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.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back in the 'Fly

We had a wonderful time in Vancouver visiting a much loved Aunt...

and my lovely mother, 'Nana'.

We spent most of our time visiting but I did make a quick trip to Ikea, to pick up these nifty spice racks for my pantry...

It was nice to have some city time, but I was quite happy to be home...yes, it really feels like home already. It is so lovely and quiet and peaceful, compared to the congestion and general 'in your face' of the big city.

The girls started swimming lessons this week at beautiful Horsefly Lake Provincial Park...

It has been a little rainy, and quite chilly, but it hasn't stopped them...

and they have been enjoying meeting some of the local children and I have enjoyed meeting some other moms. Generally, everyone knows each other around here, so we kind of stick out wherever we go. It happens fairly often but I still find it surprising when someone says...oh Hi, are you new here? How did they know?? I find it quite delightful that people are so interested in us and have no qualms about introducing themselves. I guess it is one of the many benefits of living in a small town.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Week: A Collage by Numbers

1 - shed door mounted
2 - dogs fed, watered and entertained
1 - clothesline. empty (note the also-empty hammock, which is why the clothesline is now empty)
10 - brews of stovetop espresso - the BEST way to make coffee
3 - salads spun (bringing to mind a well-maintained washing machine)
10 - inches of circular saw power cord removed in a very unplanned and instantaneous fashion (and over 20 inches of red electrical tape used in repairing it to act as a reminder)
16 - varieties of garden crops watered daily
7 - ice cream bars enjoyed at almost spiritual levels
18 - radishes eaten, with a nice pale ale often nearby (nice, as in good enough to drink and available at the local store, but not my number one choice in a well-stocked pub)
10 - eggs, provided by the 'girls', eaten at dinner time (several dinner times - I'm not a pig, after all, barring ice cream...)
10 - hours of walking the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson, after killing thousands of virii on the WiiWare version of Dr.Mario
3 - hens fed, watered, and shooed away in various tones of voice and with varied implements- they are very sociable, but I tend not to be when working on a shed... I found the drill worked best (don't worry - it was a robertson head)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hard Work

During my two weeks off, in between visiting and reunion activities, I was able to build most of a shed. I did this with some help - brother-in-law Marco and I got the floor and walls up, and then little-brother Matt and I got started on the roof. (Photos are coming, when the camera comes back from it's vacation in Vancouver.)

Our family (at least, my dad's kids) has an informal rite-of-passage - during our teens we go and spend part of one summer at the ranch. (This is the same ranch that hosted the reunion a few weeks ago.) Matt was out there two years ago, when he was fourteen. It's been 24 years since I was there, and though many things have changed (plumbing, electricity), the basic lesson in hard work are the same.

Matt and I ended up sharing stories and comparing notes, and had some new perspectives to share, as we'd both been drafted to pick rocks out of the arena in which the rodeo would take place. This is a brutal, slowly progressing job, but one in which we could take pride as the results are fairly visible (as you can see in the picture if you look in just the right way).

However, Matt explained that his self-satisfaction was effectively doused. With wisdom uncommon for a sixteen-year-old (but not so uncommon for Matt), he stated that he had forgotten how hard they work. He remembered, of course, when one of the cousins pointed out that four times as much should have been done in that amount of time. (Matt would have been far more productive than I, but they never mentioned it. Maybe I've reached that age...)

The point, I guess, is that when you work all day every day and you have no choice but to "get 'er done", you never stop. I, however, stop. Often. I will spend as much time admiring my work as I have doing it. (This is only true with physical work - I can immerse myself into an algorithm for hours without coming up for air once.) I know this lifestyle will require a lot of work, so I'm wondering if my work-style will change. At least I have age as an excuse now if it doesn't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

About a step-dance, a boot-lace and a foot-race

If you were to deduce by my two-in-a-row postings that Joanne is away you'd be correct - she's off with the girls in Vancouver while I work, nay, toil away here at the homestead.

By day I'm accompanied by conference calls and IM dialog, and my evenings are being spent finishing the shed I'd started a few weeks ago. Today I put in the floor. Although from outside it may have sounded Mike Holmes-ish, inside was more Michael Flatley. (I only measure once, and then not-so-delicately convince the wood that I was right all along.)

For company I'm typically joined by the other 'girls' - Grabby-Ella, Hungry-Ella and just-Ella (who I suspect was swapped at birth, because she's actually the grabby one - which is why I now double-knot my boot laces). They can be distracting though, and I blame them for the power cable I sawed through last night.

At one point I heard Violet yip - it was an odd sound, as she normally growls deeply if she hears dogs in the distance. I went to look for her, and found her about 30 feet from the house, standing face to face with a deer about 10 feet further away. The deer was nonchalantly chewing on lupines and arctic paintbrushes. I called Violet, and she came to me, sitting promptly (and, to be honest, quite impressively) at my feet. The deer chewed. Violet started out toward it, but I called her back, and she (again, most impressively) sat at my feet. The deer visibly changed it's attitude though, as if noticing me for the first time. It actually seemed a little afraid (it had obviously never seen me run before). My first thoughts had been "Violet's really quite a good dog" but that was quickly replaced, when the deer turned around to leave, with "stop you little ..." as Violet bolted. I should have grabbed her collar. I will next time. I swear.

It was almost comical to watch - Violet runs like a thoroughbred, gracefully hitting the ground with powerful strides - I love watching her - and the deer hopped off like a bunny: boing... boing... boing... and yet, the deer clearly outpaced Violet. I don't think Violet expected it. The deer was gone within seconds, and Violet zigged and zagged across our property for an hour trying to figure out how it got away.

After all that I settled into a late dinner of eggs the girls provided from the coop, a salad of greens and radishes from the garden, and a nice IPA from the store. Call it the fruits of my labour - well, I know I paid for the IPA with my own money...

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's the small things...

Several books that have passed through our hands point out that today we are too easily calling in the specialists when something goes wrong, often when a specialist isn't necessary. Examples they cite are changing the oil in one's car and home renovations. Such small jobs add up over time, and savings can be substantial.
photo from flickr's Sunfox

During the peak of our hosting marathon a few weeks ago, our washing machine stopped working. It would complete the cycle, but it never seemed to spin, and the water wasn't being drained. Our first reaction was to plan on buying a new one - but this was our old-world reaction, and we weren't in the old-world anymore. Plan B would be to call an appliance repair person, but we quickly scratched that plan out, as anyone would charge us the hour travel each way on top of the actual work.

So, with that DIY advice manifesting itself as our only viable option, I started Googling our machine's symptoms. It didn't take long to find some simple, clear instructions: the impeller is likely blocked, so open it up and remove the blockage. With the confidence borne of internet-backed knowledge, I opened the machine up, and found a yarn needle (bigger than a sewing needle) in the impeller. I removed it, and the machine has been working well since.

(I'm purposely glossing over the less impressive parts of the story, like where, when I detached the hose from the pump, gallons of water came gushing out, missing my far-too-small catch basin, and running over the floor... and how Joanne spent a good 15 minutes in the crawl space mopping up the water that had made it's way down there... and as I lay there in the puddle of water at the bottom of the washing machine, reaching under it to work with the pump, I suddenly recalled the first part of the article I'd skipped over as irrelevant about unplugging the machine before all work because "electricity kills". Next time will go much more smoothly. I swear.)

I'm going to wring as much life as I can out of this washing machine.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Pioneer Woman"...what a great blog!

Just in case you need another blog to read...I am really enjoying this one right now...www.thepioneerwoman.com. She is a great writer, a hilarious storyteller and her photos are to die for...and she is a homeschooler!

This is an excerpt:

"I’m a thirty-something ranch wife, mother of four, moderately-agoraphobic middle child who grew up on a golf course in the city. I attended college in Los Angeles and wore black pumps to work every day. I ate sushi and treated myself to pedicures on a semi-regular basis. I even kissed James Garner in an elevator once. Then, on a brief trip to my hometown, I met and fell in love with a rugged cattle rancher. Now I live in the middle of nowhere on a working cattle ranch. My days are spent wrangling children, chipping dried manure from boots, washing jeans, and frying calf nuts. I have no idea how I got here…but you know what? I love it. Don’t tell anyone. I hope you enjoy my website, ThePioneerWoman.com. Here, I write about my decade-long transition from spoiled city girl to domestic country wife. I post photos of cows, horses, and my four weird children, and frequently include shots of cowboys wearing chaps."

Giddy up!

And this post did make me giggle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Great Cookbook

I bought this cookbook a few months ago, after I previewed it from the library, and I really, really love it! (Click on the image to get the full details) It is organized into seasons in the garden and gives great recipes for local food 'in season'. It also has lots of great tidbits and inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout. Most of the recipes are simple, with a few steps and a handful of ingredients.

So far we have made...marinated tofu with vegetables, apple lentil salad, sweet potato crescent rolls, sausage and apples, naan bread and today I made these whole wheat scones...with our delicious homemade raspberry jam...

Every recipe we've tried has turned out exactly as they said it would and has been delicious.

The book also includes calls to action to support local foods, how to start a dinner co-op, tips for helping children to make healthy choices and beautiful photos of fresh, mouth-watering fruits and vegetables. Did I mention, I love this cookbook?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Making Cheese

After reading about making cheese in Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which I cannot recommend highly enough...definitely a must read) we decided it was something we wanted to try. So after hunting around a bit in our local natural food stores for cheese making supplies and coming up empty...we decided to mail order a kit from Ricki Carroll a.k.a the Cheese Queen. I ordered the ricotta/mozzarella starter kit as well as the goat cheese starter kit. They arrived last week and I decided to get started today with a simple ricotta. It was so incredibly easy and turned out quite delicious! Basically, you take two litres of milk...we used organic homo milk...add 1/2 tsp of citric acid (food grade) and 1/2 tsp of cheese salt...put it in a pot on the stove...bring the temperature to 195 degrees...ladle the curds into a colander lined with cheese cloth..

then hang it for about 30 minutes in the cheese cloth and voila...fresh ricotta cheese!

I think to make it completely worthwhile, it really makes sense to have our own animals to produce the milk...but maybe someday!

So we mixed our lovely cheese with one of our hen's eggs and this...

and ended up with this delicious dinner...

which was completely inspired by my friend Heather's creation which you can see here. Thanks Heather!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A few more pics of the week-end

Just downloaded some more pics from my brother-in-law's camera, of the fun and revelry...

A winning team...

Getting instructions for the 'snipe' hunt...

A rare picture of me...

Kicking up our heels...

Visitors, Stampede, Zirnhelt Rodeo and Reunion

Phew...it has been a busy week! We just got back from the Zirnhelt Family Reunion, we're all a little dirty, a lot tired but what a blast!

Just over a week ago, our first visitors arrived...Erich's sister Natalie, hubby Marco and baby Vincent.

It was Stampede week-end in Williams Lake, so we went and checked it out.

This was our first rodeo and we were really quite impressed. We saw our cousins Sam and Robin competing in the wild cow milking and pony express events. Wild cow milking...guess that is self explanatory...

Pony Express is an event kind of like a relay, where the rider has to change horses twice and then race to the finish line. This is Sam and Robin doing just that...

What I found most amazing is that all of these events showcase real, practical skills that ranchers and cowboys use on a day-to-day basis in their work. And, it wasn't until I saw all of the regular folks trying to do the same things at the reunion that I realized the incredible skill involved!

The next week-end was the much anticipated family reunion. Almost 100 Zirnhelts gathered at the Zirnhelt Ranch in Beaver Valley, from as closeby as Horsefly and as far away as Strasbourg, France. We just had such a great time, getting reacquainted with cousins (I think the number was about 43...of just Erich's first cousins their spouses, children) and meeting lots of new ones.

It was a very well organized gathering, with rodeo events, canoe races, a raft building competition, a huge bonfire, live bluegrass music, a barn dance, fireworks, a snipe hunt and food, lots of food.

This is Mary-Lynn Zirnhelt...she trains cutting horses... these are saddled horses specially trained to separate individual animals from a cattle herd.Mooooo!
This was a cow medicating race...contestants had to try to catch a cow and stick a piece of duct tape on it's behind and it's shoulder. No cows or people were injured during this event. Erich's team was proud to win this one.

Can you find the city slickers in this picture?