country scenes

The Joy of Riding

Hubby and I are several months into our weekly riding lessons now, and it has been everything I hoped it would be and more. Those of you who aren’t into horses or riding will have to indulge me with this post. Bringing riding into our lives has been a big deal around here.

There’s something about riding that is like meditation. I suppose there are many hobbies or pursuits that leave one with this feeling, but for me nothing comes close to it like riding. No matter how bad your day, no matter how sour your mood, getting up on a horse results in your mind clearing of everything. For one blissful hour I am focussed on my body and my equine partner, working together, with constant back-and-forth communication. It is really an honour to engage in such a conversation with another creature, one who is so strong and powerful and yet willingly submits to carrying me on his back.

My lesson horse is named Boomer and he’s a Quarter Horse. My trainer is working on getting her official Equine Canada certification and Boomer is the horse she is using, so she is schooling him in dressage and jumping. I’m so impressed with him – he looks lovely under saddle whether he is doing a cowboy-ish lope, flying changes in a lovely dressage frame, or hopping over jumps with controlled enthusiasm. I have to confess, Quarter Horses have never been my favourite breed. I’ve always thought of them as the workhorses they are, not as elegant and light movers. But our trainer’s two lesson horses have really won me over. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with her skills in horsemanship – she understands horses on a level few people do, and her skill is reflected in her horses. Her little “cow pony” is turning into a lovely little dressage horse (he recently won Training Level Champion at a local dressage show!), and since Dressage is my favourite equestrian pursuit I am very pleased to have a well-schooled horse on which to practice.

Meanwhile my husband has discovered the magical, meditative powers of riding. He seems to really enjoy the relationship he’s developing with his horse, Partner. My husband is not known for being effusive, so seeing his face light up as he excitedly talks about his lesson is truly amazing. I couldn’t be more thrilled that he is enjoying it so much. Riding with him is a real treat.

My husband on his very first trail ride.

I can’t believe I survived for 10 years without riding in my life. Now that it’s back I am so very grateful. Horses will be in my life from now on, I’m certain!

This was an exciting day: our trainer came to our property and we set out on a trail ride from our own driveway.

Categories: country scenes, critters, learning, lifestyle | Leave a comment

Fall on the Farm

Fall is definitely here. It was amazing how quickly it happened. But I’m not complaining. Despite our very short summer I still love autumn. I think it’s my favourite season. Today’s post will tell a disjointed story in pictures, but the overall theme is: here’s what’s going for us these days!

 The chickens are starting to look like…well, like chickens. They have most of their feathers now, but with the evenings getting pretty cool I’m keeping their heat lamp on at night. I’m proud to say we didn’t lose a single chick. I’m wondering if this is because the feed store had them for the first 24 hours and got them past the worst of it. But with 25 birds I’ve got two feeders going now and will have to add another water bucket too so I only have to fill them once a day. These guys eat and drink a lot! I’m moving the tractor pretty much every day, and they have gotten into the spirit now. When I begin to move it they all rush forward to the new clover and grass and dig in. Just like the other chickens, if either the feed or the water gets empty they will crowd around the walls closest to the house and just stare, apparently in the hopes of catching someone’s eye. Guess they aren’t so dumb after all!

The garden is looking neat, if not productive, since I finally got around to mowing the grass. Next year I plan to lay down some sawdust or wood chips to create proper pathways between the beds. While we did get a fair bit of lettuce before it bolted, there wasn’t much else going on this summer, except for the tomatoes! Those five plants have eight neighbours in a row outside the view in this photo, and most of them have done well. We’ve been eating tomatoes every day for weeks now, and my new favourite meal is bacon and eggs with fried tomatoes – so sweet! I know with the weather cooling and the rainy season on its way our tomato days are numbered. Hopefully I can pick all the green ones before that time comes and ripen what I can indoors. It will be incredibly depressing to go back to grocery store tomatoes. I’ve given up on a fall/winter garden in exchange for working on soil building. My raised beds are actually sunken beds with very little topsoil, so my plan this fall is to do some mulching with paper feed bags, compost, dry leaves, cut plants (like mullein, which grows in abundance here and fixes nitrogen) and any other organic matter I can get my hands on. My hope is to have much deeper and richer soil in time for spring planting next year.

We took the tarps off our lumber when the dry season started, but soon they’ll be tarped up again. We’ve had two days of sunshine during which we laid the huge tarps out to dry. Tomorrow we’ll put them back over the lumber. While building the chicken tractor earlier this year I noticed the wood was still a bit wet in the middle, so more drying will be a good thing. We are thinking about using the lumber to build a greenhouse, and some exciting opportunities for a barter are in the works. A local family we know through our homelearning network needs firewood, and we have it in abundance. They are willing to exchange experienced labour (carpentry, no less) so we may use that to get a start on the green house. I’ll keep you posted on that project!

The leaves are starting to turn around here, but we simply don’t get anything close to the spectacular show seen in the eastern parts of our continent. Here you can see a Western Flowering Dogwood, its leaves turning a lovely shade of red. It would probably look much better, however, if the leaves weren’t so dry and dead-looking. Still, I will be collecting the leaf fall for mulching and composting this year, and in that case it really doesn’t matter how pretty they are! In the background of this photo you can see our bushy Sitka Alder tree. A resident Stellar’s Jay has returned, sending out his raucous call every morning. He/she was here last year and it is neat to see the bird has returned. It will be one more way to mark the seasons around here. Oh, and speaking of trees, I identified three new ones on the property in the last couple of weeks. We have a Western White Pine, the only one I’ve found around her so far, an Oregon Ash, and a Smooth Sumac. Being the categorization geek that I am, I maintain an Excel spreadsheet with a list of all the flora and fauna I have identified. There are over ten varieties of tree on my list now, and I’m sure I’ll find a few more in the future.

One surprise harvest that required no work at all in creating it was that of wild blackberries. The Himalayan Blackberry may be considered an “invasive species” but I’m not unhappy that a huge whack of them grew up around our big debris pile this year. After stumbling upon the plentiful berries yesterday while walking around the property, I stuffed myself silly and then, realizing there were still tons more, went back to the house to grab a bowl. I noticed that some large animals must have been trying to get at the berries too, as there were some paths trampled through the long growth around the berry patch. That made my job a bit easier, so I’m happy to share with the local wildlife.With only a few cuts and stabs from the evil spikes I filled up the bowl rather quickly (I sat it on a camping chair for this photo to provide some perspective on size). I’m planning on turning it into a low-sugar jam/spread and canning it (guess who picked up a complete canning kit recently?!). Then I can enjoy a taste of summer with my breakfasts for a while into the cold season. I’m sure even this big bowl will cook down to maybe only one or two jars, but perhaps if I’m lucky I’ll be able to harvest some more before they’re gone. One benefit of having so much property is allowing it to grow in some places. I’ll definitely be encouraging this “invader” in years to come!

The pigs have grown huge over the summer, and will be ready for harvesting in about another month. Which is a good thing because we ran out of bacon!! We’re excited about having lots of bacon, sausage, ribs, and pork roasts soon. I don’t think we really can appreciate how much meat we are going to get from these four critters, but I’m sure there will be more than we need, and I’m hoping next year to offer some pork shares to friends and family. The pigs have really enjoyed their pasture – you can see a bit of the wooded section here. They truly are forest creatures, preferring to spend hot days and even rainy days under the trees, despite the fact that they have a shelter. They didn’t end up doing too much damage to the area, proving that we have a good ratio of pigs to land in this pasture. While we wanted them to clear things out a bit, we didn’t want to denude the land. I’m sure their manure will provide a new bounty of shoots and roots next spring for the next round of pigs.

On another, dreamier note, I decided over the summer to change my plans for the layout of the farm. The northwest corner of our property is the highest point, and has a nice large flat area that is just calling out for a lovely cob house to be built there. I’d originally dismissed the idea because the tall forest on the west side of the property robs the spot of sun relatively early in the day. However, I’ve decided it doesn’t matter. Many a time I’ve gone up there to sit and reflect and admire the view, imagining that one day I’ll be seeing this view from our living room or south-facing deck. These two photos show the view, with a bit of overlap:

The lumber piles on the right are along the west border of the property, and that tall treeline continues on down the hill beyond the debris pile (this photo is facing due south). Husband and I have also decided that horses will be part of our future farm (more on those exciting developments in a subsequent post!) and the spot where the debris pile and scrap logs are sitting is a nice flat area that is just crying out for a barn. We’ll clear a strip about half the width of that photo all the way down to the bottom of the property for a pasture. But I’d like to keep the woods on the east side as they are of a different, and unique, composition (lots of cherry trees, maples, stinging nettles, and pacific bleeding hearts compared to the mostly fir and salal of the west side). The garden will stay where it is, but I’m trying to figure out how not to make it look like a stockade while still keeping out the deer. I could put a perimeter deer fence around the whole place, but I don’t want to shut out the elk who wander through this very field regularly throughout the year, so I’ll have to figure out something. On the left side of the left photo you can see my compost bins, and behind them one of the big maple trees I love. Meanwhile, whenever I need to think, cool off, or just want to take it all in I come and sit up here (on that cinder block) and dream about our plans for the future. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I realize that we finally got our piece of land. And while it is still a work in progress, I’m very much in love with this place.

Categories: country scenes, critters, gardening, know your food, outdoor projects | Leave a comment

We have Chickens!

Today I went to the feed store to pick up our chicks. I was cursing myself for having turned down a perfect-sized box the last time I was there, certain I would have no trouble finding another. But I forgot that Husband would be away for business, and that my kids were scheduled to come down with chicken pox (due to us having attended a Pox Playdate two weeks prior). I had little opportunity to run any errands, as bundling unwell kids into the car was something I wished to avoid. Consequently I found myself heading to pick up 25 chicks with nothing to house them in.

However, it wasn’t a big deal. We had a few bits of scrap lumber and plywood around and I made myself proud by grabbing a drill, some screws, and a circular saw and fashioning a pretty decent abode for the little peepers. The floor is plywood, approximately 5′ by 3′. Two thin pieces of composite board made the long side walls. I attached them to the floor via some 2 x 2’s I had attached along the bottom, then joined them across the width at each end with some a 2 x 4 that I cut in half lengthwise. Out of plywood I found some pieces of flooring leftover from when previous owners had done one of the rooms. These were the kind that lock into each other, and I was able to cut and stack them to cover the ends. When it was finished I had a very functional, if not elegant, brooder box. The chicks seem really happy in it, too.

As I walked around the property this afternoon, on a gorgeous summer-like day, I was feeling a bit frustrated with the overall look of the place. It’s not what you would call “attractive”. The fencing in the back yard for the dog looks shabby, our mobile home is ugly, and I have zero time to do any aesthetic gardening. The little lawn out front needs mowing (which irks me: I don’t want to have to mow grass – it’s a waste of time and fossil fuels) and the edges of our field are indistinct, given the area an untidy, overgrown feeling. The pig’s enclosure has stacks of logs and other debris in it (not enough to bother the pigs, but it makes the place look untidy). And of course there are other debris piles around the property. In other words, as Husband put it, it’s looking a bit “hillbilly” around here now that everything is growing like crazy.

And then I saw the piglets. They came running out from the bushes to see if I had brought any food. I looked at them and was struck by the thought that our place may not look attractive, but it was pretty darned productive right now. Four pigs’ worth of pork, twenty-five meat birds, and a vegetable garden that is steadily growing. The truth is, you don’t need a picture-perfect homestead to provide your family with the best quality food you can grow. There will be plenty of time for landscaping, earthmoving, and building a new home in the years to come. For now, I thought, at least we have our priorities straight.

Categories: building things, country scenes, critters, know your food | 2 Comments

Spring is here!

Thanks to a recent bought of spring weather, my trailmaking project is coming along nicely. I’ve added several more trails to the one that was already present when we moved here last year (and now that one will stay accessible even when the stinging nettles are full grown). It’s exciting to be able to access areas of the woods that I haven’t been able to observe easily before. I’m noticing which areas are particularly sunny and open, and which are cooler and more damp. I can’t help but feel that we have the foundations of a bountiful food forest in here, with lots of diversity in both microclimate and soil type.

As a reward for my hard work, I take the dog for daily walks through the trail network. Once or twice I’ve brought along a small colinear hoe to sweep away any stinging nettles growing on the paths (these innocuous-looking small shoots will, I’ve now learned from experience, grow to about 5 feet tall by summer). As we go along, I’m looking out for species of plants that I haven’t yet identified.

One small tree had me puzzled for a while. It caught my attention a couple of weeks ago when I noticed it was already budding leaves when all the other plants had buds shut up tight. Soon small sprays of flowers could be seen. It looks so pretty – a sign of all the delights of spring to come. I took a sample branch and spent quite some time thumbing through my Trees in Canada book trying to identify it, to no avail.

Finally I decided to check my other reference, Plants of Coastal BC. I then learned why I was having so much trouble – my little tree was not, in fact, a Tree but a Shrub. And it’s an Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), a classic herald of spring in our coastal climate (see photo above).

I’m really enjoying the process of getting to know the flora and fauna of our place. It brings a sense of familiarity. This spring I’ve been watching the Vanilla Leaf come up, and remembering how astonished I was to see them for the first time shortly after moving here last year. They seemed so strange at first, these tall, thin green stalks rising up out of the ground, with nothing but a fan-shaped green tip. They came up in great swaths, looking almost alien in appearance. Now when I see the new crop coming up I remember how it felt to “meet” them last year.

Over the last few days I’ve been noticing Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) appearing, and today I saw one in flower. The Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) is coming up, though no flowers just yet. And today I discovered Menzies’ Red-Mouthed Mnium (Mnium spinulosum), a type of moss that is relatively easy to identify because of the red rings around the tip of the sporophyte. My daily walks through our woodland trails will allow me to watch the changes unfolding on a much smaller scale than I was able to last year. It’s a new show every week!

 

Categories: country scenes, learning, outdoor projects, permaculture | 5 Comments

Lessons from our first winter

Winter has arrived here on Vancouver Island. Even Vancouver got a dusting of snow, but around our place – which is about 300 feet above sea level – we got a nice big dump of snow. It’s rather unusual for this part of the country to get snow so early, and the temperatures have also been unseasonally cold. We’d been thinking about this for a while, how we would prepare and cope with winter in the country, but it all happened upon us rather unexpectedly and we’ve had a few hiccups already.

It all started rather blissfully. On Friday evening I went to bed with a dusting of snow already on the ground and we woke to a winter wonderland. the photo at the top is the view from our deck, which is pretty much the same view from our bedroom window. That morning I drank my usual cup of tea, but this time I was perched on the dresser staring out the window at the magic around us…I couldn’t get enough of how amazing it all looked, and counted my blessings for the umpteenth time since moving here.

But the blissful moment was interrupted by discovering that the pigs had escaped and were getting into the garbage cans. Husband and I put on our snow gear. After I dug it all out of storage and dusted off the cobwebs, that is. A mouse had built a cozy little nest in one of Daughter’s snow boots; note to self – don’t store boots in the garage! It was actually a very enjoyable task to go out and repair the electric fence around the pig paddock. Since they were due to leave us the next day we took the whole thing apart and rigged up a much smaller paddock that linked to the “livestock chute” Husband had fabricated from various materials (that’s it sinking under the snow in the foreground of the above photo). Then the kids got themselves bundled up and we searched the property for a suitable hill. It was very cool being able to toboggan on our own property! The dog was having a blast running around in the snow. Later we went inside and I made a yummy homemade soup and all was right with the winter world.

Things started going wrong the next day. As you may recall, the pigs were supposed to be long gone before this kind of weather hit and we couldn’t get another appointment until this past Sunday. That morning the processing guy called to say the livestock hauler couldn’t get his trailer to the processor’s facility so everybody was rescheduled for the following weekend. I’ve been worried about the pigs as they only have a 3-sided shelter and I honestly don’t know if they can handle this sort of cold. Some of the books say you should build a winter shelter for them, others say they are hardy and will handle a bit of cold (and this from a guy who lived in Virginia where the temps went down to minus 28 C!). So far they don’t show any signs of distress, but at this point there’s not much to do except keep them fed and watered and hope that next weekend’s appointment goes as planned. Meanwhile it’s about – 10 C here; thank goodness they have each other to snuggle up against.

Our big concern when thinking about the approaching winter was losing power. We were told by the neighbours that it’s a given, and we did experience several power outages in the summer though they all resolved themselves within minutes. The issue was heat since our propane-powered central heating (forced air) system relies on electricity to run the fan. We’d talked about getting a wood stove or a gas stove hooked up to our propane tank, but this place is so small and already crowded I just don’t know where we’d put it. Husband argued that, for the same price, we could get a kick-ass generator that would not only give us power for heat in case of an outage, but power for the stove and our computers, etc. Kind of hard to argue with that logic. Well yesterday in the midst of this cold-spell the heater breaks down. We still have power, but no heat (the fan motor has died). Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get someone out to fix it, but in the meantime it’s rather chilly in here! We’ve all got extra wool blankets on the beds, I’m bundled up and drinking hot tea, but this is not something I’ll want to go through regularly. I guess we’ll be shopping for generators this week (when everybody else is, too; oh the joys of being a procrastinator!).

On the water front, we assumed the pump house and well head were already weather-proofed as it’s not like nobody was living here before us. However it appears that the only thing keeping the pump from freezing was a light bulb in the pump house, which blew out back in the summer and never got replaced. So today we lost our water. Husband put a space heater in the pump house, which appeared to fix the problem for a while, but then later on we lost our water again. So looks like we’ll be calling a guy in tomorrow for that, too!

Of course all this happens while I’m out of town for two days with Daughter, and Husband is home with Son, both of whom are sick with colds. In true Kid Fashion, Son recovered almost immediately and has been bouncing off the walls while Husband has had to tend to an electric fence malfunction (the pigs rooted up the power line – that’s what happens when you move the paddock in deep snow and forget where the line is buried!), the pump issue, take apart the heater, and try to cook for himself and Son…On the way home from the ferry terminal I get a pleading text message asking us to bring pizza and lots of water. We have water for drinking and cooking now, but not for flushing the toilet – now who’s crazy for stocking up on family cloth, huh??

Amidst all the craziness I have to laugh and love it all. A bunch of suburbanites spending their first real winter out in the country – lots to learn! But we will learn and figure it out, and in the meantime it’s hard to complain with all that frozen beauty out there.

Categories: country scenes, critters, learning, lifestyle, outdoor projects, water works | Leave a comment

A Date with Destiny

It all started when our male pig “Sour” made a jailbreak…

That’s him heading down the driveway. A day earlier the cord connecting the electric fence to the power source got a tear in it and was shorting out. Sour had apparently discovered this and hopped the fence to explore the rest of the farm. Husband, who has been in charge of the pig project all this time, was out of town on business. I realized it was going to be up to me to fix this, and nobody else. It was my first “farm emergency” and there I was, a city girl, left with nobody to rely on but herself. It reminded me of the many pickles Jenna has found herself in over at Cold Antler Farm. I thought to myself “What would Jenna do?”. Well, she would reach down into her barnheart and find the courage to Just Do It. So, while I was not happy about having to take care of this with about an hour of daylight left, I felt this was also a baptism of sorts, a test of my country can-do spirit. I was determined to prove myself farm-worthy!

Getting Sour back in the paddock was easy. He was just slowly wandering around and as soon as I appeared with a bucket of pig pellets he followed me back to the paddock like a puppy and hopped back over the fence to get in and eat (god forbid that Sweet, the female, should get the food to herself!). And I knew how to fix the wire: I’d spliced many a cable as a teenager when trying to fix up old stereo equipment. ‘Course, in this case I was out in the middle of an overgrown field at dusk with bugs biting me and a pig just waiting to finish his second dinner before making another jailbreak. Turns out the wide electric tape around the paddock had broken too, and other than rewiring the whole fence my only option was to tape it together as best I could and hope it would hold until morning, when Husband would be back and we could rewire the paddock. I managed to fix it all and get Sour to stay within his paddock – I think it helped that it was getting dark and the pigs wanted to bed down for the night, which they always do together. I was pretty darned proud of myself, but I also knew that the paddock was failing.

The next morning when Husband went to feed the pigs Sour hopped the fence and ripped the tape apart again (for some reason Sweet, the female, has never opted to leave the paddock; just like a Male to be the troublemaker!). While he wandered around Husband re-wired the paddock and ended up having to make it much smaller. However, by this time Sour had apparently decided that getting shocked was worth the fun of exploring. For the next few hours he repeatedly got out, even though you could hear him grunting as he got zapped, until finally Husband wrapped the wire a few more times around the perimeter, making it high enough that Sour decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

The paddock was a slap-dash job to start with, the biggest problem being that our power source is up near the house and the paddock is a couple hundred feet away. We didn’t have time to properly send power down there, so we ran a speaker wire over the ground to the paddock. Summer’s growth caused huge amounts of plant matter to grow up around it, insects and animals are fiddling with it, and it gets run over from time to time. We realized that, at this point, it’s not worth the time and effort to redo the paddock because Sweet and Sour have reached pretty darn close to market weight. It’s more pork than our family will be able to eat in a year (we don’t eat much meat to begin with) and they’ve become a bit of a headache, so we made the appointment and this Sunday they’ll be going off to be killed and butchered.

Part of me feels a bit sad, because I’m a city girl and Death has always been A Thing To Feel Sad About. It just feels appropriate to me to be sad because these animals are going to die soon. On the other hand, I have absolutely ZERO desire to keep them as pets. I don’t find them all that affectionate or cute, they try to knock me over when I feed them, and they eat a LOT of food. Plus, I like to eat pork and how great would it be to have a whole freezer full of the stuff? Yup, I’m totally cool with what’s going to happen. But I’ll admit there’s a small part of me that’s sad. However, they’ve had a pretty darn wonderful life…and besides, we are planning a camping trip in early September and with the pigs gone we won’t have to hire a farm sitter while we’re away!

Categories: country scenes, critters, know your food, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lazy Days of Summer

Not much going on around the farm these days in terms of major projects. I have finally decided where my vegetable garden will be next year and that is a huge load off my mind. I’ve chosen to put it in the “back yard” (which actually fronts the street). Turns out that area gets way more sun than I thought (I’ve been watching it carefully throughout the day for the last couple of weeks) and it’s right outside my back door which makes for easy harvesting. Nobody really uses that part of the lawn and I noticed the grass is growing thick and healthy there (as opposed to higher up the gentle slope where it’s a sea of dandelions). According to my gardening bible I should make my raised beds in the fall, seed them with cover crops, and let them sit over the winter until it’s time for spring planting. I can’t wait!

Of course a garden means deer fencing and I’m trying to figure out how best to do this given that the fencing will be on the road frontage and along the driveway and nothing says “stockade” like 7 ft high fence posts. This article at Mother Earth News says that you can avoid the stockade look by putting in double fences – apparently deer have poor depth perception and won’t try to jump it. I’ll need to research that a bit more. Besides protecting the garden, I need to fence off an area around the house so the dog can’t run off the property. Right now she’s confined to the deck when necessary and I seem to be the only one who remembers to close the gate (in fairness, it’s used pretty heavily and it’s starting to sag so closing it requires some effort). I’m going to look into pricing soon so we can decide how much we can do at once and where it should go.

Meanwhile, summer is here and it is lovely. Here are some photos from around the farm:

My first tomatoes have ripened and they are delicious. These are Tiny Tims, I believe. I can’t believe these plants survived, let alone are producing fruit. I have only watered them once since planting (twice if you count tonight) and we’ve barely had any rain in weeks.

Husband planted some generic wildflower seed mix he bought at the feed store along the side of our new field bordering the parking area in front of the garage. They took forever to sprout and only one section of the strip produced anything. But what did grow there is putting on a lovely show of colour these days.

Finally, the crimson clover in our field has bloomed and it looks gorgeous. We’re pretty pleased with how the field turned out given we had no idea what we were doing when we raked and seeded it. The soil in places is pretty bad so we’re amazed stuff grew at all. It’s somewhat patchy in places but that could very well be due to our hand broadcasting technique (which we later read doubles the suggested seeding per square footage amounts). It’s no problem, though. We can reseed the field at the end of the season and should have a lovely thick field next spring.

Categories: country scenes, gardening, know your food | Leave a comment

My Daily Endorphins

Pretty much every morning I take the dog out for exercise. We used to run, but recently I’ve traded in my running shoes for a mountain bike. After easing into my riding muscles on the flat Trans Canada Trail that runs past the bottom of our property, I’m now ready for the hilly trails through the 160 acre forest next door. We go out the west gate of our property and head onto the power line trail. This photo shows a section of the trail that I call “our road”, a wide stretch that leads from our gate (where I’m standing to take the photo) to a four-way trail intersection (up where the power pole is in the photo). This stretch of road is therefore only used by us, which is why I call it “our road”.

The power line trail is wide; BC Hydro (our power company) maintains a 20 metre wide cleared area. At first it is surrounded on both sides by a forest of mostly Douglas fir, with thick low-lying vegetation in the undergrowth and open spaces between the bare tree trunks (Douglas firs need sunlight; as they grow they shed their lower branches). I love to look into the woods as I go by; the sunlight is dappled and plays along the tree trunks as I pass.

Farther along the trail, one side opens up to a field with a small road leading to the cemetery. It’s my favorite viewpoint.

The cemetery was established by the local Chinese community and holds the remains of Chinese workers who helped build the railway during the end of the 19th century. Where the few grave markers can still be seen, the daisies have bloomed in abundance.

The cemetery lies on a hill that provides a lovely view of the valley and the mountains beyond.

Invariably, as I’m walking or riding along I develop a deep sense of calm and happiness. For me, being out in Nature is the closest thing I can get to a spiritual experience. I feel myself lightening, as though weights were lifting off me. My mood improves, often to the point of being positively glowing. I’m generally not exerting myself the way I used to when I was running, and yet I feel the same endorphin high. My senses seem to be particularly alive: I hear the birds singing and the wind rustling through the trees and grasses, when I enter the forest trails the cool humidity dances across my skin, I smell earth and greenness and fresh air. I look at the plants, noting how tall they are growing, which are bearing flowers, and seeing the first fruits (huckleberries, salmonberries, and wild strawberries). I use this time to practice being present, letting go of any worries or anxieties that may be distracting me from fully being in the moment. To be honest, it’s hard to hang on to a bad mood when I’m out walking or riding. I can’t help but appreciate how lucky we are to be here, in this time and place, with these quiet and beautiful natural surroundings. I feel in my heart that I have finally found Home.

Categories: country scenes, lifestyle | 3 Comments

Signs of Summer

I don’t have a clothesline yet and not even sure where to put it as the layout of the house and yard is unusual. So for now I’m using my wooden clothes horse. The family cloth, however, doesn’t dry well over thick round wooden rails and tends to get blown off easily. So I rigged up this hemp twine across a corner of the deck:

I mentioned in my last post that the strawberries were ripening. We’re in full-on strawberry mode now, and have been enjoying regular bowls of sweet goodness all week. Thank heavens at least one of my children partakes in our harvesting!

Categories: country scenes, Homemaking, know your food | 2 Comments

Green Fields and Happy Pigs

It has been a while since I posted, and things around here have been busy but not rushed. There’s a big difference and I think I’ve only really started to appreciate that since we moved out to the country. But I digress…

The biggest project and first priority around here has been the new field. It had to be raked and seeded, and yours truly did all the raking herself (I’ll take a bow). Sure we could have hired a tractor, bought a fancy attachment for the ATV, or just built one ourselves like the neighbour did (he attached a long rectangle of chicken wire to a heavy log and dragged it around his property). But it just seemed easier to go out and do it by hand. It was a learning experience to be sure, and it also allowed me to get a feel for the soil in the field and which spots had better soil than others. I was very pleased with the final result, especially how I ended up piling the last bits of debris along the field border, which saved me having to toss it all into the trailer and then dump it. It was dusty work during the dry summer weather spell we were having, but right when I finished the skies opened up and it has rained pretty much every day for the last week. Soon there was green coming up everywhere and Husband and I were running around pointing and shouting in excitement. The photo below is taken from the “test patch” we seeded when we first started raking. The rest of the field is sprouting little cotyledons of grass and clover and I can’t wait to see what it all looks like when grown.

By the way, the fenced-off area in the topmost photo is Husband’s heritage wheat project. It’s pretty cool and I’ve been bugging him to write some posts on the subject. Stay tuned!

The field project was briefly interrupted by the arrival of the pigs, who quickly outgrew their little paddock. Husband expanded the area and they are very happy as there’s a nice muddy wallow they like to hang out in. I am amazed at how strong those pig noses are and what they are able to root out of the ground, even at their relatively small size. I am, however, getting tired of hauling feed to them 2 or 3 times a day so I’m wanting to get a pig feeder. We are also hauling water to them, which they are drinking out of a bucket. This is less than ideal, and if they weren’t the only livestock we’re caring for it would probably be intolerable. First, they love to turn their bucket upside down which means we are refilling it at least once a day and often more than that. We really need to get a proper water trough that they can’t tip over. Second, there is only one outside tap on the property; it’s on the side of our trailer. So to water the pigs we need to go get the bucket, bring it up to the house, rinse and fill it, and bring it back down. This is fine for now but eventually we’ll have more animals, hopefully a barn, and we’ll need a water source further down the property. We have several options we’re looking at; the one I’m most excited about is rainwater harvesting. But more on that later…Meanwhile the pigs seem very happy and they are doing a great job of clearing the land under their hooves. (sorry for the blurred photo, but they didn’t want to sit still for me that day!)

With the field done I quickly moved on to my next project: getting plants into the ground. I was given some leeks, chives, and oregano by my neighbour. Then a friend came to visit and brought me raspberries and some inedible plants. And then Husband went to a local farm for their annual heritage tomato seedling sale and came home with a bunch of vine and bush varieties. These had all been sitting in pots for too long, so I got to work making a bed for them.

I still haven’t figured out exactly where my eventual garden will be. It will be a thing of beauty, with several raised beds in rotation, pretty pathways, and all surrounded by deer-proof fencing. But that will have to wait until fall. Meanwhile, I picked a spot in the field where I knew from raking that the soil was nice. I measured out a 4 x 12.5 square and began digging. If I hadn’t suspected it already, digging confirmed that underneath the thin layer of nice topsoil is heavy and rocky clay. I added four bags of Sea Soil to the bed to build it up a bit, as well as lime and complete organic fertilizer (I’m using Steve Solomon’s method; more in a later post).

After much digging and raking I was able to put the tomatoes, raspberry, and leeks into the ground. I’ll put the inedible plants in the flower garden near the house, and I’ll put the oregano and chives in a pot on the deck. I have no idea how well the tomatoes will grow; this was as slapdash as they come. Right after I got the plants in I came down with a rotten cold, and the first one in a year that has landed me in bed. For the last three days I’ve been wholly unproductive, but am finally starting to get my energy back. Between that and some visitors it’s been a slow two weeks but I’m looking forward to tackling the next job…whatever that is, I haven’t decided what to do next!

Categories: country scenes, critters, gardening, working the land | 1 Comment

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