Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Good Life

The weather has been lovely this past week, with continuing lovely for three more days. Maybe another week. Calling for rain on Friday, but you never know, the forecast seems to change all the time. Except right now. It is decidedly lovely. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular. I saw a beautiful shawl I would like to knit in yesterday's sunrise. Maybe I should learn to handpaint yarn, like some uber-cool people I know. I am wearing a sweater that my mum created over 25 years ago. She carded teal & undyed white roving, then knitted it into a sea of moving colour. It might as well be handpainted yarn! The Seven Siblings are pretty lucky to be swaddled in such knitted garments.
I am currently knitting away at some Christmas goodies, and seeing how my kids don't read this blog, I could tell you what's on the needles. But that would be presumptuous. Last year, I gave Renee a dark-coloured cowl with matching wrist-lets. Perhaps I designed the cowl to be a bit too deep set, as you couldn't see her face when she tried it on. When her colleages at work saw her approaching, there was a low "Ooh, here comes Death!"
So, yes, The Good Life! Lots of sun means lots of electricity, which means we can use our bread-maker. I love the bread-maker! Uses less power than an oven, no dough-bowl to clean up. Heck, I don't even wash the measuring cups, I dust them out then put them away. Lots of sun means a warm house with no wood fire. So I fill up my solar heated shower bag and wash my hair. Takes less than a half hour to dry it in the sun. Lots of sun helps with many things, especially our moods. And lettuce! Jim is growing some Grand Rapids leaf lettuce in a big old planter we scooped from the dump.
They say that little things amuse little minds, and I guess They are right. I am a simple person, or at least I hope I am. I live on a very, very small amount of money, especially when our annual paycheck starts to run thin in November, but that makes life simple too. We see just as many chickadees as anyone else. Even more when Robbie flushes them out to play a game of tag.
This simple life started when we, Jim and I, decided to maintain the lifestyle of cruising sailors that we began three years ago. Three years with no fridge, no mortgage and no credit debt. God has seen fit to keep us healthy, although I just recuperated from the dreaded H1N1 virus, I did OK. I'll have you know that the ale Jim brews keeps at a decent 66 degrees while being aged in our Secret Beer Locker (under the bed, sitting on the cement floor), and Chardonnay tastes great at this temperature as well! The only thing I miss is having ice cream in the house. But if that's the only thing, then having a reduced carbon footprint is most certainly worth it.
For those interested in how the wind-generator is doing, it seems to work just fine, although we thought we had stronger prevailing breezes that what we are actually getting. My advice is to get/borrow a wind speed measuring device and measure your prevailing breeze. The package instructions say that it will start generate power at 6 moiles/hour, but we have found that it is closer to 10. Also, we installed lighter guage wire that what was called for, so that could be impairing the output. Anyone got 50 feet of wire greater than 10/3?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is That a Nose-Cone, Or Are Yuh Happy To See Me?!

After a rather dull November last year, we decided that we needed a bit more juice to have more light after 4:30 in the long winter evenings. So here's our solution: a funny hat party!
Good thing he didn't try this party-trick with the cookstove!
Seriously, we went to Canadian Tire and bought the wind generator we scoped out last year. 400 watts! We then went to Rona and found some fence-post and "fixin's", some 10/3 wire and some guy-wire. The previous day we chopped down a handy-looking juniper. We put it all together,

Plugged it in...
And Tah-Dah! Installed us a wind generator!
We spent most of this morning smushed up against the front-door window, gazing at our newest thing. Arms around each other's waists, we gloated in the prospects of possibly hosting SAD light parties, perhaps even get our own mirror-ball for those awkward silences at dinner parties. We'd be the life of the whole county! Then we'd open up the electrical closet door, thus smushing even smushier, and watch the digital display of juice coming in...neat-o! This will certainly help us through the short solar days, as we can now power-up both day and night, as long as the wind blows.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

..and Speaking of Big Steel Things!

This is our Waterford Stanley Cookstove. May I add a couple of !!!! to that? Our friends, The Family Atkinson of Merrickville, had this puppy in their old Ontario farmhouse. They had come to visit our Mini House this summer and as Papa was looking around he mused out loud how well the wee cookstove would function in the wee house. Only being slow on some things, I said "Yes, Please!".

So on the way home from another fantastic Thanksgiving meal chez Danielle in Ottawa, we stopped by the Atkinsons and shoved the thing in! If you look closely, you can see all the air squeezed out of the foam in the back seat! We learned from the website that it weighs 500lbs! I could smell something burning as we stopped to pull Robbie out of the corner he jammed himself into. But the Atkinson's said a prayer (a rather serious one, as I recall) for a safe journey home, so nous violas!

We went to visit a welder here in the County, said making up some skoocum legs wouldn't be a problem. Jim had retrieved two beatiful cast steel BBQ grates from our local Walmart (the dump), so he cut them to size and they look great! One pot of stove-blacking went a long way, and one tub of fire-box cement will help. Won't be able to fire it up until we install the legs, so I'll letcha know ASAP.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the feasters!

We are recuperating from turkey, mashed potatoes, baked squash, cranberry sauce and dressing made with Hot Italian Sausage. Go Danielle!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Here we go again!

We found Pilger in Iroquois Boatyard, with thanks to Gratton Sheely. She needed her lid put on, her new bronze ports installed, some rot at the prop/shaft area attended to and various other things done to get her sea-worthy. Not being absolute perfectionists, we thought we would do the interior later. So you get no pictures of her interior! No, we thought we would...

finish painting her and just drop her right in!

Ta dah!

She didn't seem to mind!

Up went the masts,

On went the sails (only took three days for that!) By the way, this is our new friend Kate helping to hoist the fore sail. And yes, Pilger is a Chinese Junk Rig. Also called lug rig by the Brits, but the Asians got them first. Designed by a Mr. Colvin, her model name is a Gazelle.

Piled in the dog and away we went!

So! We have another boat! To make a long story short, we came, we saw, we bought. No one has ever needed more of an explanation! We took four beautiful days to drive her to Picton Harbour via Kingston, Deadman's Cove and Prenyear's Cove. Day One we made average 6 knots over the ground with main & fore sails. Wow! Day two we ran wing and wing (or wing and wong, as dubbed by Annie Hill, fellow junk-rig enthusiast) over flat water and still averaged 4.5-5 knots. Wow! Came into kingston in very light wind and still made pretty good way. I love this rig! Quick to get the sails up, the sails tack by themselves, no reefs to tie when the wind pipes up, you merely drop a panel. The only difficult thing about her is that it was hard to decide to not keep going!
Robin and Kate joined us for this trip, very helpful and able crew. They taught us more about Vegan cuisine and I taught Kate to crotchet! They are staying at our place for a few days, our first Couch-Surfers, and it's been fun showing them around Picton.
So we have decided to stay home for the winter and make plans to cruise in the spring. Out the St. Lawrence maybe.
Now I'm going home to sleep!

Friday, July 31, 2009

How Does One "Chill" in August?

Chill at the beach, get a breeze in your hair or sit in a shady garden. All of my favorite sports!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thar Be Greens Here!

Those hoop houses worked out really well. The plastic covers kept the soil warmer by about 5-10 degrees, pretty substantial. We have actually been enjoying our greens for a month and a half now, wowwie huh? Jim now has plans to build a wee solar green house to start the plants in March or April. In the top-most photo, you will see we followed advice given by another gardener. Jim shaded his plants while hardening them off, did it with juniper boughs.

We are keeping busy with all kinds of things, mostly raiding the local dump for stuff we can salvage. We actually found a youth's bike and a mostly good propane BBQ dumped along the back road we walk along every morning. Took them home, fixed 'em up and presto!

Instant BBQ! Have eggplant, will travel! A week later we found a better fitting bonus-grate at the dump. Bob & Linda gave up a coule of bike frames for us, too. It only took two dives into the "Walmart" to find enough thrown-away parts to build a couple of Frankenbikes. That and two new tires from Canadian Tire (Who knew?) plus 10$ helmets and we're off and pedalling. Dreamy!

Our next big salvage will be another boat. Smaller than Chelonidae. Lighter. Better on gas. We plan to get her to Northern Florida, then keep her down there so we can puddle around down there during the winter. Suckers! So far we have looked at an Albin 23 ft. sailboat, but there was no standing headroom. I hate crouching to cook! Saw a Paceship 23, but the same problem, no headroom. The Grampian 23 at least had a decent layout to make a hree month cruise possible, but, well, what were we expecting? Then we got looking at 26's. Saw a Grampian 26 with headroom! Well, I thought we'd be a 10th, no maybe a fifteenth of the way there! You know how it is, Jim, needing everything to be so perfect, needed the right engine, sailing capability, water tight hull, blah blah blah! Turns out it had all that, so we'll go for a second look and a putter around the Picton Yacht Club. Maybe I'll need a new blog!

Besides that, things at the the Mini House are going well. The rainwater catchment system is working quite well, doesn't take too long to fill up those garbage cans! We use it for irrigating the garden and washing my hair. Lovely!

I am going to track down a copy of a book called "The Vanishing Face of Gaia" by James Lovelock. I heard an interesting chat with the author on As It Happens the other night and was intrigued by his theory: this planet is adding carbon of her own into our man-made-mess and climate change is not only inevitable, but on our doorstep, and that it cannot at this point be stopped. But it is not too late to save ourselves.

I am glad I live in a self-sustaining way. I feel lucky! In the meantime, we shall go for a walk...

Wow! you never notice the mess until...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well! Spring brings a whole new set of work parameters! These are our Hoop houses, built over raised beds for our kitchen garden. Jim & I have been quite turned on by some old-timey garden & agriculture books, mentioned at the side-bar to the right. Perhaps the most eye-opening book is The One Straw Revolution, recommended by my dad, Stan Gauthier of Parksville, BC. The main premise is this:Farming (raising food) is a joy that requires no chemicals, tilling or heavy machinery. Too many farmers (gardeners) spend money they don't have to amend soil that likely doesn't need it, break it to useless bits with equipment that chugs diesel & spews carbon, and ends up harvesting the same edible portion as a natural farmer, who does none of these things. The author's main concern is for farmers & gardeners to take better care of their soil by amending it with the previous year's straw & leftover stalks, vines, etc. and to allow for natural decomposition and build the soil up year after year. No till? Hooray! I hate tilling even more than I hate shovelling! Mr. Fukuoka discusses the Japanese Ministry Of Agriculture's tests on soil quality, crop yield & insect damage, among many other things, and reveals that all things are not as they seem.
He calls his farming method the do-nothing method, or no-till. It is defined as growing cover-crops amongst his main crop, then leaving that cover crop plus the straw to decompose in the field producing an enriched humusy soil that is fully nourished for the following year. This means he doesn't need fertilizer. Because he grows a variety of plants and shades the soil with cover-crops, he also has a variety of insects that benefit his fields, so he doesn't need pesticides. All those roots do a good job of aerating and breaking up the soil, so he doesn't need to till. Refuses to squash this light & luscious soil with a tractor, so he harvests by hand, with a paid crew. No tractor or combine. No diesel. No fumes. No monthly payments. Better yield than a conventional farmer per acre. Doesn't need an outside job. Huh?
The part about Japanese farmers of a century ago having time to goof off in the winter and write Haiku is my favorite! Today, these poor guys have to work part time just to afford all the chemicals and machinery for their crops, plus feed their families. Read The Book! I got it through inter-library loan.
We have started many veggies indoors already, the tomatoes already have flower buds! Some of them are destined for what Jim is calling a One Straw trial. He is going to plant some fava beans in a grassy area, protected from all the wind we get here by scrub (short) Junipers. He will also put in some tomato & pepper plants. I'll keep ya all posted!

Monday, April 6, 2009

CSA, Quest ce que c'est?

Well, you pay for a product before it's grown or harvested, hatched, laid, bought on auction, raised, slaughtered, wrapped in tidy paper packages and delivered to your door! Some folks have veggies delivered once a week, some include eggs. We get pasture-raised meat from Nyman Farm here in Prince Edward County. We signed up for a mixed-pack, it includes all kinds of meat.
Now here's the thing. We don't have a freezer. Or a fridge, for that matter. So Colleen has generously said yes to my request to keep my stuff in with hers. I pick up once a week, which is probably all she can stand!
Nyman Farm is a pretty busy place; she and the WOOFers just packed up the annual maple syrup crop into beautiful bottles, for sale on premises. I should ask her permission to give you guys a link to her website, http://www.jcnymanfarms.com/ , I am sure she won't mind!
What we are not doing is saving money. What we are doing is weaning ourselves off growth hormones, anti-biotics and questionable feed sources. No more factory raised "meat" products for us! We feel better already! FYI, factory-raised meat is what you get from super-markets (even if it is labelled "organic". The criteria for "organic" does not include how crammed-in the animals are.) and meat shops. Ask your butcher how the meat you are eating is raised...you don't know until s/he tells you.
What we are also doing is supporting a family farm. Nyman's don't want to have to afford to become "certified Organic", as they would then have to bill that expense to their customers. So they just call the meat pasture raised. They raise the feed as well, with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Local eating, buying and being entertained is becoming more and more accessible. It all depends on the choices you make at home. Don't wait for anyone else, including government bureaucrats or industry organicrats (isn't that a great term? I read it in Fields of Plenty, Micheal Ableman), to legislate anything, you'll be waiting until the sky darkens with transport-diesel fumes and your children are all sterile due to growth-hormones build up.
There's my wee rant-y! S'cuse me while I whip up some perogies for dinner. If I pay attention to the quantities of flour/water, I'll give you the recipe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring has sprung!

Yes, technically the ground is still frozen, but that doesn't mean a thing!!! We had some good thaw temperatures that have allowed us to screen some more soil for our raised garden beds. After procuring some good live-stock poo from our new farmer friends, we have built up some mighty good dirt to grow our kitchen garden in. We planted lettuce and Pak Choi yesterday. Jim's indoor tomato and pepper seedlings are doing famously, the best performers so far were sent by my gardening father from BC: heirloom Purple Cherokee tomatoes and New Mexico Hot Peppers. Can't wait!