Category Archives: CollectiveHouse

On Bikes…

I know. What does farming have to do with bikes?

The real question is, how many bikes do ten people have, and where do we put them all? Usually they go in a garage. And we have a garage. It’s just not that big, even with some of the bikes being for the kids…

I’ve done a lot of biking over the past few years as a volunteer for Port Coquitlam and they store their bikes by hanging them up.  I wanted something similar, but set up so the handlebars don’t collide quite so much.

With a piece of 2×10 on each wall of the garage to anchor to, and two more to make the rack, one vertical and the other horizontal, it looks like this:

2x10s to frame the bike rack
2x10s to frame the bike rack

The hooks to hang the bikes alternate on the bottom edge of the vertical board, and on the forward edge of the horizontal board. Hanging straight down, they don’t have any stress that would cause the hook to wear away at the board.


The bikes now hang, one up and forward, and the next down and back.


The kids bikes fit on the floor between the hanging bikes, which is not as ideal as I would like, but it does work just fine.

Some of you might wonder how to get the bikes up so high. Don’t lift with your arms! Start by locking the brake on the back wheel, and pull the bike back so it balances on the rear wheel,  just like it is going to hang. wheel it under the hook you want, still on that back tire. Then put your knee under the bike seat and lift your knee, using your arms only to keep it balanced, and to aim for the hook. Once the front tire on on the hook, lower it till it is resting. Reverse the process to get the bike down. That will save a lot of stress on the back from a fair weight at the end of your arms as you twist to maneuver it into place.

The back of the rack is a good place to store your bike helmets. You  can also use a straight coat rack instead of more hooks.


Normally we might have put this at the back of the garage, but that wasn’t an option, so it went toward the front. It had to be low enough that it would not catch the garage door, or it’s hardware as the door moved up or down. And also back enough that the door wouldn’t (quite) come down on the hanging bikes.

So, that’s just one more thing we did to fit 10 people into a small space!



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:


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.

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.


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.

On Stoves

Our stove is stupid. I have gotten to know and love many cantankerous and ornery stoves, and I usually come to love their quirks.  This one seems past redemption.

The knobs are reversed, so that we always think we’re turning on the front burner when in fact we have just burnt the bejeezus out of whatever was on the back burner:

Does this look strange to you?
Does this look strange to you?

The elements have only two temperatures, despite their knobs suggesting that they have a normal range: Scorching-Hellmouth-Cooks-Your-Food-To-A-Crisp, and Barely-Melts-An-Ice-Cube-In-Half-An-Hour.

My mounting frustration with this stove makes me daydream about rocket stoves, wood-burning ranges, and commercial-grade gas stovetops. Gas would be easy, of course. Cooking with wood would have its own learning curve, but at least there would be some skill involved instead of our current random soup-scorching.

We keep pinning our hopes for a cure for whatever is currently bothering us on Someday When We Build Our Own House And Grow Food And Everything Will Be Perfect. It won’t be perfect, for sure, but at least our stove will change. I’ll settle for that.

Privacy in a house of 10 people

It’s tricky, finding quiet in a small house that usually contains 10 people.

We each have a private space, where we can leave things and know that no one else will move them. When private spaces are close together, we can wear earphones or play music when we don’t want to talk.

Here’s Jeremy and Christiana’s office:

for the 9-5ers (8-6ers?)

And mine and Tony’s (yes, it’s the garage.):

janfeb2014 082small

Scott and Sebastien share a bedroom that has a division of space (and I didn’t ask them if I could take a picture).

And the kids each have their own spaces.

janfeb2014 073
Corner of the closet in the master bedroom
janfeb2014 069
Behind the reading chairs in the living room

My kids have their own slightly smaller spaces in our bedroom, but our entire bedroom is also off-limits to the other kids.  My kids (one of them, anyway) have quieter temperaments than the other two and need a place to get away. It seemed like a reasonable trade: you get the big master bedroom and ensuite, but the kids all play in YOUR room (sorry, Christiana and Tony!). We are considering raising the bed in our bedroom so that my eldest can have a place to work on projects quietly alone, but we haven’t made time for that yet.  Everyone needs a place to work.

janfeb2014 074
a tiny box to sit in beside the bed for now
janfeb2014 075
a place to keep lego, but not much room to play uninterrupted

The other place I’m often finding a need for mental space is in the kitchen. It’s not the clutter; if we’re not on top of that all the time, it gets crazy, so that’s often fine. There are a number of kids that like nothing better than to help in the kitchen, which is wonderful.. in theory. In practice, after having spent the day with short people, I’d much rather have some space to myself when I’m cooking. We have devised an ingenious plan, for the times that we Do Not Want To Answer Any More Questions: THE APRON. When someone wears the apron, they are Not Available.. for ANYTHING. Perhaps if there was a fire, or an accident with blood, the person wearing the apron may take it off, fold it carefully, and then attend to whatever needs doing, but otherwise kids have to go ask someone else. If more is needed, the person wearing the apron can also wear headphones and listen to music. These are things that one can do, when there are other adults around to pick up the slack.

the magical apron!
the magical apron!

We’re chugging along, contacting co-op developers, and hope to have something together on paper soon so that we can go ahead and Actually Buy Something.  More news soon, I hope!

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!


The remains of dinner…

Well, everyone who knows me knows I love Lasagna.  So, for the past little while, as part of the dinner preparations for our little group, I have been creating my favorite meal.

Feeding 10 people 3 meal a day is a lot of work, usually covered by Tony or Erin. I usually cover the dishes afterwards, since our rule of thumb is that if you cook, you shouldn’t have to clean. Tonight is my night off from the dishes!

I made a double batch. Here is what was left by the ravening hordes:

Reminders of dinner
Reminders of dinner

This is the fourth double batch Lasagna I have made. Most of the kids came back for (kid sized) third servings, and I’m sure JS would have kept going if we let him.


Anya should be visiting tomorrow, so we will save some for her. She can comment after she has had a taste.


I used the Clueless in the Kitchen cookbook’s recipe, doubled so we can actually feed 10 people. The only changes I made were to add a grated potato to the carrots (also grated), plus some basil with the oregano. The cheese was all goats milk based cheeses, making this safe for E, who pukes on contact with processed milks and cheeses made from same. That would have been a sorry waste!

I wonder if this would have been Kendra safe too?!?

(My first try at posting this from my phone failed, I’ll have to try that again, on some other post.)

Good night, from a well fed Scott.


On Cleaning Day, We Do That.

Saturday is cleaning day, which is a Vast Improvement over the previous state of affairs, where the person that was the most grossed out by a tiny hint of bathroom-mung was the one that cleaned the bathroom.  Instead, we get together for about 2 hours on Saturday morning, play music (today, some kind of early-90s mix including House of Pain, which was strongly reminiscent of Much Music Dance Parties in Junior High), pick one of a number of different jobs, and CLEAN.

It works pretty well.  I think that everyone cleans a bit more thoroughly than they would have otherwise, because we each know that we only have to do it for a specific period of time, and when we’re done the rest of the house will be cleaned, too.   The kids participate, mostly, and we all get that nice feeling of having worked together to accomplish something.

This week, I picked Laundry/Sheets/Etc, which meant that I had to find things to do in between loads of laundry, which is how I found myself washing the cord of the laundry spinner.  A laundry spinner is a miraculous device that removes excess water from the laundry by spinning it at a much higher velocity than a washing machine is able to do.  It does not function better if its cord is washed, and the cleanliness of the room is not significantly enhanced, if the cord is washed.  I am not the kind of person that walks into the room, and notices if any given power cable is a bit dirty.. or even if the room is dirty, really.  But such is the power of Cleaning Day, that even the power cords get washed.  One does more than one would otherwise do, because everyone is pitching in.

It’s a beautiful thing.