Thursday, 27 October 2016

Non-attached Love

It is precious rare to gaze at the wild and have it gaze right back at you. 

In July we found three kestrel chicks trapped in a bucket on an abandoned farm. 

They could not tell us how they got there or why there were no adults around to care for them.

We brought them home in a box and tried to provide for them.

We fed them with road kill grouse and rabbit, until they regained their strength and their feathers gleamed.

Within days they were flying short distances, landing awkwardly on whatever was in their path. With a little practice, they gained finesse and would fly from treetop to rooftop, one after the next.

Still they returned to eat scraps of meat we left out for them.

Selwyn took this photo, it is clear that the infatuation was unidirectional. 
Eventually, the three flew off and didn't return. 
We still think of them fondly and hope against all odds that they survived.

(Joe Bishop too the rest of the photos) 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The living is easy

For one brief moment of transition, the living is easy.
The snow has lost its legs before its time;
 it is collapsing under our steps.
I am grieving the passing of this winter,
mourning it as I would the premature death of a weak child.
It was beautiful.
We managed to finish the wash house...
...that we began three years ago.
In the mild dark days,
we planed, routered and sanded the boards made from trees cut on this very site.
 A building is new as long as you are still heating it with its own offcuts.

Now our baths are roof-melt and rainwater.
No longer do we have to melt buckets of snow and strain out the spruce needles.
Winter is officially past.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The age of Capricorn

Our farm has it's first overwintering stock: a mother dairy goat and her daughter.
Sooty and little Willow arrived in early July.
Sooty has been giving us about a litre of milk every day; taken together that is almost 150L so far.
 It has been wonderful to have.

The price paid is the time and tremendous effort spent creating a suitable home for them.
I am so thankful for all of the farm helpers who shared this workload with us!

We built our first log building, a snug little barn that opens into a sunny yard.
Nearby we put up a hay shed and filled it with hay.
The forest we had logged for timber is now enclosed in fenced pastures.
Here we can let the goats free to browse in the summer months.
This summer we let the goats free to forage the wild salad of their choice every day.
We walk together at the pace of a nibbling goat, in a connect-the-dots pattern from plant to plant.
Before goats,
I thought that this old growth boreal forest had not much nutrition to offer
except to squirrels and spruce grouse.
But Sooty and Willow showed me otherwise.
They found dozens of species that they relished, and they chose new favourites as the seasons turned.
Even with pastures, I am sure we will continue to wander after our goats into the woods.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

The life of Riely

The sap was boiled down about a month ago.
Syrup bottled and the stacks are dwindling.
Thanks to the good folk in these pictures the season came off
with out more than the necessary trouble.
If making birch syrup could go this smooth every spring we would have no more worries.

Akane cleaned her tank each morning before breakfast without complaint.
Antoine wrapped in tubes.

 Tanja pouring hot concentrate.
Nico's done so much more than aupair.
I only wish I had a picture of him collecting his sap buckets with his face decorated like this.
and we all came out smiling.


Since the sap run was early and the crew stuck around we've been able to take off a big bite
and chew it.
There is new fence for new pigs and new chickens and new goats.
There 13 rounds on a goat barn.

My friend told me that I am living the life of Riliey, and it looks like I can't disagree at the moment.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Holding the heat

We've stayed close to home this cold snap.
A short snowshoe under blue skies to get out blood flowing, our cheeks rosy and our hair frosted.


Our 330 sq foot box the warmest haven for miles in all directions
except inside the bodies of animals.
We see the frost, crystallized breath at the entrance to holes in the snow
and I wonder how warm it is inside the curl of a sleeping bear?
How much heat escapes in one winter?
Sometimes your breath, muffled beneath scarves and hoods, is the loudest sound in the land.
The stillness swallows all.



We returned to our little house from a midwinter vacation. After staying in large, open houses, I was dreading the return to our cramped quarters. We arrived as the sun was setting, set a fire, and thawed the place out. I was surprised at how nice it was for all of us to come home, and how easily we make enough room for ourselves in our sardine tin.

Into this home we can allow only things that will be used. The kids need to keep their treasures small. This can contradict lessons to reuse whatever we can. Selwyn is a moralist at seven years old. She sees value in every birthday card, broken toy, cereal box, toilet paper roll. I admire her reluctance to waste anything and to let each item create as much joy as it can before it returns to trash.

My role is ultimate judge of when something is no longer worth the space it takes up. Any undesirable that is remotely burnable I cremate.



In the short winter days we brighten our forest by burning brush piles all around our property. The smoke billows off down the valley and I forget what old baskets and puzzles and doll houses and even old teddies have been cremated there.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Cornish Giants

Our family has come to like chicken.
Over the past few years, our friends and neighbours have raised enough to go around.  
This spring we were alarmed to realize that everyone we knew had backed out of raising extra chickens.
On the spot we decided we had little choice but to do it ourselves.
Two dozen came to us in a box not much bigger than a shoebox.  
A day is as much as a year in the life of a meat bird.
Within eight weeks, not a single bird could fit into that box. 

As a bird bred to be juicy tender breast meat,
I was pleased that they seemed prettier and more active than I had expected.
We new it was time to do them in when they had to strain to lift their cheast from the ground.
After walking a few steps they would let their legs collapse with an audible thunk.

We took them apart in the front yard.
The next day I changed gears.
I went to the Ogilvie Mountains where Willow Ptarmigan,
the local counterparts of our Cornish Giants
live at large.
Joe Bishop took this photo.