For the past little while, we have been taking care of the animals on a farm nearby while their people are away. Every morning, someone goes to the farm, lets the chickens and turkeys out, and distributes appropriate quantities of food and water.

We bring carefully selected compost for the chickens to pick through, muscle our way through the turkey scrum, and hold still-warm eggs in cold hands.

In the evening, as it gets dark, the chickens put themselves to bed and make sleepy chicken noises as we check for eggs. The turkeys are lured back into their shelter using yet more food.

And it’s fun.

(of course, I know that there are days that I will not be interested in getting out of bed to let out my own annoying chickens, but for today, it’s fun to pretend.)

About Dogs…

Well, pets of any kind, really.

See, we have a technical glitch. And his name is Tony. It’s not his fault, honest. He just has allergies. That get progressively worse. Until he gets pneumonia. Which makes pets a real problem.

Now, i have had pets. Lots of them, really. I like cats. KC, Tori, Inky, ZhaZha, Memnock (also called Numbnuts), and they all passed away, mostly in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes I was lucky enough to be there to hold them as they passed, sometimes not. I have special memories from each of them, with their quirks and oh so different personalities. (Sarafina still lives at Anya’s place.)

And I have had a dog, Sarah. I like cats, as you might guess from the sheer number of them, but cats are pretty independent. They don’t check in with you when you come in the door. Sarah always did. She was about 2 years old when she came to me (along with ZhaZha and Inky, who mothered her as a small puppy. And yes, Inky was a boy.) Sarah was always good with the cats, even when I had 5 in the house, all at the same time. At 2, she was full of energy. By the time she got to 16, she was tired and hurting, and slept as much as the cats. But she still checked in with me, every time I came in the door. She still thought of herself as young and full of energy, ready to run around the block, in what ended up as a slow amble. She would get to the corner, and look back, remembering belatedly that her hips hurt. But she still did her walks, and she picked up speed on the way back to the door.

Sarah 200702151909000

Last year, I went on a trip, and I saw friends I haven’t seen in some time.  On a Sunday in August, I got back. The day before though, she had passed away. I missed being there for her by one day. And I debated that before I did the trip, because I knew she didn’t have much time. So that was a hard homecoming.

It’s been over 6 months, and I am thinking about a pet. Not right now, because, you know, small house, Tony, allergies. Just not quite the time. But soon, when we have a place with acres. It hit me, as we were walking with the kids, that I missed Sarah. And I though, maybe it’s time.

Now, independently, and at the same time, Erin was thinking along the same lines. Specifically, that *I* needed to get a dog. So in one of our meetings, I put it out there, that I was thinking about this. And guess what? Tony had been thinking about it too. To the point that he had a specific breed in mind. A Red or Blue Heeler. Now, one of the farms that we go to has a Blue Heeler, and Tony saw a dog at the garbage disposal site, and had a chat with the owner, and it was also a Heeler.


Blue or Red?


What is a Heeler? Well, it’s an Australian Cattle Dog. The Brown and white fur mixes to make a reddish colour (or the black and white makes blue). They were cattle dogs that were cross bred with domesticated Dingoes. When they herd cattle, they nip at the heels, hence, “Heelers”.


A friend has had and continues to go with Bernese mountain dogs. I met Nani as a puppy (not pictured below), and I really like Bernese dogs, though they live shorter lives, maxing at about 15 years and typically lasting only 7-8 years. At 80-105 pounds, they are giant lovable fluffballs. Just don’t let them stand on your foot.

Bernese Mountain Dogs

Or there is the rescue dog option. Lots of dogs at SPCA’s and they need adopting too. German Shepherds? Well, any Shepherds or Sheepdogs. Huskies maybe? A high energy dog might be too much for a family in a small place, but be perfect for a larger place, especially if s/he had work to do on the farm.

So, what kind of dog? Not positive, but definitely a working dog. When? Well, once we have a property in our hands. Age? Puppy(ish) preferred, since there is training to do, but that isn’t set in stone.

The only real requirement? He or she should be a bundle of love!



Here are a few things that we are using as guiding principles, in decision-making and sorting through scare-mongering (ie: Fukushima).

Permaculture:  The idea that, just as forests sustain themselves, we can build gardens/farms/communities that are both productive and self-sustaining.  There’s a whole bunch of people that are using permaculture principles to inform their horticulture, and it seems to make farming both less effort and more beautiful/lush/alive than traditional annual fieldcropping.

Transition Towns:  Transition is what’s going to happen when we run out of accessible oil and the economy crashes.  This might happen next year, or in 20 years, but I’d be surprised if it took that long.  Yes, every generation thinks both that the End Of Time is nigh, and that they invented sex, and neither has ever been true, but things seem a bit more doomy this time.  The Transition Town movement is a framework for doing some of the transitioning before we have to, which makes the whole thing a bit more comfortable.  And if we make a city friendlier for people and less friendly for multi-nationals at the same time, then more yay.  Transition Town as a concept was started by permaculturalist Rob Hopkins in Totnes, UK, in 2006, and has spread around the world relatively quickly.  “Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come” (Victor Hugo), &c.

Localism:  The idea that the best place to take care of a community’s basic needs is within a specific geographical area.  This is how the world used to work, before the age of cheap transportation, and is how it will work again once oil becomes too expensive for the casual shipping of junk from China (for example).

Anarchy:  The idea that each person is best able to determine how they live their lives, within the boundaries of contract law.  Unless someone has specifically and voluntarily signed a contract, no one could compel them to do anything.  No government, no bylaws, just voluntary association.  Of course, this requires that people not be assholes (or that we collectively learn how to stand up to assholes, or cultivate our own assholes [sorry for any unintended visual]), which may be too much to ask.

Energy Slave:  If we translate our oil use into people-power, we each have about 200 people working for us (given 8 hour days, and weekends and holidays off).  We are used to having this amount of energy available to us, 24/7, but it won’t last.

Peak oil:  Once we have extracted half the available oil in the world, demand will keep rising but production will peak and then start to decline.  We will have removed all the easiest oil, and what is left will be harder and more expensive to extract, leading to a significant rise in oil prices.  This will depress the oil-based economy, which will lower the price of oil, which will cause the economy to look like it will recover, which will raise the price of oil, and then repeat the recession.  Eventually this cycle will crash the economy.  Consensus on this varies, but I’m pretty convinced that we passed peak oil in 2007.   I’m also convinced that tar-sands extraction is a desperate attempt by our can’t-see-the-nose-on-their-face government to keep things ‘normal’ for as long as possible, and damn the consequences.

All of this combined presents an interesting picture of the future, but it doesn’t tell us what will happen for us, personally.  All possible futures are currently happening somewhere, for someone.  Some child is forced into slavery to produce cheap chocolate, and at the same time women are taking control of their own destinies somewhere else.  New parks are being created somewhere, and somewhere else corrupt officials are allowing dedicated parkland to be logged.  Some people live in Portland, and others live in (not THE) Ukraine, and nobody really knows in which direction a city will go in the next 10 years (see Detroit!) We don’t know what is going to happen, but these are the sorts of things that are informing my decision making process.

Want more info about any of the above (because I have the Mad Links and love to share)?  What about your decision making process?  Are you thinking about changing how you live?

Rehoming, becoming native to a place

Part of what we merry folk are doing here is figuring out how to become native to a place.  So much of our civilization is built on the movement of people from rural to urban, from community-sufficient to industrially-dependent, and we have lost the knack for knowing how to stay rooted.

I was talking to a friend, recently, and she was experiencing a sense of panic when she thought about the fact that she plans on living in the same place for the foreseeable future.  She’d always moved around, as school and jobs dictated, and fully committing to a place brought what looked like a sense of claustrophobia.  We’ve been taught that mobility is freedom for so long; choosing to become native to a place can feel confining.

The idea of mobility is one of the ways that our culture disconnects us from each other and the land around us.  Why make an effort to get along with neighbors, if we’re all just moving all the time?  Why form a relationship with a local businessperson, when you can just go shop at the superstore down the street?  What does it matter, if we build houses on top of this old farm; there are a million others like it!  When no one needs each other and our livelihoods are disconnected from the land around us, there’s little reason to make the effort.

In choosing Sooke, we have chosen our home.  Friends that we make now may be the friends around us when we’re old.  People are forming opinions about us that they may hold for years (What are all those crazy people doing living in one house?  Are they all married to each other?  Do they EVER buy new clothes?).  We seem to be meeting lots of great people, and they all wish us well with our project (or want to help!), so it seems like there’s more of the former than the latter.

Once we’ve lived here, for a little while, I might think more about an idea is calling to me.  People refresh all the cells in our bodies within 7 years.  If someone ate local (however one defines it) food for 7 years, every cell in their body would belong to that place.  What would it feel like, to fully and completely belong to BC?  Vancouver Island?  Sooke?

Vegetable Anarchy

I’ve been thinking about what we’re intending to do, farmishly, and I think that a lot of my drive has to do with eating.  We spend a lot of effort (both in income-generating paid-work hours and in sourcing) to get good-quality food.  Good food is important, because we make ourselves out of what we put in our mouths, and I don’t want to have a useless finger made out of cheezy-poofs.  Or children made out of misery-bacon, which I suspect cannot avoid making them more prone to whining.

All joking aside, I think that the more energy and intention we put into our food, the healthier it will be.  We’ve mastered the first step towards intentional eating, which is cooking good food for ourselves.  The next step would be sourcing food grown by someone that puts a little bit more than the standard industrial practice into their food production, and we’re working on that.  Third, growing for ourselves as much as is reasonable, which is where we are planning to go.

The fourth is something that is pulling at me a little, right now.  I am planning to experiment with letting the plants decide where they grow, like Fukuoka ( does.  He spreads a mixture of food-plant seed in various different places, and lets plants come up in glorious profusion.  I bet that adding plant intentionality will make for healthier food, because the intrinsic wisdom of the seed would know better than me where a plant would grow best.  With animals, this would look like shifting pastures frequently, and planting things that the animals like so they can choose their own food.  We’re going to sort out some basic systems, first, but I hope to be playing around in this arena soon.

It might be fantastic… or we might end up learning to eat scotch broom.  Good thing we’re not planning to have a market garden.  Vegetable anarchy!

More food: Eggs Ranchero (WCH Style)

It might seem that eating is all we do here!  It is the biggest part of our budget, for sure; 10 people eat a lot.  With little kids, we need to make three square meals a day.  Not everyone takes part in all the meals, but we mostly eat together.

And breakfast mostly involves eggs.  Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, eggs in pancake batter with eggs on top.  Eggs.  We get about half of our eggs from Inishoge Farm (, and half from whichever farm gate we happen to be driving past (or The Horrible, AKA the grocery store).

When I was a kid, my father used to make Eggs Ranchero: toast, with salsa on top, a poached egg on that, and melted cheddar on top of that.  Delicious!  In 2005, Jeremy and I went to Japan to travel and WWOOF (, and I came home with what we termed a ‘rice hole’; if a meal didn’t include rice, I didn’t feel full.  I found all kinds of ways to include rice, including Modified Eggs Ranchero.

As you gaze long into the breakfast, the breakfast gazes also into you.
As you gaze long into the breakfast, the breakfast gazes also into you.

Eggs, on top of salsa and rice, with cheese melted on top.  Even though it does’t have any Braggs sauce or tahini, I labeled it West Coast Hippie (WCH) Style. That’s mostly tongue in cheek, due to the short-grain brown rice and locally-sourced ingredients.  Sometimes I add homemade nettle gomaishio, for extra WCH++.  Delicious!