Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Things

Well it was a wonderful, crazy, wild, disastrous, exhausting, satisfying summer: back-to-back house guests (whom we love, we really do!) from May to October and Will’s projects going full bore, building a smokehouse, building bee boxes, building up garden beds, and egads the food we’ve made, consumed, and cleaned up! To be honest it’s all a bit of a blur. It seems like we’ve been careening from disaster to disaster (car disaster, plumbing disaster, water shortage, septic disaster, financial….and so on) and yet in retrospect, this summer has been filled with accomplishment, and now, at Thanksgiving, I can truly say I am thankful.

smoke house under construction
Gaspereau (little fish; also known as "alewives") in the smokehouse

We also had wonderful fellowship and labour from friends old and new: a shed roof, digging out garden beds in the clay by the river: if that isn't proof of friendship, I don't know what is! 

Somewhere between the chimney fire and the well running dry, Will drove down to Port Hawkesbury to pick up two modest looking wooden boxes, thus fulfilling our life-long fantasy of becoming beekeepers! Only with the twist that I’m not a beekeeper. Married to. Which suits me fine, because I’ve also concluded that my job in this stage of life is to toil away at the Sisyphysian task of keeping the chaos at bay. I don’t like it, but it’s better than the alternative. 

The bees are thriving. Will harvested a litre of honey and made one beeswax candle, a small but satisfying end to our first season.

I hardly touched my camera this summer, and my pictures are mostly precious but private pictures of my children (thank you for understanding). But here are a few highlights from the Pemberton world:

THE MILL! It has happened. The dream is materializing and two six-by-six posts are lying on skids  in the newly cleared road (all Will), proof that we may yet have a barn before winter. He is one happy man! We had some friends from England stay with us this spring and because the dad was a smart sort of bloke (chemist, bicycle builder) he put in some very miserable hours in the black flies and heat to assemble this beast. Alun, the beast is unleashed!


THE SHEEP! A little flock of Icelandic sheep, thanks to a donation from a dear friend here in Cape Breton who wants to see this little world—our farm— thrive. Meet Odin, Freya, and Loki-Crazy-Eyes. And two more whose names I can't remember. 

Their fleece is multi-coloured and multi-textured as with all Icelandic sheep. They have the loveliest, sweetest personalities, although they look devilish in pictures.

This spring I attended a spinning workshop and discovered that spinning is harder than it looks. But I am determined to spin, ply, and knit a sweater for Will from the fleece of these dear silly animals whom he cares for so well. All about Icelandics here. And sheep who live on seaweed here. Will and the boys collected sea weed for our sheep, and sure enough they've eaten a contractor bag full.

And this wee lass: sheep need a shepherd so Lír’s daughter from his winter romance has joined the flock.

THE APPLE PRESS! We pulled out ye olde apple press and discovered that it was broken beyond repair, but never fear, we have a wood chipper for grinding and could repurpose the metal screw for the pressing. Super efficient and no pre-cutting. We drank jugs and jugs of fresh cidery apple juice at Thanksgiving. To quote the rat in Fantastic Mr. Fox: pure liquid gold!

THE COMPOSTING TOILET! Not as glamourous as it sounds...
Will and I have been reading and discussing and planning a composting toilet for over a year now. We read the Humanure Handbook which convinced me that under the right conditions (heat/time) a properly managed compost will break down pathogenic organisms. (I confess I was a skeptic.) But we didn’t have the time or courage to make the leap until our septic system backed up and overflowed the kitchen sink! Gah. Lovely. This led to three important discoveries: a) Will and I are strangely calm in the face of disaster. Maybe we’re  getting used to it.  b) Will can build a toilet alternative in two hours and is therefore my first pick for Man With Whom I’d Survive Zombie Apocalypse, and c) composting toilets aren’t that horrible. Ours smells like a forest floor, since that’s what we’re using for absorbing/covering. I predict that moss and leaf leaf litter does a better job neutralizing odours than water does.

Oh, and I went and got myself a JOB.

These are the highlights. Although Will and I go to bed completely exhausted and disaster is always lurking, we are having an interesting life. No complaints.