Wildfires are no laughing matter, and as we speak, there are three burning in our area. One of them was/is just a few miles from our house right now, but the 80 km/hr winds are taking it past us, and not into town.
For the moment. You know how wind can be.
When we first were told to go look up the hill this evening, there was talk of packing some bags and getting ready to leave. Gerri started looking for things to pack up, and went into the bedroom to make sure that wallets and ID were ready to go, and to pack some clothes. You know, just to be ready. She’s really good like that. She likes to be ready for things.
I’m a different sort of bird. I like to think that I’m born ready, and any emergency will test my ability to adapt. Where she might take four lighters, I rely on the few times I made a bow drill as a kid and got a fire going that way.
In perfect conditions.
What I’m getting at is that when possible evacuation was mentioned, she started planning our escape in her head, but I was just sitting there thinking I would like to write a post and if the emergency workers came around to tell us to book out of here, I would grab the family, dogs and Cheeto included, and as much of the soap and soap making equipment as I could, and head for higher ground. I would probably take my other pair of fat pants and a couple of shirts as well, because I may need to change in the next week, but basically I’m ready to go. I have the Swiss Army knife in my pocket, and a $50 bill. I know there is enough gas in the van to get us at least 300 kilometres away, so I had no worries there.
Good to go.
We then went up the hill from the apartment building in the first photo, to our friend’s place to see how close it was getting.
As we were going home, Gerri looked at me and said “Thinking of having to pack up go like that, really makes me realise how much we need to purge.”
10-4 on that Little Mama. I read you, loud and clear.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
P.S. Don’t forget that our social media buttons and the subscribe box are on the left hand side of the page. Somewhere.
I’m pretty excited about Thursday. That’s when I deliver our first pound of worms to a customer. The money will go towards yesterday’s excitement.
Yes, our next foray into soaping begins this weekend, because we just got our huge box of natural dyes and un-natural scents.
When we decided to start making our own soap, I had these romantic visions of making essential oils and using as many natural, hand made, local products as possible. I was going to be walking through the woods, picking wild rose petals, rose hips, spruce branches, and other assorted wildflowers. I would then take my bounty home, where I would distill everything down and add it to our soap made of all natural, organic local oils and butters and lye made from the ash of local trees.
Then came the reality check.
First off, the only oils I will get to buy locally will be sheep and beef tallow, and lard. That suits me fine, but apparently there are a lot of folks that are not into animal by-products.
That leaves us with having to buy the different vegetable based oils that are needed to produce a non-animal fat based bar of soap. Have you priced out organic olive oil lately?
Needless to say, until we get a better footing on the processes and whatnot, we will be working our way toward my dream of all natural at a slower pace than I had expected. I guess you have to crush a lot of cotton candy puffs to get enough essential oil for a batch, and anyone that knows the ladies in our house knows that they would never allow a sacrifice like that.
So fragrance oils it is. They are phthalate free, so apparently that’s a plus.
Why would anyone even create that word? Phthalate? Seriously? That makes no sense.
Anyhow, I went over our moulds and rewrapped anything that was getting worn out, washed anything that was still solid, and bolted them all back up for Saturday and Sunday’s marathon.
So anyways, back to the worms. I got an order for a pound of red wigglers for tomorrow, or today, because I wrote this last night, if you’re reading this today? Anyhow, I may have got a little exuberant, because I weighed out the pound about 5 days early, and then threw in another big handful for good measure. Then, because I didn’t want the worms to be uncomfortable, I gave them a good feed of red pepper, strawberry tops and some shredded flyers, with a little bit of ground egg shell for a topping. By the time I was done, this is what I was left with.
I figure that it’s better to make sure that people are really happy with their purchase. My worms are pretty good breeders, so they won’t be too long getting back to their original army, and after I get the next order ready, I should have about the same amount that I started with last year, and will have made back all of the money I have spent in buying them.
My time, well that’s a different story, but it is something I truly enjoy, and it was a great learning experience.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s all I’ve got for now. So long from the other side.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So I was crying to my buddy, Johnny, about trying to cut the soap straight with a knife, on the chopping block that I bought at the thrift store for $2. I had measured out the inches down either side of it, but it was still coming out all wonky.
I told him that the top is an inch apart, but the bottom could be a quarter inch out either way. I know that it wouldn’t make a huge difference, weight wise, but I lost a bar on each loaf from over compensating. I’d like to make sure that all of the bars are uniform, because if you lost a bar on every loaf, it would be really cutting down on profits.
That’s going on the assumption that we will sell any of the bars. If we don’t, then there will be a lot of misshapen solstice gifts being handed out this winter.
I showed him the picture of my dream cutter. (Only because it looks awesome, not because I have a clue that it even works)
When he saw that it was $259, plus exchange, plus shipping, he said that I could make one for about $75 or $100, after he quit choking on his ramen noodles and cursing with that Cape Breton flair.
Apparently he forgot that you also need some skill in woodworking, and that’s not something I’m known for.
I told him that I would pay him to build one for me, and he said that he would. I was excited about that, but he wasn’t sure when he could get it done by. I explained to him that I needed it right away, because I couldn’t keep cutting the bars the way I was.
That was when he had a brilliant idea.
I think the grey one is pretty much the same box, except it might be a tiny bit deeper than the one I got. This one doesn’t leave more than a couple of millimetres above the bar to fit the blade into the guide, so even a little bit would help. The $2 chopping block came in handy, because there is a lip on one side of the mitre box for stabilizing it against the front of the bench.
The chopper isn’t as wide as the Norpro, but it will do until the good one comes in. Either way, for under $20 I can accurately measure and cut my soap bars. That’s all there is to that.
You are probably thinking to yourself, that it’s going to be more than $20 with the shipping, but it isn’t if you get yourself a bunch of beeswax to get the price up over $25 to take advantage of Amazon’s free shipping.
Just a suggestion, you know you’re going to need it. 😉
P.S. We did cut up a loaf with it, and I have to tell you that it worked so much better than freehand with a knife that I couldn’t stop smiling while I slid and sliced. I’m such a newbie nerd.
Yep, we finally did it. Now we will wait five weeks to see how it turned out. We got a really great deal on the soap making tools and ingredients, so we are going to use up the fragrances and dyes that came with it while we are learning.
Oh, and it was really fun. Except for the freehand knife cutting. I really need one of these when I win the lottery:
I ended up having to work, so Gerri got the lesson and made the first batch, but when I got home she was still so excited that she wanted to make another one. I was glad, because I thought I was going to have to wait five weeks until it was cured. That’s when I found out that we were the proud new owners of four moulds, and that you can take them out of the moulds and cut the bars after about a day.
That means that we can make four loaves a day, every day. Do the math.
4 loaves x 15 bars x ∞ = BILLIONAIRES
I think that if I sell a kidney, we can afford to make soap for about a month, and then a week later we will be able to start selling the first day’s soap. That should give us enough working capital to make another three batches and the circle will begin again.
Dreaming is good.
Not about the kidney. That was a joke. Unless you know a buyer.
I’m talking about a life that’s dedicated to more simple days. Like getting up in the morning, making a bunch of soap, having lunch, sorting some worms and going out to feed and water the animals. I could really get used to that.
It sure beats getting up at 2 am so that you can get your job done before the road bans come on at 10, but still end up chaining up and slopping through the mud for the last hour, because the sun came out too fast on you.
Not that I wouldn’t jump at the chance to do that right now, I’m just dreaming about the future. You know, when I don’t have to jump at those chances anymore.
Anyhow, I should get off of here. I need to go in and watch the soap cure for a while before bed… and maybe bathe, but I really want to make this last bar of the good stuff last until ours is ready. I figure if I wash every fourth night, I should squeek slide by.
I’m having a hard time with this. At first I thought of it as an exodus, but I think an exodus is a mass departure. I don’t consider 20-30 as much of a “mass”.
I guess I should explain.
I woke up the other morning at around 5:00 am. I won’t get into the details of why I got up that early, but I am getting older, and sometimes my body tells me things. This particular morning, on my way back from the kitchen, I saw that the door was open to the worm room and there were a couple of worms on the floor. I walked over and saw that I had left the screen off of the top and there were some dried out worm husks there. I also saw the sides covered in worms and castings, so I stepped closer to shoo them back in and put the lid on.
Now I have stepped on lots of worms in my life, but it’s different when you are in your bare feet and on a wood floor. I looked down and saw a line of worms heading for the exit. They got crisper, the closer to the door that they were, so I knew that it had happened gradually over the night.
I was reminded of a story that I had read in the Old Testament about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
The difference between the exodus of the Bible and the worms was that the worms were scattered out, there was only a handful of the worms that went with the leader, and it wasn’t 40 years of wandering. I would be surprised if they made it 40 minutes.
Oh, and I have evidence that the worms tried to escape.
No, it wasn’t an exodus, but it was something. Maybe sedition?
After, I started thinking about whether the first worm was trying to incite some sort of disorder amongst the rest of the worms, I realised that it might not have happened that way. It might just be like the worm websites tell me, and they just weren’t settled in to their new home.
Apparently they get used to a certain way of life, then they are bagged up in their own poop and some shredded cardboard and shipped off to some weirdo that stares creepily at them while digging around their new home with a pair of rubber gloves.
This brings me to:
This seems more like what happened. They actually liked living in the bag of poop and going for car rides. They don’t want the freedom of choice and they are perfectly happy eating moist cardboard. I guess they are like Domino’s Pizza customers in that regard. The shipping bag was just outside the room, so they might have been heading for the familiar scent of synthetic burlap or whatever it’s made of.
Real burlap is better
Well, they don’t have to feel the emotional turmoil any longer, because now they are dead. May they rest in peace.
I placed their lifeless, crumbly bodies back into the bin with their friends and family. Not because I wanted them to get a proper burial, but to let the others know what happens to deserters in this dictatorship.
It’s been two nights with not one attempted escape, so I guess it worked. Everybody is just quietly munching their lettuce shreds and banana peels, and acting like worms are supposed to act.
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.
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 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.