A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Run chicken run!

This is Ella...the chicken. She has an interesting personality. She is the only one of the chickens, who will peck at you when you are not expecting it...especially little fingers. She is also the most daring, as you can see...

We have been working to foil her escape attempts...after this little trick, we put some chicken wire around the top outside of the coop. That stopped her for a while...but then she figured out she could fly up on to the roof and then fly down. It doesn't really bother us...she just likes to expand her options when it comes to free range I guess. The only problems with the escape attempts, is this...

Violet. She just can't help herself...she is really curious about the chickens. We have rigged up a temporary run for her using a long line attached to a clothesline type thing. She has quite a large space to roam and it will have to do until we figure out our fencing options.

We have been debating various solutions to this potential conflict including adding a roof to the coop, changing the design all together and clipping Ella's wings...eek, not sure that I am up to that. Yesterday G. was playing with Violet and let her off her leash...unfortunately at the same time, Ella decided to take herself for a walk and flew up to the roof at the same moment as Violet noticed she was out. The chase was on and I was surprised to see just how fast chickens can run! Unfortunately the chicken headed for the door I left open of the house, in my haste to help G., where she met up with Farlee who moves a little slower but is still up for a game of chase the chicken around the kitchen. Finally we were able to grab Violet, put her back on the line and Ella headed straight back to her coop. G. put her in the run and funny thing...but she hasn't tried any further escape attempts since!

Rural Internet Access - yes, the Information Highway is paved even out here!

Most people know I work from home, and most know that I depend on an Internet connection to make that work. This leads to a common question - how is that going?

Before we moved, we'd ensured that we could have high speed Internet access by having the local ISP (
BC Wireless, which is partially funded by NetworkBC) come out and do a site test, which passed. However, until it was actually working in front of me I'll admit I was a little worried. Now that it's all set up and I've been using it for over a week, I can't be happier. My throughput speeds are decent (as high as 3Mbps), but lower than Westbank, where it was often in the 15-20 Mbps range. However, the quality of service appears to be greater. For instance, I am able to conduct all my phone calls using a VOIP connection to our PBX in Burlington, ON (which is how I still have a 905 number), and I could never do this in Westbank, as the calls lost too many packets (translation: voices were choppy). (Analogy: high bandwidth, low quality = waterfall; lower bandwidth, higher quality = firehose).

How does it work?

Telus, our local phone company, runs a fibre-optic line to a tower in Horsefly (at the Fire Station). That tower provides a line-of-sight connection to anyone with the right antenna. There is also a tower at the trailer park on a hill that repeats the signal and extends the range - this is what we're aimed at with our directional 2.4GHz 802.11b client access antenna (by BC's own Tranzeo).

Out of curiosity, I ran a traceroute test to the BC Wireless server, assuming that my connection went through there:

Tracing route to bcwireless.com []
over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 <1 ms <1 ms <1 ms
2 4 ms 2 ms 2 ms router-254.fortinet.com []
3 4 ms 4 ms 4 ms
4 8 ms 8 ms 9 ms
5 19 ms 21 ms 19 ms PGRGBC01DR01.bb.telus.com []
6 19 ms 19 ms 20 ms vancbc01dr01.bb.telus.com []
7 20 ms 20 ms 20 ms
8 36 ms 35 ms 35 ms
9 37 ms 36 ms 35 ms web2.bcinternet.net []

What this tells me is that to get to 100 Mile house, my packets are going though Prince George, then Vancouver. I find that facinating! (The fact that my VOIP calls are going over an encrypted VPN connection, first to the VPN server in San Jose, CA via Prince George, and once in the VPN from California to Massachusetts, then up to Burlington, ON, is completely mind-blowing!)

Anyway, I'd highly recommend BC Wireless for their service so far - they've done everything to accommodate me and before we ever had service answered all my questions. With ISPs like these, I should expect more and more information workers to go rural.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Things that make me happy

It all started with the laundry. As I was starting a load of laundry today, I added some of our new environmentally friendly and septic friendly laundry soap. It smells so good..."blue eucalyptus and lavender" and I thought to myself...this smell makes me so happy! I decided to walk around and take a few pics of other things that were making me so happy today...I was pleasantly surprised by a few. So here we go...

we went for a walk around our property last night and discovered a new little wildflower blooming (the little yellow one) and when I looked out my kitchen window this morning I could see a bunch of them mixed in with the lupines and paintbrushes we have been enjoying for the last few weeks.

This is a lilac plant that was given to us by Erich's aunt, which was originally planted by his Grandma. I am so grateful to have this plant and I remember Erich's Grandma walking us around her garden when I first met her and she was particularly proud of the lilacs. So this is very special.

After taking that pic...I rounded the corner of the house and came across my lovely husband watering our veggie patch...

and we both looked over and spotted this...

these are from the radish seeds I planted...yippee!

Then around the other side of the house...

kids playing in the hammock..love it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Solar powered dryer

Erich installed our new 'solar powered dryer' yesterday. I've never been crazy about the idea of the clothes line...all those crunchy clothes? I know, I know...there is supposed to be a great smell but I just never got it. But, it is hard to deny what an energy hog the clothes dryer is, second only to the refrigerator, so I am happy to give it a go.

G. has taken it on as her own project...laundry is really not my favourite chore so I was quite delighted when G. went and grabbed the laundry from the washer and got right into hanging it on the line. She even devised a clever place to store the pins...

and this morning she headed out to fold it all!

We have been having some fun watching our mama robin feed her babies. It looks like there are 4 babies in there. Sorry it's a little fuzzy...it's hard to catch a picture of mama bird, she is so busy flying around getting food for those babies...ah the joy of motherhood.

And well this pic is just darned cute...cheeeeeese!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A lovely distraction

So today, Erich was off helping to build a corral for the rodeo, in preparation for the Zirnhelt Family Reunion which is just around the corner (July 4,5,6). My plan was to finally get to those boxes on our porch and do a bit of cleaning. Well I didn't get very far...just before lunch our neighbour brought our dogs back. They have been exploring further and further afield and I guess this time made it all the way over there....looks like it may be time for some creative fencing. Anyways, while he was here, Wally invited us over to come and see their cabin. I decided it just wouldn't be neighbourly to refuse now would it?

So we grabbed a half dozen of our eggs, and headed over for a visit. Wally and Wendy are recently retired and have spent the last five years building their cabin and it is beautiful! They have just done the finishing touches on it, including painting the floors a gorgeous terra cotta red colour. Wendy showed us some of her art...she does the most beautiful graphite drawings, many of birds and wildlife she has taken photos of and a gorgeous portrait of her granddaughter.

Wally is one of those unique people who my children really connect with. He shook each of their hands and made sure he learned each of their names. He talked to them sincerely and directly, not through me and then took them on an animated tour of all kinds of interesting things he had around the yard...the outhouse, the outdoor shower, the old tractor, the fire pit and his rain-water system. Then he brought them inside and played a few games of cards with them, explaining all the while all of the wildlife he had spotted on the property. Our visit ended with him tossing them gleefully in the air. I have a feeling there will be many more requests for visits over there.

I really will get to the boxes...soon...well at least the garden is in. I'm not sure if anything will grow but I planted lettuce, cucumbers, corn, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and radishes. Erich put the fence up last night, mostly to keep out roving kids, dogs, deer and rabbits. This year is a bit of an experiment, so we will see what happens!

Oh yeah we also put some chicken wire on the top of the chicken's yard, after a few daring escapes...

Silly chicken...don't you know there are dogs out there?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Glorious Day

It rained pretty much all day today but it really didn't stop us from having a great day! Erich finished the chicken house last night, so the girls spent their first night in there...it still needs a bit of prettying up but it's completely functional...

After we let the hens out for some 'daylight' time, we decided to tackle the garden. The rain was quite helpful in keeping the mosquitoes at bay and for loosening up the roots of those nasty weeds. So this is the before shot...

and this is after...just about weed-free!

This is my first taste of gardening and I think I'm going to like it! It was so nice to be out in the dirt, listening to the sounds of the birds and the kids running around. The kids would come and help me for a bit then skitter off and play.

I was glad to have Violet and Farlee (our dogs) about, as our neighbour let us know that he had a bear visit him the other day and he wasn't easily scared off. Eek...something we will have to get used to but a little unnerving just the same. We were all quite soaked and dirty by the end of the day, which made a bath necessary...unfortunately as we don't have a bath tub, only the smallest member of the family got to indulge.

I also managed to unload 4 more boxes, sweep and wash the floor, go pick up the mail in town and take some garbage to the dump.

And after all that...we were rewarded with this...

A truly glorious day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eggs anyone?

These are our 'other girls' ;) The chicken house is just about finished so the girls have to use a temporary set-up. We are just so happy they survived the journey in the back of our van in a small cat carrier....with the two dogs!

In fact they seemed quite unphased by the whole thing and gave us 4 eggs yesterday! See...

The girls have been loving their new pets... this is Ella (Mimi's chicken ;)

This is Gabriella (Vivi's chicken)...
The chickens are very tolerant and don't seem to mind all of the attention...

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Girls Settle In...

The girls have been busy exploring their new place. We have been outside most days, even in the rain. The girls have found many of these growing everywhere...

and according to our handy little Plants of Southern Interior BC book...they are alpine paintbrush and the lovely blue lupines.

This looks like it was a garden patch...turned weed patch...and will keep us busy for a while!

We have discovered a few favourite spots in town as well...there is a great ice cream stand in town that sells non-dairy ice cream and the general store stocks some great popsicles. We have met quite a few people, as most people are curious about 'the new family' in town. We visited the school and met Kelli the secretary, who happens to be the sister of one of our neighbours from Westbank. Everyone at the school was very welcoming and delighted to have a new student. It seems like a lovely, intimate little school...this week the whole school is heading to Williams Lake daily, for swimming lessons. I also read in their newsletter about a great field trip they had in the spring, to the local nursery. We also checked out the Horsefly Public Library, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-6pm and has a wonderful little collection with a variety of material including a children's section and an impressive array of organic gardening and animal raising books.

And this lovely hat just called out to us...

We can't wait to attend our first rodeo in Williams Lake at the end of June...hopefully there will be a few Zirnhelts competing.

First Week in Horsefly

Oh, so much to write about!! We have been having quite an adventure! It started here in Westbank...
Erich drove that big truck on the right which also had a trailer attached and I drove our van with tent trailer attached. We were quite a little convoy making our way up to the Cariboo. It was an uneventful drive until we hit the road leading to our new house which had recently been graded and then since it rained all day, turned into a huge mud puddle, about six inches deep. Erich was able to slip and slide up to the house but I couldn't get the van up the hill pulling the tent trailer. Fortunately, our new neighbours happened to be pulling out of their driveway at the time and managed to maneouvre the van up the hill for me...thank goodness!

The following few days was spent unpacking and sorting out all of these boxes....

Thanks to the help of Erich's mom, it wasn't too painful a process. Cheers Celine!

So these are a few shots of our place....

This is our view from the front deck and our living room window...those are the Cariboo mountains and on a clear day you can see a beautiful snow capped range in the distance.

And finally...Erich celebrated his birthday by getting started on our first project...the chicken house!
We were able to scavenge most of the materials for the coop from leftovers from the house construction and from some great finds at the dump!

And since I was also participating in the construction, I decided to treat myself to these at the local hardware store...they came complete with an attached Mother's Day card...I love it. Horsefly rocks!