I’ve bought land again but this it’s in Northern Alberta! More to come… Be patient while I get back in to the swing of writing in the spare moments that I have outside a full time and a half job and land development. Good things are afoot finally.
While it is not against the law to drink unpasteurized milk in Canada, it is illegal to sell it despite the niche demand in Ontario and other provinces.
Health officials maintain that milk must be pasteurized before it is sold, as it can contain pathogens like salmonella, listeria and E. coli – all harmful or deadly if consumed.
But Schmidt, a vocal advocate of food freedom, insists that Canadians shouldn’t be told what they can or cannot drink. He said he won’t give up the fight to endorse and sell raw milk despite the latest court decision.
Like-minded supporters say the pasteurization process kills beneficial micro organisms that aid in digestion and metabolization, among other arguments in favour of the milk.
Do you think people who want to drink raw milk should be able to buy it, if they understand the risks? Should farmers face jail time if they disobey the law? Have you or would you drink unpasteurized milk?
Having loaded the goats first thing in the morning before leaving Howling Duck Ranch, once Nick was installed in the rear, I was set to go. Originally, I had thought about over nighting in Williams Lake. I phoned the Veterinary Clinic there to see if this was possible. It was in theory but because it was a Sunday, I would have to get there before by 5 pm when they closed. In light of the fact I had to conquer The Hill and get 458 kms of rough road behind me, I just couldn’t see how I could to it. Also, I was still tired from the trip in and needed to visit a few more people before leaving town. I realized, talking with the clinic, that I was going to have to do the trip in one go.
Tens hours into the journey, I stopped in Quesnel for a Tim Hortons coffee. I wondered if Nick needed a break from being cooped up but worried about the wisdom of letting him out. After all, what would I do if I couldn’t get him back into the trailer? What would Claire do, I wondered. Rex (the Vet) had told me that I could safely drive with the animals for 36 hours. But, because I knew I had nearly 24 to do, and I worried that if I had a flat or some other vehicle trouble, we could easily get over that time limit and then what would I do? Finally, I decided to risk it. I walked him around a field for about twenty minutes while he sniffed the night air and fed on the grass. When it was time to load him back up, again, lovely boy that he was, he went in without any drama.
Twenty-two hours of total driving time later, I was at Rex’s just outside Grande Prairie on Saskatoon Mountain. I unloaded Nick and introduced him to Rex’s herd, Dusty and Bo. Rex was certain that Dusty would create a fight, or at least a bit of a horse rodeo so Rex asked if I would stay for a while just in case. I assured Rex that I thought Nick would integrate nicely and not cause any fuss. I took Nick into the pasture and turned him loose. Just as Rex suspected, Dusty was the first to run up to greet him. She pranced around Nick trying to stir the pot. Nick put his ears back once and turned his bum to her. “Well, I think that’s all the show we’re going to see today Rex,” I said. Rex was unconvinced, “I’m sure there’s going to be some trouble. Dusty is a bit of a terror. She seems to get other horses whipped up. I’ve seen it before!” And so we waited. And, we waited some more. And nothing happened. Finally, Rex visibly relaxed and I headed to the next farm to unload my goats. “I’ll call you later to see how things are going,” I said before getting into the truck.
Not more than two miles down the road, I saw something odd. There was a vast number of deer bunched up along the brush line just off the road. I wondered why they were all clumped up like that until I saw a flicker out of the corner of my eye. Not more than 30 yards in front of them was a full grown cougar laying like a house cat in the snow. His tail flicking in concentration every now and then. I pulled over to watch the scene and called Rex. “Really? In nearly thirty years of living up here I’ve never seen a cougar. Trust you to see one in your first five minutes of being here!” I didn’t wait for Rex to get to the scene but moved on with my load. To this day, Rex still has not seen a cougar. He’d moved off before Rex got to the scene of the crime. A few hours later Rex called to say that Nick and Dusty and Bo were all acting like they’d known each other forever.
Thirty minutes later I pulled up to Russ and Brenda’s farm and unloaded the goats. I introduced my ‘Group of Seven’ into their herd, and then there were 60. Theirs had just had kids so there were goats of all shapes, sexes, and sizes in the mix along with one token guard llama, Gibbs. So devoted to his job was he that he would not let my goats into the feeding area. Russ eventually had to have a talk with him and let him know his job duties extended to the seven newcomers!
Today, I farm sit at both places and look after my own and others’ animals. I have farm sat for Russ and Brenda a few times and gotten to look after their livestock. Before that I had never taken care of cows. It was a unique opportunity for me. Presently, Rex and Debbie are away and I’m sitting their farm. It is a beautiful place on the mountain. Best of all, I get to see my horse every day. These opportunities not only make me happy but also they let me play farmer.
Here’s to good friends old and new–thank-you all:
Some would say I seem to have a knack for meeting interesting people. I would say I get terribly lucky with who shows up in my life! After many months of being alone here in Grande Prairie, Alberta, I finally have my beloved goats and horse with me. The are now safely installed and well looked after on two different farms. How did this happen?
One night around 2:30 am, one of the Nurses I was working night shift with leaned across the table and asked, “So what else do you do besides work here?” I couldn’t have asked for a better entree. Without a word I flicked on the computer and showed her my blog.
We spent the next few hours getting much work done (not) and learning a whole lot about each other. As it turns out, we are kindred spirits. She has married a farmer and despite her city background now finds herself knee deep in cow poop, often. Cuz, life on a farm is always about poop! Hence the title of my book. But I digress.
I can’t remember if it was actually that night or soon thereafter that she offered not only a place for my goats to live but also the loan of her stock trailer to get them here. I couldn’t believe my ears, or my luck. She then took me to her farm to meet her husband, her son, and her variety of barn animals: cows, goats, horses, and token llama. These folks lent me their stock trailer without hesitation or acceptance of payment. But they did wonder if I could perhaps look after their place when they went away later than month? “Later this month, later next month, and any other time you want to go!”
Once the idea of moving my horse and goats was transformed by my new friend from a fantasy to a real possibility, I asked my friend Rex (who I’d met very briefly along with his wife years ago at another friend’s place and whose farm I moved up here to look after for 5 weeks last summer) if he was really serious last year when he said I was welcome to bring Nick to his farm. “Of course you can. I just can’t promise nothing will go wrong out here. It’s got older fencing and barbed wire and who knows what else in the field,” he cautioned, more I hope to console himself than to warn me. He does after all have two of his own horses on the land and it quite meticulous about keeping his place up. Moreover, he is a Vet. I decided I would risk it and bring Nick here!
It was a whirlwind trip and I barely had time for two nights at Howling Duck Ranch. I did manage to get a visit in with a couple of good friends from the valley, Clarence being one of them. We had a pancake breakfast reunion. Something a few of us used to get together to do when I lived there. It was too short a visit but better than no visit at all. The next day I was up early, loading the goats, and heading to the barn where Nick was kept. I was looking forward to seeing my friend’s husband. I was not looking forward to not seeing her. Clare had developed Rolling Pigeon Ranch over many years in the valley and I met her when I decided to take up horse back riding lessons. Clare died far too young last December and I’d not been able to get to her funeral. She is the first friend that was part of my day to day life (up until leaving the valley) that I have lost. Coming to the valley and visiting with her husband was an emotional reunion for both of us. I finally got a chance to grieve her with someone who knew her and loved her too. It was a bittersweet, but much needed, visit for me.
The only time I’ve ever trailered Nick, Clare was there to do the work for me. I could rely on her know-how and just be the heavy lifter! Today however I would be doing it for the first time alone and I was nervous about it. We had a long, long trip ahead of us and, to date, I’d only done a 5 hr journey with Nick when Clare was at the helm. Before I tried to get him in the trailer, I looked up at the sky and said quietly, “Clare, I’m going to need your help with this.” Then I opened the doors and walked Nick into the trailer. It was that easy. “Thank-you,” I whispered skywards as I closed the doors and latched them closed. And just like that we were on our way.
Well it’s taken a long time for me to get this book finished but it’s finally done and out in the stores for sale! This is thanks to the hard work of the Caitlin Press Publishing crew. I am very happy with how it turned out. Vici (the owner of Caitlin Press) said she wanted to try to get it in color but was not sure it would be possible. But she managed the impossible and it looks great. There are many color photos inside that illustrate what I was up to. Some you will have seen on this blog and some are new.
It was a nice surprise to wake up to a box of my very own book on my front porch last week. Even funnier surprise to hear that my mum bought a copy for my dad for Father’s Day!
Nearly two years ago, not long after I began blogging, a fellow blogger commented on one of my posts. Because I enjoy seeing what other food enthusiasts are up to, I checked out who he was. Kevin Kossowan is a food writer/blogger extraordinaire from Edmonton with an unprecedented passion for all things food and drink. When I clicked on his site I immediately began salivating. It was, quite simply, love at first read. Instantly, I became a devout fan of his blog and spent many reads fantasizing about actually being fed by this man. After several months of quiet devotion, I left a subtle comment, “When can I come to dinner?”
Fast forward 18 months or so and I find myself in Alberta on a cattle drive. Not long after posting that story I received a lovely suggestion, “If you ever get to Edmonton let me know. It would be nice to meet you,” Kevin Kossowan. My first thoughts were: Meeting would be nice, yes. But for the love of god man will you cook me dinner? I wrote him what I hope was a slightly more tactful email than my thought train. He responded with great kindness and generosity which I have come to know is quintessentially Kevin: “1000 times yes!”
Three weeks later I arrived at his doorstep with this deal hashed out: he would feed me and I would help him make apple wine. When he came out to greet me I stuck out my hand to shake his. He looked down at my outstretched arm and nonchalantly batted it away, “I’m a hugger,” he said, then, he helped me with my bags.
“We don’t have a spare room set up yet,” he said over his shoulder as he lead me down the stairs to his basement. “Our facilities are pretty rudimentary but something tells me of all the people I know, you’ll be able to handle it!” I came down the stairs and ‘my room’ came in to view. There in the middle of his basement was a small bubble tent replete with blankets, pillows, and ’emergency’ flashlight! My dog was thrilled. She jumped into the tent as if she owned the place and turned to me with a look that said, “Wow, this whole room is ours… you coming in?”
I’d driven for five hours to get to Kevin’s (all the while dredging up juicy images from his blog and mopping them up with the crusts of my mind) so needless to say I was hungry when I arrived. He introduced me to his wife and children. We took a tour of his yard-garden (which has won ‘edible garden’ recognition by the city of Edmonton). The kids played with Tui until bedtime, when both children and dog were wore out! Finally, his wife and I sat at the dinner table while Kevin prepared the meal.
It was everything I’d hoped it would be: there were myriad cheeses to be tasted, wines to be quaffed, and several beautifully presented exquisite little courses of home grown and locally sourced food to be savored.
The meal was topped off with a creme brullee, which of course, having a ‘sweet-tooth’, I decided it was a divine finish to a wonderful evening. I only wish I’d taken a photo of that!
Well, the inevitable has happened. It was a dry summer, so not many berries around for our ursine co-inhabitants here in this remote rainforest valley. In addition, the fish runs were down. Then last weekend we had our fifty-year flash flood, which swept away both fish and berries, and blurred the notional “boundary lines” which the officials fondly imagine keep humans from bears/cougars and keep the peace. For the last month there have been intimations that those boundaries were about as effective as Chamberlain’s piece of paper in 1939: neighbours reported seeing a grizzly bear routinely ambling around my property; my husband (who is tending the farm while we decide what to do with it and our lives) eventually saw him/her sitting thirty meters from my house, across the grass and orchard, behind the two boundary fences, calmly surveying the pickings. The next night he made his move and broke the main branches on my two pear trees and apple trees. David reported the attack to the RAPP centre in Kamloops and also crosses the road to the Ministry of Earth and Water, where a generous parks official lent me an electric fence, which friends and he set up encircling the orchard; meanwhile we picked almost all the remaining fruit. He thought about ringing our year old $22 000 chicken barn instead, but felt it was as solid as a building could be.
Two weeks later he heard that at least two neighbours down the highway had their chicken houses ransacked and lost their entire flocks. Then the floods hit, and everyone was preoccupied with surviving, then with trying to save their possessions, cars, houses, fences, bridges, stock, food. That same night one of my egg customers phoned to warn about these attacks and offered the use of her gun; frankly, she said, she wanted to protect her food supply.
David decided to move the electric fence, but was suffering a back injury and decided to postpone it until the weekend and some more healing had first taken place. Meanwhile he increased the lights and radios around the chicken house, and stowed away and secured the bags of feed even more securely behind at least two four inch thick doors.
The following night around 11 pm he heard the scream of a hen. There was a new moon so it was black outside, but from my house he could see an illuminated side of the chicken shed about two metres away and he could see no commotion. He could only guess that the bear had entered from the side, the weakest side of course. Without a dog or gun, surrounded by neighbours, with the flooded slough still saturating the ground all around, he could do little besides yell “shoo bear!” and bang some pots and pans. Later that night he heard more shrieks, but at dawn my restless fears were allayed when he heard the familiar cock crow. Unlike Peter, he felt relieved of his guilt–until he dressed and went down to let them out to free range, and discovered the side door ripped open, and a line of carcasses stretching through the broken page wire fence and under the trees towards the neighbour’s lawn. Inside, the remainder of my flock were traumatised, the biggest rooster hobbling about with one wing extended, a claw puncture mark on his back. There was even one dead chicken, otherwise untouched, inside the hen house.
He reported the attack to Kamloops (a mere 743 kms drive away) and was contacted at work later that day by our Conservation Officer who by good fortune had just made it back into the valley that day. They rendezvoused at 6 pm and David showed him the wooden barricade had erected overt the broken door. The CO laughed and said a grizzly would toss that side with his little ginger, literally.
“That’s what I feared,” Davie confessed, “but I have no other defence save the electric fence. And that seems so puny.”
“Actually that’s the best defence,” he said. They tracked the bear scat and chicken bodies across my neighbour’s property and back into the bush which stretches a hundred meters to the highway. He didn’t want to go any further.
“So,” David quite rightly asked, “since you’re staying nearby, when I see the bear tonight I’ll phone you and you can come and shoot it?”
“I wish I could, but no,” he sighed again. “If the fence is broken, then I can.”
“So twenty carcasses, a ravaged chicken house and a loss of livelihood aren’t enough.”
“You got it. Ministry policy. I must obey. If he attacks your goats, on the other hand, then I can shoot.”
“Who makes these rules?”
Apparently, he shrugged with–what I hope was–embarrassment and turned away.
David spent the next three hours and into the darkness moving the electric fence to surround my chicken house. My remaining flock reluctantly returned to the scene of the crime except for one canny rooster which, for a time, tried to roost in a nearby tree. David left them to the tender mercies of the night, the barricaded door and turned on the electric current, and hoped for the best.
That was last night. At dawn they were all still safe, but the biggest rooster was barely dragging himself around. David did, however, find bear scat outside my living room window on the grass and in front of the goat gate ten meters across from my house. He noticed the wooden superstructure above the five foot log railing fence (which I had erected to dissuade the goats from jumping out) had been broken down. I have seven pygmy goats now, and five get moved every night out of their pen and into their locked quarters in the nearby barn; the two grown boys like to take their chances in their run. They were safe, but I wonder for how long. Part of me dreads going out tomorrow morning and finding two goat carcasses by the fence; the other part looks forward to it so that then I will have reason to get the CO to shoot the grizzly.
Or maybe I should work with the current capitalist regime, move back to the farm, and put a sign at my gate saying: “BEAR VIEWING STATION: see the grizzly at close quarters as it kills chickens, smashes fruit trees and rips apart pygmy goats–LIVE! P.S.: Since my livelihood is being destroyed in front of your eyes, donations gratefully accepted.”
Last year, I recorded the devastation that my neighbours suffered through at the hands of a grizzly bear (see Needless Suffering for the story). This year, it has hit my own yard. Two nights ago a grizzly bear broke into my chicken shed damaging the door, the locks, and the hinges before killing half my chicken flock. This is not some flimsy, clap board, slap together $1000 chicken shed that would be sufficient to meet most chickens’ needs. No. This is a full on, two x six construction, cement floor, pony walls, with heavy duty plywood exterior, replete with wire on the windows, barn that cost me over $22,000 to build (and people wonder why the economics are no longer there for farmers). How many years will it take me to pay that back at $5 per dozen eggs minus expenses? It is so far into the future that is hardly worth calculating. Now let’s factor in the loss of, and replacement cost of my stock…
Last night, he was back though we were armed with an electric fence around the chicken house. Though the bear did not enter the chicken house last night he instead worked his way into the goat pen. I now not only fear for the life of the rest of my captive chickens but I am now worried about my goats. The conservation officer won’t do anything about this because, according to him, “it is just chickens.” According to the Ministry of Environment, chickens lives are not valuable. Not valuable to those who have a nice, well paid, government job replete with benefits and holiday pay and affords him the luxury of going to the store to buy their eggs (which come from a factory farm, mostly likely in Chiliwack, on land that has already been taken away from the grizzly bears). Somehow, history doesn’t feature for many people. In their minds it is OK to farm in Chilliwack where we have killed and/or otherwise displaced all the bears, but not in Bella Coola.
How are we to develop a local food system if we are supposed to let the grizzly bears eat what we are raising for our own needs?
I’ll write more later. Right now I’m just too upset (and believe me, that is putting it in terms fit for the public).
If you are new to the blog and want to follow the bear issues, see the following:
Bears and fruit trees: