Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Holidays!

T'was the night before Christmas.
Breakfast on Christmas morn. We had to wait until about 10am till Grandma and Grandpa arrived to open presents, but the kids were SO GREAT.
We spent a good part of the morning watching the deer wander in the park next door.

Fresh from the groomer, our Prince.
All smiles.
"It's just what I've always wanted!"  (The only thing Corbs wanted from Santa was a Hot Wheels Track.)

A gift for my Mom.  (There is a lovely woman named Dot, with a company called the Busted Button who makes these art pieces, but it sadly wasn't in the budget this year, so we went ahead and made our own - I'm very happy with how they turned out!)
Playing with lego next to the heater.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Solstice

(Oh yes, we're back-dating posts here.)

Oh my how I love to celebrate the Winter Solstice. The return of the light.

After a morning at the Last Chance Christmas Market in Creemore, I filled my car with goodies and headed home.  We started the fire early, enjoyed rabbit stew, and venison roasted over the fire. Plus good friends, many many good friends.  The children ran around in the snow until way past their bedtime...both of them actually asked me to go to bed, they were so tired.   We took a break from the fire mid evening, when someone got the idea to go Christmas Caroling. So up and down main street we went, singing our (only slightly inebriated) hearts out to those who would listen.  All of this in the midst of one of the worst ice storms in recent history in our area. (We enjoyed about half rain and half snow all night, but we were pretty saturated by the end of the evening.)

 I look forward to doing this again next year, and attaching a bit more ritual to it.  (This year we burned a piece of furniture that has been hanging around here for much too long, injuring me many times.  It is SO wonderful to let go of things and start new. )  A wonderful evening, with wonderful people, in the place that I know is truly my home.

Happy Solstice, my friends.  Enjoy the return of the light! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Adventures in Roadkill

Our valley runs along side a river.  Steep sloping hills up one side, and the other, and a river that rushes its way noisily through the middle of it.  And the road, our road, that follows the river, with thick bush abutting the road for most of the trek.

On Monday morning, as Steve was driving home from dropping Corben off at daycare, a deer on her way from one place to another bound out of those bushes at a most unfortunate time, and met with the front bumper of Steve's car, sending her flying up and over the car and landing in the ditch beside the road.

When Steve stopped the car, and got out to check on the car and the deer, she was lying in the ditch, still alive, but clearly injured as she wasn't able to move. Since deer that are shot often bolt, and run for miles on the adrenaline of their injuries, it was clearly bad.

He quickly came home to try and find a friend (with a gun) to put this poor thing out of her misery.  A few phone calls later and we discovered that we couldn't actually shoot the deer, we needed to call the OPP to do it. (Otherwise any schmuck with a gun, outside hunting season, could claim to just be "putting the deer out of it's misery" for one excuse or another. It would be considered poaching if they were caught.)

To make a long story short, about a half hour later Steve came home, our friend Dan following behind him with an expired deer in the back of his truck.

Despite her unfortunate, untimely end, we weren't about to let her go to waste.

So all of a sudden we had a deer in our back yard that needed to be dealt with.  Gutted and hung. And me?  I've processed one rabbit in my life. One. But one more phone call and we had an experienced hunter in our back yard, showing us the ins and outs of gutting a deer.

Hardly the Monday morning any of us had anticipated.

A short time later, we had a gutted deer hanging in our yard.

On Friday night, with an impeding snow storm approaching, it was time to get the deer down from her perch, and deal with processing her.

Now, we live in an incredible community.  When we needed to haul a dead deer from the side of the road, and gut it, there were a half a dozen people that we could have called to help us, and they would have come. At the same time, if you've got a deer hanging in your yard, and you want to keep it for your freezer, then the mentality is you best get to work figuring out how to take care of that. There are lots of folks here happy to provide guidance and even a helping hand, but nobody is going to do it FOR you.  Put on your big girl Carharts, and do it yourself.

The job of butchering in this family seems to have fallen to me.

And because we wanted to keep the deer, not to mention the pelt, on Friday night I skinned and quartered* a deer, in our neighbour Kyle's garage (of course) for the first, but likely not last time.  (*I'm not sure why the call it quartering, because it's more like 6 pieces, but maybe that's too much math.)

It was seriously cool.

Luckily for me, this "road kill" deer was a good practice deer. Her pelvis was so completely shattered that the meat on the inside was pretty much a write off, so it was pretty hard for me to screw it up.

But I did it. And it was awesome. It's so wonderfully cool to see the inside workings of such an amazing creature.  How bone comes together, and how muscles run along the body.  Learning about cuts of meat and where they come from and why some are better than others. Not to mention walking away with a decent sized pelt.

Now, scraping and tanning the pelt is an adventure all of it's own, and a shitpile of work, a pile that I've decided to put off until the spring.  In the meantime the hide is rolled and bagged and frozen until I can give up a weekend to just sit and scrape. I'm looking forward to that too, it's going to take a ton of work and patience, but I have dreams of ditching giving the kids to the loving arms of their grandparents for the weekend, and sitting beside a smouldering fire for three days; cooking shit on the fire, drinking wine, and sinking my teeth into this beautiful piece of fur. (It's good to have a dream.)

So now, with a self-satisfied pat on the back, I can say that I know how to gut, skin, and quarter a deer. Put that shit on my resume, shall I? Thanks to my excellent teacher, Neighbour Jim, who only skinned his first deer winter.  But then he skinned his second.  And third.  Gifts from the Valley.

Who knew I, we, any of us was such a redneck?

And to the Mama deer, who was in such an unfortunate place at an unfortunate time, we are grateful for her - the lessons she brings, and the meat, and the fur, and we promise we won't let any of them go to waste. 

Self sufficiency. Living off the land.  Organic, free range venison at it's finest. These are all very, very good things that I've been dreaming of for a while.

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Country Days

Well hello there, long time no see.

What a crazy few weeks it has been.  Oh look, its actually been a whole MONTH since I've been here.  For shame!

Between getting ready for holiday craft shows and all the other insanity, there hasn't been a moment to spare.

But there are Things!  Happening!  To be true.

We have 6 baby bunnies, alive and well, that will soon be bouncing around their enclosure.  A far cry from the last tragedy involving bunnies. They are fat, and happy, and they made ME so happy.

We've been busily preparing for winter as well.  Gardens to put to bed, garlic to plant, windows to seal up.  Oh, and a bunny hutch to build! It's main purpose is actually to be a greenhouse for the spring, at which point we will kick the bunnies back out to the great outdoors. 

We also currently have a deer hanging in our backyard.  Yes, a deer.  It jumped out of the bushes onto the road the other day, as deer are want to do round these parts, and lo and behold if Steve's car wasn't in it's way.  The OPP had to come and put it down, as it was severly injured, but luckily we got to keep it.  Luckily as well I had the experience of helping butcher a deer last week.  And now I get to do one all on my own.  Oh the things I have learned here in the valley!  Between the deer, and the side of pork that we have arriving this week, and the rabbits that need to be processed, imma gonna need a bigger freezer!

And we wait for snow, and deck the halls, and eat ALL THE MEAT.  And carry on carrying on, in this lovely spot that we call home.

I guess that's all I really popped in to say - life is good, my friends, life is good!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Here we go!

Today I wore my long johns and leg warmers. Now it's snowing. I don't know if it's a product of growing older or what, but I find myself dreading winter more and more each year.  And to be that chilly in the second last week of October frightens me…what's it going to be like in January?

Nevertheless, we carry-on. Safe in the knowing that we have lots of wool clothing and blankets to keep us warm. And if all else fails we have each other!

Snuggle up, my friends, winter is on it's way!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Life Lessons from a baby bunny

Its a week after our Mama rabbit gave us our first litter.  How excited I was to see that first litter arrive, I felt like I had given birth to those little kits!  My heart swelled with excitement at the newborn life, and the miracle of it all. (And the expediency...rabbits are only pregnant for about 31 days!)  And TEN babies!  Oh how my chest ached just at the thought of it, of nursing ten babies until they were ready to wean (which, again with the expediency, is a mere 6 weeks later.)

But our Mama rabbit never nursed those babies. Her mothering instinct never kicked in.  We've learned that this is very common for first time mother rabbits.  But that doesn't make it any easier.

We were down to two little fighting babies for a while there. Oh how I tried to keep those two little fighters alive. Went so far as to snuggle them down my shirt (kangaroo care...for bunnies) and feed them kitten formula. 

One week those little guys fought to hang on.  And I fought with them, for them.  On Tuesday night, I went out to find our lone bunny Vincent (his brother died earlier that day) out of his nest box, and cold on the wire.  I brought him inside, cold and limp, with blood on his paws and back from where he got stuck on the wire.  I brought him in to cry over his little body, shaken in my defeat, feeling like I and not the Mama rabbit had failed at her job.  But then slowly, as I held him in my hands, he started to occasionally twitch.  And then a little more.  I dropped everything I had planned for that night and sat in my rocking chair, with a heating pad and a syringe full of kitten milk replacement, with a baby rabbit down my shirt, doing everything that I could to keep him alive and give him a shot at a decent life.

Of course, as some pointed out, it's ironic to work so hard to save something that I am eventually going to kill.  But the point is, that in the mean time, this little bunny - a living creature - deserved the best life that he can possibly have. We are all going to die in the end; me, you, our kids, our pets, the deer in the bushes, the cows in the field.  We all have a right to the best possible life we can live in that time frame between our first breath and our last.  As humans, it is us that have the choice of how we achieve that best possible life.  As for these animals, we've taken on the responsibility for them. We actually give a shit about their quality of life, despite the fact that some day, they will be food.

A friend wrote this to me, it made me feel really, really good about our efforts.  She said "I'm so sad. Lovely to see your caring and effort - challenging the myth that people don't care about the animals they eat. Obviously you cared."

And I did.  Likely even too much.  It sure would have been hard if that bunny had lived, to some day put him on the table after all that effort.  So, lesson learned.  Nature is in charge here, not me.

What a lovely lesson to take away from all this - that nature and the universe is in charge.  That we need to have trust.  That we need to let go of fear.  And I love that feeling that we get when we drop everything that we were going to do, because something more important came along - it always amazes me how our priorities can shift in the face of trouble or crisis.  How the seemingly huge things that you were sweating over hours ago seem suddenly meaningless and insignificant.  It also proves to me what great things we can accomplish if we (ok, I) focus and make something a priority (even those this time around the end result wasn't in my favour.  I sure did learn though, so much.)

Yes, they were just a litter of 10 tiny bunnies, that lived only a short time.  But for me they were so much more than that.  They were a humbling lesson in the power of the universe, the importance of focus and dedication, and the enormous responsibility we've taken on to give a small heard of creatures a decent life. 

Better luck next time, Mama Rabbit.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Trials and Tribulations of raising Rabbits.

It's been a disappointing few days in the Rabbit Raising department here in the Valley.  On Thursday afternoon, I suspected the babies weren't being fed, but I really had no idea if that was true or not.  The kits were still pretty active, peeping like only kits can do (baby bunnies make cute little squeaky noises) and since they only usually get fed once a day, it was quite likely that I was being a paranoid first time rabbit mom.

But by Friday morning, when I found one of them barely alive, and the rest pretty chilly, we knew that things weren't going so well. 

First time Mama rabbits are pretty famous for screwing things up.  Never expect anything from a first litter, is what I've been told. They don't have the babies in the nest (in which case they die from cold) or they don't feed them.  Or they just plain eat them. 

Makes me feel not so bad for all the silly things that I did my first time around!

Yesterday afternoon, me and our new roomie Jess went about getting the kits to feed.  Feed from their Mama, who we picked up, snuggled on her back, and let the kits roam around her belly. We did the first go-round outside, and didn't have much luck getting any of them to do anything.  They were cold and listless and not interested in much.  I decided to leave the heating pad under their next box, so they could concentrate on just living, instead of having to stay warm too.

Later in the evening, we moved the whole operation inside, and gave a real college try to get the kits to feed. 

Three of them were too far gone, so we sadly gave up on them.

Four of them gave a go at eating, some a little harder than the others.

This morning we were down to two, which honestly, is two more than I thought there would be.

Oh, who would have thought that this would all be so very difficult!

It was late this evening (in the dark) when we got around to feeding them again.  We were thrilled to find two warm and active kits in the nest box!  Mama wasn't too interested in being caught for her daily ritual, but relaxed right into it when we got down to business.  The two kits scurried and rooted, and found their Mama's milk, and got down to filling their bellies, which they were quite successful at in the end!  We put two satiated kits back in their nest and will cross our fingers till morning.

One of the reasons we decided to raise rabbits was that it was purported to be SO easy.  SO easy, that is, when everything goes right.  But when things go wrong, it's not terribly easy at all.  Nor do I think it will be terribly easy when the time comes to send these little ones off to the freezer, after working so hard to save their lives.

However, its that working hard that makes me feel good about all this.  What sort of treatment do you think these kits and this mother may have had in a high-output operation?  Likely not what happened in the past 48 hours!  We're doing our best to give these animals the greatest shot we can at a decent life. Knowing that we gave them that make me ok with it all.  Makes me root for these little fighters just that little bit harder.

Go, bunny babies, go!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This Moment

This moment happened this morning, when I opened up our bunny cage, not really expecting to see anything.  But instead, I saw this:

Baby rabbits.  7 of them. (There were 10 total, but three of them didn't make it.)

I might have squealed.  OK, I totally did.

And then I ran inside and squealed to the children.

Is it odd to be so darn proud of a rabbit?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Today, and hopefully for Tuesdays to come, I'm linking up with Rachel at Clean to share a bit of gratitude.  7 things that make me grateful.  Because like Rachel says,

"Taking just a moment to appreciate what we have can change everything."

This week I am grateful for:

-My husband, who works so hard for this family, on his days at work, and on his days off too.
-This beautful autumn weather, the sun makes me smile.
-My daily walks with my dear friend Kelly.  We just started them again, and they do me (and her!) so much good!
-I am grateful that we live in a community surrounded by amazing people, amazing women especially.  They inspire.
-That we have the opportunity to raise our own meat in our own backyard.
-The bounty that our garden keeps giving us.
-And of course, my new Greenhouse!

Peace, my friends!


Monday, September 30, 2013


...things don't go as planned. Some days you have to throw the to do list out the window and just chill, while little people fight off tummy troubles. Soup simmering, quiet computer time for Mama. Not the plan for the day, but likely even better. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Passive Solar Greenhouse Design. (Or, How I spent my weekend.)

I've been dreaming of a greenhouse for years.  This year, with the addition of our furry friends, it got bumped to the top of the list so they would have a place to stay out of the cold this winter.  Bunny hut in winter, and as soon as it's time for the seedlings to go in, the bunny party goes back outside.  It'll also be a spot to store all those garden bits and pieces that, up until now, haven't had a place to live due to our lack of outdoor storage.  (No garage, shed, or covered porch to speak of.)

I scrounged up most of the material for this little project.  The windows are are recycled from here there and everywhere, and the wood siding came from an old fence that got demolished.  We're still on the hunt for some roofing, and likely a bit more wood for siding (please, universe, send some my way!) Grand total, $100 for 2 by 4, and $20 worth of screws.  The rest was salvaged, or we had on hand.  (I can't tell you how happy that makes me!)

The greenhouse isn't a traditional greenhouse - it's a passive solar design.  Most greenhouses are to effing hot to do anything with in the summer) and everything in them melts or is destroyed by the sun.  Not this one.  Designed (by Steve) for maximum light in the winter, and minimum light in the summer (it all has to do with roof angles and overhangs) and some cross-breeze action, we're hoping this beauty will be good to us all year round.

We also put a great counter on the south side.  Potting bench on top, wood storage underneath. Oh, and butchering table too...

In the spring there may be cedar shingles attached, or not.  There will be a roof of sorts before the snow flies.  And some form of white twinkly lights, to light up our fire pit.  On Thanksgiving weekend, we will put a match to all the scraps in the fire pit just in front of it, and christen it with a fire, and thank the universe for all the kind things it delivers us - windows, and wood, and food to eat, and fire to cook it over, and friends to share it with.

What more could you ask for? 


Building my Greenhouse

Passive solar Greenhouse, in the works.  We should have the windows and the siding done later today!  More photos and complete story to follow!

Friday, September 27, 2013

This moment

Lying in bed with Corben last night, I was rubbing his head, which he loves. I stopped for a moment. He was clearly disappointed, so decided to find a way for more head rubbing. 

"Mommy, if you rub my forehead like dat, I will do a back rub for you."

Kid, you got a deal! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Week of Birthdays

September 16th, and we have just closed the door on the "week of Birthdays" (which is really 11 days of birthdays) for the year. Griffin turned 7, and then a week later Steve turned 47, and yesterday I hit the big 38. And what a fun 11 days it has been!

We celebrated with Griffin's friends last weekend, a delight of a time that included a lego theme, dancing, "Pin the tail on the Griffin", cake, presents, and all the other fun birthday stuffs.
We celebrated Steve's birthday mid-week, with a new pair of jeans, some yummy dinner, and some apple crumble - perfection!

Friday night we invited our neighbours for a little bonfire action. It was the coldest evening so far this fall, with the temperatures dipping down to near freezing for the first time (the first official frost warning for the season.) I was a bit worried about getting the fire lit, since it had rained all day, but the boys managed just fine.  We had a GREAT evening, it was one of those nights where suddenly it's 1:30 in the morning and you realize that maybe you should go to bed...but everyone was just having too much fun to notice.

We also received an excellent birthday treat from our friend Jim - a special hollowed out log that he threw on the fire, that burned bright and hot and quite beautifully for a good chunk of the evening. So much fun!

The second best part about the fire were the potatoes that we decided to throw on it as we went to bed at 1:30am...the next morning they got turned into homefries.  Best campfire homefries ever. 

Yesterday it was my turn - my day began with a Corben-imposed sleep in (he came to snuggle with me in the morning, and promptly fell back asleep on top of me, forcing me to stay in bed!) A lazy morning ensued, followed by a deliciously long hot shower, and some puttering in the yard and the house.  We moved a few things around in the living room, and got a few things checked off the "before the snow flies" list.  I got a flower delivery from my neighbours mid afternoon, I managed to get a few things picked out of the garden myself to put up for the winter. 

I got the most delicious dinner last night, with cake and ice cream too. 

It was a delight of a day, a perfectly excellent weekend, and altogether, a wonderful week! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Almost a year ago to this day, I left my very steady, very well paying (with very nice benefits package) j-o-b, to spend more time at home, and be the primary caregiver for my children.  Griffin still goes to school, Corben still goes to daycare a few days a week, but primary it's me that they get to hang with, for better or for worse.

Aside from the obvious things that I miss (the money, and the benefits, in case it's not that obvious, and the people that I worked with) it has been nothing but a positive decision.  I often find that I need reminding of that when I'm digging out rolls of quarters to pay for gas when things are tight - that everything we have done this past year (year and a half if you include picking up and moving here,) has been the absolute right thing to do.  We made some good decisions this past year, that were for the sake of our family, and for our children.  And we stand by every last one of them.

Griffin has been on the receiving end of a lot of our time this year. There have been hours in doctor's offices, hours in therapy, hours spent in the park, riding bikes, drying dishes.  More than we've ever had or made time for him before.  Less days of working means more days of hanging out, just being. Less money to spend makes for more days at home, working together to make our world a better place.  It also means less crap in our lives, more room to breathe, more room to just live.  It seems to be in this state that we are happiest. 

Griffin turned seven yesterday.  Seven years old, seven years he's been a part of our lives. There have been hard days, and there have been brilliantly wonderful days.  And just about every variation in between.  We're no different from any other family that way.  Griffin still has daily struggles, but who among us can't say that either?  He has come SO. FAR. in the past year though.  We can see all the time invested paying off, big time. There are less meltdowns, less explosions. And he is such a tender, loving kid.  He has a huge love for all things lego, all things nature, and his family...especially his Mama. (Maybe a little less love for his little brother, who can be so terribly loud and disgusting, but this too shall pass!)

Tomorrow, for just one day, we will throw away the "less crap in our lives" rule, and bust out the candy, cake, food dye for days, and have a little fun.  Griffin and 5 of his little peeps will party like only 7 year olds can (and 6 year olds, and 9 year olds.)  This is the first real party with friends that Griffin has ever had.  The party is 2 hours long, and I'm sure it will take the rest of the weekend to recover from it, but we're going to have a blast doing it!

I'm so glad that we are where we are, with the people that we are with.  I am so proud of my kids, especially Griffin who has had so many challenges and has come so far.  And, pat on the back for Steve and I too, who have grown so much as people because of these wonderful, smart, drive-you-round-the-bend little creatures. We've made it seven years so far, I can't wait to see what the next seven bring.

I love you, G.  Every last ounce of you.  You have made me a better person.  You have made our world a better place. You have made the whole WIDE world a better place too.  I can't wait to see what you will accomplish in this life!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

Kid, you'll move mountains.
                     -Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You'll Go.