Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Are You Happy?

In the past month or so many people have commented to me about happiness. "Are you as happy as you thought you'd be?". "Do you like it as much as you thought you would?"  "You seem so happy!"  "I have never seen you look so happy."  It seems to be a common thread in my encounters with people.

Let me tell you the answer to all of those questions. I have wanted this for almost forty years. Forty years!! It wasn't always in the forefront. My first love of the country and my first desire to live in the country is documented here. And now I am here. The place I always wanted to be.

Every day, every single day I look around in wonder and am so thankful that I have the privilege of living here.

Every day I have more work to do than I have ever done before and I love it.

Every day there are animals to tend to, compost to be fiddled with, dog poop to pick up, things to be built.

Every day I find more and more bruises and wonder where they came from. (I may need some safety boots as I set a pallet down right on top of my foot. Ouch.)

Every day I feed my family, tidy the house, do a little home school related planning.

Every day as I sit on my front porch and have my glass of wine I see a forest of trees. And as far as I can see, all those trees belong to me. Or I am a steward of them in reality.

Every day I hear the owls. See the moon. Listen to the coyotes. See the sun rise. Laugh at the hummingbirds trying to spear each other at the feeder. Listen to the grey catbird, the finches and the noisy blue jays.

Every day I watch Athena explore, catch frogs (and my are there a lot of frogs), laugh and play and almost every day at some point she says "I like life here."
Am I happy here? I couldn't be more!












Monday, August 19, 2013

Dinner Party

 
Weekends seem to go by so quickly. We work outside almost all day. Both days. It makes for sound sleep, I tell you. We would like to keep Sunday as a separate day. A day set apart for fun and relaxation. We aren't there yet and although we do spend some relaxing time during the weekend it has mostly been filled with work.
 
It is not all drudgery though, except for the relentless horseflies! I like to work. I like to do manual labour. Each day I find new bruises and scrapes. I can't seem to keep my clothing clean for more than a few minutes and Athena more often than not looks like a ragamuffin. She is long overdue for a haircut as well. That is on the agenda for this week.
 
So yesterday we had a our neighbors down the road come up for dinner. It was long overdue. I love having company for dinner and these farm kids ate up everything on their plates and went back for more! My kind of kids. And this particular family can't go anywhere without their dogs tagging along. They are good dogs. Nice dogs. We love when they come and so do our pups.
 

The one lying down is Athena (can you believe that?). The is about 150lbs of pit bull cross. The has scars across her face, likely from a bear encounter.


The golden retriever/coyote cross is Jules. Her owners say "she is her own dog." And she is. She is a non conformist. Nice girl. Athena's (the girl) favorite.

 
 
The big black dog is Cadillac. He is 130lbs of Great Dane/lab. His head is HUGE. Plus, he thinks he is a lap dog. So friendly and gentle.
 
 

Of course there are also our dogs. Haven't they grown? Max, the dark one, wants to be BFFs with all the dogs. In an annoying way. He likes to lick their faces and all three of the bigs gave him a warning growl at one point in the evening. Jack, on the right, likes them well enough but likes to keep a little apart. He'll be the good guard dog for our farm. I can tell already.


But this girl is the queen. She is old and she is tough and she is the alpha dog for sure.


When all 5 dogs were up on the front porch and I opened the front door, the REAL queen rushed out and in her fury of spitting/hissing/scratching that lasted 5 seconds sent four big dogs off the deck in no time at all. Athena (the dog) stood there unfazed and was probably saying to herself "Do you know you have a cone on your head and that you look ridiculous?"

It was a good day. Good company, good food, busy dirty children and happy dogs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Put 'em Up

I do so love preserving the harvest. It is one of my favorite things and reminds me that my favorite season is on its way. The ping of the jars sealing is music to my ears. Sadly, this year I don't have a garden. I have a cherry tomato plant and a cucumber vine on my front porch and two cedar bins full of herbs that I brought from my old house. Nothing to speak of and certainly nothing to can.




What I do have is a husband who regularly calls on the Hutterite colonies as part of his job. They are always willing to sell their produce at very low prices. Low prices because they want the same in return from Paul. Either way we get some lovely food from them. Pickling cucumber are one of my favorite. Last year my dills were a soggy mess. The flavor was great, the texture not so much. This year I found the book Canning For A New Generation, (which I love and have subsequently ordered from Chapters) and the book told me to cut off the blossom end of the cucumbers so they don't get soft. Who knew? Probably all of you reading this blog, that is who. So I took that advice and a recipe from that book and made the Long fermented Kosher Dill recipe. They are in the basement in a crock and the results have yet to be determined. The process was easy peasy and I have been known to buy dill pickles from restaurants if I find a good one.


 
 



Organic fruit is another thing in abundance this year. At Costco anyway. I bought strawberries and blueberries. I froze 9 cups of blueberries and made blueberry jam and some muffins as well. The low sugar recipe from the book Back to Basics was so good. I am not a sugar fan (as you can tell by my love for all things salty) and these muffins were so good. 3T sugar for the entire batch.








I used Pamona's Pectin for the first time for the jam. Unfortunately I didn't mash up the strawberries enough so the jam kind of separated. After the jar is opened and it is mixed up it tastes fine. For the blueberry jam I used the food processor instead of a potato masher and got excellent results. As I mentioned before I got rhubarb from a neighbor and made 6 jars of jam and 3 larger jars of maple stewed rhubarb. 





I tried my hand at a teeny tiny batch of sauerkraut, again from the Canning For A New Generation book. It will be ready in a day or two. I can't wait to try that out. I am new to fermenting food so time will tell. I'll need to get some Mennonite Farmers Sausage to go with it.


 


And this is the reality of a day in the kitchen putting food by. Not pretty but totally worth every bit of work.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Max and Jack

When we knew we were moving out to the country and when we found out that there were bears, moose and coyotes all around, we realized we would need a farm dog to watch over things for us.

Our daughter found an ad for some pups and we responded. Before we even packed a box we had picked out our pups. We decided that since they would be strictly outside dogs it would be best if we got two. Two brothers. Friends from the start. Purebred German Shepherd Dogs. Best of all, they were born on a farm and have never been inside a house so they wouldn't be missing that part at all.



Paul and Athena built them a dog house from her old play centre wood, which was a deck before that. How is that for recycling? We bought a second hand kennel and Paul moved some sand and gravel from our land into their space with the tractor.

Even though they are brothers, they are so very different from each other.

Max. He is a tough guy. At least he thinks he is. He barks at robins and will challenge the biggest dogs that come around. When he gets close to these big dogs, he wimpers and rolls over on his back to show his submission. He craves attention and is always first to come running when we come out of the house. He also loves to chew and found a lovely jawbone of some long dead animal to chew on.
 

Jack. He is more independent. He is more stand offish when neighboring dogs come for a visit. He will back his brother when confronting a new dog but unlike Max he keeps his distance and is never really that comfortable with the intrusion. He is friendly but not so needy as Max is. He likes to dig and can often be found digging in the sand or dirt to find a place to cool off. He loves water and often splashes around in the doggy pool we got them. His coat is so long and furry and is forever filled with twigs, leaves and dirt. He howls like a coyote. He looks like a coyote. We wonder if he wasn't maybe sired by one too. He certainly doesn't look like a German Shepherd and his paws are HUGE.


The first few weeks after we got them they were inseparable but now that they are a bit older they do their own thing from time to time. Most often when one wanders into the bush, the other follows. When one pees, the other does too. They wrestle and growl and play just like real brothers do. It is hard to tell who is going to be more dominant but my bet goes with Jack.
 
 
 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pie


Our farm, we have learned, is abundant with fruit.
We didn't know it then, but we sure know it now.
It is likely the reason there are bears around here.
We have thousands of Saskatoon bushes.
Half that of choke cherry and as far as I can tell
half that of wild raspberry and strawberry.
 
 
I was so busy getting settled inside the home
that I was late in getting to the Saskatoon berries.
That and the mosquitoes and horseflies kept me
from picking them on time.
Still, there were very many that weren't over ripe.
Paul even helped and did the lions share of the picking.


So I made pie. Saskatoon pie.
Paul was so excited.
He loves pie!


My Grandfather always told me
"Your Grandma makes the best pie crust. Use her recipe."
And so I do. It works out every time.



And our neighbor across the road had an abundance of rhubarb.
Paul went down and picked that for me as well.
Lots and lots of rhubarb. Enough for pies and jam and maple stewed.
 


And when the pies were cooling on the counter
with the sweet aroma filling the air,
my dear Paul was circling them like a shark.
 
Turns out since he picked most of the berries, he got to have the pie
all to himself.
Saskatoon pie does not appeal to me so
I didn't even try it.
And Athena tried it and politely said
"Not my favorite."
 
But the rhubarb pie... that is another story!