Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plowing Along

I like snowplowing. I don't know if it's a guy thing - the equipment part, or the almost meditative quality of the task. It's more productive than meditating via T.V. My skidsteer is still undergoing some maintenance so I've been using Brother Tom's modern cat.  All in all by the time I get the machine back to Tom's it's a four hour job.  I probably have to do it at least ten or twelve times a winter.

Tom's machine has more power than my old girl and I can actually plow our driveway, a kilometer of it, while going uphill. Plowing the place makes it easier to get around. Getting the paths clear to the various outbuildings makes getting to the animals and plants a whole lot easier. And of course without plowing it is pretty hard to get to town. I can sometimes get out without plowing when the snow is over two feet high, but unable to get back up. I don't have chains for the truck I am using now, and while studded winter tires will get me pretty far, without the off road chains I have for the Toyota, I wouldn't make it up the driveway.

We've thought about the alternatives. Not plowing. Just let the snow build up. Leave a vehicle down by the road in an as yet unbuilt garage, and use that to get to town and back. But snow shoeing up hill for a kilometer with grocery laden packs seems like a lot of work. Another idea was to use a skidoo and trailer. But we'd have to buy one and maintain it. It's all possible. Just sometimes hard to wrap my head around. It would be great exercise. It would save about 200 bucks in fuel costs. The real problem happens when the snow melts. The mud would be awful and the run off from the melt water would probably destroy the road. In the spring when the sun is bright we've seen it wash out the bend in the road in a couple of hours.

The thing with plowing is I have to do it regularly. My skidsteer just wouldn't be able to push four foot drifts out of the way.

Still maybe I could do a few practice weeks. Without plowing. Just to see. Ah the thought of it just exhausts me.
Hope your having a relaxing time...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Full Of Hot Air

I love popcorn.  I have a bunch of boxes of #10 cans filled with popcorn.  I have a hot air popcorn machine but it is a real pain picking up the kernels that end up flying everywhere.  Ah, when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

Here's a method I picked up from Wendy at her Surviving the Suburbs Blog:

Now she used a wood stove which I can do out in the green house or Barn but I tried it on our electric range and it worked perfectly.  All popped, no oil, no mess and the sieve didn't even get hot.

If you're in the mood for some hot air popcorn with no fuss or muss give it a try!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Deck The Halls

We're starting to go into a bit of a cold snap.  Yesterday when I was bidding the Barn animals good morning I was admiring the frost painting on Boose's window.

Now don't worry she's plenty warm.  That's a folded up electric blanket that she sleeps on. It keeps her butt warm and toasty.  It's good to have her in the Barn.  Haven't seen a spec of mouse crap around since she declared it her territory.  Despite lot's of feed scattered around the place.

We got a couple of more loads of wood yesterday while the sun was shining. And our nose hairs weren't frozen. This was a bug killed pine that was very branchy.  When I cut it down it lay eight feet off the ground on the branches and that took some cutting to bring it safely down to the ground.  We had to cut the tree into half so that Jo-Ann could skid them out to the path side to facilitate cutting them up.  The stump is always the heaviest part of the tree and I was dragging parts of my anatomy as well as the stump up a hundred feet of slope and down the road to the truck.

I cut trees like an amateur.  I cut the tree a comfortable three feet off the ground and then cut off the stump that remains.  Real loggers that are falling for lumber would never waste the stump and will cut it as close to the ground as they can.  Us firewood guys have it easier.  And the best part is we get to hold hands with our Sweetie Pies in the truck- with the heater going full blast- to keep their little fingers from getting frost bitten.

One of the loads was about all the truck would carry.   We're just about loaded for Winter.  But as I've mentioned before, last year the only month we didn't have a fire burning was July.  And that was probably because I was to lazy to light one! You can see the blue rings on the rounds that were cause by the Pine Beetle.  Or more correctly the blue stain fungi that the pine beetle carries.

We're still eating tomatoes from the Green house and watching a crop of lettuce, chinese cabbage and various herbs grow.  We're trying a bit of Stevia to see if we can have a bit of natural sweetener.  And this summer we may even venture into the bee keeping side of sweetness.  Several local farmers do a brisk apiary business.  I just need enough to keep me sweet all year.  That can't be such a daunting task can it?

It's that time of year again.  I know it's a silly , power wasteful tradition, but I like it and it brings out the six year old in this sixty year old.  I love brightening up the dark of winter with Christmas lights.

I had a bunch of strings of 7 watt Christmas Lights that I bought at a friends place a few years ago and was storing in the barn.  We dragged them into the light repair area ( the kitchen) Jo-Ann untangled them and I chased down shorts and broken and burnt out lamps.  A warm kitchen and several cups of tea make the chore a lot more civilized.  And far toastier..

Hope your keeping toasty.  Maybe try some raisin toast dipped in farm fresh beaten eggs..but that's another post.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stinky Mail

That's the kind we occasionally get.  Thankfully.  The local post office phoned us and wanted to know if we were expecting a package - that smelled.  Jo-Ann's Auntie Roberta had turned us on to Oka Cheese last year so our hopes were up.  We assuaged their fears that it was a dead animal and assured them we would be in to take the odiferous package away.  There was no hiding the smell when we picked up the package. Delightful.  Home for tea, some delicious Auntie Roberta, world famous, hand made crunchy biscotti.

With a ration of Oka.  It's got to last.  At least until it's gone.  It is just nothing we can get in a local store.  I found one at the Coast but it was a pale remembrance of the real thing.  How can something smell so odiferous and yet taste so good.  It's a cheese thing I suppose.  The only other example I can think of is Durian Fruit - smells like baby poop, tastes like honey.  Don't leave it in your fridge.

Finally got a moment to fill the 45 gallon drums in the green house.  Our well is very cold and the water going in was only a few degrees above zero.  After a couple of fires now the water has risen to 10C, interesting to see how high it gets.  And how well it moderates the temperature in the green house.  It does have quite the heat sink.  Will be interesting to see how it works when we get some sun on it.

My irrigation plan for next summer includes heating a 1000 gallons of water in large plastic tanks  painted black to absorbe sunlight and pumping the heated water through the irrigation system.

I stole a reindeer today.  It just wasn't doing the Christmas thing with any enthusiasm.  Now to spend some time with the circuit checker seeing if I can brighten it up.  And of course I will return it!

Hope you get a chance to relax over the Season!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dog Tired

I took the day off.  Sort of.  No falling trees - just the usual chores.  Sometimes it just catches up with me.  The doggies have been pulling a disappearing act the last little while and while they do return it sure takes them a while after I stand on the porch and call them.  I decided today to follow their tracks as we had about an inch of fresh snow last night and it would make tracking them pretty easy.  I grabbed my camel back, with its little supply of emergency goodies, decided I didn't need the snow shoes, and started tracking.  Should have taken the shoes.

Just as I started down the driveway following their tracks Xena showed up and was  happy to show me where she had been and where Cleo still was. It was like they were very excited to show me where they had been playing.

 -With the rabbits down in the Christmas Tree field and just over our West fence line.  So we ended up going for a bit of a slog up our West fence line trail and back across the snow covered pasture to the house.  It was quite a slog and there were three tongues hanging out by the time we made it back.  Every body settled down for a bit of a nap.  One of us had a cup of tea..

Tomorrow I will try it again with a set of snow shoes on.  The start of route one.  The Doggie Trail.

The local mountains looked like studies in charcoal .  It was a very sunny day.  Well appreciated after a week of overcast bleakness.

We didn't have to light a fire in the green house for the last couple of days.  At one point today it got over 40C and I had to open the doors.  One of these days I will have to get the automatic ventilator system set up.  Soon.  It's interesting that the winter temperatures, when the sun is shining is way warmer than any of the summer temperature. A function of the roof overhang.  In the summer the sun doesn't shine directly in the windows for most of the day..  In the winter it shines directly in for the entire day.  Interesting problem, keeping a green house cooler in the winter.

Hope your keeping warm and toasty and looking forward to Christmas.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Where's the Beef!

That would be a pickup truck full of meat trimmings.  It's all destined for Doggie Food.  As a matter of fact right now we have a large pot of stew simmering away on the stove.  With the additions of some green beans and carrots it's starting to smell pretty good.  No salt or spices - just good old grass fed blue beef - with a few chunks of moose meat thrown in just because they love it.  And you can't beat the price.

After   a lot of research into various dog food brands and the pet food industry in general, we discovered that it is healthier and cheaper for us to buy a cow and grind it up for dog food than it is to buy dog food.  A way cheaper.  And healthier.  And that is weird.  Do some research on what is found in Animal food - it will make you shudder.  I guess, technically, chicken feet and feathers are "Chicken Parts", slather some lard on it and dogs will eat it.  Why?  They have too.  A lot of it is just junk food.  And if you think that " they must have done the research to figure out a balanced diet for our loved pets", well, that's just advertising.  Spend a few minutes doing some online research and you might change your mind.  Dogs are wolves.  Albeit domesticated,  but still wolves. Wolves eat meat.  They don't eat rice and legumes.   

In Canada the pet food industry isn't even regulated - unless they are shipping product out of Canada.  What ever your country I'll bet you a couple of juicy steaks your packaged pet food is overpriced and not nearly as nutritious as the T.V. advertisements would have us believe.  

Here's Xena trying to figure out what that lovely smell is coming from the garage.  We had parked the truck load of trimmings in the heated garage so we could package it.

 "What no rice with this lovely flank steak? Oh, well I guess it will have to do.."
One of our non-working freezers serves us well ( in the winter time) as large chunks and marrow bone storage.  Closely guarded by the puppies.  We package the rest in recycled baggies for daily portions and keep it in the working Doggie Freezer.  Ditto with the stew after I thicken it up with some flour to make a nice gravy, we'll cool it down and portion it out for daily meals.  I am using some of our stash of freeze dried veggies in it.  Just to make sure all the vitamins and minerals are covered.  But mostly I suspect, like the dog food industry, so it looks good to me.

On a 'nother note.  I love Gizmos.  I love apples - especially the ones that come from trees without stopping in cold storage for months.  Like the kind you can pick up in the Okanagan that are also way cheaper than the wooden globes sold in the local stores.  What could be better than this Gizmo:

An apple peeler, slicer and correr.  Um what delicious fun! Takes a little practice but I get to eat the mistakes.  With a little sugar and cinnamon - devine! The pigs are crazy about the peels.

Hope you have a little sweetness in your life today!
" Can I hide this under your pillow so Cleo doesn't get it?"