Monthly Archives: January 2014

Green Drinks and Level Ground

Level Ground TeaEarlier this week we went to a Green Drinks evening. I’ve had ‘Green Drinks’ at marked down in my daytimer several times over the past while, but somehow the schedule has been so full I haven’t made it to one yet. I had thought that this was a local thing – there are a lot of green people in this neck of the woods. Turns out, Green Drinks International is a whole movement! How could I have slept through this?

From the website:

Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you’ll be made welcome. Just say, “are you green?” and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there. It’s a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.

This particular meeting was held at Level Ground Trading, a local success story started up by four Canadian families “for the purpose of improving the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade.” The evening started with a short, excellent talk about the company, how it started, and how it works (coffee and tea are a couple of their main products and company members travel to the small farms and farmer collectives in countries all over the world to meet the growers, sample product, and negotiate fair trade deals). After that, we all donned aprons, hairnets, and beard nets (!) and set off on a tour of the coffee roasting facility.

Dad in his beard net, a sight I never thought I'd see!

Dad in his beard net, a sight I never thought I’d see!

Our tour guide, Stacey (one of the founders), was passionate and knowledgeable about his subject, which made for a fascinating evening.

Stacey at Level Ground

Coffee Warehouse

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The sacks used to transport coffee beans are destined not for the landfill after they are empty, but for local gardens and farms where they are used as mulch and over paths between beds. Fully biodegradable, they compost and disappear completely within a year. The whole facility is garbage free (as in, they send nothing to the landfill). This was a side note in the presentation but seemed to be typical of a company that appears to be trying hard to operate ethically and sustainably.

At the end of the night we were all given something to take home. I’ve been enjoying my loose leaf black tea (from Assam, India) and some delicious dried pineapple from Santander, Colombia (SO good!).We saw some short video clips of the various farmers at work and it was fascinating to learn more about where these products come from and what goes into producing my morning cuppa…

Wordless Wednesday – Dogs and Hogs

Oh. My. Busyness. Thank goodness it is still Wednesday and I can get away with posting a couple of recent photos of the dogs and my wayward piglet bonding. Such shenanigans are over for the moment as I have fixed the hot wire, but the inter-species chit-chat was entertaining while it was going on!

[For regular blog followers, note this series was shot on the same day that Fritz Frizzle disappeared… you can see him scuttling off into the distance in the animated gif…]

Pippi, Tuulen, and the adventurous piglet, bonding

Pippi, Tuulen, and the adventurous piglet, bonding

 

 

"I want that apple!" "No, I want that apple!"  "My apple!" "No! My apple!"

“I want that apple!”
“No, I want that apple!”
“My apple!”
“No! My apple!”

The piglet won this little contest, btw – a moment later she snatched up the apple and retreated a few steps, where she gulped it down. This, of course, sent Tuulen into a fit of whining and complaining and shooting me looks that clearly said, “How do you expect me to compete when I’m tied up?!”

 

Escape from the Farm…

Dad and I snuck off the farm for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon to go on a photo expedition – first to a nearby marina in Brentwood Bay and then to the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Pat Bay. We both took lots of photos and stopped a couple of times for coffee and to warm up (it was one of those grey, damp days that wound up being chillier than you’d expect, especially by the water).

Entrance to the Institute of Ocean Sciences

The Institute of Ocean Sciences is a beautifully designed building thoughtfully sited on a stunning piece of land on Pat Bay. A seismic research centre and home to many ocean-research types, the building and grounds are open to the public.

I was trying very hard to ignore my phone, but the messages kept coming thick and fast – five new sign-ups for our CSA Goody Boxes (yay!), a friend needing to borrow a couple of transport crates for chickens tomorrow, another friend wondering whether we have room in the goat barn to temporarily house a couple of goats for another friend, someone in the prairies calling to see if we can ship fertile Ridley Bronze turkey eggs, and two inquiries about hogs and pork.

Egg vending machines could be a handy way around the fact our farm is located on a dead end road with virtually no drive bay traffic…

At the second coffee stop managed to do some research on the feasibility of selling eggs through vending machines, coordinate a work session to finish up the last edits on the new book, and schedule a meeting with another farmer possibly looking to collaborate on a couple of projects for which I do not have space… Gads. My attempt to get away for a couple of hours was a bit ridiculous!

The coffee shop at the Institute of Ocean Sciences - includes a lovely view past arbutus trees over the water...

The coffee shop at the Institute of Ocean Sciences – includes a lovely view past arbutus trees over the water…

Suspended fish in the atrium...

Suspended fish in the atrium…

The marina we visited in Brentwood Bay offered up photo opportunities of a more rustic nature.

This old dinghy has seen better days.

This old dinghy has seen better days.

Paddle

Paddle neatly stowed on the deck of an old wooden sailboat

Wooden Sailing Dingy

Classic lines on this graceful sailing dinghy.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of Dad’s studio after he has a chance to go through the reference material he gathered today…

If Only Fritzy Could Talk!

IMG_7991[1]Yesterday, after the eagle incident, I was a bit leery about leaving everyone unattended for fear the mighty hunter would return… Turns out, my instincts were right. I’m not exactly sure what happened at dusk, but here’s my best attempt at piecing together the crime based on the slim evidence I have available…

In the photo above (I was trying to sneak close enough to photograph the dogs making friends with the piglet… ) the dogs on the left are dying to play with the piglet, the piglet has discovered a spot where she can squeeze under the electric fence and has decided to help herself to a bit of mash I’ve put on the ground for the ducks to distract them while I prepare the hog meals. The duck is first on the scene for snacks and over there on the right is Fritz Frizzle. I have no idea where he is heading but he didn’t even slow down at the snack bar.

Several more photos in the series show him moseying on down the hill and disappearing somewhere down near the manure pile. Of course, I was paying no attention to where Fritzy was going because I was busy feeding everyone else and trying to get a good shot of the dog-swine conversation and it was only later that I studied the photos to see if I could spot him anywhere and thereby figure out when he was last known to be in one piece.

There are a whole slew of things that get done between the afternoon feed and the dusk bird round-up during which I mosey up and down the hill a few times myself, tucking various flocks into various secure houses so nobody gets eaten by owls or raccoons overnight. Usually, Fritzy hops up on the fence beside the gate and waits for me to pick him up and carry him into his secure pen. His girlfriend, Lucy, has a private dog-kennel apartment in the hay shed (how she wound up there is described in this post).

Usually, Fritzy is in position by the time I’m heading for the upper duck pen and I scoop him up on my way and herd any straggler ducks into bed with Fritzy tucked under my arm. Yesterday, he wasn’t in his usual spot. Nor was he in his second favourite spot, inside the tomato hoop house. I checked the hay shed in case he was mooning around trying to get Lucy’s attention. Searched high and low and could find him nowhere. I had the awful feeling that the eagle had returned and made off with my lovely little Fritzy…

I tried to console myself that the eagle was obviously hungry to be so brazen to snatch Fritzy and make off with him while I was around, but having witnessed the drake hunt I couldn’t rule out that possibility. Still needing to sprint up the road to close up the chicken pen in the leased field, I left his pen door open and tried not to feel too miserable.

I checked around again when I was feeding night hay, shining my flashlight under the bushes where he and Lucy had been during the eagle attack, thinking he might have hidden there, hoping I wouldn’t find a pile of feathers. Nothing.

This morning I did all the rounds, keeping an eye out for Fritz, just in case, though I had resigned myself to his sad demise. My breath caught at some point when I spotted a reddish brown pile of what I thought was feathers and turned out to be ancient maple leaves in the hog pen. I kept trying to shut off the endless loop of ‘Why him? Why one of my favourites? I should have let the eagle eat the drake – I have too many drakes and after a meal like that the eagle wouldn’t have needed to eat again for days…’

At the very end of the morning rounds I was kneeling down in the goat pen talking to King (one of the kashmir goats) when I heard a distinctive cough behind me. I turned around and there he was! Fritz Frizzle had returned! He looked terrible, like a middle aged man with a bad hairpiece who had been out on a wild bender. One eye was weepy and more closed than open and, strangest of all, his comb was missing! All that’s left is a fleshy stump!

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I can only imagine what happened… did the eagle think that all those wild and crazy feathers actually indicate the size of the bird? Maybe he had hold of feathers in one talon and poor Fritzy’s comb in the other? How far had they got before the eagle dropped my poor little rooster? Fritzy never hangs out in the goat pen – he was approaching from completely the wrong direction – coming downhill from the opposite end of the property from where he usually hangs out… Had he holed up under somebody’s car or deck or a handy log overnight and then started walking at dawn? Had it taken him five hours to get back home again?

Despite his nocturnal misadventures, he was not impressed when I scooped him up and put him into his pen with food and water. He perked up a bit when I delivered Lucy to him and by the end of the day, despite his rather oddly shaped head, he appeared to be completely fine. His eye was open and clear and he was sitting beside Lucy, chatting in that funny little voice of his.

What wouldn’t I give to know what on earth happened to Fritz Frizzle… Very, very glad he is back at home and safe and sound. I’ll keep him in for a couple of days to make sure he really, truly is ok and then… yeah. I’ll have to decide whether or not to let the two love birds back out again.

Meanwhile, WHEW!

Well, That Was Exciting! [And why was my phone in the truck???????]

Bald eagle making dastardly plans...

Bald eagle making dastardly plans…

I was at the back of the truck using the tailgate as a handy table on which to hack up soft pumpkins and squash to feed to the hogs, turkeys, ducks, and chickens when the roosters started up their ‘We’re all gonna’ die!!!!’ chorus. The turkeys took up the alarm cry and I turned around to see a bald eagle skimming along knee high in hot pursuit of one of my drakes! They were headed straight up the driveway toward me, the drake intent on escape, the eagle intent on lunch when the drake shot under the truck and the eagle, a bit surprised to see me, swooped up and over me and did a couple of slow, lazy loops just overhead. All of this happened in a few seconds and whether I could have whipped my phone out fast enough to capture the drama is unlikely, but I found myself slapping my empty butt pockets as I realized I had left the phone in the truck cab! The eagle circled overhead a couple more times as I scrambled into the cab, retrieved the phone and watched as the bird landed on a nearby tree branch.

We had a conversation, then – me explaining to the eagle that he was welcome to hunt rabbits and rats but if he wouldn’t mind leaving my birds alone I’d be most grateful. The eagle shrugged himself off the branch, circled once more, and then sailed off with nary a backward glance. It’s odd, actually, that he was going after a drake. The adult muscovy males are nearly the same size as an eagle and would put up a formidable fight. They have huge talons and are generally not bothered too much by predators (the smaller female ducks are another story…).

Time will tell whether the eagle was paying any attention to my pleas for mercy on behalf of the flock.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

Sometimes the seasons just sit there side by side, one juxtaposed against the other.

Sometimes the seasons just sit there side by side, one juxtaposed against the other.

[Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition]

Artist vs Farmer

Artist: What are you doing?

Farmer: Photographing a rutabaga.

Artist: Cattle feed.

Later…

A rutabaga and a turnip disappear into an artist’s studio (which sounds like the start to a terrible joke but is actually what happened some time after Dad saw me taking photographs of root vegetables for yesterday’s blog post…). What came out of the studio was these two drawings:

Which goes to show you don’t need to wait for inspiration to show up in order to start drawing – you just need a couple of vegetables.

Seeing the two drawings, though, made me think of how easy it is to take a photograph and how hard it is to capture the essence of a thing. Somehow, artwork created by hand still has a fundamentally different feel to it than a photograph in terms of the way it captures the subject matter at hand.

I hasten to add that taking a good photograph isn’t easy at all and taking an exceptional image – well, one can wait a lifetime and still not capture the ultimate shot. But taking the time to sit down and craft by hand the likeness of something – that is, I think, a skill that we shouldn’t forget about or dismiss just because it has become so easy to capture visual data. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is some quality inherent in these sketches that is lacking in my photos posted yesterday. Running my photos through any number of tricky filters isn’t going to help. I feel very fortunate to live with an artist who has a studio full of brushes and paints and pencils and pens with nibs and bottles of ink… It never ceases to amaze me how Dad and I see and interpret the world differently, even when we are both looking at exactly the same thing.