Tag Archives: #birdsnewadventure

Good Relations

I remember when we got here, we bought eggs from the grocery store. I knew that there were folks around that had eggs for sale, but wasn’t sure who they were.

One day, a PSA came out from a lady who had some wool to give away, and farm fresh eggs for sale. Gerri went out to see what the wool looked like and bought three dozen eggs while she was there. When we were getting low again, we both went out, and I got to meet Jane as well. She was pretty cool, and we all chatted about how great their little farm was, and we bought some more eggs. (She was the one who told us about rendering down fat for soap making.)

This went on into the winter, and this spring, I was out there getting some eggs, when she asked if I wanted some potatoes. There was a bunch of shriveled up purple and red potatoes in a pail on the floor, so I said that we didn’t really eat potatoes, but thanked her anyway. I assumed that she meant for eating, and I didn’t think the leathery little guys would be that tasty. I mentioned that I was going to be looking for seed potatoes as I wanted to try my hand at gardening, when she explained that they were for planting.

I felt a bit foolish, but got over it quickly and went home to plant the little spuds. They are now about two inches high.

This isn't one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.
This isn’t one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.

Since then, we have brought extra veggie scraps for her chickens, and gave her an in on our fat supply. We can’t use everything, but we don’t like seeing things go to waste, so we thought she would appreciate a little  bit of free stuff.

We were right.

Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.
Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.

She asked us if we wanted anything from her garden that was spreading around, so we said we would take anything she wanted to get rid of.

This was in there as well.

A few different types of strawberries. We'll let them get spreading this year.
A few different types of strawberries. We’ll let them get spreading this year.

This next one was a great addition to our perennial herb garden.

The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.
The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.

We got more rhubarb, so I planted it around to see where it did the best.

I guess we will see how it turns out. I'll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.
I guess we will see how it turns out. I’ll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.

I guess the point of this post is that sharing freely of resources for no other purpose than to help someone out, can really pay you back great dividends in the long run.

Not only did we feel great by helping out someone that we have come to know as a friend, but we got some free plants, and the lend of a great book. We’re going to start making things now. Really cool things.

Plus, we got great, fresh eggs, a tour of the farm, and got to watch Duffy and Lily fight over the tennis ball a bit. (It gets put away when we visit now.)

So if you get a chance to go to someone’s place and buy something that they have produced themselves, talk to them. Ask questions, and tell them about your dreams and plans. You just never know where you might find a new friend, or at the very least, a trading partner.

Chris

I’m Getting Out Of Control

Yeah, in the worm department.

A couple of years ago, during a visit home, my cousin Ryan was telling me all about mealworms. He was telling me how they are the protein of the future, easy to raise, and very tasty and nutritious.

I immediately discounted this. I have eaten a few seasoned and roasted mealworms before, and I sure don’t want to make a meal out of them.

He explained that they were extremely easy to raise and breed, and that they take a phenomenal percentage less water per ounce of protein than beef or pork.

I told him that as long as there was enough water to get steak, I wouldn’t worry too much about low water protein and then we had a hearty laugh, as we are wont to do while having a social ale or two.

Then, the other day I was reading about mealworms as chicken food on a homesteading forum. I thought about how easy my cousin said they were to raise and then promptly forgot about it. I already have a bunch of worms, what do I need more for?

Until two days later, when I saw on a local buy and sell page that a woman was looking for mealworms to feed her gecko. I said to myself:

“You should get some mealworms and breed them too. There might be some people around that would buy them from you, and you will be able to feed them to your chickens when you get them.”

I then replied, “I will look into it, and I’ll let you know.”

Before I looked into it, another local lady said that a few people would be happy to have a local supplier, so that pushed me towards purchasing my breeding stock today. Some of them seemed a little bit dead, but apparently they get like that after a while in the fridge.

(Update – Nope, they’re dead. I don’t think that they would still be laying in the same, motionless position after a day.)

I took them home, ground up some Red River Cereal and some rolled oats, and dumped them in a bin with some cabbage, a broken grape, and some cardboard shreds. I separated everything to see what they like best. I’m going to get some laying mash as well, because I’m told that stuff is like gold for them, as long as it isn’t medicated.

I'd breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn't have asthma.
I’d breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn’t have asthma.

Apparently that’s all you have to do. I hope.

I will keep checking on them, but I guess it will be a while before they turn into pupa and then beetles, so I think I have a bit of time to perfect the setup. Most of the “real” farmers use one of these four drawer plastic container systems that you could steal from a friends garage or get on Amazon if you wanted to help a guy out. (wink wink)

I kid, but not really. I actually was looking at some of these ten drawer ones and was dreaming of when I would have them full of worms and styrofoam.

Yeah, you heard right. Apparently mealworms can safely survive on a diet of pure styrofoam and convert it into usable soil. It has something to do with the enzymes in their gut, so scientists are trying to figure out how to use them to combat the 33000000 tons of styrofoam in US landfills each year. I don’t know how much us Canadians go through, but it sure looks like a lot as well.

You know, because you wouldn’t want to quit making styrofoam and just throwing it away. That’s just crazy.

Where we live, styrofoam is not recyclable, so I’m hoping to eventually be able to process it with mealworms. I will keep those ones separate from the feed and sale ones, but any excess could be tossed in a bin full of styrofoam and we could at least see for ourselves whether it’s a load of bull or not.

I hope it’s not, because we can’t keep going the way we are right now. Our planet and our bodies can’t take all of this pollution, so anything we can do to help will matter in the future.

Chris

If We Had This Soap When I Was A Kid…

…I would have done a lot more swearing in front of my mom.

Except the one on the left. That's just laundry soap.
Except the one on the left. That’s just laundry soap.

Well, until I tasted them. No matter how good they look and smell, they are still soap.

We had a great weekend of soap making and wax rendering. It really was amazing, partially because it was wet and we really needed some rain, but also because we banged out seven batches of soap and rendered down a bunch of honeycombs that a wonderful local apiarist had dropped off for us.

After rendering all the dead bees,honey, and beetles out of it, we got this handsome specimen.

That was the first render. We got another decent disc from the second as well.
That was the first render. We got another decent disc from the second as well.

We then turned all of our beeswax into these.

And they pop out of the cups without ripping them. It's recycle time.
And they pop out of the cups, so we can reuse them.

Many of our recipes call for beeswax to harden up the bar, so we portioned them out for each recipe. It was a huge pain, but will totally be worth it in the end. It sucks to be hacking and grating the wax from the block to come up with a certain weight. This way you just plop it in with your oils as they heat up and wait for it to melt.

You could chop it into pieces if you are too impatient to let it melt slowly, or somehow make your wax into pastilles when it’s melted. They look like a great way to melt wax fast.

Anyhow, we have enough beeswax to last us for a while, which is good, because we have a Farmer’s Market meeting this week, and hopefully we will be selling a lot of soap soon. I really hope so, because we are going broke on ingredients for this stuff. It’s like an addiction to heroin, except better for you, and I could make a batch before work in the morning, and still drive all day with no problems.

We are noticing that our comfort level is growing, because we are straying from the recipes and trying to create our own signature soaps. I really like trying new things, especially when they work out like they did this weekend.

Well, we think they worked out. We won’t really know until they are cured and we can make sure that they are all in good working order, but man, oh man do they seem great now. The prettiest, and tastiest looking one is Gerri’s creation. It’s called Berry Vanilla Cheesecake. I bet you can tell which one it is from the photo above. It also smells as good as it looks.

The best one, for a man, is probably the hot process Savvy Woodsman bar. It smells like a forest got it’s butt kicked by a dream. We named it after our friend “Savvy” back home, because we designed it on his birthday after he asked us to send him some soap. First bar is free, Savvy. You know the drill after that. 😉

Another beauty was the Orange Chili Pepper bar. It was the second attempt at hot process soap making (which happens to be Gerri’s new favourite thing), and one where we went outside the box and added ground up chili pepper flakes to the bar after it gelled. It looks and smells fantastic, but we will definitely be testing that one out before selling it. Especially around the eyes and tender bits.

(Free sample bar to whoever wants to guinea pig that experiment. 😉 hehe)

Last but not least is the French Vanilla Cappucino bar. It really excites me, but it still feels pretty soft. I should have maybe put beeswax in instead of avocado or sweet almond oil, but we won’t know for sure until it cures. It is totally coloured and scented by real coffee and some vanilla fragrance. We used a very strong coffee(that we will try freezing next time) with the lye instead of water, and then used the grounds and vanilla in the batter at medium trace. You can’t really smell the vanilla, but the bar still smells so good. It will be like you’re showering in a fancy coffee shop, but you won’t have to deal with the hipsters and the line ups.

That’s a win-win.

We also made a nice sandalwood cold process, my mom’s birthday bar, and a plain lard soap with no fragrance or colour. It will be grated up for an all natural laundry soap that I want to try. I did one before with a really nice fragrance oil, but the bar dried brown, so that might not be cool in someone’s dainties. I will have to check it to see if it discolours fabric when it’s cured.

I am really happy at how well we work together, especially with two people who are creative and are really struggling to figure something out. It is the highlight of my day to see Gerri’s face light up when she goes to “visit the soap”.

It really is.

I absolutely love our new passion, and who knows, it might even make enough money to pay for itself. As good as that would be, it won’t compare to hanging out with your best friend on the weekend, and maybe discovering the next big thing.

Chris

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

Wildfires And Evacuations

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.

This is from our driveway.
This is from our driveway.

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.

This gives a better idea of distance.
This gives a better idea of distance.

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.

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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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.

 

hftos_19

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.

hftos_20

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.

hftos_21

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.

hftos_23 hftos_24

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.

hftos_25hftos_26

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.

hftos_27
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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hftos_32 hftos_33 Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 9.30.57 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 9.31.15 PM

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.

hftos_40

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.

We Made Soap!

The back is Blueberry Hill, and the front is Gingerbread.
The back is Blueberry Hill, and the front is Gingerbread.

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

This should last about three days.
We aren’t sure which one is best, and they were all on sale, so…

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.

Chris