Sunday Drivers - Fort Anne

Yesterday we had a special visit from my cousin Rob and his co-worker Michelle. They are on a cross-Canada tour promoting his non-profit organization, Our Horizon.

It's a simple, yet radical idea.  Just as Canada led the world in placing warnings on cigarette packages, Rob hopes to stand behind another Canadian first - warning labels on gas pumps. 

Worried about tar sands? Pipelines? Climate change? Disrupt Demand. We want to put warning labels on gas pump nozzles, similar to those on cigarette packages. Learn the theory, impact and how to lobby local government to pass this idea into law. Then, we'll take it global.

Check it out, mull it over, talk about it with your friends.  Email your Councillors, make a donation, spread the word.  You can even create your own label.  Seriously - check out the links, it's so easy!

As they only had a short time to spend with us, we wanted to show them some places which are special to us.  Naturally, we took them to the Farmers and Traders Market in Annapolis Royal and stopped for shenanigans in Fort Anne!

A very small bit of Autumn's bounty.

Beautiful, gigantic crooked-neck squash.

Ken's quote of the day on the Sinclair Inn.

Rob sets the hand-stand bar by staying up for several seconds.

Not to be outdone, Michelle shows us her newly acquired skill, too!

Uncle Rob, sharing his technique with The Boy.

"With a flower behind your ear, lean over."

"Then you hop with your legs."

"And then your shirt falls off!"

Cirque de Robbé!

This photo got cut off by the side of the monument, but was too good to pass up.  Boys will be boys!

Sharing a laugh on the cannon.

Shooting people to the moon!

I'm getting the impression that Nova Scotians don't hold back!

Clown detail.

All in all, a fun day was had by all.  Rob and The Boy really hit it off, goofing around, running up and down the hills, playing patty-cake, crawling on the cannons and laughing, laughing, laughing.  

Michelle was also the apple of The Boy's eye - I think thanks to Merida, he has a growing fondness for red hair.  At the market, he was dragging poor Michelle everywhere, trying to show her all of his favourite places - the balloon twisting clown, where he buys his favourite tarts, the wharf and of course all of his favourite places at Fort Anne.

Our day ended with a quick spin past the light at Margaretsville, a test-drive of Rob's SmartCar (of which I neglected to get a photo) and then they were on their way back to Halifax.  The Boy was particularly curious about Rob's car and was delighted to get a wee ride up the hill and back!

We'll be seeing Rob and Michelle again before they leave.  They're planning a quick jaunt back to the Valley to pick up Michelle's coat, scarf and phone charger!  Maybe they'll take the ferry from Digby - what a treat!


Sunday Drivers - HWY 221 Danger Edition

This weekend we decided to head to New Minas in order to make some purchases not available locally.  It was our intention to reach Port Willimams by 10am, so we could get some chocolate milk and be on our way.  Because the Boy likes to take the highway, we made our way down the mountain to 101 and struck off in an easterly direction.

We were toodling down the highway when we entered a construction zone and were flagged to a stop.  It would seem there was construction on 101 from Kingston to Berwick. In a fit of impatience, we turned around, took the closest off ramp and headed back to 221.  This decision proved dangerous for our pocket books.

It was a mighty good thing we had the truck, because before the day was out we'd managed to buy:

-Pork rolls and ears (dog treats) and sausages from all-natural, anti-biotic free pigs fed grain produced on their own farm
-buy one, get three free trees and hostas
-5lbs of plums
-10lbs of Gravenstein apples
-50lbs carrots ($8!)
-10lbs cabbage ($4!)
-50lbs fallen apples for the pigs $3.50
- four glass bottles of chocolate milk

Each of us also had a barbequed hotdog from a road-side stand, homemade raspberry lemonade and an ice cream for dessert!

What happened to our trip to New Minas, you ask?  Like many ill-fated explorers before us, our expedition was way-laid and eventually lost.  Burdened with our precious booty and at a loss for space, we were forced to retreat.  Our crew of intrepid swashbucklers never made it to New Minas.


Look mom, I made the real bus from the macaroni prototype!

Ok, we didn't make a real VW Bus, but we did make a look-alike mailbox!  I can't wait to put it out on our naked post.   Laur did the paint, I did the decals.  I neglected to put some signal indicators on the front but other than that and a few squiggly lines, I'm pleased with the results.

All it needs now is its side flag and a few clear-coats to protect from the elements and then it's meep! meep!  out to the post to collect our mail!


Make spicy habanero jelly, I thought. It'll be fun, I thought...

I woke to another beautiful dawn this morning. As I yawned and stretched, I planned the day ahead.  Make some hot pepper jelly, clean up my fallen wood pile, finish the roof on the wood shed and maybe take a ride.  Perhaps not in that order, but I think I can get everything done today.

So with boy off to school and Laur off to New Minas to pick up a few non-local items, I set about the business of jelly making.  I wanted to make jelly when she's not around as the rest of the family is highly sensitive to spicy foods.  And habaneros being what they are, I didn't want to poison her.

Bell peppers? Check.
Habanero peppers? Check.
Apple cider vinegar? Check.
Pectin and sugar? Checkerooni.
Gloves and bandana? Ignored!

I was all set. Cut and puree peppers, add cider, add pectin, boil, add sugar.  Great! Boil vigorously for exactly one minute.  It was during that exact minute that I realized I had not yet boiled water for the post-jar bath. Quickly I turned to fill the canning pot with hot water.

This was my fatal mistake.

Mere seconds later I turned to see my pot of jelly boiling over. Nooooo!

Cooking with gas? Fire. Boiling sugar? Fire.  Habanero peppers? Fire.  All I could see was sticky, red, boiling-hot, liquid fire filling the bottom of the stove.  I panicked and whipped the pot from the stove.  As I watched, stunned, the sticky inferno continue to boil over the pot. Oh crap.  I stood for a moment, suddenly transported to the 1986 Argyle Elementary School 7th Grade Science Fair. You know, where Jimmy made his volcano exhibit erupt by using dry ice, red food colouring and hot water?

Shaking my head, I then set about the business of cleaning up sticky, liquid fire... before Laura got home.  I had visions of painful hot pepper oils covering the stove, counter top, sink, rags. Remember the recommended gloves? I was no longer scoffing.  I had peppers on my hands, peppers on my lips, peppers in my eyes... Gah!

It all turned out OK, but I did throw away the rag and towel I used, just in case. I know the oil from the peppers tends to coat the inside of the washing machine.  And quite frankly, hot-pepper underpants are the last thing anyone wants.

I hope it turns out.  With the brief pause to avoid nuclear melt-down, I'm sure I messed up the pectin jellification process.  Oh well, all's well that ends well.  My first foray into canning - hot pepper jelly (with Laura's sauerkraut in the background).

Snip, snap, click!

And look who is turning in to the driveway...!


Old-Time Country Fair

Last weekend, during a beautifully warm late-summer day, on a small plot of land next to an ancient country graveyard in Tremont, NS the Tremont World's Fair took place.  This isn't the usual "Ex" as you might imagine - midway rides, games of chance and oodles of fried food and sodas. Nope, it was a real country fair, such as I've never experienced before - old-timey, with cattle, horses, 4H kids, vegetables, fruits, pies and crafts.  I'm not sure why, but I didn't think to bring my real camera. But I'm glad I had my phone to record at least some of the day's events.

The graveyard on the hill behind the old Baptist church.

Hay judging. 
Red ribbon goes to the highest quality bale. All four of these were second cut, mixed grasses.  I'd like to watch the judging some time and learn how they judge quality. They were all very fragrant - you could smell them as soon as you walked through the gate.

There were competitions for all kinds of fruits and veggies, floral arrangements, jams, jellies, honey and pies!  There were competitions for sewn wearable garments, rug hooking, all manners of crafts, photographs, many mediums of art and children's creations - including art work and LEGOS!! I kicked myself for not taking photos of the amazing Lego entries!  All of the children's entries were wonderful and it's so nice to see kids participating in the community event.

Dairy cows wait their turn to be judged - this girl was entered in a contest whereby her udder was judged. I can't remember the specifics, maybe "largest udder" "Best Shaped" "Most Cowiful"? I can't remember. But what I do recall is how perfectly content these girls were to  rest in the shade and chew cud!

Younger Holsteins waiting their turn in the ring. They were all so very placid, waiting, chewing, waiting, chewing.  For dairy breeds we saw Holsteins and Jerseys. Meat breeds included Durhams, Herefords and Angus (Black and Red).

Dairy Showmanship - Over 21
These were my favourites to watch - The Showmanship classes.  These are some dairy breeds being shown in the Over 21 category.  Most competitions will have several categories for younger folks, think 4H, to participate.  But this category is for adults who want to show their calves and judges them on how their cows respond to their handlers - if they stand nicely, how they walk, trot and turn.

Beef Showmanship - Over 21
See that guy on the right? He won every event in which he entered, with every cow.  All of his cows also won every event in which they were entered - regardless of handler. 

Young oxen wait their turn.
In Nova Scotia, ox and horse pulls are a big deal and part of every fair. These guys are likely yearlings(ish). There were three weight classes for oxen. I cannot remember specifics, but it was basically divided by age - young, middle age and mature oxen.
Head yokes also seem to be the norm out East. I'm not sure if this is the French influence, but out west oxen were very rare and usually shoulder yoked.

The big guys wait in the shade for their turn. I took a picture of him because his horns point almost directly down. Because each yoke is made to fit a specific animal on a specific side, this yoke would be somewhat unique. His partner is obscured behind the trees directly above his shoulder.  
Can you see the brown longer horned guy in the back? Its amazing that the horns don't interfere with one another when yoked together!

Ah! The main event - the horse pull. Here the tractor loads 100lb "logs" of concrete onto the sled. I wish I could give you details about team weight, poundage pulled, ratios of pulled weight to horse weight, etc, but I just didn't keep track of that info. But this is how the pull is judged - whoever has the most weight pulled per horse pound is the winner.  Like the oxen, the horses have several different categories graduated according to weight.  These Belgians were the only team I got to watch because mechanical issues forced the pulls to be delayed. I had to get back to make supper!

This team quite easily pulled 1400lbs. Another component of the competition is length - not only does a team have to pull the weight a specified distance, but the teamster also has to plan and control their animals because they only have a set distance in which to pull as much weight as possible. For example, this team has to pull this weight a minimum distance for the pull to count (I think it's right around 4'), but the teamster doesn't want his team to pull too far, because if they are a big strong team, the driver will want them to pull as much weight as they can before they hit the end of the course.  Make sense?

I have now been to two fairs in the Valley and I really enjoy watching people of all ages, body sizes and abilities participating.  It wasn't just young, slender young women riding their perfectly groomed and finished imported European warm bloods - it was older/younger (there was a three year old girl on her pony with her mom leading!), slender/stouter, warm blood/draft cross... every body on every type of horse and participating in everything from the cross cut competition (cutting a log using a two-person saw) to the Farmer's Race (running through various farm-related chores like carrying water, moving bales, etc, all whilst wearing comically large overalls).

Coming from the prairies, I tended to think of agricultural events as white, wealthy, male activities.  But here the emphasis seems to be on the animals and food, not gigantic machines, robots and huge farming "systems".  Perhaps there are those kinds of expos here, too, but probably not in the Valley as there just isn't the same emphasis on enormous farms.  But I was happy to see people enjoying themselves, having friendly competitions, visiting with both farm neighbours and the person sitting next to you.  Everyone from all walks of life and abilities participated in all these events and it was refreshing!

A good time was had by all!

Roasted Chicken Dinner

It's been a couple weeks since I processed the last of our meat birds and I now have a bit of distance from the entire affair. The whole process - from chicks to table - has been quite an education for me.  I'm not sure I'm ready to put it into words quite yet, but perhaps some conversations with others will help me nail down and explore some of my ruminations.

That said, last night's dinner was quite delicious. We had corn/potato/cauliflower fritters; beautiful, plump, sweet Valley corn on the cob and our roasted chicken.

This was is a 7.5lb hen.  Quite large by supermarket standards, but not so by farm standards.  Kookum and Mooshum have some hens which are well over 8lbs, and roos which were approaching 10!

The finished bird. I put some fresh herbs and butter under the breast skin, then bathed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted.

It was a truly delicious meal - the skin was salty and crispy, the meat was juicy, tender and plentiful. We have a large tupperware container full of meat left over and the carcass is in the freezer for winter broth making.

All of that said, I didn't eat very much last night.  And as I write I find it somewhat disconcerting to refer to the crispy, delicious skin of an animal which once sat on my lap.

Perhaps I'm not as far away from the process as I thought...


Cry havoc and let slip the ducks of war!

Yesterday Mr. M. Hathaway had a brief taste of freedom on Occidental Acres.  Cleverly disguised as punishment, the experiment turned out quite well.  We chased him back into the duck house after supper, but didn't really have to do that as it's quite likely he would have gone back all by himself.  I wanted to make sure he got the memo that ducks go home at twilight.

Owing to yesterday's brief success (Mr. H did not fly away or get eaten), the females were loosed this morning and the flock is now grazing on weeds, saplings and slugs in the farm yard. They are quite happily playing in the mud and puddles, stretching their wings (my girls will fly once their snipped flight feathers grow back) and chasing one another around.

In a surprising turn of events, upon opening the chicken coop for morning inspection, I saw the hens hurriedly trying to hide something in the wood shavings at the back.  I didn't think anything of it, until I opened the windows.  Because two of the three windows are located inside the coop, I closed the door so the girls couldn't walk out behind me.  What I saw on the back of the door was alarming to say the least.

It would seem that the chickens are mounting strident protests all around!  I've confined them to their run since yesterday as we been experiencing thunderstorms the past couple of days.  This does not make them happy. Several of them have launched a peaceful sit-in at the gate. A few others have wing-cuffed themselves to the page-wire fence, and still others are marching with signs and chanting slogans such as "Hey, hey, ho ho! We are chickens and want to go!", "Chickens are under attack! What you going to do? ACT UP, FIGHT BACK!" and "We want freedom! When do we want it? Corn!"  Truth be told, that last one is a little worrying.

To boot, Attila The Hen flew up to the top of the fence and momentarily considered a bid for freedom. Until she lost her balance, that is, and flew back into the run.  Rather surprisingly, she's the first to try and fly out - trying new things usually rests squarely in Hillary or Berwyn's domain.  Added to her more demure disposition, she's rather portly and I've not seen her fly that high before.   The other chickens quickly gathered and ushered her away, but not before casting glances upward, appraising their own abilities to thwart the perimeter fencing.

Is Occidental Acres on the verge of insurrection?



A few photos of the chickens, by request.

 Attila, el stundo, the Hen.

 Flink! Eater of worms! Herder of hens! Possessor of fabulous gams!

Penny, Berwyn and Blanche. Gossips.

The new Muscovy clan.

Mr. M. Hathaway earned himself a time out - i.e. out of the coop - by being a jerk to the girls.  The girls had a fabulous time in the downpour without him.

Found him up on this stump. Seems he couldn't figure out how to get down.  Serves him right!  Left him there.