Big changes really. The goats have gone to live with my friend at Meadowkeep in Northern Alberta.
While I miss them, I don't long for them like I thought I would. Right now life is so busy and so full, I felt like they didn't get what they wanted out of things here and knew they would there. And she was looking for some more girls so...
The worst part? I didn't get a pic of them filling up the car that drove them to their new home!
Need goats? Get in touch with Ester. She is a truly amazing human being who has great breeding stock and is passionate about her animals
So, I bought this super cute little scooter. It's fun and it's saving a tonne on our fuel costs with all of the to-ing and fro-ing back and forth from town. I know, we could do better but we're at a high driving time of life due to commitments and activities.
Sometimes though, you need to get something that wouldn't usually go on a scooter. On this trip, it was chicken feed...
It doesn't rain but it pours... I have years of no chicks when I wish for them and then, there are years like this. I want to down size but nay... Mother Nature and the Great Hen have other ideas. However, they are so cute, who am I to complain?
It feels like the whole province is burning and while it's awful, there's a haunting beauty to it as well.
So, I've been inundated with cherries.
Nope, not complaining and not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I've been making *all* the cherry things. What I did want to write about is the cherry pit problem. As much as I love my cookery books, every once in a while, I want to shake things up a little so I look up a recipe here or there online.
Some of my go to sites include thekitchn.com and food in jars, when it comes to canning. I also make use of the various web resources offered by extension offices and am so grateful for them. So, big shout out there but that's not what I'm here to write about either.
It's the pits. Yep, cherry pits.
On a fair few pages, there are alarm bells and exclamations warning about the dangers of cherry pits. Cyanide people, cyanide (basically- I know there's more to it than that but that's the gist. Cherry pits=cyanide). I found this as I was contemplating some kind of cherry syrup or something. Don't cook the cherries with their pits because DANGER! never one to want to poison people, I diligently pitted 14 cups of cherries. 14. Cups. This is not a small undertaking, even with a decent pitter.
Pitting that many cherries offers a lot of time to think. And in that thinking time, I thought about the cherries I ate growing up. Canned, many, many many, jars of canned cherries. And the pit wars we used to have because my mother didn't pit cherries - ever.
Tangent: you can imagine the pit wars. Three kids storing cherry pits in their cheeks as they devour sugary, juicy canned cherries. They store up as many pits as they can (swallowing a fair few in the process) and when their cheeks could hold no more, they turn their mouth into something resembling a machine gun and gun down their siblings... with pit. Gross but also awesome.
Back to the pits.
So when I considered pits in the context of the comments (even the tiniest exposure could kill you or make you sick), in the context of my childhood (granted, some people said it's find to swallow them because whole, there's no issue but if they're broken open, you're in trouble), and in the context of the canning I've done in the last decade (many missed pits that ended up broken by the food processor or immersion blender), I started wondering what the risk was really.
Now, I'm not one of those "I have been canning green beans for years without pressure canning and nothing's ever happened so..." types. I'm a researcher, I understand probability. So I researched.
The first thing I found was that many people had blog posts and opinions about the risk of cherry pits but not a lot of actual science about pits being a risk. So, I turned to my favourite canning resource -the National Center (it's hard not to spell that Centre) for Home Food Preservation. I love this organization and they are the peeps in the know.
So, the first recipe I looked up was this one:
It actually says "do not pit". Interesting.
I thought I would look further and see if there was a single warning about pits on their site. While I didn't conduct an exhaustive search, I saw enough to reassure me that the authorities see no risk whether the pits are whole or happen to get broken. There's no "if you have a piece of a pit in your jam, get it out right away" and/or "this jam is now contaminated". And they absolutely would warn you if that was the case.
Now, I am not a food scientist, nor am I a domestic science expert and always suggest that people do their own research. I'm also grateful that people are trying to keep each other safe - that's not a bad thing. I'm just pedantic and don't like misinformation flying around. So, if you love cherries and you don't love research as much as I do, you can go to one of these sites:
and follow the directions of the experts. But for the love of Pete, do not let a fear of pits stop you from this kind of deliciousness!
So, for the long weekend, I turned about 1000 sq ft of sun baked, former goat run into a garden. With a broken toe. So it wasn't the most relaxing weekend but it needed to be done.
For years, that right of way just sat there, growing weeds. So when the sheep expanded, we put them out that way as a "grazing" area. Eventually, the chickens got moved out there too, so they could have a big (easier to clean) house and more fenced (ideally coyote proof) space.
After the sheep, when the boy goat flock started to expand, we separated out a big chunk to be their home. There were lots of goods about the location - no lice (thank to the direct sun though they had a shade house and some forest on the very edge), easy for water, kept the trees from regrowing in the right of way, etc. But some bads too (a cougar took one of them), the snow would get deep, hauling water, etc.
As I've gone back to school, priorities have shifted and we no longer have any bucks. I do miss them and one day might want to breed goats again but I'll deal with that when/if the time comes. For right now, it's going to be a magnificent garden.
For those of you who have followed me since the very early days, you know about my struggles with gardening. Living in the forest makes gardening a very difficult job. Even with raised beds you're still competing with tree roots and shade and all sorts of things. So, when the Woodsman proposed we turn this bit into a garden, I was all for it.
So, it was me and the pick mattock. The Woodsman was around to help - don't think he abandoned me.
he disassembled the boys' house and, if I needed something, he was there to lend a hand. But I wanted it to be my project it and so it was. Before work began in earnest, we'd been feeding the chickens on the stumps that needed to be dealt with so they were well on their way.
During the weekend, I spent three days with the pick mattock hacking away at those stumps and pulling up the massive (and plentiful) rocks that called that run home. My arms felt like jelly and I seriously could not eat enough. I did hard labour from dawn until dusk (quite literally).
Not only do I have serious pride in the start of this garden (as well as high hopes), I have a much greater appreciation for the work people are doing all over the world (historically and currently) that requires that kind of physical exertion. And I didn't have any of the pressures so many of them have - I have enough food, I have shelter, I have safety, and I have my people. It brought a lot of things I like to study (like the old ways of doing things) into a different light.
Now, you might ask, as many already have, why on earth would you spend that much time picking when you can rent a tiller or use your tractor? It's simple. I wanted to. I didn't want to use fossil fuels to make the garden - seems counter intuitive to me. Especially when I can make the time. And as the Woodsman pointed out, it makes no sense to till, burning fossil fuels, and then go for a run or to the gym.
When I do things in the "old ways", it's more than an exercise in I know not what. It's because on the face of it, I think we do a lot of things backwards. Instead of putting in the garden the fastest way possible (which usually has the greatest environmental cost) and then driving to the gym because my body needs exercise, why not combine those two needs?
Anyway, it was a glorious weekend but I'll be back to the books this weekend (mostly), I have a paper due!
I attended a great small business workshop this weekend. Hosted by Sylvia of Foundtree and Greg of Farm Food Drink (and assorted companies), we learned about everything from product risks (and how to mitigate and prevent them) to marketing and projections. Sounds super businessy and not congruent with my lifestyle, doesn't it? Well, if you'd described it to me that way, I would have thought so too but it really wasn't.
I think what I appreciated about both presenters is that they're both committed to helping micro- and small-businesses thrive. I know, I know, anyone could say that but really, they've both worked in some big corporate situations and neither of them felt like they wanted to stay there. Much like many of us who returned to rural living, it seemed like they'd both made a lifestyle/values choice about how to do their work.
I also appreciated my fellow participants. They seemed like a group of people there with a similar goal to me - make enough money to sustain my lifestyle, hire some people (so, sharing the bounty locally), and contribute to some aid projects or do some good works. It was interest as many of us in the local/small/ag world feel a bit sheepish about profits and making money. What I've realized is that's a bit like being a martyr; no one thinks I'm a sell out when I'm making a professional wage at my day job, after all. In my opinion, it's a bit funny on the face of it.
Anyway, I've got a lot of thinking to do (and planning, and scheming), but it's all good and it's all fun.
And it's finally spring, so the perfect time for it.
...who is a bit giddy about all of the melting. I should have a pic, I know but I don't. Sorry about that. It's melting so fast I could literally hear the big slabs of snow and ice in the meadow creaking and groaning as they shift.
Spring is coming!
I'm a 40-something writer and smallholder living in the wilds of BC with my family, our small herd of Nigerian Dwarf Goats, chickens, ducks, dogs, and cats.