Sunday, November 17, 2013

Books Should Go...

Books should go where they will be most appreciated, and not sit unread, gathering dust on a forgotten shelf, don't you agree? 

November 17, 1983: Happy 30th birthday, Christopher Paolini! The young science fiction author was home schooled and managed to graduate high school at 15, after which he published his first best seller, Eragon.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

To Make A Farm

Indie films are an interesting breed unto themselves, but I find them most fascinating when they examine a topic very few others have looked at. In this age of mass-produced entertainment, films that make us think are gems indeed. I'm excited to share this with you, an indie film that follows five farmers on three Canadian farms as they try to make a profit. Farming is difficult enough these days with all kinds of challenges, but up here in Canada it is even more so. Not many people in these modern times are connected to their food, although that number is growing, and even fewer understand the person that lives a way of life that was largely abandoned for decades. So I invite you to follow the link to a fascinating article. Make the effort to find the film and watch with an open mind.
It's worth it.
Best of all, you might just come away with a better understanding of those that are doing what they can to reconnect with their food and the land.
You can find the interview at Scratch magazine.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Empty Lots, Grand Visions

So what's more important? 75 units of housing for people that are going to make more than $150,000 a year, or a park that will benefit AIDS sufferers, the elderly that may never see wild spaces again and youngsters.
It's a conundrum. Housing, or a green space that helps people in ways difficult to quantify? The units won't even serve as many middle income families as the city needs because the rules for affordable housing there are far removed from what folks need.
The complete story can be found here

Friday, October 04, 2013

Pigeons From Hell

Strangely enough, I enjoy horrifying fiction, scary stories and other frightening things that make my mind race in the dark. I can't watch horror movies though. There was once a commercial that aired on tv for some horror movie, The Ring I think it might have been. The commercial gave me nightmares, I just kept seeing the same image over and over again. When I was working night shift, I would be walking a mile home in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rose with only a flashlight and my imagination for company.
Let me tell you, an overactive imagination in a weary mind is a traitor at 4:30 in the morning. Every rustle in the woods becomes a starving, rabid wolf. Every snap of a branch becomes a Sasquatch waiting to commit horrible atrocities.
Even though I knew every inch of the road, every pot-hole of the bridge, some mornings I saw our door and I could almost taste my relief.

And yet I seek out horror stories. I have my own in the works.
I can't explain it. Perhaps my imagination enjoys being terrified, but my muse does not want readily made images, but would rather conjure its own? To that end, I found this story this morning, by Robert E. Howard.
Pigeons From Hell.
It should be a classic, if it is not already. It has all the best markings of a Twilight Zone episode, or perhaps The Outer Limits.

It is frightening and horrifying in its implications, descriptions and quest for its own truth. Here's a snippet;

'He blinked his eyes. The beam of moonlight fell across the stair just as he had dreamed it did; but no figure lurked there. Yet his flesh still crawled from the fear the dream or vision had roused in him; his legs felt as if they had been plunged in ice-water. He made an involuntary movement to awaken his companion, when a sudden sound paralyzed him.

It was the sound of whistling on the floor above. Eery and sweet it rose, not carrying any tune, but piping shrill and melodious. Such a sound in a supposedly deserted house was alarming enough; but it was more than the fear of a physical invader that held Griswell frozen. He could not himself have defined the horror that gripped him. But Branner's blankets rustled, and Griswell saw he was sitting upright. His figure bulked dimly in the soft darkness, the head turned toward the stair as if the man were listening intently. More sweetly and more subtly evil rose that weird whistling.

"John!" whispered Griswell from dry lips. He had meant to shout -- to tell Branner that there was somebody upstairs, somebody who could mean them no good; that they must leave the house at once. But his voice died dryly in his throat.

Branner had risen. His boots clumped on the floor as he moved toward the door. He stalked leisurely into the hall and made for the lower landing, merging with the shadows that clustered black about the stair.

Griswell lay incapable of movement, his mind a whirl of bewilderment. Who was that whistling upstairs? Why was Branner going up those stairs? Griswell saw him pass the spot where the moonlight rested, saw his head tilted back as if he were looking at something Griswell could not see, above and beyond the stair. But his face was like that of a sleepwalker. He moved across the bar of moonlight and vanished from Griswell's view, even as the latter tried to shout to him to come back. A ghastly whisper was the only result of his effort.

The whistling sank to a lower note, died out. Griswell heard the stairs creaking under Branner's measured tread. Now he had reached the hallway above, for Griswell heard the clump of his feet moving along it. Suddenly the footfalls halted, and the whole night seemed to hold its breath. Then an awful scream split the stillness, and Griswell started up, echoing the cry.

The strange paralysis that had held him was broken. He took a step toward the door, then checked himself. The footfalls were resumed. Branner was coming back. He was not running. The tread was even more deliberate and measured than before. Now the stairs began to creak again. A groping hand, moving along the balustrade, came into the bar of moonlight; then another, and a ghastly thrill went through Griswell as he saw that the other hand gripped a hatchet -- a hatchet which dripped blackly. Was that Branner who was coming down that stair?

Yes! The figure had moved into the bar of moonlight now, and Griswell recognized it. Then he saw Branner's face, and a shriek burst from Griswell's lips. Branner's face was bloodless, corpse-like; gouts of blood dripped darkly down it; his eyes were glassy and set, and blood oozed from the great gash which cleft the crown of his head!'

I'd love to know if you followed the link and read the whole thing. If you did, what do you think? How do you feel about horror fiction? Sound off in the comments section!
(Royalty free pigeon photo found at dreamstime)

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Bit of Spook For You!

Today, I'd like to do something different and share an excerpt of a new piece of fiction that I'm working on.
Be warned, it's horror. Mild right now, but it'll get freaky later.
It doesn't have a title yet, but I'm open to suggestions. Suggest something in the comments section. When it sees publication, if I use your suggestion, you'll get a shout-out in the acknowledgements! You could be famous...
Anyway, here's the excerpt, please let me know what you think!


They say I’m mad, the people here. But I’m not. Not really. They just don’t understand because they’ve never been face to face with the evil that I have.
You asked what I saw? It wasn’t just what I saw, but what I heard and smelled. Hell, the whole thing.

Have you heard of Christina Mine? No? I’m not surprised, it’s not much now. Back in its prime it was a small village of maybe 60 buildings; a store, some homes, a train station, outbuildings for the mine, a hotel and a mill that took in logs from the surrounding woods and prepped them for the train trip south. By the time I saw the area a hundred years later all that was left was the skeleton of the mill, the train station and a boarded up entrance to the mine. The closest collection of people was ten miles away. I thought it was going to be a peaceful summer, the real estate agent never said a word about anything hinky going on before I bought the place. I thought it was just a sad, neglected train station.

I replaced the windows and doors before I ever stayed overnight. A couple of times I thought I heard kids playing in the hall, but of course, when I went to look they had left. I replaced the locks after that. The day after I replaced the locks, I was out in the front yard having a smoke and happened to glance up at the second story. When I saw someone’s face looking back at me from the corner of the window, I ran inside, grabbed my gun and charged up the stairs, mad as hell. It was my place, you know? I didn’t want kids coming back in, ruining what I’d done to fix the old place up. It never occurred to me that the closest kids would have lived ten miles away.  Of course I found no one else besides myself. I double checked the locks and kept my gun close by. It never really bothered me then.

The next time something weird happened, I was up a ladder, painting the outside of the building. I had picked up a few gallons of simple white on a trip to town and only had to wait for the right day. Well, the day finally came. The bugs were scarce, there was a slight breeze and it was as bright a day as I’d ever seen. So I set my stuff up, leaned the ladder against the building and took my tray and roller up the ladder. I had been painting for a couple of hours when I heard someone laugh, kind of a chuckle, right beside me. Like anyone else would, I looked. Of course there was no one there, I was twenty-something feet off the ground! I shrugged to myself and kept painting. When I heard the chuckle again, it came from my other side. Yeah, I looked again. Nope, no one there either. This time though, I got goose bumps up and down my arms. I got off that ladder as fast as my feet could carry me.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Brilliant Achievements Take Planning

"If there is no dull and determined effort, there will be no brilliant achievement."

When I read these words the other day, I felt my blood chill. Honestly! I used to think that line "their blood ran cold" was a load of crap. I found out otherwise.
Anyway, I spent the rest of the day thinking about that quote. I think it can apply to a lot in life, and I think every procrastinator like me can take it to heart. It can apply to writing, to becoming more self-sufficient, to crafts like knitting or clay-work, homework or...anything really.

I've been reading "The Shy Writer Re-Born" by C. Hope Clark, and I've found her inspiring as well. She gives solid advice, and because she is an introvert like me, I tend to pay more attention when she assures me that I really can lay down a plan for success in my writing. If she can do it, so can I.

If I can do it, brave ahead despite my self doubt and negative crap, you can do it too. Doesn't matter what it is, if it's something you believe in, you can do it.
I'm talking reasonable dreams here.
Ask yourself these things:

  • What do I want to be doing six months from now? A year? Two years?
  • What needs to happen to achieve my six month goal?
  • Do I need someone else's help? How do I get that? Where do I have to go?
  • What can I do today or tomorrow to be one step closer to that goal?
I remember years ago, someone I trusted asked me what I wanted to be doing in five years time. I answered her with "I want to be a writer."  She asked me, "What do you need to have that happen?"
Well, I don't remember my answer all these years later, but whatever plan I came up with didn't stick. At the time, I was distracted by a custody case, family court and an ever-tumultuous life. I wish now I could have stuck with it, but I wasn't ready. So I came to my goal late, but I did eventually acquire my goal. I got a book published, my life settled down, I got a couple of articles published, I won custody of my boys, I wrote stories about a young dragon that I loved, and so did my boys.
My point here is that whatever it is, you can do it.

If J.K Rowling can write about a world of wizards, Hippogriffs, magical plants and evil magic while on a fixed income with a baby ... you can figure out what you want from life and work out a plan to get it!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Waaban: Dawn Kitten Accepted!

I am proud to report that my Christmas themed short story, "Waaban: Dawn Kitten" has been accepted for publication by Torquere Press! It will appear in a Christmas anthology titled "All I Want" Thanks again go to Betty Harmon,Nancy M. Griffis and Jacquelineand Mitchell !!!!

Prophetic dreams just before Christmas drive April to make sense of them before she can understand why she has been chosen to care for an abandoned kitten. It all leads to an unexpected holiday reunion and a heart warming surprise.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Garden Lessons and Other Wisdom

With our garden now offering up a small harvest, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share a couple of thoughts with you. Kind of a 'lessons the garden taught me' post.

I learned that planning is important, which we all knew anyway, but I learned to take that one step further and have a back-up plan. In this case, in case of unpredicted early frost. You might remember that we lost nearly everything to a frost no one predicted back in the spring. We had to start over with a combination of purchased plants and  whatever we could start from seed. So the lesson there was always have a back up plan. 

Second, fertile soil is of the utmost importance. Without fertile soil you won't get good fruiting, or good leaf production. Without good leaves, the plant starves because photosynthesis is hampered. In our case, we amended the soil with composted sheep fertilizer, peat moss and black earth, but we were starting with poor soil and it all wasn't enough. Which leads me to my next lesson learned.

Compost is king. 
Compost is so full of nutrients it's silly. It's worth every minute learning how to make good compost. That means, no coffee filters (an ongoing struggle at our house), no animal by-products, turning, paying attention internal temperatures and so on. There are so many different ways of making your soil fertile, I won't get into it all here, but it all plays a huge part in the life of your soil. No life, no produce.

Another lesson I learned, be patient. 
Not everything can be accomplished in one year. We had a good harvest of peas, an impressive 4-5 pounds of tomatoes so far with a lot more ready soon, we harvested approximately 6 cucumbers, we have a couple of watermelons that are coming along nicely, a good batch of onions, and perhaps 5-10 pounds of potatoes. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it's a much better yield than we had last year. That doesn't include the tomatillos I hope will come through for me or the tomatoes yet to ripen. Last year, our beets did well, but not the tomatoes and we hadn't planted enough peas. Our zucchinis flowered their little heads off this year but produced nothing else, our basil and cilantro however, produced beyond expectation. The rhubarb everyone said I couldn't start from seed grew and thrived and became part of a bigger patch out back. So every year is a learning experience and we can't expect to be a success right away.

That hasn't kept me from being frustrated that I got 1 pepper out of ten plants. As the edited saying goes, stuff happens when you least expect it, in my case a sprained ankle. So allow for some set-backs and failures and focus on the good that came out of your garden this year.

How did your garden do this year? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meet Hootie

Thankfully, I have no new crisis to report so I'll share a small accomplishment today.
See the little owl over there to the left? That's Hootie. He was born from a need for something challenging, because my knitting has gotten mindless and easy. He is my first piece knitted from a chart, and the first really successful two-colour piece I've made. I have been trying to cut down on my knitted UFO's (that's Un Finished Objects to you non-knitters) recently, and to that end, I try not to start something that I'm unsure might ever be finished. On my needles lately, as you know is

  • an Irish Hiking Scarf for a friend's birthday, 
  • the fuzzy baby blanket
  • A Dr. Who scarf

A writer/geek friend and I were chatting online one day when she asked me how my knitting has been progressing. She lives out in Los Angeles, not where I would think one would need knitwear, but when she asked me for a Dr. Who Scarf, how could I say no? A few hours later, I researched the scarf, because all I knew at that point was that it was made of a variety of yarns and colours and that it was very long. I discovered to my horror that depending on the year represented, the scarf can be anywhere from 12' to 18' long! Out of concern for my friend's safety, I won't be knitting "to canon" as they say in Hollywood. I'll make hers as close to the colors of season 12 as I can, but likely not 12' long!

So why all this knitting on a blog that started out focused on sustainability and self reliance?

Knitting is not just a large part of what keeps me sane, it's also a handy skill to have. Think about it for a moment, when you can take sticks and string and make clothing from it, damn, you got skillz !(as they say) Serious skills that are not only for one gender or the other, either. Some of the most intense knitters I've heard of are guys! On a forum I follow, the question was raised about clothing manufacture and creation if the world as we knew ended. There was a lot of discussion about "making do" with clothes and putting up supplies of fabric, zippers and thread, hand-me-downs and so on, but of course, the conversation drifted back to knitting. Whether a zombie apocalypse or just a really cold morning at the bus stop, warm feet and hands will make the difference between happy, free-thinking folks or cold, miserable sheeple.
Or on the other hand, maybe it just all comes down to enjoying keeping people warm because I can.

Something to distract me from the always-green tomatoes out in the garden is good too. It keeps me from obsessing over the zucchini that flowered but never produced fruit, or the tomatillos that should not have lived, but did.

What about you? If you could pull off any fashion, any look, with any body restrictions, what knitted clothing would you wear?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Knitting With The Future In Mind

This is just one version of an Irish Hiking Hat.
It turned out on the small side, but I'm pleased with it nonetheless.

Those of you who visit on a semi-regular basis know I enjoy knitting. I've shown off various projects here before. It helps me stay sane sometimes, and sometimes it makes me crazy. But usually there's something very comforting about  being about to create with pointy sticks and string/thread/yarn. There's so much room for individuality that how could one get bored? I've been trying to amass a pile of hats for my son's school This year.  Kids being kids, they always lose hats, mitts and scarves. So last year I thought I might knit kid-sized hats and mitts, keep them aside and then once the chilly weather comes, label them with approximate sizes and drop them off at the school. (Keeping in mind that my own boys will want new hats as well!)

I've also been knitting the occasional scarf.
Seen here is the Spicy Tomato Soup Scarf. So named because

  • It has two different types of red in it to "spice things up"
  • It was made to be donated to our local soup kitchen, who will then hand more scarves than just this one out to homeless and financially challenged folk
The goal here was to knit and amass scarves, donate them to the local soup kitchen, who would then hand them out to those who needed them.

Also on the needles as some of you know, have been baby blankets.
I enjoy knitting those, but to be truly useful, they need to be a good size.
There just aren't enough hours in the day!

Do you knit? Crochet? Maybe you're crafty in some other way that doesn't require sticks?
Let me know what you like to do in the comments!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hide And Seek

Let's play a little game of hide n' seek!
Come find me!

Deer Flies, Moose and Sex

My name is Carolyn, and I'm an author.
Who took a very long break.
Okay, now that my AA-type moment is over, let me explain.
Many years ago, I wrote a book, A Thousand Shades of Feeling. I had a publisher and a contract, and when I finally held the book in my hands, I was ecstatic! I wanted to tell everyone I saw, whether I knew them or not. But I couldn't. I didn't dare, because, I thought, what if they actually want to read it and they find out it has, gasp, lesbians in it? Even worse, what would they say when they come across the sex scenes? (Even though those scenes were very tame by today's standards) So there I was, a published author who was terrified to trumpet the news, out of fear.

At the time, I hadn't come out to my family. (I am very out now!) As much as I loved my book, my story and my characters, I wasn't sure I could face the world that actually knew me. To make matters worse, my then-publisher had issues with their printer, finances and a host of other problems I won't go into. I now know they were in over their heads. My manuscript had been edited many times over, but none of those edits made it into the finished book. My print-baby came into the world looking unpolished, falling apart and so very amateur that in time, I began to be embarrassed by it. And yet, I still loved the story. Despite it's flaws, the book drew a readership and fans. I remember going to a bookstore  and signing copies, and I still scratch my head over a woman who gushed and raved over the book. She asked if I would allow her friend to take our picture together, and I remember blushing fiercely as I agreed. While I still marvel at her unbridled enthusiasm all those years ago, her memory has encouraged me through the years, whether she knows it or not. The book lived through two print runs, although I don't remember making more than $150.00 in royalties. In time, the book died, the publisher closed their doors and I chalked it all up to a bad experience.

When my eldest son was very small, I left his father. We didn't have a lot of money, but we lived some interesting experiences! I have always loved dragons, and being a storyteller by nature, I would tell him tales of a young dragon to keep us both entertained. It was always the same dragon, Frizzle. (That's Frizzle up and to the left, as a part of my writer's group logo) Frizzle lived an interesting life, and I was constantly challenged to come up with new tales, but of course, as a parent, I wanted the tales to have a lesson. In time, we collected a few Frizzle stories. One of them was published, and I continue to be very proud of my Frizzle stories.
The last piece of my writing that saw publication was an article that my partner and I co-wrote on Cambridge, Ontario. It, along with accompanying photos,  was published in a magazine that was short-lived and very few people saw. We may likely have the only remaining copy.
For many years, the sting from A Thousand Shades of Feeling prevented me from writing anything else seriously. I struggle to remain impartial about it all these days, but I'll admit, it does still bother me. Not because of the lost royalties, but because of the legacy it left behind. Much like a persistent, horrible aftertaste.

For a long time I grappled with the big question, should I breathe new life into it, make it the diamond I know it can be and seek out a new publisher? In time, and with a ton of support from my partner, I decided against it. I'm not sure I can adequately explain why.

I have been writing a new novel these past few months, and it feels very much like a new beginning for me. Yes, there are lesbian characters in this one. (I am a lesbian after all, and writers should write what they know!) There are sex scenes in this one too, and they are not the polite fade-to-grey ones I wrote before! The story is more multi-layered, the characters far more real and gritty and flawed than my others. These ladies breathe. I love this story. I hear April and Lani in my head at night, while I do the dishes and while I stand over the grill. They're very insistent that I get their story just right. Someone once said that writing is a passion driven by the voices we hear in our head. I know that's true in my case at least!

So yes, I am an author who has taken a very long break.
I am on a new ride, I am very much a new person.
One who still hears character's voices, but one who does not worry about sex scenes or other people's judgements.
One who can bring back Frizzle and write the very next day about romance between women.
One who sees a story in the moose that stands across the road and comes up with titles while swatting deer flies.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

No Walking On Water

I'm embarrassed by how long I took between updates. Well, I can't honestly say it won't happen again, but I'll try to not let it. I owe you an update. There's been lots happening here, and not much, but not all at the same time, obviously.
My faithful readers might remember that about this time last year, we had water pump issues. This summer it was sump pump issues.
Our grey water goes into a cistern, and then gets pumped out by a sump pump.
In a perfect world, anyway.
Until the pump stops working, then the liquid levels in the cistern rise and rise. I learned a few things from this recent breakdown.
We have a sub basement floor, about two feet below this one. (I swear, there's a short story in that somewhere, about subterranean tunnels and hidden rooms). The sub-floor was flooded pretty bad in the spring and never completely drained.
I also learned a check valve is extremely important. Mind you, I pretty much knew this from last summer, but when I was asked to read instructions from the sump pump, and I stressed a check valve, I was dismissed. Whatever.
I also learned how bloody inconvenient it is to sprain an ankle. Not just painful, but inconvenient because shit doesn't get done the same way it has.  Of course, the sump pump died on the exact same day as the day I screwed up my ankle. So not only was I stuck on the couch or in bed, but I couldn't help bail water either. Betty tried to look after me, but she had her challenges. Not the least of which was falling down two stairs because they were wet.
Apparently she can't walk on water.

So what have I been doing in the two weeks since? Lots of knitting. Lots of writing. Specifically, an Irish Hiking Scarf and a big, soft baby blanket.

Besides, that, I've been working on a new novel! So far, I'm well over 80,000 words, and even if no one else enjoys it (which I'm told they do), I'm having a great time writing it. From time to time, I'll be posting excerpts. When I do, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. Actually, here's one for today!

Excerpt From The Amethyst Teardrop

I shut the lights out, made sure the security camera was still running and headed for the washroom. No sooner had I sat down then I heard a voice through my earbud,
“Can you help me?”
It was the same voice as before, and let me tell you, it was a good thing I was already on the toilet!
My body doing what it needed to, I clawed the earbud out of my ear and tried not to hyperventilate. I broke speed records getting out of that bathroom, and slammed those lights back on. I watched the security monitor like a hawk and saw nothing. I toured the store carefully, even checking the interior of the milk cooler and found nothing. No one. I was alone.
Coming to the conclusion that I had imagined it,  I changed the music on the iPod to bagpipes and started counting my scratch tickets.
I was nearly done when I very clearly heard a voice over the bagpipes, “14, 15, 16, 17...”
Once again, I clawed the tiny earbud out of my ear.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” This time the radio spoke to me.
‘Ok, either I’m losing my marbles or the ghost stories are getting to me.” I said out loud. I took a few moments to calm my breathing and then took up my counting again once the earbud was back in my ear.
“You missed that one with the ripped corner.” I jumped at the voice in my ear. “Wait! Don’t be scared, just hear me out!”
I froze, very glad I’d already visited the bathroom.
“I don’t mean to scare you, really, but I guess you can only hear me over this or the radio, just hear me out please, I won’t hurt you.”
“Okay.” I croaked out, still partially wondering if I was losing my mind.
“You think you’re crazy, don’t you?” She said.
“You aren’t. All those stories your co-worker told you about the store ghost....that shelf that fell last week when you were being robbed....that was me.”

Ok, enough teasing. Please feel free to leave a thought or two in the comments.
Hope all is well with you!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lessons From A Fish Farm

Hello from the bush!
It's been a crazy, intriguing, interesting month up here. The weather has been weird, the biting insects horrendous and there's never a dull moment on a good day! Honestly though, I wouldn't go back to my old life for all the coffee in Columbia.
Our garden isn't the ravishing green fantasy I wanted it to be, but then again, we did lose nearly everything to frost one night. It's not bad, we have lots of green out in the garden, and this is my first year back in 14 or so. I am still learning as I go, and re-learning many things about growing in the north.
I am being reminded  of the connection between a heavy snow load and a handsome show of lilac blooms, hornet populations and mosquitoes. I've also learned to look for moose when I walk the dog!
My plan has been to grow as much of our own food as I can, and every year to expand on the successes, learn from the mistakes and improve. But always learn.
I am taking an online course in sustainability of food systems, and already it has got me thinking about our role in our own food systems. I have been watching a number of documentaries and one that stands out covers conversations on food given by chefs, writers, activists and those in the commercial food industries. A particular speaker that stood out was a chef, whose name escapes me now of course. He talked about going on the hunt for the perfect farmed fish, and his visit to a fish farm in South America. At this fish farm, he spoke at length with their farm manager who was not at all worried about the number of pink flamingoes eating the fish. The manager told the chef he was proud of their color, because even though the flamingoes were eating his product (the fish), they were bright pink, which was a physical demonstration of their health, which proved the farm's ecosystem was healthy. So he took great pride in the health of the predators! Now, this might all seem a little strange to us, but it was explained this way; if the base of any farm, (soil or water) is not healthy, those that eat from it will also not be healthy. But if we pay attention to the core of our farms, in my case the soil, and make that core as healthy as we can, then we will be making ourselves healthier. I've said it before, but it was very empowering to hear someone else say it too.
Healthy soil, healthy farm.

So my never-ending quest to learn has led me to some interesting places and lessons.
I haven't forgotten you, I suppose I just had to go off an a little sabbatical of sorts. Today, I'd like to leave you with a little something, written by Daphne Miller.

"Q: What is the link between rejuvenating our soil and rejuvenating ourselves?
The link is that a holistic, regenerative approach seems to work best for soil and for our own bodies.

This became clear to me while I was doing an internship with a biodynamic vegetable farmer in Washington State. He told me that when he first tried to bring his depleted soil back to life he sent soil samples to a lab and replaced missing minerals according to the lab reports — this “test and replace” method is standard practice in agriculture.

But after a couple of years, several tons of additives, and many thousands of dollars, he was still not satisfied with the health of his soil or the quality of his produce and he wondered if the soil additives were getting to the plant. He also began to consider the unintended consequences of spreading foreign additives: for example, were they “locking up” existing soil nutrients — ones that were essential for healthy plant growth. He decided to look for an alternative, holistic, and cheaper way to improve his soil and boost the health of his farm.

After reading books written by the pioneers in the organic agriculture, he realized that to really nurture his farm, he needed to nourish the Farm’s vital force: the billions of soil organisms that lie just below the soil’s surface. These creatures amend and aerate the soil and they harvest nutrients from the soil and pass them along in perfectly packaged doses to the plant roots.

To support these earth creatures, the farmer stopped using farm additives and began to imitate nature’s full-cycle way of farming. This included recycling organic matter back into the soil, conserving water, rotating crops and resting the soil, avoiding all pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and grazing animals on the land so that their manure would be the main fertilizer. Several seasons after changing his practices, the farm began to thrive and the soil test results were better than ever.

Hearing this story, I realized that it is not uncommon for doctors (including me) to use “test and replace” strategies to solve our patients’ health problems. When we feel something is off, one of the first steps is to order a lab and then prescribe vitamins, minerals, and medications to correct any number that lies outside the norm. Our tendency is to think of the human body as a test tube and add things into this complicated system with the belief that the pill or potion will find its proper home.

Of course, supplements and drugs sometimes have a role in making us healthier, but their overuse and misuse can create the same unintended reactions as additives in soil. (Excess calcium can “lock up” zinc and iron in humans and excess phosphorus does the same in soil.) Given our close connections to soil, I began to wonder: Could this ecological approach to rejuvenation offer me a new way to rejuvenate my patients?

What I’ve discovered is that eating from an eco-farm and treating your body like an eco-farm may help you rejuvenate and rebalance in a way that testing and supplements cannot.

Researchers are just beginning to uncover all the amazing health connections between our bodies and the farm. For example, they are finding that plants grown in microbially rich soil (as opposed to simply “organic” soil) pack a bigger nutrient punch. They have also found that soil microbes (or DNA from microbes) are silently hitchhiking on our food and transferring health information to the resident microbes in our gut. If the soil is healthy then, in turn, this information can help build our immunity and support our metabolism. Of course, treating our bodies or the soil with lots of antibiotics or chemicals can have the opposite effect, promoting antibiotic resistance, inflammation, and even chronic disease."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pigs, Peas and a Pen!

This weekend we're "farm-sitting", of a sort. We're feeding a mini farm so friends can go away for the weekend. So twice a day we walk up the road and feed and water 10 chickens, 5 ducks, 2 goats and 2 pigs. That's Betty feeding Petunia in the photo above. It's been an interesting and educational experiment and not only that but I'm having a good time too! Learning lots about what I would, and would not do for my own mini-farm. We're not there yet though, so I've got lots of time to learn yet.

On  Thursday the 16th, we finally got Harley's kennel put together. Here he is checking it out. He still needs some sort of roof for shade, but I can't get that for a couple of weeks. He seems to enjoy his "outdoor room"... until Nature calls. He seems to think he's not able to "go" out there, so right now we're still walking him so he can "go". I hope he'll learn soon!
As if that wasn't enough work, we spent the rest of that day planting peas. 109 to be exact. Yeah, we're slightly crazy, but we'll have lots of peas this summer! We also planted 3 zucchini, but they got brushed by frost and didn't make it. Just a few feet over, the onions and cabbage we planted last week are coming along just fine, which only proves that if you cover the tender little darlings, they have a better chance of living!
We also planted some iris, daffodils and various other unknown flowers that a friend separated from her garden and gave to us. Hopefully the yard will have a splash of colour this summer.

When I write it all out, it doesn't seem like we've done much, ut we sure have been busy! We've created a few more garden beds than we had last year, and there's always weeding and staking and installing chicken wire fences...I'm getting tired just thinking about it!
Hmm, there is that new bed down the hall....

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Looking More Like A Homestead Every Day

The past few weeks have been busy ones here, and we have a fair amount to show for it. We have 6 garden beds, roughly 4'X8', enriched with peat moss, and I was thrilled to find two whole and lively worms! Before you wonder about my sanity, I was pretty sure we had no worms whatsoever and we had mostly gravel to deal with. I was pleased to find out we actually have silty loam. Better than I expected, so I was pretty happy.
In the garden bed I prepped last year I planted white clover as a cover crop, we now have cabbage and onions. To step back in time a bit, once all the snow melted, I turned over all that clover and let it rest for about three weeks. Yesterday we added peat moss, turned it all in and planted a combination of white onions, red onions and 'Early Jersey Wakefield' cabbage. We did this because the cabbage and onions make good companion plants. Apparently clover helps repel the cabbage aphid, so if any clover does make a return visit, I'll be leaving it alone. We surrounded the whole thing with chicken wire and re-enforced it and I think it's almost rabbit proof. I just need to add some tent stakes to the bottom. For now though, the wire is pretty close to the ground. I think we'll be fine. Photo is above.

We've also dug up, weeded and sifted a bed for potatoes, but now we need another, since we bought both 'Yukon Gold' and 'Red Pontiac' seed potatoes.

The seedlings are all doing pretty well. We've lost some 'Roma' tomatoes along the way, as well as some peppers. But overall I'm pretty pleased with how we're doing!
We purchased a couple of blueberry bushes the other day in town as well. My 5 year plan calls for blueberries, apples, raspberries, strawberries, with a strong yearning towards grapes. As soon as my raspberries that I ordered from Manitoba arrive, I can tell you more about those, but suffice to say I'm pretty stoked about them!

We bought a 10'X10'X6' dog pen, which will reduce the amount of work we need to do this year building things, but now we need to get it home! It turned out to be bigger than I'd expected, so we're hoping a friend can bring it home with him from work sometime this week. Also new is the BBQ, we're trying to get into town to get it. When we went into town to get it, it turned out that there wasn't a model in the store! Now why a company would put an item on sale, $300 cheaper than usual and NOT have any in store is completely beyond me. It was not as productive a day as I would have liked, and I'll be glad when everything is home where it's supposed to be!
Also added to our mini-homestead-wanna-be is a fire bowl. It's our hope that on less bug-infested nights this spring, we can get the boys outside. The fire bowl is a part of that plan. S'Mores anyone?

Because today is cloudy and cool, I think I'll focus on housework today.
Cloudy, slight breeze and at the time of this writing, (10:20 am) it's 54 degrees F

Friday, April 12, 2013

Go And Grow Something

I stumbled across some pretty intense wisdom tonight. So much of it makes sense, I wonder why I didn't think of this all myself. Maybe on some level, I did, I just wasn't listening to the right voices, I was letting the static of everyday blather get in the way.
At any rate, give the following passages a read, won't you? Listen with your heart and soul.
Then go and grow something. Then go and feed someone.
Thank you.
"Grow comfrey. With four times more Nitrogen & Potassium than barnyard manure, Comfrey mines nutrients from deep in the subsoil, tapping into reserves that would not usually be available to plants. The leaves lack fibre so quickly break down with no Nitrogen robbery as the C:N ratio of the leaves is lower than that of well-rotted compost."
"Blame ourselves not the SOIL --
If you have cold sniveling soil, won’t you look in it for some good. If you insist on blaming it for any shortcoming of growth, consider that it might be you who perhaps invested yourself in a lesser art than soil maintenance. To be rewarded at harvest you should have woven richness in the previous year. Moreover, generous ends can only be met with hard-worked beginnings."

"Gardening is about growing something more than food. It is about growing community.
...Anyone who has ever grown Zucchini and then wondered what the heck to do with them all knows this.
We’ve devalued the occupation of farming --
But also we’ve devalued food. You trading your daylight hours for money so that you can trade that money for carrots. This will inherently make you eventually steer towards compromises (cheaper carrots, or maybe fewer carrots, or maybe no carrots at all). Whereas trading your time directly for carrots draws you to wanting quality carrots and quality time.
Talking about eating local is not that same as eating local --
Identifying as a Locavore without really growing any of your own food makes it easier to compromise at the grocery store when they have only garlic from China -- shrugging and saying “oh I tried” while still identifying as a local food eater does not help.
We each CONTRIBUTE differently to our community -- but we can’t wait for a local food system to be established -- each one of use must act to feed ourselves."

"Just quietly walk away from the grocery store and grow as much food as you can. The peace is in the seeds that you plant and tend -- and it'll spread to every plant, every field, every farm, and every family fed. Our roads will become narrow and slow because they'll be parading for peace down every shoulder. The long honoured acts of good agricultural practice are stuck in the ground for us to find, in furrows only as deep as your hoe will go."
Found on the Soggy Creek Seed Company website, pay them a visit today!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I've said it before and I'll say it again, I enjoy getting the mail this time of year! Yesterday it held a delightful surprise from a delightful fellow blogger over at My Old New House...over a hundred beans! 'Lina Sico's Bird Egg', 'Romano', 'Saskatchewan Dry', Blue Jay', 'Black Valentine', 'Fall Speckled', 'Jacob's Cattle', 'Ireland Creek Annie', 'Black Calypso', 'Littlefield's Special', 'Canadian Wonder', 'Black Turtle', and 'Mrocumiere'.

Over the next few days I'll be researching and logging all kinds of information about these types, and of course sharing it all with you!
Then I shall start deciding which to plant and which to hold back for next year.

Stay tuned for lots of beany goodness!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Care And Feeding Of Sheeple

I'm sure we've all seen, or heard something about, the government in Cyprus now taking up to 40% of the funds in bank accounts that total over 100,000 Euros. No matter if the account holders agreed or not. Sounds unfair, doesn't it? Sounds like something that could never happen to us, right?
According to a government document, the Canadian government has now set itself up to do the same thing to it's own citizens in case a major bank is in jeopardy!
No, I've not overdosed on coffee and gummy bears. No, I didn't get my information from a conspiracy website.
Here's where you can read more about it....
And the full government document, our newest budget, here

On page 144 it reads, “The Government also recognizes the need to manage the risks associated with systemically important banks—those banks whose distress or failure could cause a disruption to the financial system and, in turn, negative impacts on the economy.  This requires strong prudential oversight and a robust set of options for resolving these institutions without the use of taxpayer funds, in the unlikely event that one becomes non-viable.

It gets worse on page 145, where it reads, “The Government proposes to implement a bail-in regime for systemically important banks.  This regime will be designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital.

My first thought was, 'if they're saying it's unlikely, why plan to take these actions at all?'
And what exactly do they mean by 'certain bank liabilities'? Outstanding loans? The document never defines what those certain bank liabilities are! I've read the whole chapter, gotten a headache from it, and I'm here to tell you, it never, ever defines what those liabilities might be.

This disturbs me for a few reasons. Because I have an account in a major bank, although it's total will never top 100,000. Because the wording is vague and nebulous and can be interpreted so many different ways, and that in itself allows the government far more wiggle room than they should have. Because it seems to be saying that if the government decides that certain accounts are liabilities, like those in Cyprus, France, Germany and Italy, they can take a portion of those amounts to refinance the bank. They seem to be saying "all the other countries are doing it!" with this line, 'This framework will
be consistent with reforms in other countries and key international standards...

For the past year I have been warning Canadians should be worried about non-transparency in our government. We all know that government serves it's own best interests, no matter what country we're talking about. This is prominent in many aspects, from Monsanto becoming a "buck-buddy" to both the United States and Canada, to the healthcare system's increasing habit of being more available to those with money, contracts being awarded to friends and family of certain politicians, politicians of all levels charging the most ridiculous things to the taxpayers and then acting outraged when there is an investigation....and I'm sure you can add a handful more examples. My point is that this is not just an American problem. We Canadians are world renowned for our politeness, and there is a growing feeling that we're push-overs too. Too many of our people are too complacent about what their government is doing that we don't hear about. Political apathy seems to be a growing normal in this country! To return to our budget example for a moment, when the Canadian mainstream media was reporting the Cyprus account seizing story, many people were aghast and outraged. But when our budget was reported on, not one mainstream media outlet made any mention of the possibility of that same thing happening to our own people!
Why? Is our media in our government's back pocket the way many of the American outlets are reputed to be?

So if our government is following an international example in this, what else are they doing that we haven't heard about? We seem to give up more and more rights every time there is an election, and I'm not just referring to a federal level! How many times do families buy a home in a neighborhood controlled by a housing association, go to hang a clothesline and find out they aren't allowed due to "housing association regulations"? How about the simple act of planting a garden? Many neighborhoods forbid the mere act of growing tomatoes, never mind the keeping of a few chickens to provide the family with fresh eggs! Heaven forbid if you want to compost! Again, this happens in Canada too. I once lived not far from a neighborhood that even had the audacity to tell homeowners they could only paint their homes in pre-approved colours.
By our silence, we allow this kind of thing to continue. So that by the time our provincial and federal governments attempt to slide some new regulation past us, we're so blind and docile, we don't even notice!

So what does this mean for our overall picture? Well, it means you should be worried. I've made mention time and again of the populace of many countries becoming "sheeple". No better than sheep, trained  where to go and how to act. Those that want to have a little more control over their own lives need to find a way to be better informed about controlling bodies at all levels. We need to not sign away our rights and freedoms. We need to fight for equality for our people. You've likely heard of the following passage:

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."

Seems like a dramatic example, doesn't it? But if you think about it, there are many times in a year that rights are trod on, or taken away. Modern history can cite the example of Japanese citizens of Canada detained in camps because the government saw them as a threat. Land and homes taken away, bank accounts seized, whole families wrenched apart because their government saw them as a threat. Hmm, kind of sounds like what North Korea has done for years.
Or how about when gays and lesbians in California lost the previously given right to marry?
Or what about when a status holding Native woman went to university, studied hard and got a degree in law or medicine and immediately lost her status, her community of origin, physically, geographically, socially, spiritually, psychologically, emotionally and in many cases, proof of lineage? Any Native man who served in the armed forces faced the same consequence. This situation has been legally addressed with the passing of Bill C-31 in 1985. But my point here is that even polite Canada has a discriminatory history.

People can no longer afford to ignore politics. If the federal level is to much to absorb, focus on a provincial, or state level. Or perhaps  city council meetings are an easier place to start paying attention. Wherever we focus, we NEED to pay attention! It's high time we stop allowing others to tell us how to live! Whether it is a government official telling us we cannot sell raw milk, regardless of how much healthier it is, or a local board telling us we can't plant tomatoes in our front yard, or a government telling us we MUST have a bank account while they help themselves to it's contents, or the board of a housing corporation telling us we cannot hang our laundry while our Prime Minister encourages us to reduce our draw on the electrical grid. It is time we informed ourselves and started taking back control of our lives. One meal at a time, one vote at a time, one letter at a time.

Don't be a sheeple!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring's First Trimester

It surprises me how busy we can be here on the days we apply ourselves.
For example, the other day, I made myself a list of things I wanted to do, and instead of leaving the list on my desk in the basement, I left it on the table in the dining room. I walk by it a hundred times in a day, so I figured I'd get something done, right? I got the whole thing done, and then some.
Today, my plan was to finish vacuuming the craft room, which also serves as a basement sitting room. It gets used almost all the time, so it doesn't take long to need some attention. Today was the day to clean that up. I not only got it vacuumed, but I got the cobwebs that had been building up while the vacuum decided to be a P.I.T.A. So the upstairs front hall got cleaned up yesterday,  the board with nails that had served as a coat hanging place for years was taken off and proper coat hooks installed.  Then we swept and cleaned out the closet. Today the carpet in that space got vacuumed! Yesterday also saw the installation of a new set of metal shelves in the living room window for seedlings. So today, we were able to start 12 purple tomatillos, 6 'Alma Paprika' peppers, 9 'Clemson' okra, and approximately 15 carrots.
I'd like to claim more accomplishments, but with the dampness outside, my hands have been hurting a lot more. Of course, that would have nothing to do with the fact that I've been knitting as much as possible! On the needles this month is a panel of small squares, all knit in a row, for a 'Granny Square' style baby blanket. (That's a picture of one of the squares up and left. It's not a wonderful picture, but it's not completed, washed or blocked either.)

Mother Nature has finally relented and allowed us early spring. I don't mean it's come early, just that we're in the early stages of the season. Kind of like the first trimester of the season of green, you know? Everywhere the snow and ice is melting, everything is dripping, or puddled or muddy. I've never been so glad to see mud, it's crazy. Just when I thought we might go bonkers from being cooped up indoors, we have been able to walk comfortably a short ways into the woods, or goof off in the driveway and listen to the ice melt. Or stand outside in  a friend's driveway and talk about nothing while we soak up sunshine.

I know how much work I've signed up for, but I can't wait to have the yard back, no white stuff and days of sunshine ahead!

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Poor Plant Stand...

Oh my, it's the month of seeds!
The mailman has been so kind to me lately...
Just the other day... oh wait! Do you know about Folia?
You don't!?
Folia's cool webtool helps you get all your seeds in a row - from listing chores to tracking frosts, researching sowing and harvesting timing to tracking observations about your garden.  Think of it like Facebook and Flikr and Wikipedia, all rolled into one great site! You can connect with other gardeners from all over the world, no matter what anyone plants or where they grow it. So, go check out after you've read all about my great seeds and you'll see what I mean!

So, a couple of weeks ago I connected with another gardener who lives not too far from where we just moved from. Ironic, no? This gardener is known across Folia for being THE person to go to if you want to know anything or grow any kind of tomato.  One of the features on Folia is a seed swap list. In a nut-shell,  each gardener can post a list of what they're looking for, and another list of the seeds they have to swap. So I reached out to this other gardener because I wanted to try and get ahold of some rare tomato seeds. We talked swap terms, and just the other day my seeds came in the mail!! So here's what was sent:

  • Goose Creek (exceedingly rare) (Apparently smuggled into the country by a Caribbean slave two generations ago)
  • Blush (Reputed to be the cross of two great tasting tomatoes, 'Maglia Rose' and 'Zucchero', these being chosen by an eight year old for their taste)
  • Carbon
  • Amana Orange (Said to be named for Amana, Iowa)
As well as a packet of 'Black Oil' sunflower seeds!
I was pretty excited, and it didn't take us long to start them off, and of course make sure all the info was recorded in the plant journal I keep.

Today, as if all this seedy goodness was not enough, more seeds arrived in the mail !!

In a large manilla envelope was my Heritage Harvest Seeds order!
I got more tomatoes! 'Manitoba', 'Bison', 'Martino's Roma', 'Early Annie', and purple tomatillos!
I also got 'Red Stalk' celery, 'Old Homestead' rhubarb, 'Mascara' lettuce, 'Doe Hill' peppers, 'Alma Paprika' peppers, and yet more cilantro!

I'm all aquiver to get these new seeds started, but we're running out of room in the plant stand.
What to do...what to do?

Temp: -8C/18F
Sky: clear
Wind: none

Monday, February 18, 2013

Seeds, Seeds Seeds!!

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know I like to support smaller business. I especially enjoy ordering seeds from a smaller supplier if I can, so when I found Heritage Harvest Seeds  and T&T Seeds, both in a zone cooler than mine, I was thrilled! Today I placed an order with T&T. We ordered an elderberry bush, 5 "Fall Gold" raspberries and 5 "Royal Purple" raspberries. I've never seen raspberries this shade, dear readers, and I cannot wait to see the preserves we make from these! I also ordered green tomatillos from them.
Because I was on a roll, I also ordered purple tomatillos from Heritage Harvest. That salsa should be eye-catching!
We weren't done yet! Then we started "Mammoth Russian" sunflowers, "Walla Walla" onions and cilantro for kicks!
Our basil is coming up wonderfully, and I think I'll have to transplant our Mesclun soon too! It's growing by leaps and bounds!
How do you encourage spring at your house?

Current temperature: -1 degree Celcius or 26 F
Very breezy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Heritage Harvest and the Rare Bean

I know I've mentioned this before, but I adore the catalog of Heritage Harvest Seed! I placed my first order last week, hopefully they'll still have in stock what I ordered. I left it later than I like. The tough part was decided from 12 pages of tomatoes which to order! We already have 3 or 4 different kinds of tomato seeds here, but I want to add to them this summer. So from 12 pages in the catalogue, I wrote out about 20 different kinds, and then put it aside until better sense could take over. Then I whittled the list to 4, I think. I wanted early harvesters, as well as determinate type so we could grow them again from any seed we saved. I was proud of myself for only ordering those tomatoes! I also ordered red celery, and rhubarb.
I have high hopes for this order!
I'm sure I'll be thrilled with it. I like that these folks grow this seed themselves, they don't just get it from someone else. They've been in business for 10 years no, and they're proud of the fact that they don't deal in hybrids or GMO's. Many of their seeds are either heritage or heirloom, and many have fascinating histories! Like the beans passed down through three generations within one family, until being forgotten in a bag somewhere until they made their way into the hands of one of the owners of HHS ten years later. Wouldn't you know, a number of them sprouted! It makes me smile to think that an extremely rare bean seed that I might order has such a history behind it!

Their catalogue makes for more fascinating reading than most seed catalogues that arrive at the end of winter. Not only are the pen and ink drawings charming, they include little tid-bits like this:
"The Hidatsa, Mandan and Arikara Indians dried squash to keep over the winter. The squash was cut about 3/8" thick and placed on willow rods called squash spits. The slices were spaced slightly on the rod so air could circulate around them. The squash spits were then placed on the upper rails of the drying stage to dry."

If you live in Canada, or know a gardener who does, I encourage you to check out their website, or even order a catalogue. Peruse it, fall in love with it like I did and rest assured that we're preserving some very rare and endangered seeds, and those that would like to.
You won't be sorry you at least looked.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Strawberry Dreams

Today I’ve started Strawberries from seed, “Patio Temptation”
I’ve recorded the plant requirements, and started the seed in peat pellets. Once the plants are almost outgrown the peat pellets, I’ll cut the netting on these and move them to the strawberry pots we have. I’ve grown strawberry plants before quite successfully, but in very rich soil and from started plants, never from seed.
So this should be an interesting journey!
Added: 11 seeds were put in damp paper toweling to assist the germination process.

We started 11 seeds; let's see how many we actually get to sprout!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Seeds Starting Time!!

Spring cannot come soon enough here in Northern Ontario, Canada.
So the fur-bearer forecaster says we'll have spring in another  six weeks. Yeah, I don't put much stock in whether a groundhog sees his shadow.  Whatever.
What I do put stock in is one growing one's own food.
If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know I'm a big advocate of growing food, not lawns, no matter how much space one has.
So I'm happy to report that it's finally seed starting time!

At the beginning of the week, we hit our favorite TSC store and rounded out our seed supply with some more vegetable and herb seeds. Mom got a cabinet that has allowed us to move up from two plastic boxes, allowing us to keep everything in one place. All but one missing seed catalogue are in there, along with our gloves and tools, and of course all our seeds. Also this week, we started a few seeds in peat pellets on trays that now reside in an east-ish facing window. We started mesclun, pickling onions, grape sized tomatoes, spring onions, mini bell peppers, sweet basil, lamb's lettuce, crookneck squash, and we started radish sprouts in a jar! (Our alfalfa sprouts were such a hit a few weeks ago, we decided to branch out)

I will admit that all those seed catalogues were extremely tempting. It can be very easy to order twenty different types of heirloom tomatoes when one is stuck inside with -30 temperatures! I wrote out a very long list and set it aside for a few weeks, and then approached it rationally. Instead of twenty different types, I only ordered four. In addition to the tomato seeds we already have, I think we'll get a pretty good variety this coming summer. Now if I could just find my T&T Seeds catalogue so that I can order those purple raspberries, Saskatoon Berry bushes and strawberries!
Hurry up spring!

Current temperature: -6 C, or 21 F
Sky: Overcast
Light breeze

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Assess, Plan and Learn

Before I moved out to the bush (as we up here call it), in many ways I had a "country attitude". Often, I did my laundry by hand, even though my friends couldn't understand why. I walked, even when I didn't need to. Buses were plentiful and friends would often offer a ride. But I chose to walk. Even the winter that I abandoned the warm, stuck bus to walk home over 3 miles away. I would explain these choices by saying I wanted control over what I could in my life. I couldn't control when I worked, or much of the world around me, so I controlled what I could.
I still feel the same way.
As I write, there is a jar of sprouts quietly growing on a shelf, full of nutrients that the grocery store produce just doesn't have any more.
There is a butane stove, complete with bottles of fuel, out in the shed. We have a brand new propane stove here in the house (thanks to the folks!) with lots of propane outside; but still, it's good to have a back-up. Many of you know I like to have back-ups. The trick is to assess, plan and utilize.

Assess what we have for cooking, food production, hygiene, water, heating, entertainment; whatever we'd need to survive being stuck inside for a week or more. Up here, that could mean a big snow storm or a road being flooded out. I recommend that you assess your own areas for the most likely emergency that might keep you stuck at home. The more prepared you are, the less impact the situation will have on your life.

There's a part of my town's history that applies here. Many years ago, a main road washed out in the spring break-up. It just so happened that a few towns-women were expecting and wouldn't you know it, a couple of them went into labour. According to the local story, those that went into labour had to be air-lifted to town, where the hospitals and doctors were. While this is a bit of an extreme example, it does underline the need to be prepared to not get to town. Childbirth is a unique situation, and different for everyone, but think about your family or your situation for a moment. How would you fare if you could not get to a grocery store or a bank for a week. What about two weeks? Three?

I like to play a little "game" with myself, "what if".
What would we do if the well ran dry for a month? (Which isn't unheard of out here the way our summers are going) I need to come up with a water plan. Rainwater harvesting, collection and storage then becomes something I need to learn about. We don't have gutters or very many rain barrels, so as I see it, that's where I need to start. Get gutters installed, which means, for me, buy them and learn how to install them. Did you know that each 1mm of rain = 1 Litre (L) of water per square metre (m2) of roof area? So a three bedroom home has the potential of redirecting quite a lot of water! So I think rainwater collection is pretty important. This then involves making sure we have rain barrels. So far, we only have two good ones, so clearly a priority this spring is to get a couple more large ones. Developing the spring down the back is a good idea too. I think having a couple of back-ups when it comes to water is prudent.
Some of you might remember we had pump issues this past summer, and we were very lucky to have the saved water we did. Water took on a whole new importance for me. So, I've assessed what we have for water, seen a need, and am now working on a plan to improve our water situation.

So what if we can't get to a grocery store for over a month?
Again, not unheard of up here.
So, we've assessed what we eat that can be grown, and we have a plan to grow what we can, and how to best preserve what we grow. I've made connections with local hunters that are willing to share some of what they hunt, and I've done the research so that I might get my fishing license this spring. Wild fish is not my first choice when I'm hungry, but I know it's not terrible either. No one in our large family is a vegetarian, we all enjoy meat. Local fish is easy to obtain and can be pressure canned for preservation. For us, this makes sense. At least while I work on a plan to raise a pig for meat.

Everyone's situation is different. Our needs may all be slightly different. But I am a firm believer in the simple fact that no matter where we live, country or the city, no matter what country you call home, we all need to make sure that if our "normal" lives are disrupted that we try to minimize the upset to our families. People that are prepared come through crisis better than those who wait for someone else to do something.
Play "what if" with yourself. Imagine there is no one else to help you coming for at least a week. Assess what you have, and how you can improve upon that. Make lists if you need to, write it all out. But keep a level head  during it all. Panic and fear never helped anyone who wasn't a cave dwelling two-legged.

Be realistic, but honest.
Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Dreaming About Gardening

Happy new year, everyone!
I hope you all celebrated in a safe way. I was hard at work, although I did raise a can of ginger ale at midnight.
In case you're wondering where I've been, I work nights for the next few months, so I've pretty much been working and sleeping. I did have a dream about corn this morning. In the dream, I was harvesting dark purple ears that had white kernels. No idea if such a thing exists yet or not, but they sure were pretty in the dream! The picture today is of "heirloom glass corn", also pretty. While we're buried under a foot and a half of snow, all I can really do is dream of gardening.
And send out my seed orders.
Have you sent your orders out yet?

Stay warm!