Sunday, May 3, 2015

Will's Work

Last year, before doctoral studies got intense, Will started the Hippie Heretic blog for his farming and creative enterprises. Alas he wasn't able to keep it up. So here I am showing off some of the lovely things he's making and doing.

Barn wood seedling boxes. Aren't they beautiful?

I confess I am very covetous and hopeful (Will, are you reading?) that someday I will have a collection of my own. Will made them deep for establishing strong root systems and carved handles on the side. They are stackable. How awesome is that?

This whole farming thing was 100% Will's project. I get to have all the fun of a farm, like visiting the miniature roosters and taking pictures of pretty things, without doing any of the work. (I do wash quite a lot of milk jars though.)

Beautiful deep garden beds being mulched....We beat blackfly season this year (yes!) and we had gardening goddess Angela here to help...

Angela is now off to England to work at a L'Arche community in London, and then off for a wwoofing adventure throughout the British Isles.

Oh she will be so missed!

Will also did our first large-animal butchering on the farm. We all had mixed feelings about it. Will spent a quiet and sombre day preparing. We gave the children the choice of staying to watch or going away with mama. I was prepared to nudge them away, but they had already decided, wisely, not to watch the slaughter. Our goat was dispatched as humanely and quickly as possible, but like all our animals it was named and known and loved personally. It would have been too sad for the boys.

However, once the goat was skinned and looking like meat instead of a living animal, they were all over the butchering. And I'm OK with that. They are carnivores after all.

As parents, the best we can do is teach them to be responsible and gentle with animals in life, humane in death.

Will carved a thing. (Gambrel?) You hang carcasses on it. It's all very grim, but I'm in love with the fact that he carved it.

So you just take your freshly-slaughtered carcass, cut a slit in the tendons and insert these points, here. Then you take your skinning knife...hey where'd everyone go?

The final stages. Sanitized version.
All gory butcher scenes have been removed. The final stages were quick and skillful. Will's father was a butcher (among other trades) and all the Pembertons seem to have a special affinity with knives and meat. Will sharpened up our kitchen knives and made short work of cutting and wrapping. I definitely have a new respect for meat. I wasn't expecting it all to mean so much: my gratitude for the life of this animal, for the work of my husband and the little hands that cared for it, for the skill and labour that went into processing it, and quite simply, the sacrifice of a life so we can eat. I am humbled.

The boys were all over it, helping where they could, watching everything, soaking it up. They asked for, and got, the hide which Willy salted and stretched. Not before the dogs got it, though, which turned it into the Wiley Coyote Roadkill pelt. The boys want it for a rug. Oh dear.

Our neighbours who are Real Farmers find it very amusing

This ramshackle place is slowly being cleaned up, scythed down, raked up, rebuilt. Slowly. The discovery of the year was a MINE of topsoil. Also the discovery that all the weeds and brambles Will scythed last year have proved an effective deep mulch for this year's garden. The worms came up but not the weeds. Will dug a new garden behind the barns for his experimental crops....amaranth, quinoa, kamut, lentils, blue corn, chick peas.

And below: kids work! I came outside to find this cooperative effort going on. They have repurposed one of Will's chicken coops into an Iroquois lodge. Off to the woods. (I was never such a big fan of binder twine and chicken wire architecture, practical as it is. I felt embarrassed every time I looked at it.) It is now waiting in the woods for bough and bark cladding.

The best part was the sea chanties they were singing. Our kids are big fans of the movie Master and Commander and know all the songs.

And speaking of the Far Side of the World, my sister Elizabeth is doing a sailing voyage from New Zealand to Tonga, along with seafaring Uncle and Aunt. She is blogging about it here.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Getting Ready

- sewing up our old table runner with patches and tiny precious embroidery. (My favourite way to deal with stains.) Someday I will have white linen, pure as the driven snow, but right now all table linen meets a fate worse than death. So I patch.

- knitting up little chicks for our Easter guests. 

- sewing up little birds. 

- blowing eggs 

- forcing buds in time for Easter on the Julian calendar because I didn't get around to it earlier. They are so beautiful in the window! This is my absolute favourite way of remembering the miracle of new life.

- rock garden and tomb. Hugh made a beautiful cross from birch branches.

- Easter food plans for two Easters, including one gluten, dairy and sugar-free Easter! Thinking strongly of natural juice gelatin jello with berries and trying to imagine Easter without cream.

- Paskha! So, so excited for paskha! I've never made it before, but the slavophiles of my childhood always made some variation at Easter and shared it for our Easter table. The pretty photo is from here. The recipe I use was brought from Russia by a slavophile friend. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Season of Mud and Mellow Muddiness misquote the poet.

Oh how we have longed for this warm weather! It's still snowing here and there, but the general trend is warm enough for tapping maple trees! There was a general exodus from the Pemberton house today: playing in mud, drilling holes for maple taps, squaring logs, and bush clearing—therapy for Will, firewood for me!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Goats, Lent, Aunts, Spring

The lenten spring has come!

Let us begin the time of fasting in light!

Preparing ourselves for the spiritual efforts.

Let us purify our soul; let us purify our body.

As from food, let us abstain from all passion and enjoy the virtues of the spirit,

So that perfected in time by love

We may all be made worthy to see 

the Passion of Christ and the Holy Pascha

In spiritual joy!

~from the Lenten Triodion

We are all basking in new light and the appearance of grass in certain sunny places. Spring soon baby! Shortly after the winter solstice Will and I noticed a wonderful phenomenon: our chickens started laying more eggs and our goats started giving more milk. Our theory: the sun just makes everyone happier. Look at these happy animals soaking up photons...and slowly taking down our lilac. They killed some of our most beautiful old apple trees. Frankly I'm ready to strangle them.

But the milk they give us (nourished by our valuable plants) is lovely—creamy and sweet and healthy for my babes. And Will seems to enjoy the daily rituals of feeding and milking and moving hay. 

At our house the goat milk we can't drink ourselves goes into cheese and yogurt. See my high-tech operation, the cloth bag and wooden spoon method....

We pregnant people and small children are still eating dairy (our own homegrown) even though it's Orthodox Lent around here for everybody else (Will). It's a new kind of austerity for him, and he's handling it very well! In fact, we are both marvelling at how fasting, even our small sad attempts, strengthens the spirit and opens the heart. We eat a lot of hummus, black bean tortillas, salad, soup. We also went into a season of gluten-free (yes, again!) after a season of colds and flus. So that rules out bread from our diet. I'm no cook, so this latest restriction was stumping me until Will bought me this beautiful baby (see Still Life With Tortilla Press below) and we've been churning 'em out. Our children are slowly warming up to the idea of beans.

We had another magical, wonderful visit from my sister Elizabeth. Here's a bunch from her camera:

Elizabeth, rockstar goat-milking sister...what would I have done without you?
While Will was away, Elizabeth and I attempted to take over his chores for a few days. Yeah, yeah, I can do it, I told Will recklessly, thinking to myself—Booyeah, who's a rockstar genius pregnant feminist? Well I threw my back out the first morning carrying a big, man-sized water bucket. If Lizzie wasn't here to bail me out, chores would have been endless misery. 
Me and Cow (the cat)
Auntie Lizzie, being a delicious, doting auntie and all-round fun adult, took the boys treasure hunting around the farm for hours until, finally, what should they unearth under the floorboards of the duck house but a chest full of pirate treasure! Who would have dreamed it? Pirates or robbers have been stockpiling treasure in our duck house!

Anyone who knows Hugh understands that this is a new standard of unrealistic prayer-request-granting that we'll never be able to match. Hugh loves treasure. I was tempted to say, See how much God loves you, Hugh? How he hears your prayers? But then I thought, what happens when the mask falls off and Oz is revealed for the religious hypocrite he is, so to speak? 

Sometimes I'm tempted to sympathize with the manipulative religious authority figures of my childhood. It's so easy to trick people into faith. But more often I find it's better just to be quiet. It's enough to savour the magic.