Thursday, 20 October 2016

Local Spending

Needing to purchase a few things for the house (since moving in) instigated a bit of research on where to source what we need without:

a)  breaking the budget
b) compromising values re: purchasing natural fibres/recycled material whenever possible
c) supporting local businesses/people

Sometimes, it seems impossible to find what we're looking for (while meeting those criteria) but in this community, we have a HUGE resource in the local Habitat for Humanity Re-Use Centre.  It's quickly become our favourite store because I often find what I'm looking for at a decent price but also, because 100% of proceeds go toward building homes for community members in need.  Spending money there supports recycling AND helps local community members so it's a HUGE win in our books!

We've learned to check the Re-Use store every time we are in town because the stock changes rapidly.  Local stores, contractors and community members donate goods every day so inventory changes (literally) minute by minute.   The store itself is very organized and clean with sections for lighting, plumbing, hardware, flooring, appliances, furniture, doors, windows, cabinets and home goods.   Some items are new and some are gently used.  

Three days ago, I purchased this NEW 100% wool 8'x10' area rug (still in the original manufacturer's wrapping) for $75.00.  The original sticker price from the local home improvement store that donated it said $699.00.  Talk about a great savings!  We are SO PLEASED to have found a rug made from natural fibres and to have supported this incredible local community resource so we bought it for the sitting area by the wood stove.  This area of the house has hardwood flooring (which at times can feel cold on the feet),  so this rug cozies up the room and makes the house more comfortable.  We love the natural colours in the rug and as it feels very soft on the feet, we couldn't be happier with our purchase.  

Yesterday, hubby and I had another browse through the store while in town and found a new electrical breaker needed for the house priced at $5.00.   Not 30 minutes prior, my husband purchased the identical breaker from the home improvement store for just under $20.00.  Of course, he will be returning that one next time he's in town!  

My parents are in the middle of building their cottage home on the property so I know we'll be looking to this store for materials, fixtures and fittings to incorporate into their home.  I'm currently looking for a dining table, a wall cabinet for the bathroom, materials to make a desk from (or something ready to use) plus miscellaneous hardware items so will continue checking each time I'm in town.   I'll keep you posted on our finds.

Does YOUR community have a Habitat For Humanity Re-Use Centre? 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Still can't quite believe it

It seems a little odd, but two and a half months into this giant adventure, I still can't quite believe that we're here!   Being "home" on the coast feels amazing and although we miss our friends and family members back on the prairie, the lifestyle here is a great fit for us.  We've never been so active and motivated to BE active - the beauty all around us beckons...

October beach play seems so ridiculously indulgent I giggle like a child every time we go!   It's a 5 minute drive to the ocean - pinch me, am I dreaming?

Typhoon Songda brought strong seas to the area resulting in a beach full of torn seaweed.  Taking only seaweed washed up above the high tide line (and only from a small area), we filled the bottom of our 8x8 utility trailer in just a few minutes.   We feel incredibly lucky to have access to this rich nutrient resource for the garden and will be working to incorporate it into our new (in-process) sheet mulching project (more on that soon).


Now that the big "crunch" of work is over, I'm finding a little time for blogging and hope to update more regularly again.

Until next time XO

Thursday, 25 August 2016

All done

The deck is finally covered in 2 coats of stain and I'm happy to say it looks MUCH better.  Now that it's protected, it should last us for many years and we're quite pleased with the savings vs. buying new deck boards.

Next up on "the list" was to build a shed to house tools and equipment.  We are currently sharing the 2 car garage with my parents which is difficult given the amount of tools, equipment and garden gear we have (together).  

We are building a second garage next Spring but in the meantime, everyone will be able to share the existing garage with the addition of a shed to temporarily house things not needed daily.  We normally would have built a permanent structure but our situation is unique in that we need a shed in the current location for only a year or so then will need to move it to a permanent home (yet to be determined) once we develop gardens and livestock areas, etc. 

This option gave us the most flexibility (which we will need over the coming 2 years as the homestead develops). 

Stay tuned for the next project!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Frugal home repairs and maintenance

The back deck here was in sorry shape.  The stain was peeling off and the boards were rotting and lifting from exposure during long wet winters.  We initially thought we'd have to replace all the deck boards (to the tune of thousands), but discovered that elbow grease is all we needed to spend.  

Once hubby removed a few boards, he discovered that the undersides were in great shape and in fact only a few boards were rotting at the ends. We proceeded to remove all the boards, pull all the rusty nails out of them (untreated nails are NOT the best fastener choice for a deck!), scrub the crusty, dirty debris off, trim the ends and reinstall them.   Sounds easy but poor hubby has been working SO hard on this project with only a little help from me (I've been painting the inside of the house).

The deck joists are sound and solid and now the deck boards are too!  I'll show you pictures of it once it's stained.   In the end, we only needed to buy 2 new deck boards and the stain (which was bought on a 35% off sale) so this was a frugal maintenance/repair project that will pay off for many years to come.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Learning how

The front verandah was a hive of activity last week.   My Dad (who is an experienced fisherman) was prepping for a major, week long annual fishing expedition on the west coast of the island and in the process, taught the kids how to tie and prep gear for the trip.  Our two youngest kids spent a good amount of hours with their Grandpa doing all sorts of very fiddly work (sharpening hooks, removing barbs, checking lines for kinks and nicks (replacing lines affected), adjusting leader lengths and prepping lures, etc.  Those kids learned a lot of practical skills last week and soon will put them to the test on the water. 

One of the very big positives about this move is that we all have more time with family.  Our children have never lived in the same city as any of their Grandparents (let alone on the same property) so having active and interested elders in their lives is a HUGE benefit we are all very thankful for.   I expect there will be some challenges along the way but for now it's working out really well.  

My parents currently live on the property in a self contained coach/RV that's fully hooked up to all services.  They're used to living in their RV (when they travel south for the winter) so it's not a hardship but is a temporary arrangement (here) until their wee home is built.  Construction starts in a few weeks and by late October/early November my folks will be pulling up stops to escape our rainy winters (like usual) and head for sunnier skies down south.   Once they come home in the Spring, their little house will hopefully be ready (or nearly ready) to move into.   

Back to the fishing trip - Mom and Dad have been gone for 3 days and as of last night, the message received was that the salmon run had yet to be found.  All the local guides say it has been the worst fishing in decades so we're not sure that my parents will come home with any fish at all.   With 3 more days, time is running out but they aren't giving up just yet.  I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Getting set up to work

Beware the un-staged photos...  this is how we LIVE!   

I've been pondering beauty and function (and the balance between them) ever since we moved in. The house we bought is truly beautiful (for which I'm thankful and DO appreciate) but there are some functionality issues that need to be addressed.   If left to my own devices, I'm afraid I lean to the utilitarian side of things so I have a pretty critical eye when it comes to wasted spaces.  Perhaps this comes from having a big family and all the years of needing to make the most of every inch of space in our home?

It takes some time to get a "new" house set up to work in.  I've had some trouble in my kitchen because there are a lot of decorative elements in it that detract from the workability of the space.  Yes, it's a very pretty, spacious kitchen and I'm not ungrateful to have it, but I think we need to tweak a few things to make it function better for us.  We heavily USE our kitchen and my priority is always FUNCTION over AESTHETICS. 

Have a look at the plate rack on the right side (which I've never had).  It's handy but not efficient in that it holds plates in a much larger footprint than a stack would.  I could store 6 TIMES the plates (or other items) in the same space with shelves or a cupboard.    

On the left side, there's a decorative arched valence that serves NO useful purpose other than taking up valuable room (in a prime location) that could be put to use storing baking equipment.  The upper cupboards above the arch are quite high up and are hard to reach (I'm short) so I'm really missing the reachable space above my mixer and grain mill.  This area is where I do all my baking and  I'd like to have some shelving installed so I can make use of that space. 

Notice the high number of glass cupboard doors.  I'm NOT a fan of them when used so liberally, because I like hidden, functional storage of useful kitchen items, not glass shrines for "pretty things". One set of glass doors makes sense to me but more than that is hard to work with.   

In the photo below, you can see more glass cupboard doors above the fridge and microwave/oven which are another example of beauty over function.  I have this area full of oversize, utilitarian pots, pans and larger items like my dehydrator and wok.  It's hard to see in the photo, but it looks very untidy and not very "pretty" to see all my equipment through the seed glass.  I don't STAGE my kitchens, I work in them and need them to serve me as I cook, bake, preserve and ferment.

Warning - I'm fully aware of the fact that I sound like a miserable, ungrateful curmudgeon!  I LIKE the kitchen and find it beautiful.  I'm truly grateful and fortunate to have such a lovely place to work in each day but I want to PUSH the space to its full potential to function better for me.  I want to do this without spending much money and I'm asking for your help.

So far, I thought about putting up fabric or coloured paper behind the glass doors.  That's an easy fix which won't cost any money because I have a stash of both.  The glass shelves (which are somewhat rickety and unstable) inside the 2 upper cupboards flanking the arch on the baking side of the kitchen can be replaced with solid shelving for a small amount of money (and we can do this job ourselves).   

The "arch" could be removed and a decorative shelf or two could be installed to hold baking items.  I'd prefer to have new upper cupboards put in that come further down, but I won't spend the money on it so I think shelves will be a compromise that will help enormously.  We MAY remove the plate rack and install matching shelves (like I proposed for the other side).  I could put ALL our plates (all sizes) on those shelves and this would free up cupboard space in the area (where the rest of the plates are).

Shoot me with your best ideas to frugally adapt this kitchen!  I'm all ears :)

Friday, 5 August 2016

We made it!

Hello everyone!  It's been a while.  We made it to our final destination and our big moving adventure is over (and not a moment too soon).  The trip itself (and the process to get to departure) was gruelling and didn't go as planned, but I don't want to focus on that.  The end result is that we are HERE on the coast and we have no regrets.  All the problems and troubles we had are a distant memory and in their place are feelings of contentment.  I feel like we paid our dues to get here and now is the time for settling in to the happy work of developing a productive homestead for our family and for my parents. 

This property has a beautiful pond with lovely ornamental gardens out back.   The previous owner loved to garden and did a beautiful job developing aesthetically pleasing gardens.  My Mom tells me there's always something in bloom (she's lived on the property for nearly a year now) and I know we'll enjoy looking out at the gardens from my kitchen and sitting room/family room.   

Below is the view from my kitchen sink.  To the left, behind the distant trees is a Christmas tree farm so we have no neighbours on that back side.  To the right (behind the trees) is a fellow acreage neighbour but thick trees and brush completely block any view of their home.  The kitchen sink is a solid anchor in a home and I made sure to get it set up right away.  The stainless sink is deep and practical.   I love it for washing up large pots and it will serve me well for washing huge batches of garden veggies (in future).  The basket full of knitted dishcloths and linen tea towels sits at the ready, my trusty citrus cleaner is brewing on the left, my water glass always handy for a sip during cooking and baking and a sweet coloured glass chicken that was given to me by my niece watches over the washing up.  The orchid given to me for Mother's Day a few years ago is blooming again in celebration of the move and a tiny little nest found on the ground after a windstorm many years ago sits atop an old apple crate.  The egg was found nearby.   It's so sad to see a nest on the ground but I always admire the engineering that goes into them - I see nests as beautiful art and engineering all in one.  

As we look away from the developed back gardens, in contrast to all that lushness, the front is largely undeveloped and sees a great many deer come through.   We have a lot to do do develop gardens in areas where none existed but I'm up for the challenge and am quite excited about the possibility.   The soil is not much to speak of (I hesitate to call it soil because it's nearly solid sand and gravel in places) so there's much to do to build fertility but I know we can do it and I'm excited to document the improvement each year.  What a great challenge and a test of my skills.  Stay tuned!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Around here

The canola is in full bloom all around us.  While I'm not a supporter of GMO crops, I can at least appreciate the beauty and gift of colour.

From our little pocket of lush, organic, heirloom abundance, we've been picking peas by the bucketful.  It's a fine (and much anticipated) day when one can sit on the couch shelling and eating peas for supper!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Picking and Packing

Packing and picking aptly describes what we're up to here as we're in the home stretch before we officially hit the road to our new digs on the coast.

Packing: We're trying to get by on as little as possible (and are shocked at how little this really is) which makes one seriously think about belongings and what's needed for true happiness.   Apparently, we don't need much.    Lots pondering happening on this issue and it'll be interesting to see how we feel about each item we unpack it on the other side.  I'll probably look at everything and wonder why we brought it all!

Picking: raspberries, herbs galore, strawberries, lettuce, kale & peas (certainly enough to keep us well fed which isn't bad from a garden that really wasn't planted intentionally and with purpose this year).

Morning soaked (local) oats heaped with dewy berries JUST plucked from the canes.  There's nothing finer!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

More Edge and Cooperation

The main annual vegetable garden isn't "officially" planted because our home went under offer just as I was set to seed it.  I held off intentionally seeding but there's plenty of  volunteer "bounty" in the garden such as this lettuce.  Notice how it's all in a row!  This is a prime example of the "Edge Effect".  I had a few lettuce plants growing in this general area last year (to the right of the picture).  Prevailing winds from the west blew the seed to the edge of the garden (and some even made it across the wood chip keyhole pathway in the centre of the picture).  The seed spent the winter under snow in sub zeros temperatures and happily sprouted this Spring.

A closer look (below) reveals a delicate network of mycelium in the pathway.  It almost looks as if the plants are reaching toward the mushroom colony and I wonder if the plants are growing here only because the conditions are most fertile (edge effect) or also because of the supportive environment of the mycelium?  I have so much to learn.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Living on the Edge

Have you ever noticed how weeds grow so well (and quickly) at the edges of driveways, garden beds,  fences, retaining walls and other structures?  In permaculture we call this the "Edge Effect".  Edges (also known as Ecotones) are the blended result of two or more ecosystems meeting (which results in highly fertile, ultra diverse places).  Edges are also "nutrient collectors" because they tend to "catch" debris and runoff (which further boosts fertility in these already diverse places).

Each "area" in a landscape is it's own ecosystem (as well as forming part of a larger ecosystem).  Looking at the picture below you can see the grass in the distance (which is it's own ecosystem), then in the mid-ground, you can see our (immature) food forest with a wood chip pathway.   Notice how in the lower right corner, the creeping weeds have rapidly taken over since recent rainfalls.  This area (lower right corner) is highly fertile because it's the edge between the gravel driveway and the wood chip pathway.  It ALWAYS gets weedy faster and is the perfect example of an Ecotone.   Instead of fighting the weeds here, I could plant creeping thyme or another creeping plant that would thrive in this setting and choke out the invasive weeds. 

Below is the front of the food forest (bordering on the front grassy area).   Notice how the dandelions and other weeds have been hard at work establishing in the grass along this ecotone.  I should have taken the picture BEFORE I weeded, because there were PLENTY of weeds in the wood chip mulch along this fertile edge.  Normally, this area would be planted out to take advantage of the edge's fertility, but as we are moving, all further development of the food forest has halted.  Last year, this area was planted to potatoes to help break up the soil in preparation for planting this year.  Berry bushes and edible perennials would thrive in this location.

In other areas of the garden we have raspberries planted all along the edge between the driveway and the orchard.  Clearly, these berries are happy as the canes are just loaded with berries which will hopefully be ripe enough for us to enjoy before we head to the coast.

Lastly, for beauty, fragrance and bee food, these climbing roses are making full use of the fertility along the garden fence (another Ecotone).  It may be hard to see, but nearly every flower has a bee hard at work inside!

 Ecotones can also be good places to plant somewhat invasive plants IF CAREFUL ATTENTION IS PAID to setting limits to spreading.  As an example, I have mint growing where it is surrounded on 4 sides (2 concrete walkways, a metal window well and a frequently used stone pathway).   The mint grows well in this ecotone thanks to all those edges and it repels mice from tunnelling under the concrete stairs (the primary reason for choosing to plant it in this area).   As I have planted it in this highly limiting/constricting space, it can be controlled with ease (and has been for several years).   

A common Ecotone in urban settings is along a driveway edge.  Planting a berry hedge in an area such as this can solve the "weed" problem AND net a tasty yield with very little work.  Instead of looking at weedy edges on your property as a problem, look at them with a new view and appreciate them as a fertile asset.  Determine what you could plant to net a yield which would take advantage of the Ecotones on your property.  I'd love to hear about your plans :)

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Pacing for the Long Haul

I have a long and sordid history of working myself ragged in order to meet a self imposed deadline.  What is UP with that?   I suppose I'm just goal and task oriented which makes for a major mental struggle when I need to slow down, adjust my pace or (horrors) my expectations of myself.   I'm getting a lot better at pacing and scheduling myself now that I'm firmly planted in middle age because let's face it - most things just aren't important enough to warrant exhaustion and burnout.  Middle age has taught me that in all honesty, few things matter more than family and self care.   Are you nodding with me?

So how does this flesh out in real life?  As with most things, it starts at the beginning.   The planning stage of my day (or week, month or season) is where it's all at and where I used to (unintentionally) set myself up for feeling inadequate.   Poor planning and unrealistic expectations have led to many a negative feeling in me (goodness knows, life is hard enough without making yourself feel bad).   Now, I err on the side of prudence and I pace myself with kindness and so can you.

Planning for a mid-day break has made an enormous difference in my life because it gives me time to stop and refocus my energy for the afternoon.  Life changes pretty quickly here (more people = more variables) and this short break gives me to time to adjust my expected outcomes to match the time I have left in the day, my energy level and the needs of my family.    My list is not my master.  I am the master of the list and I have an eraser!  

I've had some trouble sleeping through the night lately (too much on my mind with the move and likely hormonal changes as well) which means I'm not as productive during the day as I usually am.    While I'm not up in the night with young children anymore, I need to treat myself like I am because I'm operating on a sleep deficit just like a new mother.  Knowing myself intimately means accepting that I always succumb to respiratory illnesses (which often progress into pneumonia) when I'm run down.   Letting myself get to that point is the ultimate unkindness.   I don't do it anymore, but let me tell you I certainly did for many years.  Placing my personal needs WELL below the needs of everyone else in my family (and community) was a common occurrence.   Do you do that, too? Enough!

Yes, the list is long.  Keeping up with maintenance here all while sorting through every single thing we own to pack it, sell it or donate it is an EPIC task.  Not to be underestimated is the mental exhaustion that comes from making So Many Decisions each day.  Should I keep this?  Do I love it? Is it useful?  How hard is it to replace if I get rid of it?  What is the value of the item?  Is it hard to move?  Do I have a place for it in the new house?  Urgh.  Asking those questions hundreds of times over and over is fatiguing beyond measure.  Factor in meeting the emotional needs of teen and tween kids who are uncertain about this move and wrapping up the logistics of living in a place for 18 years and I've got a HUGE job on my plate.

All of this uncomfortable transition will be over soon.  It's a bit like being 9 months pregnant.  I'm over the thrill of the "news" and am mighty uncomfortable.  Eventually, the pain that is moving (like labour) will end and we'll be celebrating our long time dream realized (just like how when you hold your baby for the first time, you forget how much labour HURT).  Strange, but true...

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Grow it, Make it

Look at these juicy berries!  All my strawberry plants are producing well and are happy with onions planted between them.  The flax straw is doing a good job of mulching and in a sudden post rain flush, these mushrooms have all fruited through the front garden!    I wish I had an experienced mushroom forager to look at them for me - I'm scared to eat them because we have many toxic species that look a lot like edibles...  I took a foraging class a few years back and ended up even more more terrified to eat mushrooms we find here.   There is no substitute for having an experienced eye and hand to guide you as I'm not willing to risk our health (or our lives!) in the absence of it!

The garden is giving us tender greens (generously) and as I haven't planted anything other than peas (before selling the house) that's about all we are eating from the garden (aside from perennial herbs and fruit).   The peas will be ripe enough to enjoy soon and we certainly hope we'll be able to gorge on the raspberries which are forming as I type.  It's going to be the BEST raspberry year ever - the canes are positively LOADED with fruit!

My kombucha is thriving and my system of brewing every 3 days works well.  This jar is one that's just been started and in 3 days, the SCOBY will be covering the top and the tea will be bubbling nicely.   Three days is just about right to go through a half gallon jar (stored in the fridge while the next jar is brewing).    It's satisfying to make refreshing drinks instead of buying them.  I find that I crave kombucha when I'm hot and thirsty from working in the garden as it's much more thirst quenching than any other drink.   It's really frugal to make our drinks and while the kids aren't crazy for kombucha, I think they will like the fermented lemonade I'm starting today.

The packing is continuing as is the purging and sorting.  It's quite tiring, but it feels incredible to go through all the bits and bobs to eliminate anything unnecessary.  Just yesterday, I did some niggling tasks - counting change from the change jar and putting it in my purse to spend on groceries this week, sorting through all the keys and labelling for the new owners (plus finding our bike lock keys, padlock keys and spare vehicle keys), sorting through the "hardware bin" which was a mess of tacks, hooks, suction cups, pins, nails and screws, etc).  It's all organized and purged of things we won't need so those are good jobs done.  I really don't want to move anything that needs sorting!   I'm trying to use up as much as possible before we go so am strategically planning meals and snacks around what we have in the pantry.  The freezers are all but empty so I'm not having to worry about that...

I use a lot of baskets in my home and some are lined.   The liners have been set aside to be washed and line dried today to get rid of all the dust.   It will be a good job done so I can get things put away in the new place right away.  

All in all, things are coming together quite early because we don't want to leave much to the last minute.  It's just too stressful to be madly rushing around in those last days.  Moving is stressful enough all on its own.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Feeling a Little Melancholy

I'm truly happy to be moving forward after so many months of being in limbo but I have to admit, I'm feeling a bit melancholy about leaving my garden.  After 7 years of exhausting labour, we have finally reached a year in which there's nothing to do but harvest and maintain what we have developed.  The berry canes, bushes and plants are literally BURSTING with fruit and the trees are forming loads of apples, cherries, pears and plums.  The perennial plants are filling in beautifully (many of which were started from seed) and the garden is finally looking lush and abundant.  My soil is teeming with life and the rewards of all our hard work are finally being realized.   And we're leaving....

We have a lot of work ahead of us to get established at the new property and while I'm excited for the challenge and the opportunity to design from scratch, I'm also (truthfully) a little daunted at the sheer volume of work ahead of us.  I have to keep my eye focussed on the fact that all the mistakes I've made here so far (there's been plenty of them) will help me avoid unnecessary work at the new property.  Those mistakes taught me more than any class ever could have so I suppose I'll have to be content with the fact that true and irreplaceable reward (learning) is coming with me.  

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Hot Commodity and the POWER of FreeCycle

Our hottest commodity right now is boxes.  Who'd have imagined the lowly cardboard box could be worth so much?

I have always loved FreeCycle (we give away most of our no-longer-needed things in this way) but never have I loved it more than now.   As it happens, a family who quite often takes things we no longer need has a nifty box connection.  The husband works in a place where sturdy uniform boxes are available in abundance and he VERY KINDLY has been bringing home large quantities of flattened boxes (which I stop and pick up on my trips into town).  Praise for the kindness and generosity of FreeCyclers!

These boxes are truly surplus waste at this fellow's place of work and are hauled off for recycling on a frequent basis.  I'm glad to be putting them to good use rather than buying moving boxes (which are insanely expensive and frankly, not that sturdy).    I've also managed to find some inexpensive packing paper (roll ends from the local newspaper) which sell for $5/roll and have loads of unprinted, unbleached paper on them.  I'm quite pleased :)

I have big plans for all this cardboard and paper on the "other end" of this epic move.  Can anyone guess?  YUP!


 I have a large garden to establish so will make good use of all the "carbonaceous" materials we are bringing with us.  Combined with my Uncle's vast supply of well rotted horse manure, some green manure crops and cover crops, I should be in a good position to plant by next Spring!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Surplus to Needs


Over the years, I've collected a lovely selection of reference books on local plants and animals. These books have been well thumbed through and even have some dirty prints gracing the pages as I'm usually covered in garden grime when I reach for such a book!  Nearly all were bought used for a dollar or two and some were given to me.   These books have now turned me a small profit as I sold them as a lot last night to local naturalist/gardener for $25.00  This was a great deal for her as the new value was several hundred dollars but good for me too as I've recouped my cost with a wee bit extra.  

This my friends, is a snow rake.  Have you ever seen one?  It's a very long tool with a plastic scoop at the end.  Believe it or not, when we get heavy snowfall (especially over a few days), the accumulation of snow on the roof can be too heavy for the roof trusses!  We might hear groaning and creaking (under the snow load) which is the signal to get rid of some of that snow.  Climbing up on the roof is no fun and definitely not safe (especially not in -30C with a howling wind out of the north), so this handy tool means you can easily reach up onto the roof and "pull" snow down.  Those of you in warm climates night get a kick out of that :)

I'll not be sorry to never see this beast again!  It's loud and obnoxious but super effective at moving a lot of snow.  We would not have easily lived here without it as drifting snow can easily be 4' high (or more) in certain areas.  Think about the snow rake again....  did you wonder where all the snow from the roof gets dumped?  Yup.  Right next to the house where it falls!  Many hundreds of pounds of snow launched right near the house is NOT good for access (and flooding when it melts), so it must be moved a second time.  Enter SNOW THROWER.  The new owners of this house have agreed to buy it from us (and they'll need it!).

Onward we proceed with sorting and purging.  We don't have a lot of clutter, but there are tools and equipment we won't need in a warmer climate so we've been listing items (and selling them) every day.  I think we've made about $1,000 so far which will come in incredibly handy to defray moving costs.  

Friday, 10 June 2016

What's ripe?

This is such an exciting time in the life and maturity of my garden.  We've lived here 7 years and in that time, we've been transitioning 2.5 acres of mostly grass into a productive food growing oasis.   It's been hard but incredibly rewarding work and I'm grateful for the learning that has come as a result.  My many mistakes and "trials" have taught me what won't work but in that "failure" process, I've learned what WILL work in our cold climate. 

These early strawberries are the direct result of using thermal mass to full advantage.   The reflective heat off the concrete driveway coupled with the temperature regulation it provides through the night (as the stored heat is released from the concrete) has netted strawberries a good 10-14 days sooner than I'll see from plants just 10 feet away (around the corner and away from the concrete).   Using thermal mass strategically works, my friends :)  I'm in the process of potting up runners from these plants so I can take them with me when I move.  It will save me money and I also like that I'll be bringing a piece of my Alberta garden west with me.  

The Haskap berries are in full production so I'll be picking those today and for many days to come.  They are quite tart but are just loaded with antioxidants.  I'll probably add them to smoothies with banana to sweeten them up a bit and I'll make a syrup for our weekend pancakes.   I won't be making jam as we are moving and I don't want to add any weight to the moving truck so we'll have to eat this bounty fresh and call on friends to eat any surplus.

The lettuce is at peak production and so healthy after a struggle to establish (due to high heat and drought in Spring).  We've been enjoying the wonderful flavour and tender texture in sandwiches and salads.  There is NOTHING like fresh picked lettuce - it's incomparable to store bought.  The cost of buying organic lettuce here is very high and I must say mine is eons better than store bought (which has travelled for many hundreds if not thousands of miles to get here).  Even local lettuce is harder to come by as I have to drive a long distance to get to the farmer's market.  With a little planning and some shoulder season protection, growing food in a cold climate can be very rewarding and extremely helpful in reducing food costs. 

Our raspberries are absolutely LOADED with berries this year and we will soon be eating them.   It will be our biggest bounty EVER and if all goes well, we should be able to eat a good portion of them before we move.  We'll call on friends to come pick as I won't be able to freeze any this year as I usually do.   

The cost saving of growing raspberries is staggering as they sell for $5-$6 per half-pint/pint here.  Using those prices, I'd be rich if we sold all that we grew!  There must hundreds of thousands of berries forming and I know from experience growing them here that they produce for many weeks in the summer.  I'm also potting up all the new shoots that are coming up near the parent plants.  How fitting that I'll be taking those with me as 7 years ago, this patch was started from shoots my Mother brought me from HER garden back in BC!  My gardens have truly been a frugal mish mash of sharing and generosity which I hope will continue long into the future...

We also have kale and spinach ready to eat and peas growing up the garden fence.  That will be the extent of my harvesting this year as we're on the move in a month's time.  So exciting but also a bit sad to leave the garden I've worked so very hard to establish.   I'm quite excited to apply my learning to our new location, though and my mind is really spinning with ideas.  

Stay tuned!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Healthy Food During The Transition

Now that we are full steam ahead with the move my mind is chock full of the details, arrangements and jobs I need to do to make it happen.  I have several lists going which are in a constant state of change (tasks are being added as fast as I complete jobs and cross items off the list)!  Each day is full but brings us one day closer to making our dream a reality.

Normally, this is my season of heavy gardening but I've barely set foot outside to work in the gardens here as I'm packing up the house.   I am harvesting some lovely fresh greens and herbs but I'm not seeding or aggressively growing food at this time because it won't be ready for harvest before we move.   Once we received an offer on the house 3 weeks ago, I halted all seeding and planting (which just happened to be ONE day before I intended to seed the main annual garden). Talk about timing!

We've been eating lovely fresh greens and herbs and the strawberries have started to ripen as well.  Such tasty and delicate treats after a long winter of shop bought produce!  This year I planted out my ceramic planters to edible greens instead of flowers.  It's been handy to nip out the back door to harvest some lettuce and snip herbs for a lunchtime salad.  Doing this really proves that you CAN make a dent in your food bill through container growing. 

Two days ago, I revived my sourdough starter which was on "holiday" in the fridge while the craziness of the real estate madness was in full swing.  It turned out to be very much alive and quickly responded to several small feedings in short succession and I now have sourdough bread proofing on my counter as I type.  After many weeks without it, I'm REALLY eager to eat it warm with butter for my lunch. 

 I've been pushing to keep up with sandwich bread baking rather than buying shop bread.  My aim is to keep us well fuelled with good food during this time of intense stress and hard work.  We will need it now more than ever...

To accomplish decent (albeit basic) meals, I need to plan my time wisely to avoid burnout so I've been stopping and cleaning up all packing and moving related work by 3pm so I can have my cup of tea and rest for a few minutes before the kids gets home and the afternoon routines of homework help, supper prep and end of day tasks must be done.  

Hubby has been busy packing up his garage and dealing with vehicle maintenance in preparation or the big drive. He's also busy trying to establish employment on the Island (which is going well, but there is a lot to sort out and decide about).  We are needing to book the moving truck around his new job, so that's just one of the pieces we are trying to fit into this complex "puzzle" that is an out of province move.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

It's Official - SOLD!

Our house is SOLD and we are moving to the West Coast!  After 10 months of waiting and feeling horribly "in limbo" we're decluttering, packing and eating our way through stored food items as we prepare to hit the road in July.  The timing couldn't be better as our children will be finishing the current school year at the end of June then will both begin the next school year in September at their new schools.

Here's a (blurry) picture of our new home.  It's so sweet and full of character.  I can't wait to sit on that verandah with my tea.  Even in the rain, it will be a lovely spot to sit and think and survey the gardens :)

My dear parents are overjoyed as they have been temporarily "housesitting" in our new home waiting to begin the process of building their cottage.   Since our sale on Friday, they have submitted the papers and application forms for approval to be our own general contractor on the cottage build.   Once that's stamped and approved, we can then apply for a building permit.  All told, it will be several months until we can break ground on the cottage for my folks but they are happy to reside on site in their bus which has all conveniences ad comforts of a home (including power, water and septic hook up).

Meantime, back here in Alberta, the packed boxes are slowly stacking up and my mind is focussed on design plans for our new gardens and all the customized elements that will help us develop a thriving and diverse permaculture garden.  We'll be hitting the ground running as our first tasks are quite big:

- build a wood shelter and get a load delivered to kick start our stockpile

- buck, split and stack wood from cleared trees (in preparation for cottage build) until we have 3 or 4 cords built up

- do a complete design survey and sector analysis of the property and create accurate drawings to work from (which will include 10 months of observations done by my parents)

- start a worm farm and major compost operation

- build a small portable coop and acquire hens

- begin sheet mulching to convert grass into gardens for next year's planting

- create hugelkulture beds (to make use of brush cleared for cottage build)

- create a nursery area for plant starts/cuttings, etc

The list goes on...  but I'll stop there before I get overwhelmed.   Our aim is to maximize yield from the smallest footprint of development possible because we know that as we age, we won't want to be tending gardens spread far and wide on the whole three acres.   Sustainability in terms of labor to maintain our systems is very important so I'll be thinking hard about zones and easy access as I plan our future food supply.  Truly productive annual gardens are ones that are close and intimate enough to easily tend.   The spaces further out will be planted to species not needing as regular "tending" (berry canes, fruit trees, etc...).

The countdown is on so follow along with me as we continue our preparations to head out West!