Keepin’ Cool in the Kitchen (and a few other Capers)

Yes, we HAVE had the big day – that is, the wedding here at Blue Belldon Farm of Richard’s niece Carriann.  However, that’s not what this blog post is going to be about yet.   Sorry, y’all. I decided with the many heat waves and high humidity, though, to wait until official wedding photographer, Tiffany Christensen of New Denmark, posts her glorious shots.  I will put up a photo or two near the end to show some of the flowers and fountains, though…

In the meantime, how do you keep cool in a record-breaking summer in New Brunswick, with humidity the likes of which this province has never seen?  (Thanks, climate change and all our centuries of fooling with Mother Nature. She is NOT happy!)  Most people here, rurally at least, do NOT have nor wish to have air-conditioning.  btw, that’s the same in England and many European countries. We are the greedy ones who keep taking and taking and by doing so, actually making the environmental changes WORSE YET.  World-wide, this has been an eye-opener for some this summer (not everyone of course, or even the ones who matter, who can DO something about it!)

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6859588/deadly-wildfires-and-killer-heatwaves-are-ripping-through-the-planet-from-athens-and-sweden-to-los-angles-and-japan/

One way of keeping cool is making lemonade or iced tea – from scratch as I do for beverages – into frozen pops in the freezer.  I also do this on the rare occasions we buy blueberry or cranberry juice.  When I’m just making up a pitcher of the beverage, I always stick a few leaves of mint in and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Then I put the glasses in the freezer, and ALWAYS serve with ice cubes!  I now make all the iced tea or lemonade with Stevia which, while crazily expensive, is helping the bees a bit as this has been a difficult season for them and honey thus far!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another favourite way of keeping cool is sucking back my grandmother’s “Florida Ice”. Admittedly, while this is a homemade sherbet-type dessert, it is hardly a ”living self-sufficiently” recipe as it calls for a banana and orange juice and lemons.  I can barely manage a full-size cucumber in N.B. Pretty sure I won’t be growing any citrus fruits!  We DID however use Cammie’s goat milk the last time we made it, though, and that was delicious and made it feel a bit more ‘our own’.  I wonder what Grandma would have thought fifty years ago if she knew I was yanking on a goat’s teat in order to determinedly produce her special treat.

Here’s Grandma J.’s recipe. My sister and I have been eating this since we were toddlers, so start your own tradition of it in YOUR family!

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I usually collect and freeze old mushy bananas and instead of making banana bread or muffins in the summer, this is what I make with them.  Richard eats a banana every morning but refuses to touch it if it has more than 3.5 black spots on it. Here we are measuring Cammie’s milk – it’s exciting now that she’s FINALLY giving a bit more for us (not without a big fuss on the part of both her and the twins, mind you!).

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Here I’m adding the sugar and putting it in the freezer to get semi-solid.  Grandma always used a bread pan, so that’s what we all do as well.  Keeps it deep, easier to cut, but hey – you find your own bowl or pan or container!

After an hour or so, I break in bits of the banana, do the lemon and orange juice and once in a while I’ve tried pineapple chunks too. A bit of coconut flavouring might really add to that!

Then I mush it all up (no big chunks!), freeze it solid for a few more hours, and, as Grandma did, cut it in slices which can then be cut up prior to serving, or just serve a ‘slab’ and let your happy taster break it up. Yum!

On the topic of Cammie and her milk, I have had successful attempts at making quick goat cheese with lemon juice. (see last blog post)  It was with great pleasure that I served this up for dinner last week:  Everything you see on the plate was from Blue Belldon but for the pasta, and I’ve no plans to start making THAT!

My attempt at yogurt – which I used to make in my early 20s in the oven overnight, did NOT work, but I’m sure it’s because my slow-cooker crock pot is too high, even on ‘LOW’. (We of course purchased the thing 2nd hand).  Thus tomorrow, I try it on the stove-top and see if THAT way works!  However, the crock-pot method, IF you want to make yogurt – esp. healthy goat’s milk  (if you have your own goat or can purchase it locally) is simple:

Use slightly older milk that’s been in the fridge for a few days (I’m also experimenting with making butter – you just take the cream from each jar and drizzle it into another one you’re freezing. Then, when you’ve enough, do the ‘shake-the-jar’ thing for ages, and apparently you’ll have made butter.  More on this when I’ve tried it!)

Warm it for several hours, add the ‘good bacteria’, usually from another batch of yoghurt.  Let it cool down VERY slowly – wrapped in blankets, etc. About 8 hours is necessary for this!  Then refrigerate and presto!  Only it wasn’t ‘presto’ for me because of it heating up too quickly.  There are lots of slow-cooker recipes online for this so find the one that works best for you. If you have a proper crock pot that works on LOW, this seems very easy and is also another way of keeping your Kitchen COOL in hot weather, as you’re using neither the stove-top nor the oven…

On a hotter note, we had sooooo much trouble getting the neighbours who cut and baled our hay for us last year to commit.  They wouldn’t just say ‘no’, but they also stopped answering our calls or returning messages left.  With the wedding coming up and a bit of rain in the forecast (finally!) we HAD to get it off the fields, so we begged another neighbour who really didn’t want to take the time, but he finally did bless him.  He baled it better than last year’s as well and Richard, Zeb and I brought it all into the barn on the Saturday exactly one week before the big day!

I love these shots – Richard surveying his land, with a chicken snoozing in the shade from the heavy heat even at 6:40 p.m.

 

Here’s some more shots of flowers (prepping for the wedding, and we FINALLY splurged and bought a proper fountain!) birds wanting in for a respite from the heat and Richard out for an evening hack or spending time with the livestock at dusk…

 

 

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Bug Spray, Biscuits, Barnboard…

This one will be quick and painless, promises the dentist.  But no, it will, because I MUST do some basic housework and get back outside to major weeding.  I am only in for a mid-morning break for about an hour, which I am sure our minister would say I ought to be spending in church.  We just keep slogging away here, though, rarely knowing what day of the week it actually is!

Mom/Joy and I are the ones weeding. Mom does about 2 hours per day on the veg garden and it’s looking pretty great right now – something showing in all 52 rows!  I do about 20 min. weeding per day in the veg garden and 30 minutes every 3rd day or so on the flowers for the wedding.  In addition, I water for an hour and a half every 2nd or 3rd day when there is no rain called for. But still, it’s mostly thanks to Mom that the vegetables are coming along (Ontario and the u.k. won’t think this is ‘coming along’ in the first week of July, but considering the dry and cold spring and the HEAT WAVE of the last week, we think this isn’t too bad).

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Since Richard has been working hard on the Rustic Revivals cabin/shop, expecting it will be used as a backdrop for some wedding photos, I’ve been mostly trying to keep the animals organized all day and into the long evenings.  They are spoiled, because we cater to them – it started last year when Cammie and Chevy both came to us very ill and it took most of last summer for Chevy at least to fully recover.  Thus we are always letting them out, letting them in, changing their pastures, giving them fresh water and soaked beet pulp, scattering scratch or compost for the chickens despite them being ‘free range’,

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and in last week’s heat wave, giving Chevy several hose-pipe baths. We even bought them a fan for the long afternoons when they are standing around inside because the type of barn we unfortunately have (quonset) is not at all like the old bank barns I’m used to having, where half of it is under a hill and there’s always a hay loft above for insulating, thus keeping the animals cool in summer. So the chickens stay outside all day, finding shade where they can, and even recently learning to fly a bit and to land in unexpected places. Mom just saw this one ‘experimenting’ in the orchard:

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Meanwhile, the kids spend the nights and the early morning hours with their mother, and then we separate them for the rest of the day so I can milk Cammie in the evenings:

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The twins are getting big and very curious, happily leaving their frantic mother for long periods of time, which drives her nuts. (We have had to tie her again because she was caught eating wedding flowers earlier this week and I was furious. The floral situation isn’t doing as well as I’d hoped in the first place, but I certainly didn’t need a big stubborn goat to come along an top the blossoms off 11 plants in one foul swoop!)  We’ve also had a number of neighbours come to visit the animals.  Greta, (age93) just up the hill from us, was wheeled down just a few days out of hospital to spend some time with the cuddliest:

Greta and twogreta and Robin kissing chick

When the weather is very hot, Chevy leads the livestock parade back to the barn where he likes to lie down in the stall (he does this more in summer than he did all winter!) Meanwhile Cammie takes the twins on a tour of other places she isn’t allowed!

The milking hasn’t been going terribly well. First Cammie kicked and hollered and carried on, so we read up on different methods of preventing or at least decreasing this (ie: more food, soft-hobbling, letting one kid out in view, etc).  She’s finally stopped the ‘freaking out’ and putting her foot into my sterile bucket of milk, but she only allows us to have so much milk and then she ‘closes up’ and ‘keeps back’ the rest for her twins for later.  The milking in the morning was stopped because no one (incl. Chevy and the chickens) were getting any rest in the night hours of separation. But the evening milking means they aren’t ‘off her’ for as long, so the milk situation is minimal at the moment. I did, however, manage to make cheese one morning this week.  Here are the various stages of “Quick Goat’s Milk Cheese” – just bring to 180 degrees, add lemon juice to make it curdle, strain in cheese cloth for an hour and VOILA!  Delicious, but it only lasted the one meal on our spinach salad (from our garden. Sad to say, though – even those eggs aren’t from our own chickens yet!) Click to enlarge if desired:

I also tried to make mint jelly again this week, as we have such a large mint patch. Two years ago when I made it it turned out beautifully, but for some reason – perhaps the heat wave? Perhaps my Certo was too old? – it hasn’t set properly.  I was experimenting with little jars which, as ‘lime green’ is one of the two colours for Carriann and Matt’s wedding, might end up on the reception tables for people to help themselves to little spoonfuls of, on the side of their meatballs (delicious!)  (To make it less bright green, I just added some yellow food colouring to the regular green). I bought new Certo and will try this all again on a cooler day:

Also these last few weeks, besides the regular bread and cookie-baking, iced-tea and lemonade-making (and just regular meal-making which I’m getting sick of doing – why can’t I just be a genie and blink my eyes and have those done?),  I did more dog biscuits and some purple and green mints for the wedding. I’ve mentioned how to do the homemade dog biscuits before – just put a lot of meat and egg-based leftovers on a big tray with some oil and lots of flour sprinkled over it and bake the heck out of it until it’s crisp!  (If you’re really interested in how I do this because you want to make your own and save a LOT of money, just contact me and I’ll give you my step-by-step ‘recipe’).

The buttercream mints turned out quite well, I think – I made enough for the wedding guests to have about 10 each, if they so wish!  There are lots of recipes and Youtube directions on these online, so no need for me to say more other than:

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Something else I have to ‘brew up’ quite regularly is bug spray – both for we mammals, and for the veg plants in the garden.  The latter one is Dawn dishsoap ( a spoonful) with vinegar and baking soda and has seemed to work fairly well. I use my own homemade apple cider vinegar – what’s left from last year, anyway (And believe me, I HATE all this plastic, but at least all the jugs are recycled from something else – or WILL be recycled into something else!)

Our bug spray for us and Chevy (and Cammie when she’s willing, which isn’t often. Besides, I don’t want her milk to taste like vinegar!) is veg oil, Dawn and the ACV. So, the same as for the garden but without the baking soda. It and our masks/facenets keep the blackflies at bay a little better, but Chevy is eaten alive by horseflies and deerflies also, so I had to break down this week and buy some chemically-enhanced equine spray which has helped him not come in with great bloody sores, poor guy! So much for being purely organic around here, then!  (Also, I’m going to have to ‘dust’ the broccoli, I’m afraid! And there’s some weird bugs on one of our crabapple trees…grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….)

Richard was hard at work on the cabin at the back of the barn these past weeks, but he also finally got a garden gate on the chicken wire fence we erected around the vegetables. Nice and rustic, this:

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But most rustic and lovely of all is the fabulous work he’s done re-siding the Rustic Revivals new shop (opening – ? maybe in the autumn! The inside needs a lot of work done on it still…) We used the strapping that was under the metal siding to make trim, which I protected with urethane yesterday so it will hopefully stay the contrasting colour. Here’s the ‘before’:

rustic revivals shop, cabin, before

And here are the lovely ‘afters’.  Sooooo in love with this, and there’s lots more trim and decorating I’ll be playing with on the front, you can bet! The door is so wonderfully ‘shabby chic’ with chippy-paint that I’m leaving it as is for now. I just need to get some really white birch sticks for in the barrels, rather than the less-white poplar that are in there at the moment, and it will tie the white from the door in so much more!

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The two sides had lovely cedar shakes under the metal, so we didn’t even have to do much to them. Look carefully and EWE may even see I’m not ‘kidding’ around!

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Your Five Minute Morning

This posting is more about the photos than the writing- or the update of the last 10 days (although there are additional photos and updates below the ‘prize’ photos.) These special shots were all taken over the course of about 5 minutes just this morning, walking around our farm on a lovely sunny, breezy June day. First day of summer, too!  It is a special time to celebrate, not only because of the weather – and very few blackflies because there was a frost down in the valley last night- but also because Blue Belldon Farm now has exactly TEN animals.

We’ll start with the newest additions, because that’s what you’re all waiting for.  Introducing twin boys – Robin and Mo.  They aren’t as harmonious as their namesakes (Gibb twins/Bee Gees) but they have similar characteristics, and it was their voices together that I heard first, before laying eyes on them (more on this below the good set of today’s photos).  Robin is thin, gangly and buck-toothed and likes to hide in his monastery (the old doghouse). Mo is much more social, playful and enjoys a lot of drinking. He even has a little beard, bless him.

This morning was their very first time outside since they were born Tuesday.  Cammie has been out herself several times to graze when they are asleep, but we’re encouraging them to get ‘out and about’ now…

Cammie, Mo, Robin

Now, if that isn’t cuteness itself, see them trying to go up and down the corral hill.  Richard says this one is to be captioned: “You go first, Mo.  If you like it, I’ll try it too!”

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Robin had to be very persistent, though.  “Go!  Go!”quit helping me

They did finally both get to the bottom, though, and then had a little play with Cammie standing watch at the top.

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Then, because Mo is much more strong and confident, their first time climbing back up, poor little Robin fell down. “Come on, Rob!” calls twin Mo, and Cammie adds “Teat for tat!”

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The next time they tried the big climb, things were much more successful. We think this is Cammie practicing the twins for their audition for the final scene of The Sound of Music:

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The twins are very proud of their accomplishments and Cammie is now thinking “Go back to the monastery and sleep, boys – Mama wants to graze with Chevy now!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Robin says “bye for now! You’ll be seeing a lot more of my cute mug in future!”

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Chevy has been a bit depressed since the Tuesday Twins blew into town (more on his hilarious pouting near end of this blog post) but he’s being privileged with time in his old stompin’ grounds in the birch grove (where we used to let him graze when he was ill last year).  The grass is very rich there, there’s a lot more clover and he loves being able to rub the bugs off and scratch himself on the bigger trees.  He’s shown above in the 5 minutes I limped around taking shots.  Next to, I might add, my FIFTY-TWO ROWS of garden all planted! So he was happy this morning, esp. when Cammie finally wandered out to join him after tucking the new-borns in for a long nap!

Round the other side of the farmhouse we have ‘the girls’.  They are free-ranging happily now, but primarily stay near the septic system under the apple trees,  an area which is moist, earthy and wormy. The view ain’t bad either! (Thus, despite the proximity to said septic/weeping tiles, is the direct path which Carriann will be walking down next month to get married under that birch arch!)

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While the hens look too much alike to name (except for the little one we think of as ‘sicky’, although she’s feeling much better now than when she came!), hours of entertainment can be gained by watching their characteristics emerge, as each one if totally different and they are surprisingly intelligent despite all the centuries of jokes.  I do have one hen I think of as Triple C (Curious and Cuddly Chicken). She’s always coming to see what we’re up to, and is happy to be picked up and stroked.

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Here she is sneaking up on Mom as she is pruning the rose bushes at the corner of the house. Not sure Mom even knew she was being stealthily stalked:

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And of course we can’t leave out our other two animals from the 5 Minute Morning photo session.  Smitty heard his name and INSTANTLY, there’s that tennis ball (and some ubiquitous drool):

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And Simba, who has no front claws (not our doing), is 40 pounds overweight (not our fault either) and would really prefer to go on as he started life – being a purely indoor cat, is always tossed out on nice days to sniff some grass and then lie on the porch furniture all day admiring the view (o.k., it’s no real difference than what he does inside but we like to think that just the grass-slurping and the march from front porch to side porch to whine about NOT BEING INSIDE is more exercise than he would be getting otherwise.  Plus, it takes energy to whine and yowl, right? And to be fair, last August, with no claws and barely the ability to jog-trot, he caught a mouse outside. So ya never know!

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There, that was my tranquil and lovely morning outside today. Gorgeous. And memorable. Cause they aren’t all like that, believe me! To find out more on that subject, read on and see some blurry, darker –ie. NOT prize-winning photos— of the twins’ first hours/days and our visitors from Ontario and the trials and tribulations of the last week that we made them endure!  Or, if you just want to imagine us sitting here with stunning scenery, sunshine, mild bug tormenting and peaceful, cute animals—— stop scrolling down NOW!    *****************************

Last week saw us with our third visitors in as many weekends.  We have waited since coming here for Jane and Peter Wright to visit us though.  My former Grade 6 art and social studies teachers, they became family when they realized how much they had in common with my parents and how much I needed someone in my life who could tease/take teasing and understand sarcasm.   We’ve had many trips together and they still travel a great deal, so we are so glad they finally made it here to Blue Belldon.

However, after driving from near Montreal to here – about a nine-hour drive, plus some stop-offs for sight-seeing which Peter blamed on Jane and Jane swore was all Peter’s doing, they were pretty tired.  Certainly they needed a quiet day the next day wandering about the farm, pottering in the gardens or reading a book in the shade.

Sadly, for Peter, that didn’t happen.  Richard whisked him off the next morning to go look at some barn board from a barn some folks are tearing down.  We are finally getting my Rustic Revivals shop prepped for going back to its original state and we need some barnboard to finish it off on the front.  (Here’s how it looks so far–Richard’s had fun tearing off all the ugly tin siding!)

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Sadly, Richard and Peter never made it to the barn.  They got a flat tire, couldn’t get the spare on properly (despite several hours of struggling in the hot sun to do so!), had to spend the cash we’d put aside for the barnboard on getting towed to a tire shop, then more hours of waiting in a stuffy waiting room once Jane and I drove into town with a different spare from our own barn. So poor Peter was even more exhausted by the end of his first day here.  That was a bad morning that stretched into the hot afternoon hours!

Then the NEXT morning, I had to go to Maine to mail one of my Rustic Revivals custom orders off (much cheaper to drive and mail from the U.S. to all my American customers, which are of course 98 percent of them!) Peter wanted to go over with his car and fill it up with gas as everyone is doing in this area these days.  Jane wanted to go along and when we got there she remembered a surplus store my Mom had mentioned to her in a neighbouring town. Poor Peter – was just going to have a 40 minute trip there and back for gas and ended up with two nattering women who wanted to shop for fabric and cheap tools!  Many hours later, we finally returned home and THEN he got to nap!

As in the days of old when my Dad was alive, gin and tonics were flowing freely from my mother’s liquor cabinet (half a closet due to her homemade wine!) We had some lovely more formal dinner parties in the living room/dining room, mostly cooked and catered by Mom as I’ve still been busy with final plantings.

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But on their final night with us, we were all too tired to ‘do up the dining table’, so Jane bought us pizzas and we stayed in the kitchen. They all got tipsy and Richard taught them our choir’s hit-of-the-season, the body-percussioned Rain Song.   (part of our choir performing it here: https://www.facebook.com/mfredrx/videos/10100452782763234/    still photos from that performance in my last blog)

I did video-tape the mangled version of three tipsy slightly tone-deaf folk trying to do just the melody of the song, plus the percussion, but I wouldn’t embarrass them (well, Richard I might, but not the Wrights!) by posting the most-entertaining-for-ME video here.  However, there are some jolly good stills from the video which I consider fair game and a decent compromise on my part.  I mean, if you’re gonna swig beer AND gin and tonics…  You can see why Jane was always a much-beloved, fun-loving art teacher!  You can see that, though Peter did sing along, he was still thinking about a nap. And you can certainly make out that Richard likely SHOULD have been a teacher, as he sure likes to impart his (often new-found) knowledge of most subjects:

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Jane brought us some of her amazing artworks –  Her perfect-blue recycled glass plate is in the window above my sink above. Here’s a close-up.

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She knows how much I love upcycled items, so she also did me a cheese and dip tray from an old wine bottle and a mason jar.  Love this, and it matches my dusty greens in the dining room, too. Here it is with my homemade bread as French toast – the only way to eat it when it gets old and crusty!

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Jane also did both Mom and myself some gorgeous glass pendants.  I took several shots of mine, but none do it justice. See some of these and her more ‘modern’ designs- made with new glass  here: http://www.janewright.ca/glass.html

Jane’s daughter Lindsay also works in glass and when she’s visiting Quebec from Boston she and her Mom share the kiln and work space in Jane’s lovely little studio.  However, Jane is also an amazing watercolour artist and also uses alcohol ink to get glorious colours and designs.  See those here: http://www.janewright.ca/alcohol-ink.html

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Anyway, all this just to really say that if Jane Wright doesn’t always get the exact note or beat when singing a crazy-ass choir exercise – who cares!?  Look where her talents DO lie! And Peter, despite sun, fatigue and a little more gin than tonic DID manage to sing his Rain Song part in tune.  For most of it.

As soon as Jane and Peter headed back, we had another crazy morning here on the farm. The chickens found a little dip I’d dug in one of the flower gardens, planted esp. for the wedding with specially-ordered purple and blue seeds.  I found them laying in it, but prior to that they’d obviously scratched the heck out of it and no doubt no single seed would find germination. I herded the ladies back to the orchard and went in to finish in the kitchen. 10 minutes later I looked out again, and all 4 were IN THE SAME HOLE!  This time Richard helped me put chicken wire around it, as we’ve done in many other spots already for Cammie and to keep Smitty from lifting his leg on all the flower seeds/seedings and shrubs. Later in the day I replanted the area, but as most of the special seeds were gone, I just planted some scarlet-runner beans instead.  Not the ‘right’ colour, but all I’ve left.

There followed several more frantic mornings of doctors’ appointments for either Mom or Richard. One morning I was in the bath preparing for a 10:30 leaving time with Mom and I heard her calling to Richard to ask if I was ready at 9:00!  Apparently her app’t was for 9:45!  And then Tuesday morning Richard and Mom were both gone to appointments.  I was out moving Chevy’s pasture with the electric fence and about 11:00 I put fresh water in the stall for him and Cammie and went into the house for an early lunch (or late breakfast as it generally is in my instance).  20 minutes later I went back into the barn and saw Chevy leaning his great monster head into the goat pen and heard all kinds of out-of-tune bleatings from a surprise trio.  Reminiscent, in fact of Richard and the Wrights. But whilst that may be a great name for a 60s band, it doesn’t contain twins, so Robin and Mo wobbled around ‘singing’ for an hour or so while trying to figure out where they were and what had just happened.  Poor Chevy, he couldn’t take the noise anymore or the fact that his best friend in the world was now suddenly ignoring him. He took himself off outside and I didn’t see him again for 3 hours.

The twins were pink.  All white, of course, but so much blood on their coats they were a shade of strawberry Kool Aid.  I wiped them off, as Cammie’s tongue could only do so much. Mo was drinking milk right away and for ages and ages, but Robin had two tugs on the teat, decided he had enough collostrum  and lay down. This is the very first photo I took of them, with them both drinking.  It was the last time we’d see that for a full 24 hours!

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I struggled to get wee Robin  to stand – he was so thin!- and take the teat. Cammie also tried to convince him. She’s a great Mom for only being two herself. She didn’t want to give up on him.  Between periodically easing out the afterbirth, the sac, and etc. (into which detail I shall not go – it was messy and icky and I never did want to be a vet) I spent the next hour trying to get Robin to eat.  Finally I went to the place on the work table where we’d been keeping the bottles and nipples for the last month, all ready for this precise eventuality.  They were gone!  Remember, Richard and I don’t have cell phones now, so I had to do the old- fashioned thing.  That is, get into a man’s head and try to figure out where (logically?) he might have put something important, newly-purchased and potentially much-needed as in a case of life or death.  I searched everywhere in that garage and barn. They were NOWHERE, and though we didn’t really even WANT the goat kids – just needed Cammie to be producing milk!-  I had tears in my eyes at the thought of being all alone and seeing the little guy fade away in front of my eyes.

I made up the milk supplement and tried getting him to suck it off my fingers while I held him in a blanket on my lap.  He refused, made faces and bleated for Mama, who glared at me.  I went to the house and got a syringe and tried to pour it in that way, but it was too hard without someone else helping me hold him, hold his mouth open, fill the syringe, etc.  Just as I was about to give up, Richard and Mom returned, and I told Richard he’d better remember where he’d put the bottles because we needed them STAT.  He went immediately to the canoe on the floor at the front of the barn and got the brown paper bag with the purchases.  You know, bottles and nipples in a bag in a canoe.  As you do.  Silly me!

As it turned out, Robin kept refusing the nipple so we went back to the syringe (from reading up on similar circumstances, I think he had about a half-hour left to live) and FORCED the milk supplement into him.  Here’s Richard holding him, with Uncle Chevy looking on (we couldn’t take Robin right out of the stall as it was creating too much trauma for everyone, so we just sat there in the stall and Chevy decided to come check up on things again).

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We decided to leave them all alone for a few hours, and when we came back to the barn, Mo was asleep in the straw and Robin was drinking happily from his mother!  For the next 24 hours, they wouldn’t share (it wasn’t Cammie’s fault, although I did blame her at first. Mo was a hog, and Robin wasn’t confident enough to get in there on his own teat, so would wait until Mo went to lie down).  But at least he WAS standing and drinking periodically and must have done so through the night, as the next morning, he was fatter and both were standing more confidently.  And each of the 3 days since then they’ve eaten and slept and had a bit of time exploring new surroundings too. Tomorrow they will be in sunshine for the first time, as despite being out in the corral today, they were in complete shade.  This is me yesterday and my little baby Robin.  We REALLY need to give both these billy goats away.  We MUST.  But this little guy…

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Now, for the promised hilarity resulting around Chevy’s depression at having to go down in the ranks of Cammie’s esteem.  At first I thought he was colicky.  (A very dangerous condition for horses as they can’t regurgitate to get rid of gas or upset stomach). He was hot, looking at his flanks, wanting to lie down, and hanging his head with a trembling lip.  But I did all the checks and we kept our eye on him – he didn’t have colic, because it was only happening when we were there watching (the goats!) and the rest of the time he was out grazing!  The pouting and trembling lower lip lasted until Wednesday night, at which time Cammie got herself outside to graze a bit beside him, and he seemed to cheer up a bit.

But Wednesday morning he was outside and REALLY mad at me because I was apparently ignoring that the bugs were bad and he wanted to come in.  (I’d moved the fence so he couldn’t just do this of his own choice).  He saw me on the porch. He whinnied. I ignored him, because spoiled animals don’t get what they want immediately upon asking for it. He stomped his front foot twice.  No, Mr. Ed. Go graze.  Then, as I watched in disbelief, he picked up the electric fence in his teeth to see if it was on. (It wasn’t).  This horse is suicidal!  It’s not on, so he pushes it forward with his chest far enough so that he can reach his lead shank on the ground.  HE PICKS IT UP IN HIS TEETH, LOOKS RIGHT AT ME AND FLINGS IT HIGH IN THE AIR.  O.K.  I admit it.  His demands were then met.  That was WAY too good a trick to ignore.

It wasn’t a fluke either, because he did it again the next day.  Of course NOW we’ve taught him a bad trick, so we have to turn the electric fence on, and also move the lead rope right out of the way altogether.  Chevy is a much smarter animal than I gave him credit for being, and I think the fact that he is the only one who saw the entire process of the twins being born does mean he was probably a bit traumatized.  I’m trying to cut him some slack.

I moved his fence back so he can go in and out again as he pleases.  And he IS really careful around the twins on the odd occasion when Cammie’s pen door is open and they come sticking their nose out into the ‘big stall’ to see Uncle Chev.

And of course, on a peaceful morning like today when he REALLY has things going his way – lots of bug spray, his mask on, shady trees and lush grass in the birch grove AND his best friend grazing for a time at his side — life seems so idyllic you’d never guess all the backstage drama that exists! But pull aside the curtains and whaddya see?  The TRUTH about farming!

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Three Weeks Well…

 

Although I’ve only been out of bed a little under 3 weeks, and am still on some night-time meds to calm the cough, we HAVE actually played ‘catch-up’ rather quickly to where I wanted to be, considering I missed out on mid-April through mid-May with the virus/infection/whateverthehellitwas…

Here’s a photo-story of the many many satisfying accomplishments we’ve managed thus far:

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Despite the blackflies, Richard’s managed to drive Chevy up to our neighbours fields (just the other side of our woods, on the right) to drag out many logs that have been felled either naturally or because they needed to be taken down due to channeling a new ditch so that our entire forest wouldn’t be swamp.  We’re of course using these logs for firewood eventually – but some of them are also doubling as cross-country jumps and as decor for Carriann and Matt’s (Richard’s niece and her fiance) wedding on July 28th:

Although I missed all 3 of our concerts with the choir (which I’d been rehearsing for, incl. a descant and a piano accompaniment, for 3 months!) a small version — incl. Richard in green far right, and me FINALLY out of bed to perform, in yellow, far left — of our choir was asked to perform at a talent showcase in Perth/Andover – we just did one song, The Rain Song.  The below shows us doing some of the body percussion which is meant to replicate the rain as we sing:

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Because the snow didn’t want to let go until mid-April, just before I got too sick to do anything, I tidied a corner of our barn and Richard helped me put up our old gazebo so we now have a comfy tack room – both for us and any students in for training. We’ve even achieved a ‘viewing area’ where tea can be sipped whilst watching the dressage ring lessons!

Richard has rototilled and harrowed (with Chevy) the garden several times and composted it thoroughly, as well as moving half the manure pile from the winter way up to a back corner of the farm to let it dry out and decay up there. Then Mom has stepped in and been wedding and rock-picking thoroughly so that now that I AM better, we’re planting both seeds and my seedlings from the basement ‘grow-op’ – even though we shouldn’t be as several nights are dangerously close to 0 degrees!  We also finally managed to get up a chicken-wire fence all the way around the garden because any day now we’re expecting Cammie’s kids to be born, and we don’t want them exploring out there and also….

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today we finally got our laying hens – only they won’t be laying for another month or so, it would appear !  And they all look so alike, I don’t know that we can name them. They are Buff Orpingtons – a British breed, so – not exactly what we’d planned on, but we’ll give it a try in this climate – here’s Richard unloading them into their newly built chicken coop which he worked hard on, attached to Cammie’s goat pen, and with the ability to insulate fully with bales when winter is upon us again. Because of the blackflies, both Cammie and Chevy are in during the day, so they were much interested in these new additions:

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We’ve also done a lot of planting of seeds and wild ferns and bedding plants all around the house and down at the wedding site for this summer to be especially beautiful for the nuptials. But of course you can’t really take a photo of barren earth, so another blog posting in early August will have to show you the fruits of all THESE labours.

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Richard built her a lovely milking platform (using, you’ll notice, all salvaged wood – some from the kitchen cupboards I tore out two summers ago when I arrived!) but it took her 4 days before she’d even plant all 4 feet on it – she was just stubborn as all get-out. I owned a donkey once that wasn’t NEARLY as stubborn as this little goat.   However, she’s finally happy to go running up to it and even to stick her head into the stanchion (fashioned from the tie-ends of an old hammock that’s given up the ghost – thus all the holes).  Here we are “pretend-milking”.   (Yes, the lime-green milk can is painted for the wedding colours of purple and lime.  We’ve also done a great deal of painting around the farm in the last 3 weeks too, including the massive job Richard’s done on painting the huge roll-up barn/garage door! But again, you’ll see all those beautiful results when the wedding photos come in. For now, this milk can works beautifully to hold Cammie’s bowl of food!)

This shows the stanchion a little better, with the hammock ‘sticks’, as Cammie quietly leaves the area that a week ago she had to be DRAGGED to:

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Chevy is still having fun being used a few times a week. Whether it’s having a good grooming, having his feet picked out, or being driven up into the fields to get more logs from ‘the other side’, he’s been worked more in the last month or so than in the entire year we’ve had him, and he enjoys it thoroughly (though sometimes likes to hurry home because of Cammie’s lonely bleating. We expect this co-dependent dynamic will change considerably once the kids are born!)

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chevy and r at work June, better colour, 2018

chevy, spring 2018, inside

Despite all this planting, pulling, ploughing, picking, painting, pandering (to the animals – that would be Richard!) and ‘pane-polishing’ (Mom washing windows yesterday on the entire ground floor!) we’ve even had a tiny bit of time for some ‘playing’. Cousin Ange and the Reverend Das showed up for an overnight this week and we had a chance to play a rousing game of my Book-Lovers Scrabble.  Only to discover from dear, demure Das that – er – we haven’t been ending the game of Scrabble properly. Ever.  Why haven’t all those people we’ve played with prior to this week pointed this out?  But it’s there in the rules… if one cares to interpret it that way…  And that meant Das won! Not Richard, for once!

ange and das

Richard also did some ‘playing’ two weekends ago when he had yet another chaotic-filled fishing trip with the canoe, culminating in him ending up on a private lake and getting shot at!  I’ve been waiting for him to write up that entire day for the Pippi’s Fishin’ Hole Fables and Facts category of this blog, but we’re so tired from all the goings-on that when we ARE inside the house, we’re mostly dozing off in our chairs.

Anyway, a lot done in a short time, and as long as all my seeds don’t remain dormant in the cold earth, we’re well-satisfied for the time being with how the farm looks.  Next up – Cammie’s Kids, I expect!

 

O.O.A.

Even so the World’s grey Soul to the green World 
Perchance one hour must cry: “Woe’s me, for whom 
Inveteracy of ill portends the doom,

      —   Dante Gabriel Rossetti, after a long period of illness
                   in the springtime of  1873

Sorry to be not MISSING in Action, but OUT of Action – have been down with a respiratory ailment for more than a month (I was warned when I first got it by several people that I’d have it for up to six weeks. Flu symptoms, fever, hacking cough, sinus migraines, etc.  I absolutely refused to believe them, and did everything in my power to get better in the first 10 days.  Then I realized they were right and just gave up!)

WEAR MASKS AND WASH YOUR HANDS EVERY WHERE YOU GO WHEN IN PUBLIC!

Anyway, slowly getting back to some work outside and baked bread for the first time today since the week after Easter!  Richard’s been enjoying eating store-bought ka-ka, but that’s gotta stop!

Soon you can ‘look forward’ to the long-ago-promised blog posting re: Mom’s weaving and braiding, a more in-depth look at the how-tos, as some of the Homesteaders who follow this may be interested.  And after that, a posting on how well our basement grow-op did this year compared to last… and after that, some visitors who’ll be helping ’round the farm… and after that, some of the cross-country course and wedding site decor we’ve been adding to… oh, and the new chicken coop, and the…

as a tease to tide you over until I can get a bit ‘caught up’ around here and am able to write:  Here’s a high school friend of mine with one of Mom’s new bedside cozies, which will feature in the next posting coming SOON:

mom's rug for Annette

SHABBY CHIC SHENANIGANS

Ten years in the making (in my mind), two years waiting (since we’ve moved to Blue Belldon Farm) and two months of physically working on this project – but it’s finally DONE!  Although we don’t have any sort of television programs, we do enjoy BBC and PBS-type broadcasting from our computer, which we project on to Richard’s large screen,  (Mom/Joy just watches her lap-top upstairs, mostly CBC).  We especially do this in the dark evenings of winter when we are so much less busy outside on the farm.  Reading, writing and Scrabble are also favourite off-season evening past times, of course. I also periodically still do some coaching and theory lessons, and for that a screen is needed to show playbacks of the students’ riding as well as any of my massive collection of equine educational video.  But I have always despised the look of a television in any room, (ESPECIALLY OVER ONE’S BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACE, FOLKS – A T.V. SCREEN IS NOT A WORK OF ART!) and as a dedicated and long-time decorator of farmhouses, I have always tried to hide the t.v. wherever and however possible.

Thus, despite both sets of my grandparents being collectors of fine antiques, and the one grandfather actually spending years scraping generations of thick lead paint from furniture and then refinishing these pieces to their natural wooden sheens, Richard and I have done the UNTHINKABLE.  Well, unthinkable to my four grandparents, no doubt, and despite her compliments, rather shocking to my mother as well, I suspect.  But shabby chic is ‘IN’, and has been for nearly the decade that I’ve had my Rustic Revivals business. So, we’ve MADE – from scratch- the bespoke pie-safe-like cabinet of which I’ve always dreamt.

Now, of course, if we could have found a wonderful chippy-painted primitive hutch that would have held our television screen and all its accessories (V.H.S., D.V.D. players, stereo, etc) we’d have bought it, but we knew we had too many requirements for anything to ever fit ‘just right’.  Also, there are NO antique auctions of any type in the whole of northern New Brunswick anyway, and getting old wood across the border from Maine is often tricky.

To build something similar yourself, read paragraphs UNDER each related photo for the explanations as to how we did this D.I.Y. project, finishing just in the nick of time as the weather (finally) warms and the snow is (slowly) melting!

(as always, click on each photo in a grouping, to make bigger).

The first part of tidying up the last-to-finish corner of our living room was for Richard to design and build the bookshelves (to left) we wanted, to match the other side that he built LAST winter. (those, on right, are mentioned and seen in the post entitled “…That Time Has Tried”:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/that-time-has-tried/ ).

The finished book shelves, sharing the corner where our new shabby chic T.V. cabinet resides, look lovely with my ancient trophies, and our pottery and books.  I stained them with 4 different shades of dark stain (which we just had around – I never go buy new!) to make them look older and bring out the various colours in the grains. The shelves look grand, yet homey, in both daylight and lamp-lit, don’t they?

My friend Ron from Carlisle (prayers are with him as he is in and out of hospital of recent weeks) gave me two big boxes of wood-turned finials a few years ago.  I have used these for a plethora of decor, but they are especially perfect for stacking into various heights and painting as candle holders. If you look on the lamp-lit bookshelf, you’ll see two used as such, and I’ve just painted 16 in the lime green and purple wedding colours for Richard’s niece’s wedding here on the farm in July as well – thank you AGAIN, Ron!

We needed legs on this project, not just for it to look like an authentic pie-safe, but to raise it above our water-circulating radiator on the wall.  So 4 of Ron’s finials were perfect for this, with Richard adding pieces of pine on top and bottom of them to raise them and make them sturdier.

The above also shows the use of just regular white glue for the crackle effect.  You CAN spend the money on “Crack It”, and sometimes it does seem to work a little more magically, but in general and for a large surface area, just regular Elmer’s or Bondfast is fine. Paint your wood with a dark colour first. Apply the glue liberally and start painting your outer chosen colour after about 15 or 20 minutes, when the glue is still ‘tacky’.  As it dries, it will expand and ‘crackle/chip’ your paint.  DON’T GO OVER IT AND TRY AND RE-DO A SPOT.  (more on this below) But I also, as seen in all the photos below, do other things to distress and age with paint effects.  (And for more on this see my blog post on our other great project this winter – our pantry bins! https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/the-pedantic-in-the-pantry/ )

Other ways of distressing and aging besides just crackling:

  • dry-brush streaks
  • apply paint, let partially dry, then wipe off HARD with cloth
  • beat, chip, gouge with various tools as seen in “The Pedantic in the Pantry”
  • use knives to scrape paint off edges where natural wear and tear would occur
  • apply a brownish or ‘rust’ coloured paint and or light STAIN over some parts to ‘age’
  • and as you’ll see near the end, attach tiny bits of masking tape for ‘chips’ and paint them, so that rather than just crackling you have actual ‘peeling’ bits of paint!

For the sides of the cabinet/pie-safe, Richard cut two pieces of pine left over from the library shelves.  As with the legs, I first painted black and left to dry completely. Then slathered on the glue, left for 20 minutes, and then put on the 2nd coat.

Some extra tips: Don’t take your brush over the glue more than the one time!     Do slather the glue on horizontally and then paint VERTICALLY to follow the grain.  The crackle works its magic best this way.

I didn’t ‘beat these up’ as much as I did the pantry bin fronts but I did gouge a few spots out with the claws of the hammer and then painted over again.  (The colour wasn’t quite right on these sides, either – it was too ‘minty’, so I later mixed some more paint to match the legs better and lightly went over it again, but the crackle isn’t nearly as effective of course).

Neighbour and Richard’s helpmate Zeb came over to help assemble the legs and the sides, then put on the shelves and attach to the wall with all the heavy equipment lifted in after two years of them perched on an upturned plastic bin.  Richard always glues first with wood-glue, then nails with his air gun so the nails are barely seen – just tiny indented specks.

Next came the design of (and arguments over) the cabinet’s top decor. To start (the designing, not the arguing- you can figure that part out for yourselves!)- draw your outline on HALF the paper, then flip it so it’s exactly the same on the other side, but mirror image- and trace it out in full.  We didn’t like the first design (above) – there was too much wood and not enough decorative ‘cut-out’ (or too much positive, not enough negative).  So we tried again and ended with perfection, thanks to my eye and Richard’s hand with a jig-saw!

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I gave all of this front-facing (built right over the t.v. which has always been mounted on the wall) the same distressed-paint treatment as the rest.  Black, glue-crackle, turquoise.  Paint some with dry-brush streaking as above, wipe off hard in places too.  A word about the paint – you don’t HAVE to use chalk paint as it’s expensive. You can buy a chalky dust and make your own from regular acrylic/latex.  The chalk paint WILL make your piece look older than just regular acrylic.  But in order to crackle and distress, you DO need acrylic/water-based paints.  It won’t work at all with oil-based (bad for the environment anyway). AND it won’t look authentically ‘primitive’ either.

I asked Richard to make this piece round-edged as I thought it would look ‘softer’ and more authentic than square edges.  Thus, I could also do a ‘wipe-off’ for a lot of the black to show, which replicates the ‘worn’ look in a natural spot – where it would be most often handled/touched over the centuries!  The above 3 photos were taken as the glue is still drying so you can see how it’s slathered on in some spots, but thin in others (those bits already crackled).

Pie-safes, in case you don’t know, have chicken wire, screens, punched tin or drilled holes to let air circulate and allow pastries, breads etc. to cool off and be stored.  I wanted MY pie-safe to have the chicken wire on the bottom to cover the equipment, but with thin cloth behind it so that the remote controls could still function with the V.C.R., etc.)  Richard made the light-weight frames and I first painted and distressed them.  Then I painted the chicken wire (just some pieces left over in the barn from outdoor projects – again, we didn’t buy anything if we could help it)  to make them look a bit rusty in spots.  Next, I cut them to size and stapled them in.  As I do on Rustic Revivals projects, to avoid any sharp edges from the wire, I caulked a lot of ‘gunk’ from my caulking gun where there were sharp pieces sticking out.  This, when dry, also helped hold the chicken wire in place.  Lastly, I cut some of the fabric from extra curtains I’ve had in the last 3 places we’ve lived – pleated it a bit and stapled it in. The turquoise and the olive-green go with all my pottery, esp. my good Franciscan earthenware dishes, so these are the ‘pop’ colours of our otherwise dark brown living/dining room. Plus turquoise is a very common vintage paint colour.

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(Note: I ended up having to paint more of the chicken wire than I’d first intended, as it simply didn’t show up well enough.  So parts are white, parts ‘rusty’ red, and parts aluminum/unpainted. And by the way, I did add some turquoise dabs to those too-shiny hinge spines. Didn’t want THEM looking new!).

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The last main part of the project for Richard was the bead-board ‘cupboard doors’ I wanted replicated for the top.  We did NOT go buy more bead-board, either, I’m glad to say. Part of the bathroom wall I tore out when I first came here two years ago was salvaged for this, although Richard had to hot-gun some old wallpaper and glue off the backs to make it weigh less (important for its function as you’ll soon see).

The white part is how it was in the bathroom. Richard made pine frames for it, although I believe the same effect could have been done without the frame if you’d prefer and it would be lighter in weight to ‘slide’ as we’re doing with ours.  This is the part that will cover the screen itself.  Thus, I painted everything black for the undercoat that would show through. Except for two roughed-up bits of olive paint I mixed myself. Using my old faithful ‘visualization’ technique, I had decided that there’d be far too much turquoise on the top, so I wanted some olive colour to match the fabric below. But we didn’t want it to look ‘contrived’ and all matchy-matchy. So it needed to look like it was old scraped off layers:

This is where I also used the masking tape effect to look like truly scraped-off, chipped paint.  Plus, underneath on the olive, before lightly going over with some of the turquoise and a dry brush, I’d ‘thrown’ and dribbled some black paint and intentionally dolloped some blobs that I could later scrape off, showing the olive underneath.  If you want something truly old and primitive-looking, from a new piece of sanded pine board, you really have to be artistic and WORK HARD~!

Also, as this was the biggest painted piece that would be always seen, I wanted the crackle to be really defined. So instead of the big jug of Elmer’s, I used the expensive ‘Crack It’ from Home Hardware . (Remember to go horizontally with the glue or crackle product, if you then are going to paint VERTICALLY down!)  And it REALLY worked! Almost more than I might have wanted!

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Then, as all the turquoise was a little TOO bright still, I dulled parts of it down with a light stain.  I almost always, when distressing paint furniture, use a bit of stain to ‘age’ the colour in places, as paint is prone to do if over a century old!  (See what I did with our kitchen cupboards and bake table here: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/  )

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Lastly, I debated spending SOME money on some true antique ceramic matching door knobs.  But why do that, really, when your husband has cheap plastic dollar-store knobs in his worktable in the barn, left over from a reno. he did over 20 years ago?  Exactly.  So we didn’t spend a penny on these either.  I lightly sanded them so paint would stick, painted the olive colour, and decorated vintage-style.  There’s a calligraphied “R” and “J” for the top knobs, and some little twirlies which Richard calls ‘bugs’ for the bottom.  I gave them a coat of urethane as well, to protect the paint and to make them look shiny as they would have done if they’d BEEN the $24.00 per knob I was looking at online!~

I also wanted the bottom doors to open just like the old way (and as I did in the kitchen) by simply swiveling a wooden ‘bar’, which is from a tobacco slat from the famous cousins Pete and Linda Baxter that I cut and painted.  Richard, once nick-named “Mistah Particulah”, has SOOOO caught on to distressing and replicating primitives, that he even pounded a rusty old nail into the centre to create the ‘swivel’. Yay!

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You know from previous posts that we often traipse back and forth to the barn in our pajamas of a morning.  Sometimes, we work on projects wearing them as well.  Here, Richard is drilling the holes for my doorknobs.

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Above, Richard has put on the knobs and the swivel (on which his old rusty nail is barely noticeable against my little black dot decor with the tops of my paintbrush!) As well as staining to age some of the painted effect, I also dry-brush-streaked some olive paint on (seen faintly above on the middle strip) to tie in the other olive accessories and effects.  Here is the difference:

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The top ‘cupboard doors’ are one piece that simply slide back to reveal the television screen when we want to watch something.  We will eventually have a blacksmith make a big black iron hook to hang from above that will hold this, but for now the adjustable piano stool and trunk work fine.  Richard’s so happy to have our equipment and storage for video tapes and DVDs finished!

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So that’s it!  The finished masterpiece!  We figure, not counting the designing and arguing at various stages over the last two years as we visualized and discussed and disagreed, there was about 20 hours of physical work EACH in this.  Still much less than a Da Vinci, but we sit and enjoy it all every bit as much! That is, of course, my Franciscan Nut Tree plate upon which this whole room has been based with the few bits of colour here and there on shelves, in pictures, and in fabrics… And let’s not forget how well it matches Mom’s huge effort from last winter – our beautiful hand-braided rag rug!

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above, Mom/Joy’s project from last year, the braided rag rug that ties in all the colours of this room and our dishes and pottery. On my grandmother’s chaise longue, see also a blanket woven by Mom, and a cushion hand-dyed, spun and woven by Aunt Ila, the aunt who passed on her skills to her niece.  To see the posts on Mom’s weaving and braiding of rugs and other household ‘needfuls’, click here:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/5338/

and near the bottom of this one:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/secluded-habits-not-about-monks/

I know many of you wanted to know when my humourous verse dedicated to Joy’s textile work would appear in the N.B. mag Created Here. It was supposed to be in the online version, but I’ve yet to see it online. I’ll let you all know.  I am also planning to devote all of next week’s blog to Mom/Joy’s weaving, spinning and braiding as she’s just finished three delightful projects for us as well as helping the pastor’s wife a bit to take on this new and rewarding hobby.

To finish, here’s the masterpiece, alongside Richard’s other recently-completed project of beauty and comfort in our Blue Belldon farmhouse:

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Bye Baby Bunting,Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting

In celebration (not) of the big blizzard that is once again blowing in as a Nor’Easter,(never mind March going out like a ‘lamb’ – it DID, on the actual 31st, but nothing but more winds and snow since then) and in likewise celebration (not) of my once again NOT making EVEN the long-list of the CBC Short Story contest, published yesterday, I once again write this blog in a STORM of (not)literary verse.  In fact, as Google is celebrating what would have been poet Maya Angelou’s 90th birthday, but as she is now DEAD, it is NOT her birthday, let’s call this  Perverse  Verse:
Mama doesn't like it that there aren't so many birds
As her daughter struggles once again to make a life with words.
Both are getting cranky, and the feller dweller there
Wishes he could just go out and shoot a big ole bear!

But of course those all still snore in caves
And I continue with my rants and raves,
Banging on about the lack of Wild Life
("Unless you're on the Maine side" says the feller to his wife...)

For though the only birds we see from November until spring
Seem to be these snow buntings that Mama sees take wing:

buntings on wire

For some reason, 'cross the border, only 20 min. away
The wildlife are plentiful, as was noted yesterday.

Richard entered 'seniordom' on his first field trip for blue hairs
As he took a 'course' out in the bush that was more like a 'who dares'?
The van ride started pleasantly, as he met some jovial folk
And they hopped in eagerly, not knowing 'twas an April Joke!

minivan field trip

For first they saw such moose and deer, both dead and, too, alive
And then the muddy tracks they drove made a simple 2-hour drive
Turn from just 'a country cruise' to an anxious HOUR FIVE!
(Although through logging trails of muck they constantly did strive!)
road in to cabin

Richard was the only one on the trip that really cared
About the MAKING of the syrup, and the owner barely shared
Any of the secret tips Richard had hoped to glean
So really, was it worth it? This year we're not that keen

To even BOTHER with the tapping and the syrup-making deal.
For we can't quite get TO our woods to work unless we kneel-
And then crawl along the snow banks, that's how deep it is out there!
Chevy sinks up to his gut, and we little better fare...

Mama took this Monday as we made our way to work
Trying to make a path has us all gone quite beserk

trying to get to woods, 2
We've also tried it this way, with skis and snowshoes too
But 2,000 pounds of Chevy still struggles and falls through 

trying to get to woods
Next year we have a plan or two, but 'til then, no sap for us!
And Richard's done with courses that involve a mini-bus...

He doesn't like discussions with old gun-sellers from Maine
Who talk about the hunting, and the "We Need Our Guns" refrain
He didn't care to see the coyotes, hanging from the trees
He should have just stayed home while we waded past our knees!

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Yup, I took that pic this morning, leaving Mama's car in shot
Just to give an inkling of the kind of banks we've got
Piled high beside the orchard - will fruit ever grow once more?
And the lilac bush is ravaged as I took this from our door:
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When the wind blows from the Northeast, Smitty starts to whine
(Well, come on now, I admit- we're ALL in Cabin Fever DEE-CLINE!)
So he crawls under a table and the cat goes by and sees
And goes to give some comfort from this Springtime Snow disease:
simba comforts smittyThe buntings are not feeding as they did earlier this morn
And Cam and Chevy in the barn are dejected and forlorn:

buntings feeding
I'm pretty sure that May will come, and with it some sunshine
Perhaps even some bird-song to make that upstairs Mom of mine
Happier than she's been for months, and to make us smile too
But for now, this Perverse Verse is all you'll get from Belldon 'Blue'.

Thrice the Ice, Not As Nice!

REMINDER:  AS PER LAST POST, DON’T READ THIS BLOG FROM YOUR EMAIL NOTIFICATIONS. RATHER, CLICK ON THE BLUE LINK (PROBABLY THE TITLE “THRICE THE ICE…”) TO TAKE YOU TO THIS ACTUAL BLOG.
In the last few weeks there've been
Several storms of freezing rain
Then the temps do plummet
'Til we're at minus 20 once again.

Thus, the ice will crystalize
And, by moonlight, looks unique.
On distant hills it sparkles...
But by day, it's not for meek.


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No, the meek shall perish, certainly!
As down they go to break their bones
(This is why St. Peter's church
Has a pianist with different tones-

For Sonja, the organist there most oft
Fell and broke her wrist
And now ole Julie's called to play
All the hymns on Pastor's list!) 


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Which would be fine, except Julie
Doesn't know one Lutheran song
Nor any of the liturgies
Tho' all TRY to sing along...

For, though Pastor favors Jesus Loves Me
He won't let her play just THAT
So she has to practice endlessly
With hymns that go too sharp, too flat

Although in Offering, and Communion too
There is room to play some Bach...
(And Rich has got some pop music
So Julie's Easter songs will ROCK!)

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This piano fiasco's not the first
Of all the problems caused by ice
We've had layer after layer freeze-
Not once or twice but THRICE.

And thus, even where there's snow
(As deep as 3 feet here and there!)
We cannot ski, or take horse out-
Legs must be treated with more care!

No one wants bloodied ankles 
By falling through the ice
But likewise, even on the lanes-
Walking up and down ain't nice!

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And every walkway, drive and road
Or parking lot in town
Is just as much an ice rink
And will quickly drop you DOWN.

You can't sand or salt or ash it
Or spread kitty litter 'round
You can't even CHIP it, though some try
As it's far too thick on ground!

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The roads are just so slick
As we fishtail side to side
We often skid into the banks
Down Lucy's Gulch - a HORROR ride!

Cars in ditches EVERYWHERE
And this has been 3 weeks...
Never has a winter had 
So many sideways dekes!

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Richard's fallen down four times
But Joy and Julie, with bad knees
And pins as well in Julie's back
Make sure they strap on THESE:

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Useful but by no means sure
To get one A to B
Without a nasty fall or two
Housebound it's best to be

It's nasty for the critters too
And Smitty's had so many falls
(While we haven't grabbed HIS photo
This dog's got the same-type SPRAWLS:

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Poor Chevy's got the worst of it
He's imprisoned through and through
He WANTS to work, or at least play
But a fall might break him true

A horse's legs are fragile
And he isn't shod with spikes
But Richard did snowblow a path
Where he could roll and buck and - YIKES!


 

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They can of course go in or out
Into their wee paddock
But it isn't fun to stand around
For weeks on end. Joints LOCK!

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So really now, we feel it's time
For spring to come and melt
This nasty ice and deepest snow
And sun warmth can be felt.

And Richard can drive Chevy 
To cut wood and tap the trees
And we can walk around the farm
With much more calm and ease

Instead of all this tension
Wond'ring where next should we step?
We WANT to move and exercise!
(Though we may not have Chev's pep!)

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Bards: on Beards and Beams

First, today – it is imperative to explain something – especially to those who perhaps haven’t been used to reading others’ blogs (or even documents from other sites, etc).  It has come to my attention, though I’m apparently not allowed to mention names, that some more senior folk who read The Bluebellmountainblog from our Blue Belldon Farm HAVE NOT BEEN READIN’ IT RIGHT.  That’s correct.  Not readin’ it right at all.  Those who are regular followers receive an email from WordPress, the management system that hosts many of the bloggers’ chapters from around the world.  These do NOT come from me, folks, it’s an automatic send from WORDPRESS.  Now, I thought WordPress just sent a blue LINK to the latest blog posting.  But I now find out that they send a COMPRESSED email of the entire post, sometimes including photos, but often with lines/words missing, and the photos can’t be viewed properly (yes, that’s right – those of you who’ve complained that though I keep saying ‘click on any of the smaller photos to read the captions and blow them up’ ) and the words are very small and faint … well, guess what?  YOU  AREN’T  MEANT  TO BE  READING THE BLOG  FROM YOUR EMAILS!    No wonder you click on the photos and nothing happens,  no wonder  it sometimes appears to disappear off into the left margin, no wonder there’s often words missing,  yet when you tell me this and I check them, they are ALL IN ORDER.  Please click the BLUE TITLE of this blog in your email.  Surprise!  That takes you to a lovely place  – THE ACTUAL BLOG!   Untitled2

All right, enough tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. To be fair, WordPress SHOULD, when emailing their notifications TELL followers to click on any blue (such as the title I’ve given the blog posting, for instance, which is the first blue you likely see).  I guess they assume most people are aware that BLUE, whether it’s underlined or not, is usually a link to something else on the world wide web.  Oh, and when I think about the long days I take to write these, proof-reading and centering all the text and photos (as much as allowed by wordpress) captioning many of said photos,  picking background colours and making sure links within the article are ‘live’, ONLY TO FIND OUT SOME OF YOU POOR SOULS are suffering through gobbledegook that looks like this:

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Right!  Onwards and upwards, and again – thanks to all who read, whether regular followers (who get the emails) or for those who follow from links in social media or elsewhere.  Today’s fun?  All about New Beards and Old Beams.

In the usual fashion of this blog, making Much Ado About Nothing, I shall quote the famous Bard, from his play of the same name:

“He that hath a beard 
is more than a youth, 
and he that hath no beard 
is less than a man."

You will know by now that Cammie, our goat (Richard named her for a Camaro, his first car) and Chevy (named for his beloved ’73 Nova, and because the horse is like his ‘new car’, which he’s meant to be spending MORE time on than said Nova…) are here to be help-mates in the work of living self-sufficiently.  Cammie was very young, and not particularly healthy when we got her last spring, but we have now found friends down the road who are living far more self-sufficiently than we’ve managed to be yet.  These folks just acquired a billy goat and after breeding their own herd of nannies (called ‘freshening’) so that they will have kids and then be subsequently milked, we are now part of their ‘rent-a-goat’ program and have been keeping  Bearded Billy to try to get Cammie pregnant as well.

Billy is not a particularly personable goat.  He doesn’t run around and ram things like I was afraid he might, with his wee backward horns (esp. afraid of fragile tendons on Chevy’s legs, and sciatic nerves in husband’s hips).  But neither is he interested in all and sundry like Cammie has always been.  In fact, he’s usually hiding out in Cammie’s insulated dog-house.  At night the two are in there together, and it’s toasty-warm.  But during the day, Cammie’s always out ‘sight-seeing’, and Billy stays indoors:

cammie and billy

He WILL, of course come out for FOOD!  They (incl. Chevy) are given hay 3 X a day, and beet-pulp once a day, sometimes on bitterly-cold days, mixed with a bran mash and some bits and bobs like apple or veg. slices and a sprinkling of molasses.  The past few days have once again been down in the minus 28C region, and thus Chevy, who likes to spend most of his time outside, has a fine ‘beard’ of ice on his whiskers.  This does NOT mean he’s cold – horses are MEANT to live out, and by far prefer it.  (Goats, as Billy has clearly shown, are NOT).

Thus, we have a livestock cocktail of one bearded male with ice and one bearded male ‘neat’.

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that bit of fuzz in the top right?  That’s Chevy’s iced-up beard!

Having owned horses for more than 40 years, I feel that every winter I have to defend the fact that horses ENJOY being outside in even the coldest/stormiest/snowiest-or-rainiest days and nights.  The best and healthiest way to keep horses is to let them have a small fenced area (like our wee corral or paddock) with a run-in shelter IF they desire to be inside.  Obviously, once having a riding stable in the freezing Ottawa Valley with more than 20 horses on the property, many of them with fussy owners, I HAVE had fresh-bedded stalls each night and blanketed animals who only went outside a few hours at a time during the day.  But this is NOT what horses most enjoy, nor does it keep them as healthy as they should be – it leaves them more vulnerable to colds and other illnesses because their natural immune systems aren’t being allowed to work properly. And horses have OILS in their coats that are like the oilskins fishermen wear – precipitation is repelled. And if there are icicles on them, it just means their insulation is working – their double coats.  (A horse’s coat is like insulation in the roof of your home; if there isn’t any insulation all the heat escapes through the roof and you won’t see snow on the roof.  Same with le cheval.  If they are healthy, and have ample winter fur, you will see snow and ice on them meaning their body heat is not escaping. )

So here’s Chevy and his full beard:

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When they DO go in or out, I have for the winter months at least, strung up 4 sleeping bags across the doorway, with weights in the bottoms to keep them from blowing too much in gales. That way they are slightly more protected inside, but can still come and go freely.  A doggie-door for livestock, if you like.  Cammie is generally the leader, in and out, when the 3 go out in sunshine to eat as they did for lunch today.  Chevy is usually the middle, and the bottom of the pecking order is poor Billy.  This is mostly due to the fact that he was ‘the last one’ on the property, so any animal thus  is typically relegated to the bottom in that case. But as Billy is the most shy, this is another reason he’s usually last:

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Like all herds, the pecking order takes some time to be sorted each time they are fed as well.  Cammie and Chevy usually DIVE into the hay pile,  but Chevy isn’t particularly happy about Billy having the first bites (just in case we hid some treats in there and they were meant for CHEVY – which we never do, but hope springs eternal in the heart of a horse!) As always, click on each to enlarge and read:

 

By the way, to illustrate how much snow we have, there are FOUR rails, a foot apart each, on that corral fence. So the animals are standing on more than two feet of HIGHLY compressed snow, and yes, Chevy could step over it except a) we have two lines of electric wire going around it and b) he’s not an idiot, and he senses that the snow on the OTHER side isn’t compacted, and he’d fall through up to his belly!

Anyway, after the first few bites, Billy is always allowed into the ‘pack’ to begin eating:

billy

And then everything settles down while they munch and enjoy:

To the point where Chevy, his belly full, often takes a break and dozes off in the sunshine:

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Chevy didn’t like being awakened by me for this photo op!  Note the frost on his belly and flanks – see above re: insulation. Note also that whilst Cammie is unbothered by my proximity, Billy has become wary…

Not to be outdone in the iced-up beard department, Smitty is constantly chasing balls and bones thrown into snowbanks. He thinks it’s great fun to come up looking like this…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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and then he generally looks very put-upon, as if he’s freezing and deserves to be allowed back in IMMEDIATELY (even if he’s only been out for 5 minutes!)

Also, another male likes to get his beard icicled up when out snow-blowing, and then gives the same sad face as Smitty, begging to be allowed back in:

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But Richard DID spend the last 3 days mostly inside, because he got a special job that now has nostalgic appeal added to it as well.  All my favourite old places have had ceiling beams, and one of the reasons we loved this place (via the online site that had all the photos when it was listed for sale) was that there were beams in the living room.  But my 3 cottages in the U.K., and my log cabin in Montana all had beams in the KITCHEN, and no self-respecting farm kitchen, especially with that part of the house being here since the 1880s, should be without!  When we moved here, of course (see prior before and after blogs for renos on the kitchen:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/  )

the kitchen was stuck in the 1970s.  But I knew that the header that was there between the main kitchen and the pantry area would eventually make a great ‘beam’.  I covered it only temporarily for the last 20 months, mostly trying to hide the ‘pink’ paint-job:

 

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This ‘cover up’ of the 1970s header was meant to be a temporary stop-gap until such time as Richard could properly cut some barnboard for a real-looking OLD BEAM.  It’s taken until this week, however, to get it!

When my cousins left their farm in Ontario several years ago, they offered me some barnboard to do my Rustic Revivals art projects with.  I have used a number of these old much-weathered boards for just such a use, but when Richard suggested that we use the last few of the ones we brought out here with us, I knew right away that that was a more permanent idea, and as a tribute to Cousin Pete, who passed away just a few months ago.  I just wish his wife Linda had been able to see the completed beam when she visited this summer, but she’ll just have a great reason to return now!  Look at the character in the lovely old wood, and Richard designed it so that it truly does look like one big thick beam, unless you look very very carefully! And traditionally, of course, dried herbs, pots and pans, and beeswax candles must hang from its graceful arc!

Here’s the 1970s before, and as it appears today:

kitchen beam, before and after

Finally, from two more Bards:  Ellis Peters (the Cadfael collection) ” Hugh sat down with him under the dangling bunches of drying herbs, stirring fragrantly along the old beams in the draught from the open door…”

and from D.H. Lawrence in Sons and Lovers :  “Then he got his breakfast, made the tea… piled a big fire, and sat down to an hour of joy. …… He had hanging there great bunches of dried herbs: wormwood, rue, horehound, elder flowers, parsley-purt, dandelion…”

SOUNDS COSY, no?

Shacking Up with Brother-in-Law

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:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/fact-or-folk-lore-lucys-gulch

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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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?

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