Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Fall Report

A busy summer has blended nicely into a warm and forgiving fall, and we are bringing in the last of the garden's bounty (despite the deer!) : tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, winter squash, pumpkins, green beans, lettuce and kales, potatoes, garlic, onions, shallots, peppers, carrots, beets (mostly eaten by those pesky deer!), and herbs galore: thyme, oregano, basil, sage, fennel, tarragon, chickweed, calendula, echinacea, valerian, chamomile, coriander; the list goes on.

Now we have time to reflect on all the help on the house and land, for which we will be eternally grateful : lets see if i can remember all of your names! In no particular order, you are Ryan, Kevin, Emma, Craig, Leslie, Roy, Oliver, Steve, Nathan, Odin, Sage and Cedar. Some of these fine folks hailed from the WWOOF program (yay WWOOF!), one from the Caretakers Gazette (check that out if you want to travel and stay in cool places for free!), and others are friends or friends of friends, but ALL of our helpers are now newly, and hopefully proudly, appointed Friends of the Buck Creek Ranch Straw Bale House on the Foot of Vast Mountain. (My poet husband sleeps while i write this so please bare with me!). We may not have gotten as much done as we would have liked, but hey, what the heck, the process as much as the end result is what turns us on (well we'll see once there is an end to this...if ever?). It was sure a lot of fun hosting our helpers, and many thanks go out to Crannog Ales for keeping the fluids up.
Here are some recent pics that unfortunately do not fully display the amount of time and work and effort it took to get even to this point.

One of the most time consuming parts was figuring out and constructing the footing for the masonry heater, which you can see is the concrete part in the floor platform. This is built as such to take the weight of the heater weighing up to and around 3000 lbs. yikes.

Jonathan and i and Jamie too will continue to putter away on the house as much as we can over the winter, and see how far we get.

Help is always welcome and let us know if you would prefer the deluxe tipi with firepit, the separate cabin with its airy ceiling and woodstove, or if those are full, a tent, or a couch inside the cosy (translation: small) trailer. I know it sounds like a B&B ad, maybe its practice for the future.

Time to get more firewood in, clean and organize indoors in order to maintain (or acquire?) sanity, and plan for next year.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

mid summer update, at last

ok so its mid summer already! I guess we've been busy! Here is an update, with new photos, at last!

On the house front, Jonathan and our WWOOFers Ryan and Kevin and friend Oliver have finished laying bricks on the basement root cellar walls, made and installed opening vents in the root cellar, moved dirt piles and finished backfilling the root cellar, surveyed and layed out string lines for the footings, dug more footing holes, cut and tied rebar, and poured cement footings.

We had wished to be much further ahead than this by now, but that's what we hear from all builders. Our wood order from a local sawmill is not coming after many months of waiting, so plans B and C are in the works (as well as saving up for our own portable saw mill - thanks to the pine beetle, there are a lot of dead pine in our forests around here, so we might as well take advantage of this beautiful and valuable resource at our doorstep). There have been other reasons for the slow pace: our Solstice community reunion, work on and off the farm, people falling off hay trucks, the usual!

And oh yes, the latest addition to our family also took up some time away from the home site, Mandy the Horse. She is just what we wanted, older, retired, a well trained ranch horse, gentle, wise and a little quirky, unflinching around excited kids, neighbouring dogs and passing ATVs or motorbikes, and respectful of a single strand electric fence. She is actually more like a dog in many ways, loves to be at the picnic table while we eat, and stays close to the house without fencing her in. One of the perks of owning a horse is that she is walking chipper shredder composting machine, hence the huge manure pile we have already...a thing of beauty for any gardener! I should have a photo of that but don't...yet.
We had a great crop of hay this year, and a wonderful workbee with many community members coming out to help pick it up and stack it in the barn before the rain got to it. Unfortunately, one of our helpers fell off the hay truck and hurt herself badly. That meant a few days in a larger centre with a bigger hospital, and time recovering. Now she is back and helping lots even with one arm in a cast! What commitment! Lessons learned: no one gets to ride on top of a hay truck no matter how fun it looks, and no one helps us without health insurance...!!

WWOOFer Emma weeded and mulched the trees we have planted in the garden area at the house site. She and our son Jamie planted many many bulbs albeit not in the best season but what the hay...under and around the Gala apple, the Gravenstein apple, 2 apricot trees, and 1 purple flowering Locust, a nitrogen fixer and attractant to pollinators, fast growing, drought tolerant and pretty to boot. I also planted comfrey and horseradish under and near the Gala and an apricot to provide a living mulch, as well as medicine for the future.

Unfortunately i can't landscape close to the house right now, Zone 1 in permacultural language, which is where i will garden the most...but patience is required as it is still a construction site and will be for a while. No worries, we dug a heavenly bed for the asparagus, planted it and they are growing well, and next on my list is a raspberry and strawberry patch, as well as more fruit trees, though deer fencing is always an issue. More t-stakes and chicken wire for now. We also have a large area rototilled and planted with buckwheat, to get more organic matter into the soil, in an area we will plant with potatoes, beans, peas and a trial area for tomatoes - the sun is hot and long there compared to where we currently live a 10 minute walk away so we have high hopes for a big tomato patch. I dug up some carragana seedlings and moved them out there into their own nursery - this is another drought tolerant, nitrogen fixing, bee and hummingbird loving bush, which could be used as a living fence we hope. The deer will let us know eventually.

Meanwhile, we (that is us with the generous help of our WWOOFers) are growing some food right by our current dwelling, and growing root crops such as garlic, onions (sweet and storage), beets, with our neighbour who lives within laughing distance. This includes a 50 or so variety potato patch (that's reduced from 70 varieties!). My herb business flourishes and keeps me on my toes: here is a quick list of the herbs we have harvested so far this year, either from the wild or from our gardens here, in no particular order: arnica, raspberry leaf, yarrow, mint, anise hyssop, chamomile, calendula, plantain, oregon grape leaf and root, lemon catnip, monarda, johnny jump ups, roses, st. john's wort, vervain, horsetail, alfalfa, dandelion, chickweed. Oils and tinctures are infusing and being pressed on a regular basis. We've blended teas, made some new ones, made the Seven Herb Healing Salve, Hard Working Hands Salve, Baby Balm, Belly Balm, mixed batches of Mineral Mix, blended aromatherapy facial mists/room sprays, made bath bombs, bath salts and blended tincture formulas. Orders come in and the products go out...there is a constant buzz in the herb room with things in various degrees of dryness, boxes of products to be labelled on a rainy day, etc.

Other harvesting so far this year includes picking wild saskatoons, black caps, hooshum or soap berries, and domestic Queen Anne, sour and black cherries. I have made a makeshift solar dryer using metal shelves from old fridges, and plan to build a wooden box with a glass cover so as to avoid the plastic trays commonly used in dehydrators.

We have another WWOOFer coming soon who has an affinity for woodworking, as well as a friend of a friend and then that friend coming also to help us get more work done on the house. Phew!

We cannot say enough how much we appreciate these helpers coming here - not only have they traveled from all directions, and help us with all (well, most) aspects of our lives including playing with our son when we're trying to cook supper, or grooming Mandy, taking the compost out, or helping with the bottomless pit of dishes, but they also offer us a fresh vision, a new perspective, with their eyes seeing our place for the first time, and its been wonderful to have them not only meet our expectations, but exceed them.
I can only thank them profusely and hope that their experience here will prove to be a gift in itself for them.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Welcome and Help Wanted!

,Welcome to our blog. We are embarking on a lifelong dream adventure: building our own straw bale home with a modified post and beam structure, on a meadow in need of permacultural lovin'. There is also a masonry heater in the plans. We live off the grid, and get our power from a small, independent (privately owned and managed) hydro electric system on the creek that runs through our land. This glacier water is also used for our drinking water and for irrigation. We are accepting applications from people interested in helping us in any of the many stages of this journey. We can't pay in money, but offer our skills as carpenter and herbalist, as experienced organic gardeners, as well as a part of our off-the-grid-paradise we call home to stay in, organic food to eat, and the best air and water one can ingest as an exchange for help. Families are welcome to apply - we have a small child who loves to play with others. We have a strong desire to share a little bit of our little bit of paradise with others, and to teach what we know. We often hear of people's dreams to get out of the city, out of the rat race, find some wilderness and connect with not only the land, but with the people living on the land. We have enjoyed sharing our life with WWOOFERs (willing workers on organic farms), SOIL apprentices (stewards of irreplaceable lands) and herbal apprentices who all come because they want to see how others live, and to learn new skills without paying lots of money to do so. Their help is in exchange for room, board, and skills sharing. These people come from all walks of life and from all parts of the world, and they use these organizations not only as a way to learn or practice skills, but also as a way to travel, and share, and experience life "outside of the box".

We are in the beginning stages of this project. We have dug and mostly finished a root cellar made out of concrete blocks that will be the basement of our house.
Some of the holes for the footings have been dug. The house plan is almost complete. If you have any interest in participating in any of the stages of this project, including "landscaping" using permacultural methods, please let us know. For accommodations, we offer a tipi, a basic cabin, or acres of land to tent on or bring your camper to. There is a nice guest outhouse, and we can outfit you with a propane stove and a few dishes should you want to have some private meals or a quiet cup of tea. Otherwise, we will share our home (a trailer) with you, where there is a small, but complete kitchen, shower and bath, laundry, internet (hot water and internet are subject to limited use depending on how many people are around) and we have 2 cats as well (they ask that you leave your dogs at home!). An outdoor bathing situation is in the works. We get eggs from our neighbor's organic chickens, though our own chickens using "chicken tractors" are also in the plan. A horse or 2 may be here by the summer of 2008, if our wishes come true. We grow a lot of our own produce, including over 50 varieties of potatoes, many of them heritage varieties, along with our neighbor.
We are situated in the rain shadow of the South Chilcotin Mountains, in the transition zone between the Coastal Range and the Dry Interior of British Columbia, near Lillooet.
We are a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver, and public transit will get you as far as a couple of hours away; arrangements can be made with suitable folks to be picked up. The valley we live in is proud to have many musicians as residents, so if you play an instrument, be sure to bring it along for music nights. We are meat eaters, but can accommodate vegetarians or vegans. Mountain biking is a popular activity in these parts, so bring your bike and gear for time off. Schedule wise, it will have to be flexible depending on the season, weather, and what else is happening on the farm or with our life outside of house building. Work days will vary from 4 to 8 hours, and everything is by agreement!! We ask that people participate in helping out with regular home life, such as dishes, cooking, etc, as much as possible. Please post a comment here to let us know if you have any questions, or email us: More later~

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Willing Workers and World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

There is a most excellent organization that links people from all over the world in search of learning about organic farming, organic gardening, organic lifestyles, all that good stuff, with farmers, gardeners, homesteaders needing help and willing to teach and share a bit of their life with others. It is called WWOOF : Willing Workers or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. We are members of WWOOF Canada, Farm #138! Check it out, it has helped so many people, those seeking adventure and inquiry, and those seeking helping hands, while often creating lifelong friendships and imparting essential, practical skills that will be much more needed as time goes on. Visit for more information.