Sailors

We seem to be at the beginning of a sailor chapter in the life of Sailor’s Small Farm.  Long long ago, before we had any children (a period commonly referred to by my husband as PK – pre-kids), we belonged to an organization called the CFSA (Canadian Forces Sailing Association).  Through this “club” we had access to a 32 ft sailboat called Wings, which we were able to charter very cheaply (I believe it was something like $30/night, albeit back in the early ’90s).  With Wings we explored up and down the local coast around Vancouver in short bursts.  In summer months, we were sometimes able to borrow my Dad’s little sailboat – a 22 ft O’Day, and we’d go off for a week or more at a time, exploring slightly further afield, up and down the East side of Vancouver Island.  It was a glorious time period in our lives.  Adventures abounded, friendships were forged (friends often came too), experiences earned.

Raising children and establishing my husband’s business took priority for a number of years (along with my preoccupation with the farm).  With farming no longer happening, his business no longer in the rocky days of start up (24 yrs!), and children grown into adults with busy lives of their own, we found ourselves waxing nostalgic about those “good old days”.  We both acquired our Pleasure Craft Operator Licenses several years ago (we must have been dreaming even then) and this year, hubby took an evening course to refresh his navigation skills.  And then we took a deep breath, and plunked a hefty chunk of money down on chartering a lovely Grand Banks 36 motor cruiser.  We will be heading out for two weeks in July to explore the coast again, have some adventures, etc etc.

This week we were able to book that same boat for 32 hours, the first 10 of which we spent with an instructor we hired through the charter company to brush up our rusty skills.  First of all, this is a motor cruiser, and we did all our boating in sailboats – where engines are definitely not a big part of how to operate the boat. This vessel has an enormous John Deere engine (made my farmer heart happy).  The instructor spent three hours going over the engine with us, learning checks and troubleshooting and after a late lunch we spent 5 hours out in the local waters practicing man overboard (a large fender named Fred was thrown ruthlessly overboard several times), anchoring, mooring to a buoy, coming alongside with the wind and against the wind, reversing to a jetty and also a buoy.  We got back to her home berth in the gloaming absolutely exhausted, but confident that we still had what it takes to survive in a boat.  We slept very soundly that night.

The next morning we woke refreshed and energized and went out on our own to practice without our instructor – far more relaxing in some ways  (since we’ve anchored, we might as well have another cuppa before we practice anchoring somewhere else)  and a litte more stressful in others (did he say flip this switch first and then turn that on, or the other way round?).

It is a little daunting at this age and stage of life to be learning (or relearning) new tricks, but this old sea dog felt thoroughly invigorated after our little jaunt at sea.  A tad exhausted as well, truth be told.  The effort to do all that learning in a short period of time was probably the main reason for that.  I suspect the two week cruise will be far more relaxing.   Can’t wait.

 

 

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Priorities

Wow – a year and a half since the last post, back in July 2016.  This is horrendously long, but with more than a year to catch up on, hopefully you’ll give me some slack and find some time to skim through.

Truthfully, although I drafted a couple of posts during that period, I never published them and now I have turned a corner in life they don’t seem as relevant.  However, I wrote a post back in the spring of 2017, excerpts of which I will share here since it wasn’t a bad effort at describing my state of mind last year (winter 2016/spring 2017).

To begin then:

Winter seemed endless this year.  When I look back on the period from Thanksgiving (October) to Valentines Day (for which we still had snow on the ground), I cannot remember doing anything farm related at all, apart from minimal chores for the laying hens.  Not because there was nothing to do.   I was, frankly, in a bit of a funk.  Last summer stretched me beyond where I could really stretch.  I was exhausted, struggling physically and mentally with the challenge of fitting an enormous list of things to do into small chunks of available time.  I could feel myself stressing about farm activities when I needed to focus on family matters, and knew that my priorities were off kilter. Once all the meat was sold or in the freezer, I came to a grinding halt, farm-wise.

I should have been waging war on the blackberries, winterizing the brushcutter, cleaning out the brooder, mending fences, bringing in the electric fence from the pig run, and all manner of other small but necessary tasks – but I didn’t do any of them.  The pullets came into lay just before Christmas, just as planned, and we quickly went from being eggless to being seriously overstocked with eggs.  Getting them cleaned and into cartons seemed like a monumental job that I dreaded each evening.  As they filled the egg fridge and my cool storage and customers were slow to come back on line after three months with no eggs, I began to believe that even keeping a laying flock was a bad idea.

Not mentioned in that post, I can say now that at that time I had a lot of medical appointments, tests etc stretched out over about a year, and the stress and fear of what they might indicate were absolutely a major part of what I called “a bit of a funk”.  On top of that, other members of the family were dealing with stuff in their own lives, and our family dynamic was changing…

Talking to my husband about this, he reminded me that our primary farming goal back when we first moved to the farm 18 years ago was to produce as much of our own food as possible, selling any surplus to cover costs.  That was it.  For the first three years, that was as big as we wanted to get with farming.  While my dreams were always much grander than that, and we even created an ambitious farm plan based on them, the reality of small children, no money and a part time library job meant that I needed to keep my head below the clouds.  What happened this past year was that I mistakenly thought that with the girls basically all grown up now, and husband super busy with his business, it was now time for me to get going on that old farm plan.  Except that now I work full time at the library and it turns out that almost grown up kids and overworked husbands, while far more independent in many ways, are still very much in need of being kept high on the priority list.

So I did some deep thinking about priorities.  And it was clear that farming as a lifestyle, as an occupation, as a business is only a priority to me.   We all enjoy home grown food, we all enjoy the space around us that living on a farm provides, but I’m the only one who enjoys the “work” of farming, who gains satisfaction from investing personal time and energy into animal husbandry or veggie production.  And I don’t have that time and energy, because I have an off farm job that I enjoy, and it fits far better with family and spouse priorities than farming does.   And at the end of the day, given a choice between a healthy family dynamic or pursuing my personal priorities, family wins, hands down.

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When I started developing some health issues and struggling with low energy, and sought help with the farm chores from kids and hubby, they were all happy to pitch in with day to day stuff like collecting eggs or shutting in birds, but no one wanted to commit a weekend morning to mucking out the brooder or pulling up electric fence and storing it.  They saw such jobs as low priority and treated them accordingly.   At the same time, they were all willing to tackle more housework and meal preparation.  So the message was pretty clear.  And if my family is my first priority, then this is kind of a no-brainer. But I really struggled with letting go…

And why do I want to farm anyway?    It’s something deep in my gut.  I usually say that I was raised to it, but that doesn’t really fly, firstly because countless farm kids over the millennia have been “raised to it” and couldn’t wait to leave.  And in point of fact, my being “raised to it” was a relatively short period of my life – about 6 years from age 8 to 14.  Certainly I come from a family of farmers on my father’s side, but almost anyone can say that if they go back far enough in their family history.  Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that I just feel right when I’m working on a fence in the field, or struggling to catch chickens in the wee sma’s on butchering morning.  I am immensely satisfied by the sight of animals – relaxed and content because I have given them the living conditions that make them happy.

I’d love to not have to put a cost on my why.  How can you put a price on contentment, peacefulness and fulfillment?  But the reality is that raising your own food costs.  It costs time, energy and money.  Every minute of time spent spreading manure on a field is time not spent on some other activity.  Every ounce of energy spent moving pasture poultry pens on the field is energy not spent in some other way.  Every dollar spent on animal feed is money not spent on other things.  Maybe it’s all good value, but it depends on what you value.

Which is to say that if I had worked at farrming as my full time job, the money would have mattered a lot more; as it was, it remained a part time occupation for me.  The real issue was the return on the amount of energy and time expended.  And even now, with a massive shift in our farming activities (ie we no longer do any farming), we still keep laying birds because in our area, selling eggs is an easy profit, which we need to help maintain our farm tax status…so money is even now a factor.

 

Obviously, efficiency can mitigate a great deal of these costs.  And selling surplus eggs, meat, veggies can cancel out the cost of feed and bedding, perhaps even create profit.  To a point, economies of scale matter if one wants to farm long term.  It’s all very well to prefer to do things by hand, the slow way, spending all of your time and energy on farming.  There won’t be much money, but if this is the lifestyle of choice, that may be OK.   But you better be sure that if you are doing this with a spouse and/or family, that they are 100% in it with you.  That you and your spouse both believe it will be nothing but good for your children to grow up with their days revolving around the rhythms of the farm.

Clearly we were not all 100% in.  I’d actually known this for years – back when we’d created the farm plan when the girls were tiny, the plan had acknowledged that my husband would be working off farm and not engaged with farm work in any way, and we were both happy with that as part of the plan.  But as we juggled family life, jobs and priorities over the years, I came to realize that Joel Salatin’s wise words, emphasized throughout his book “You Can Farm“, were absolutely correct…

You think Joel Salatin is having one of his exaggerated over the top moments when he says that if you’re going to make a success of farming, you better forget Little League and ballet lessons?  Think again.  Something will have to give.  if you place a high value on extra curricular activities for your kids, that will take time and money and energy from you and your farm.  In an attempt to make it work for all of you, you may well end up compromising your farming values – perhaps you will choose to keep your pigs in the barn instead of on pasture so you don’t have to worry about them getting out while you’re at the ball diamond 3 nights a week through June, even though in your heart of hearts you have always believed they should have the opportunity to root and dig and wallow in a shady pasture. What if you spend 40 hours of your week off the farm, not counting commuting time?  That 40 hours certainly represents dollars coming in, but it also represents time and energy going out – and for me at least, my best energy of the day.  Moreover, that 40 hours is nearly always during daylight hours, which are coincidentally pretty valuable for farming.   And there’s a real danger that you’ll become so focussed on getting to work on farm projects in your “spare” (aka time not spent at your off farm job) that you will have no time to spend on fun or relaxation or time with your family.  All work and no play – that’s a real danger.  Maybe you are able to get your family out there with you, all working together on the various things that need doing and maybe you’re the kind of parent who can make that kind of fun.  Way to go.  But bear in mind that when you get home from that off farm job, most of the family is ready for down time just around the time you are ready to get the blue jeans on.  So they go off for a walk at the beach, without you.  Or you decide to go with them and skip moving the pig fence, putting off the well being of the pigs in favour of your kids. 

I have always been impressed by the example of how the Salatin family lives out work/life balance – of engaging the kids of multiple generations in meaningful farm work while still providing fun and family time.  There were times when we seemed close to living in alignment with the Salatin family’s example…

My family have always 100% supported my farming endeavours.  But they have never been 100% interested in being farmers.  Over the years, they have helped build sheds and shelters, they’ve lugged hoses and water jugs, feed and bedding.  They have been up at the crack of dawn catching broilers for butchering or fetching chicks from the post office.  They have collected eggs, held fence wire, emptied rat traps and held flashlights while we try to secure tarps in a windstorm.  They are as preversely proud as I am that we have not bought chicken from a store in more than 10 years, nor pork in the last 5.

But make no mistake – that balance the Salatins have achieved in their family is a result of one very fundamental priority – that they identify as a family as farmers first.  This one priority is the benchmark which affects other decisions they make regarding extra curricular activities like travel or clubs or other jobs.  In our family that benchmark priority has never been farming, whatever my own private priorities might have been…

My husband and I have placed a high value on education and the broadening of character that comes from travel and similar opportunities.  I have always felt strongly about volunteering and participating in the community.   For all that I love farming, I love my family more, and over the years I have happily prioritized family over the farm.  As a couple, we have felt that our money, time and energy are best spent on family goals.  So yes, our girls were in Girl Guides, church youth group,  and school extra-curricular activities.  While they were both paid for farm work in their teen years, as they took on some major responsibilites while I was at work off-farm, they both looked forward to the day they could work at other things, which has come to pass.  We have travelled quite a bit throughout the girls teen years – and the’ve done trips without us as well.  My husband’s business has grown to the point that he no longer has time or energy for farm tasks.

Family trips overseas, missions trips for each of the girls, RESPs providing for the girls post-secondary education if they wanted to pursue it, extended health benefits – those things were all achieved through my husband’s business success and my off farm job.  While we could have enjoyed a fulfilling life as a family of farmers, and that would have provided it’s own opportunities (and was the path I dreamed of taking), it would have been different financially.  Or not.  We’ll never know, because we took the path we took.

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Joel Salatin has said that farming is much easier when you work with Nature instead of against her.  If you take Nature as being something much larger than the physical acres and animals that comprise a farm, it becomes true of the people that live there as well.   I think that a paraphrase of this maxim might be true for more of us than admit to it:  Energy flows best when it’s going in the right direction.   The last few years when I struggled to balance work off farm, involvement with family and grow the farm – I struggled.  Like uphill, upstream, against the wind struggled.

I’m 55 this year.  I’m apparently not one of those people who ages gracefully.  I’ve come to an awareness of the process with denial, stubborness and ultimately a somewhat grudging acceptance.  5 gallons of water feels heavy nowadays.  I am not up for lugging bales of hay any distance.  I take breaks more often if I’ve been on my feet for a while.  If my energy is on the wane, then I wamt to spend it wisely.

And now?  Well, last summer I told everyone these were the last pigs.  I thought I’d feel bitter and resentful about that, but instead I felt peaceful, and relieved.

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Which brings me to now, nine months after I wrote out all this internal turmoil.  I’m 56 now, and all the medical tests that began in spring 2016 culminated last May (2017) with a diagnosis of “high risk for MS”, which is a doctorish way of saying that I have some of the symptoms of MS, but not enough to be formally diagnosed with the disease, for which I am supremely grateful.  I have some (not a lot) demyelineation, which is when your body attacks the myelin sheathing that protects your nerves.  This means my feet are more or less numb, one leg has noticeable muscle weakness, and I get fatigued sometimes – tired to the point of finding it difficult to move smoothly, so tired that I am weepy and cranky.  MS is an auto-immune disease, and there are more people diagnosed with it in Canada than anywhere else in the world, which is thought to be related to the fact that one cause of the disease is believed to be vitamin D deficiency, to which Canadians are typically prone living so far north as we do (which makes me wonder about Scandinavia and Russia, but anyway).  Not uncoincidentally, stress is probably also a factor, as it is with other auto-immune diseases, and there is no question I found 2016 to be a very stressful year, in no small part because of the whole work/family/farm balance thing.

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So it’s just as well that I came to this relatively peaceful place in my mind about farming without knowing the diagnosis – because I’m absolutely stubborn enough that I would have likely been determined to prove that I could still do what I wanted despite physical limitations.  Not a good reason for farming and probably not possible anyway.  I miss the satisfaction of farm work, but truthfully I’m relieved not to be driven by that never ending “should do” list.   Nowadays, I still work full time at the library, but I go to yoga twice a week, I have upped the quantity of leafy greens I eat by a huge amount, I take a fairly hefty dose of vitamin D daily and I see the doctor more regularly than I ever have except during pregnancy.  I also have seen more movies with my husband, had more family games nights, had long morning coffee chats with our eldest daughter, and gone craft store shopping with the younger daughter.    My husband and I had a fabulous summer getaway on a nearby island staying in a cob house on a working sheep farm.  The elder daughter and I went to a women’s retreat together in September, and the younger daughter and hubby and I spent a few days geeking out over dinosaurs in Alberta in October. It’s a little sad that it took the risk of an auto-immune disease to make me wake up and recognize my priorities for what they were, but I’m there now.  And I’m loving it.

The height of summer

We’re over the hump of our longest days in terms of chores.  The broilers went to the processor two days ago, we picked up the chilled birds yesterday and got them all into the fridges and freezers of loyal customers (as well as our own freezer).

The pigs (no pictures this time – they were hiding out of the sun when I was out with the camera) are healthy and thriving on the buckets of apples that our neighbour keeps putting over the fence.

I’m down to 20 layers, but they too are benefiting from the neighbour’s largesse in the form of overripe figs being thrown over the fence for them.

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55 mixed breed layer pullets, 3 days old

Replacement layer chicks arrived yesterday morning, so we’re back to brooding again for a couple of weeks, and then eventually back to field shelters for a bit – but for now, things are relatively peaceful and calm.

We’re enjoying the fruit season – blackberries, apples, peaches from our own garden, blueberries from neighbouring farms, and just bought tomatoes and basil at the market this morning to make sauce and pesto (no veg garden this year – weird feeling, but smart decision in terms of time available).   Corn on the cob is a regular feature at dinner.  The warming trend has meant that for the second year in a row, our growing season is about a month ahead of what we used to think of as normal – normal to us would be blackberries and corn about now, but they’ve both been ready for a couple of weeks.

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We got my husband a hammock stand for Father’s Day back in June.   Before we can lie on it, we need to clear up the dropped apples…in fact more of them have used the hammock than we have…but the season is slowing down, so maybe our turn is coming…

New Life

It’s been a while.

Our busy season has begun.  Pigs came 2 weeks ago, broiler chicks came today, layer chicks come next month.

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Youngest daughter, back from her building project in Nepal (the picture was taken during the Holi festival in Bandipur), is graduating from high school at the end of this month, and all those years of school activities, volunteering, meetings, etc will be done.  Her?  Yes, she’s pretty pumped about being finished with school, despite being academically inclined.  New involvements will no doubt arise, but I’m not going to borrow trouble just yet.  And yes, we have the dress (gorgeous), the shoes, the hair appointment, the tickets for the ceremony, the dinner/dance and the dry aftergrad…if we’ve forgotten something, don’t burst my bubble now, I don’t have time.

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Eldest daughter turned 21 in April, and we somehow got a family garden tea into her crazy schedule to celebrate.  Halfway through her teaching degree, she has a job this summer preparing and leading 6 summer camps at our church with a small team of other interns.  Her favourite appears to be the Hero Camp in August, complete with jungle climbing, lazer mazes, a visit from superheroes and more.  I’m frankly envious.  In the middle of all that, she is heading down to the Dominican Republic as part of a team going to work on a construction project in a small village.  In July, in tropical heat.  Not envious of that.

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The pigs were born April 10th, so they are exactly 2 months old today.  In the pictures they may look big to you, but they’re still below my knees – and probably weigh around 50 lb or 20 kg each. While officially they are named B, L, and T, they have become collectively known as the Trio of Trouble.  They go everywhere together and are curious beyond caution.

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The broiler chicks, 156 of them, arrived by Canada Post this morning, having left Edmonton, AB two days ago after they hatched.  The local sorting station called me around 0730 and they were under the heat lamps by 820, thirsty and hungry and ready to explore their new world.

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I went out to do a couple of errands after the chicks were settled and returned two hours later to discover the heat lamps had thrown the breaker and they were without heat :(.  There is a freezer that’s operating in there right now, which I’d forgotten about, and can’t unplug immediately, so the chicks are down to 2 heat lamps and my afternoon project will be transferring the contents of the freezer to one of our other freezers so I can unplug the one in the brooder building.

And that’s what’s up around here.  No veg garden this year, something had to give and I decided that would the thing.  Hay Guy came and chisel plowed it for me a while back, but I’ve since decided not to get it tilled – I am already stretched to capacity and don’t need the guilt of that garden going to thistles again this year.  I’m surrounded by some fabulous veggie farmers here, and can buy more, better veg and fruit from any of them.  Totally not letting the no garden thing bug me – not at all.

 

Cuba 2016

I’ve tried to write this post about seven times, and each time it just got longer and longer.

My husband and I had just over a week in Cuba at the end of January.  We didn’t stay in the resort area, Varadero.  We didn’t take the girls either.  Someone has to look after the chickens :).  We were with a small tour of 15 people, with G Adventures.  Havana.  Santa Clara.  Trinidad.  Cienfuegos.  Havana.  Except for our first and last night, we stayed in “casa particulares” or bed and breakfasts everywhere.  We had one day going by catamaran out to Cayo Blanco off Trinidad for beach time and snorkelling over the coral.  We had 2 hours on a public beach near Cienfuegos.  Otherwise, we were exploring towns, visiting monuments, or at one point hiking a short trail to “El Nicho”, a beautiful waterfall in a national park.

I wanted to tell you about all the things the pictures don’t show – the fields, the livestock, the fencing, all the horses and oxen used for transportation and load carrying.  The people selling stuff along the highways, or hitching rides.  The sounds – all day, all night. The music, the cheerfulness, the endurance. How wonky the supply and demand in grocery stores is,  how much Che is honoured, how much more Jose Marti is revered.  You see?  I’m starting to do it again.  If pictures are worth a thousand words, may these suffice to stand in for the several thousand I’ve written and erased.

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Happy New Year

It’s been a while.

When did I last post, anyway?  Definitely sometime before Christmas…

So I’ll go back a little, to November when we had some really good blows – up to 100km/hr.  We’re inland from the water by a few km, so it could have been worse.  We never lost power either, for which I was grateful, with a freezer full of chicken and three pigs outside being contained with electric fence.

I was surprised to see the heron on the dairy roof in mid November, in all my years (decades) here, I’ve seen one on the farm maybe once.  This heron preceded the storms by just a few days.  The hawk is a regular unfortunately – I see him almost daily, and maybe I shouldn’t say unfortunately, since he does do his bit with rabbits and mice, but he also hangs around the chickens way too much.  Late November was the first time I was able to have the camera ready to hand when he showed up.

Big Leaf Maples are native to these parts, and they’re beautiful graceful trees in their prime.  Sadly, as they age they tend to rot inside, and eventually shed branches.  We have a few of these on our property, the largest, at least 100 years old, in our front yard.  It has provided sheltelr, shade, climbing and grace to the front of our house for the better part of a century, but sadly had been succumbing to the rot in the last few years, causing us some concern for the roof of our house quite close by.  In the last storm, one of the biggest branches let go, on the side away from the house fortunately, and so it was time for our friend Mike (he who prunes my apple trees and takes payment in chicken) to come and do his thing.  It was over in half a day, and though I don’t have a picture of the result, the tree has had the equivalent to a buzzcut, just the main trunk and a few short stubs of branches sticking up and out – the theory being that it will work something like pollarding, as the big leaf maple is very prone to forming a new tree from suckers/shoots.  I hope so, because right now it looks pretty stark.

One nice thing that came out of all that cutting was the big pile of logs that was left behind.  I didn’t have time, equipment or energy to deal with it, but an acquaintance from church who does his daily early morning walk past our house stopped one morning when I was out there and commented on the wood.  I explained and he offered to come and cut it all into firewood for me. I offered him half the wood in payment and we had a deal.  A few days later, this guy showed up with an axe and a pair of gloves.  One swing for every piece, he just drove that axe through each log as though it was butter.  He’s easily in his late 60’s and wasn’t even puffed when he was done 20 minutes later.   Turns out he’s been cutting wood since he was 8.

Christmas rushed upon us.  Anyone who remembers my frustration with Christmas lights last year will be glad to know that when I turned them on this year I got about 10 seconds of light from them before they quit – well, all but 6 of them.  I know when to give up, and this was the time.  I now have two strings – one 150 m of regular sized lights, one 50 m of small lights, both LED. And they BOTH WORK.   It was a lot of ladder work to replace the 10 old strings with the two new ones, but totally worth it.

The older daughter was house sitting in the nearby village over the holiday, but came over first thing Christmas morning, complete with the dog she was looking after and spent the day with us.  Sula was a delight – we’ve not had a dog around for more than a year, and it didn’t take her anytime at all to show us how much we were no longer dog proofed.  Our poor cat was outraged and didn’t show up again till midnight.  Dinner on Boxing Day was at our place, with a free range turkey from my buddy Bryce, and was followed by a rousing game of Scattergories, a very successful Christmas gift.

A day or so after Christmas, we got the last mileage out of our annual passes to Butchart Gardens by going down to see the Christmas light display.  This is much the same every year, and we try not to miss it.  The gardens with not much growing this time of year are an extravaganza of light and creativity, with all the 12 days of Christmas featuring throughout.

New Year’s Day we went for our annual stroll at nearby Island View Beach, on an absolutely fabulously bright, beautiful first day of 2016, and I of course did not take the camera.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  I’ve posted pictures of Island View in past years, if you’re super keen to go looking for them.

A family birthday always winds up our Christmas/New Year’s season, and we celebrated with a visit to the Royal BC Museum a favourite haunt, where we thoroughly enjoyed the Nature Photography of the Year exhibit from the Natural History Museum.   Chocolate cake rounded off the day nicely.

Not a lot of farming stuff in that long litany…because there’s not much happening.  The pigs are gone, the hens are being grudging about eggs, there is a lot of mud around, and it’s always dark before I get home from work these days.  Outside work has been sporadic on weekends thanks to the weather and the festivities.  Oh, there was a cougar.  I never saw it, but the older daughter was just coming back to the house from shutting in the hens when her flashlight caught a pair of eyes.  She assumed deer and scanned to double check – not a deer.  A dog maybe? Nope,  definitely a cougar.  It loped off at a leisurely pace and that was the last we saw of it, so hopefully it was just travelling through.

Resolutions?  I don’t usually make any, but goal setting – well – I’m working on it.  Something about balance, I think.  Between family, farm, work.  Do I grow the farming business?  Maintain the status quo?  Drop the pigs or broilers?  Hire someone part time whether for cash, barter or whatever? What is it I want out of farming?  What’s the plan for the farm 5 years down the road, 10 years?  Meanwhile, what about family plans?  Work, university, school, health, recreation, togetherness.  Our home – paint, maintenance, cleaning, decluttering, redecorating.  The garden? Travel?  And so on.

So here you go, the few photos I took in November/December: