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?

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.

LUB DUB

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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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!

 

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