Goals for 2013

1.  Take the “big” chicken house down to the studs, and replace all the walls and doors.  Less of a goal, more of a We HAVE to Do This;  chunks of wall are falling off in all this rain.

2.  Pigs – we’ve committed to raising 2 (or 3) weaners to market size, keeping one side for our own freezer, have pre-sold 2 more, any takers for the other 3 sides?  The goal is just to do the learning curve on this whole process, with electric fence, the critters themselves,  getting a feel for whether this is something that fits for us.

3.  Doubling our broiler sales.  This means growing out about 2oo birds.  Unless we build another field shelter and rustle up more customers, then we could surpass our goal!

4.  Doubling our production of soft apple cider. And trying to time it with the end of the pear crop, so we can mix some pear juice in, which should sweeten it up a little.

5.  Grad for the eldest daughter.  The goal is for us to survive what is shaping up to be a stressful month in June. For her too, of course.

December 2012 climbing and more 444

At 20 ft here, she went to the roof (65 ft) which is out of the picture. She climbs 5 days a week, coaches little kids on Saturdays.

6. The last big family trip.  Number one daughter will be working and training for her new career next year, so we think this is our last chance to travel all four together.  We’ve got a couple places in mind, any one of which will be amazing, but we need to know when my gall bladder surgery will be.  Also, we cannot do it too close to June, see goal #5.  We also have to work around the arrival of the weaners, which depends on which sow we get them from – sometime between Feb and April.  Goal:  get booked for surgery.

7. Get a third vegetable bed into production, so we can start rotating crops better.  This is tractor work that will have to wait for late spring, if we don’t want huge wheel ruts everywhere.  We’re looking at 100 ft by 10ft.

8. Use our bikes for local errands (library, quick grocery run, bank, etc).

9.  Finish clearing blackberries from around the little hen house (we only cleared one side this year.  There is rhubarb under there somewhere, or there used to be.

10.  Begin replacing perimeter fenceposts.  We haven’t costed this out yet, but it’s on the to do list.

Tree planting didn’t make this list, but it probably should have.  Also earthquake readiness – we have a bare bones kit, but it’s not all in one place and needs some updating, as well as some water.   A truck remains on my list, if no one else’s.  And another cat or two, to keep the mice at bay. Hubby is making noises about a hoop house.  Goals or dreams?  I’ll stick with the 10 above for now, and see how we do.

Happy New Year!

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2012 in Review

I started this blog at the end of May – 7 months ago.  WordPress tells me I’ve had approximately 5,500 views, which sounds quite impressive till you consider that one of the most frequent searches from the furthest corners of the globe was for roosters or pictures of roosters.  My blog was probably a sad disappointment, as I suspect they were looking for fighting birds, and the only blog references I made to roosters were about Rusty Norrington’s crowing, complete with Wikepedia picture, and another post with a not very good picture of Rusty himself, looking very foolish in a nest box.  The second most frequent search was for information about Joel Salatin and pasture management with cattle – again, I might have been a disappointment, as that info was in two posts titled the same thing (Joel Salatin workshop part 4).  Well, I was new to blogging, OK?

Through blogging I have made contact with some interesting and diverse people around the world, some of whom I have been in regular contact with through this blog and their own – Australia, Scotland, Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, North Dakota, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, and of course my own province of BC.  I love this network of like minded souls, and the spider web of connections leading out from their blogs via regular commenters, giving a glimpse of an even wider world of folks with similar interests.  Farming, especially sustainably, living green, peak oil, animal husbandry, self sufficiency, whole food, cooking from scratch, 100 mile diet, family life, permaculture, Polyface, are just a few of the topics we share.  People make candles, soap, grow all their own food, don’t grow any but strive to be locavores in the city, live off grid, use every labour saving tool known to man, eat meat, don’t eat meat, have children (or not), grandchildren, pets, or favourite trucks.

I have found, too, that there is some risk with blogging.  It eats huge chunks of time that I should be spending on other things.  In the beginning, I was so excited that people other than my family were visiting the blog that I obsessed about the statistics, and strove for a while to write a post each day.  Eventually, as you could probably tell from the sudden drop in posting frequency, I got back to the main reason for starting the blog – basically to journal our family’s experiences and growth as we delve into farming our little piece of God’s green Earth in the most sustainable way possible, while striving toward self sufficiency in food, and in reducing our carbon footprint as much as possible.   Even when not posting something myself, I cruise around checking the new posts that my fellow bloggers produce, learning, laughing, thinking, offering suggestions.  Like I said, this can be a real time eater.

When I go back through some of the posts, I can see that the journaling thing did help to keep me accountable to our goals and to-do lists.  Well, more or less, anyway.   We had our best ever year for broiler chicken sales, we finally acquired a proper dolly for the pasture pen, which made an unbelievable difference to the labour time on the broiler care.  We put away an impressive variety, and in some cases quantity, of food including potatoes, onions, canned pears, frozen apple sauce, apple chutney, apple cider (soft), dried chili peppers, dried rosemary, sage and lovage, frozen blackberries, blackberry jelly, strawberry jam, frozen plums, frozen tomato glut sauce, frozen tomatoes, sauerkraut, mint sauce, and of course 14 roasting chickens, plus the breasts, legs, tenders and backs of 16 chickens cut up and bagged seperately.  That’s all stuff we grew ourselves or were given by our neighbour (who we keep supplied with eggs).  He also gave us about a dozen squash – butternut and acorn.  We got a cold room going for winter storage of root veggies – this was my husband’s big goal, and though we ended up buying a bunch of the stuff that’s there, it was all from a local farm, and we got a good price because of buying it in quantity – beets, carrots, cabbage, all bought from Michell’s, along with our potatoes and some apples are all out there, rat proof and cold.  A habit we got out of, but got back into this year has been making our own bread, and we bought our last take out pizza back in February, enjoying home made more anyway.  We got in a week at a wonderful sandy beach up Island in August, leaving the farm in the nervous but resolute hands of a friend of my older daughter’s – and everything was fine.  We discovered real sauerkraut at a Mennonite farm that week, which explains the sauerkraut in the list above  We also picked blueberries at a farm near the beach, which we ate all week.  We got the little old chicken house clear of brambles and patched up in time for the pullets to go into it, but we did fail to renovate the bigger layer house, now a first priority for spring.  We got two of the bikes refurbished for local errands, though we have yet to really engage in that goal (the rain and short days are a little daunting for biking).

On the home front we replaced 17 single pane windows with thermal double glazing, leak sealed the whole house, blew pink foam into the attics (that’s a tale to tell, for sure), and got rid of the oil tank after installing a heat pump and electric furnace – all of this as part of our green energy audit, a government rebate programme which saved us about $4000 of the total cost of all those things.  For the first time in my life in this house (I’ve spent about 30 here), the kitchen windows do not bang back and forth in the wind, and the curtains don’t move on the bedroom windows (with the windows shut).  The house is definitely warmer, even though the thermostat (on a timer) is set for 65 most of the time.  After two months of working on their painting project, the girls beat the rainy weather by about 6 hours and finally got the trim and eave painting done on the house, which sounds easy but wasn’t, as the house is 1 1/2 storeys and required a lot of ladder work.  Not only that but we were switching to eco paint, so after scraping and sanding, it had to be primed, before it got a lick of paint – no wonder it took them weeks and weeks (taking into account summer jobs and sleeping in).   All of this work completes our goal, at least for now, to make the house weatherproof and as energy efficient as possible for our climate.  It also represents an admission to ourselves we have no plan to move or rebuild (a possibility in the past) – we’ve decided to invest in this place, make it solid and sustainable and permanent (well, this is an earthquake zone, but you know what I mean).

Goals for 2013? I’ll let you know.

Saratoga Aug 2012 111

Serious tools for the job – garden shovels and 5 gallon buckets!

No More Bread and Butter

There’s this old song by the Irish Rovers (a Canadian folk group who were/are all from Ireland), which has been running through my head lately, because it pretty much describes my current lifestyle.  The following Youtube video is the ONLY one I could find of the song, so please shut your eyes to the appalling spelling mistakes and botched transcriptions:

The reason for this dire diet in my case?

Gallstones.

Sigh.

I have been told to eat as little fat as possible, no alchohol, avoid caffeine.  I thought it sounded doable when my GP first told me this, but it turns out a lot of my favourite foods are on the “no go” list:  cream (for the coffee I should be avoiding), bacon, butter, cheddar cheese, pastry.   I’m supposed to aim for a high amount of whole grains, lots of fruit and veg, lean meats in moderation, not much else.

In some ways, it’s been quite easy – supper in particular around here turns out to be usually pretty low in fat (I don’t like gravy, which helps), or can easily be made so for me.  More difficult have been breakfast and lunch, where I have commonly indulged in the aforementioned favourite foods.  Fortunately, zero fat yogurt makes a nice dip for raw veggies, there are some lovely whole grain breads available locally, as well as what we make at home, and I have a recipe for breakfast oat bars that does have some butter in it, but not much, and which has saved my bacon (so to speak) at breakfast.  Coffee was easy to give up as the latest gallstone attack had made me uninterested in it anyway.  I am still drinking 2 cups of tea a day without any apparent effect.

I’m so very lucky that it’s only gallstones – other people in my life are dealing with some serious cancer issues, multiple allergies, MS, and other conditions that severely affect their ability to lead a normal life.  In my case, if I eat very healthily, I avoid some truly horrible pain – and that’s pretty much it.  I am seeing a specialist soon to get booked for surgery (months away, I’m told), and then pretty much case closed.  In the meantime, the fear of another gallstone attack has proved to be a huge motivator to eat much more healthily, and a positive side effect is that I will most likely lose some weight I don’t need.

It’s funny – I thought with my locavore mania and my cook from scratch mantra, that I WAS eating healthy.  I guess in a way I was – the thing is, I was eating both – healthy and unhealthy.  I had fallen into the habit of allowing the wrong foods to dominate my diet.  Bacon is a great addtion to so many dishes – pizza, perogies, baked potatoes, brussels sprouts – and it’s wonderful in a sandwich, like a BLT, or as part of breakfast.  But daily?  Cheddar cheese – this one has been hard for me – macaroni, pizza, grilled cheese, cheese and chutney on crackers, cheddar bacon muffins (double whammy), cheese scones, etc.  It turns out I was probably eating that daily as well.  Coffee with cream – I’d always limited myself to 1 per day, but this past year, I relaxed and usually had 2, and even occasionally 3 cups daily.    What used to be a treat I looked forward to had become something automatic in my day.

I was also eating a lot of good things – whole grains, lots of vegetables, chicken, lamb, pork, some pastured beef occasionally.  Probably not enough fruit now the berry season has passed, but pretty close.  But it turns out that it is completely possible to eat unhealthily while still eating entirely locally, seasonally, sustainably and cooking from scratch.  If my consumption of all the fatty foods had stayed porportionately less than the other foods in my diet, I probably wouldn’t be humming “No more bread and butter” right now.

Having to think more about my choices has made me aware of other ways I was slipping, mostly around snacks and lunch.  It turns out I was seldom eating fruit at work, if ever, but was certainly eating snacks – cookies or crackers or nuts, usually at least twice daily, as well as with lunch.  Chips(yes, I’d found a local brand) or chocolate were probably a weekly occurrence.   That has had to change, and now I’m getting more veggies and fruit at work, and no cookies.  Chocolate is not appealing thanks to the last gallstone attack, so has been easy to pass over.  This has also made me aware of less than great eating habits other members of my family have slipped into – again, mostly around treating “treat” foods as commonplace.  Something like gall stones can be heriditary, so hopefully they will find some incentive to adapt through their observations of my experiences.

Months from now, I won’t have the motivator of pain to keep me on the healthy eating wagon, so I’m glad of this opportunity to reform my eating habits now – not just mine, but the whole family.

I hope they’re not reading this.