A Solemn Remembrance of a Stupid Rooster

In this moment, we take some time to reflect,

On our dear departed rooster who is dead, we suspect.

Here is the story of his decision to leave

One day in August, a balmy summer’s eve.

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Current rooster, not dead one…

It was our first evening on our new land,

Everyone was unpacking and lending a hand.

Our chickens had spent the drive in the back of the truck

And were feeling as if they were truly down on their luck.

 

We removed them from the truck as soon as we could

And made a make-shift enclosure right there in the wood.

With a few pieces of fence and chicken wire

We gave them some freedom and fulfilled their every desire.

 

But there was one member of this rattled flock

Who did not really recover from the shock;

He was not at all happy with their new house

And began to plot his escape to live with the grouse.

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And so, one afternoon, while being fed

He saw his chance! He ran! He fled!

Through a small gap between the gate and the feeder

He gained his ultimate freedom and became his own leader.

 

In the days to come, he would return

To gaze at his hens, for whom he would yearn.

But every time we tried to put him back in

He scuttled back into the forest, leaving his kin.

 

We knew he was close, for we heard his calls

With the rising sun and with the sunset when it falls.

He never once shirked his rooster duties

Even though he was enjoying all of wilderness’ beauties.

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And then, one day, all was quiet:

Not a peep came from the forest or the fields by it.

When the second day of silence came to pass,

We knew it was over for our rooster-with-sass.

 

On an afternoon stroll, we found proof of his demise;

We didn’t hear a fight or his strangled cries,

But there on the ground, plain as day,

Were his green tail feathers left in an ominous way.

 

Despite his assumed, unfortunate end,

To the rooster gods,good wishes we will send;

We hope his adventures fulfilled his poultry soul

And his sacrifice helped him reach his goal.

 

This story may be sad, but there are lessons in his ordeals.

In many ways, his actions echo French ideals:

“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la Mort.”

I guess he got all of those, though his days were only four.

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Lamby update!

Since I am spending so much time with these little treasures, I thought I should update you all on their progress (which also gives me an excuse to post more cute pictures). Behold the cuteness of Hamish Donkey-Kong and Wee Willy Winky!

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If you’ve read the “Easter Miracles- Spring Lambing” post from a few days ago,  you will know what a traumatic experience their birth was. Every two hours we have been feeding them with goat baby formula since their mother sustained some injuries during their birth. It is one of my favorite jobs on the farm. Nowhere else will you find two little things that are that excited to see you. Given the difference in their sizes, Hamish gets a little more than Wee Willy Winky, but they are always equally elated when they see me walking up  with their bottles in my overalls.

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I’ve had many questions sent to me about the sweaters that the lambs are seen wearing. It is not super cold up here in Salmon Arm but there is still snow on the ground in some areas. We use the sweaters on the smaller lambs to eliminate the possibility of them becoming too cold from a strong wind; one of the leading causes of lamb mortality is inability to maintain a consistent internal temperature.

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My mom has been making the sweaters for them, but I had no idea how or when; she’s a busy lady. So I asked her how she made them and this was her response:

“Ian (my brother) has been having lots of parties, with lots of girls and boys. During their various shenanigans, they often forget where they put their clothes. The most popular forgotten items are sweaters. If they are not claimed within 48 hours, I cut off the sleeves, cut two holes for legs and voila, lamby sweater! 90% of the time, the owners do not claim their beloved articles of clothing. Ten percent of the time, Ian will come and ask me if I’ve seen Mr.X’s such and such, at which point I will explain to him that, since he and his friends decided to have raucous, inappropriate parties, they would have to make generous donations to suffering lambies as a form of retribution.”

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Fish, Foliage, and Food…Oh My!

The final food production project that we are looking into is called, wait for it…

Aquaponics

(**ooooooh, aaaaahhhh)

We are not entirely sure if this will be a viable project for us, but we are still planning on giving it a go. Here are the basics:

photo courtesy of theaquaponicsource.com

photo courtesy of theaquaponicsource.com

Fish are kept in aerated tanks that are kept at a temperature of around 70 degrees. For the type of fish we are interested in, most likely Tilapia, the room does not need to be lit, but it does need to stay insulated. The water that the fish are in is transported through pipes to plant beds within our underground greenhouse. The plant beds contain soil as well as volcanic pebbles that help to create an environment that is more conducive to good bacteria growth. Worms can also be added to the process. The feces from the fish provides nutrients for the plants and the volcanic rock material helps to ensure that the soil remains rich with these nutrients.

Still with me? I promise this is not coming from a sci-fi movie.

Pros of this technique:

  • Plants are shown to grow 50% bigger and faster with the aid of the nutrients from the converted fish feces.
  • This method, combined with the use of our underground greenhouse, means that we can grow plants like tomatoes, chives, lettuce, and onions all year round! (In addition to the fish)
  • If we do go through with this, we will be collaborating with a fellow off-gridder to make the whole thing automated, eliminating almost all of the maintenance.
photo courtesy of ncaquaculture.org

photo courtesy of ncaquaculture.org

There are, unfortunately, a couple cons that might deter us from pursuing this project further:

  • Is there a way that we can make our own fish food on our land so that the whole process is entirely sustainable? This is yet to be determined.
  • The energy that is required to continuously aerate and heat the fish tank would be a constant drain on our solar panels. Even though we have lots of power coming off our panels, 24/7 drainage like that would mean that a generator would be needed.

Until we determine whether or not we can work around these obstacles, this incredible plan will have to stay on the backburner. But seriously, sounds pretty neat right?

photo courtesy of thinkgeek.com

photo courtesy of thinkgeek.com

If you want more info, take a look at this website. This is something that can be done on any scale in pretty much any place!

http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/

Stay tuned for any new twists and turns that we encounter on our journey for sustainable food production! Who knows what we will come up with next…

 

 

 

Easter Miracles – Spring Lambing

Happy Easter everyone! I present to you a heart-warming, and marginally disturbing, Easter miracle!

Four days ago I received an email from my mom with the subject line “Sheep in labour, lamb stuck, will get back to you.” Concerning to say the least. A couple hours later I received the following email:

(note: the original email has been altered slightly due to an abundance of curse words )

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“The ewe was obviously in labour, so I sat quietly and just watched for about half an hour. She was doing lots of full-on pushing, getting up and down, and grunting, clearly upset. So I thought to myself, this isn’t normal.  I caught her, tied her up, found the internal exam gloves and the KY jelly (official farm equipment) and probed around to see what was up. I figured out that there was a big fat head stuck in the birth canal and no feet or legs. Lambs are supposed to come out with their feet under the nose, like they are diving out. In this instance both feet were back and that’s really bad. I managed to pull the head out, but that was as far as I got since the legs were still behind the shoulders. So there we were with the head hanging out of her and the ewe tied up thinking she was going to die. Things are going well!

Meanwhile, little Natascia is doing well!

Meanwhile, little Natascia is doing well!

I ran back to the house to look at my sheep book.It said that I had to lift her back-end up on a hay bale,stuff the head back in, grope around in the dark and find the legs, then tie string or rope to the legs and pull the legs out with the head. Holy crappers, I said, that’s a bit much for early in the morning. I called the nearest vet, and explained the situation, to which he said

“well, the lamb will be dead, and all you can do is save the ewe, so put straps on her hind legs and make a pulley and then put it over your shoulders and hoist her rear end up, so she is upside down hanging from your shoulders, then push the head back in, and grope around and find the legs and start all over again to pull the no-doubt-dead lamb out.”

Easy right?

Holy double crappers, I said, that’s a bit much for any time of the day! Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I asked for the assistance of our builder , Don, and politely asked him to get his butt over here to help me lift up the back-end of this sheep.Don said he would faint, and I said that was fine as long as he waited until I was finished. We returned to the barn to find the ewe lying down with the lamb’s head sticking out, in great pain and discomfort. I decided to try one more time to turn the lamb around. Using KY jelly on my long gloves once again, I dug around in there. LO and behold, I managed to grab the slippery legs and pull them out partially. I saw my opportunity and sat down to brace my feet. Given that the lamb was assumed to be dead, I pulled the lamb like mad, praying to high heaven that I could at least save the ewe.Out popped a very limp, very dead-looking lamb.

I threw it into the hay, yelled at Don to get me a towel, and proceeded to press regularly on the chest, while clearing mucous from its nose and mouth. Suddenly, the chest moved with a wheezy rattle, so I redoubled my efforts again. The limp head began to move, and I let the mum off her rope so she could start cleaning it up.

the survivor

the survivor

Anyways that was my morning…”

3 hours later, I received another email:

“And now, for the coup de resistance, that ewe that had the stuck lamb popped out another lamb just now! It is half the size of the first, clearly got booted to the back of the uterus… poor wee thing.”

Basically, my mom is superwoman. We have named the two lambs Hamish Donkey-Kong (due to his ridiculous head) and Wee-Willy-Winky. Both are happy and healthy!

Cuddles with W.W.W

Cuddles with W.W.W

W.W.W

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Keeping Positive

The other day I was asked why I started Off-Grid Chick. There are so many reasons why I thought it was important to share our stories with friends, family and others; the tales of our endeavors can be both humorous and informative. The kind of lifestyle that we are working towards is something that I think is interesting to a lot of people and, by writing about it, I am giving you all an idea of what it means to go off-grid. But, today, I was reminded of the most important reason why I started my blog.

My family’s current living situation is as follows: my dad is living in Aldergrove on my grandfather’s farm. This was not a first choice for living accommodations but we are trying to sell the property and it needs a lot of TLC. On top of that, he is starting up a new company called Ethical Planet, a company that provides businesses and cities with sustainable and affordable solutions. The goal is to run the company from Sorrento but it is still very new and needs to a bit more momentum in the Lower-Mainland. MEANWHILE, in Sorrento, my mom is essentially running the farm single-handed. She takes care of all the animals and is making all major decisions for the renovations and building that is taking place. She is pretty much super human. My dad drives up at least every second weekend to help with manual labor. However, given that my brother is still in school, she does a lot on her own.

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Mom dealing with goats

This weekend I was performing a lead role in a children’s musical at UBC, the last performance of my undergrad degree. My mom and brother drove down in the afternoon on the day of the show and came to my performance. Now, any normal person would hang out the next day, since it was a Sunday and there was no school. But my mom has pregnant sheep in Sorrento so, bright and early this morning, she drove back up to make sure everything was ok. I barely got to say two words to her and my brother before they had to leave again.

This is all to illustrate how segmented my family has become. We have basically been split in half so that we can try and make everything work and, even though we are all moving towards the same common vision, it is hard to feel united and whole. When I watched my mom leave this morning, I wanted so badly to go with her and try to make things easier for her because I know she is tired and overwhelmed by the monstrous amount of work that she has to do by herself. As I have finals and deadlines to meet this week, I can’t, but the inner conflict I feel makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and drive up to Sorrento. Maybe I should buy a plane, or helicopter… probably not the most “green” solution.

I am also far away from these cuties. From left: Charlotte and Jack ( not pictured: Rex)

I am also far away from these cuties. From left: Charlotte and Jack ( not pictured: Rex)

So why did I start this blog? I started this blog because going off-grid is hard. It is very easy to get stuck in a very negative space and I find myself returning there from time to time…like today! By focusing on the funny moments and the awesome projects we are taking on, I am able to remind myself that we are doing this for valid reasons and not just to cause ourselves unnecessary discomfort. We are so close and it is so exciting! I just have to remember to be excited…

So thank you to everyone who is reading this and supporting us on our journey! Thank you for your positive thoughts and encouragement! Your viewership means a lot more than you may have realized.

family

Ode to…

hay2Once upon a time, in the recent past,

I was given a gift that was meant to last.

It was a marvelous gift that can never be topped,

And it shall never be sold, re-gifted or swapped.

 

This gift accompanies me through the bad and good;

I have a bond with this gift that cannot be understood.

When I am one with this gift I feel free and alive;

It encourages me to test my limits, to dream, to thrive.

 

But  truly, we have been through it all:

Feces, water, many an uncomfortable crawl.

No fence is too high, no ditch is too muddy,

For my all-terrain,  baby -blue, denim buddy.

 

At this time you must realize what I am referring to,

And right here and now, I am telling you

No matter how much you scoff, laugh or tease,

The truth is, there is nothing better than a pair of dungarees.

 

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Picture 2141

stoked

overalls

that jacket though…

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it’s an addiction… the overalls I mean, NOT building barbeques

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the constant companion…

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rehearsing…in overalls

Thank you to the lovely, talented, and generous woman who re-gifted them to me a year ago! IMG_0668

Hay is not only for horses…

We are getting close to that time of year again…haying time.

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The hay elevator

If any of you have property with hay on it and choose to bale it each summer, you know it is not an easy job. When I was a kid and summer came, we would hire people to do it for us because we didn’t have much of it on our farm and, therefore, it didn’t make sense to have our own equipment. However, now that we have almost 80 acres of hay in two different places, it seemed necessary to do it ourselves.hay

My father went out and purchased a proper baler and learned how to use it behind our tractors. This was a huge job, especially since we had to transport the equipment up to the interior as well. We bought the Sorrento property in July so we weren’t able to do a lot with the hay until August, which wasn’t ideal. My entire family and friend group worked all day and, when it came to the end of August, we worked all night as well just to get it done before September. There are many opinions on the topic of “When to Cut Your Hay,” but from what I have read, it is preferable to cut hay in early July so that you get more of the inherent nutrients. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much choice in this matter. There is also a school of thought that says that you need to cut hay at a certain time of day due to a photosynthesis and plant respiration etc. etc. etc. Clearly, that was not part of our “hay priority list” this time around.

 

Now, I am 5’1 and I don’t consider myself a weakling, so I tried to help as much as possible. My post was usually on the back of the trailer where the bales were being stacked so I could arrange them properly in order to stop them from falling off the trailer (which is a fine art, believe me!). Truthfully, I can’t really compete with someone like my weight-lifting brother, but a strong effort was made on my part.hay4

A particularly important note to mention: No matter how hot it is, do not hay in a short sleeve shirt or, if you are me, a bikini (Exhibit A). Little slivers from the hay will bury themselves in your arms and they will cause a small allergic reaction, resulting in itchy, hot, rash-like symptoms that will last for a day or longer. I found that witch-hazel and aloe vera helped quicken the healing process, of my arms and not my pride.

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Exhibit A : stupidity at its finest

Exhibit A : stupidity at its finest

The one ego-boost my mom and I got from this experience was that the farm hands whom we hired for a couple of days were shocked that we were doing anything to do with the hay. To think that women could lift hay bales? Preposterous!

Proper haying attire!

Proper haying attire!

To anyone who doubts this, I challenge them to a hay bale tossing dual with my mother.

She will crush you. Guaranteed.

 

Goat Antics!

One afternoon last spring, whilst testing out my new camera, I witnessed this hilarity:

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what do you think you guys are doing?

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can I join?

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hanging on for dear life

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hey! Look at us!

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and for my next trick…

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I will jump…

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from one ewe to another ewe!

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Best part about this: the sheep literally did not bat an eye while chaos ensued above their heads. I seriously love my goats.