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Archive for November, 2012

Silent Storm

It is getting dark around 4:30 now, and so most of my evenings are spent inside.  Last night I was reading, Emma was sleeping on the mat, and Odin was on his mat just outside the front door.  All was quiet and peaceful.  All of a sudden I heard Odin jumping around on the deck.  There were loud thumps as ran down the steps and louder thumps as he ran back up.  I jumped up too…I couldn’t imagine what had gotten him so excited.

I opened the door, turned on the outside light, and was astounded to see about 2 inches of fresh snow.  Odin was playing…chasing snowflakes and skidding around on the deck.  It had fallen so silently I hadn’t even noticed.  When it rains, I can’t help but hear it on the tin roof.  The snow is sneaky…it can creep up without you even noticing.

Our walk this morning was quieter than usual…snow seems to muffle all sounds.

Often the snow is accompanied with wind, and it keeps the trees clean.  Not today though, no wind and the trees were covered.

 

The fresh snow showed the tracks of all the animals that had been wandering through the woods and the fields. There were a lot of coyote tracks, and I was glad Olivia and the sheep were secure in their pen.

 

It was a beautiful, peaceful way to start the day.

 

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Small Things

I have written in the past about my water supply…how I have a 1700 gallon tank buried under my porch, and when it gets low I haul water from my friends well.  250 gallons at a time.  The connection on the small tank is only big enough to fit a garden hose, so when I drain it into the big tank it takes quite a while, usually around 2 hours.  This past year, I would plan my day around hauling water.  I would find little jobs and projects to do in the 2 hours while I waited for the tank to drain.   I would commit 2 or 3 days to hauling the water, since I could only fit 3 trips into one day, and that would take the whole day, morning  until evening.

Last week I enlisted the help of Brother Dan and we put a bigger connection on the tank.  This one fits a 1 1/2 inch hose.

I was very curious on my first trip to see how much of a difference it would make.  I backed up to the porch, hooked up the hose and turned the tap.  There was a rush of water down the hose and I stood and actually watched the level of water in the tank go down.  The whole process took 15 minutes!   I am now able to completely fill the big tank in one day.  No more waiting around for the tank to drain. I was amazed at what a difference such a small thing made.

Remember my good friend Genny…

I depend on her to charge my house batteries whenever the sun doesn’t show its face.  She is very reliable…I just go out and turn the key and away she goes.  I have not had much to do with motors and other mechanical things.  I have learned how to turn it on, add diesel, check the oil and the radiator and watch for leaks.  I don’t know how they work, and the other day when I turned the key and was met with silence, I didn’t have a clue where to begin.

Well that’s not quite true…I knew where to begin…call Brother Dan!  “Could be a dead battery” he said.  He explained how to test the battery with a piece of wire and off I went to do just that.  I put one end of the wire on one post and gently (he said gently) touched the other post with the other end.  Nothing…no sparks.  I tried again with the same result.  Okay…it’s a dead battery.

Of course, I didn’t have a spare battery hanging around, but we were sure there would be a few at Brother Tom’s.  Away I went, dusk was falling, and I took my headlamp and the dogs with me to help look. Sure enough, there in the shed were two batteries.   Great…I’ll take them both.  Back to Genny and my trusty piece of wire…but no luck…both of those batteries were dead.  Okay…take the battery out of my truck.  I knew that one worked!  Well I opened the hood, cast my headlamp over the battery and all the connections, looked at my poor little collection of tools, and gave up.  I called Brother Dan and gave him the verdict…I would spend the evening and the night without power, and he would come to the rescue in the morning.

I unplugged the deep freeze and refrigerator, lit the kerosene lamps, and settled in.  It was quiet and calm, I had missed the gentle glow of the kerosene lamps.  The next morning Dan appeared with his trusty tools and we approached Genny.  He tested the battery.  It sparked right away!  Huh??  I guess his idea of “gently” was different from mine.  Now I know to clean the posts and give it a good poke!  So if it’s not a dead battery, why isn’t Genny starting?  With the ease of someone familiar with motors, he removed the cover, starting poking at wires and testing connections and fuses.  Nothing obvious appeared, After a bit of poking around, we tried turning the key again and Voila! away she went.  We really had no idea why, or what had changed, but now Genny was purring away.  I was happy, but not completely…if we didn’t know why she had quit, and what we had done to fix it…it could happen again.  Oh well, she was working now and I had power again.  I was happy.

The next day I ran her again with no problems.  Then came a couple of sunny days and Genny rested.  Yesterday was cloudy and in the afternoon I went out to start her and was met with silence again.  Okay…here we go again.  I started to wiggle the wires (just like Dan had done).  I took the cover off and wiggled more wires, I pushed the reset button, I checked the battery connections to the starter.  All good.  I knew where the fuse was but couldn’t figure out how to get to it.  A quick call to Dan and back out to Genny.  Hold the left side in my left hand, grab the right side with my right hand, push in and turn a quarter turn.  Ta da! The cover popped off and I removed the fuse.  Hmmmm…didn’t look quite right.  I had replacement fuses in the house (again thanks to Brother Dan…many months ago he handed them to me and said “Put these in a safe place”.  I grabbed a new fuse, inserted it in the cover and closed it up.  I held my breath, crossed my fingers and turned the key…and Genny roared into life!

I shouted “YES!!!!” and ran outside to dance with the dogs.  I felt so empowered and excited!  I had diagnosed and fixed the problem!  On my own…with telephone support of course!

It was such a small thing that became a big problem. A little fuse killed Genny, and took away my power.  Finding and replacing that fuse gave me back the power…in more ways than one!

PS…I now have a brand new back-up battery and jumper cables…just in case!

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Tweaking Tradition

Tradition…defined as a long-established action or pattern of behavior in a community or group of people, often one that has been handed down from generation to generation.  Our family has a few traditions; one of my favorites is the annual baking of the Christmas Cakes

As long as I can remember, Mom made Christmas Cakes.  When I was very young, I didn’t really notice until they showed up on a dessert plate.  As I got older, I started helping, even if it was just to give a stir.  Eventually I became the instigator, and Mom would come to help me.

It was a big job, and it always helped to have Mom there. This was the year I doubled the recipe by mistake.  We ended up with 24 pounds of cake.

Mom had her favorite recipes, and even though she is gone now, it feels like she is still here advising me.  I never struggle to find the right recipe.  Mom made it very clear!

Well today, I thought I would tweak tradition a little bit…maybe try a different recipe.  I started flipping through the recipe book…checking out different ones and Mom spoke to me again…

Okay, not that one!!

I kept looking until I found one that had no writing beside it. It had never been tried. I read the ingredients and it all sounded good.  I would try it!

My favorite part of making Christmas cakes  is mixing all the fruit.  I love how the different colours and textures blend in and yet stand out.  It is so pretty!  So festive!  And it is the easy part too.

My least favorite part is lining the pans with foil.  It is such a picky, fussy, awkward job.  I was never very good at it.  I would start and before long the foil ripped, or didn’t fit, and my temper would rise, and Mom would say “Here, let me do that.  You mix the fruit.”  Mom was an artist at lining the pans.  Rip, rip, rip went the foil, and before I knew it the pans were all beautifully lined.  Well Mom still helps me pick recipes, but she wasn’t here to offer to line the pans for me.  I managed though…I guess time and necessity has taught me patience.

They don’t look as nice and neat as Mom’s though.

Next step was to blend the butter, sugar and eggs. Then add in the flour, baking soda and spices.  Mix it all together, and hope I lined enough pans!  Hurray I did, so off to the oven they go…

The actual baking of the cakes can be a little tricky.  Too long and they are dry.  Not long enough and they are doughy.  My best friend at this stage is the toothpick. As soon as the cakes are close to being done, I start sticking the toothpicks in.  Once they come out clean and the top of the cakes have a nice little bounce to them I know they are done.  Out they come!

After a couple of weeks I will have a slice and decide what to write beside the recipe.  Good, not very good, very good, or maybe just okay. I’m not sure about tweaking tradition though…I miss the smell of the original cake.   Time will tell.

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Itchy Sheep and Sun

I could tell you  a long tale of the day the sheep got stuck in Tom’s fence, and how Odin tried to help them out, but that would be a tale of fiction, and my stories are all non-fiction.  The truth is, they think the fence is their personal back scratcher.  Whenever we go for a walk near Tom’s cabin, they run for the fence, crawl partway through, and then stand and scratch, scratch, scratch.  All that wool must be very itchy at times.

This past week has been cloudy, grey, and the glimpses of the sun have been very brief. Last night I listened to the weather forecast, and all they had to say was cloudy, cloudy, cloudy.   I have missed the sun.

Today, unexpectedly, it was back. It brought out sparkling diamonds on the skiff of snow, turned the sky a brilliant blue, and recharged all my batteries to full status.

 

It was a glorious day.

 

 

 

 

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And Then There Were Three

CAUTION!  The following post contains content and images which may be offensive to some viewers.  Discretion is advised.

My very first post, last winter,  was about moving here and wondering if I would be able to meet the challenges that came my way.  In that post, I met the challenge, and was encouraged that I would be capable of living the lifestyle I had chosen.

That lifestyle included a more self-sufficient way of providing for myself.  I wanted to grow my own vegetables and raise my own animals.  I am not a vegetarian, so the animals would be a source of meat.  Not all of them, of course, but some.  Last spring I bought a calf and three lambs.  My plan was to keep the two female lambs, and to raise the male lamb until he was old enough to butcher and provide me with  meat for the next year.

Over the past six months, I have wondered whether I would be able to stick to my plan. If after caring for the animals, providing them with food, water, shelter, and yes…even affection, I would be able to put Garcon in the freezer.

Well today I can tell you, that yes,  I was capable of following through with my plans.  This past Thursday,  my neighbour Scott (a former sheep farmer from New Zealand) came over and with the help of Brother Dan, we dispatched Garcon.

The only organ meat I wanted to keep was the liver.  I have always enjoyed beef liver, so why not lamb?  It was a good size, and I thought I would freeze it too.  And then Brother Dan said “If you are going to cook that tonight, I would stay for supper.”  I didn’t need to be asked twice.  We fried it up and with a fresh bun, and a glass of red wine…it was delicious!

The meat is not the only product I wanted from the sheep.  I also had plans to save the sheepskin as well.

It’s easy to read a book, or other written instructions about how to do something.  It’s another thing to do it.  It sounds so simple  in the instructions, but when it comes to doing it…well let’s just say I had NO idea what I was doing.  Brother Tom…where are you when I need you?

The fleece was bigger than I thought it would be, and I spent all Friday morning, scraping and cleaning it.  My hands were cramped and blistered after four hours and I had to stop.  It could have used some more cleaning, but I had done all I could at that time.  I staked it out on a plywood board and covered it with salt.  There it will stay until it has dried.  I’m not sure how long that will take…the books I have read, and the internet says six days or so, but that will depend on the weather too.

 

Time will tell if it turns out or not.

The carcass was skinned, cleaned, and hung in the cool for several days.  This morning, Scott came over again, and we proceeded to cut up the meat.  What a learning experience for me!  You see all those different meat packages in the grocery stores, but do you ever wonder how they get that way.  Well this morning I saw first hand.

One of the first steps was to use a saw to cut the carcass in half.

Then it is cut into smaller pieces, can anyone see a rack of lamb beginning to appear here?

The fat is trimmed off, although Garcon was in very good shape.  There wasn’t a lot of fat to trim.  There are hocks, and roasts too. The saw is used to cut through the bone.

Then there are the chops, beautifully cut and trimmed by Scott.

The end result…

a good supply of home-grown lamb ready for the freezer.

Now that I know I can raise a lamb, and eventually put it in the freezer, I have new plans.  Scott offered to come again next year, and I took him up on his offer with a little change.  Next year, I want to be the one holding the saw and knife, and with Scott’s guidance, I’m confident I can cut up a lamb.

So now there are just the three girls…grazing the last of the summer grass.

And life goes on at Morris Brook Farm.

 

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