Category Archives: Just for fun

In honor of my hunt

A friend of mine broke his wrist a couple of weeks ago while mountain biking. Having hurdled himself over his handlebars, he’s lucky to not have broken his neck (and is now rethinking his relationship with the sport). In honor of my moose hunt he gave his cast a tattoo. No, it’s not a moose tattoo; apparently they were fresh out of moose cast stencils. (In actual fact, they don’t have them).

It’s been an amazing hunt this year and I’ll get to writing about it soon (who knew the real work started once the moose was on the ground!). I’m heading back up to camp now to continue with the work… We’ll be at it yet for days.

RT's Cast Tattoo

The lengths some will go to in order to support a friend; gotta love friends like this... thanks RT!

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Filed under Gathering from the wild, Hunting, Just for fun

The bloggers’ half-marathon

I began my blog because I complained to a friend that there weren’t enough hours in the day to develop my subsistence lifestyle and to document this for a book as well. She suggested starting my blog, because I could note things down as they happened, accumulating material and in point form to jog my memory for later creativity, and if there was ever a dull moment I  could expatiate at length without worrying about whether the material would fit into my next book. In essence, my blog would be my field notebook (I’m an anthropologist by training, after all). It didn’t really occur to me that strangers could peer over my shoulder, let alone ingratiate themselves into my world and my life through this medium.

But those strangers have turned into sources of inspiration and information, a support group in times of need, advisers, my community (because I don’t actually talk over my fence to my neighbour here about my livelihood, nor does anyone in today’s world, it seems)–and now you, once strangers, are my friends. Our global separation evaporates in virtual space and we come together with our common interests, concerns and passions. I am more than 450 kilometers from the nearest stop light (let alone the nearest Tim Horton’s do-nuts, Dairy Queen, or veterinarian), so this blog has filled the vacuum of expertise around my geographical situation. Early on in all this, I wrote a post called “Conscious, conscientious decision-making” and suddenly I discovered that a fellow traveller ‘Stonehead’, somewhere in Scotland, had “pinged” me, i.e. referenced the post on his own blog.

When I needed goat advice, I got it from one of the top goat veterinarians in the United Kingdom thanks to the efforts and links of Little Ffarm Dairy; when I needed reassurance about my pregnant goats, I got it from a couple of different folks ‘somewhere’ in the United States. Moreover, nobody was patronizing or dismissive. Every response to my blog validated my experience.

As a result, I feel confident to try things; my network of virtual friends and advisers is there to support me. If something goes wrong or I need a question answered, I now have a community of people I can turn to and rely upon. For example, when I read Stonehead’s post “How to Skin a Rabbit” I was validated and informed about the messy business of slaughtering one’s own stock; I also learned about the sometimes virulent response to such declarations from the world at large. When I emulated Stonehead with my own post on how to slaughter turkeys, I was apprehensive about negative responses (death threats, even!); but I forged ahead, because I knew that this information was at that time non-existent in the virtual world, and would be useful as well. In fact, when I came to butcher my own turkeys rather than those of my mentor whom I had described in that post, I found myself resorting to my own post to refresh my memory about the procedure! I’m happy to say that my post was received with gratitude, and today it remains my most popular (my host site gives me that information, too!).

Soon afterwards, I was invited to be a regular writer for another blog Not Dabbling in Normal, one which I had admired from afar. And so it goes…

Then there’s my audience, those of you who check in to see what’s going down at Howling Duck Ranch, perhaps wanting (as a Vancouver friend put it) to live the ‘good life’ vicariously. This audience has gained in numbers steadily over the past ten months of my evolving blog. I know this because my host, WordPress, gives me detailed data. I remember being excited the first time I had a hundred ‘hits’ in  a day. I would analyse their origins, and be excited as the circle of interest expanded from North America to the world: for example, I named one of my goats after a favourite wine, the ‘Shiraz’, then learned from an Iranian that it’s the name of his home town there (I got an invitation to visit!). Now, when I hear news about strife in Iran, I’m concerned for that friend!

This may sound rather adventitious, and I suppose to a degree it is. But maybe it’s because I’m concerned with husbanding the Earth and extracting a subsistence from it that I do feel a genuine kinship with others around our small planet who are attempting to do the same. And I know that your shared interest is what has brought you to my blog.

Why am I waxing so philosophical? Well, July 2009 has yielded 5,000 hits; my biggest month to date. My host site generates all this kind of data, and it becomes quite absorbing reading! Anyway, that’s a milestone, I reckon. I don’t have a name for it–the Demi-Mille, the Blogger’s First Step, the half-Marathon Month–but I feel elated, and grateful. I look forward to expanding my virtual circle. My background is working in community development, and here I am, realizing that I am participating in developing and sustain the community of subsistence lifestylers into which I have been so warmly welcomed. As I hit “Publish” I wonder with excitement what will happen next.

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Filed under Developing Community, Educational, Just for fun

New Chum Awards!

A male chum salmon ready to spawn here in Bella Coola.

A male chum salmon ready to spawn here in Bella Coola.

This blogging world has provided me with a creative outlet; without it, my life would be less rich. I began the blog with a view to helping me get down on ‘paper’ some of my ideas and stories that come from living this sort of subsistence lifestyle. What I didn’t count on or foresee was that it would also open up a rich environment for making friends and developing community.

Every now and then some of you stand out for various reasons: your generosity and ether support, your willingness to share your experiences and fears, or simply your being there since the beginning, or near beginning! All of your personalities have jumped out at me through the ether (or in Mike’s case here on the ground!), and caught my attention and affection. So here are my new ‘Chum’ awards:

Suburban Bushwacker – for our many discussions, and most of all for not letting pink threaten your macho image.

Phelan of A Homesteading Neophyte – for your kinship in the ‘freaking out first time’ kidding experience, and for sharing your delicious goat meat recipes.

Small Pines – for your sense of humour, great writing style, being a fine example of a ‘who-dunnit’ conversion from dreamer to dream actualizer, and most of all for enquiring if I was OK after a spell of down-time.

MMP of The Art of Proprietation – for your fine blog, for the kidding support, and for helping me not to ‘freak out’.

Tony – of Little Ffarm Dairy – for ‘lurking’ quietly until you were needed!

Fred – of Blackfarms– for the great conversations, for sharing your many thoughtful suggestions and brainstorming methods.

Michael Wigle of Jumping Mouse Productions – for your inspirational photography, for being flexible and open to trade,  for understanding what ‘real food’ is, and for being a friend who is here ‘live and in color’.

Thank-you to everyone who reads this blog and participates through sharing comments, questions, advice, and personalities. You help make my remote existence less lonely, and thus easier to maintain.

cheers,

HDR

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Filed under Developing Community, Just for fun

When you sin bad-ly…

My little goats are growing fast and in need of naming. Thanks to all who made suggestions for the kids, both Fatty-fats and Shiraz’s. The response from my hubby when I relayed the names you folks have proffered to him was, “What creative blogging friends you have!”

In light of the fact they are going to be eaten, we have decided on the following names for the boys:

Saddam (cuz we all know why he should be eaten);

Sadam does kind of get a look every now and then...

Saddam does get a dissembling look in his eye every now and then...

Salam-i (which speaks for itself);

Salam (i) is the climber of the group.

Salam (i) is the climber of the group.

and Sinbad (cuz if you sin bad enough you deserve to be roasted on the spit!). But does he look like a sinner?

Already finding excuses why I need to keep Sinbad! He's such a sweetie.

Already finding excuses why I need to keep Sinbad! He's such a sweetie.

Well, there it is. Wish me luck over the next few months that I’ll actually muster up the courage to do this. I’m already smitten with all these babes. Working with them and thinking of them as my food is a difficult paradox to reconcile. This is the part of being such a small farm that is difficult: I kn0w each animal, and am working with each one, e.g. imprinting, haltering, human therapy, breeding. I want to do so much with so many of these animals; I’d like to be able to teach these fellows to pull a cart, for example. I know that taking the time and bonding with them so deeply will have its cost in the end. Unless, of course, I can justify keeping the cart goats to get to the store now that gas prices are on the rise… maybe  I could start picking people up from the airport in the W-e-e-e-e-e-l-co-o-me wagon.

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Filed under Goats, Just for fun

The kids have names

Fanny-Mae and Franky

With several good contenders for names, we finally decided upon Frankie and Fanny-Mae for Fatty-Fat’s two kids. While Fanny-Mae and Freddy-Mac cracked me up and Fred Astaire was clearly a contender in his black and white’s, Freddy just didn’t suit the little guy. Finally, although I was partial to Fatima for the girl goat, the suggestion of Fanny-Mae just fit her perfectly.

Meet Little Fanny-Mae.

Meet Little Fanny-Mae; my poster girl.

Meet Frankie.

Meet Frankie.

Help with names for Shiraz’s kids

As for Shiraz’s, we are hunting for names for her 3 boys that would be in keeping with hers. Some contenders are Sinbad, Soltan, and Surak. We are open to suggestions. The only stipulation is they have to start with S and have an Arabic flavour to them in sound or actual meaning. For example, Surak and Shiraz are both cities in Iraq.

Fanny-Mae and Frankie playing in the sun.

Fanny-Mae and Frankie playing in the sun.

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Filed under Goats, Just for fun

A visit to Bella Coola

For any of you interested in seeing a little of our area of the world, take a look at this fellow’s video clip. Apparently, he was a nursing student who recently did a stint here at our local hospital (which is featured in the video) who was enamoured with the Bella Coola Valley.

The opening two still shots are of the town. The first is overlooking the whole village, and the second is from the road to the wharf looking back at town. The blue building is the hospital. The he moves to the drive in and the next few still shots are from the Chilcotin, or what us locals call ‘up top’. From the second shot with his truck and red kayak on the roof and the vista in the background which is the valley below (he is on ‘the hill’ at that point and on his way down into the valley), the rest of the photos are from the valley floor. The the wide waterfall with the beautifully sculpted rocks is actually our source of power. The final shot is of the Native side of the village.

It’s a fun little video (thanks Carl!). I hope you’ll see why I became enamoured with the place too, enjoy!

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Filed under Just for fun, Uncategorized

The road back in

This past couple of weeks I’ve been away taking an Animal Assisted Therapy in Counseling course at Healing Hooves in Alberta. Healing Hooves specializes in Equine Facilitated Mental Health can be very effective for people who are not able, or do not want to, sit in an office and talk. Horses and other animals often provide the initial motivation, helping to overcome the initial fears, and to build the bridge to a relationship with the counselor. They also help to foster long term motivation and commitment to the therapeutic process. I plan to get qualified in the counseling psychology field and utilize the Animal Assisted Therapy in my practice.

On my way back home, I was lucky enough to see a host of wildlife, some of which I had not seen in quite a few years. All together I saw 5 black bears, two big horn sheep, three elk, two grizzly mama’s with cubs, several deer, a moose, coyotes, foxes and a marmot. The black bears were too quick to catch photos of and several of the other critters were too far away for my camera to be of use (I do not own a zoom lens, yet!). However, I did manage to get close enough to a mama grizzly and her curious cub, a marmot, and also took some shots from the hill on the way into the valley and the valley floor:

Young grizzly mama and her cub eating clover.

Young grizzly mama and her cub eating clover.

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Filed under Bears, Just for fun, Politicking with predators

Special features

Conversation with the writer/director of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’

My ‘David Suzuki Digs My Garden’ audition video is–hallelujah–in the can. I would like to thank my cast and crew who worked tirelessly to get this done: David, Nick, Pavarotti, Elvis, Tui, Gordon, Malcolm, Fatty-Fat, Shiraz, Sundown, Coco, The Girls, and Martha. If I have missed anyone just tell me at next feeding time and I’ll add you to the list. Most of all I’d like to thank my ‘Best Boy’, Ahmed, who ransacked Vancouver in order that my production values were top notch, and my ‘Sound Engineer’, Buddy Thatcher. Thankfully, I saved on money by doing the location scouting, casting, catering, writing and directing myself, and the fact that the actors were willing to work for not quite peanuts–but close–helped keep us within budget. It was a very happy set except whenever I mentioned the word pesticide.

Although this was my first feature film, I found the whole experience so creatively stimulating, that I’m thinking of expanding into more short films to document my life and work here. I have spent this past year writing words and am now intrigued to write scripts and story-boards for this visual medium.

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Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Ethical farming, Goats, Horses, Just for fun, Preserving the harvest, Sustainable Farming, Vegetable gardening

David Suzuki Digs My Garden

SuzukiGnomeVancouver’s most famous Environmentalist, David Suzuki, is running a contest for pesticide free gardeners this summer. They say you don’t have to be a master gardener to play a starring role in the ‘David Suzuki Digs My Garden’ contest. They want a passionate storyteller who believes pesticide-free growing is the way of the future–which needless to say I do–that they can follow this summer in video, pictures and print, from soil prep and composting, through seeding and weeding, to reaping the harvest.

Without hesitating, I filled in the contest form on Thursday night and promptly went to bed. On Friday, I received an email saying I was accepted to the second phase, the video audition. How exciting! There are, of course, many problems with this: I don’t have a video camera, I don’t know anyone with a video camera, I haven’t ever used a video camera, I live 500 kilometers from the nearest store with a video camera, and no, I can’t buy one over the phone from the Vancouver camera stores. Consequently, I spent Saturday hunting down some options and finally a friend in Vancouver came to my rescue. He bought the camera and put it on the plane to Bella Coola this morning.

It arrived at 1:30 pm. I have since then been reading the instruction booklet whilst charging its batteries. I’ve managed to write my script and practice it twice on an old tape-style video camera (that won’t let me translate it to an AVI file so I can upload it to You-tube as the Suzuki Foundation requests) and hone it down to about 90 seconds. Now, I’ve gotten half way through what was going to be my final take–on the newly charged fancy digital jet-lagged camera–and I’ve hit something that has made the whole thing mute, and can’t figure out how to undo it!!! It will be a miracle if I manage to get this completed by Wednesday night! Wish me luck.

If I successfully manage my way out of the nanotechnology quagmire I’ve waded into, I’ll put it up on the blog for all to see. In the meantime, you can view Suzuki’s just over one minute promo video by clicking here.

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Filed under Developing Community, Just for fun, Sustainable Farming, Vegetable gardening

Learning to dabble

It was exactly one year ago this week that I got home from Saskatchewan, having quit my job at the University. I wanted to come back to the farm and grow all our own food for the year. I fantasized that I would have so much time on my hands: to read a raft of books that I’d wanted to for years, to ride my horse every day, to do everything from making our own maple syrup, to milking the goats, to making our own mustard and other condiments–was I ever wrong!

The reality was that I rode my horse only three times last summer, read nary a book, didn’t even get the goats bred (mercifully realizing there was simply no time), and bought mustard and mayonnaise. I did manage to make maple and birch syrup!

While my ‘Year in Provisions’ project has been successful (I have learned a lot of useful skills along the way and I still am living off the bounty of the past summer’s labour), what I was unsuccessful at was letting go of my guilt. I felt guilty that I was no longer earning a wage, and I couldn’t let that go. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but I was driving myself overly hard in order to ‘make up’ for my lack of cash. I went at the project last year with such a guilty vengeance that I managed to seriously hurt myself.

Despite the fact that my husband was totally supportive of my project (and still is), I created this mindset all on my own. Because of this, I didn’t enjoy the work as much as I had envisioned enjoying it before I left Saskatchewan. Instead of biting off what I could actually manage sensibly, I took on too much. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when I set to converting an extra 3000 square feet of grass into a vegetable plot, far too late in the season to be realistic. The result was I spent several weeks on crutches having blown both my knees out working up this new garden spot.

Fast forward to this summer, and the project is on again. In February we had about a ten day stretch of really nice weather. Suddenly I felt totally behind and stressed right out: I’m not ready, I haven’t gotten my seeds yet, I haven’t set up the tomato beds, I need to plant the green manure crop, sharpen the tools, clean the garage, make labels for the eggs, build a raised strawberry bed, and so on.

After a couple of days (and an exhausting reverie of unnecessary, self-inflicted mental anguish) the weather once again returned to its normally frosty late winter state, and I began to relax. As I felt my body unwind, I finally realized what I was doing to myself. I recalled what a friend said to me one day last summer when she looked at my crutches: “You’re too old to be that stupid.” Apparently you can work yourself nearly to death when you are younger than 40, but older than that and, well… she’s right. Getting older should mean getting wiser.

One year older and a bit wiser, I recognized that if I didn’t ‘get a grip’ I’d likely hurt myself again this summer. So I have vowed not to push myself to the brink of disaster. I am going to consciously enjoy the fact that I am living my dream: I’m developing a farm, growing my own food, learning useful skills, and  am surrounded by wilderness and animals.

I finally accept that I can’t do it all. This year my goal is to learn to balance these aspects of my life better, and realize that these moments of my life are fringed with joy. Instead of being obsessive about not being normal, I’m beginning to dabble.

My mobile napping unit.

A new found use for my wheelbarrow: it's my mobile napping unit.

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Filed under Food Security, How to..., Just for fun, personal food sovereignty, To do lists