Pig-in-a-Day

Back by popular demand! Another adventure in pig butchery!

This 5 hour workshop will include hands on instruction from our local butcher
in how to break down a whole hog. Basic and advance cuts, sausage making
and bacon curing along with traditional preserving techniques. At the end of the
day you will leave with the fundamental knowledge  to break down your own pigs,
along with new tool & knife skills.

Your Instructor Ben Carson is the new co-owner of Legendary Meats in Slocan
Park, along with his wife Victoria. Ben has spent the past 12 years in the meat
industry; working in all aspects of butcher and management. His real passion lies
in whole beast butchery, trying to minimize waste in a very commercially wasteful
industry. Plus he is insanely entertaining + knowledgeable.

to register please email vpg

Bobcat Buffet Blues

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We had a bit of a grim week here on the homestead. We lost a number of our lovely heritage hens to what I at first though was a owl… turns out it was a bobcat. I have my stealthy CSA-biology friends to thank for the lesson in prints and tracking. A very determined bobcat just kept coming back for more birds, our dog even got in on the action once the cat sent chooks scrambling every which way. Poor deers were in lock down for 2 days while their new home was prepared for them, we all got a taste of battery hen life for 48 hours, YUCK!.

Last month I almost threw in the towel on the chickens after another loosing battle between chicken and dog, and this I am afraid was the last straw, well actually the last straw might have been the water freezing up, and the straw that broke the camels back would be the bobcat. I feel so sad and personally responsible for each of their little lives, so losing bird after bird was just too much for me. Maybe I ought to stick to veggie farming! Thankfully our chickens have been re-farmed together, roosters and all, are living happily and safely down the way at One Rock Farm, where we can visit often.

Now that we are down 26 little critters up on here on the hillside it is so quiet. I am really sad to not have chicken for the first time in all of these year ūüė¶ I miss my girls already.

I guess our little visitors will have to settle for a peek into the top bar hive windows to get their farm critter fix for the time being. It will be nice to regroup and consider some more hearty animals to potentially introduce to the homestead… or not. . But we are looking forward to new challenges and adventure for 2014!

We are close to rolling out our permaculture internship opportunities for the upcoming season, and I am thrilled to announce a stellar opportunity at my most favorite Organic Garden Market / CSA Farm around… Ravine Creek Farm! Stay turned, posting to follow!

growing good memories

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This blog has certainly gone through an evolution from progress reports on our families transition to rural life, to being an outlet for the community projects and events I am so passionate about creating and promoting. Today I sit in a warm insulated space (for the first time in years) and look out on to our little mountain side farm and take in all of the blood sweat and tears that have got us where we are today…

Our Kootenay adventure started with a lovely piece of land and a gross moldy trailer. We started with gardens and chickens, built woodhenge, and a new road, two yurts, then a lovely outdoor shower house. We added hugelbeds and food forest systems, amazing onsite fertility programs, then came the rabbits and the bees. A cob rocket oven and a cob bench with outdoor kitchen space in the garden even a new green house. Perennial food abounds and now we are surrounded with community fresh water and love.

We couldn’t have done all that we have without the help, and love and support of our families and friends…. and our Interns. ‘Oh our interns…

Two years ago I took the advise of my friend and permaculture teacher Rob, he suggested I forgo the WWOOf’ers I was thinking about adding into the fold and look for folks who share our permaculture ethics and could really embrace and explore the techniques we are playing with here. So in 2011 I offered Permaculture Internships for the 2012 season, and for the past 21 months we have had continuous interns living with us.

Today is the first day Since Feb of 2012 that we are without interns, namely without Jordan. Jordan came here back in April of 2012 bright eyes and eager to live in the mountains and build on the solid permaculture education foundation he had. His 6 week commitment soon passed and we all decided that the energies we had as a team were worth holding on to.¬† All of our interns came and went for the season and Jordan was integral to their orientation and settling in.¬† Actually he was integral to just about everything around here, our fertility program was ramped up 10 fold as soon as we teamed up on the pitch forks! Jordan has a great ability to retain just about everything he reads (I am more of a skimmer) so having him drop facts and stats on a whim was always amazing. Jojo made all the crazy permie dreams totally doable, especially when he introduced us to his white board system of tasks and goals.¬† Every time I dreamed up another event or community project or planting guild idea, Jordan was there to back me up, or take on the challenge¬† himself and ace it. Not only is he a kind and amazing person we were thrilled to have here, he had also become my personal spell check / proof reader… you all can probably see by now how important that role is to me, as I’m a copy editors worst nightmare!¬† At the end of the harvest last year we took on a big project, out biggest ever and he was eager to stay through the winter and we were thrilled to have him, he was after all part of our little family by then. Together we starting creating our internship program for the coming season and soon realized, although we were overwhelmed with amazing applications and emails, we were going to build on the family we had made with Jordan. We invited his CSA team from years early to join ours and took on the lofty task of housing 3 full time – 3 season interns.

It was still snowy when Dave arrived from Victoria, and he was keen to chop wood, haul trees, wild craft and hone some carpentry skills. Jordan and Dave were living in the “Murt” together and built a really great loft space. Dave brought us music, and a good dose of laughter. Dr Kombuchy start brewing kombucha for all of us and caring for all the little critters and wee seedlings. We started our (2nd attempt) and breeding rabbits; we had a buck and 3 does and Dave took on that process entirely; from salvaging scraps of everything to assemble their new bunny palace, through the the daily care. Dave was a vegetarian when he arrived, however he was moving toward eating meat from small, local, organic and loving producers which was totally inline with the way we eat… he was in for a big surprise however when our little piggie, Bacon (raised by our friend) was ready for market shortly after Dave’s arrival. Poor guy sat nearby and watched me use every grueling nasty bit of that pig in preparation for Pig-in-a-day. Wow that was a tough 3 days for everyone; Dyl and Jojo did the killing and the skinning and scraping, and face peeling, and I boiled the heads and prepared the organs then created a workshop for 20+ folks to come and learn from our friend Ben the Butcher how to break that beast down.

By the time Isis arrived in the spring there were still remnants of pig… I think she found a hoof buried in the food forest on her first day in the soil! And of course she enjoyed the smoked bacon we were serving. Isis came along to the farm right around the time that Jordan brought home Balou, son of Odin (our golden guard dog) and soon the 3 of them; jordan Isis and Balou were all sleeping outside in the wood shed and Dave had the yurt to himself. Isis was a magic addition to our growing team. Her days were often spent tending to the garden, weeding and planting, and most importantly observing! She is a stellar observer.¬† Isis and I decided before her arrival that this was the time to finally take on bee keeping.. something we both so wanted to do, so together with the help of some serious queen bee guardians; Elise and Christina, we had the confidence to welcome and care for our new holistically managed bee colony. What a joy. Isis also came to be my number 1 dishwasher (feeding 6 meant for lots of dishes), and wild crafting and harvesting goto. I soon came to know that tone in her voice “…and the cucumbers” this meant I had many a basketful she was hoping to bring in and have me process in short order “the squash, the tomatoes, the grapes, the cabbage (the blue ribbon cabbage that is)…” the list goes on and on. We had our most productive and abundant year ever and this I blame heavily on Isis and her garden fairy magic.

As harvest wound down and the wood supply stacked up it was time for Dave to move on, back to the coast again with a soul-craft stop over. Dave is working with “Farmer Mike” (who I look forward to meeting someday) doing urban farming in Victoria. Maybe Dave’s most important legacy he left in the Kootenays was our daughters new interest and skills in music namely the¬†ukulele and the songs they rocked together at open mike! Dave we raise a cup of turmeric tea to you, and wish you nothing but the best. love + gratitude to you.

Isis and Jordan are back home in the rambling foothills of Alberta now ready for a new page in their adventure together. With a heated home (novel idea) and lots of land to craft and observe, manage and care for. Our community’s loss is Black Diamond’s gain. Those two will do great things together. Jordan, Isis we love you both so much, and can’t wait to see how your future evolves. We wouldn’t be here without everything you have done to help us achieve our dreams. Thank You!

Cheese Please + Thank You

David ranks among the best instructors of all time! The feedback from our Homesteading 101 Natural Cheese making Class has been overwhelming… EVERYONE has been praising Davids workshop! Kelly Brown sent along some lovely photos from the day and I wanted to share a few of the great emails I received praising the guerrilla cheese maker. David Thanks so much for traveling inland so far to bring us not 1 but 2 amazing workshops, and for taking the time to share your experiences with the Valley Permaculture Guild at our monthly meeting (first Monday of each month @ Vallican Whole 6:30)

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“Cheese class was frickin’ phenomenal!!!!! I‚Äôm so ramping it up and inspired ‚Äď can‚Äôt wait to get at er.” – Renata

“Great workshop! David was awesome, that was perfect. Thanks to you and Isis, Bryce, Kelly for your work to get it together. Cranking out the cheeses now…” -Andrew

”¬†We had an amazing time at the cheese workshop – David is an incredible educator as well as cheese maker! ” – Liz

“Irme and I really enjoyed the Cheesemaking class with David, and are enthused to try out what we learned¬† on Sunday :-)” – Claire

“I have a lifetime of taking some wonderful courses, even travelling overseas for some of my training.¬† The Cheesemaking course with David was on my list of the top three courses that I have ever taken thus far.¬† The range of information received, the vast amount of cheeses that were covered and the taste testing¬† – Nosteemo!!¬† All was perfectly done!” – Judy

Natural Cheesemaking 101

cheese-webposter

Learn to make cheese with David Asher of the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking. David will demonstrate the techniques for making chevre, mozzarella,¬† paneer, yogourt cheese, kefir, alpine cheeses and mouldy cheeses. The workshop will emphasize a ‚Äėnatural cheesemaking‚Äô, with a focus on simple, DIY techniques that can be easily reproduced at home. David will also discuss the history and science of cheesemaking and the politics of raw milk.¬† Students will also get to take home their very own cheese-making pets!

David Asher is an organic farmer,  goatherd and farmstead cheesemaker on the gulf islands of British Columbia.  A guerrilla cheesemaker, David explores traditionally cultured, non-corporate methods of cheesemaking.  Though mostly self-taught, he picked up his cheese skills from various teachers, including a Brown Swiss cow named Sundae on Cortes Island.

Find more info about David and his delicious cheese at: guerrilacheese

Sunday September 1 at the Vallican Whole in the Slocan Valley

This workshop is $45, and space is limited. To register please email the valley permaculture guild or call 250-226-7402

This is part of our HOMESTEADING 101 essential skill Workshop series.

COMING SOON: HOMESTEADING 101

homesteading 101 workshop series

We are so excited to announce an upcoming series of HOMESTEADING 101 WORKSHOPS; These will start in August and continue through the winter. We are assembling a number of experts both from our own community and from afar to come and teach some serious homesteading skill building. The concept is to offer affordable education in rural homesteading skills.

Canning, cheese making, charcuterie, sourdough, fermenting, game butchery, on farm humane slaughter, poultry & rabbit processing just to name a few! If your an expect and would like to coordinate a workshop in this series please contact VPG (email below).

We will be kicking this off at at the end of August with a premium Artisan Cheese Workshop followed by a hot water bath canning class in September. Both of these will take place before PICKLE PALOOZA 2013, planning for that is underway too and tentatively happening late September.

If you are interested in: vending : volunteering ; or demoing at PICKLE PALOOZA please drop us a line directly at vpg (at) rbrand.ca

STAY POSTED for more details about this new skill building series!

june at a glance

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Seems like things have been so busy it’s hard to find time to snap a few pictures and write a quick update… but here goes.

The sun has finally come back to us after a week and a half of gloomy grey rainy days, unfortunately it has come back with vengeance and we are bracing for near 40C temperatures YIKES. Good news is the spring has seemed pretty dry and hot, so it feels like the mosquitoes are at bay this year and the garden is in a full flush of green.

The green house which was a new addition this spring is a nightshade jungle with monstrous tomato plants, dozens and dozens of hot peppers and bushels of basil. We are all grazing sun warmed strawberries which is a far cry from the 3 berries we had last year. The raspberry canes are flush with not yet ripe berries (another berry first for us!), and the Saskatoon tree is near exploding with almost ready to bake berries, maybe two million of them, same with the cherry trees. We have a old little plum tree that has come into it’s own this year… I think one of the new varieties of plums we planted has actually become a pollinator for it and it is now drenched in fruit for the first time ever… how exciting is that?

As for the cob oven… with all the rain we haven’t gotten far yet, but we did build a cob-wood base to improve the mushroom like esthetic it had, and now I adore that shape. We have had 1 test fire of the rocket and it was awesome. Tonight we are going to try to bake in it, and hopefully that is the start of many future pizza parties! The bench is waiting on it’s cedar seating addition still along with the kitchen counter top and sink install… Poor Dylan’s to-do list grows everyday. I will report back on how the baking goes tonight!

The other cool addition to the outdoor living area was a major upgrade to the already fabulous shower house… we are officially off the juice for our heat, and have been heating our showers with only compost pile heated coil and it’s brilliant! We have worked out a few kinks out and are happy to host 5 minutes smoking hot –¬† mostly warm showers all with a big old mound of nitrogen and carbon! Compost is magic on all fronts!

Hmm what else is new? The rabbits are growing bigger and our moma has just spent a romantic weekend with Peter Rabbit so hopefully she has come home pregnant. Our silkie chicken is broody and setting on a small clutch, and the other chicks from early spring are getting huge and happy as can be. Our bee’s are AMAZING! they have made 6 or 8 new combs and are bringing in so much pollen, and working so hard in their new home.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish with 6 pares of hands and more time and sense than money!

a sticky housewarming

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Oh boy have we had some real adventures getting these bees cozy here on the homefront…

Our buzzing nuke arrive Saturday afternoon, with some 60 other nukes of Canadian, naturally raised honeybees from about 3 hours west of us. The beekeeper delivered them in person and was on hand to answer questions and tell us all about his gentle approach to raising and breeding honeybees. We then took in a couple demonstrations of how to install the nukes into their new home. The nuke’s are actually 4 frames of brood (baby’s and larva), capped honey, nectar, pollen, bees and a queen of course. All of this is settled onto small traditional rectangle frames… which to be installed into a top bar hive, need to be (somewhat brutally) chopped and strung into position to accommodate their new sacred geometry housing.

This process was actually painfully traumatizing for us newbie beekeepers, as we had to literally chop cells of larva and babies in half, all the while new baby bee’s were being born on the frame! I understand that this is far more horrific for us humans than for the bees.

Our first task was opening the box and seeking out our queen, frame by frame. We found her pretty quickly, then moved onto the sticky job I described above, and finally moved the little colony into their stunning new top bar hive. We made a batch of energy boosting “bee tea” with dandelion petals, thyme, nettles and organic cane sugar, and started observing in awe.

Fascinating! What lovely creatures honeybee’s are.

We had our first swarm scare (like new parents) we have been hyper aware of what is normal, and what is alarming, and twice now we have found a buzzing crazy entrance way to the hive. Soon after, we realized (with the help of google) that this was not pre-swarm activity, and thankfully our bee’s were not rejecting their new home… rather it was baby bee flight school! OMG, imagine dozens and dozens of tiny new bee’s taking their maiden flight, all the while working bee’s are coming and going, bringing in huge bulging leg-fulls of bright yellow pollen!

Our garden is even more alive with this ever present group of gentle and beautiful pollinators! It’s hard to keep out of the hive, they are so engrossing. Isis and I have fallen so hard for these bees, I can’t believe it took me so long to make this move.

Anyone considering beekeeping I would strongly recommend exploring top bar hives and holistic bee guardianship. What a rewarding partner in diversity and food security bees are.

Here are a few lovely places on the web to explore: thequeenbeeproject backyardbees backyardhive biobees

honey-bee-busy

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We are all pretty excited about the 20 000 sum new girls we are going to have a round here!

Our nuc of honeybees arrives on Sunday, sourced from a holistic bee keeper in Vernon, this Canadian born Queen and her entourage will be nice and cozy in the lux top bar hive Dyl has been building them. Isis and I have been taking in as much bee education and hands on opportunities to learn as we can, and with the support of 3 of our local girl friends who are all taking on bee’s this year too… I think we are going to make a great home for our team of pollinators!

Isis was so busy yesterday broadcasting flower seeds (following again the bio-dynamic calender) all over the place! It’s too bad our bees have already missed all the cherry, plum, apple, and all the other fruit tree blossoms and we had to pinch all the blueberry flowers… but there will be so many more blossom to come!

… Just a short and sweet update, more to follow.

guilding + growing + buzzing

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What a great few weeks of progress on the garden front! Our starts have been going strong and have slowly been moving out into the yard and into cold frames. Dave (our new intern from down under) has been tirelessly moving earth, cleaning up pathways and edges, and prepping for our cob kitchen expansion (more on that soon, as we are hosting and offering a cob oven and cob bench workshop in the near future, with the help of our 3 local cob builders!)

Just yesterday we picked up 20 blueberry bushes from our local nursery: Against the Wind and left with a couple dozen asparagus crowns as well, which just happened to be the missing piece of the berry guild I have been designing! The honeyberry guild fills a small patch of ground that I had planted with annuals and 2 honey berries last year, I got no fruit from these¬† blue velvet, honey berry bushes. When I was¬† working with Adrienne Buckley (master food forest guru / plant encyclopedia) of Big Sky Permaculture last weekend at the¬†Groundswell Design Practicum, he noted that like blueberries, you needed more than one variety to obtain a fruit harvest. Geez, a fact I won’t soon forget… anyway I came home with 2 additional and different varieties of honey-berries and yesterday we planted out this fun little guild: Here is the design which sits opposite a wire fence from my daughters flower and medicinal herb garden plot so there is actually a whole lot of pollinator attractants and medicine growing here too:

honey berry guild

Right after planting this guild I dashed up to the dojo for a fabulous afternoon of natural bee keeping with Christina of The Queens Bee Project! What a wonderful¬† way to spend a day, listening and learning from someone so impassioned and moved by the bees. We leaned a lot about top bar hives, and holistic approached to keeping bees, and using organic essential oil hydrosaul to prevent and treat disease. For the past 4 years I have been working on learning about bees and creating bee habitat while working towards becoming a bee guardian…. and now seems an ideal time to take the big step, for so many reasons: We have the plans for a top bar hive which Dyl¬† has the skill to assemble quickly, and we will revise the design based on Christina’s Kootenay ready design tweaks. 3 of my girlfriends locally are all venturing into the world of bee keeping this spring too, and we have a number of friends who have been doing it for some time to draw on for support. There is a new bee keeping network being creating right now in Castlegar, and our last intern for the season (who we are eagerly awaiting her arrival) is right now studying top bar bee keeping with Elise of ABC in Calgary (whom we adore, as she set me down this path 4 years ago now, when she participated in a local food event I organized back in Calgary). So it looks like we are all set for hosting bee’s here in just a few weeks! Eeeeeeee!

buzzing with excitement!