Mismatched Cats

It is like a farm version of a BBC who-done-it !
Courtesy of my mother, the Barnyard Boss:

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“Oh gosh, I am so thankful you will look after Rufus for me, since I can’t take him when I move to an apartment. I just love him, and he’s a great mouser. He catches at least 5 mice per day!” This mousing prowess was music to my ears, as the old barns were overrun by scurrying critters. Just the day before, upon filling a bowl of grain from the feed bin, I had been traumatized by two mice which ran up my arm as I delved into the bag. Match point to the mice, as the grain plus two mice went flying into the air, thrown off by furious arm shaking along with my ear splitting scream.
My friend drove away feeling confident that Rufus had found a good home and I couldn’t wait for the mouse harvesting to begin!
Rufus was never again to grace my barn. On moonlit nights, he could be discerned flitting between trees as a self-possessed feral shadow, and I eventually figured out that the daily reduction in cat kibble was solely due to the ever growing families of mice happily living out full and productive lives! Darn!
One icy morning, our neighbour leaned over the fence and inquired, “Hey, did you lose a cat?” As the deep freeze of winter had descended upon us, Rufus had taken up residence in his woodshed, and was now happily ensconced in a cozy cardboard box bed. I felt relieved he was protected for the winter and let his owner know Rufus was alive and well.
Two weeks later, I agreed to watch over the neighbour’s property while they travelled to India. Of course, I had to check on Rufus. Upon entering the woodshed, I spied the cardboard cat house and peered inside – yes, it appeared Rufus was in there, sound asleep. Thinking he might welcome a pat, I inserted my hand, but Rufus didn’t even twitch. He felt totally cold and still. I quickly opened the top of the box and peered in, poking him with a finger – oh dear, it was Rufus all right, perfectly composed and perfectly dead. His demise had obviously occurred while the neighbours were on holiday, and now here he lay, frozen solid in the minus 20 weather with nobody to mourn his passing. I decided it was right that his owner learn of his fate, in case she wanted to give him a decent burial.
It was a traumatic call –tears of loss were wept for her dear departed friend, but she told me it was easier if I would please dispose of his earthly remains. The neighbours were due back later that day, so I quickly removed the ever cold Rufus in his cardboard coffin to relieve them of such a sad discovery. Later that night, as a courtesy, I phoned the neighbours to let them know that Rufus had passed away and was gone from their woodshed.
“What are you talking about? We just saw Rufus and he is very much alive.” Stated the confused neighbour. “But Rufus is dead.” I contradicted “I have his body here in the box from the woodshed.” After a head scratching pause, he said “It’s not Rufus in that box. That’s my wife’s most precious cat of almost 20 years, and yes, he is identical to Rufus. He died in his sleep the day we left for India and we want to bury him in a special gravesite once the weather warms up.”
Two things happened immediately. The most precious “frozen” cat was returned to its rightful owner, and a phone call was made with the glorious news that Rufus, another most precious cat, had fallen victim to a case of mistaken identity.
I am done with cats for now. Advantage set and match win to the mice.

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?

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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.

 

Turkey Trouble

Some of this stuff you just can’t make up…

Another one of Mom’s crazy adventures over Christmas:

 

Christmas Crazyness

Christmas Crazyness

 

“The clock was ticking and I was in a big hurry to get back to the farm. Loaded into coolers in the back of the vehicle were 25 fresh turkeys, destined to grace Shuswap Christmas dinner tables everywhere. Loaded into my stomach were at least 25 ounces of chocolate, destined to provide me with the “turkey-in-my-tank” extra energy to get through a crazy day.

The speedometer needle was the least of my concerns as I perfected the low flying aircraft impression down the hill past Carlin Hall. I was late and worried about my turkey customers stomping their feet in the cold with nary a gobble gobble in sight.

Our turkey. Photo by Jerre Paquette

Our turkey.
Photo by Jerre Paquette

I barely registered the RCMP cruiser coming the opposite direction until he decided to join in the fun by doing an about face and turning on his pretty Christmas lights. Oops!

Well, saying “Oops” to an irate member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police doesn’t cut the mustard.So with all paperwork beautifully displayed in clear view on the dash, I arranged my hands on the steering wheel in an artful pose designed to reassure no farmer’s knives tucked between my fingers.

Please sir, don't give me a ticket

Please sir, don’t give me a ticket

His glare removed any doubt that the Spirit of Christmas was being embraced by highway police. “Lady, I am going to impound your car right here and now!” he yelled “You were going 141 in a 100 zone. That’s 1 klm over the 40 over, which gives me the right to immediately impound your car!” His loud and withering anger came in waves, completely dousing the “Hey, I have Happy Turkeys!” feeling. I decided the best action plan was to sit perfectly still, perfectly silent with preternaturally wide eyes in tacit agreement that, yes indeed, he had just apprehended the worst reprobate on the roads.

“Now, I am going back to my vehicle to check out your driving history and order the tow truck!” he vehemently bit off each word in a way that transported me back 40 years to my headmaster’s admonitions interspersed with the smacking of the leather strap on the back of my hand.

But now I had a bigger concern than this RCMP fellow who appeared to be impersonating my old headmaster, as I seriously considered my options. Would he give me AND the turkeys a lift home after impounding my car? No, I could see it now, he would throw me to the side of the road and I, with my 25 dead friends lined up beside me, would be stranded on the highway, with a “Find your own way home, lady, that’s your just punishment…” ringing in my ears.

Suddenly, his angry form loomed at my window again. “So, what’s your reason for speeding?” he demanded. I qualified what I was about to say, “Umm, well, I don’t think you’ll think it’s important, but I’m loaded with turkeys for customers waiting at the farm….. and I ate a lot of chocolate….. and I understand about impounding my vehicle, but would you be able to deliver the turkeys to the farm in your squad car?” I was willing to swallow my punishment, agreeing that he could leave ME, the reprobate, on the side of the highway, but not The Turkeys!

Photo by Jerre Paquette

Photo by Jerre Paquette

A change came over his face. Begone! strap-wielding Headmaster. A new apparition was before me, the very likeness of my wonderful Uncle Ben! “Well, then, that’s an important job! I’m going to let you off with a warning and a speeding ticket. Now get those turkeys delivered – safely mind! And stay off the chocolate, it’s not good for your driving!”

Yes, folks, true reverence for the Christmas Turkey Dinner remains alive and well in the Shuswap and I’m not speeding any more. The chocolate imbibing continues unabated though! “

My Brother

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time. Had a little reminder today that prompted me to actually make it happen.

 

My brother is the best. Seriously. Hear me out.

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Currently my brother is finishing his Red Seal to become an electrician, while working a full time job at a construction company (gets up at 5 am and ends around 4 pm, but sometimes takes longer shifts). When he comes home, he will do one of two things: grab dinner and head out the door to firefighter training or grab dinner and continue working for my parents on whatever project is at the forefront. He lives in the cabin that he built with my dad on our property.

Babies

Babies

Ian and I are extremely different people and growing up that was definitely apparent; I was the type A, over-achiever who would cry if she missed school, and Ian was the social butterfly who cared more for having fun than having good grades. We gave our parents stress for very different reasons and I will admit that I was concerned that Ian might make choices that would hinder him in adulthood.

He proved me wrong.

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I have never been so proud to be related to someone. My brother is a gentleman with a wicked sense of humor and a dangerously charming demeanor. He is responsible and hard-working and has been a huge support to my parents through all the change and development we have had on the farm. He is a steadfast friend and because of that he has an amazingly supportive group of friends. He is generous and caring and will never fail to make me laugh. Even when he is utterly exhausted, he makes time for friends and family. He is not a bystander. If he sees someone being picked on or mistreated, he is the first person to say or do something.He makes me a better person and brings light to the people around him.

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I love you little/big brother. Thank you for being 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!

Thanksgiving

Warning:Sappy post ahead. Proceed with caution.

Reflecting back on the last year of my life is humbling. I have grown and changed significantly and I have learned so much about my art and myself. I have gained new friends, fell out of touch with some, renewed friendships that were hibernating. I have achieved things that I NEVER dreamed could’ve been possible. I am so incredibly lucky to have people who surround me with joy and support, giving me the strength to face each challenge as it comes. My parents, my brother, my nana, my special pal, my best friends, my roommates, my colleagues, my coaches, and so on, and so on. And I am very aware of the fact that I am only in the position I am in my life currently because of the people I have come in contact with. So thank YOU!

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In other news, we had a bit of a Thanksgiving miracle on the farm today. My mom is friends with everyone in the area, including the resident “Flesh Trader.” This is not the official title of this gentleman; it is my mom’s sordid name for his profession. Essentially he is the person in charge of transporting animals to slaughter houses and/or auction. He gets phone calls about animals that are injured or old, and he goes and picks them up and either takes them to auction or to the slaughter house. It is a rather dismal job, but this gentleman is a gentle man (excuse the pun) and treats the animals with kindness and respect. He often tries to find people who are willing to take the animals so he doesn’t have to send them to the slaughter house.

My mom was over at his establishment looking at some sheep and she saw a young palomino horse in his field. She didn’t think about it too seriously until that night when she found that the image of the horse was still occupying her thoughts. The next morning she called the gentleman and inquired if the horse was to be sold.
“No,” he said ” I am taking it to the slaughter house tomorrow.”
He explained that the owners thought she had problems walking and didn’t want to deal with it, so they had him pick her up to take to the slaughter house.The price of feeding her and providing shelter was too much for them.

She is only a year old. In our experience with horses,they don’t always have walking completely figured out right away. They are still technically babies at a year old. Even if she did have a slight wobble to her walk, wouldn’t you want to give her a little time to see if it changed with age? Instead of killing her?!?

My mom told the gentleman that she wanted him to postpone the slaughter house visit until she saw the horse again. She went back to his property, and took the horse there and then. We have named her Flicka and she came to our farm this afternoon.She is having a grand old time trotting around (without a hint of a wobble I might add) with her new friends Freyja, or Norwegian Fjord, and the two miniature ponies from next door. I spent a big chunk of today weeping while standing in a field watching her prance about. Just a big softy. That’s me. (Pictures on the way! She’s so pretty!)img_0194-2

Take away from this post: I love the people in my life. Thankful for the experiences and people who have brought me here. Dad jumps down wells to rescue dogs, Mom rescues horses from slaughter houses= parents are superheros. Eva still cries at everything.

Night all!

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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Stories from afar!

Hello hello!

I am writing from the faraway lands of Ontario. In the past 6 months,I have been in three different provinces, living the life of a performer and experiencing all the highs and lows that it brings. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had and the people I have met. True gifts.

Despite my absence, I still feel as if I am connected to the farm because of emails like this that I receive from my mother. Some of these stories are best told by her:

“Sudden banging on the front door aroused us from a relaxing mid-morning tea break. I knew immediately there was trouble, the fencing kind of trouble where all the neighbours know your name, but don’t sing your praises. Indeed, the husky, bewhiskered dairy man from down the road 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!”

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Did I mention we had bought FOUR DAIRY BULLS masquerading as beef steers? (I mean, what did we know about the difference between dairy and beef cattle this first year of Sorrento farming? They all had four legs, right?) The bewhiskered dairy farmer took off back to his precious heifers, and three of us piled into a vehicle and raced after him, amazed and proud that our little lovely calvey walveys had made it 2 kms down the hill, through multiple barbed wire fences and had found “The Gals”. We glowed as we remarked on how smart our calves were, indeed a sense of ownership pride filling our hearts. But within minutes, we experienced a rapid change of heart as we faced the great dilemma posed by our runaway Bully Boys – how to get them back home when they had no intention of leaving The Gals? Within minutes, we were indeed glowing but not from pride and joy. With sweat running down our faces and hearts pumping overtime, we were running full out in attempts to herd the over-excited, attention deficit Bully Boys back home.

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You may remember I wrote, down the hill, just a few short sentences ago, and a very smart person would know that what runs down must struggle back up. Indeed, this is so, and never more so as I zigged and zagged back and forth in top running gear up a VERY STEEP 2 km hill. Neighbours went by chuckling that this was the new “Jenny Craig Workout for Sorrento” and giving advice on different ways to skip up the hill for maximum fat burning benefit. We politely smiled and waved in between ragged breaths and curses at Bully Boys who had suddenly turned into brilliant homing devices, constantly recalculating the quickest route back to The Gals! “Can we outwit four bull calves?” was the million dollar question of the moment. We were sorely tested and definitely humbled by the time we secured the double padlock on their barn gate, three hours later!

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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 next day into our VERY BEST FENCED FIELD! “Ah Hah!” we crowed in their bully faces, “You can’t get out of THERE!!!!” But they did, the very next evening…My husband and I were all dressed in our magnificent finery looking forward to dinner out with friends. As we were 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, BEGAAADS!” I shrieked in top soprano “The Bully Boys are out AGAIN!!” High heels flew in the hayfield as I leapt out of the car and attempted to block their path, spurred on by visions of no sugar coated fairies danced in my head, but very angry be-whiskered dairy men shaking their fists in my direction! Dinner had to wait; it was time to start the Evening Attire Version of the HighCroft Farm Running  Race again! Those bully boys HAD TO BE STOPPED!!”

Title: Man and Goat

Title: Man and Goat

The excitement never ends with my family. Tune in for the next adventure featuring the hooligan pictured above!