Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Ees Thees Cahl-vin?

"The problem with people is that they're only human."
- Hobbes (a very wise tiger)

Somewhere around grade 8 or 9, I was introduced to something which has remained important to me ever since; the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes *. I devoured the few collections already published, and was lucky enough to have new releases bought for me. I still count myself lucky for that, although I doubt I recognized it at the time. At that age, something about the 6 year old reminded me of myself a few years earlier; rather imaginative and often in trouble because of it. Even at that age, I could recognize the simple wisdom in Bill Watterson's brilliant strip. And, like so many others, I was crushed when the strip was retired in '95.

When I stumbled across those old soft cover collections after I moved away from home, I would still thumb through them and giggle myself silly, once again easily pulled into the simple but enchanting world of Calvin and his best friend/tiger Hobbes, the spunky but rather lonely seeming Susie Derkins, Stupendous Man, Spaceman Spiff, various ferocious and ravenous aliens and dinosaurs and not to mention the poor, poor parents. It turns out that it's not such a big deal that the strip ended when it did. I am able to read them over and over and over again and they make me grin, laugh out loud, smile wistfully, and even tear up a little, just as with the first reading. Now I am very thankful that the author ended the strip when he did, so its real lovers (not like that, sheesh!) did not have to go through the horribly lengthy and torturous descent of so many other strips like Garfield, Charlie Brown and Archie.

A few years back, a hardcover and stunning new box set collection of the entire Calvin and Hobbes history was released. I noticed it in a mom-and-pop book store downtown and nearly dropped the $150 for it right then. Thankfully I decided not to, as I got the joyful surprise of receiving it as a Christmas present from my brother later that year. Evidently my love of the strip had not gone unnoticed. It remains one of the favorite gifts I have ever received.

Inspiring this post is the fact that I picked up the second volume of this collection recently, and am once again ensconced in wonder. I absolutely love how how much laughter and simple wisdom is contained on those pages. I really believe that they may have been a big part of developing my current consciousness, of becoming who and what I am.

I sincerely hope that parents are still sharing this strip with their children, and enjoying it themselves.

And thank you so very much, Mr. Watterson. I wish I could give you something as important in return.

*Having read through most of the wikipedia contents now, I would suggest that even those who are already fans of C and H go have a look at the link provided. I liked it anyway.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baby, Its Cold Outside

Much of the Canadian Prairies got a good blast of winter over the last week or so, with record low temperatures being set in various places. The -45C that we hit over night a few times was unseasonal for this area at this time of year, but certainly not unheard of. It seemed to make people forget that just prior to this cold snap, many places were posting some unseasonably high temperatures as well. But most interesting to me was the fact that this was the first time I have ever heard such a cold snap cause news stories which warned of strain to the electrical grid due to such a cold spell. I wonder what this means for January and February when we often get several weeks of such low temperatures. Although, I suppose it should be noted that the cold snaps do not usually cover such large areas.

Still, it seems to me that if certain parties had their way, much of Canada would be uninhabitable for 4-6 months of the year. The only thing that makes large portions of Canada inhabitable during a typically long winter, is the consumption of energy that is primarily available only from the burning of biomass or fossil fuel. Certainly there are ways to maximize use of wind or solar energy but this would require a MASSIVE redesigning and rebuilding of our homes, food production, business and infrastructure. I certainly feel that we should be moving toward this goal with all haste, but I do not think it makes much sense to blindly limit the potential for success in the endeavor by intensely limiting the resources which may be used.

I TOTALLY sympathize with frustration towards those unwilling to budge from the status quo but to those who are crying out for someone to come along who is strong enough to MAKE people do what is necessary, I ask you:

What will you do when you're told where to live, what to do with your time at all times, how many children you may or may not have, what you may wear, etc etc, in the name of preserving the future?

That is what is being asked for when one demands the right to inflict their will on another. At that point, the only hope is that the chosen dictator is able to do the seemingly remain totally benevolent.

So do I then support the absolute right of the individual over the society, or the whole?
Well, of course I do not, but surely we can find a way to balance the individual and the society. That is not to deny the fact that this is an intensely complex situation. We MUST figure it out though. We're at such an important crossroad, both for Mother Earth and for humankind. I can't help but feel that simple survival just isn't enough. I can't help but feel that we must live for something.

I live for peace and comfort, for myself and for all. Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas, if I am not back before then.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Worm Warning

Well I have stumbled across one of the few pitfalls in keeping an indoor worm bin. Seeing as I go on about the benefits of keeping a vermicompost bin, I thought I should likely pass on a warning as well.

The organic waste that feeds composting worms so well, can also attract pests like gnats and fruit flies. In my case, I had gotten a bit lax with some non-bin garbage in the kitchen. This led to a minor fruit fly infestation. Now, I know how to build a fruit fly trap, and did so. But some of the flies made it into one worm bin, in which I had placed some old grapes that I neglected to properly cover in bedding for just one day. Since fruit flies propagate so quickly, the next time I opened the box I was greeted by a host of exiting flies. I immediately added cardboard and chopped straw but it was too late. Evidently many eggs were already laid and juvenile fruit flies have been crawling out from the straw like so many zombies erupting from fresh graves.

I have added another trap right inside the worm bin, and have placed some dark plastic over the lid. This should keep the young flies from being drawn to the light through the ventilation holes. All I can really do now is leave the bin this way until all the decomposing vegetable matter has been processed and the feeding/breeding cycle of the flies has been interrupted. We'll see how that goes.

As far as avoiding this situation in the future, the key is ensuring that added food is always covered in bedding. This is a good idea anyway, since it also cuts down on odors and provides a better Carbon to Nitrogen ration. But it DOES make it harder to watch the worms cluster to feed, which is a priority for many...especially before the novelty of keeping worms wears off.

Hopefully this warning doesn't turn people away from vermiculture.

Peace and comfort.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Warning: This post may contain the odd "naughty" word. Sometimes its just necessary.

I am sure others are noticing as well, but it seems to be a good time for nonsense and bullshit again these days. I know this is always going on but it seems like its been particularly bad over the past few weeks.

Some examples:

A) Last week, good ol' Prince Chuck and Camille paid Eastern Canada a visit, landing in Newfoundland and touring all the way to Ottawa. This visit cost we Canadians more than $2.5 million! They live in a fucking palace (more than one actually) and WE have to pay for them to come visit us???

I, for one, am not proud of Canada's formation as a British colony, nor am I proud of the fact that we remain one, even if Her "Majesty" is kind enough to refrain from interfering in MOST of our lawmaking and governance. It infuriates me to hear people talk about the grand history that we "get to be part of", in reference to the British Monarchy. As far as I am concerned, "royalty" is nothing more than polished vulgarity and a WHOLE lot of waste.

B) This should, and may become, a post all of its own. Sometimes I am absolutely astounded at the ease with which people can LIE through their teeth nowadays. I know this was always the case to some extent as well, but it is so bad now that its almost impossible to know what the truth really is, on most any given subject. Last night, for example, New York Times journalist Tom Friedman was on The Daily Show and he became the most recent talking head to claim that the Taliban is partially funding their efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by growing opium in northern Afghanistan. Well, here is just one article from February of 2001 stating the the ultra-religious Taliban had banned opium poppy cultivation and heroin production. A small research effort will reveal many other such articles. So is it a different, less dogmatically rigid Taliban that is currently active, or is someone else growing all this opium in northern Afghanistan now? Of the countries actively struggling over that area right now, which is the most linked to the international narcotics trade over the past 50-odd years?

This is an admittedly debatable example but I am confidant that most readers know what I mean. So many of our politicians, media and business leaders...all feeding us lies and bullshit (sometimes by omission only, but still...) in order to get themselves ahead. And we do it to each other too. I would be lying even worse if I tried to claim that I do not let out the odd defensive lie. But I am also not exaggerating when I say that I very definitely came to realize just how personally damaging it is to do so. Even though this often puts me at a disadvantage socially or in business, I maintain that it is the best and healthiest personal policy over the long haul.

C) The constant shoving of a left-right paradigm onto the population of North America (if not most of the "democratic" world) continues to increase in intensity. And most of us seem stupid enough to buy it, to accept that every issue has a liberal answer or a conservative answer (or that its all the New World Order's fault). I do not understand why we have not rejected this corporate media and political structure which is so obviously detrimental to all but those striving to accumulate more and more wealth and/or power over others. Some would label this phenomena as Memetics and pronounce us to be as much to the mercy of these "memes" as we are to genes and genetics. I can accept the label but I cannot accept the argument that we are at their mercy. We CAN be at their mercy when we do not recognize them, but we can also deny their control when we DO recognize them. I do not deny that there are power-hungry "elites" or "powers that be", who have more access to mass control of memes...but we little regular folk can still deny them. Doing so might hurt a LOT sometimes, but it is possible.

D) I can`t help but wonder when the argument over anthropogenic climate change will get violent. It certainly seems headed that way. The new Climategate intrigue has only intensified the argument. This is another subject I have been meaning to post on for months now, but I find it hard to clearly state my thoughts. Kept simply and briefly, it is obvious to me that industrialization and expansion of the human population is causing significant damage to our planet in many, many areas...likely in many ways we do not even know yet. But I also find it very interesting that we so often lay the specific fault/solution on things we cannot easily see, and many people cannot easily understand. We are all in a frenzy over carbon dioxide and other gases as being the main fault in all the destruction and loss of diversity that is becoming more and more difficult to deny. Well it seems to me that proponents of both sides are overly stressing some facts and totally omitting others, both for rather personal seeming reasons.

For me, as I have said many times, it is obvious that we are causing significant damage to our planet, not the least of which is sucking, scraping, scooping or tunneling every last bit of natural resources out of it that we can manage. Much of this is done only to accumulate more crap that serves primarily to display as high a social standing as possible and/or to gain more control over others. But I also despair to see so much energy being put into a fault and solution that seems suspect on many levels, when we should probably be finding ways to discuss the real issues resulting from so many humans having so many different expectations of a finite world containing finite energy and resources. And I despair to see so many willing to accept living under authoritarianism, even to DEMAND it, in order to achieve what is somehow seen to be "social justice". But I also despair to see so very many individuals disdaining any social controls whatsoever, in the name of freedom.

Its all enough to give a guy a bad headache. Luckily I have a beautiful lake side farm to work at (eyesore of a landfill and all...), and those little bits of technology that help to broaden my mind while keeping it busy as I work away at mindless but necessary tasks. I think I would be a very very frustrated and cynical individual if I was still living in a large city. And I`d be a hell of a lot more worried about the day the store runs out of food.

That`s enough ranting for now I think. I will go back to being thankful for living somewhere that I have the time and full belly to consider such things, where simple survival is not yet a concern.

Peace and comfort, all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vermiculture Update

Time for a worm update.

There has not been quite the population explosion that I was expecting. I am still just at 3 tubs but I am just about to start an additional tub or perhaps two. My local aunt likes the idea so I am setting up a bin for her to use. Her husband, my uncle, is an outdoorsman hunter/guide and he loves to fish so I suspect many of their worms will end up bait. I feel a bit odd at 36 years old, talking like this (seems like something a 12 year old might write about!), but I think that is just some silly residual social programming that I have not quite exorcised. I am more than happy to have this beneficial little hobby that is catching on with some family and friends.

Back to my bins.

As I stated before, I was running low on drink tray cardboard so I was trying to use straw as bedding material. This has been working quite well but quite a bit of chopping helps to speed up the process and this can be kind of a pain in the ass. Scaling up will definitely require a small tub grinder or chipper but this will allow the processing of old round straw and hay bales. I think it will be a good investment because it can also chop up the bedding straw from the livestock. This is always mixed with plenty of manure so after it is piled to heat awhile, it can be shredded once more and then fed to the worms. This will maximize the nutrients and microbiological organisms present in the worm castings.

One mentionable aspect to using the straw as bedding is that I believe it has slowed their reproduction from what I saw in the first bin. That drink tray cardboard seems to provide the ideal breeding environment for these things. So anyone wanting a slow population increase might do well to find some straw to use as bedding for their worms. However, I may also be wrong about this, there may have been a low amount of adults spread among the 3 bins. The bin with the most adults seems like it has had a significant population increase lately, although I will look more closely tomorrow. At the very least, the straw provides them with plenty of oxygen and they definitely seem more physically active in it.

I have also discovered that compost worms LOVE pumpkins. This may be true for all melons but they are simply devouring the unusable pumpkins that I have been feeding them. I suppose this is because the flesh is so soft and mushy but there are not even traces of rind remaining after just a few days. I guess I will be planting lots of melons in the garden next year.

Here is a little video to give an idea of what I mean:

In the background of the video, you can hear Dmitri Orlov of Club Orlov being interviewed by KMO on the C-Realm Podcast. If you've not yet had a listen at the C-Realm, I seriously suggest it. I enjoy it so much that I have gone back to listen from the beginning. I started back in June or July and I am up to episode 129 now. That is 128 hours of listening so far! And I have loved almost every episode. From psychedelia to peak oil to philosophy, this show feeds my head amazingly well. I am downloading most of them, since I know I will want to listen again later.

Before I go, I want to pass on a little suggestion, regarding vermicomposting. After putting raw potato skins in my first bin, and turnips in a recent bin, I really suggest avoiding dense root vegetables without chopping them up quite a lot. I am not joking at all when I say these things last a LONG time in your worm bin, if you do not do so. Potato skins bits may even sprout. I would watch the starch concentrations anyway.

That's all for now, I think.

Be good to each other.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Brain....can't...take much...more...information.

I love this feeling, after a few hours spent following information thread after information thread, learning more and more...cramming more into my under-utilized brain. For example, in wanting to know why styrofoam recycling seems to be pretty much non-existent, I learned about RecycleTech, a company that designs and builds EPS recycling equipment AND which has built a market for the main product (the other by-product being air) of the recycling process. I suggest everyone lobby their local government to look into this company and removing EPS/styrofoam from our landfills. Their website led me to, another site that promises to jam more information into my poor brain...albeit important and required information. With all the building that I am considering, this might well be a very handy site. A worthy learning opportunity indeed!

I remember sitting in classrooms looking forward to the day when I didn't have to learn more boring crap. Windows in these classrooms are kind of like double edged swords. The natural light they allow is so important, but the view to outside can be soooo torturous. Some days I almost wanted to cry from feeling so...imprisoned.

I know now that this environment did nothing to show me the real joys of learning. I realize that there is a necessity to learn some form of structure and discipline, but I can assure anyone reading this that school did nothing to teach me discipline. I learned discipline first from fear and then from maturity...well, I kind of learned it anyway. I must admit it is a lesson I am still but barely passing (even these posts serve as distraction sometimes), but my point is in the source of what improvements there have been.

I look at a family like that of Sugar Mountain Farm, and I see how young learning CAN I think it needs to be, for some. This doesn't mean that I lament my youth, at all. Quite the opposite, as I have said before I believe I grew up "better" than most of my age peers. But I maintain that such an environment as provided on the Sugar Mountain Farm, will result in happier, more balanced and more productive human beings, than 12 years of what I see as little more than learning cells within youth camps. And because of this, it always amazes me that there are not more, a lot more, ex-teachers who have lost their minds. My jab here is not intended at teachers, at all. The vast majority of them were taught how to teach in exactly the same kind of environment so, best of intentions or not, most of them are fighting a lost cause. I should also add that I feel it is very possible to create this sort of environment in an urban setting as well, even on the same grounds as education currently occurs.

My other issue with modern western schooling is the opportunity for potentially questionable social programming. Combine this with the overt AND under-toned push towards conformity and I think you have a recipe for serious trouble. It's no wonder we have a society so full of adults who despise learning, while being so intent on avoiding responsibility and seeking more and more mind-numbing entertainment...and looking more and more for someone to "take care" of everything else.

Along this line, there is another point that we should be thinking about. More and more of our information, our KNOWLEDGE, is being stored electronically. I love the internet and its opportunities, but it would seem highly prudent to be storing our knowledge physically as well, including all known languages. 10 or 20 modern Library of Alexandria's ought to keep a lot of people employed for a long time, hmm?

Learning has to be made important again, and that doesn't have to mean forced in camps.

Feed your heads, my brothers and sisters, feed your heads.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Simple Comments Poll

Yesterday the CBC website carried a news article about a senior official/whistle-blower at the International Energy Agency claiming that the IEA is covering up information which points to validation of looming Peak Oil theories. This will have caused a good deal of buzzing around the world and that was the case in the comments section for that article as well. People on both sides, myself included, were tossing their comments back and forth. As always, I was dumbfounded at the comments of some who seem to feel that stupidly stubborn liberal environmental types who deter exploitation in sensitive areas are the main cause of the apparent supply crunch in global oil supply.

Suddenly it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to toss out a very simple (5th grade?) public opinion poll. This is what I came up with:

Perhaps a little CBC comments section poll.

Assuming there is no real geological limit to world oil reserves (for, say 500 years), just a liberal stubbornness which prevents necessary exploitation:

Should we ignore the suggested "invisible" costs (ecological, social, health, etc) and focus solely on meeting the demand for cheap energy, ie. oil and gas?

Yes = Agree
No = Disagree

Please, if you choose to respond, do so in seriousness.

I am thankful to be able to say that I found some hope in the responses!

When I checked last, at nearly 4pm today, only 17 had said Agree. 80 people said they disagreed. I did not cast a vote but I hope it is obvious that I would be the 81st. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this response even though it would have been nice to have a lot more responses overall.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Br`er Coyote

The star of the last post was out with me again today. Upon another look, I think this is actually a male after all...hence the Br`er of the title. I enjoyed sharing the space with him but it definitely bothers me that this shy creature is forced to hunt in such close proximity to us.

Handsome bugger isn`t he? I managed to get a short video that I thought I would share as well. I missed the pounce but, well you can see what I did get.

WARNING: This clip was recorded from inside the cab of a tractor so please watch your volume. I suggest starting quite low and increasing to comfort.

I took one more video as well, a trip from the field and back with a bale, but it is over 20 minutes long so I will need to edit it before uploading to youtube.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Winter is fairly set in here in NW Alberta, Canada, albeit fairly mild still. The temperature is getting above freezing most days, some days almost to +10C even, but a thick snow a couple of weeks back is keeping the feeling of winter around. Today the ground stayed frozen, as did the water which has been melting in the afternoons these past few days. I have been using the tractor to fetch the last of the straw bales from the field so the big tires were hastening melt and causing slush. Well all this was frozen today so there was quite a bit of sliding about even in the big heavy tractor (seen below). Next summer we HAVE to convert an old hay rack to carry these bales because I have spent waaaaay too many hours driving back and forth to the fields, bale at a time, this year. It is quite relaxing actually, but still a waste of time and fuel. Some steel, a welder and a few days work and voila, we'll have a cart that can carry 9 bales. This means 10 bales a trip, instead of 1.

As I have been fetching these bales, I have been given several reminders of what amazing things are often seen when one has no camera in hand. About a month back, a huge coyote was out in the field hunting for mice, as I was fetching hay bales and dad was raking straw for baling. This fellow (assuming it was male) was more bold than any other coyote I have seen (until today). Most would have darted off out of sight completely, whereas this one remained quite near us both for some time. At one point, it was right up on one row of large round bales. He hopped off as I drew near, and moved away.

Then yesterday, as I was coming in with a bale, I met a different (I think) coyote running along the road toward me. She (for some reason I think this one was female) seemed rather surprised to see me and the tractor but instead of running off completely, she just ran back the way she had come...looking back at me and keeping just a few feet in front of me, before finally scooting off the road to one side and curling back in the direction she had been headed. She ended up in the same field as I was, and would remain within feet of the tractor at times. She never did move away to a different field, and was again up on a row of the bales, this time laying down for a nice rest after hunting. She would hop down as I drove right by, but would just stretch and hop back up. As I moved away after the last pass, I looked back to see her still laying comfortable on her soft bed with a view.

I think I saw this one out hunting yesterday as well, in the same general area. The first time I saw her, she was in mid-freeze and I actually got to see her pounce and drive her feet and muzzle into the snow...and come back up with a FAT mouse. She played with the unfortunate morsel a bit before finally giving it a few serious chews, then flipping her head up and swallowing it down. Funnily, as she was frozen and waiting to pounce, she flipped 2 or 3 annoyed glances over at me and my loud tractor as if to say "will you and that racket please piss off and leave me to my meal-finding?".

I saw yet a 3rd coyote today, this one much smaller and with more yellow in its coat. I suspect it was a yearling. I think the population is so high in this immediate area as there is likely a den in the bush of the large pasture that we only use sparingly. I am considering moving 3 or 4 old straw bales out to this pasture to attract mice. This should provide plenty of food for the family of coyotes and keep them from being too interested in our chickens. Seems a good use of old straw to me. Many people would just go wipe the coyotes out but I like them. They are handsome and clever animals which keep down the rodent population. I think it would be better to provide incentive for them to avoid our livestock and to let them live and have some kind of wildness in their life. If they get to be too many, however, or should they start coming at our chickens anyway, it will be .22 target practice time...and perhaps skinning time.

All this monotonous bale fetching leaves plenty of time for thinking, and led me to wondering about trying to convince the County to set up the farmland they bought from us, as a County wildlife sanctuary. I would think such a thing would have nice carbon credit potential (though I despise the necessity for such necessary incentive). I was thinking that a non-profit agrarian organization could be set up to administrate this sanctuary, and wouldn't the family who has been stewarding the land until now be a good candidate for operating said non-profit organization?

This kind of thinking leads, of course, to thinking about all the various things which could then be done with the land. And it leads to thinking about the obstacles...

Obstacles like county bureaucrats with too much power and caught in non-sustainable development paradigms, or like County Councilors from competing districts who will not support anything that doesn't happen in their district. Obstacles like a growing landfill right next door, which generates profit for the County and whose harm to the County is not immediately visible. And obstacles like this being an area which is not yet willing to see peak resources as any kind of threat.

Oh well, I am glad to have the time for this, and the various other thinking that I am getting the chance to do. It certainly seems that a lot of it should be done as significant chaos looms larger and closer on the horizon. So often I find myself wondering how many of the people that I see scurrying about every day, give any thought to what lies beyond the next few days. They're just keeping on keeping on, I guess...but then that is exactly what got us where we are. What angers me, however, is the knowledge that a time is coming, very soon I think, where all these grasshoppers are going to need the fruits of the preparations we ants are making. Their selfish short-sightedness and complicity to brainwashing is going to mean greater suffering even for those who have tried to warn and prepare. I don't hate them for it, at all, but it definitely saddens me...and angers me.

Speaking of short-sighted...just last week I read an article that made this point so clearly. I read that the Canada Pension Plan had invested $11 billion in an Australian toll highway. I couldn't help but comment at the CBC webpage where I read the article, that this seemed a rather stupid gamble to me. This drew a few disparaging comments in return, which shows many Canadian financial types do not see peak oil as any kind of issue. Personally, even if peak oil wasn't an issue, I think privatized infrastructure (like highways) is a BAD thing that I do not want my part of our pension plan to be supporting, whether it will earn a strong immediate return or not. Luckily for anyone still reading, I will not make this post any more boring by explaining my reasoning for this just now! If anyone is interested, however, Max Keiser talks about this very issue in the last 10 minutes of his most recent Truth About Markets radio show. Max can get a little crazy but I really appreciate his ideas about BOTH the private and public sector being necessary, in appropriate balance and scale.

Thankfully, there are so many things in my life again now that are still able to alleviate sadness, heaviness, and/or anger in a moment, or a breath. Like late this afternoon, taking a few steps away from the idling tractor, standing on a low rise, looking off to the west toward the low sun glinting back at me and mixing stunning pinks into the blue of the clouds (all that CO2 certainly makes more stunning sunsets). The slow breeze had backed off and the mild, darkening afternoon forced a grin onto my face. I am glad for all my wandering, but this is most definitely right for me now. Its a looooong way from balanced, but I surely feel that I'm on the right path, even as the world goes to shit.

Peace and comfort to all.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Samhain and A Sort of Beginning

I knew it was a good idea when a nearby tree offered up a near-perfect stick.

This might seem an odd way to start a post with Samhain in the title, but I think it will make sense eventually. Being of at least half, perhaps as much as 3/4, Scottish blood, I find myself easily drawn to pagan Celtic lore and ceremonies. This is especially true as I open to the importance of balance. As such, Halloween is coming to be more powerful to me as the eve before Samhain (pronounced sow-en) than the more recent christian derivation or even the modern dress-up and gorge on candy or booze fests.

I decided this year to make a special effort to celebrate this end-of-harvest and Celtic New Year day. I had originally intended to have a bonfire on the bank of the lake last night but, as it is wont to do up here, the weather intervened and it was a shitty windy evening. I came home already thinking to next year and perhaps inviting some family and friends if the weather was decent. But today was a calm and rather lovely, although still rather cold, day do the urge to do something this year returned.

I used some logs which were originally cut for the old house wood heater which is burned so very very rarely nowadays, to build a firepit on the very edge of the bank of the lake. I had to carry the logs quite a little distance so two trips, bearing 4 logs each time, was nice exercise and kind of rough on my niggling lower back. The last 7 logs went over in the back of Dad's truck. Just as darkness was set in, around 7 pm now that the clock has fallen back an hour, I had My little box of fire alight. I realized I would need a poker stick so I went to a nearby fallen dead tree where, lo and behold, I was able to snap off a thick but gnarled branch of the PERFECT height to lean on, which also had a spot at the top which fit my hand ideally. Obviously the spirits were pleased so I spent the next two and a half hours enjoying the flying sparks, fresh air, and a moon oh-so-near full, all the while pondering the year past and the one coming, the revitalizing winter before that which now seems begun, and souls close to me which are now passed from this world.

The evening was definitely chill, harvest is WELL done with now, but near the fire it was just a fantastic night. I could well imagine a larger fire, perhaps two or three or more, with family, friends and neighbors milling around and sharing the special night. I am hoping that within a few years, this day will mean inviting the community to share an evening on our farm, reversing the trend of isolation and stand-offishness towards "outsiders" which can be quite heavy in part of my family. I want our farm to be important to the community, from a leadership and spirit standpoint.

In truth, I was quite intent on this plan for another reason, so I think I would have had the fire tonite anyway, even had it been -15C. The reason for this is that I learned of a close family death yesterday. It seems that my brother and his new wife had been pregnant and there was a they lost what was to be their first child (for which I know they have been hoping so much...) and I lost my first niece or nephew. As Samhain is a time of a blurring between life and death, I felt a strong impulse to use this powerful day to celebrate this and all such brief lives, and to grieve with my brother and sister-in-law...even over thousands of miles. I know God or Mother Nature or whichever, have their reasons for such things, and balance can be a grim business at times.

For this reason, and for others, this tradition will continue at our farm until (God forbid) it is no longer possible to do so. I hope that it will grow and grow.

Peace and comfort to all, especially to we Northern Hemisphere folk who are now entering the darker half of the year. And peace to you, little niece or nephew.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yellow Puffs to Oval Boxes

A very happy event occurred on the farm today, leading me to finally do this post.

I have mentioned the fresh, free-run egg business that is being added out on the farm briefly in the past, and I have been intending to post the process (and hopefully progress) here on the old blog. However, as things will be, I have not done so yet. But, as I said, something happened today which meant it was time to do some catching up. Good thing I have had my camera along most of the days I have been at the farm, so I have been documenting.

This was day one, back in early June.

We started the chicks in a small shed/coop which housed the last batch of hens that mom kept. It was quite a bit of work to prepare this approximately 10 yr old shed. The USB floor had given way in a few places (have I mentioned how much I hate USB?), so I replaced that with 3/4" plywood. Then I hosed down the inside of the shed and gave the walls a bit of a scrub. I likely should have used some sort of detergent but there'd been no illness or non-meal-oriented death in the previous hens so I made due with just a scrub. I used bubble wrap vent insulation to make a circle enclose for the first couple of weeks, to keep the chicks from clumping in the corners, which significantly decreases the chance of squashed/trampled chicks. Indeed, we didn't lose any birds this way, and only lost about 4 young chicks overall. 4 out of 200+ isn't a bad mortality rate at all. I should also mention that we used pine shavings as bedding. I would have preferred to use contractor's sand in order to reduce dust and the chance of starvation due to gorging on shavings, but it was not easy to locate. Next time we are using straw, since we always have it and it decomposes in a fraction of the time.

My folks did not remember how quickly chicks grow, and they hadn't been taking my wheedling seriously so it was something of a surprise to them after about 2 and a half weeks when the young birds had almost quadrupled in size. Crowding was beginning to be an issue and some of the chicks were being pecked badly. I had to retrieve about 6 of them and set up a separate "recovery" area. Then it was time to get those birds outside!

A day or so before letting them outside I had tried to distract the little buggers from their pecking by setting up their roosts. This allowed some chance to escape from pestering, and helped to maximize the space per bird ratio. I took this chance to thin some young poplar stands for this project, and again later when it was time to build roosts in the larger coop. It distracted the little buggers for a time, but only getting them out of doors would really work. And so it did.

I also built a "rockin' roost" outside which some of the birds came to really enjoy.

About a month earlier, I had transplanted some carrigana shrubs along the west fence, intending for them to grow into a sheltering hedge in a few years. The seeds are also a nice protein source for the birds, or even a main food source if necessary. Luckily they had just enough time to settle in before the chicks were unleashed on them, and then were moved to the larger run before they got too big, so the shrubs should survive nicely.

I guess my folks felt the southern run that was already there (built by myself, my dad and my uncle around 10 years ago, with much fighting of course...) was not enough, so they got to building a temporary run at the north end of the small coop, out the main door. It was quite hilarious to watch the whole flock suddenly take off running/flapping from one side, through the coop and all the way to the far end of the other run...only to do it all again a few minutes later. And Isa Browns are supposed to be calm birds. I think something went very wrong in the breeding of this batch.

The first big surprise to me, was just how much destruction such a flock of little critters could cause. These things literally devastated both the north and south runs, including killing a small willow. Soon enough, however, all the shite left behind will eventually result in a lush growing area, indeed some grass has already begun to grow in thick and green.

This devastation rather hastened my construction of the larger run attached to the larger new coop/shed which is to be home to these ladies for the rest of their lives. By early August I had moved the flock to their new home which they took to quite eagerly, although with some fear early on!

In September I built and installed the nesting boxes, since we were thinking that eggs would begin to appear around the end of October. Behind the nesting boxes, venting insulation was stapled to the wall, as this is the northern wall. I still need to cover the lower stuff with cardboard or plywood as the ladies predilection for pecking has them eating small bits of the mylar.

As the days are getting shorter and colder and the birds are spending more time inside, it became clear that ventilation was needed. We needed a window anyway, to provide some natural light during winter, so I went to the building supply recycle place which just happens to be within sight of where I sit as I write this post. I found something perfect for the planned location, a long and narrow window which could be mounted so as to allow opening at the top for ventilation. I think it was removed from an old school portable room or something like that. At 10$, I wish they'd have had 9 more or so!

Outside, it has been a little bit rainy over the last few days, and with the birds being mostly full grown now, and therefore wreaking havoc on the grass and ground in their run. As such, the run near the coop has become quite muddy and gross, so I broke up several old and wet hay or straw bales and spread them around. The ladies just love this, especially since much of it is wheat straw containing many stray seeds. You can also see the clump of willows in the background here. Many of the ladies spend all day trying to roost in the branches or huddled on the ground in the shade and/or out of the wind.

A little over a week ago, many of the hens began to display the bowing posture, as if to be mounted by a rooster, when someone would walk by. This shows that the birds have reached sexual maturity so we began the look-out for eggs. Up until today, one or two of the nests were being used, but so far nothing had been left but the odd shite.

But then, today...or I guess yesterday since its well after midnight now...I happened to have a look and, lo and behold, there in one corner lay two pristine brown, strong shelled pullet eggs. And only slightly smaller than full size! Really, it is surprising that the first eggs have well formed shells like this. Typically we'd have found a pile of soft shelled ones to start with. It must be that we started laying out oyster shells quite early on. Sadly, I must report that I retrieved the eggs to show them off to mom and dad, too quickly to think to take any pictures of them. But I promise they were there, right where the red mild crate is in this picture. Yes, I put a milk crate nest in each corner, since they obviously want to lay there. The buggers better use those stinking nests tho!!!

I'm sure they will start doing so, very soon. Looks like the water got put into the house just in time because there's going to be plenty of eggs to wash soon.

Happy event indeed!

By the way, how's this for an eyeballed fence line?

Next year we may build a twin setup beside this run and double the operation. I think I will suggest 150 hens per run, however, should we decide to expand. I really feel that we have about 50 too many birds in the run now. You never know though, some of the fatter ones might end up roasters.

So that's it for now, but there is more to come on the chicken topic for sure.

Be good to each other.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't Hide From Your Shit!

Well, for the first time ever, the family farm has running water to the living quarters. The contractors are still working, but as of Tuesday evening the kitchen taps were functional. No more filling pails for indoor use, no more carrying them to the house from the old pump all through winter. Part of the 20th century, and it only took to the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

Soon, if it isn't done by now, the plumber will work on the toilet. I am happy about all but this.

Flushing toilets are perhaps the most bothersome aspect of modern civilization. Indeed, higher population concentrations have always had troubles dealing with their own bodily wastes. In an effort to inhibit pathogens from continuing to cause death (an obviously worthy endeavor) we have harnessed yet another limited resource, perhaps the most vital... naturally occurring fresh water.

As most of us now know, flushing our toilets is the largest use of fresh water in our homes. Such use commits this water to long periods of time in toxic conditions and introduces these toxins back into the water table before there has been time to remove them naturally. As well, in order to reduce the amount of water sitting in holding lagoons, this water is processed out of the lagoons, sterilized by harsh chemicals, and then sent back into the drinking water supply to be re-used.

Mmmmm chlorine water....

If we only had a balanced outlook on our own wastes, much of this situation could be fixed. Composting toilets DO require a bit more effort and care, but the reward is huge. We could re-engineer our water and sewage infrastructure in a far more sustainable and healthy manner, as well as properly reintroduce vital nutrients and healthy soil building matter to our environment. Humanure (a word coined by a dude whose name I cannot remember just now and which I don't have time to find again), once composted (preferably vermi-composted), is one of the finest fertilizers around. If there is a concern about remaining pathogens, it can be used for non-fruit or nut bearing trees, although properly composted humanure is toxin and pathogen free.

I can't believe we used to dig all those damn outhouse holes, when all we really needed was a bucket chamber and carbon material such as peat moss (which is all over the bottom of the lake/slough), chopped straw (which we always had plenty of), or wood shavings/sawdust (which we also had plenty of due to two wood stoves). In that case, ignorance WASN'T bliss, it was harder work, more dangerous.

So in closing,

Don't hide from your shit!!*

*Note: This is good advice for more than just bodily waste.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Solitudinous Communion

I was standing on the lake bank today, looking out over the reeds and water, enjoying a beautiful fall day. I had been gathering some fine manure/soil to use as potting soil so I was wearing my headphones and mp3 player, listening to podcasts. Over the talking, however, I could hear some swans in the distance so I took the headphones off and just stood there for several minutes. I could see, off to my left and probably a half mile away, a group of white shapes whose size and sounds told me were Trumpeter Swans. Straight out in front of me I could hear what sounded to be quite a large flock of Whistler swans. The sounds of both were somewhat faint, uplifting yet calming. Also in front of me, and off to the right at a distance, I could hear Canada geese talking back and forth as well. My folks were in town, my sister at work and the contractors were gone so I had the whole farm to myself. It was a very peaceful and solitary (in terms of humans anyway) sort of feeling.

As I stood there, flock after flock of geese began to fly overheard, off to one side or the other and then right overhead as well. Some of these flocks were huge, some were just a small group, and some seemed to be even larger flocks broken into various smaller sizes. At the height of the mealtime migration, their passing was continuous. All together, easily a thousand geese flew over in a space of about 10 minutes.

It was one of those moments that can most definitely be shared, but just has a certain special quality when experienced alone. It is rare to find these moments in our world nowadays. It seems that most people expend a great deal of energy in order to spend as little time alone as possible. I do not think this is a good thing. We need time alone in order to ponder and to reflect. We need this in order to be truly comfortable with ourselves as individuals, and therefore in order to be truly comfortable in our world. Even Superman had a fortress of solitude, after all.

Granted, it is also to go the other way and spend TOO much time alone. I am likely guilty of this at times, being a life-long bachelor and all...and given my tendency to find most people to be selfish and shallow. Still, I think I prefer this than to be uncomfortable with solitude. I don't think I would give up moments like today for anything. It's where I find balance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Dubious Power of Man

The farm where I grew up, that I have talked about so much over the past months, sits at the base of a large hill. Up one side of this hill a 4 lane highway runs north and south. The hill was actually somewhat re-engineered when the highway was upgraded from two to four lanes. Running east and west over the hill, is a fairly heavily used and fairly wide gravel road. A rail track runs around the west side of the hill, following the north/south highway. A thick but shallow ravine runs down this western side of the hill, and during spring thaw much water runs down this ravine and out over the farmland (belonging to a neighboring farmer of the large-scale industrial sort) which is immediately at the base of the hill, and then down over our last field, before emptying across our pasture into the lake.

I have always remembered a stand of trees that stood to the northwest, starting just beyond the gravel road on our side of the hill. As a matter of fact, I think I have a picture of it.

Well yesterday, when I looked off in that direction...I thought the view seemed odd. But then, all the snow on the ground seemed a bit odd too, as did the sub freezing temperature. I think my mind just registered the odd view as heavy cloud cover but when dad later asked me if I noticed the bush was gone, well I suddenly realized why it seemed odd.

Yep, that old stand of trees is gone, and its only been 2 days since I was out there...

I guess someone is putting an acreage there and the stand was in the way. I wonder if they have any idea how significantly that changes the northern view from our place. That hillside was so stark against the steel gray sky.

That might seem like something of a selfish comment but the year 2009 has been one of quite a lot of tree stand removal in the immediate area. Back in the early spring I wrote of the destruction of a stand on land that was in my family until just a few months before that, in order to expand the local landfill. A few other stands were removed or cut back significantly in order to make room for the Alaska highway Grande Prairie ByPass expansion this summer. This mess is 4 miles from us and is also removing my quiet backroad route out to the farm. Another big stand was cut way back earlier this spring, nearer to town. I'm not sure of the purpose for this one. And these are just the ones I know of because they are immediate to my view.

It still amazes me how quickly we can rip through a stand of trees nowadays, indeed how quickly we can reconfigure the terrain of an area. There is usually an aspect of order to what results but there is no longer room for diversity or healthy balance. And how many trees are being replanted to make up for those destroyed? What is the true cost of these projects?

To be fair, we did some "reconfiguring" at the farm this summer too. A new well was dug and trenching laid in, so that Mom and Dad could finally have running water to their house. Yes, the house I grew up in was unplumbed and the house they live in now had only outgoing plumbing until now (although we are still waiting for a pump so that the installation can be finished. We also re-channeled the spring run off creek that runs through our yard, in order to alleviate spring flooding. It would have been nice to put in a pond attached to this creek, especially since that part of the yard is shaping up to be "Fowl Land", but money doesn't grow on trees and I just didn't feel like digging it out by hand and by myself. The time was better spent on other tasks anyway.

I am worried that we might need to do one more round of this before winter sets in, as the water line trench needs leveling, and a load or two of gravel should go down. I doubt the tractor bucket could handle the trench leveling over the driveway, as it has been so well packed by now. I'm a little bit pissed off that the trencher left it this way, a big fucking lump across the driveway. I am not sure what he thought we wanted to do with it. We should have said something, I know, but still...

Wow, how did this end up ranting about contractor stuff? But then, did I mention we're still waiting for a well pump, over a month later, and after having received a bill for said pump?


Peace and comfort to all, though, even contractors. I am one after all, after a manner.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Harvest 2009

I am not yet used to the traditional ceremonial seasonal (too many al`s??) calendar dates like Autumn Equinox that passed 10 days ago. Yet whenever I realize one of these dates has passed, I feel as though it is something to which I should be paying closer attention. That I do not do so suggests to me that I have a good distance remaining to go until I reach something of a balance between self-centeredness and, hmm, whatever word suits the other end of that spectrum.

This line of thinking relates to the "harvest" theme in that personal insight may be harvested at any time of the year, wherever one may be. Consciousness provides this bounty.

Looking back at the two seasons past, spring and summer, it is easy to see the disappointments, personally and otherwise. Planned tasks which remain unfinished, some even un-started. Lack of rain leaving the ground parched to the point of large cracks in the fields, pastures, garden and yard, even though the well pumped worked hard to irrigate the latter two. Finally today, a day of rain and drizzle allows for reflection back over these things.

But this reflection also reminds of the great bounty that was received despite the weather and time spent at things that can later feel wasteful. Despite the dry, I am 1.5 days from being done bringing in all the hay from the fields. Assuming a typical winter, there should be plenty of feed for dad`s cattle without having to buy any. We even managed to lay in 2 small fields of fava beans as silage. This will be a nutritious addition to their hay on especially cold days. Once the hay is in, we`ll hire a trailer and driver and bring in all the round straw bales as well. Our 3 grain crops managed to produce a good amount of straw, also despite the dry, but if the damp that has come today persists, we may not be able to bale up the last field. Given the arid summer and fall so far, we will likely get the full 3 fields of straw in. Just two of them will mean there is plenty of straw for bedding when needed over the winter.

On a side note: since we have such a small herd now, and the winters have been relatively mild, we do not go through a lot of straw. This means we have a buildup of a few years now, of old straw (and hay) bales. As such, I have YEARS worth of worm bedding, carbon for compost piles, mulch, etc etc. The large amount of our own straw that we have not been using, plus all the local large scale grain farmers whose combines just chop up and blow their straw back out on the ground (which doesn`t send a whole lot of nutrients back into the soil), it amazes me that there is NO straw bale construction going on around here. How I wish I had access to some capital...

Back to Harvest 2009, the garden that initially seemed like it was going to maybe not produce much at all, finally ended up turning all the irrigation into a pretty decent yield.

Some might recall that I planted a patch of the garden in the Three Sisters manner, combining corn, squash and climbing beans. Well, late frosts did in the squash and the climbing beans. I ended up with one pathetic runt of a squash plant, one larger squash plant that managed to blossom but was not able to bear fruit, and one lone bean that didn`t climb at all but remained very bush-like...and which produced perhaps 4 scrawny pods. It was also looking like the corn might not turn out to much, but it ended up producing probably 250 delicious ears of corn. We ate steadily from the patch, plus mom was able to freeze about 150 ears. I`m tempted to do two patches next year.

A large patch of potatoes produced decently, although the white potatoes are mostly fairly small. The reds, of which around 150#`s were sold, paying for most of the cost of the entire garden (other than time spent seeding and maintaining).

Our beans, however, produced very little this year...maybe 3 lbs worth.

The peas were much better producers, although I feel the patch was too small. Mom got a decent amount frozen though.

The onion sets turned out quite nicely, yielding a decent amount to store. Those grown from seed did alright as well, and the greenhouse still has a few growing.

There is a nice amount of tomatoes ripening off the plants now, or frost would have done them in. They`ll be canned soon. The greenhouse tomatoes have provided us with cherry type tomatoes for every meal for a good 3 months now as well.

Both the garden and greenhouse cukes produced decently as well, although one section of greenhouse cukes were overwhelmed by roots from adjacent tomato plants. The same thing seemed to happen to a small group of melons that dad put in one bed with some tomatoes...a good lesson here it seems.

Thanks to my brother`s lovely wife, mom was introduced to kohlrabi (sister in law is German where it is very popular) and so two patches were planted to a lovely result as well. Seeming to be a cross between cabbage and turnip, I doubt I will be fond of the taste but I`m sure its enormously healthy, like both cabbage and turnip. They and many of the other vegetables will go into the delicious soups that mom makes and freezes.

This year`s radishes seemed to be a disappointment. I`m not fond of them so I don`t tend to notice, but my dad loves them and I don`t recall seeing him eat many of them at all. I think many went woody very quickly, and then to seed.

The pumpkin patch was late to get going seriously, but it still produced a few `kins which are currently ripening indoors. I`m not sure why they were more successful than my squash.

Mom also ended up with a couple of rows of pretty kick ass looking sunflowers too (sorry Linda, I`ll share pics later tho). They drew honeybees like nothing else. I had forgotten that about sunflowers. This really got me thinking about wanting to set up a colony or two.

Mom is also looking at getting into growing gladiolas on a small commercial scale, so she set in a nice big patch of them which did their thing well, according to her. I don`t really know anything about them but she was happy with the result. I will definitely have to add pictures of the bulbs we pulled though. They look very cool, with all the baby bulb stalks and such. I don`t think I have seen anything like them before. Pretty flowers too, I must add.

We are hopeful that we will be harvesting pullet eggs by the end of the month as well. Mom`s young flock of laying hens are doing very well, although they look nothing like the other Isa Browns that mom has. I got the nest box built and installed a few weeks back and once I add walking rails so the birds can more easily access each nest, I will do a post with pictures of the summer`s progression from chick to laying hen.

We are down to two of the old hens that I mentioned in Old Lady Tractor
. One died suddenly one night a few months back. Nothing seemed wrong with her but she had been the injured escapee mentioned in that post. Then the other darker feathered bird started to decline as well. She didn`t seem to be suffering but one day mom pointed out that she couldn`t even get up off her side so I went to have a look. Sure enough the poor old thing was laying pathetically on her side, legs sticking straight out in the air. So I got the axe and went to put her out of what I felt must be suffering. As I did so, I thanked her quietly for what was given to us through her, and I hoped that we had given her a decent life...although obviously not an ideal one. In the end she was, or is being, harvested by nature itself, as I deposited her remains where the carrion creatures would do what they are meant to do, and what is left will be nutrients for more life.

I can`t help but wonder where the feeling that the harvesting of this life has more significance than all that vegetable life mentioned earlier. I AM thankful for it, but I did not express my gratitude with the harvesting of each life, as with the bird. Perhaps that is just ease as there was only the one bird and a whole LOT of vegetable ones. Ah well, that is for subsequent consideration I think. I have been sitting here long enough now.

I had wanted to mention that I feel there was significant harvest this year, that had nothing to do with caloric consumption or income or anything like that. I gleaned a great deal from this summer, not the least of which was a re-appreciation for truly productive physical labor. This is something I intend to continue. The other really significant harvest gained this year was a reconnection with my parents. It has not been all roses, by far, but it has been good...very good. It has also solidified my intention to maintaining this focus on what I feel to be proper living in preparing for much different times.

In the end, I think it has been a very good year in terms of harvest even though it has been an expensive year, due to preparations for the future. But such preparation will, hopefully, help to ensure future harvests. We`re thankful for what we have, and what we have the potential for.

Peace and comfort, to all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Red Worm Update

I figure it is about time for a worm composting update but pictures will have to wait for a future update. The inspiration for this update lies in the fact that I have now added a 3rd bin to the lot. This isn't QUITE as amazing as it may seem, because the first bin is just about finished and mostly empty of worms. Although, having said that, I'm glad that this first batch of worm shite is at this stage in the fall because this way I can be sure that as many cocoons as possible can hatch. Having started with such a small amount of worms, I find myself trying hard to avoid the loss of even one this stage of the game anyway.

I am still incredibly impressed with how this little project has been proceeding. My worm population has absolutely exploded considering I started off with somewhere around 150 worms. When all the worms that I have right now have reached maturity, I suspect I should have around 2 lbs of worms. But, having said that, I also have a huge amount of cocoons just starting to hatch in the 2nd bin that I started. Within a month I will be pulling that first set of mature adults which began the 2nd bin, and will be ready to start yet another bin with a significant amount of breeding adults. At that point I will have 3 bins processing mostly optimally and a 4th just about finished to the point that my first bin is now. All this in around 4 months.

At this point, I have pretty much exhausted my stored up supply of shredded paper cardboard (from drink trays and old egg cartons, etc) but that is fine. I moved the first bin out to the farm to harvest so I have started to use materials only from there. Since we have a LOT of old straw and cow manure there is a large amount of the kind of food and bedding that worms love and so I have started using it. I am soaking the old manure or spraying it well, to get it nice and moist and then I am adding a layer of wet straw at the bottom and a layer of drier hay on top to keep moisture down where the worms can use it best. Some other moisture-bearing and partially decomposed vegetable matter are also added, periodically, for shorter term worm food. The worms seem to love this environment and I find them crawling through the straw much quicker than they do through the shredded cardboard that I use here at home. Now I am waiting to see how quickly and plentifully they start dropping cocoons.

I have decided not to attempt an over-winter outdoor worm bin this winter, for various reasons. Instead, I will just do what I can to increase population as quickly as possible, while deciding just how large a scale seems feasible.

Well, that's all for now I think.

As Mick Foley would say, "Have a nice day!!"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vocal Emotional Inspiration

I came across this copy of a performance from the 2005 Juno Awards in Winnipeg that I felt must be shared.

For anyone who doesn`t know, the Junos are basically the Grammy`s of Canadian Music. As such, you`re only going to hear Canadian artists at this music show but we have some excellent artists. This performance combines two of them as it is the stunning k.d. lang singing Leonard Cohen`s "Hallelujah". I am sharing it here because I think it must be one of the finest performances of any song that I have ever heard (and I work in that business so I have heard a lot of performances compared to many people).

Most people are going to be familiar with the song, but anyone who doesn`t know k.d. lang`s singing...really should. I would love to say more, but having just listened to the song I am a bit choked up still.

Peace and comfort to all.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Its Been Some Time

I keep thinking of things to write but then I get home and go into intake mode again. Happens during harvest time I guess. The days start to shorten and the leaves start to change. I know old man winter and a time of low productivity is not that far away, even while I'm still working in shorts, tank top and sandals and just wanting to enjoy the mild weather. I know, I know, sandals are hardly the appropriate attire for driving tractor and other farm work but why get socks that dirty and full of foxtail? Plus, walking around in granaries or grain truck beds full of grain is much easier barefoot, I think. And barefoot is more quickly achieved when wearing sandals than socks and shoes, and far more comfortable when it is hot and hasn't rained in over a month. Anyway, I digress...

Suffice it to say, as we all know, 'tis the busy season for we farming types, or we "making some effort to live as a farming type after a lot of years away from it" types. I'm still not working from sun up to sun down as real farming types do, but I'm making an effort and that means I don't get home til after 10 pm most days. All this whining is basically preamble to my apology for being so quiet for awhile. I have actually taken quite a few pictures that I have been meaning to share here, along with accumulating the aforementioned writing thoughts. Perhaps I will get to them in a series of closing out the "summer" season posts.

Having said that, I saw something at around 8:30 last night that I sooo wished I could snap a picture of but my camera was too far away. I have come to love to take pictures and as many others likely know, it is agonizing to look at a scene just begging to be photographed...and to not have a camera accessible. Anyway, I thought I'd share the image anyway, or try to.

The sun was moving towards setting in a cloudless but dusty/hazy sky over a single line of trees. The beginning-to-darken blue of the sky was a cobalt color, at least through my sunglasses (the actual sunset turned out to be stunning too, a short time later). There had been two hot air balloons in the sky off a few miles a short time earlier but one of them had since landed. The second was a small shape, only just recognizable as a hot air balloon, which seemed from my perspective to be heading directly at the waning sun. I could not help but grin as I thought it looked like some wingless Icarus actually trying to see how close it could get, perhaps attempting to ride it over the horizon.

I was really tempted to make the 10 minute drive to the truck and back but I knew I wouldn't get back in time and the field really needed to get done.

Here is one where I did luck out, I think:

I think you can click on the picture to view the larger version. Without wanting to toot my own horn, so to speak, I feel this might be the best picture I have taken so far. Nature just kind of lined up perfectly right as I happened to be watching with my camera.

Talk to you again soon.

Peace and comfort to all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Connections, and Yogic Service

I love the endless connections a person can make on this good old interweb. It is truly amazing how this creation has changed my (and obviously billions of others) life. I have always loved to intake various kinds of information and the internet makes this almost infinitely possible. Today's journey has been particularly interesting so I thought I would share.

The catalyst for today's journey was a podcast series that I have been listening to lately. The C-Realm Podcast has been running for a couple of years now, but I have only discovered it recently. The "C" stands for consciousness and the host, KMO, has created a show which truly examines AND feeds consciousness from a tremendous variety of directions. I think anyone who is a return visitor to this blog will find KMO's work to be informative and mentally stimulating.

Back to the topic at hand...

By listening to the C-Realm Podcast, I was introduced to another Podcast series called Psychonautica. These casts can be found at the Dopefiend network website. In listening to one of the Psychonautica podcasts today, I was introduced to the work of Dr. Stanislav Grof, a psychiatrist with more than fifty years experience researching the healing and transformative potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness. This connection alone has been tremendous due to my rather large interest in his areas of expertise, but there was more to come.

Thanks to Youtube's automatic viewing suggestions, one of the Grof videos led me to this short 2-part video:

This video really resonated with me for a couple of reasons. For one, I have been increasingly drawn to yoga, also for various reasons. Not the least of these is the fact that yoga comes from one of the oldest eastern philosophies, the one to which I feel most drawn (albeit from limited knowledge). Indeed, there are theories that yoga was created (or given to mankind) as a means to deal with catastrophic occurrences, not unlike those we are likely to be facing very soon.

The other reason that I was inspired to share this video was the concept of service as opposed to charity. I agree completely that charity is divisive in that it tends to signify the giver as being higher in status than the receiver. I much prefer the idea that all individuals making effort to be of service to the whole (by which I do not mean the whole of humanity). I cannot help but see this as a much healthier mindset and one more likely to be of lasting benefit to both the individuals and the whole.

It is a mindset that I have not yet achieved, but I definitely see it as part of finding balance which I am fond of pointing out to be so incredibly important.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So Lucky

If you love nature and are lucky enough to live (or have grown up) beside a marshy lake, you can have the chance to see some pretty amazing things. As I have mentioned before, growing up by one such lake here in NW Alberta Canada I had the chance to see all sorts of various waterfowl living here or passing by. Regular inhabitants were Canada geese, mallard ducks, Franklin gulls, typical garbage dump/city seagulls, and various shore birds. Visitors included Trumpeter swans, other swans, cranes, and even a blue heron stopped for a meal some years back. Odd and rare flyers-overhead have included wild turkeys and pelicans (one group flew over the lake about a month ago but I did not have my camera!!). I seem to recall the odd pelican landed to try feeding out of our lake over the years but they will have gone hungry as it is not fish-bearing.

Lately, we have had a pair of bald eagles move into the area. They like to hunt on the lake in the off-winter months, feeding mostly on baby gulls. They love to perch near my parents` house and look out over the lake for prey. We`re thankful for this, since the gull population has been crazy over the past few years, thanks to a huge landfill next door.

This year, we have also been rather lucky in that 4 pairs of Canada geese raised their young just over the bank from our barnyard, for the shore-bound first few weeks of their lives. 3 of the pairs actually raised their young all in one large group. This large group, in particular, kept their group brood in this location for this entire period, which allowed me to take weekly pictures. Finally, both groups disappeared for several weeks, having moved their broods out to the reed beds where they could feed better and mature more rapidly. Recently however, both groups have returned so that I could get some pictures of their beautiful teenagers.

These first four pictures are the large group, 3 sets of adults (likely many siblings), and the entire passel of young. It was fascinating to watch the group hierarchy and sharing of duties. Looking at the fourth picture, however, one can see that several of the young went to feeding local predators or were simply not strong enough to survive.

One of our dogs actually ended up removing one more of their numbers as well. A very surprising act from her. We think it may have been a gift from her, since there is a new pup at the farm who is siphoning some of her attention away. Such is nature, although we certainly are not encouraging such action.

The next two pictures are of a single family. I didn`t get too many pictures of them as they spent most of their time somewhere else. They were also born later than the large group, I think.

What a lucky child was I. I still am.