Category Archives: DIY and Projects

How to Make Your Own Yoga Mat Spray

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Things I don’t want to think about too much include the long list of cooties that breed in yoga mats. (If you would like to think about it, check out this article on elle.com). Ew. Just ew. I went searching for simple recipes for anti-bacterial yoga mat sprays and found quite a few of them. I mixed and matched and came up with this concoction, which I’ve just used on my mats (they now smell lovely – not that they smelled terrible before – but now they really do smell delightful). Though it likely isn’t potent enough to kill off super bugs, it should be sufficient to handle everyday micro creepy crawlies.

Want to make some of your own? Here’s the recipe…

Nikki’s Super Duper Stinky Yoga Mat Cleaner

3/4 cup distilled water

1/4 cup witch hazel (the witch hazel I used includes some alcohol)

7 drops tea tree oil

5 drops lemongrass essential oil

5 drops lavender oil (if you don’t like the smell of lavender, try eucalyptus or peppermint)

Mix them all together and pour into a small spray bottle.

Instructions:img_7159-yoga-mat-cleaner

Do a hearty yoga class. Sweat all over your mat without fear. Sneeze on it – what the heck. After your workout, spray the mat with your fancy spray. Wipe with a damp cloth (not too wet, you don’t want the mat to get soggy). Let the mat sit and dry for a few minutes before rolling it up.

I’m thinking that if you are using this at a busy yoga studio you might also want to do a pre-emptive spritz of the floor before you unroll your mat. Just saying.

And now I’m curious… What do you like to use to swab your mat?

V is for Victoria-Vancouver-Victoria and a Victory over Violence

On Sunday I had a quick business meeting over in Vancouver. Saturday night I slept in the truck once again, still on piglet watch with Olivia. Sunday morning down on the farm started a bit earlier than usual because of my ferry departure, but was otherwise completely normal. No piglets. No nesting. Full teats, but she’s had those for a while now. So off I went thinking I was in for another night in the truck after I returned.

I took the 9am ferry over to the mainland and was just about to drive off the boat when a text came in from LS, who is visiting from Berlin and holding the fort while I was away. Olivia, according to LS, was behaving strangely. He sent a couple of photos of her pen. She had been busy in the couple of hours since I left the farm. She had stripped leaves from the bushes in her run and scattered them around in her bed inside the safety pen. She dragged in mouthfuls of sticks and twigs and added them. She rooted around and fluffed up the hay from underneath the fresh debris and mixed it all together. Olivia was nesting!!

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LS summoned T (soon-to-be-SIL), who has been present for a couple of prior farrowings… There followed the most stressful series of texts as I headed into my meeting, made a presentation, and politely declined a lunch invitation (“Sorry! Must race back to the ferry – Olivia is in labour!!)

I made it back to the terminal in time to catch the 1pm boat, flew into the house at 3:10, pulled off my meeting clothes, pulled on my grubbies and rubber boots and raced down the hill. The guys had done a fabulous job of setting everything up – the heat lamp was positioned over two nursery boxes (used to contain the piglets as they awaited the arrival of their siblings), fresh towels were at the ready, Olivia was in her safety pen, the wet leaves and sticks had been removed and replaced with clean, dry hay (which she had been reorganizing all day).

The first piglet arrived at 4:01. Olivia lost her mind, leaped to her feet, spun around, and tried to kill it. This pattern was repeated every 15 minutes or so for the next couple of hours, but because of the new safety pen, each piglet was plucked out of the pen before Olivia could do any damage to either the piglets of to any of us [thanks to earlier helpers MC and SP, who built the pen after long discussions about crazy sows. Now that we know it works, I’ll post a how-to article soon with more details of what we came up with as a solution to porcine matricide.] By 6:30 pm we had 11 healthy piglets – 6m and 5f. We were feeling pretty smug at this point and settled in to await the expulsion of the placenta, knowing from experience that she would have no interest in nursing the piglets until that was done. It took some time and some massaging of her teats to stimulate contractions, but in due course it arrived just fine.

By now it was after 9pm and we began the process of trying to introduce the piglets for nursing. At which point we were thwarted by Olivia’s ridiculous (and terrifying) insistence on pouncing on any piglet that wandered anywhere near her. She ate a meal, we let her outside to stretch her legs and relieve herself – she paced and turned and nested and lay down and got up and steadfastly refused to have anything to do with nursing. Her attacks were slightly less vicious, though – she was tossing piglets aside but not savaging them any more – only two had superficial bite wounds and those were from earlier in the evening.

The piglets were all in good shape and warm under the heat lamp, so at about midnight we decided to stop stressing everyone and get a few hours sleep. In the past, we’ve had some luck with sows figuring things out without anyone being around. The piglets had already figured out how to escape from the safety pen (by slipping under the lower rail) so we left them to it and headed for the house…

Which is where I will leave this post because if I had a terrible night, tossing and turning and fretting and wondering what I would find in the morning (piles of crumpled bodies? a contented sow suckling her young?) then it seems only right you should suffer the uncertainty along with me for a short time… Fear not, as soon as there’s another break around here I’ll finish the story…

F is for Fancy and Farewell

For the last year or so the passenger side door handle in the truck has been missing in action. Someone who shall remain nameless but who might be my only child snapped it in her haste to exit the vehicle… The result is that for more than a year every time I’ve had a passenger aboard we’ve repeated a rather silly ritual that unfolds something like this:

Passenger swipes at the door and looks puzzled.

Me: Oh. Sorry (I am Canadian after all – the apology comes first.) The door handle is broken – hang on a sec.

I leap out of the truck, run around the vehicle, and open the door from the outside.

There follows a few standard quips about chauffeurs and how some jobs get on the to-do list and never get off again…

Regular passengers who are quick and motivated learn to crank down the window (hard labour) and can sometimes reach out to get the door open before I can sprint around the truck. This race elicits another standard exchange that begins with “sorry – I’m not quite fast enough,” as I reach the passenger door just as an arm is reaching out the window.

This is better than the times when I am distracted, leap out, and race off into the feed store or hardware store or wherever completely forgetting my poor passenger is trapped.

When I realize I’m alone inside I usually realize what I’ve done and race back out to rescue the prisoner. The apologies are profuse in cases like this.

When MC was first trapped in the truck on Day 2 of his visit he declared he would fix the handle. We got busy and lots of other projects got in the way and I began to fear he might slip away and escape without having a chance to design a solution… I needn’t have worried. A couple of days ago he came up with this utterly ingenious and elegant solution:

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Voila!! A fancy new door handle! Functional and cool and made using stuff found lying around.

Sigh. I am going to miss MC and SP. Their departures loom and it will be with a heavy heart that I bid the boys farewell…

Sometimes, You Add an Impossible Task to the To-Do List

When we rebuilt the house, we had to empty it of all our stuff and ourselves. We stashed ourselves in Kelowna, in a guest suite at a neibour’s place, and in a downtown condo… We stashed our stuff in a couple of neighbours’ barns and in a big steel storage box, a shipping container a truck and crane dropped off on the front lawn.

We still have some stuff to sort through in the shipping container, the ultimate destination and purpose for which has yet to be decided. Suggestions have included renting a helicopter to pick it up and lower it into a narrow slot between some cedar trees and an existing outbuilding. In this plan, the container would be converted into a workshop. Another thought was to have the truck and crane return and haul it down to the farm area where it could become the central core of a new barn. This second plan is practical but lacks the excitement of the helicopter lift… We are also undecided as to where, exactly, it would go down in the farm area.

Meanwhile, it has been squatting like an ungainly beast straddling the remaining front lawn and the area that is supposed to be levelled, landscaped, and used for lovely, convenient parking. As we seem unable to decide exactly what to do with it for the long term, we thought we should at least get at the landscaping project, which meant the shipping container needed to be moved.

I have been mightily impressed with the skills and enthusiasm of my volunteer helpers and thought I’d see what might happen if I put “Move shipping container” on the daily To-Do list. It didn’t need to move too far – 20 feet back and a dozen feet over and only a little bit uphill… Those German guys are strong and determined and I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask…

Turns out that if you add a couple of Germans to a conversation with a handy future son-in-law, borrow a winch, maneuver the truck into a strategic position up on the road, run cables and chains and straps through the hedge, use levers and pulleys, a couple of jacks, and wedge some round logs and fence posts underneath… it is possible for three guys to move a shipping container before they’ve even had a chance to grab a sandwich for lunch!!Jpeg

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Compare the relative location of the container and the bricks with the previous picture to see how far they moved that sucker back! Then they had to pry it sideways before jacking it up and levelling it in its new temporary but at least out of the way position.


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I am afraid I cannot let these gentlemen go home. Not ever. I wish I had more daughters to marry off… I’ve even taken to baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies hoping they might want to stay just a little longer…

All in a day's work for my MC and SP. Thanks, guys!!

All in a day’s work for my MC and SP. Thanks, guys!!

 

 

 

Hog House Par Excellence

I’m not exactly sure how this has happened, but ever since the international volunteers have started to come I’ve been busier than ever!! What is most excellent about this state of affairs is the number of things that are getting ticked off the To-Do list!!

One of the big jobs that really needed to be done was to finally get the weaners (now growers, soon to be finishers) moved over to Maypenny Farm. I had managed to sort out enough electric fencing, a battery and battery-powered fence charger to make a decent-sized grazing area, but the hogs really needed a good sturdy shelter that could be dragged around from place to place in the field as we moved the pigs from one pasture area to the next.

When MC arrived, it was quickly obvious he was a handy guy. He also fast figured out that my building efforts were not always exactly square and level. Our conversation considering how we might proceed with building a new hog hut went something like this:

Me: So, do you think we could build a small hog house? Sturdy, moveable, weather-resistant… up off the ground…

MC: Sure. No problem. I must warn you, though: I like to make things perfect. [Remember, MC is an engineering student back in Germany.]

Me; [Keep in mind that my farm outbuildings are not exactly perfect – more like rickety, cobbled together structures that defy gravity and windstorms because if you use enough binder twine, zap straps, and duct tape, you can actually make something that’s remarkably difficult to deconstruct.] Do you think I would drive you crazy if we worked together?

MC: [Exceedingly politely] I am happy to work alone.

Poor MC. I don’t think he fully realized that the project would not start with a trip to the lumber yard. Instead, we collected together a pile of shipping pallets and I showed him where the heaps of scrap lumber and tin roofing were stashed (leftovers from the renovation) and gave him the nod. It’s not that easy to build something square and solid and neat when you are starting with experienced raw material that has just spent a winter under inadequate cover.

Undeterred, MC set to work. There was a great deal of banging and the whirring and whizzing of power tools. After a remarkably short amount of time, I discovered THIS in the back yard!!

German engineering on the farm... the new fully portable hog hut.

German engineering on the farm… the new, fully-portable hog hut.

Tuulen checking out the ramp into the new hog hut...

Tuulen checking out the ramp into the new hog hut…

Undercarriage of the new hut... designed to be strong enough to pull behind the truck.

Undercarriage of the new hut… designed to be strong enough to pull behind the truck.

Alas, it has been so wet since the structure got its walls we haven’t been able to paint it, but the building itself is GREAT!! At this point in the process, the hut was behind our house – a distance of about five kms from its intended new home. This meant we had to somehow move it from our farm over to Maypenny.

Turns out if you build something solid enough to withstand being dragged around by the truck and rubbed against by hefty hogs, then its final weight is eighty-seven tons. More or less. Keep in mind our house is on quite a steep hill and the road is above the spot where the hut was built and we had our first challenge – how to move the hut from the building site to the road so we could then attempt to load it… somewhere. Into the back of the truck? (the canopy could come off… twelve burly men or a crane could show up…)

When we realized it wasn’t practical to lift this heavy-duty 87-ton hulking hog hut into the back of the truck we decided to drag it up to the road using a strong rope and my big truck and then somehow get it into the horse trailer.

It’s late and I’m bagged, so you’ll need to stay tuned for how that played out… Let’s just say that there is a very good reason why this blog hasn’t heard much from me over the past week or so… It turns out that moving a German-engineered hog house from A to B is not exactly a five minute job… Nor, for that matter, is convincing five teenaged hog boys that they would be happy leaving home in the pouring rain to be re-settled in a hog hut somewhere over in the next valley…

First Batch of Big Leaf Maple Syrup!

Our first batch of Big Leaf Maple syrup is very, very tasty…

Maple Syrup!

Maple Syrup!

Some things I did not know about making maple syrup…

1. The sap when it first comes out of the tree is really watery – somehow I thought it was more like thick, sticky sap like the stuff that gets stuck in your hair if you climb pine trees on warm spring days. It’s more like water.

2. Sap doesn’t drip slowly and take forever to collect. If you hit a good vein (or whatever the appropriate term is…), it virtually gushes out of the tree. The little wine bladders we initially used were way too small and we’ve switched to 18 liter water jugs.

3. The flow varies widely from tree to tree, from day to day, and depending on time of day, temperature, and recent temperature fluctuations…

4. It takes about 40 liters of tree sap/water to make about 1 liter of syrup, which is why all that maple syrup making back east used to be done outdoors (that’s a whole lot of steam to fog up your windows). Boiling maple syrup is probably still done outdoors for that reason. We set up a hot plate on the deck for the first phase of boiling and only moved the pans inside as we got close to the end.

5. It takes FOREVER to boil off 39 liters of water.

6. It takes a nanosecond to go from boiling water to scorched syrup! At the end, the temperature rises very quickly as the percentage of sugar increases and it’s really easy to overshoot the mark, burn the syrup, and lose a whole batch! With four of us watching over the bubbling pots and alarms set on digital thermometers, we dodged this particular bullet, but I can see how easy it would be for everything to go terribly wrong.

7. Does it taste like maple syrup? Yep. Except with a stronger flavour – there’s a sort of woodsy undertone that is richer than the store bought pure maple syrup from back east. There is no comparison to regular pancake syrup made with corn syrup – that is very sweet, but has none of the complex flavour of this stuff!

8. Are we happy campers? Oh. Yes. Indeed.

9. Will we have any for sale? Maybe not this year – we started this whole tapping/boiling process a bit late in the season, but next year we’ll get started in November. Because we are on the west coast we can collect from November to early March, which gives us a whole lot of raw material to work with. This has been a great test, though – we’ll keep sugaring for the next couple of weeks and learn what we can and then next year we will start early and see how much we can produce.

Big Leaf Maple Sugaring!

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Because we don’t really have a lot to do around here, we’ve decided to see if we can squeeze a few drops of maple sugar from our big leaf maple trees! [Curious about tapping west coast maples? Here’s a good link with lots of information.)

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T. got all excited about the prospect of making our own syrup, so off he went to gather supplies – spiles, tubing, and wine bladders (from a local You Brew wine shop). 

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It was so easy to get holes drilled and everything set up I can’t believe that every maple tree in the area hasn’t been tapped! The ease of sap collection is likely to be offset by the lengthy process that lies ahead… The ratio of sap to syrup is about 40:1 so we have a lot of boiling ahead of us! Stay tuned…