Regular Readers may remember the story of the “Lucy” of Lucy’s Gulch, the admirable mid-wife who climbed a mountain path straight up into New Denmark every time a woman needed help with her birthing. Nonetheless, as explained previously, Lucy was considered the ‘2nd wife’ of her sister’s husband. Each of the two sisters had their own house within 20 ft of each other, and the husband/brother-in-law travelled back and forth between the two, having had children by both women. Pictures and story here:
I got that out in the first paragraph, right away, because I don’t want anyone thinking I am now being ‘kept’ by my own sister’s husband. Boyd did, however, invite me to tea in some of the many ‘shacks’ he’s built himself out of reclaimed materials, and as he is as adamantly eco-friendly as we are trying to be here (though Newfoundland is MUCH more ahead of the game in the recycling/reusing/ and making less of a carbon footprint than New Brunswick!) I thought it important to feature Boyd and his work/thoughts/ideas in this particular posting.
Mom/Joy and I spent the last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland. For those of you not familiar with our Maritime provinces, my sister has lived out there ‘on the Rock’, for about 25 years, while Richard’s BROTHER and mother live three hours away in Saint John (no ‘s’ on the end is the only difference when pronouncing). They’ve been there for about 20 years, and are one of the reasons we moved to THIS province. We went to St. John’s for a superlative concert put on by the Atlantic Boychoir, in which my nephew sings, and they were joined by the Grammy-and-Emmy-award-winning King’s Singers, from Cambridge, England. On top of which my eleven-year-old nephew Sydney also played a ‘cello solo during this concert in the 2500-capacity, 160-year-old cathedral. So it was well worth burning up the air-miles and two days of travel time (even though they are so close geographically, it takes LONGER to get there from here, than from Toronto!) to hear the boy bring the house down at the end of his astonishingly professional instrumental debut with his choir. The calls of “Brava! Brava!” weren’t ALL from his relatives scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the massive cathedral!
This entire blog, however, is primarily supposed to be about trying to live self-sufficiently off the land, and about other rural goings-on in a community still clinging to the traditions of old. So I’m not about to expound further upon the particular virtues of that most-amazing event, but will simply get on with how I ‘shacked up with my brother-in-law’.
First of all, my brother-in-law Harold Boyd, is not what you’d expect from an accountant of many years, nor a staunch supporter of environmental issues. He IS possibly, what some might expect of a native Newfoundlander, with the exception that he and my sister were the first to own an electric car (Toyota Prius) on the island. Here he is about to drive it silently into the night:
Boyd has previously been mentioned in this blog when he and Richard spent some time this summer here at Blue Belldon, fending off bees as they moved the compost containers closer to the garden. Having a family farm on the other side of the island (8 hours drive) but being happily ensconced in suburbanville in St. John’s has not deterred dear brother-in-law from setting up his back-yard like a scene from BBC’s The Good Life (also previously mentioned – and worth watching for anyone dreaming of that ‘off-the-grid’ life, but having no land to speak of) :
First of all, Boyd and Jennifer have taken down the stereotypical suburban fencing that one finds surrounding most homes in ‘The Burbs’, and encourage all the neighbourhood children and pets to make a walking path, much like one would find in England and Europe. Behind their house is a ‘green space’, which then leads to various community buildings (school, hall, churches, etc). Boyd is adamant that Sydney walk to school most days even through deep snow, and tries by example to instigate others to do the same, thus taking a little journey through their farm-like back-yard and into the green space, which certainly cuts off at least 10 minutes of what it would be to walk via the roadways, not to mention opening up an entire ‘nature walk’ along the way.
For Boyd feeds the birds:
Above, Boyd putting out two different suet blocks in his yard, one being ‘high energy’ to attract the bigger birds. He climbs a ladder to put one of these up, to detract cats (esp. his own naughty-clawed Dewey) from climbing. And here he is filling all his bird-feeders with seed – he even puts perches out for the little beasts – ‘so they can queue up and wait their turn’!
Boyd has built all the sheds, greenhouses, and raised gardens thus far in their yard, and has plans to continue expanding the garden portion (as well as tending garden in the summer months out on the ‘west coast’ of the island near Cartyville, where his mother still resides).
Above, Boyd even has a burn pile, like we do here on the farm, although admittedly he can’t burn in the city limits. See also, the fence he’s removed so that the green space behind it is open to everyone from the front.
Next, we go into Boyd’s favourite ‘shack’. This is his self-made observatory (for the birds as well as the nature-enjoying neighbours). Of course, ALL Boyd’s shacks are made from recycled/reclaimed materials. The windows that make up most of this one were partly garnered from being found at the end of someone’s drive, and partly by patio doors for which his brother no longer had a use:
In this ‘observatory’, Boyd can enjoy the peace of his own mini-farm, watch the birds he is feeding and enjoy a cup of tea with the Kelly Kettle my sister bought for him, which he’s set up on an unused stainless steel garbage can. It doesn’t heat the room, but it DOES keep one busy and warms the hands whilst doing so. And of course, Boyd does have plans for a larger stove in this shack’s future.
Boyd also enjoyed putting out these large “Christmas lights” so that he could stand in the house and enjoy looking at them all season, knowing they are being run by the solar panel he has on top of his sheds. (When solar panels are no longer quite so expensive, he and Jennifer hope to run their Prius completely from the sun’s rays – we should ALL be looking to doing this, and thus neither electric vehicles NOR solar panels should be so ridiculously inflated in price… but don’t get me started on that right now!)
Boyd then pulls out his ‘survival kit’ (a pouch of dryer lint, shredded paper and an assortment of wood bits for small kindling). He also proudly shows me a Lee Valley Swedish Firesteel which is impervious to all weather conditions and offers long-lasting sparks to start any fire:
So, after crumpling in the bits of paper and lint into the bottom of the Kelly Kettle, and after having moved the ‘stovepipe’, he fills the kettle with water (which surrounds the inner heating section) and then keeps feeding the stove constantly, now with twigs from his burn pile in the back corner, a heap of which he is letting dry in a corner of the shed.
And after only about 7 minutes – voila! He pours us each a cup of lovely hot tea!
Next, we wait to see what neighbourhood children and wildlife will begin to discover the joys of Boyd’s Ebullient Acres. To help the process along a little, Boyd pulls out his bird-caller:
and we are ready with a full chart of Maritime birds posted on the shack’s wall.
It’s not very moments before one tree is full of juncos and a large flicker is tapping away at the suet block (oh, yes, and two children went by on mountain bikes through the two feet of snow, and one was pulling a sled – I was too flabbergasted to get a photo!)
Without the snow on the roof, Boyd even can enjoy looking out through the ceiling, as he’s added a long window above for bird or moon/star-gazing:
Although he didn’t set it up this winter, Boyd has experimented with hydroponic growing systems, which Richard hopes to do soon as well (right now we just have some lettuce growing in earth in the seed tables in the basement – set up for this was detailed here: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/blue-belldon-basement-grow-op/ and had the 2nd-largest reading of any of my blog postings, so there must be an interest for inside growing techniques during long winter months!)
For more on Boyd’s type of hydroponics using PVC, see this:
Boyd has this sitting in his shed, so it made me curious to investigate more:
While I enjoyed watching the birds with Boyd, using camera, binoculars and my distance specs, my vision was frequently impaired by the Coke-bottle eyeglasses my nephew caused me to wear several times – once when we were playing ‘spy’ and deciphering codes, and another time when I threatened to dress up as crazy “Eco-Aunt” and go to his aikido classes if he didn’t behave. Eco-Aunt doesn’t waste water on hair-washing or bathing, applies makeup only using natural products, and wears only natural hair ornaments (feathers and wooden clothespins, etc). Once he saw me like this, Sydney decided to behave extraordinarily well, but I am thinking of offering Eco-Aunt as a main character to all marches for environmental issues. What do you think – is she memorable?