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.

Monday, 4 August 2014

"Dada's Making Sawdust Again"

Roll a log down the ramp to the mill
Into the sawblade, spinning with the power of 13 horses,
we push it ahead of us at a gentle walking pace.
It eats through the wood: a sharp blade, a smooth cut.
What was round is flattened so it has a defined edge.
The nature of the tree is squared away.
Long slabs of barked wood stacked, bucked and dried.
They'll crackle under syrup in the evaporator in a few seasons.
Flip her so she lies on her new side.
Slice again.
The inner nature is revealed,
the layers of growth,
the eyes where the branches budded,
the pink and red rot of old age.
Flip her again, haul the log dawgs into place and lock her down tight,
walk down her side, slice the full length and pull the saw back.
Warm sawdust spews and we breath in the smells of fresh spruce and gas.
Flip her a fourth time. There's one final strip of wild bark.
She fits now, right up square against the body of the mill. The log dawgs pin her down neatly.
Slice and slice and slice again, reaching deeper towards the heartwood.
The eyes of the Aspens in the yard are watching.




Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Small is Beautiful

I first heard of Coturnix Quails in the Yukon as a live food for falcons at the Yukon Game Farm.

Years later, my family includes a little flock:
 five hens and lone male, who crows in the morning as any good rooster ought.


 They live in a run out beside the sandbox.
 The girls are the perfect size to crawl in and collect eggs.
The eggs are in return a perfect size for a child to eat.
Here are seven sunny side up for breakfast.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bumpy Road

Every spring our syruping venture rattles down a bumpy road.
We have been driving this operation for 10 years now, and as in any old vehicle some of the clangouring is familiar, some of the ruts along the way we have come to expect.
This spring the whole works hit some new obstacles at full speed when sap was running hardest.
We all went flying.

I came to understand the sheer volume of water that the birch stand pumps up from the ground.
We almost lost it.
It took more hard work than I knew we were - or ever wanted to be - capable of.
On top of it there were several miracles (including you Graham Rudge).
Here is the crew that in the end managed a 2014 batch of Good Old Fashioned Yukon Birch Syrup.

There are many memories in my soul blog, images without photos, yet I don't imagine I can forget:
Lara lena, your first collecting day on that immense route in the falling snow,
Renee saving us with your butter tarts in times of deepest darkness,
coming home to Ed and the girls eating breakfast and doing 'everything right',
Sara naming all her trees, and her voice echoing through the stand,
Berwyn in rubber boots and rubber gloves touching two wires to fire up the whole batch plant,
Myself letting gravity pull me down the contours by full buckets on that two ton day,
All of us giving all we had,
unleashing our powers from within,
for better or for worse.

Here is a photo of passing the cup of first sap, before we knew how the spring would unfold.
We all have a sip before we drill. Sara played her flute.

Selwyn says to me that we are the human part of this forest. “Not every forest has a human part, but this one does.”
Our contract with the trees is that we will not waste what we tap from them.
I am so relieved we didn't break it.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Cranberry Cordial

It is the middle of a February cold snap.

So we brought in our harvest of Highbush Cranberries to thaw.
Selwyn said
"Look mom, I remember picking THAT berry!"

I can relate, memories roll into my mind:
the rattle of falling leaves,
conversations over the bushes with Agathe,
Juncos flocking in the underbrush,
filling a bucket by the river while waiting for Seung Min to arrive,
the smells of fall.
We boil them all in a big pot on the woodstove,
strain the pulp and cover it with Vodka to make a liquor.
The juice goes back in the pot with a cup of sugar for each four cups of berry juice.
We add cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon
and let it stew 'til all is blended.

We bottle it up as Cranberry Cordial, a merry red juice concentrate,
good hot or cold or with a shot of your favorite liquor.