International Women’s Day

 

This post was originally titled “Disasters -a -Plenty.” But as it was International Women’s Day yesterday, let’s put a different spin on it shall we?

SHOW 'N TELL

If you are a reader of offgridchick, you will have read posts of the struggles and challenges that my family has faced and overcome. This year has been an amazing year for the farm as we are now, for the first time, able to have meals consisting of meat and produce entirely from the farm. We have canned and dried much of our harvest from the summer and my parents just finished building a store on our property where they have been selling their produce and meats, in addition to art pieces from local artists. The store is an adaptable space and it has also been used for parties, yoga classes, and presentations. I am in awe of all that my parents have accomplished in a such a short time. It is truly remarkable.

My parents are an amazing team. My dad is a plans person. He is logical and analytical and likes to think things through. But my mom, she is the dreams person. She very rarely has a plan, but she always makes things happen. In order to purchase and start up the farm, they both had to be on board, but I’m not sure if it would have happened at all if mom hadn’t said “here’s a crazy idea, let’s sell everything we own, leave our jobs and start an off-grid farm in the middle of nowhere!” or “Hey Ernie,  let’s build a store on our property without any blueprint and just see what happens!”

The store without plans (just waiting for the siding to come)

The store without plans (just waiting for the siding to come)

I usually chat with my mom in some way everyday, whether it be on the phone or over email. I get daily updates of tasks that she has to accomplish that would seem impossible to most. Like staying up all night trying to help a sheep give birth to a lamb that is turned the wrong way. Like doing chores on the farm and having the wind blow the barn door shut and being stuck in there for hours because no one else is around. Like wrestling rescue animals to ground to administer antibiotics so that they don’t die from whatever disease they picked up at their previous owner’s establishment. Like taking in animals that are being sent to a slaughter house for no reason, at the risk of experiencing the wrath of my dad (“We don’t have room for more animals! Why did we just pick up 3 more horses?!?”). The most current example: running the farm single handed because my dad has a nasty cold, and still taking a phone call from her daughter who has something trivial to complain about and falling asleep in the middle of the conversation because she has been up all night.

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I always have said my mom is super human, and I really don’t think that is an exaggeration.

FEEDING THE CHILDREN

 

International Women’s Day is so important, especially this year. But I would like to think that I celebrate my mom and the other important women in my life in some way, every day. They have made me who I am today and I know that I carry them with me as I face my own challenges. So thank you, to all of you.

 

The Sixth Sense of Farming

A story straight from the mouth of the Barnyard boss, aka my mother:

It was our big night out on the town, our chance to escape for an evening! In the old days of high style and high consumption, we used to attend society balls dressed in sophisticated attire. Now we were just thrilled to be going to an action packed movie at the local cinema without our muddy boots!

The on screen fury of fists should have been all consuming, but a pinprick of concern was growing in my mind. Something was wrong, I could feel it. Darn, an animal was in trouble! I whispered to Ernest we must check the goats when we got home. I waited impatiently for the movie to end, so insistent was the inner voice telling me I was needed at the farm.

It was midnight when we returned, mist and rain encompassing everything in its damp embrace. “Drive along the road beside the fence, would you?” I asked Ernest, the car’s high beams shining into the field as we crawled along peering into the night. Nothing could be seen, all was quiet. I expected to feel relieved, glad that my sixth sense was wrong, but the uneasiness continued. Grabbing the flashlight, I walked out into the wet night.

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The strong beam of light picked out the goat herd standing like statues in the dark rain, staring towards me, their eyes glittering yellow. There was a sense of expectancy emanating from them as their gaze fixed upon me. Goats hate the rain with a capital “H”, yet here they stood so strange, waiting and watching. I swept the light further down the fence line and beheld two glittering reflections separate from the herd. Something was indeed amiss!

There she was, the goat in trouble, hanging by her neck high in the fence. She had been stretching up to nibble some greenery on the other side, and had wiggled her head and horns through a small opening in the page wire with no way of backing out. She was literally strangling herself as she was losing her ability to support her weight with her small hooves perched on a wire. She had been hanging there for hours, her bruised throat preventing calls for help.

A quick assessment confirmed the impossibility of releasing her by manipulating her horns. “Just hang in there, goaty gal, I’ll be right back!” I reassured her before running off to find wire cutters. Branch loppers left beside the apple tree did the trick, and she fell to the ground in a daze as the wire gave way. Goat family members crowded around curiously while I massaged her neck; soon she was bleating hoarsely and up on her feet.

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Sitting in the barn being soothed by sounds of rain drumming on the metal roof and goats lying peacefully about, I contemplated the enormity of this deep connection between man and animal, where a message of thought from a distressed goat could reach me so perfectly. I felt a deep sadness for all the creatures who have so much to say, but cannot make themselves heard.

What if our planet as a whole respected these sentient beings and honored interspecies communication? How would farming change? How would our world change if we really believed animals, birds and bees had the ability to communicate important information with us and we listened, understood and acted in their best interests? What would happen if we truly integrated the concept that nature is the greatest gift of all, and that we ignore our role of empathetic stewardship to a whole range of magnificent and complex sentient beings at our unparalleled peril?

What. If. We. Could. Feel. Their. Pain?

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With these grand thoughts in mind, I opened the door into the house. Ernest was looking at me intently “You didn’t cut my new wire fence, did you?” he asked accusingly. My guilty grin told the story. Well now, Ernest certainly had no problem with his sixth sense ability!

Desperate Call for Help!

Hi there everyone. We’ve got a problem.

 

My parents were over ambitious and took on too many projects. What is new.

My mother has planted this amazing garden, but has no time to pick all the things that are growing in it because my parents are doing the haying AND building a store AND moving a cabin AND processing our chickens. Things are going to seed and food is being wasted and they need help. I have been here for the past week doing things and my brother helps when we can. But both of us work during the week and we are not able to be here full time.

So here’s the question: is there anyone in BC who has a green thumb who wants to pick veggies and fruit for the week in exchange for accommodation?It would need to be anywhere from tonight to the morning of the 27th when I will be back to help with things. You would have your own room, bathroom and kitchen as well as a deck and 88 acres of land around you!

Contact me here through the site or by email: eva.l.tavares@gmail.com

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PLEASE let me know! This is rather urgent…

Missing the farm life…

Chatting with my mom is bittersweet sometimes, I am missing the farm today…

Every couple days I get an update about the property. My parents have done so much since I was there over Christmas! It is insane!

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Egg production is booming!

Egg production is booming!

Last fall, I seeded a couple acres of land that needed some help; we used winter rye to add some nutritional density back into soil. That plot of land is now over-flowing with produce! Carrots, kale, spinach, basil, zucchini etc., etc., etc.! These are pictures of my dad goofing around with Asparagus in front of the bare land, pre-growth spurt…

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Asparagus tentacles

Asparagus tentacles

 

And look at it now!!

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As much as it is incredible that all these things are popping out of the ground, it has proven stressful for my poor mother who has been pulling double duty for the last couple weeks because my dad had an awful flu. I would get emails saying “Eva I can’t do it all. There are too many things to be picked and your father is in bed. IN BED!”

Thankfully, the community of Sorrento came to the rescue and sent troops. Thank goodness for good neighbors.

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Look at all the veggies and pretty things!We can now cook meals comprised entirely of ingredients from our farm!


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A Farewell…For Now

I am back on the farm for a hot second before beginning one of the biggest adventures of my life to date. But I had to come and meet all the new additions to our household before going! My mom has been an absolute super-human, as per usual. In the past week, we have gained 15 kids and 10 lambs. We almost lost one kid to hypothermia but, thankfully, we spotted it pretty quick and cuddled the little one back to warmth.  Some of their mothers have, once again, refused to feed them, and therefore we are once again on the bottle-feeding duty. This seems to be the theme with nanny goats that have 3 kids; “I had three babies?!? Well I only really have the energy to take care of two of them…”

 

 

Bottle-feeding is a full time job as the newborns have to be fed every couple hours. As mom is truly the animal person on the property, she has been taking the brunt of this workload, getting up in the middle of the night multiple times in order to keep the little ones alive. If I was at home I would be helping with this, but unfortunately that really wasn’t a possibility for me as I had a packed month with auditions in Vancouver and Toronto and prepping for the very exciting contract I start tomorrow. Thankfully we do have some family friends who have come by to offer emergency assistance.

 

Who knows when I will be back again! Many adventures on the horizon that will take me far away from the farm. But, bottom line, I am extremely thankful for this beautiful piece of the earth to come back to when I am not singing and dancing. The property is still changing and morphing everyday. But despite the chaos, it continues to serve as a constant reminder of the important things in life: community, growth, and harmony.

Family Fun and Family Crisis

Hello hello!

So…even with the best intentions, both Red Kerchief and myself left the blog on the back burner over the last couple months. The best laid plans…

ANYWAYS I was able to be on the farm for Christmas, a privilege many performers don’t get around this time of year. As much as I loved being with my family and friends during the holiday season, this was a particularly difficult time.

My truly fabulous and creative father adapted our backup generator to run on veggie oil so that we aren’t dependent on diesel. The generator is used more frequently in the winter than the summer purely because we don’t get as much sun and the batteries are not given the opportunity to charge fully. Long story short, this change created many issues that resulted in our power going out multiple times. We are still in the process of resolving all the problems, but, to put it bluntly, it has been beyond stressful for everyone involved. It was truly a reminder of how difficult this lifestyle can be and the constant struggles that my parents come up against. I have been overcome with a feeling of helplessness as I don’t have the knowledge or the means to help them as much as I would like. Logically I know that all will be well and that this is a small mess in comparison to many other bigger messes we have cleaned up. And yet…

 

In an effort to keep positive, here is a list of all the great things about this Christmas! Because, despite the trials and tribulations, it has been a lovely couple weeks.

  1. I successfully made 2 different gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar free desserts and MY BROTHER LIKED THEM!
    Pumpkin pie vegan cheesecake and strawberry lemon vegan cheesecake!

    Pumpkin pie vegan cheesecake and strawberry lemon vegan cheesecake!

     

  2. Baby lambs in the snow!IMG_1943
    Here's looking at ewe, kid...

    Here’s looking at ewe, kid…

     

  3.  Our first Christmas Goose! Success!
    It was a process...

    It was a process…


  4. White Christmas!
    The most Canadian photo I possess.

    The most Canadian photo I possess.

     

  5. Quality time with my Nana-Banana!IMG_1901
  6. New cabin by the lake! (My Auntie Shirley wanted a place to stay when she comes up so she bought one half and half with my mom and it arrived the other day!)IMG_1892
  7.  Sibling time. Ian is way cooler than me, but we still manage to have a grand old time.IMG_1869
  8. Witnessing the amazing team my parents have become. Even through these ups and downs, they are working so hard to maintain communication, calm and humour despite extreme stresses. I am so proud to be their child and to be a part of this big dream they are creating.

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“And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

Red Kerchief joins Off-Grid Chick!

 

 

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Introducing my new partner on the blog! He has been mentioned on the blog quite a few times and now he will be sharing his stories straight from the farm!

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Red Kerchief here.

Who? Well, as Eva, the off-grid chick described some time ago, I am something of a brother/uncle to her. And that is a fitting description for I do feel that way. But let’s back up a bit.

Who am I really and what am I doing here?

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My name is Peter. Because I wear a red bandanna whilst working on the farm, to avoid sweat getting in my eyes, Eva started to call me “Red Kerchief.” I am a very close friend of Eva’s family and partner in Eva’s family business. My values are very closely aligned with her family’s. We’ve known each other for close to 5 years now and have established a very strong bond. I have been an environmental, democratic and social activist since 2007. Having been born in former Czechoslovakia, I have witnessed injustices in these areas that instilled in me the need to raise awareness and take action.I deeply care about our environmental heritage and preserving it for future generations. I do not believe in infinite growth in a finite world. I believe in sustainable way of life. Not crawling into a cave, but sustainable nevertheless – living, as humans, within our means dictated to us by our planet. Presently, we are consuming way too much – much more than is allotted to us. And that is putting us on a collision path with nature.

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So instead of brooding over it, I packed up my bags and left the city. I left my profitable career as  a computer programmer that I had done for 18 years, and decided to become an organic, permaculture farmer. I will continue to be a programmer for some time during the transition to sustain myself financially. But, the important thing is, I am on my way out of an office job, 9-5, traffic each morning and evening, spending little time with my son type of life. Done.

This is not to say that it was easy. I planned it for 2 years. I call it my ‘graceful exit from the city’.  I am doing it for myself. For my 7 year old son. For his generation and those after him. I still believe in the miracle of food growing from seeds, of nurturing that miracle till it blooms and forms a fruit and harvesting and preserving it for me, you and others.

Rex is friends with me because I have food...

Rex is friends with me because I have food…

Coming to Sorrento was hard, very hard. I had doubts every step of the way. But every time I had these moments of weakness, I did a reality check and decided that it was way scarier for me to do nothing than to take that bold step. I planned everything I could , but there are curve balls thrown at us everyday. I still have doubts, and there are enormous challenges here on the farm. But I work with people I love and despite it all, when I am putting the animals away at night, with full moon, and the light warm breeze caressing my face, I know I made the right choice.

So join me, as I join Eva, the off-grid chick and I recount the funny, sad, challenging episodes of my new life here on offgridchick.com! I hope you enjoy it!

Peter Endisch

My Mother’s Tales

This is an example of an email from my mother, recounting the day to day events on the farm: immaculately composed for my viewing pleasure. Enjoy this delightfully distracted and colorful depiction of farm life via Una!

Una!

Una!

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Sudden banging on the door aroused us from a mid-morning tea break. I knew immediately there was trouble, the fencing kind of trouble where all the neighbors know your name, but don’t sing your praises. Indeed, the husky, bewhiskered dairy man from next door was standing in full blown agitation at the front door – his truck still running for speedy getaway – and he bellowed “Your bulls are in with my heifers!” Did I mention we had been conned into buying 4 DAIRY BULLS masquerading as beef steers? Again, we need a good vet in the family…. He took off back to his precious heifers, and we (Ernest, me and the irreplaceable Red Kerchief aka Peter) all piled into a vehicle and raced after him, amazed that our little lovely calvey walveys had made it 3 kms down the hill, through multiple barbed wire fences and had found “the gals”. We glowed as we remarked on how smart those calves were! Three hours later, we were indeed all glowing, the sweat running down our faces as we faced the challenge of our lives – 4 excited bully teens trying to get back to their girlfriends while we tried to get them back up the hill to their meager rations. You may remember I wrote, down the hill, just a few short sentences ago, and a very smart person would know that what goes down must go up again to get back to the place of departure. Indeed, this is so, and never more so as I zig zagged back and forth, side to side, up a VERY STEEP 3km hill, constantly yelling to Ernest to “GET OUT OF THE CAR AND HELP!”Neighbors went by joking that this was the new “Jenny Craig workout for Sorrento”, some neighbors even stopping to help until one very fat fellow clutched his heart and keeled over to be jumbled unceremoniously back in his truck with a ‘thanks so much for trying to help, now you just take care of yourself’ advice before it was back to running ragged behind recalcitrant bully boys who had found out they could make CHOICES as to where the best grass and gals were to be had. (yes, I know this sentence is also too long, but so was the running).

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One might think that those bully boys would never have escaped again, and to be true, we did put them the very next day into our VERY BEST FENCED FIELD! Ha!, we crowed, you can’t get out of THERE!!!! But they did, the very next evening…As Ernest and I were all dressed in our magnificent finery going out for dinner with friends, leaving the long and winding road to our property, I glanced across the field looking for the regular evening appearance of a lovely herd of deer. But what is this? A rusty colored deer was gracing our fields! An aberration? A trick of the light? NO, begaaaaaaaaads, it is the bully boys out again!! High heels flew in the hay field as visions of not sugar-coated fairies danced in my head, but very angry be-whiskered dairy men squeezed my heart with fat, dirty hands! The bully boys HAD TO BE STOPPED! And indeed they were.

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(dog needs to go out for a piddle, so I have to pause here, and truth be told, I may never pick it up in similar style. If you continue to read past this point, and wonder if two people wrote this letter, no, they didn’t, it’s just me getting thrown off yet again by another animal’s whinging and whining, making their needs known before and/or instead of mine, not taking “NO” for an answer, disturbing my very thoughts (yes, this sentence is too long also, but that’s the way everything goes around the farm – too long, too much, too heavy, too busy, too much of people constantly asking the same thing twenty one times…….)

 

In truth, this letter to you is the beginning of a series of prolonged rants that I wish to commit to paper, so I am trying my hand just a little bit at the memoir writing business. The title for my book, which will then be a boxed set and next a multi-billion dollar TV show no doubt, is “Don’t Fill The Water Buckets When You Need to Pee!” – The philosophy of farming according to MOI! I think this will be the true gem of my farming life – turning it into amusingly entertaining stories for all those farmer wannabees who never actually go and do it. Which I am not.

~

Another Off-Grid Homestead!

Always exciting to visit another off-grid establishment! A little while ago I had the privilege of visiting another off-grid family and experience a bit of their property. The property itself is close to 300 acres and is complete with a house, a cabin, many watering holes and a beautiful hill-side view as well as cattle and a very friendly dog. This particular family has been living this way for significantly longer than my family and it was interesting to hear about the trials and tribulations that they had experienced over the years, as well as the obvious rewards of the lifestyle. Below are a few pictures to illustrate my favorite moments from the trip:
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Off-grid meals cooked without running water or electricity. Major success!

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Off-Grid Chick learned how to cut her own planks! Not as simple as it seems. Basic math required. Not always my strong suit.

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Cabin view! Can’t beat it.
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Favorite part of the whole adventure: Bath tub in the middle of a field looking out onto the acreage. Not a house in sight. The tub is connected to a pond by a black pipe that gets hot in the sun. Turn on the water in the afternoon and you have a hot bath with a view. Bliss.
IMG_20150607_200634Take away from this trip: I am excited for the day when our property is settled in its ways as this property is.I am excited for the day when we aren’t constantly digging up ground to build something new, the day when all our greenhouses and permaculture adventures have been completed, and when all necessary fencing has been put in so that the cows don’t get out AGAIN. Until then, we will continue to plug along and invest time and energy into this incredible dream…