Category Archives: ellenberger organic farm

with a heavy + grateful heart

This task has been hanging over us for some time now.  We knew when we bought these chicks from Andrew and Kira back in June that we would be putting the roosters in our freezer.  They had a happy and natural life in every way.  They free ranged by day and roosted in a large coop by night.  Aside from the odd game of harmless chase with the children and dogs, they were free to be chickens.  Because they had lots of space they very rarely even picked fights with each other.  It really was a good life punctuated with a not so great final 30 seconds.

Andrew and Kira had offered to show us (by that I mean Mike) the process they use.  They arrived early, we chatted, sipped coffee while the kids played on the ice and followed our tame outdoor rabbit Sugarfoot,  and then proceeded to get ready.  I thought I would stay away entirely, but decided at the last minute to watch the process.  It ended up being Kira doing the task and the teaching.  There is something comforting to me about a woman doing the job.  She is a calm and gentle soul and it gave me an even deeper sense of peace with the whole process.  Once the ball was rolling, the task went quickly and Mike told me later that Kira makes for wonderful teacher.

Poppy was a bit confused, but we took turns explaining what was happening in the simplest terms possible.  She seemed to understand to some extent and innocently said to me “No, you can’t eat animals, that’s yucky”.  Silas took that time to have a complete melt down so I took our kids inside for a snack where we checked on things from the window from time to time.

I was relieved when it was all over and now that we have 7 chickens in our freezer neither of us have an appetite for chicken.  I remember my dad telling me about my Gramma not being able to eat her chickens for quite some time after processing them herself.  I guess we just feel it proper to give it a window of grace.  A moment of quiet gratitude.  A moment to process our own emotions.  A moment to allow it to cross some arbitrary threshold where it becomes meat rather than a living, breathing creature that once grazed on our land.  Mike was a bit quiet and reserved for the remainder of the day, perhaps processing his first experience with killing something himself.

My issue is not in this method of raising and killing animals ourselves, but more with the bigger question of if I should be eating meat at all.  I came to the realization that if I am to eat meat, I am responsible for the death of an animal regardless of whose hands do the deed.  To send them away or to buy from the conventional market simply makes it easier for me to continue with the easy disconnect.   That being said, if it were left to me and me alone, I would not eat meat again and wouldn’t find it to be a grave hardship.  I have always struggled with eating meat on a personal level and this practice has brought me face to face with that issue; just as having a responsible, respectful organic beef farmer for a father and a responsible, respectful hunter for a step father has done throughout my entire life.  I believe that chickens and other animals are capable of forming bonds and “friendships”; they know the primal sense of pleasure of warming themselves in the sun; they break off into their own groups and have roosting buddies; comforting bonds if you will.  It may be on a primal level, but just because they cannot contemplate these bonds and attachments, doesn’t mean they don’t occur.

The Hoff and the ladies laid low under the cedar tree for the remainder of the day.  Usually Mike shuts the coop door each night, but that night I went out to say goodnight and thank you.  The 4 Barred Rock ladies were sitting on one roost while the 5 Wyandottes sat on a much higher roost.  The Hoff sat alone and alert on his own looking a little disoriented.  He watched me cautiously as I talked in a soft voice.  I told him I needed him to remain a gentleman and he curiously cocked his head and looked me in the eye.  I hoped we had reached an understanding and so far he has held up his end of the bargain.  I went out again a little later just to look in the window and he had snuggled right in with the older girls on their roost.  I was glad for that.

This way of doing things isn’t for everyone, nor is it emotionally easy, but for us, it is right.  When I think of how conventional meat ends up on the table the decision is easier.  This was not something we took lightly.  We are grateful for the meat, we are grateful for organic farming parents and friends who help and support us so fully along this path we are choosing.

go gently + be wonderful

e,

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some days are better

Yesterday was restless and rough.  Paint smeared across furniture, Huck stealing homemade pizza from the counter top, and yarn unraveled.  T’was not a stellar day in my parenting career thus far, that is for certain.  It ended with me laying rumpled on our bed in a dark room wishing I was more patient; better; different.

Today has been better.  Christmas crafting, roughhousing and hugging, soup warming on the wood stove, and sitting cuddled under a creamy blanket watching The Sword in The Stone.  The tree line out front is hazed by heavy layers of falling snow.

I am looking forward to the slow days of our Christmas vacation; a visit to the farm (and if we’re lucky, a horse drawn sleigh ride), puzzles, books, afternoon coffee, all day snacking, perpetual Christmas movies and music, visitors, walks in the woods, campfires, sleeping in front of the fire, and gingerbread houses.

Yes, I intend to savour every little morsel of Christmas goodness because I know January, February, and March will be good, but oh so long.

In other news, I am very excited about what 2013 holds for my wee photography business.  I am feeling inspired and hopeful.  If you haven’t already, be sure to “like” my new Facebook page to learn about mini sessions and other updates.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to book a photo session for the new year.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Have a merry day, folks!

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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wood warms you thrice

There is a saying that wood warms a person three times; once when you cut it; once when you stack it; and once when you burn it, but we are quickly learning the other benefits of heating with wood.

Mike and I both have fond memories of wood heat in our childhoods, but there was a long stretch of time in which we lived without one.  When we moved into this house it was early spring and shortly after, we had our insurance adjuster through for an inspection.  He found that the WETT certificate we received during the purchase of the house was in fact for a different stove.  He told us it would need upgrades before we could safely use it.  It was going to cost over $500 dollars to fix it, so we decided to wait and simply use our propane furnace.  After our first $600 tank refill in November we decided we needed a new game plan.  We hadn’t ordered wood so we only had what the previous owner had left.  We were paying through the nose to keep it at a chilly 64 degrees.  The windows and ceiling upstairs was getting condensation on it due to poor insulation.

In January we shelled out the money to have it fixed and WETT certified.  In February we ordered our $825 truckload of logs.  In March, we paid $450 to have our furnace fixed when it conked out in the middle of the night.  We ended up spending $1600 in propane last winter.  We were using approximately 1% of the tank each day and refills usually cost about $400.  It was an expensive winter to say the least.

In an effort to save money this year, our goal is to not turn on our furnace until we absolutely must.  So far so good,  though it has been a mild Fall.  We still have some late winterizing to do such as creating a room around our water tank in the cellar basement, putting plastic over our drafty front door, and adding insulation under our floor.

Yesterday, my step-mom came to take care of the kids so Mike and I could get out for some Christmas shopping and time to ourselves.  It was so very much appreciated.  When we arrived home she told us she cooked supper (potatoes and sausage) on the woodstove.  I was thrilled.  After all, I had been meaning to try it, but thought it would take hours just to cook some potatoes due to the double plate on top of it, so it hadn’t been a priority.  Today was a rainy day and it felt fitting to heat our lunch on the woodstove.  It worked brilliantly.

It occurred to me how intricately wise the old ways can be.  Our wee, basic, and rather inefficient woodstove warms our house, dries our clothes, resolves the humidity/condensation problem, and now cooks our food.  At first glance one would think that technology has streamlined and simplified our lives, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here does it?  For it has effortlessly replaced or reduced the need for our furnace, our dryer, our dehumidifier, and our stove.  Depending on the type of day we often hold temperatures around 70 to 75 glorious degrees.

Over the winter I will be making it a new habit to turn our electric stove on less and using the woodstove to make what I can.  I am thinking morning oatmeal, Christmas day cider, and hearty soups.  The one “issue” would be that it is at the opposite end of the house to our kitchen so it means a lot of running back and forth.  It also requires a bit of counter space.  To fix this, I will be digging out my cast iron frying pan, creating a makeshift counter top on top of the woodbox, and gathering a few essentials such as a cutting board, oven mitts, salt and pepper, wooden spoons and a flipper to hang on the logs for easy access.  Someday, we will upgrade our stove and I think a small cookstove will be in order, but that won’t likely be anytime soon.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a rather perfectly rainy December Sunday awaiting me.  Lasagna to heat up, crocheted washcloths to make, and two wee ones to cuddle.  Perhaps we will end off with a little more Christmas caroling as Mike learns new tunes on the ukulele.

Happy Sunday, friends.

 

go gently + be wonderful

 

e.

 

 

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earth’s best sundays steeped in saturday

 a new pup

a bucket full of potatoes

family

perfect fall colours

fire + coffee

cool wind

grey skies

wagon rides

good food

pumpkin pie

a walk in the woods

preparing myself for a new photography venture {more on that when I am ready}

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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meet huckleberry

Long story short, we decided that our natural state is to be surrounded by lots of pets and animals.

Which means we invited this sweet 8 week old Akbash, Maremmas, Border Collie cross into our wee home.

He is calm and alert; sweet and playful.

His name is Huckleberry; Huck for short.

He’s destined to be big and smart.

My dad and step mom picked up his brother last week and since their farm is only 20 minutes away from where the puppies were, we thought we’d stop in for a visit and play date.

Everyone is adjusting well.  The cats didn’t even bother hissing and Soma just gave him a quick sniff.  We thought the first night would be rough, but he settled in and slept the whole night.

We think he is the perfect addition to our little family.

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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a working vacation

I didn't know chickens yawned until meeting this guy. He won second prize

T’was a busy staycation of 2012.  Mike’s mom arrived from Newfoundland 11 days ago, and we took full advantage of the extra set of loving hands.  We toyed with the idea of making the trip to Newfoundland because the sea and family are calling to us, but money and logistics didn’t work in our favour this year.  Who would take care of the chickens?  The dog?  The rabbit?  The cats?  There are so many other things around the home begging for our time and money.  This time next year, I hope to be posting pictures and tales of the majestic island.

So yes, we had a staycation (though it was more like a working vacation).  We shopped sans kids, stopped for silly photo booth photos, made a cake, went to the fair, moved wood, organized sheds, made a bed for Poppy (not to mention a room of her very own), had corn and manure for the garden delivered with love from Ellenberger Organic Farm, the rotten fence post was finally removed and replaced with the ingenuity of my dad and the grunt force of my husband, Mike went fishing, we spent a day looking for shoes, we had the first meet up with some seriously great homeschooling families, we made plans to have Poppy try ballet, I organized and re-organized furniture and clothing, we finally made it to the Highland Cinema in Kinmount for a date night where we ate licorice and natchos (yes, with a T) and it is my new favourite place to watch movies.  Oh, and we began the construction of a major entertainment unit (ours will be either white washed or white) which will cover our lovely wall of wires.  It is only half done after nearly three days of work, but I will post pictures when it is complete.  We even managed to stick to our early morning workouts for the most part.

It was nice to feel productive and get a little more organized, but it also made me realize we need to start making time for the fun stuff as well as the busy stuff.

We also celebrated a certain sweet boy’s second birthday last week.   We had planned on having a little gathering with the grandparents, cousins, etc, but when that all fell through we decided a trip to the Kinmount Fair was in fact ideal.  What little boy wouldn’t want to spend their day at the Kinmount Fair eating cotton candy, looking at chickens, cows, horses, ducks, and rabbits, snakes and riding “Dumbo”?  I mean seriously.  We started the day with apple pancakes, and ended it with a “Honey A Pooh” chocolate cake.  They also enjoyed the early Halloween costumes we picked up and spent the evening dressed as Peter Pan and Merida (of Brave) costumes complete with sword and bow and arrow.

The week before our vacation was also busy with company, birthday celebrations, and a trip to the Toronto Zoo.  I will be posting pictures over the week to come to catch up.

Today the house was quiet as Mike and his mom left early for the long drive to the airport.  The daycare kids were to come today, but cancelled last minute so the kids and I had a simple day of snuggling, folding laundry, making bean soup, picking tomatoes, reading, watching the Magic School Bus, dress up, a daring sword fight and even a nap (for Silas and me).  The evenings are cool and I crave the heat of a fire, but we’re holding out for that perfect moment to welcome the fire back into the hearth.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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earth’s best sundays

For the first time in 8 1/2 years, Mike slept on the couch…

So he could keep the fire going after our furnace conked out at 2am Saturday.

He’s a good man.

living room slumber party

bad Canadian TV

waking with a new mindset

learning to let go of old thought patterns

tapping trees at Ellenberger Organic Farm

new geek chic glasses for Mike

(thank God for good benefits)

thoughts on small living

melting snow

warm wind

an hour lost, but light gained

t’was a good one

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bits + bobs

I was awakened in the dark hours this morning with a mysteriously sour stomach.  I was weak and queasy and the thought of chasing the kids seemed daunting, so Mike stayed home to help me with the kids.

In short, I took a sick day.

I stayed in my jammies under a beloved quilt by the fire and took the day slowly.

I sat in the lull and thought about our plans.

I thought about the things I want to talk about in this space in the near future.

I crocheted a few stitches on my rag rug.

I enjoyed the things we are accomplishing.

I got excited about upcoming articles,  features and growth.

I thought about how we are evolving + becoming.

We had our homeschooling goals re-affirmed.

We talked about baby names should we ever get around to having a third babe.  We have some pretty great ones so it would be a sad thing not to put at least one of them to good use 😉

I mulled over how thinking outside of the box and doing things unconventionally seems to work best for us.

We ordered our seeds and talked about this years garden.

I chatted with Dad about the beef we are getting from them and the freezer we will fill with veggies, fruit, and meat to carry us through next winter.

 

It is an exciting time for us and for the blog and I can’t wait to share more with you in the form of articles, features, more sponsor giveaways, eco product reviews, recipes, and finally putting words to so many thoughts many homesteading and lifestyle topics.

 

We continue to weave while the Universe is provides the thread faithfully and at just the right speed.  So with a deep breath and a good night’s sleep, I will begin weaving again and share the good things with you.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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our first egg

Oh, how my heart swells with joy.

We brought our 6 laying hens home from my dad and step mom’s flock on October 29th.  Dad and Janet have been getting eggs for a couple weeks now from their 19 hens and asked every time we spoke if we had any ourselves.  We worried they had begun eating the eggs due to cold weather, boredom and/or the light-filled nesting boxes.  We had built two nice nesting boxes, but with two 4’x4′ south facing windows in our small coop, it was impossible to keep light out.  In an effort to appease the ladies we dug out an old cat carrier, removed the door, placed it in a corner facing the wall with just enough room to squeeze in for privacy, and filled it with fresh straw.  That was yesterday, and by mid morning today we had our first egg (in the cat carrier of course).  So it was either coincidence, or hens can, and will, hold out for more ideal laying quarters.  Lesson learned.

 It is such a simple symbol of all that we are trying to do here.  It feels like an important milestone and another nudge in the right direction. I actually squealed when I cracked open our egg and compared it to the other (organic, free run, store brand) eggs; so yellow and vibrant! I actually felt sad that so many people may never know this joy.

And once again, I am reminded of how blessed our simple life is.  Thank you for that sweet ladies.

go gently + be wonderful

e.

 

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the meat we eat

This is a post I have been mulling over for months now.  As we try to define our homesteading and lifestyle goals the topic of raising our own meat has been at the forefront of our minds.  Do we want to raise our own meat?  Do I want to slaughter the animals we have fed, tended to, and pet ?  If we do decide to raise our own meat do we want to butcher them ourselves or take them to a slaughterhouse?  If I am so uncomfortable with what meat is then should I perhaps give it up altogether?

 I love having and tending to animals.   There is something so sweetly quiet about the walk to the chicken coop; everything silenced by the freshly fallen snow; the dog racing to the coop and back again in an effort to hasten my pace; the cooing and clucking they welcome me with.  I would love to reconnect with the natural rhythm of animals and seasons.  I dream of  having a couple sheep for wool to spin, bees for honey and good conversation, a Flemish Giant rabbit and a goat for a few good laughs, more chickens for eggs and meat, and and cow for milk.  It all sounds romantic and homey when I say it like that doesn’t it?  But the reality is much more involved, complicated, and, for me, tortured.  The biggest thing being that a milk cow needs to have a calf each year in order to produce milk.  Do we sell or eat the sweet calf?  Romance gone.

I was raised in a family of lifelong responsible and respectable farmers and hunters and, yet, I have always struggled with eating meat.  Always.  I feel guilty when I question whether or not we should be entitled to eat meat or not as it puts my father’s livelihood into question and that makes me uncomfortable.  Even still, I can never quite disconnect from the fact that this beautiful creature died so I could eat it.  I imagine their fear and wonder what went through their minds in that last moment.  I wonder if their family misses them.  We dabbled in vegetarianism for about 9 months, but we did it in an unhealthy and unsustainable way.  We were unprepared as we had been raised eating meat at nearly every meal.

That being said, I don’t want to give up meat again.  I just don’t.  I do, however want to eat meat that was given room to roam, the ability to form natural bonds with other animals and the humans who cared for them.  In the words of Michael Pollan “…meat that had a really good life and one bad day…”.

We have gradually and permanently cut out conventionally raised meat and buy our organic, grass fed beef and pork from my father and step-mom’s farm.  When we run out, we simply eat meatless meals until we can get a visit in to their farm again.  We don’t have an affordable source for chicken so we don’t eat it.

So begins the conversation of starting into chickens for meat.  This would mean buying  a larger number of mixed sex day old chicks, raise them, and then either take the roosters to the butcher, or do the butchering ourselves.  I would be more comfortable with sending them away for processing, but is it about me or about the chickens?  Can I justify the stressful trip to a scary new place so that I feel better?  I eat meat and, therefore, am responsible for the death of an animal whether it is by my hands or someone else’s hands.

We recently were present when our friend Andrew slaughtered one of their own pigs.  For some reason it sounds more brutal when you say you slaughter your own animals, but their pig had a sweet little life and had no idea what her day would hold.  There was no stressful loading into a trailer, long trip to the butcher, unloading in unfamiliar surroundings nor an anxious wait.  She followed Andrew and the bucket of food up the hill where she began gobbling her feed and with a single shot  she left this world peacefully and quickly.

I have not yet made up my mind with regards to who will be doing the processing, but we have decided to take the plunge and raise some chickens for meat.  Running an old age home for old laying hens isn’t sustainable.  Rather than dying  and having the tough meat going to waste they will feed our family and revive the respect, connection, and reality of eating meat.  It is not a decision I have taken lightly nor is it one I am entirely comfortable with, but I am willing to push my own boundaries for the sake of learning and reconnecting.  This isn’t a topic most people are not comfortable with, but if you’re eating meat and have no intention of stopping, it is time to get comfortable with where it comes from.

Have you struggled with these same feelings?  What was your solution?  Is this a path you’re heading down yourself?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so please feel free to share in the comments.

A friend shared a really great video with a very graphic, very respectful how to video.  It is two parts so make sure you find both if you want more after the first.  She is very sweet and makes the process seem like a doable process of life as a homesteader.

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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