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bacon

So cute you could almost eat ’em!

We got a piglet about a month ago, and our friend up the valley is raising it for us along with 4 other little piggies. In early march when the pigs are ready for market we’ll bring our not so little guy back here to the homestead to root up some land and work some bramble for a few weeks before we start working on the prosciutto curing end of things. This is a big step in our food system for us,  we have the chickens and rabbits underfoot, have cracked into local waters for fish, and forage wild meats and fungus when we can, but raising a hog (or rather co-parenting a hog) is a whole ‘other story, one we are happy to be participating in also we are also excited (as can be) about the manner in which he will be butchered. You see our new back road friends (from the rabbit butchery weekend), the butcher has offered to teach a “pig-in-a-day” workshop through our Valley Permaculture Guild, and we just happen to have the pig for the day. So it will be a great lesson for us all. I am dreaming of whole legs of cured ham, and salami, and smoke cured maple bacon…. oh the porky culinary adventures to come! So folks meet bacon, bacon meet the folks.

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Everyday brings us one step closer to snow, and one step farther behind a growing “to-do before the snow” list!

The garden is put to bed, mulched and ready for a seasonal rest, the hoses are put away (for the first year ever), the hammocks are stowed, most of the firewood is undercover, seeds and herbs from the garden are drying and ready for more sorting, of which we have done so much of already! We managed to save so many seeds this year; barley, peas, mustard, cress, lettuce galore, carrot, parsnip, coriander, tomato, corn, leek, onion, & garlic! I have even managed to properly package and jar all my seeds, sorted into families and sealed tight for safe keeping from mice and frost. You’ll see this in the image above, my neat sorted and labled  jars, but if you look really close you’ll also see in the back right corner, what looks like a golden mowhawk is actually a huge rubber made bin living my my tiny living room, FULL of more seed and grain to thresh and stow. My main objective these days in trying to find root seller like pockets around the place to stow away roots and onions, and squash, pears and potatoes… oh and somewhere to stash the nearly 200 jars of food I have put up this year. That is a challenge in 600 uninsulated sq feet, let me tell you. Vertical itragration is key, that is when the roof isn’t leaking over your neat vertical stacks of cans (but that is another story). Read the rest of this entry »

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Something happened this week, about mid week… we noticed the saskatoon berries were ripe and the tree that formerly lived with the chooks was FLUSH with purple juicy berries… ever since then it has been a rolling stone of harvesting food… mosquito mint bog abundance led way to cat tail collection, cherry tree pillaging and strawberry swaps with neighbors. But let me step back just a little…

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We are pumping out the compost these days! BUILDING SOIL 🙂

Jordan and I have made 2 huge hot “berkley method” piles since May and just started a 3rd with Christina and Sinisha the other day. We have brewed 3 batches of vermi-compost and comfry tea and yesterday we did a extract brew, which was a quick and easy option. The extract yesterday was made using worm casings / compost from the first pile / and some comfry leaves. The whole garden got a good dose of nutrients last night!

I always assumed that compost extracts were not as good as compost teas and so I hadn’t given them much thought, that is until I read Verge Permaculture’s recent article on tea and extract brewing, which inspired me to make an extract. In essence both methods use a constant supply of rapidly moving oxygenated water over a period of time to extract and or grow microbes. The problem that came up with the tea we produce is that you had to use it very quickly… like within hours, or the microbes start to eat away all the oxygen and then rapidly die off. With the extract you have a few days (up to 2 weeks) to get it all on the plants… which is helpful then you are supplying the nutrients by way of a watering can over an 12 000 sq/ft area of food production! The other benefit to producing extract over tea is that the aeration machine only needs to run for 2-3 hours rather than 24 hours… which makes for more quiet time in the mountains, and less energy of course.  This is the way have been brewing tea which is a really super boosted and viable method, and if I had a smaller yard or an easier application method I would use regularly. As it stand I think we will keep on the extract train for a while, and take our time to deliver the nutrients to the crops.

We finally got the worms moved outdoors and into a make shift home inside a tub. The plan is to still utilize a worm condo system and have two double stacks functioning inside a single tub. Right now we are repurposing some plastic food crates which are stackable and ideal. The new vermi-home shares a fence with the rabbit / chicken run and soon will house the rabbits on top. The worms are getting all the rabbit manure + straw bedding, plus all the tea and coffee grounds from the house, along with some misc kitchen scraps that the chooks don’t eat. The rest ends up in the big compost piles.

As for our berkley piles… we have been struggling a little with the nitrogen content of the old winter coop chicken manure muck, as it was intensely caked and somewhat aged yet totally anaerobic, YUCK it is nasty stuff. The first pile we did was way way way to hot, the second pile was made almost entirely of wood chips and manure trying to keep it from over heating, and I think we have finally found the right balance with the newest pile:  Incorporating wood ash, lots of diverse greens / weeds, the nasty old chook shit cakes, along with new poo and straw from the rabbits and the birds, some winter coat fur from Odin, wood chips, grass clippings, mushrooms, and bits from both the old piles and the creek bed for some added microbial excitement!

We have been using a number of different compost calculators online, and I found one that I really liked using here, These calculators are the perfect tool for building the right kind of compost, as the correct carbon to nitrogen ration is key to successful composting!  The calculator the results from our last pile are in the slideshow above, what I like most about this specific calculator tool, is you can use volumes of measure like : a wheelbarrow load (which is the easiest way for us to tally up our inputs) . We ended up with a 34 C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio which is ideal. We made the pile Thursday morning, and turned it Sunday morning for the first time, the temperature was sitting at 60 degrees. This soil building stuff is pretty amazing!

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I realized we have a few new faces (both fuzzy and feathered) around these parts and thought it was about time to introduce you to the new animals so here they are starting from newest to oldest:

5 tiny chicks, by way of a fram yard in Grand Forks come sweet little silkie chicks less than a week old. We think they look like Fraggles when they are mature with feather feet and huge flamboyant head plumes so we have been calling them: Red, Gobo, Boober, Wembley and Mokey, and a tribute to everyone’s favorite puppet master Jim Henson.

2 new zelend / rex rabbits; Romeo and Juliet, soon to be Ma & Pa… but it seems little Romeo (small white little guy) isn’t up for the challenge yet. All is not lost their poo is great and we are feeding it to the worms who can’t get enough, and they cause a great stir in the chicken yard when the start hopping around at top speed!

1 tiny home birth (or hatch as it may be) Feist sweet little black baby bird that looks mostly Americana, she is the second “child” of Madonna our gold breasted Brodie patriarch bird.

10000+ red wiggler worms! lovely happy poo eating machines! You may recall our excellent vermicompost tea brewing systems from last week! Today we are bubbling up another batch of vermi-comphry-tea for the garden, starts and guilds.

All the other lovely hens we have keep us in farm fresh rainbow eggs each day. I think with the new chicks we are up at about 26 stunning heritage birds.

And the keepers of us all, the night watchmen, dedicated loyal and diligent in their service to the fokes and the flock are MacKenzie and Odin. The best bear busting cougar chasing, deer stalking duo around!

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I am bubbling with excitement to share our latest adventure in composting…

Where to start… Well a few months back I got back on the vermi wagon and welcomed red wigglers back into my house, inspired by our friend Rob’s vermi-pod I created my own as a temporary  house for my magical compost factory. Today I harvested my first casting. But let me go back a little further…

When I was about 8 My grandma has this wonderful invention I adored, it was a home spa, a portable long oval plastic deck you would lay in the bottom of a tub, connected to a really loud motor that for periods of 5-30 minutes at a go you could enjoy the rejuvenating bubbles of a spa right in your own tub! I used to drown myself in bath foam and create epic mountains of bubbles and play for hours in the tub. Eventually I ended up with the home spa, and dragged it from house to house with me never really using it, but always remembering home much I loved it.

After moving to BC, I was taking my PDC at Mountain Waters Retreat in Nelson and we were learning about brewing compost tea commercially! How exciting this was for me, as I had had and loved vermicompost previously and had in my possession a huge oxygenating pad which would so easily act as a brewer. Joyfully I came home only to find out a mere 3 weeks earlier Dyl had finally tipped my home spa in the bin! WHAT.. there goes my dreams of free tea brewing.

About 3 months ago I was scrounging through a second hand store when a small familiar blue and white box caught my eye. low and behold it was a home spa! Just like the one I had lost. I snapped it up for $5, and today it had it’s virgin run.

We had a tragedy occur here at the farm, that is we lost all the tomato plants and the cuc’s in the course of a few days. (more on tabacco related deaths in a future post), but all of the sudden the health and vitality of my smallest tomato and pepper starts was of the up-most importance! The starts needed a major boost of love and care and it was time to bust out the worms and the brewer and get at it!

Here is what we did.

I harvested about 4 cups of casting (and coco-husk bedding, thus the increased amount) and bagged it in a reusable produce bag that essentially acts as a tea bag, we put the tea bag in a 40L rubbermade bin, filled it with water along with 1/2 cup of Mycrobez (a wonderful live enzyme product made in Kaslo, sourced from Bocashi composting), added about 1/2 cup of unsulfured molasses and  immersed the home spa in the bin. Weighted it down with a tree root and a pick axe, that we just happen to have been using all week, used vice grips to over ride the timer function and got the tea a brewing! And boy did it brew!

Any fears about the home spa’s lack of air flow were immediately quelled as it busted out some serious bubbles! As I type the tea is in it’s 4th hour of brewing and by this time tomorrow all of our plants will get a hard earned juice boost from our friends the worms!

And as we are now rabbit farmers too the worms will get there first taste of rabbit droppings and straw bedding tomorrow! Exciting times as the elements all start to come together around here. Stay tuned there is so much on the go, and I have a few more posts to share soon about earthworks, water, rabbits, and how tobacco plants kill tomatoes 😦

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Oh what a week we have had here!

Our new intern Jordan arrived last week just as Phil departed for a time, we are soaking up the the new and unstoppable energy and crossing many items of the ever building To Do list! Things are looking tidy around here and Dylan is bucking up stacks of trees and Jordan doesn’t ever put the axe down… which means the firewood stacks are growing to a promising size!

I moved my nightshade starts into their new temporary home in the sweet cold fame Jordan built and we have salad greens popping up everywhere! The garden has been all encompassing of my time these days and  Jordan and I have been spending endless hours digging and double digging the new massive potato patch, edged on one side by shelling peas set to climb up the fence and on the other is a cabbage and onions mound edged with a whimsical olive oil tin  kale / chard container boarder. We put 20+ lbs of potatoes in the ground today, 4 varieties, and are trying and interesting approach to planting… Firstly we set each start in the ground with a comfry leaf (to ward off scabs) placed 12″ apart in rows of triangles to maximize plants per space, then we gently covered them with dirt and will be building up layer after layer of straw mulch on top. The idea is that the potatoes grow in the straw rather than the ground, yielding clean and easily harvested  potatoes, hundreds and hundreds of them! Here is a good example of a straw potato patch success storey. Next we tackle the purple barley field and the corn crop.

This week we  travelled to a south slocan farm to meet our newest animal additions… a mating pair of rabbits. Just working on the design for hutch housing and dropping collection to easily feed the worms. The idea has spiralled into a bigger far more function stacked system, but while we have the skilled hands we might as well throw in a passive solar green house and compost tea brewing facility right!?!  We have orderd a few more chicks to keep our little solo babe company and have finally got our hands on the two breeds we have been after for some time; Marans which lay chocolate brown coloured eggs and Silkies which have a big white poof of feathers on their heads and look an awful lot like fragil rock creatures.

Our strawberries are flowering (which is so exciting because they will turn into the first strawberries ever from our land) and out guilded fruit trees from last year all look healthy and are popping with green, as is everything around us!

We managed to get our new hillside seeded out and planted with hundreds of basket willow starts to attempt to stabile the lot after our road work last year. Much more willow basket weaving is certain to be in my future.

We all managed to get the final strapping of the yurt roof done, it’s tied down, insulated and almost decoratively covered (with white tarp). Last night we celebrated with a fooz tourney, as the long stored foos ball table now has a home in the man-yurt. It is all most move in ready, with a well working door and a new temporary (albeit ugly) roof cap, that is a repurposed fiberglas massive satelight dish. We have sweet vintage metal cabinets to use in the new yurt ( or the Murt; man-yurt as we have been lovingly referring to it as) and the makings of a nice little kitchenette, complete with a bar fridge and a sudo- sink.

This next week the boys will finally tackle the unfinished 3/10th’s of  tin roof on woodhenge! This will mean dry storage and re-stacking of lumber in racking!

We built and have been monitoring a whopping HOT compost pile… Ahh nothing like the smell of steamy cooking compost to get you up in the morning! Actually the pile got a little too hot, and took some effort to cool it down, but it will be lovely and ready shortly. Jordan took an in depth soil studies class with Doug Weatherbee last year and there is another round of this class I am really interested in attending this month in Alberta hosted by Verge. I love the study of soil and making it and it would be dreamy to get out to this workshop.

Speaking of interesting things happening in Alberta, The Western Canada Permaculture Convergence is happening this August (24-26) and it is certain to be an amazing event! Many of our friends are involved in making it a success and it will be a fabulously inspiring weekend of learning and sharing and networking!

I have been working on this post for a number of days, and since starting it Phil has re joined our team here, and I was happy he made it back in time for all of us to take in the May Day – Water Celebration. Winlaw’s annual festival in celebration of our stunning water in this special place. The event is a long day of music and dancing and reuniting with friends as we all shake of the winter and celebrate the spring, complete with a drum lead parade from “downtown” to the river for a blessing. The whole community joined in singing “down to the river to pray” and it was a breathtaking and fabulous! What a special place  to be.

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a solid fir compression ring.

This is compression ring number 3 here at tricycle acres… this one the most rudimentary by far, in fact as we starting slamming what is now known as the man yurt or the “murt” together a week a go today, we were dreaming of a self supporting reciprocal roof rafters, built from the poles our intern Phil has been peeling by the dozens. The reciprocal method was not going to work on this yurt we discovered after pole #4, but with the help of our friend Dino… steady on we kept at ‘er and threw up a car rim up as the centre point… the poles all fit in really nicely cut using the on the fly chain-saw method of precision cutting 30 degree angles, the structure almost built itself… until it didn’t. That is to say somewhere around pole number 20 (of a planned 32) something went array and the hugely tensile rim shifted to lay less than level to the world. We hummed and ratchet strapped and tweaked, and some poles rained down on us, before Dyl packed it in for the shop to build another compression ring for yet another round pole structure!

The new ring went up today and the roof plugged together in just a few short hours (now we were really practised). So today day 7 from newly cleared very uneven sloped land we now have a built from scratch 20 foot yurt complete with solid fir lattice walls and and cedar pole roof, sitting on a plywood deck built on a super solid foam block piling system engineered with with pallet wrap and some scrap plywood. We have not used one bit of manufacture yurt parts yet… but Tomorrow we haul the skins and insulation up from the barn (which is fast walking down the hill MUST GET IT STABILIZED..and soon). Then we go recover a HUGE old satelight dish that has been given to us to make the murt roof cap! The door comes from the Thread Guild heritage building complete with antique glass knobs (my favourite) ! Ahh Upcycled yurt in a week and a bit!

SWEET.

The yurt is sitting smack daub in the middle of what we now call PERMA-CAMP. Our intern / camper / overflow / friends and family outback! Can’t wait to watch this area evolve into a little camp town. I am a happy girl…. better amenities out there mean less impact in here. This tiny space seems ever tinier by the day. Soon we’ll have a heated shower and sink in perma camp, as well as a little kitchen in the yurt. I am hoping someone will build a couple tent decks so our tenting pals have some flat land to set up on. To day we hung a hammock at the camp and are talking about building a nice bench around the central yew tree. yew sit. yew think. yew rest, here. The view is stunning up at  the camp and I am thrilled to be moving forward and crossing things off the fridge list each day.

Today the fruit tree’s got mulched heavily with wet straw and some poopy chicken straw all set above coils of soaker hose and perennial companion guilds. I have planted out a few beds so far… carrots and onions, and beets. My starts are exploding! I have the healthiest tomatoes and cucs starts of my gardening career right now! Eeee! The garden plan is in place and I am chewing away at it as I can fit it between yurting and cooking and baking.

I am looking forward to a few focused garden weeks ahead with our next intern, as we take on some raw couch grassy new land and put in some keyhole garden beds as well as the hugelkultur  bed, which we have been amassing materials for. In fact “hugel” has become a verb around here… “hugel it” we say everyday as we add to the sorted orderly piles of forest materials: burn pit, rocket fuel, hugel bed, future build pile, firewood stack.. etc.

The spring clean is on, and we are sorting and hauling and stacking EVERYTING! even the red mossy van got hauled away today! The wagon is next and soon maybe even the old ford van and truck too!

The trees are about to burst… the buds look like they couldn’t possibly stay closed one more day, and the bee’s and the swallows and the song birds are all back, as are the eagles and the bears! Oh and we have found our first mating pair of rabbits.. and are off to meet them this week! Mating, and babies, meat and fur, vermicompost, compost  tea … here we come.

Oh and moma bird looks to be a certified one hit wonder, again we only have 1 chickie. Funny we named her Madonna and yet her sister hen Cindy Lopper has yet to set but would have been a better name for our moma hen.

Yesterday I went to the annual yard and yardage sale at the Threads Guild and loaded up on sprawling flowering perennial plants to add to the “bee garden” and birch graveyard. We are drillingout old tree stumps for bee condos set amid rhododendron and bee balm and now motherwort and another 5 or so blue and purple flower plants I will likely never remember the names of!

I am so bagged… long hard days hauling heavy dirty shit around. And to think we are only weeks into it all. Living the good life.

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I am so very grateful today.

I am grateful for the sun back in our lives, for vitamin D and the warmth on our skin and plants. I am grateful for the renewal of energy we are all feeling and for health (again). I am grateful for the internship opportunity we opened ourselves up to the lessons we are learning, and the great enthusiasm that Phil is bringing to out little slice of mountain. I am grateful that our family is all on board with this whole crazy adventure, of living this more difficult yet more rewarding life. I am grateful for the new food bursting from the ground. I am grateful for the new tiny little lives beginning here. I am grateful for this special community we found.

ah.

THE FIRST BABY CHICKIE OF THE YEAR HATCHED TODAY! Not that I am counting my chickens before they hatch, I learned that the hard way last year (funny how applicable all of these old antics are these days, as we live here on and with the land)…  Madonna is still sitting on a nice little pile of eggs, so we’ll see if more hatch in the next day or two. I did the nesting mom thing today and cleaned the old coop up for her and the babies, picked up chickie feed and did a little baby proofing of the waddle and daub coop, where moma and babies can live in peace as the other birds are all in the new forest coop.

I managed to get the cold frame filled with greens, and the plants seems to stretch up toward the sun in gratitude for their new home. I enjoyed a few sunny warm hours in the garden today cleaning up beds, finding new surprise onions bursting from the earth, along with the 150+ garlic’s I planted in the fall all perky and bright green, reaching for the blue sky.

The guys we’re busy filling old tires with old plywood and old chicken wire along with a cement mix full of wood pulp fibres from our chipper. The old cement mixer fired right up after living in the garden all winter. The tires will be yurt footing, I think I already mentioned that. I have a vision of this second yurt being all things upcycled. I am dreaming of pallet furniture and maybe even a pallet board walk, we plan to repurpose an old satelight dish for the yurt cap. Hoping some of our interns will have some good waste stream diversion ideas to make their accommodations even better!

I have to say we are just loving having an extra pair of eager hands around here. Phil is keeping Dylan on track and working hard, projects are coming together rapidly. And I truly think this 2nd yurt will actually happen in the next couple weeks! How great is that?! This whole process is taking some getting used to; sharing space and time, responsibilities and obligations. I am having to keep Phil fed with hearty food at reasonable hours… trying to get a regular schedule together on the meal front. It is much easier to put off feeding the family at regular times, but when you have someone so diligently sweating it out fuel is super important! All things doable and manageable I am certain.

The garden plans seems so much more real these days now that I can see the earth again! The biggest food task will be turning the hill side above the existing garden (shown in slideshow, yurt in background garden fence posts on left, lots of tree bits and mulch piles, where food will grow soon). Grain crops this year will be barley and corn.. both in large volumes (large by our standards that is), I plan to do more buckwheat too, but likely just to enjoy as micro greens.. mmm missing those tender crunchy bits these days! Looking at adding keyhole gardens and hugelkultur beds in this area as we are drowing in wood chunks and brush looking for a new purpose.

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My backwoods moma girlfriend Kathy of blissbeyondnaptime up the valley has been without a little cock on the side for some time (poor girl) and as I have more cock than I know what to do with these days, I had to share with her (return of surplus: permaculture ethic). Her husband was on board with the new cock coming to stay so long as he wasn’t viscous like the last dearly departed one they had on the farm!  She was after a gentle good looking rooster with just enough strut in his step to keep her harem of hens happy, and I think we found just the cock for her… GILGAMESH, a stunning display of a Speckled Sussex heritage breed.  We introduced him to his new coop and home and her dexter calf MEATBALL trotted over right away to inspect the new cock of the walk. Her hens were all pretty lively and cautiously interested in the new rooster!

I think the chooks round here will be a little happier with the needs of one less little man to consider day to day. Speaking of those chooks, they are all so chickenness-of-the-chicken happy in their new forest home!  The first few nights our little bantam birds slept way way way up in the cedar trees just the two of them and I mean 20-30 feet up! After a bad descent which lead to yet another dog chase, I had to get proactive and herd them into the coop and lock ’em up with the other birds for the night, just to be safe… and mainly to keep them from the Odin side of the fence in the wee hours of the morning! Hopefully I don’t need to corral the birds each night, and a night of sleeping under the feather wings of ELVIS will keep them coming back into the coop for more hunka hunka burning love!

We are having some serious discussions about Odin’s future round here, just yesterday he jumped out of a moving car to chase a run away llama down the road! Much to my neighbours delight. Seems his hunt drive is in full tilt, and maybe he needs to find a new home OFF the range! We are sadly humming over this all 😦

Meanwhile Dylan built me some beautiful solid cedar wooden cold frames using old storm windows and mill scraps… so sweet! Tomorrow they will get filled with salad greens as they harden off and get ready to go in the ground! We have begun deconstructing the old chicken coop, are still waiting for the chicks to hatch, and have starting making concrete pilings inside old car tires for the 2nd yurt footing! Big old compost pile on the go and lots of sunny warm days to keep us busy outside! Whew.

I have been spreading the word about POTTING BLOCKS as I am mad in love with this new seed starting technique! Thanks to Rob from Verge Permaculture for getting me onto them… and my girlfriend Renata from the Red Snow Shoe followed suit shortly there after my ravings of happy block making… she is having great success’s too, read about her blocking adventures here! My window is full of fresh green life, growing steady and strong and straight! The few investments I made this year are all ready paying off dividends! We will be eating salad greens next week!

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