Saturday, September 29, 2007

Last Days

From this to this in such a short period of time.... Thursday night we loaded these guys up into crates and Friday they met their end up on Dixon Dam Rd. I tried to make their last days as enjoyable as possible - letting them roam over the yard in the sunshine. We sang to them once in the crates, thanking them. And then we ate one last night - delicious and tender with greek salad from our garden. And I will use every bit.

I wouldn't do this breed again. I felt sorry for them as they waddled more like ducks, barely able to hold their breasts up out of the dirt. And they would only walk a dozen steps at a time before they need to rest. Next year it will be my own breed of bird and I'll be doing the dirty work myself (with some help from some friends).

But in the meantime, we loved these birds, we played with them, fed them treats like apples from the orchard (they loved them!). We were gentle with them and now we are enjoying them in another way!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Family Project

Are you sitting down, Mary Sue?

This was our family project on Sunday. If you have ever been to my house, you know how significant this picture is. This house has the blessing and the curse of having a large porch at the front door. When we moved in last April which was such a busy time of the year, stuff got piled on the porch that we didn't know what to do with. Although those boxes got moved and put away, the porch somehow has never been clean. It has remained constantly cluttered and piled with 'crap'. It has been an almost overwhelming task for me to do alone.

There is a lesson in this, I know there is. Together, as a family with everyone helping, we had it cleaned off in no time at all - vacuumed and everything. Too often, I take these things on myself alone and they stress on me. This is my pattern too often although getting less and less. And look what happened here? I am loving my clean entryway - clearing the way for the new energy of autumn.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Day of Fall

Today was a great day! We worked as a family on some projects around the house - I always love those times... I picked 4 buckets of plums, made plum juice, plum crisp, pumpkin muffins with my own pumpkin (oh, soooo good - like pumpkin pie in a muffin... you can find the recipe here.) had a family meeting, went for a hike in Kal Lake Park with Dean and Rhiannon, came home and had a wiener roast to celebrate this first day of fall, burned a lot of our pile of brush and 20 burdock plants (I counted), came in put Rhi to bed and had a bath and wrote in my blog.... Does it get better than that? I don't think so....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Something to Crow About

On this chilly morning, I go out to the coop to find 3 of our coloured 'chicks' (more like poults now) puffed up against the cold and sitting on the fence together. I thought the black one looked just like a crow...

I thought all along that this black one was a hen. However, in the last week or so, it has started to develope this drooping tail and I am starting to fear that out of the 6 eggs that hatched that were for further egg production, only one is a hen... But I am going to wait until I hear crowing before I start chopping...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wild Friends

It has been a little 'wild' around here lately. Along with the bears whom we haven't seen but who return to leave their scat on a nightly basis (the last one was 3 feet from the kitchen window), a coyote has also dropped in. This time I saw her (him?) from the kitchen window, run right into the middle of the backyard, heading for Roostie. I ran out and chased her off and spent the rest of the morning puttering around the chicken coop. She was beautiful, though, with her bushy tail and light brown fur. I don't think any more chickens have gone missing.... yet....

But our most interesting have been our hooting visitors who have taken up regular residence in the elm tree beside the porch. Usually there is just one owl.
We are pretty sure it is a great horned owl - it has ear tufts and a white bib. It sits there all day and watches us every time we go outside. Usually it sits facing the chickens. We've had the chance to examine its pellets which fall into the flowerbed beneath and to lay on the ground looking up at it, and take pictures. At Rhiannon's birthday party there were two of them. This morning it was back to one. He was quite active and I got to watch him (her?) groom himself.

We've been enjoying our wild visitors and bringing our domestic ones inside every night. Tigger loves it...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Uncharted Territory

The last couple of days we have been celebrating Rhiannon's 7th birthday. This milestone of hers also marks the edge of uncharted territory for me. When Andrew turned 7, Rhiannon was 2 months old. When my mom's youngest turned 7, I was already a mother to 2 and expecting my third.

Since the first moment I held Rhiannon in my arms, I knew she was the last. I knew my family was complete and there would be no more moments like this. So Rhiannon's childhood as oftentimes had a bittersweet quality for me. Mostly it has whizzed by.

But last night as we celebrated with family and close friends, I felt the feeling of stepping into unknown territory. As a child, young woman, and young adult, my biggest plans were to be a mother. I had dreams to be a writer and a teacher, too but my young diaries are full of plans for motherhood - how I would raise my children, potential names, how I would be different from my own parents.... And I love being a mother. And truly I know that motherhood is always demanding. Erin still needs me at almost 21. But it is different. Early childhood is engrossing - demanding in a way that takes total attention. And now that is over for me. Not that Rhiannon is all grown up or anything but her demands on me take up a lot less of my time.

Last night, Drew's K'Nex went out the door with an eager new owner. I had a lump in my throat. Drew's growing up seems much more abrupt. Wasn't he building things out of K'Nex just last year? When did it stop? When did it get relegated to the top dusty corner of his closet? Where is my little boy? And where did this young man come from?

Ramblings from a mother whose children are growing up... I suppose there is foreshadowing the moment they are laid on my stomach and the chord is cut. And I know that from that moment on they are growing away from me - that this is the way of the world, the way it is meant to be but it pains my heart just a little because my love for them is so huge, bigger than I ever knew and in a way that no one can describe to you before or prepare you for. And these last couple of days have just reminded me sharply of it. And I find myself on the edge of uncharted territory with no clear vision of how I evolve from here and excited and scared to find out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What We Did - What You Can Do

Coldstream Council voted it down by a margin of ONE. The move was defeated. Our council will not send on the application to have the farmland at the corner of Aberdeen Rd and Hwy 6 changed to 'non-farm' status. The meeting last night was held in Coldstream Elementary gymn and it was packed - packed full of people from Vernon (!) who were for the development of these lands. I spoke again and read a letter that Kaetlyn wrote. I had also phoned Mary Mallerby in advance and she had told me that the people she heard from were 90% against and she would be voting against. And she did. Along with council members Jim Garlick, Doug Dirk and Bill Firman.... Thank God!

And here is something you can do about chicken. You can sign this online petition to reverse the ridiculous legislation that took away our right to fresh, local, organic chicken. Let's take our power back and make ourselves heard while we still have some rights left...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Something You Should Know

I can only go for so long and then there is a political post choking me to get out. I can't help it. I guess, I am a political person. Perhaps everyone is.... I don't know. Recently I have been getting involved with local politics. Why, you ask? Well, because I am deeply concerned. At the corner of Aberdeen Rd and Hwy 6 (a few blocks from my house) lays a very productive alfalfa field that is part of the Coldstream Ranch. It is a very productive field. The far end was actually an orchard when I moved here and it has also grown corn and other forage crops.

Did you know that only .06% of BC is considered #1 arable land? Only .06%. Most of that is in the lower mainland in places like Richmond but a significant amount is also here in the Okanagan. Did you know that when land is taken out of the ALR (Agriculture Land Reserve) some is supposed to be put in? Did you know that we have been operating at a net loss for several years? Did you know that the very best agriculture land is mostly what is being taken out (in the southern parts of the province) for urban development and it is being replaced with the least productive - mostly up north? Did you know this? Too many of us do not. Check this out for a very well written and researched article in the June issue of Okanagan Life. Very informative! It ought to be required reading for every resident of our province.

This alfalfa field contains #1 - 3 land - some of the most productive in the province. Right now a Vernon group - a conglomeration of sports organizations attracted to and supported by the Funtasic Society because its moula wants to buy up 110 - 120 acres of this prime agriculture land currently being farmed and build a mega sports complex on it. They say it is their only alternative. They say it is for the children. In fact, the driving force behind it is the drunken party that happens once a year called Funtastic at which children are not welcome... And in fact there are other pieces of land in Vernon and about to be annexed by Vernon that would be more suitable but because these are now speculative lands, they cost a great deal more. Agricultural land is artificially less expensive and its worth to our society is immeasurable. Urban ignorance is astounding. At the council meeting, I heard a large, beefy ex-football player from Vernon (why was he at a Coldstream Council meeting, I don't know) scoffed that the fields they wanted for their stadium were currently alfalfa fields as though that had no value.... I wondered if he ate beef... I've certainly never seen a vegetarian quite so buff... Yet he seemed to have no idea of where his food comes from.

So I have been out to meetings - a Coldstream Council meeting and a community information meeting and I have spoken out at both. One thing I have had to say is that this is not really for the children. There would be several fastball diamonds included in this complex. I have been involved in fastball for the last 11 years and I can tell you that it is not growing, it is shrinking. Indeed, if you look at demographics, you would know that our population of children - especially in the Okanagan, is shrinking. We just closed an elementary school this year because of decreased enrollment. Every year, our association uses LESS diamonds than before and the fields we use are not well taken care of and have been falling into neglect for some time. This is not for children. It is the little emotional card that they all try to play. The second thing is that under no circumstances should we be using agricultural land for anything besides agriculture. Food security is going to be an issue facing us more and more in the coming years - especially as we have passed peak oil. To give up our ability to grow food close to where we live is ridiculously short sighted. At some point, we just have to say 'NO'. No more to development on prime agricultural land. There has to be another solution for playing fields. There has to be a better solution. If it is important to us as a community, then we have to find a better way. Stop thinking of agricultural land as an alternative.

Even if you don't live in Coldstream or the Okanagan, there is something you can do. You can write to the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission and as a resident of British Columbia, you can ask them to maintain the existing Agricultural inventory of Coldstream (or the province) and not approve any applications to change land use for the 120 acre site adjacent to the NORD offices bordered by Highway 6 and Aberdeen Rd. It is an issue for all of us. Don't sit by and let it happen. Be heard. Their address is:

Provincial Agricultural Land Commission
133 - 4940 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC, V5G 4K6
ATTENTION: Martin Collins

What our Coldstream Council will be voting on is whether or not to send an application to the ALC to have the land approved for non-farm status. Right now there are 3 councillors for and 3 against and one undecided. Mary Mallerby is undecided. Her phone number is 542-9579. The next council meeting is Sept 11 at 7pm and there is a large contingent of Vernon people planning to attend the meeting in support of the sports complex on that land. Where are the Vernon people who are against this proposal?

Too often our rights and freedoms are seriously eroded without us even noticing. Did you know that after September 30 you will no longer be able to purchase locally grown, organic chicken? the government has made it impossible for small slaughter houses to operate. From now on all chicken must be slaughtered at government licensed facilities of which there are only a few in Canada. So for the small time operator, it is unrealistic to ship his 100 or 200 or every 500 chickens to a far away slaughter house and unreasonable for him to expect to get the same ones back. So in order to grow your own chickens, you have to kill them yourself. So why was this legislation brought about? Didn't you see all those stories about people dying from bad chickens killed at these small slaughter houses? No... me neither. It serves the greedy mega corporations that fund government who were feeling threatened by the organic, locally grown movement.

When I was a kid, you could buy milk from the farmer down the road. Big milk corporations made that illegal and so organic, unpasteurized milk has been unavailable for almost a generation... unless you keep your own cow. And now chicken will be unavailable. Mine will be slaughtered on the last day that our local slaughterhouse is open. And after Sept 30, it will be illegal for me to sell them. And small time farmers are going to be put out of business. We have lost a major freedom as far as I am concerned and mostly we didn't even notice. It scares me and it reminds me of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Systematically our rights are being eroded and we aren't even paying attention. The real issues barely make the news if at all and often once it is too late. We are like the frog in a pot of water - we aren't noticing how close we are to being cooked! If you are not happy with these changes, or with our current direction of development, make sure your local politicians know. DO SOMETHING!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Night Time Visitor

In this post you begged for me not to post pictures of this... but at least it isn't my own poop... This is the evidence of our nightly visitor. It is that time of year when we have bears around here - eating the corn from the ranch by day and the plums from our orchard by night. You can see evidence of this if you look closely at the second picture. Poop on the left is plum poop. Poop on the right is hard to see because it is yellow corn poop. Just what you wanted to know, I know!

We are all just a little bit freaked this year. The bears (there are 2 that have been sighted - a large 500lb one and a smaller 300lb one) don't usually come so close to our house. But the first picture of poop is under the swing and there is usually a new one there every morning. And the second is on the path by the chicken coop with new deposits made a couple times a week. It all gets shovelled up and put in my compost...

But yes, we are a bit freaked. I make Dean go close up the coop each night because he can run faster and the other night, while going out to the van in the dark, I got that old shiver and jerkily ran and fumbled with the door, wondering what I was afraid of? The bear to put his paw on my shoulder while I am fumbling with the door? (only a few feet from my front door) Another time, I heard him (or her) crashing through the brush outside my bedroom window. I heard him (or her) grunt. Dean and I turned off the lights and shone flashlights out the window in hopes of seeing our visitor... but so far, all we have seen are those piles of poop in our yard...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Happy Not-Back-To-School-Day

Yesterday was the first day of school here in Vernon - that first half day thing. We get a pro-d day for the Tuesday that is usually the first day. So one of our friends suggested a Not-Back-To-School Party. Or you could look at it as our first day of school... Because this is pretty much what school looks like for us. Life. And life in the Okanagan is deffinitely a BEACH!

So on that beautiful sunny day, we headed to the beach that is usually far too crowded to be very enjoyable. And it was us, a few others and a LOT of gulls. The water was still warm enough to be swimmable and some great sand creations got made.

I love our homeschooling group. It really makes it easier to continue with what we believe and love to do when we are so well supported and have such great friends. And having the right fit for registering really makes a difference. This will be our third year with selfdesign. I am so grateful to have found them. All of those things help to make that part of our life flow.

So, happy not-back-to-school!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sneaky Chickens

So, although the chickens have learned how to get along with the chicks - who are hardly chicks any more, they have rebelled at having to share their space with the voracious, messy, feather-brains when it comes to their egg-laying. Everyday, when they are ready to lay an egg, they climb on top of the coop and jump over to the gate and fly down to freedom. Then they go lay an egg and circle the chicken yard until I notice they are done and let them back in.

Now it turns out that chickens are rather private... they hide their nests very well. We searched and we searched and we searched and I discovered that indeed, we do have stinging nettle on our property... and still no eggs.
Finally Sampson helped us out. While one of the hens was sitting in a place we couldn't see, he pounced on her and sent her squawking. And we discovered this nest with 18 eggs in it. Can you see it in the photo on the left? Dean and I had both searched right in that area and never saw it. In fact when a hen is on it, it is about impossible to see - she blends right in. Two hens were laying in that nest. I left 2 eggs in it so they would keep laying in it (chickens can't count). But one of the other chickens was laying somewhere else. We still haven't been able to find that nest.... It is somewhere on the north side of the house, we think.

Then yesterday, one of the two hens from the original nest, decided she needed a new spot. And those sweet hens picked this spot - right beside our step! How convenient is that? And then the other hen joined her today.

I'll forgive them for abandonning the coop...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Good Bye to an Old Friend

Seems an appropriate time of the year to do just that. I haven't posted much in August and here is one of the big reasons. August 1 we got notice that the woman that we sublet the space for the Inner World School would like to have our studio for herself. And she generously gave us 30 days notice....(not). And 30 days in August is not quite like 30 days at some other time... In fact, I got the notice jut 2 days before leaving for our 10 day camping trip to New Denver. And then there is our annual trip to Calgary at the end of August that we just returned from. That meant that everything had to be done by August 27th...

Not to mention solving the problem of where we go next.... Really, it is a good thing. We have been in our basement room with no windows for almost 3 years. Our seed has been planted in the earth, it is time for us to sprout above ground. I guess this is the little push we needed to do the hard work of changing locations. But this was not enough time to find our next longterm home and to paint, etc. So we have arranged a temporary home with Inner Light Yoga which has a beautiful studio with lots of windows and a wonderful airy space. We have arranged to be there until at least December which gives us time.

But saying goodbye has still been a sweet sorrow. When I got to the point of having packed everything out of the storage room and the back hall and had swept and washed the floors back there, I just stood there outside the back door remembering all my little dancers so recently lined up back there, so excited for their performance - they young, exuberant energy. And the 3 years of dance students before them who had waited in that space with so much anticipation to make magic with dance. And it was hard to close the door...

We had a wonderful last week. We had an art class for children that was full of children. I love the energy of their creativity. We now have lots to choose from to make a calendar for fund raising with for the Inner World School. And there was my dance class for wee ones and then an evening class for adults.

This space has afforded me so much. I have learned so much. I have met some amazing families - amazing children and I have learned about myself - most importantly. I have grown. And I am excited for the next step of this journey. Thank you little studio in the basement and good bye.