Archive for the ‘Random Musings’ Category

I was out in the windbreak along the driveway the other day, trimming and sawing down windfallen trees, and thinking.  You get to do a fair bit of thinking when you’re doing work like that, because it’s mostly just repetitive motion, using your muscles and leaving your brain free to idle.   I had a lot of sawing to do, and I was worried that I’d work myself so hard that I’d have trouble brushing my hair the next morning.  I was feeling just the teensiest bit sorry for myself, and thinking that an acreage has to be just about the world’s most expensive gym membership.


A lot of work

A lot of work!

Then I heard some noise above me, and looked up to see not one or two, nit even five or ten, but fourteen cranes flying overhead.    I sat in the grass and watched them fly for a while.


It might be an expensive gym membership, but having an acreage is also cheap therapy!

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THE Book Sale

When Hubby and I had been dating almost a year, we made a trip from Alberta to Saskatchewan to visit my family.


While we were there, we randomly happened across a fundraiser book sale in a mall, that was by the local symphony.  It was HUGE!  Thousands and thousands of books, donated by the type of people who frequent the symphony, so really quite a wide and interesting variety of textbooks, history, travel, gardening, classics, fiction and non fiction.  Prices ranged from 50 cents to three dollars.  We were in heaven.


So much so that when we checked and found it was an annual event, Hubby immediately marked it on the calendar for the next year, double-circled and everything.


It became our annual date.   We would drive in from Alberta, and fill our trunk with the next year’s worth of reading material, generally at a dollar a book.


Yes, I guess we ARE nerds.


This weekend was the opening of the book sale, and therefore, our annual date.  Now that we live in Saskatchewan, it’s a day trip, but I still took a day off work, so that we could go on a weekday and beat the crowds.  We revised and printed out our book inventory list (all 22 pages!).  We made babysitting arrangements (thanks, Auntie J!).  We spent a few quality hours hunting for great deals.


Hubby is trying to enforce a one-in-one-out rule with the books, as we are on the verge of having to reinforce the livingroom floor.   I am on the hunt for every Bobsey Twins and Hardy Boys hardcover ever printed (I have all the Nancy Drews), as well as a few other series, so that the kids will never lack for good reading material.   We have an occasional conflict over this, particularly given that Baby M won’t likely be reading for a few years yet, and the other hasn’t even been born!


We did pretty well this year, by both of our standards.  Hubby got some books he’s been hunting for, and I managed to limit myself to just one box of books between the two of us.


box o books

It’s not a small box, but it is only *one* box.  Some years we’ve come home with two boxes each!


We’ll be spending some serious time tonight cataloging and filing our new treasures.  we’re already anticipating having the garden planted so we can settle into lawn chairs on a sunny day and enjoy our loot!


yay books!

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I read a disturbing article from Reuters this week, about children in Fukushima prefecture not being allowed outside to play, even two years after the disaster.   This is beyond sad, and I can’t imaging trying to raise Baby M in an environment where he had to be afraid of the air.


Playing outside in our safe, Canadian clean air.

Playing outside in our safe, Canadian clean air.


Since Fukushima, of course, there has been a lot of controversy about nuclear power, and its environmental and human impacts, especially when things go wrong.  There are a lot of vocal people who completely oppose nuclear power, under any circumstances.  I can see their point, and sympathize with it.


However, a lot of those same folks are also very vocally against the tar sands projects in northern Alberta, and the Keystone XL pipeline that is proposed to take bitumen from Alberta to refineries in the US.


I have a bit of an issue with this.  If you are living in a climate-controlled house in North America, drive a car, wear clothing you did not make yourself, and/or eating anything you didn’t grow, you need to recognize that you, too, are dependent on outside energy, and that energy most likely comes from petroleum, or, in many parts of the US, nuclear generation.


“Oh,” you say, “I have a windmill and drive an electric car”.


Not good enough.  The metals and minerals in your car and your windmill (and your solar panels and even your woodstove) were mined, and were mined using diesel.  The waste from the smelting still ended up in the environment, though probably in China, where it’s easier to forget.  I’ve read somewhere that an electric car takes so many resources to make that, in terms of total lifetime environmental damage caused by a vehicle, you are better off buying a second-hand car, even if it’s less fuel efficient.   As long as we continue to drive and live in big houses and eat food grown elsewhere, even if we slap some solar panels on the roof, there will be more generating plants, more tar sands expansion, more mines, and more environmental damage.


The fact of the matter is that windmills and solar panels and electric cars aren’t really a solution.  People don’t like to think about the real solution, which is to simply reduce consumption.   No more new wardrobes every season, or new iPhones every two years or new cars every three years, even if they’re electric.  No more strawberries in Saskatchewan in January.  We need to learn to do without, or, if we can’t, to buy well-made goods that will last for generations.  We need to start repairing things when they break.  We need to take some responsibility for our food supply.


Now, I’m no angel, here.  I drive a car to work, and heat my house with a furnace.  We grow a lot of food here, but we buy a lot, too…some of it even imported.  It’s hard to live a low-resource lifestyle in a country that’s set up for commuting and consumption.  But I sure get sick of seeing people drive up to join in a tar sands protest, or type furious internet comments about nuclear disasters on their brand new phones.  We’re all part of the problem, but until we define what, exactly, the real problem is, there won’t be any viable solutions.  So maybe it’s time to face our own hypocrisy and start working towards low-consumption lifestyles.  Then we can talk about tar sands protests.





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Spring is coming.  No, really, it is.


spring flowers

With the weather forecast to finally come up to around the melting point, after months of -30, the announcers on the radio were all talking about people planning their gardens.


I planned my garden in December, and ordered my seeds in January.


The rural life encourages long-term thinking and planning, I think.


If you want eggs in November, you need to order the chicks in February, plan and build your coop and run in April, collect your day-old chicks in May, feed and protect them through the summer, and butcher your excess roosters in October.


chick in the grass


If you want carrots in November, you need to plan the garden in winter, order seeds before May, plant in spring, weed all summer, harvest in September, and monitor the root cellar through the winter.


carrot harvest

If you want goat kids (or milk) in May, you have to plan your breeding the January prior, reserve a buck, get the buck in February or March, raise the buck through the summer, order enough hay in June for all your spring kids and mommas, breed in November, and feed and monitor through the winter.


aurora the goat kid

Every year, we’re planning next year’s kids, or chickens, or garden.  We assess what’s working, and make notes about what to do differently next year.  We budget our money and our time, and make breeding, planting, and construction plans based on when we think we’ll have enough of each to get our projects done (though we’re almost always over-ambitious with both).  We think months, seasons, even decades down the road!  We planned our work for this spring, summer, and fall, last summer and fall, knowing we’ll have less time and energy than usual with the new baby.  We made our planting and breeding plans accordingly.  While I’m sure there are folks just starting to think about their gardens now that the weather is starting to turn, we’re way past that stage…we’ve got the seeds in the basement, the garden map figured out, and the seed-starting stuff will be coming out of storage soon to sprout the early tomatoes…


…because spring IS coming soon, you know!


honeysuckle flowers

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Last week, I spoke about choices, and I maintain that most of the folks who have the internet connection to read this blog have plenty of them, whether they recognize them or not.




But there is also a matter of luck.  I was born in Canada, to middle-class-ish parents.  That’s luck.  I could have been born in Afghanistan, where girls aren’t allowed to get an education, or to parents too poor to put food on the table, let alone encourage me to go to university.   I could have been born in 1700, when there was no birth control, and my choices would be to be a wife (broodmare), a spinster, or a nun.


I met my husband on the internet.  He searched for women within 20 miles of him who had listed Scrabble as an interest.  I enjoy board games, but it is mostly luck that we ever encountered each other.  Luck.


We do need to give some credit to the luck that put me in a time and place where there is plenty of food for the table, educational options for women, and a middle class at all.


Beyond that, though, it’s still choices.  I met my husband by luck, but I chose to marry him.   I was born in Canada by luck, but going to university, slogging it out on the less-than-fulfilling lower rungs of a career ladder in order to have the job security and paycheck I currently enjoy, and moving to an acreage were still all choices.


If you were born into a place and time that offers you many opportunities, thank your luck.  Then go out and take advantage of all those choices that your life has to offer!

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Most people have a lot of choices that they don’t recognize.  Especially if you are a middle-class-ish person living in North America at this point in time.


Now, I understand that there are choices people don’t have, due to real physical or mental limitations, environment, or other personal situation.  Someone with no legs probably doesn’t have the option of becoming a long distance runner.  A person in dire poverty with limited education and kids to feed can’t very well quit her job to pursue her dreams.


However, I would argue that most of us have options.  Lots and lots of them.  Most of us don’t recognize most of the choices most of the time, but they do still exist.


I was chatting with some colleagues in the lunchroom at work a few days ago, and this kind of came up.  Someone asked the group:


“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”


The usual answers followed:  Spain, Mexico, Paris, etc.


Snorkeling in Belize

Snorkeling in Belize


I said “on an acreage in Saskatchewan”.


rainbow at the acreage


Of course, nobody believed me.


The thing is, I have lived in other places, including a few months in London, UK.  I have traveled quite a bit, and spent weeks or months is various other countries…long enough to get a feel for how life goes in those places.  I have honestly and truly concluded that this is where I want to be.  I like the space, the price, the quality of life, the clean environment, the medical care, and the low crime rate.   I don’t like every minute of winter, but I do appreciate the lack of malaria, dengue fever, hand-sized bugs, and such, which is really a result of the climate.


Camels in Jordanian desert

Camels in Jordanian desert


I recognize that I have other choices.  I have been through the application process for jobs and permanent residence in other countries, and know I could earn a living in a lot of different places.  Knowing that living here is really a choice makes me a lot happier about it than some of my colleagues, who ‘wish’ they could live in Mexico, but don’t recognize that they could sell their big fancy house and live there off the proceeds for a couple of decades.   Or open a hostel in some nice little Spanish coastal town, like a friend’s parents did as a retirement project.  Or buy a little farm in France.  These are high-earning people, with good educations, strong work ethics, and a lot of motivation…people who truly do have a lot of choices in the world, and are not constrained by poverty, illiteracy, or disability.  They just don’t see what their choices are, and they are unhappy with their perception that they are ‘stuck’ where they are.





This applies to so many things.  I can’t count how many times people have told me they were jealous of things I was doing, whether it was travel, buying an acreage, or having my husband stay home to raise our son.  I shake my head…these are people with as many resources as I have, or often more.  They could choose to do any of the things that I have done, but don’t.   They are scared, maybe.  Some of them only want the results, with none of the sacrifices, so they won’t pursue these things, either.   A lot of the time, I get the impression that it’s never occurred to them that they could really do something different from what they’ve always done.


Tikkal, Guatemala

Tikkal, Guatemala


When I start feeling ‘stuck’, I try to brainstorm my options.  All of them, no matter how outrageous.   I could quit my job and become a stripper.  I could go back to school and become an architect.   I could run away and join the circus.  I could go to Mexico and start a business giving trail rides on horseback to tourists.  I could sell my house and farm, buy an RV, and become a traveling salesman.  Will I really  do these things?  No.  But remembering that I am living in this place, working this job, and spending my time as I do by choice helps me feel less stuck and more grateful (and therefore happy) for my situation.


Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.


If you’re unhappy with your life right now, it is worth some thought:  What are your choices?

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I live east of town.  Almost due east, actually.


It wasn’t planned that way, it just kind of happened…the place we wanted was east, so east we live.  If I had it to do all over again, though, I would purposely look for a place east or at least south of wherever I was going to work and shop.


You see, I drive to work at 7am, and, for a good chunk of the year, the sun is just coming up about then.  My friends from west of town spend several months a year battling the sun in their eyes while they commute…but the sun is at my back.  I’m comfortable.  I’m at less risk of hitting a deer or moose that I couldn’t see due to glare.  It’s a smooth-sailing commute.


sunrise 1

I drive home sometime starting around 4 or 5, and guess what?  I don’t have the sun in my eyes then, either, since I’m heading east when the sun is west.  It makes a huge difference.


resized sunset1 mod1

You’d think I planned it this way.


resized sunset 2

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I just read an article from Slate about how the ‘Do What You Love’ mantra devalues actual work, as well as entire socioeconomic classes of people who do the dirty and unloveable, but so very necessary, jobs that keep society running.  You know, the shelf-stockers, hospital janitors, and farm laborers of the world.  It was an interesting perspective, and one that makes sense to me, though I had never considered that particular angle before.


I have the sort of job that lots of people covet.  I have my own office, work (fairly) predictable hours, and get paid quite well.  I get benefits – good ones, like paid sick time, a pension, and four weeks’ vacation.  My work is challenging, has creative elements, and often is under minimal supervision.   Sounds dreamy, right?




Well, it has its challenges, too.  I carry a great deal of responsibility, including a threat of lawsuits and other legal action, or even people being hurt or killed if I make a poor recommendation or fail to consider all of the information in a case.  My clientele is difficult at best, and the physical work environment ranges from depressing to dangerous.


I don’t love my job, though many of my colleagues do.  But you know what?  I think that’s okay.  I strive to do a good job of the things that are required of me, and I recognize that the structure of a work week is good for my mental health.   I’m grateful to have a secure job that pays well, and I do truly enjoy my colleagues, who are a smart and funny bunch.  I may not love my job, but I’m committed to it, and I do get gratification from writing that stellar report, overcoming challenges, or meeting that super-tight surprise deadline.


There are lots of things that I do really love, things I am good at, and could marshal into a business or career if I wanted to.  Travel writer, portrait photographer or pet portrait photographer, market gardener…there are things I love so much that I do them for free, or even pay for the opportunity to enjoy them.   Here’s the thing, though:  I think they would become work if I had to do these things day in and day out, for my living.  I could see dreading ‘yet another trip’ if I didn’t get to stay home when I wanted to.  Some days, I don’t feel inspired to pull out the camera, but leaving it in the closet wouldn’t be an option if that was paying the mortgage.   I don’t know how long I would continue loving those hobbies if I were forced into them, day in, day out.   It seems to work for some people, but I don’t think it would do it for me.


cat portrait


The other issue is money.  The job I have pays in a way that small-town photography or one-family market gardens just don’t.  It pays enough to enjoy all of my hobbies, and gives me enough time off to pursue those things.   As a market gardener, I doubt I would have the time or the money to travel overseas.  As a travel writer, I’d never be home to plant or tend the garden.


temple restoration, Egypt


As it is, I do lots of different things that I enjoy immensely – blogging, photography, gardening, travel, canning, mentoring…the list goes on and on.  I DO do what I love.  All the time.  I just don’t get paid for it, and I do a job I don’t love in order to have the time and money to do the rest.  It’s really not a bad compromise, as far as these things go.  I am happy with the lifestyle I have, and wouldn’t trade it, even for a job I loved.  It’s just not necessary.


squash harvest


So I’d say go ahead and do what you love, but maybe recognize you don’t always have to get paid for it.


Eiffel Tower at night

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A Tough Post to Write.

I have wrestled with this post for a long time, now.  I don’t want to sound whiny or melodramatic, but I do want to be honest.


I will be glad to see the end of this summer.   It’s been a rough one.


We’ve faced illness, an overwhelming amount of work at the office, too much unpaid overtime, a beloved pet with cancer, hitches with the renos, a toddler throwing wrenches in gears, a ridiculous amount of work on the acreage, a scheduled hay delivery that did not materialize, leaving us stressed out and scrambling, and illness and a tragic death in our extended family.   And that’s just the big stuff.


With so many things going on, and going wrong, I didn’t have the heart to blog, even if I could have found the time.


I think it’s over now, though.  We abandoned the garden to the thistles back in July, so we’re just wading in to see if there’s any potatoes, and that’ll be that.  We’ve found a local market gardener to supply most of our veggies, and have secured most of the things she didn’t grow through other vendors.  I am trying to do some late canning – a bit of apple jelly, maybe, and the tomatoes we bought, but there isn’t much of a late-season push in the preserving department.  We’ll be tidying up the garden and flower beds for the winter, movign a few raspberry bushes and planting some flower bulbs, and hopefully putting in posts for one more fence before the ground freezes, then it’ll be winter, and we’ll put our feet up and relax for a bit.


Thank goodness.


In the meantime, I’ll be getting back into the blogging habit, so expect to see more of me 🙂


Here’s hoping autumn goes well for all of us!



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We really enjoy our chickens.  Roasted, barbequed, or in soups…and sometimes their personalities are cute, too.


Two years ago, we ordered fifty chickens, without quite knowing where we would put them.  We built a coop in one corner of the barn, but we discovered (the day we brought those chicks home) that it was drafty when it was six degrees outside and raining sideways.  So, we ended up with fifty chicks taking up residence in our bathtub for a week or so, until we could make alternate arrangements.


2013 chicks


This year, we ordered 25 more chicks, to replace the hens that the fox got last summer, and also with the intent of boosting our egg production, as we’ve found it astonishingly easy to unload eggs, even at a slightly profitable price.  There are other folks around here selling eggs for less than we charge, but we have an advantage:  one of our ‘bonus’ chickens that the hatchery included in our order lays green eggs.  Apparently a green egg or two is worth at least a dollar a dozen!


2013 Americauna chick


With that in mind, we ordered ten straight run Americaunas, the breed that lays the green eggs.  Apparently they can also lay blue, brown, and pink eggs, depending, so I’m hoping that we get at least five hens, and that at least a couple of them lay colored eggs.



2013 Americauna chick


We also got 15 Black Sex Link hen chicks.  We’ve never had them before, but I really liked the idea of minimizing the number of new roosters around here.  We still have plenty from the 25 or so we butchered in 2011; apparently we don’t eat chicken as often as I thought.  These BSL girls are supposed to be good layers, and very hardy in cold weather.  Hopefully this is true, as our winters are very long and cold.



2013 Black Sex Link chick


Knowing we had chickens coming, we had a plan, and even a place to put them.  The weather had been quite nice for several weeks, and there is a reasonably protected corner of the barn we thought we could reclaim; the coop we built for the 2011 chicks is, of course, occupied by the 2011 chickens, so that wasn’t an option.   Then, of course (of course!), it got chilly, and the rain came.  Great for my garden; not so great for day-old chicks.   At least this time we didn’t have to scramble to put a hook in over the bathtub to hang the heat lamp on…



2013 Americauna chick


Those chicks will be evicted as soon as the weather turns, though…

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