Flora and Fauna (or Posies and Pets- your choice!)

The lupine are growing wild in the ditches of N.B. right now, and this always attracts the wildlife.  But right here at Blue Belldon Farm, there are many things in lovely bloom, surrounded by wild animals.

 

Here’s an example of some of our hedge roses, fresh-cut, with one of the wild animals:

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The quilt, above, is a new/old one found at a 2nd hand church basement by Mom/Joy. Because it’s purple and green, and because those are the colours of Richard’s niece’s wedding to be held here NEXT end-of-June, we will be using the quilt for a table cloth for displays at the reception, and most of the wildflowers we are busy planting at present are blue (for Blue Bell and area) or purple, or variations thereof) to add to the correct colour theme.  I’ve also finally started painting those red wagon wheels we brought from Ontario, changing them to a blue-grey as well. The rose bushes actually make a lovely accent for other photos, too, such as my herb garden outside the kitchen Dutch door, which the cat likes to snooze beside as there is cat-nip growing in one of the boxes (more on the herbs later):

Inside, these roses add a lovely smell and an attractive bowl of fuscia delight, though they DO rather clash with the copper in the kitchen!  I love a single rose-bud SO much more than open flowers, though…is it the hope and expectation of the yet-unknown?

Outside, all manner of birds, bees and other fauna keep vigil over the stunning sensory offering. How many attentive animals do YOU see in this photo?

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Do you see how Chevy likes to graze? Because of still undiagnosed problems with his muscular structure (we suspect possible PSSM, common in drafts, or maybe a form of Lyme, but we are awaiting test results) he is uncomfortable with his neck stretched all the way down and seems happier munching from a hillside, with him below the grass he is eating… we feed him chest high in a trough in the barn as well, even his hay, and he is much happier.  Meanwhile, Cammie enjoys just standing on her hind legs ‘grazing’ off the red maple tree!

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Cammie is loose a good part of the time, although now that the veggies AND the flowers are starting to grow and blossom, we have to keep an ever-vigilant eye upon her. These snow-ball bushes and irises were planted by the last owners to help the vegetable gardens with cross-pollination at all times of the growing season, but Cammie thinks they were put there expressly for her gastric enjoyment and often has to be physically removed from the area.  And the more she is eating, the more difficult this is!

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Did you know that the roots of irises are useful for so many ailments?The fresh root possesses diuretic, emetic and cathartic properties. It was actually formerly employed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic diarrhea, and was considered a useful remedy in dropsy as well.  So, not just a pretty face! Wasn’t able to find any real uses for the Chinese snowball, however – as much as I can see it IS just a pretty face!  That and attracting the bees, which we certainly most desperately need.  I have a great fear that the human race may someday be lost simply because that one all-important insect is extinct.    Some facts from John Haltiwanger on Protecting our Planet are eye-opening:

At present, the honeybee population in the United States is less than half of what it was at the cessation of World War II.  This past winter, 23.2 percent of America’s managed honeybee colonies were lost. The figures were worse during the year prior, but bees are still dying at a disturbing rate, and something needs to change.  The US government has stated that bees are now dying at an economically unsustainable rate. Indeed, in the United States alone, bees contribute to $15 billion in crop value. Simply put, bees keep plants and crops alive. Without bees, humans wouldn’t have very much to eat.

To help the bees stay alive, we must stop using pesticides!  And PLEASE stop mowing the ditches – that is where a plentiful source of wildflowers and grasses grow.  Leave that for our pollinators!  And PLANT more flowering shrubs and wildflowers.  Mom/Joy made a special point to plant milkweed this year, as it is a special favourite of all bees, and also will help keep the monarch butterfly from becoming extinct.  It will take a few years (providing Cammie doesn’t eat them first!) for them to become like this the photos below, but the swamp milkweed – the best variety for both bee and butterfly- looks like this:

Several artist friends from Ontario visited the farm this week, and so I picked from that same garden spot and put on the kitchen table the irises, some late-blooming daffodils and the Queen Anne’s lace I so adore ( good for soothing the digestive tract, kidney and bladder diseases, stimulating the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys. The seeds can be used as a settling agent for the relief of flatulence and colic as well!)

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Besides using mint for jelly or to put in hot or iced tea or other summer beverages, did you know that a few stems of mint, gently crushed and placed near suspected entry points deters ants, and that some gardeners clip bits of mint over mulch beneath veggies of interest to insects, which may confuse pests in search of host plants. In aromatherapy, of course, mint is used to relieve stress and increase alertness.  Our patch seems to be mostly of the spearmint variety, as it spreads very fast and develops big, gnarly roots that are difficult to dig out.  Spearmint starts flowering in early summer, and if the old blossoms are trimmed off, the plants will rebloom again and again for the rest of the season. This is great for various pollinators including honeybees, which may derive health benefits from foraging in the mint patch. A 2006 study found that a spearmint spray killed 97 percent of  the mites collected from an infected honeybee colony. So in more ways than one our lovely spearmint patch is hard at work for the bees, as well as adding flavour and aroma for us!

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Mom found the above window box already blooming like this for only $25.00, so she bought it to put on her private stairs/deck.  Smitty enjoys sitting there watching us garden sometimes, as it gives him a break from the cement porch where he is usually tied (wish we could leave him loose to roam the farm at will, but he immediately heads up the road to our neighbours’ potato barns and corners the workers with his barking and growling.  He thinks that barn is part of HIS farm, and he gets angry that they are there. And with his track record for biting, we have to be very careful in summer that he only roams free after dark!)  Mom is also the resident feeder/protector of hummingbirds, the other great pollinator we must value at all costs.  Hummingbirds can’t smell, so are most attracted to the colour red, and thus this box (and the old red glass feeder full of sugar water hanging beside it) is a perfect offering.

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You’ll see there are also some trumpet flowers in Mom’s flower box mix, which the hummingbirds love because the shape of their beaks and tongues fit in so well.  In the left side of the box, I stuck in a scarlet runner bean seed which, I discovered last year, come up quickly, have a lovely red flower later in the season, but are a quick answer if you want some trailing vines.  I’ve also planted a few in our side porch brick planters, where Mom put other flower seeds such as nasturtiums.  These plants are fully edible and growing them can lure aphids away from other plants in the garden as well!  “Nasties” as I call them (because they AREN’T)  are easy to grow and may be climbing, cascading or bushy, so these permanent porch planters were a perfect spot for both those and my scarlet runner beans, which were planted a week AFTER, but are already inches above!

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Right now, the pastures and meadows are full of daisies, clover, smaller dandelion varieties and the bright orange hawkweed.  While Chevy doesn’t like eating any of those, he is not averse to having a sniff of the posies from time to time.

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Apparently it is called hawkweed because it originally only grew in higher altitudes, where only the hawk and eagle could access it.  An old saying advises that if it be given to any horse it ‘will cause that he shall not be hurt by the smith that shooeth him.’  Luckily for us, we don’t shoe Chevy, as he is only interested in giving these a passing sniff!    (Apparently, the powdered leaves of the hawkweed (called mouse-ear in other countries) is an excellent astringent in haemorrhaging).

The wild mixture of white, yellow and orange will be part of the backdrop for where the vows will be exchanged next June:

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where Richard’s niece and her fiance plan to stand to get wed by our own Pastor Ralph next June

But, again because of the name of our farm (really from Blue Bell Mountain, so called NOT because there are bluebells growing wild, but the colour and shape of the mountain’s shadow) AND the fact that Richard’s niece has chosen purple as her main wedding colour, we would like a lot of our own wildflower plantings to be in shades of blues, greys and purples as well.  And since I arrived here last May 24th, I’ve been trying to get some wildflower seeds to ‘take’.  Especially between the apple trees, which is the same view as the above photo, which is where the wedding guests will be seated on straw bales.  But the ground needs better working, I guess, so yesterday I had Richard do a light tilling and I threw down a bit fertilizer to try and entice the seeds. Some may be too old, but we are so far behind in sun/heat this summer, I feel sure we may still get some to poke up and blossom. As I also have wanted a little winding path and English garden here, especially since first seeing this view (below) from Google satellite last FEBRUARY, I decided to put in a bit of work on this yesterday, despite the fact that there was a light “English” rain coming down as there has been most days for a ‘fortnight’ !

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Here’s Richard rototilling where we want to sprinkle wildflower seeds, and where we already have a few bulbs planted as well (and of course, a scarlet runner bean and a few morning glories… to do some climbing!)

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He made a few little paths that wound through the trees, and I then drove back to our Rasmussen Brook and picked up mostly flat stones for a bit of a ‘flagstone’ effect, that hopefully the flowers might grow around:

I then scattered AND poked little holes for the following:

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The above, then, is what I call “Bride’s Bough”, where Richard’s niece will walk, and, if anything goes according to plan, she’ll have some blue and purple wildflowers mixed in with daisies, etc. on both her right and left as she walks down the ‘aisle’…  More on this garden as it progresses…

If you’ve been regularly following this blog since last year, you’ll know that I ripped out many of the old 1970s cupboards and drawers, and, always re-using, I fashioned an ‘herb garden’ on the front porch for them.  While really only borage and a few morsels of parsley came up last year, they little gardens are looking much better this year, and a wee sign given us as a going-away present with a box of herbs, by the kind Olavesons of Carlisle tinkles away in the wind as the animals rest in the shade.

 

I love having a few herbs growing right to hand.  The kitchen is just inside that Dutch door, so it’ a simple thing to trot out and get whatever seasoning I need, nice and fresh!

 One of the sites I use regularly for help on various gardening and orchard matters is https://www.growveg.com/  by Barbara Pleasant and others.  There is a wealth of reliable (unlike so much supposition opined on the internet!) information here, and I enjoy reading various uses for herbs, especially. I also grow certain herbs  for a variety of reasons not so commonly known, such as borage, cat-nip, basil and parsley. These aren’t just for quick seasonings or garnishes! (ie: catnip has anti-bacterial qualities). So if you’re interested, have a look at the PLEASANT site!  One tip I especially want to try this year is, to keep my herbs fresh throughout the winter, making ice cubes with them rather than hanging them all.  Then you can just pop the ice cube in your stews or soups or teas!!!

Lastly, and from the end TO the end, rather, I want to talk about Chevy’s manure pile. You can’t have ANY fauna without a bit of that delightful ‘end result’, so why not discuss it?  Horse manure is easy to compost and takes about four to six weeks to turn from stable waste to garden gold if you do it properly. Composting does take some effort, however.  Constructing a pile about 3 to 4 feet high helps the process to go faster. (Any higher than that, and you can have spontaneous combustion – one stable I used to work for had to have the fire department out TWICE in the space of four months!) Turning the pile over frequently adds oxygen that speeds up the composting process.  When the pile no longer feels hot and the composted manure resembles dark brown garden soil, it is safe to use on your garden.  It doesn’t have to be a year old, as many say.

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There’s our pile, collected from both the stall and the pastures since Chevy arrived in the 2nd week of May.  Note we are keeping it right near the garden for easy access~!

Now, I’m sorry if after a lovely showing of blossoms and cute photos of animals, you are offended by this ‘end’ result , but life isn’t always about poetry and aromatic thoughts, you know.  Sometimes it takes excrement to CREATE that beauty and romanticism…”

“After dinner they met again, to speak not of Byron but of manure. The other people were so clever and so amusing that it relieved her to listen to a man who told her three times not to buy artificial manure ready made, but, if she would use it, to make it herself”
E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey

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Taken at the Flood

Taken at the Flood is one of my beloved Agatha Christie’s novels.  Published in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide,  it is one of her ‘Poirot’ stories.   Both these titles are, of course, taken from Brutus’ famous and most wonderfully provocative AND symbolic speech:

Brutus:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, sc 3, lines 218-224

So, in other words, a mix of taking the right road at the fork, seizing the moment (at the ‘right’ time) Carpe Diem stuff and all that.  With just a light pinch of Frost’s ‘taking the road LESS travelled’ thrown in for good luck.  But in Christie’s Taken At the Flood novel, Mrs Lionel Cloade retorts to Poirot  “Doctors, I find, have a very materialistic outlook. The spiritual seems to be strangely hidden from them. They pin their faith on Science – but what I say is… what is Science – what can it do?”

I always thought myself a much more spiritual and artistic person than a science person.  Nonetheless, since the controversy about climate change has really spiked upwards (ie: the first 100 days of Humpty Dumbty’s presidency) I have discovered that I now actually find myself on the SIDE of SCIENCE.  Despite what some scientists have PREVIOUSLY stated, most now seem to agree (probably since Hawking’s latest conversations on the subject) that we are indeed in the midst of violent global warming which is causing unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters.  And yes, this is all because we continue to pollute the earth and mistreat it in every way possible.

Ontario friends complain about the heat and humidity they are already experiencing in March and in April.  Out here our winter has gone on well into the 2nd week of April, and then we’ve had so much rain that of course heavy flooding is now happening, partly due to the skies continually dumping on us, but also partly because IDIOTS seem to think it’s o.k. to clear-cut the steep sides of slopes RIGHT beside the rivers (not to mention our short cut into town through Lucy’s Gulch).  uh – HELLO?   Even a kindergartner knows that’s going to cause erosion, but nope, they do it anyway.  As long as there’s a buck to be had, who cares about the land, the rivers, the roads, or the people who try to live around them?

When I moved here nearly a year ago,  93-year-old  closest neighbour Greta (the Danes pronounce it  with a long ‘e’, so GREETA, just as “Gavin” down by the rec centre is “Gay-vin”) said something that will always stick with me.  Though she has no memory of who we are, despite having been ‘introduced’ to her at least 12 times, ( her brain can no longer take in any new information but she is still very lucid when it comes to everything she’s known from the past) Greta looked sadly out her window one day at Bluebell Mountain and said “Oh, I WISH they wouldn’t clear-cut that mountain; it DOES upset me”.  Dementia or no, I’m with ya there, Greta.

Here’s what they are doing to beautiful Bluebell.

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And here is Lucy’s Gulch, taken from the road below.  Imagine what’s going to HAPPEN to said road when everything starts to slide.  Oh, no big deal – they’ll just close it off…

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This is what happens when foresters and loggers IGNORE the warnings of proven science, and clear cut a steep slope, leaving disturbed topsoil and total destruction of the complex soil ecology and almost all plant and wildlife.  And right below this catastrophe is the  fork of the Salmonhurst River joining into the Saint John River.  This is where Richard was fishing last year (see the lovely shots at the blog post  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/pippis-first-fishin-fable-lores-lures/  –  the first pic. shows this bridge, which now has water nearing the road level)

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As soon as you turn to look at the other side of this bridge – DEVASTATION!

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This entire parkland was where Richard sat to fish while I walked the dog, and where we skiied and snow-shoed one day in January.  It is indicative of what many of the lower crop fields are presently experiencing and the potato farmers are already saying there will be a potato rot this year.  The WWF states much more succinctly than I can, how devastating all of this is :

“Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and severe issues.

The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding. Sustainable land use can help to reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, preventing soil degradation and erosion and the loss of valuable land to desertification.

The health of soil is a primary concern to farmers and the global community whose livelihoods depend on well managed agriculture that starts with the dirt beneath our feet. ”

Did you think New Brunswick was one of the best places in the world to fish?  So did we – until we moved here and found out what all this clear-cutting has caused. Richard was looking forward to many mornings in a canoe catching fish so that we could freeze it and have it on a winter’s evening.  But there is very little left to catch in the three rivers that surround us (the Tobique, Saint John and Salmonhurst).  We were bitterly disappointed to find out that part of our strategy for living self-sufficiently has been yanked away by those who do not care about Mother Nature, or by those who do not want to live in harmony with her.  Remember this commercial in the 1970s?

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I cried every single time it aired.  I remember going out to the side of the road and holding up anti-pollution signs with my sister and our friend Lesa for entire WEEKENDS.  (Two of us would hold the banner between us, while the 3rd would go along picking up litter and putting it in garbage bags for the passers-by to witness).

But this litter (see recent post about the plastic water bottles we should be doing away with!)  is NOTHING like the kind of damage being done by huge-scale industries such as forestry and oil.

I was most disappointed to read on a Homesteading page on FB that a huge number of those so-called homesteaders aren’t all that concerned about the ENVIRONMENT.  I don’t know how you can have one without the other, frankly, but it seems many homesteaders are more concerned about just saving money or NOT living in a city – but they still run to the dollar store for tupperware and other plastic containers, operate generators off various petroleum products and empty them back into the land,  put out chemical weed-killers and bee-killers, etc.  And then when I (God Forbid!) comment that that doesn’t seem the best way to receive ‘gifts’ back from Mother Nature, I got a huge backlash, with ignorant comments such as this one  ”  I didn’t realize that being a homesteader meant we had to be also following eco-friendly trends! “.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  (And there were some a lot nastier and more personal, but why bother quoting them – I tried to quickly forget those ones, in fact!)

Richard and I plan on heating as much as we can in winter with what our own small forest can supply. But we will be burning as much deadfall as we can, cutting only trees that are fighting out other good solid trees for sunlight, AND – most importantly – we will be on a REPLANTING regime as well.

Why can mankind not look after our natural resources better?  Why are we so greedy that we are killing off humanity and wildlife at an alarming rate?  Is there to be NOTHING left for future generations?

Going back to Shakespeare’s “Taken at the Flood” quote, if we do not take responsibility NOW, before it is too late, our chance is lost, and:

“Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

We must RISE WITH THE SWELL OF THE TIDE, and take the last few opportunities left to us to clean up this earth, to prevent the damage that is continually being done.  We, homo sapiens, can NOT control these tides, just as we cannot control anything Mother Nature offers. But if we do not learn to go WITH her, rather than against her, we will indeed suffer these miseries for the remainder of human existence on this planet.

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A few years ago, in the oft-written-of town of Perth-Andover,  this was the scene of the main street which we drive down a few times a month for supplies.  It is very nearly at this level again, www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/public_alerts/public_alert.2017.04.0513   thanks to erosion of the mountainsides and over-polluting of our waterways.   Stephanie Kelly, editor of the local paper, the Blackfly Gazette, (previously mentioned in former postings in regard to that wonderful publication) and Marianne Bell, mayor (and also choir-conductor and book-club leader , mentioned in this blog just last week) have many things to say about this devastating flooding in the lowlands surrounding us ‘mountain-folk’.  All you need do is google their names and some flood-related tag words to read or hear interviews.

And my dear, much-admired Agatha comes up again in this scientific (not literary, as one might expect from my regular reading habits!) book jacket description:

Environmental Forensics Fundamentals:  A Practical Guide

“Over 400 pages of essential information in an easy-to-read practical guide to environmental forensics, a discipline that brings together Agatha Christie-style mysteries, scientific information, and environmental policies. This is a well-structured, cutting-edge investigation of contemporary environmental crimes and potential solutions from Ioana Petrisor, Ph.D”

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I just wish a few more corporate CEOs, and yes, even Humpty Dumbty himself would read it as well!  And note: for the latter, it DOES specifiy “easy-to-read”!

 

NOTE:  While this post may leave you feeling down, prepare yourselves,
loyal readers, for the next 4 weeks of high excitement in our blog.  We will 
have your favourite -  BEFORE/AFTERS of a painted plywood floor in Mom's
upstairs hall, as well as a visit to a Maine dairy goat farm for some lessons,
 the building of the paddock and run-in-shelter for the goat and horse, 
- (THEY ARE ARRIVING within the fortnight) and the long-awaited shots from the New Denmark
Queen's Pageant, complete with the hill-billy choreography and dramatic monologue coaching
done by yours truly.   SO DON'T MISS ALL THE EXCITEMENT!

Tapping, Sapping, Lapping & …..Napping.

The temperature's up, the temperature's down
But this makes for a time to drill 
And tap the trees out in our bush.
For Richard, this has all been a thrill!

You can tell when the season is coming
The sunrises are glor'us once more
And the days are so much longer
We can be out in the woods after 4!
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The first step is to mark the maples
And while all plastic puts me in a FUNK,
We already had this roll of yellow-
So Richard tied bows 'round the trunk.

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He found about 15 good maples in all
And drilling holes was the next stage
(He broke my Makita, so we used his big thing,
Which naturally put ME in a rage!) 

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Next step is to put in the spile
(Again, plastic was NOT what I'd choose.
But since that's all they had, Richard taps
With a hammer, then POOF! In for a snooze!)

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Yup, that's a big morning, he figures.
15 holes drilled - what a lark!
But after lunch and a nap, what's he find?
The sap's running down the tree bark!

So he hurries and fits in his hose
(MORE plastic, "oh NO!" Julie raves!)
But at least the 'buckets' are recycled
From the milk jugs - a year's worth of saves!

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There's still so much snow that just walking
Is impossible in the deep white
So Richard and I ski or snow-shoe
While Smitty prances on top, he's so light!

And that toboggan is handy for tools
(Yes, the damn thing is PLASTIC again!)
But on days when my knee is too sore
Richard 'mushes' me down the back lane!

We collect sap for two days, in fridge
In many more jugs that we've kept
Then Richard takes over the kitchen
All newly pet-free and floor-swept.

('Cause we have to do enough straining
First with coffee filters, then in the pot
With a tiny sieve or cheesecloth
So we DON'T want hairs in that lot!)
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Richard waits for a roiling boil
Then boils for at least half a day
Keeping an eye on the temperature
As well as straining what joins in the fray!

He calls himself a middle-class-billy
So one not-QUITE-from-the-'hills'
But "geek" springs to mind as I watch him
And wait to mop up any spills!

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The windows are fogged up with moisture
And the paint will be peeling from walls
Next year we'll have to cook outside
Out where all of Nature enthralls!
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 On the first day, the smoke alarm sounded
(We'd left a pot boiling an hour
That we went to woods to collect more
And the burner was too high a power!)

So now Joy comes down to monitor
And put in her two-cents worth, al-so
Richard LOVES to create drama, so I
Hide down where seeds start to grow!

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R.'s back and forth to the woods
Running quite a nice little crop
But a pause is made to throw balls-
That snow-dust's the dog's sliding stop!

After hours and hours on the boil
The sap starts to thicken up well
Richard loves this high drama the best
As the bubbles go white and up-swell!

Ready or not, we pour in cool bowls
Then transfer syrup to jar
But leave a bit out for candy
The taffy's the show-stopping star!

Now Richard makes ME run outside
And grab fresh pee-free snow
And he pours the taffy on top
For a treat about which he'll CROW!

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 And a little further along on the boil
We get the hard-candy-works
Pour in a cake pan, stick in the freezer
And now - it's the greatest of perks:

The licking of sweets from utensils
That have stacked up in my kitchen again
There's pots and pans- mess all over!
But R's intent on his Purpose Main.

That is, to lap up enough treats
Before I notice his hill-billy teeth
Will need more dental work than money we've got-
What that guy eats is beyond belief!


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Now we take out the quick-cooled panned candy,
And smash the pan down with a bang.
It all breaks into jig-saw pieces.
All set for R.'s broken old fang.

For no sooner have I put it away,
Then he's caught with his hand reaching in
For that hardened gold treat he wants badly-
And I've got to pretend it's a sin!
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Chipped teeth when you haven't a 'plan'
Are not going to help us live
In a self-sufficient manner
So it's back to the pot and the sieve,

While I take a turn at collecting...
But I can't find the toboggan at all!
And there's that hard-working nut-bar
Setting himself for a great fall.

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And later still, cleaning the kitchen
I wonder why it's gone so quiet.
I check the pantry candy
To see if he's gone off his 'diet'.

But no, all the candy's still there...
Why on earth can't I hear a wee peep?
So I look in the bedroom, and there on the bed
Is the Maple Chief - quite fast asleep!

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Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op.

funny

 

Finally!  Had enough warmish days to not only get the maple trees tapped (next week’s blog, and Richard is excited!)  but to get enough earth moved in from the porch planters (permanent bricked-in wall) to mix with the  MINIMAL potting soil we purchased.

Now, lecture – time.  Earth day is in exactly one month, and there’s a world-wide campaign to BAN PLASTIC if you care about the land and forest, both of which, whether or not you homestead, SUPPLY US WITH OUR FOOD!   So, either you start being more conscious about every single thing you buy that’s just going to end up in a landfill (or worse yet – in a roadside ditch or waterway) OR you at least find multiple purposes for every shred of plastic in your possession. Because I’m bossy,  we do both.

The photos and stats below are just a few tiny examples of what plastic is doing to our world.  And it all makes me sick to my stomach.  But not as bad as that tortoise!

  • North Americans use more than 4 million plastic bottles every HOUR! Most of them are thrown away, not recycled.  Plastic doesn’t bio-degrade. It’s there to stay. Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. Yet, when you DO recycle –  plastic can be then made into: clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags, toys, stuffed animals, rulers and more.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It’s also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.
  • When the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.
  •  Only  16 % of plastic packaging in North America (and much less on other continents!) was recycled in 2008.
  •  However, the total recycling rate of 32.5 percent overall in 2008 saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222.1 million barrels of oil.  COME  O N !
  • 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic  water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills.
  • Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
  • 66% of energy is saved when producing new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials.                                                                                                                     *****************                                                                                 T H E R E F O R E :  The reasons I didn’t want to buy more potting soil than was absolutely necessary are three-fold:

a) I wanted to make sure that enough of our own soil, which is very gravelly, was
introduced to the seeds right away.
b) We are very careful with our expenses. Anything deemed unnecessary, we DO NOT BUY.
and most importantly,
c) What to do with those darned thick plastic bags in which the potting soil is encased,
which, once in our possession is then OUR carbon footprint heavy-treading ??????

I take the bringing home of ANY plastic item very seriously, and am trying to retrain the brains of Richard and Joy to do the same.  NO plastic bags allowed unless it’s just one or two per shopping expedition  (which is only once every week or even two weeks) and then those MUST be used for multiple times’ garbage liners, or food wrappers.  I do NOT use such horrors as saran wrap or tin foil, EVER.  So everything in the fridge is either covered with a  plate over the bowl, OR wrapped in a plastic shopping bag- the very few allowed in the house at all.  Same with things in the freezer, and now that so many of the commercial items we all buy  are being packaged in zip-lock bags, these are even BETTER for keeping and re-using over and over.  They are thick, and so great for freezing! Simply put masking tape on the bag and label it!  PLEASE don’t throw all this plastic out!  If you MUST have it in your home, then KEEP it in your home for forever or until it’s worn right out. And then, RECYCLE when it’s tossed, of course! It saves you buying and using such nasty stuff as saran wrap or (gasp) tupperware – (there are MORE than enough plastic containers that you’re buying anyway with other things in them! Just reuse those containers!)    Your pocket-book AND the environment thank you!

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Why would you EVER buy saran wrap, tin foil or tupperware, when you have to purchase these things anyway?  (or we will, until I start making all our own dairy!)

A 1970s BBC popular show I watched on repeats when I lived in the u.k. in the 1990s is called The Good Life.  Although it’s a sit-com, it’s inspiring, and motivates one to think more and more about how to reduce and more importantly re-USE.  They give up their city jobs in London in the first episode :

and after that we watch most of them on Dailymotion, which is better for a variety of reasons.  Homesteaders or Dreamersof – do WATCH!  You’ll truly enjoy! (Yes,  you will recognize all 4 stars from their other BBC shows since then: Monarch of the Glen, Rosemary and Thyme, Yes Minister and A Fine Romance with Judi Dench). Here’s the link to the 2nd episode and you’ll find the rest there too: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xvmb1w_s1e2-thegoodlife-say-little-hen_fun

So, back to why I didn’t want to buy a lot of potting soil. We have only purchased three bags, and then we had a number of squabbles over how to ‘line’ the bottoms of the seeding tables so that the wood (unfortunately NOT reclaimed wood, as it will take us 5-10 years to get enough of THAT sitting around the farm…) will not rot in a year or two.  I wanted to re-use the plastic  (oh, shudder! ) that we had to put on some of our north-facing windows in the farmhouse for the winter but Richard felt that was too thin.  Richard wanted to buy a roll of big garbage bags, but that made me see red, as I just explained that I can’t ABIDE buying plastic ANYTHING.  However, we came to a good compromise. As long as we promise that the garbage bags will later be used for garbage, so they will have had two purposes (and we don’t generate a lot of garbage as things are either composted,  burned, taken over to some recycling depots (rural N.B. does NOT pick up recycling blue boxes – grrrrrrr) , re-used for containers, taken for exchange/remittance, AND, will soon be being also saved for goat and chicken feed… So the 20 garbage bags I did buy yesterday will have been around here for a couple of years.  And the best part is, that THOSE POTTING SOIL PLASTIC BAGS WILL ALSO BE PUT DOWN AS LINERS.    A  N   D   – wait for it… instead of  burning the long boxes that the full-spectrum flourescent lights (replicating sun) came in, I’m also putting THOSE in the seed tables to help align the planters and keep the bottoms of the tables protected.

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So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

Let’s start back at the beginning of the seed tables, though – here we are building them, putting the finishing touches on, and hanging the lights (must be full-spectrum).  That was all done a few weeks ago, and again, if only the wood could have been recycled/reclaimed I’d have been so much happier. But we haven’t saved/collected enough yet for building extras, and sadly, N.B. is sadly lacking in anything like a RE-STORE (Habitat for Humanity building reused building supplies -check them out!) or equivalents.  As always, if you wish to see any of these enlarged, simply click on the picture.

 

Here’s one of me putting the finishing touches into a corner of one of the seed tables and one of Richard hanging all the lights.  We have 2 long (double) boxes and 3 regular-sized.

 

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finishing touches – corner build

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Someday, all the electric plugs (see in the following) will be joined to our solar panel system, but that’s many years away.  Right now, we just have a few things on solar, as we can afford the panels/batteries…

 

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The next step, then, was to dig up as much of our own soil (reasons at beginning of blog if you somehow missed the lecture!) and I did this yesterday and Sunday (as well as helping with tree-tapping and trail-blazing/maintenance in the woods – a warm day without yet-mushy snow is best for the forest work, and Sunday was ideal! We skiied and snow-shoed ’round the trails we’ve laid out, and back and forth to the sugar bush.)

So, the earth I brought in from outside looks like this:

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Quite a lot! That’s why I was waiting for a few warmer days of it in the sunshine.

Next, I started lining with the bags, both garbage and potting soil, and then laying in the boxes from the lights.

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We have saved (and even hauled from Ontario!) many little containers for planting seeds. Last year, of course, I just planted directly into the garden, as I didn’t get out here until the May 24th weekend.  But we really need to extend our growing time by about 6 weeks to 2 months out here, esp. if you want enough to live on all year, so we were planning ahead! Some of these are bio-degradable that I bought SECOND HAND. Some were actually cardboard packing from some car parts that Richard bought in Ontario, and I first used them piled up and turned upside down as an end table, but now they will be pots! Some old muffin tins because the teflon is scratched off and Mom/Joy is worried about health issues with that… And some – yes, that’s right – Richard had the possibly great (we will experiment and see!) idea of using all our loo-rolls instead of just burning them.

Richard has used all the ashes from our wood furnace and fireplace to either put on the garden, OR to use on the icy walks this winter. So this morning I took some from the old coal scuttle  we use for this purpose, and then mixed a very small percentage into the bin mixed with potting soil and our own earth. That should give it a touch more potassium, plus a titch more phosphorous and magnesium.

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Next I began filling all the little pots/tins/rolls with the mix.

The loo-rolls were a pain.  More earth falling in between them rather than IN them.  So I remembered on my workbench something that might work as a funnel, with a bit of the ole Rustic Revivals repurposing:

I duct-taped the holes on the sides, leaving only the larger one (the perfect size for the rolls, as it happens!) open.  However, this involved more shaking to get the earth directly down.  So I gave up on that and ended up just picking up each roll and scooping the earth in, quickly putting my hand over the bottom until it got placed back in the box!

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Finally, all the containers were full and awaiting seeds.  Remember, the following section is just one REGULAR box-size (under one light).  I have  FIVE MORE TO GO like this space, and then one table will be left for transplanting some of the quicker-growing plants.

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Next, I had to read each seed packet to decide which needed planting now, which could wait a month, and which could just go directly outside.  One of the reasons (besides their plain brown paper packaging!) I love the Hawthorne Farm Organics (same as I used last year, from Palmerston, ON) is that the front of the package explains what the plant will look like and what it can be used for, but the back is detailed and BIG PRINT re: how and when to plant! When I’m planting directly outside, I can’t be bothered with too much of these  details (could be another reason we didn’t have a ‘bumper crop’ last year!) but inside, sitting comfortably, there was plenty of time to go over the info. they so kindly lay out for us.

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Once I had the piles of seeds sorted and organized, I began meticulously planting.   That took close to two hours, for all those containers, in case you are wondering!  What we do to avoid buying store-bought produce!  Then I labelled the cardboard boxes, and watered. Seeds should really only be spritzed with a spray bottle, but I had so many I just turned the dial on the watering can to ‘light mist’ and hoped that wasn’t over-watering!  After today, I’ll just spritz and only when they seem dry.

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The  final step after watering was to put the plastic I cut from the windows over the seeds (stretching from sides of table at back, to front, so not touching containers) until the sprouts start to show, then I’ll leave it off. (but of course, save it for the next planting!) The seed tables are right behind our furnace, so as long as we keep the room warm for the next 6 weeks (have to keep reminding Richard of this, as he’d rather turn the furnace right off at night to ‘save’) we should be doing well.  They also don’t need much light at first (some don’t need any!) but once they sprout, we have a chain system that will lower the lights to just 4 inches or so above the plant.

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If I need more earth, (I don’t think I will) I brought in some weeks ago all the other planters from the falls’ pots of chrysanthemums.  They’d sat all winter in minus 20.  I just carelessly broke off the stems because the roots were still frozen into the earth, threw the old plant on the compost heap, and took the pots inside where they sat in the dark of the basement until I noticed them today.  Those hardy little buggers are growing from the ripped off stubs!  They’ve been warm, near the wood furnace, but had no light or water at all – total darkness for 2 weeks and dry as a bone! But there they are growing.  If I’d TRIED to restart them as plants, I guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to do it!  I haven’t the heart, after their effort to grow, to discard them, so I’m going to try and nurture them along and see what happens …

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I’ll be spending the next week planting down there, and then fingers and toes crossed and lots of praying that we get healthy little sprouts coming along, of  veg., herbs and flowers (gotta keep those birds and bees happy for cross-pollinating!). That’s our groceries for the entire next year!  Should you want a list of all the basics we ordered from Hawthorne Farm, it is here:

Next week, be sure to ‘tune in’ for all Richard’s maple syrup adventures as he learns the how-tos and how-not-tos!  He’s been boiling away all day today (again, wish that was wood or solar powered, but it will be next year!) whilst I’ve been planting and writing and we just tried our first syrup poured over some snow.  mmmmmmmm-mmmmm!

Despite my having to, last month, ‘ draw his attention’  (that’s putting it tactfully!)  away from watching uneco-friendly drag races on Youtube and ordering more car parts for his uneco-friendly ’73 Nova, and ‘encouraging’ him to instead research how to produce our own maple sugar and syrup, I gotta say, he’s done INCREDIBLY well. He’s hauling in quite a loot!  In fact, he was so giddy a few hours ago he actually crowed “Wooo-heeee! Self-sufficiency! This tastes WAY better than any I’ve ever bought!”  He’s really surpassed my expectations for this year’s tapping experience.

But don’t tell him I said so.

 

Full Bean Ahead – Waste Not, Want Not!

 

 

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Looking out my kitchen window toward the garden and meadows. July 2016. We’re keeping all beautiful cob and spiderwebs up this summer to see if it helps keep fly population DOWN in the house!  Besides, they are part of nature AND they are lovely!

Finally getting back to regular blogging after the interruption of a wordpress (this blog server) virus and some strange flu attacking my laptop as well. Joy and Richard arrived 10 days ago, and I just got R. to help me with the internet/laptop problems so I can write and post again.  People who know R. thinks he’s retired as of end of July.  Apparently, so did he – though I did warn him.  The garden is just starting to come in and if we want to live at ALL self-sufficiently for this year, it’s time to get cracking.  I’ve been baking and cooking double time in the kitchen to get back into doing regular meals again (rather than just picking at things for myself). Baking bread and muffins every 2nd or 3rd day.  But Richard, who has slept in most days, read a thick novel since arriving AND spent an entire day washing his ’73 Nova and driving it with the neighbour’s son to a classic car meet is going to take a little time to get his head wrapped around the idea that we have to WORK to LIVE here on the farm.  It’s coming along the last few days – but last Friday he was NOT full of beans like the garden. In fact, THIS is what things looked like from his perspective:

rich retireGlad we have no T.V., because with falling into bed exhausted, or reading, or playing our brain games (most from BBC youtube stashes) we are doing JUST fine.  Thought R. would kick up more of a fuss about this aspect, and maybe in the winter he will, but we’re good for now.

And it’s hard to train someone who has always bought whatever he feels like eating, that we are only snacking if we go to a little trouble at home to make it.  Like popcorn at night.  And I don’t mean MICROWAVED.  We’re making it the good old-f. way on the stove-top.  Richard learned how and is quite proud now to offer it up for our night-time munchies .

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Retirement mode did not take long at ALL to kick in, but at least he’s learning how to make our own snacks, rather than spending money on store-bought crap!

 

Another difficulty has been getting this yuppie to stop wasting things when he mows or weed-eats.  We live on a FARM. There are many more important things to do around here than whipper-snip right to the foundation of the house, and all around the barn, and around every darn TREE on the property!  Especially since he also took out a beautiful English ivy I’d been nurturing along for two months, training to climb our front porch pillars! AND wasted at least 30 apples from our orchard driving around and around bashing into the low-hanging branches, knocking the not-yet-ripe apples off, then driving over them again with the mower! Grrrrrrrrrrr…. It will take time for this life-style change to come to him, I know.  He’s still making several trips to town and around the valley when I have categorically stated that unless there’s a medical emergency we go ONCE per week – with a big list! It will take time…

While R. is not exactly full of beans, Joy (Mom) and the garden ARE. She’s single-handedly unpacked and decorated the whole of the upstairs in just 10 days, and is now up there peeling 1970s indoor/outdoor carpet off some of the hall-way’s hard-wood floors. And the garden is just over-flowing with beans of 3 varieties.  I bought a lot of the runner/climbing type of seeds because I wanted to spread them around various trellises and poles on the farm for beauty’s sake as well.  We are at least a month behind Ontario for what is ripe and ready, but we are already picking peas, and when these beans come in, we’re going to be BUSY!   And by then, I know R. will be full of beans as well!

 

If interested, these are the health benefits of green, organic beans, from the tree-hugger website mentioned previously:

Health benefits of Green beans

  • Fresh green beans are very low in calories (31 caloriess per 100 g of raw bean pods) and contain no saturated fat. Nevertheless, these lean pod vegetables are a very good source of vitamins, minerals, and plant derived micronutrients.
  • The beans are very rich source of dietary fiber (9% per 100g RDA) which acts as a bulk laxative. Fiber helps to protect mucousa in the colon by decreasing its exposure time to toxic substances as well as by binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the gut. Adequate amount of fiber has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels by decreasing reabsorption of cholesterol-binding bile acids in the colon.
  • Green beans contain excellent levels of vitamin A, and health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-carotene in good amounts. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
  • Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid in the beans, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV-light filtering functions. It is, therefore, green beans offer some protection in the prevention of age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • Snap beans are a good source of folates. 100 g fresh beans provide 37 µg or 9% of folates. Folate along with vitamin B-12 is one of the essential components of DNA synthesis and cell division. Good folate diet when given during preconception periods and during pregnancy may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn babies.
  • They also carry good amounts of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), and vitamin-C. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • In addition, beans contain healthy amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, which are very essential for body metabolism. Manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.

 

 

June is Bustin’, at Blue Belldon

 

 

10 min Heaven
With  organic gardening in the morning and renos. all afternoon and into the evening, not to mention just regular household and animal chores, I only allow myself 10 minutes a day or so to collapse into the hammock, hung beneath the apple blossoms (truly Anne Shirley’s “White Way of Delight” here!) . But boy, what inspiration and motivation from those 10 minutes, delighting in the surrounding Appalachians springing alive with chirping song -birds, distant tractors across the valley, bees buzzing among the blossoms, and, in the evenings I take another 10 before bed and listen to the valley orchestra of spring peepers. Heaven!

 

 

When there’s planting to do, in the veg patch  but, but…

How about a wildflower trail

That winds down to grass uncut?

Or  how about some kitchen drawers that now grow herbs –

Call me a nut?

Why, yes, yes, of course I am – but the kind that worships birds and bees

And every whisper through the trees

That say “I’m glad to be alive

In a world where bees still rule their hive”

And I grow organic cilantro, balm and chive…

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A Salvage Artist never throws anything out. These kitchen cupboard doors and drawers are now an herb garden  right outside the kitchen door (soon to be a Dutch/stable door, thank you Richard!   Still working on making them look attractive, but I was excited to see today that the borage and cilantro are already sprouting up in neat little rows!  And many of the herbs and wildflowers I’m planting are PURELY to encourage the bees to pollinate, although the amount of them buzzing among the apple blossoms and dandelions suggest to me that they are off to a good start!

 

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Earth Day “Emissions” of my Mind

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I love the above cartoon of the Earth’s relationship with us.  And because it’s Earth Day, it is exciting news that so many have signed the Paris Agreement to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions… http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/paris-agreement-trudeau-sign-1.3547822

My sister is doing her part in Newfoundland – she was the first in St. John’s to purchase an electric car, and she is so proud! Soon they are putting up solar panels to connect to it, so that it will be run entirely from nature, AND not putting unhealthy chemicals and emissions back IN to nature!  Now, if we could all do this, and if it was made affordable for us to do so… Wow!  Here’s Jennifer in her car:

For Christmas, Mom and I gave Richard a Canadian Tire solar panel and all its fixin’s (don’t expect that just the panel is all you’ll need, and don’t expect the back of the box to help much with what you DO need! Ask a salesperson!)  He’s been playing with his solar panel for 4 months now, and has a good idea what he likes/dislikes:

And now, he’s very keen to do THIS to the whole 100ft. of our barn/Quonset at Blue Belldon Farm! It’s available in the u.k. NOW!