. If any of you have tried it before, maybe you could let us know what worked, or didn’t work, for you. We would really appreciate and hints or tricks that you have.

We would also love to hear any scents that really get you going. For me, it’s always been patchouli, but I really love other woodsy scents as well. That’s what perks me up during a morning shower. It makes me feel like I’m in an old Irish Spring commercial.

Except it’s in India.

But with more green, and cleaner water.

I’m maybe not as simple as I think.

Chris

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Backstory – The Chickens

When I was a kid, we had what you might call a hobby farm. The hobbies were luckily not all at once, because I couldn’t imagine trying to raise quail, Cornish hens, Ring Neck Pheasants, rabbits, goats, cattle, and pigs all at once on a half acre farm that included the house.

It feels like I’m forgetting something.

Oh right.

Chickens.

Hey lady, whatever butters your toast.

The chickens that we had were all meat birds, so you didn’t want to get attached to them. Not that I ever thought I would, because they are by far the most soulless being in existence on this planet. I mean soulless and extremely stupid.

Also, processing them makes me sick to my stomach. ¬†Not to mention the ammonia smell in the coop, and the sight of the red chicken butts that have been pecked out by the local bullies. It doesn’t matter how many times they report it to the authorities, the bullying goes on. You have to chop the bully’s head off.

I can’t see ever getting meat birds for myself, unless I found someone who would process them for a percentage of the birds. In that case, I guess I could stand their stupidity for a little bit.

Laying hens, on the other hand…

Them I don’t mind. There’s just something about fresh eggs and chickens scratching around the yard that makes me feel like a real farmer. Plus, if I get too many worms in the bin, I can throw a few to the girls. I think it makes them happy, and from what I hear, it makes the yolks a nice, deep yellow.

I really don’t know, as I have only been around the dumber, more male versions of chickens. I’m just going by what I’ve heard around the backyard chicken circles of Google+.

I do remember as a kid, I would go to friend’s places that had laying hens running around the yard and I always enjoyed watching their curious mannerisms and the way their beady little eyes would dart around, always looking for any sign of movement. I used to sit for hours sometimes, just watching them and wondering why they were content with so little, but then I remembered how delicious the eggs were and I quit caring about¬†what was going on in their heads.

Lift up your butt there, Clucky. It’s time for breakfast.

Anyhow, I am just letting you know that when I do get my two hens, I am going to be looking for advice on raising them, but until then, I would like to hear which laying breed is the best for a northern climate. Also, if anyone knows a good place to order the chicks in Northern BC, you could throw it in on the comments or in any of the social media outlets at our disposal.

Chris

Backstory – Chris

I grew up in a village of around 200 people on the shores of Rice Lake, near Cobourg, Ontario. It was an idyllic place to grow up, and probably still is. My mom still lives there, and whenever I go to visit, everything looks pretty much the same as it did when I was a kid.

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Holowacz https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabi2418
Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Holowacz https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabi2418

Sure there are probably fifty more houses scattered around on once rich farmland and forest, but there are no new businesses to speak of. The old school has been a bakery, roadhouse bar, restaurant/convenience store, and is now a closed down Chinese restaurant. The gas station/garage has changed hands probably four times since my youth, and the convenience store has changed hands a few more than that. The post office/store has closed down in favour of a row of boxes on the side of the street, and that about does it. 

I would probably have elected to move there and pursue my dreams of a small, self-sustaining lifestyle, but the red tape required to achieve such a goal would cost much more than we would save. Just the environmental assessments and whatnot to find a building site, well, and septic would probably cost more than what I plan to spend on a piece of property out here, and the land costs are horrendous.

For example, an 11 acre lot that is in a farm field close to half an hour north of town would cost $100000, and that doesn’t guarantee you could build there.

This was the view provided by Realtor.ca. I assume that it's the best one.
This was the view provided by Realtor.ca. I assume that it’s the best one.

Because the area has been environmentally protected, you have a lot of hoops to jump through to get the building process started, let alone finished. Then you need to find a job that pays enough to afford it, while living somewhere else, because it’s going to take a long time before you are able to move into the home you just built.

That was the trouble I had there. The best paying job I was able to get was $18/hour and it was a 30 minute drive from where I would be building. It was also one of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had. Driving to Toronto and back in a tractor trailer every weekday. I did find a job I liked with a farm supply and grain company, but it only paid $13/hour and you were laid off for a lot of the year. You can’t raise a family on that.

So we headed west. I have been living and working out here since 2000, and we’ve been here as a family since July 2015. It’s a different way of life, but it’s one that I like, and have gotten quite used to. The housing is very affordable, so we were able to buy a place while we look for a piece of property that we love and can build a little off-grid paradise of our own.

Until then, we are going to try and figure out how to do things from our house, with our sheds and beautiful little yard. You know, for practice.

I started with worms, but first I read this book.

Chris