Preserving the Harvest

When we butchered our half-pig, we planned to do some preservation.  Since the internet terrified me into not attempting a cured ham at this time of year (too hot!  and the words “Bone Rot”), we brined it instead.

Attempt at a container, #1
Attempt at a container, #1
Much better!
Much better!

Of course, one should never leave the meaty part out of the brine, and we weighed the ham down with glass jars and left it in the coolest part of the house for a few days.

Several days later, we hauled it out, coated it in a mix of brown sugar, mustard powder, and diluted jam, and cooked it.


Is this the Meat Of Our Doom?  Our handling of the meat was careful, but not exactly foodsafe, and I’m sure that leaving meat in salty water for a few days is not Recommended Practice for germophobic sorts.

I’d feel a little more comfortable if we were doing this in the late fall, with our own pig.  All my Italian ancestors rejoice in the preservation of meat, however, and this delicious ham feels wonderfully completing in my belly.

Tomorrow morning, we try the bacon.

Practice Butchery

We ordered half a pig, and had the option to have it come to us completely un-cut-up.  Since Jeremy had, most astutely, taken a course on butchery from Farmstead Meatsmith, we thought we could take this project on.

It's a Big Pig!
It’s a Big Pig!
Primary Sous-chef enjoys the idea of MEAT.
Primary Sous-chef enjoys the idea of MEAT.

Over the next eight hours, we butchered this lovely pig.  Parts went into a seasoned salt mix for bacon, and the ham went into a tub of brine.  We ate the pork chops the next evening, and they were roundly declared the best, juiciest, most tender pork chops in the entire history of food.  We borrowed a meat grinder and sausage stuffer (thanks, Streetbank!), and made sausages the next day.

Gory Stuffer
Gory Stuffer
sausage party!
sausage party!

Making sausages did not at all enable the proliferation of jokes about anatomy, because as adults we are past all that adolescent nonsense.

Home butchery filled our freezer without completely draining our pocketbook, and the work felt good and soul-nourishing.  We will definitely do this again.

(though next time, we’ll make sure to have a smoker, and even perhaps one of our own pigs.)

New Sign!

Great Things Are Afoot!

Sometimes it’s so hard to stop doing fun things in order to document them.. but now, we have a new format!

wherein we attempt circus tricks in order to celebrate
wherein we attempt circus tricks in order to celebrate

We painted over our “For Sale” sign in chalkboard paint.  Of course, for the reason enumerated above (also a distinct lack of ladder), we have not yet written on it.  But we will!

Things are ticking along.

The wonderful thing about having lots of people is that when a project is started, it can move ahead very quickly.  The tricky thing about having lots of people is that there is a lot of talking, considering, and (necessary) faffing about to do before projects are started.  From this vantage point, I know that we’ve been doing a lot of work, but it’s mostly been the talking sort of work that, as of yet, has little to show for it.

Here’s some things that have happened, though:  we have a small RV on site, so that kids have a place to play and so that we have a locking place to store tools.  We have done more of the cleaning necessary to make the two existing structures more useful.  We’ve determined where our shipping containers are going to go.  We’ve built a fire pit and had a number of fires.  An hugelkultur earth berm has been started, both to absorb some rotting lumber and to make a nice privacy border on one side.  We’ve had a lot of meetings with Interested People to help us determine some next steps.  We’ve started a fort for the kids, using living alder trees.  More things, I’m sure, but that’s what comes to mind.

All good stuff, and all leading in the direction we want to go.  Decisions happen slowly, but that way we know that they’re good decisions.  Our whole is more than the sum of its parts, and we do good work together.  We’re all looking forward to doing some camping this summer and really sinking our teeth into all the things that we want to get done.

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.


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.



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!

It’s All Ours!

What is ours? 2385 Phillips Road, Sooke, BC.


You can use the CRD Atlas viewer (<-here) to check it out. On the left side, under the ruler is the World icon, which you can use to do a Search for a street address. Our 11.96 acres are east of Philips, and both north of Shambook Drive (3 acres) and south of Shambrook drive (the rest of it).


OK, so we might have to share a bit with dog walkers from time to time, but the paperwork is complete, and we have the key to the shared gate at the start of Shambook Drive.joshapr 041

Which of course, moves us onto the next phase. Building!

But wait! Build what? Where? And what do we start with first?

Will it be a tool shed that we can get power to, so we can run tools? Do we make use of the two structures already present? Or perhaps an outhouse like the one pictured below?  It will take time before we can hook up to the city, after all.

Outhouse westpeak-wood

What about the storage containers? Are they too ugly to have them be visible from the road? Or do we put them where we are most likely to be doing work projects, and have them convenient? We can always move them again later after all.Big Steel Box

Clearly, decisions need to be made. Stay tuned, and find out what choices we made!




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:


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).



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.


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