All posts by Erin

On the wonderful, yet underappreciated, slug

I love slugs.  I had pet slugs as a kid, and I still remember holding my finger still to see what would happen as a slug delicately rasped at my finger with its radula.

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We have a large number of slugs, both at the proto-farm and at our plot in the community garden, and they have been much on my mind.  Permaculture teaches that “The problem is the solution”, but it’s up to me to figure out how to apply the solution.

Do all slugs do the same kind of damage to seedlings?  Do some focus on breaking down dead plant matter, while others focus on tender lettuces?  What if we allowed slugs to do our thinning for us (or planted twice as much), instead of composting all those tiny little extra plants?  What if slug poop is some kind of magical substance that helps soil to glow with life?

I’m going to be watching slugs, this year.  I’m going to see what they take out (all my cucumbers!), and what they leave.  I may do a trial bed next year, with heavy slug control on one side and light control on the other, to see if slug poop is a miracle fertilizer.

Anyone have any ways that slugs have helped them in the garden, besides being duck-food?

First work party!

For our first work party, some fabulous and hard-working folk from Vancouver came and Moved Lots of Stuff From One Place To Another.

Moving Log Stuff to make a driveway
Moving Log Stuff to make a driveway
Moving Car Stuff
Moving Car Stuff
Hmm.. not road-worthy?
Hmm.. not road-worthy?

We cleaned out most of the big stuff from the foundation, including some bees.

Poking the bees with a sharp stick
Poking the bees gently with a sharp stick

We found some treasures.

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And then: moved more stuff.

Old Hay Stuff
Old Hay Stuff

All in all, a lovely time with good people.  Thanks, guys!

Amazing job!
Amazing job!

MilkingmilkingmilkingCOWS!

A little while ago, Christiana and I got the opportunity to learn how to milk cows.  Initially, the cows were a little intimidating, but as we learned how things worked and got to know the cows individually, the cows seemed to shrink in size and grow in personality and intelligence.

Hello, Tuba!
Hello, Tuba!

When one is milking, one is not only getting something from the cow, one is also giving ease from a full udder.  The cows sighed, and moved their feet as we asked them to so that we could help them become more comfortable.  They’re eager to come into the milking parlour, and not only for the small portions of grain that they’re allowed.

Actual Milking!
Drinking the mammary secretions of another mammal?  Humans are so weird.

The milk is collected in a giant metal can, and then poured through a filter and into jars.

There’s a lot of steps, in milking, to keep the milk clean and the cows healthy.  We wash the teats, wash our hands, wash the parlour, wash All The Things.

Do we wash it?  Yes We Do!
Do we wash it? Yes We Do!

Eventually, as we get better at this, we’re hoping to get our milk for the week in under 90 minutes.  We belong to a full cow-share, where we all split the cost and care of the cow and we each take home whatever milk is available on the day we milk.  It’s such a wonderful opportunity, to be able to try out cow-ownership with only 1/7 the cost and effort.  I have no idea whether a family cow is in our future, but it certainly seems more possible now than it did two weeks ago.  And given the sparkle in Christiana’s eye whenever we talk about milking day, I suspect that some kind of milk-beast will come home with us, sooner rather than later.

Christiana glows with cow-love

 

Lurching along at the speed of bureaucracy

Surprise!  We discovered yesterday that we have been incorporated since early April!  The mad scramble is on, to make sure that all our ducks are in a row for the closing date of tomorrow.

But here are a few of us, cheerfully assuming that it will all work out:

SOON IT WILL BE OURS.
SOON IT WILL BE OURS.

I have a fervent desire to bring you more interesting news, in the coming months, with pictures of houses being built, fences erected, and Baby Animals snuggled (though I have it upon good authority that once they become Annoying Teenaged Animals it’s pretty easy to decide who gets eaten).

Onwards!

 

On the home stretch

We’re almost there!  We’ve finished all the documentation for inco-operation, and sent it off to the Office in Victoria on the 7th.  We were  hoping to get it back soon enough that we can change the dates on our contract, and get started a little early, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.

And now: waiting.

Signing!
Signing!

The Old Foundation – Pictures

Here’s the entry to the foundation off the road, on the west side.  This is the highest part of the property, with a big sunny field below.

Shady spot
Shady spot

The foundation is sturdy and whole, though full of junk.  There’s a spot for a door, windows, and a pillar-thing for a fireplace.  Someone wrote “Foundation” on it.

window holes
window holes

Here’s an image of the car for you, Ingo!

Car
Car

and another.

closer look
closer look

We have a fair amount of work to do, if we want to use the foundation for anything.  Years and years of random junk and rocks have been dumped here, including a big pile of broken glass, and there are a handful of mature alders growing inside.  Still, it might be a good place to start, during the early days when we haven’t gotten animals yet.  I look forward to getting some heavy-duty gloves (and perhaps a tetanus shot) and getting started.

 

 

Where Is All Our Stuff?

As a part of our Grand Adventure, we packed up three households of stuff into two shipping containers.  It was very organized, at first, and then more and more hectic as deadlines approached and only the hard stuff remained to be packed.

And now, slowly, we are unpacking and sorting.  We unpacked essential furniture, like beds and dining room tables, as soon as we had a place to put them.  Later on, we found winter clothes, some books, winter project supplies, and a few more toys for the kids.

We still have two relatively full shipping containers, though.

All The Things
All Of The Things

And lots of it is tools, and essential things for later on.  But some of it is this:

WHY, ERIN, WHY?!?
WHY, ERIN, WHY?!?

I’m slowly bringing boxes like this one to the house, and opening them, because I Have No Room For Junk, so this is probably as good a time as there ever will be to sort things like this.

Thanks for silly box-marking, Past Erin.  It would be a little less fun opening boxes labelled ‘Erin Junk’.

 

The Next Big Thing

Over the past year, this merry band has sold our suburban houses, moved to Sooke, and figured out how to live together in a too-small house.

On Friday, our fabulous realtor held our hands while we crafted an offer on a piece of land that we’ve been looking at for a while.  We made our final agreement with the sellers last night, and are signing papers in about five minutes.

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Coltsfoot, aka Son-before-the-father, sends its flower up at the bottom path entrance. New beginnings. Spring.

It’s a lovely almost-riverside space with fields on two levels, woods, an old foundation from the original homestead, and a few seasonal creeks.

When we go, we often access it from the public walking trail along the river.  It adds some ceremony to the approach.
When we go, we often access it from the public walking trail along the river. It adds some ceremony to the approach.

Almost 12 acres, no buildings (except for an old falling-down barn-shed-thing.

Across the Wet Bit, looking towards the barn-shed
Across the Wet Bit, looking towards the barn-shed

We have been working with a co-op developer on the incorporation of our landholding division (Quiet Day Land Co-op, as per Arundati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”).  Our developer thinks that we can be done in a month, so that’s when we remove subjects on the land, and focus our efforts on the working co-op (Cast Iron Farm Co-op).

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t go visit in the meantime.. and perhaps start the difficult work of naming places more imaginatively than we have to date.

Bottom field

ie: Bottom Field

 

 

The Yoghurt Conspiracy

We eat a lot of yoghurt, and for a long time we bought only one brand: biodynamic, organic, raw milk yoghurt that was pretty expensive and often out of stock.  Still, it was good food, and was the only yoghurt my youngest could eat without getting horribly, disgustingly sick all over the floor, so we bought it.

A little while ago, we went to visit a small farm in Port Alberni, and she showed us how she makes yoghurt.  I had made yoghurt before, but it had never really worked out that well, and I left the farm determined to try again.

milk on the stove
milk on the stove

We bought the brand of yoghurt she was using as a starter, and gave it a go, and it was.. easy.  Simple.  barely any work at all, besides making sure the milk didn’t burn.  And less than half the price of store-yoghurt.

I don’t use a thermometer, I just eyeball the amount of steam coming off (optimal level: Pretty Steamy but not boiling), then I cool the milk down by a combination of waiting and pouring it between two containers.  I cool it until I can comfortably hold my finger in the milk for a solid count of 10.

starter yoghurt smeared on the jars
starter yoghurt smeared on the jars

I don’t measure how much starter yoghurt I use, either.  I just smear it around the insides of the jars until there’s a light coating.  Yoghurt grows from the outsides in, I learned, so putting culture on the jars seemed to make sense.

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I pour the warm milk into the jars, then put it into the microwave to set overnight.  To keep it warm, I add three mason jars of boiling water, covered.  It seems to work best when there’s something cooking on the stove overnight, too, because our microwave is over the stove, but it’s not essential.

Is there a conspiracy to keep us buying expensive yoghurt, when it’s so easy and cheap to make?  I’m not sure, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to buying store yoghurt.