Some Sunday Frivolity!

Well we have seen the first snow on the hills around us. Time to get the warm coats out!

Charlotte is prepared.

Charlotte is prepared.

 

It has now been almost a year since the tragic Ian incident and the birth of Stewart. I spoke about Stewart in one of my posts last week and I just came across some footage of him as a baby. As I explained, Stewart got his name because of his aggressive personality and the fate that my mom thought he would be handed because of it (Stew -Art- Thou). Now there is video proof of just how much of a brat he was. Watch as he tries to dominate his sister, his fellow kids, and his mom by mounting them between bouts of frolicking and general silliness. I personally enjoy the distinct moments where he stares down me and my camera. He was definitely not afraid of anyone or anything.

To read more info on Stewart follow this link : http://www.offgridchick.com/2014/10/15/introducing-boys-barn-billy-goats-101/

Enjoy the antics of Stewart at a week old!

The Red Kerchief – Community

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Community: A major theme on the blog and on the farm. It has been so exciting to meet so many incredibly sincere and generous people throughout this process who are willing and wanting to contribute to our goals. Whether it is a day of heavy lifting or a friendly comment on the blog, each of these individuals have contributed in their own way. My family and I are so very grateful because truly, we could not do what we are doing without all of you.

Today I would like to recognize one of these special individuals. Known to many as Peter, he is affectionately called the Red Kerchief in our household, among other less flattering nicknames. Peter came into our lives a few years ago and has always shared the sentiments and dreams that my parents have. When he heard about our intention to leave the Lower Mainland entirely and start a treacherous endeavor in the interior, he was the first to volunteer his support. To list and describe everything that Peter has done for our family would probably require at least 5 blog posts, but I will strive to give you a general idea of his complete selflessness and dedication to our projects.

Far Left : Peter without the kerchief...

Far Left : Peter without the kerchief…

Our final move from Aldergrove to Sorrento was a hellish experience. My mother had to stay on the farm in Sorrento to maintain the farm, so most of the moving responsibilities were left to my dad. One small Portuguese man against forty acres full of equipment, supplies and belongings. It was no small task. Peter had been coming up to the property pretty consistently at that point and he had heard the concern in dad’s voice as he explained the situation. Peter saw a need and decided to help; he moved in with my dad for a few months before the actual move, packing, preparing and transporting stuff up to the farm, all while working his computer programming job in Kits. Our family has moved many times, and yet we are not very good at it. I think we all settle into a catatonic state of disbelief as we survey the amount of stuff that has to be done, and therefore everything is actually completed at the last possible moment. Thankfully, Peter was not affected by this moving disease and was very willing to direct the process while encouraging us to move forward and get things done.  The nickname came from the red bandana that he wore every time we were doing heavy lifting during this move. I personally think it was the secret to his endless energy and drive. Or perhaps it was his mystical smoothies he made every day…hard to know for sure.

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Now that the move is done, he continues to be a part of our dream in a very big way; he travels to the farm on a regular basis to help with construction, he has contributed to the purchase of some of our big equipment, and he assists my dad with his extensive research on new and exciting off-grid techniques, among many other things.

The Red Kerchief and I have an interesting relationship. I suppose he is somewhere between my brother and an awesome uncle; we fight, we laugh, we joke, we debate. Sometimes we disagree and sometimes we are doubled-over in fits of giggles. And yet, regardless of these ups and downs, at the very core, he is family, a key member of our growing community of like-minded people who are banding together to make a larger impact. And hey, big tasks are way more fun when you are tackling them together right?

Thank you to each member of our expansive network of “family members” like Peter who are joining us on this journey. What a gift.

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The beauty is...

The beauty is…

We are always accepting new family members! Are you interested in learning about what we are doing on the farm in person? Are you wanting to visit and experience off-grid living? Send me a message! Doors are open!

 

Introducing the Boys of the Barn: Billy Goats 101

I cannot tell you how many messages I get from you guys asking for more goat posts. It is seriously crazy. I mean I totally get it, they are hilarious and cute and full of personality…so of course I will comply.

We currently have 4 stud billy goats on the farm (meaning they haven’t been castrated) and each one of them has their own special story, likes, dislikes, and identifiable traits. Let me introduce…

Sparkles!

IMG_0194Name: Sparkles

Origin of Name: His coloring is a combination of white, black, grey, and brown. As a kid, the white was in little splotches all over him, resembling sparkles, according to my mom.

Nickname: The Geepmeister

Origin of Nickname: Geeps are the product of a goat and a sheep mating. Similar to mules they can’t reproduce.Although we have not actually had a Geep born, we have observed that Sparkles has made many attempts to create one of these…

Birth and Life: Sparkles was born on our Aldergrove property and his father was Weird Willy, the billy goat we had on the farm for a little while. Fitting that he has some unusual preferences  (More info on Weird Willy here: http://www.offgridchick.com/2014/02/28/epic-goat-saga-part-2/ ). Sparkles is a pure-bred Nubian.

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Strider!

IMG_0195Name: Strider

Origin of Name: Similar to the Lord of the Rings character, Strider is the quiet, strong, noble type. He was also born with extremely long legs, allowing him to take long strides.

Nickname: He is too lovely for a crude nickname, obviously.

Birth and Life: Strider was one of the kids that was born after Ian’s fatal mistake last summer ( More info on that incident here: http://www.offgridchick.com/2014/03/03/the-epic-goat-saga-part-3/ ). Strider is half Nubian and half Alpine.

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Stewart!

IMG_0183Name: Stewart

Origin of Name: When Stewart was a kid, he was full of angst. When I would play with the kids, he would be very social with you initially and then proceed to head-butt you, without provocation! Because of his terrible behaviour, we began to call him Stew-Art-Thou, which was eventually shortened to Stewart. Thankfully,he has calmed down significantly.

Nickname: Hipster Goat

Origin of Nickname: He has a tuft of curly hair on the front of his face that looks as if it has been meticulously styled each morning. Out of all the goats, he is by far the trendiest.

Birth and Life: He is also the product of Ian’s mistake. I imagine that he is going to become the most valued stud as he is the most *cough well endowed cough*  billy goat. Stewart is also half Nubian and half Alpine.

Look at that hair

Look at that hair

 

 

George!

 

IMG_0192Name: George

Origin of Name: When we purchased George and his sister Georgina, they were the funniest little pair and we wanted them to have names that went together. The first suggestion was Jack and Jill but since we have a lab named Jack, we had to figure out something else. George and Georgina seemed fitting.

Nickname: Prince,Wimp

Origin of Nickname: George may be the largest billy goat but he is definitely the wimpiest. He looks like a prince among the other goats but cowers in the face of fear.

Birth and Life: George and his sister were born on another farm before we purchased them. They were raised on our property in Langley before we moved to Aldergrove and then to Sorrento. He is currently the oldest billy goat we own as well. Also the smelliest…George is half Nubian, half Boer.

 

Normally, all of these boys get along just fine. They are generally well-mannered. However, when the females are in heat and they are being kept separately, things like this happen:

 

This once had four walls.

This once had four walls.

Nicely done boys.

Nicely done boys.

Sheesh. Gotta love ’em.

Sci-fi Time: Our Gasification Furnace!

Sci- fi time: Introducing the Outdoor Wood Gasification Furnace!

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When you break down how it works, it isn’t really worthy of being in a science fiction novel, but it looks like some kind of space ship right? And it has a reaction chamber! What?!?

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We have had this piece of equipment on the property for almost 6 months now, but we haven’t needed to use it until this month. We are just entering what is known as a shoulder season. Shoulder seasons are the most complicated kind of season because they require constant monitoring; in the summer, you know it is going to be hot and in the winter you know it is going to be cold, but in spring and autumn you have be aware of the changes that occur each day and monitor the temperature. The furnace heats the house through radiators and under floor water pipes, and also adds additional heat to our water when it gets colder as it is connected to our hot water tank.

Proud Ernie

Proud Ernie

Here’s how it works:

After opening the main chamber, you stack a few pieces of wood length-wise, ensure that the fire is going and then close the chamber. Now comes the really cool part: in order to prolong the burn- rate, you need to minimize the amount of air present. The system within the furnace has multiple sensors to observe the temperature and injects air into the fire when it drops below a certain temperature. Using that same principle it doesn’t let it burn too quickly, therefore elongating burn-time. Still with me?

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During this process, gases are released by the burning wood. Through a series of air vents and fans, these gases are pushed downwards into the reaction chamber (oooooh….. aaaaaahhhhhh). Traditionally, these gases go upwards into the atmosphere, unburned, causing more pollution. In this chamber, these gases are burned and then re-burned at up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, eliminating almost all pollutants and creating more heat. This is achieved because the fire is essentially made to burn upside down; the flame is pushed downwards so that when the hot gases rise they are burned again. Get it? Took me a while…

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Why is this piece of equipment important to off-grid living?

– We use 50% less wood to heat our house and water

– If we weren’t using this equipment, we would be heating using solely electricity coming from our solar batteries, leaving no energy for anything else

-By using this system, we are able to repurpose any dead wood found on the property or scrap from renovations to heat without an excessive amount of pollution

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Wood ready to go!

Wood ready to go!

 

Neat right? I thought so!

Next post, we will be moving away from the technical side of things and instead having an in-depth look at the lives of our billy goats. Be excited.

 

Back on the Farm: Fences and Finishes

After being away from the farm for the better part of a month, I have come back to the off-grid life for a good chunk of October. I was welcomed home with a rather raucous evening with family and friends and, after driving four hours alone, I was more than ready to get into my own bed and sleep a full night, accompanied only by the refrains of the crickets. Turns out that was not in the cards for me as we are in the last phase of renovations and the sides are just now being put on the house. I was awoken by hammers pounding on my bedroom walls at 6 am. Lovely.

Renos. Yay.

Renos. Yay.

As I was awake and I hadn’t seen the state of the property and animals the night before when I arrived, I decided to take a walk. Turns out there have been many changes made since my last visit:

– Fences! We have fences! Well, temporary fences. Since we moved to Sorrento, this has been a major hot topic between my mom and dad as there weren’t any proper pastures on the property when we bought it. We have been letting the goats and sheep roam free as a herd, but that is no longer a good idea; goats eat everything and they have been getting into our fruit trees and our neighbours’ trees. It has just been one disaster after another. We recently purchased an excavator that has different attachments, one of which can pound posts into the ground. My dad tried to put up some new fences about a month ago but the ground was too hard at that point and we will have to wait until Spring. But, after yet another one of my mom’s hysterical “if you don’t put up these fences I’m going to (fill in the blank),” dad rigged up a temporary pasture with electric fences.

Can you see the fence?

Can you see the fence?

– We have 11 repaired roofs! Oh happy day! Before we bought this property, it was a grow op. It was shut down after their underground growing space was flooded and emergency services were called. There was some very interesting paraphernalia left behind, including many row boxes and a  delivery van with gunshot holes in the side. Needless to say nothing was maintained. There are many little outbuildings all over the place that are used for hay, vehicles, machines, animals etc. Most of them weren’t usable because of excessive water damage. BUT now they are repaired! Hurray!

New roof and lots of wood!

New roof and lots of wood!

-Now that the weather is getting a bit colder, we have started using our Outdoor Wood Gasification Furnace! Very exciting. This will be explained in more detail in my next post as the furnace and its entire process is extremely complex and similar to something you might read in a sci-fi novel. But for now, it is safe to say that we are entirely set for winter!

 

They all came to say hello

They all came to say hello

Other than that, animals are all well and thriving. The property is starting to look like a real farm now that there are no large holes that need to be filled. I am pretty excited to watch the changing colors on the trees…

 

Stay tuned for upcoming posts! There will be a higher frequency of post writing in the next couple weeks as I am here on the farm and experiencing all of the wonders of farm life first hand!