from the cold

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We got our first real taste of winter this week. It has been -15C the past few days, and that feels so much colder than the -3 we have become used to around here! My sister and her boyfriend are visiting this week, so we have been busy utilizing the extra hands as well as taking it easy and enjoying showing off the beauty of this land. Jessie and Dylan brought down some more dead standing for firewood and I know Dyl was thrilled to have more man hands around to make that task easier. Pauly and Jessie have also taken over the chicken tasks; eggs, water , food and fun. and this afternoon they will enjoy a lesson in coop cleaning 101.

We are also down 1 rooster now. Dearly Departed : Sid Viscous (aka head stomper). He had it out with Elvis for the last time, his white neck, covered in blood, Elvis hiding in the little coop bleeding and scared, that was the last straw Sid was put in solitary confinement for a day, to wait until Pauly and Jessie arrived, so that they could have a lesson in chicken business, all the messy parts of it. I tried to give him away, even wrote a glowing ad thinking someone might want to breed his magnificentness but alas the offers came to late and Sid now rest in the freezer. We all said our goodbyes to the rooster that was just to much cock for our little farm. The girls in the coop all seem much calmer and the boys; Elvis and little banty Baron are doing just fine with the new pecking order.

We have started pruning some of the fruit trees, the meter of hard packed snow makes it easier to reach lots of the branches, but we will need a tall ladder to hack down the top 1/3 of the monstrous cherry trees! The apple tree was an undertaking, and it not only shed a decade of neglected shoots and branches, but the boys also cut down the HUGE birch tree that has been shading it and the grape vines (as the sun set I might add, the big tree went down with the last of the days light).

So I am hopeful for the apple tree’s future harvests. To combat the caterpillars and ants that devastated it last year, I plan to use a combination of the following solutions to hopefully find some success: run the chickens around the base of the tree early spring, wrap a sticky product called tanglefoot around the trunk, begin mulching below (as soon as the morells are plucked from beneath and enjoyed), and then I will start working on a beneficial guild to plant around the base; I am thinking of comfrey (to harvest for the chooks who love it), mint (which we have a bog full of), fennel, yarrow and chive. I will post photos and report on the guild and bug situation as the summer progresses.

We are chopping up the branches from the apple tree pruning this afternoon, sorting and storing by size, to be used for our future rocket stove, and for making buttons and beads for my crafty creations.

I have been digesting as much info as I can on planting and co planting and, guilds and polycultures to test out in my expanded garden areas. I can’t wait until the snow is gone and I get can to work in the garden! So much to do, maybe I will even scan my site plan and post it too.

The other day we adventured through the ghost town of Sandon on route to the Ainsworths hot spring. Recently Dylan read the book Slocan: Portrait of a Valley, and it was really interesting to see the site of Sandon while imagining the stories of saloons in bitter battles for patrons, and fires, and miners. Lately we have been watching the HBO series (on loan from my Mom) Deadwood, which has also helped make the storeys of this areas mining and pioneering history so visually recognizable for us.

Mia’s down hill skiing wrapped up at school, as did their weekly cross country skiing, but last week they did a winter survival outing on snowshoes. And her teacher sent me these beautiful pictures. I guess Santa did well last year by putting snowshoes under the tree:)
For the first time in our entire lives, show shoes are actually a necessity, we donned the shoes daily for our adventures through the back 40 (well back 8, to be technical ), that is until the snow got it’s thick hard crust on it.. and now we can walk anywhere and feel like giants while we do!
It is a special time of year (albeit cold this week) the sun is sweeping higher overhead, the skies have been blue in the day, and crystal clear at night sprinkled with a zillion stars. And last weekend when the moon was full and the skies had no clouds the beauty was indescribable. The snow cap’s on the ridges around us glowed blue and bright white. I don’t think a day goes by where something here doesn’t take my breath away.

A hint of Spring

Spring is just around the corner, at least it feels that way. We had rain the other night, and today the sun was shinning and the melt was on. We are in for an epic melt off this year… as we are blanketed in a meter of snow still, it may be a late start to spring planting. Look at this image! I took this picture last weekend, when the sky’s were flowing like a river of clouds, it felt like our mountain way tumbling, because there was so much rolling in the sky above, it was something else to watch!

We have been in the snowshoes lots these days, measuring out our home site, looking at what trees need to come down to allow for ideal solar gain. We have also repositioned our future green house chicken coop 3 times, and I think we have settled on a great location, finally! It seems although there is a lot of talk in Permaculture circles about chicken heated greenhouses, yet there aren’t any actual examples of it (that I have found anyway, albeit there is lots of discussion about the illusive topic) Well we are going to give it a go, and we are combining some great passive solar design ideas along with great new suggestion on passive ventalation from my Permaculture instructor Rob Avis (who visit here last night) Continue reading