Saturday, February 24, 2018

This is a post by Edward.

 It was a snowy Friday morning in February and as usual I had the day off. Only working 4 days a week still has a little retired feel to it. The dogs were outside and a bark-fest started. This isn't unusual out here in the bush, there is always something in the vicinity to draw their attention. Sometimes it's even something living! This barking changed and we started to hear whines and yelps. Something was different. I put on my snowshoes and headed into the bush west of the trailer. It's thick Tag Alders there and the dogs have a labyrinthine maze zig-zagging through it. Their paths are not human friendly and if you have traveled by snowshoe through  Tag Alders you know what I mean. Only about 100' from our clearing and I found them at the base of a tree. There was whining and yapping... and the most beautiful sight. They had a playmate up the tree, a gorgeous Canada lynx!
 Having an idea what was happening I had a camera with me. Went to take a picture and it happened to be on video so I got this...

After a short video shoot it was time to get some photos...

Before I left there I shot another video clip then led the dogs away with the promise of treats and a walk, to keep them busy and allow their new friend time to escape.

Another glorious day in the bush! Hope this gives you some of the joy it brings me.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Our Newest Addition

When You Are Not Looking You Get Exactly What You Need

That was the case for us about 3 weeks ago. Ed was looking over a local pet page on Facebook and saw a post looking for a home for a 7 month old pup. While we have seen many pups available over the years we were not really looking for another dog at this time. We have the amazing Tono who, although he is 11, is still a puppy at heart. We knew that we would eventually get another dog and would like to time it so that the new dog could be trained by Tono. We also knew that another dog in our small home would be difficult. This time for whatever reason Ed decided to make a comment on the post. He did not say he was interested in the dog but just asked about the breed. This pup was 50% Great Pyrenees, 25% Akbash and 25% Anatolian Shepherd. These were breeds we were familiar with from our research in looking at what type of dog we would get for our property before we were offered Tono. These three breeds are all livestock guard dogs which is exactly what we would be interested in for our next dog. The owner asked if we would like to meet the pup. Well that was it... We traveled the 60 minutes and went to meet him. After 2 hours of visiting (we brought Tono along to make sure everyone would get along) Jax (his original name was Jack but we are SOA fans so the slight change made him ours) was in our truck for the trip home.

I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing from there but things were a bit hairy for the first few days. You see we were told that Jax was from a farm litter. He was apparently not being allowed to eat by the alpha dog at the farm. This meant that he was quite hungry and began to eat the lambs. One of the ways to deal with this is to tie a bit of the animal they are eating around the neck of the offending dog. The dog is annoyed and will, apparently, stop the behaviour. The farm where he was from did not choose that method and were not effective in changing the behaviour. They were going to put him down. The wonderful woman we got Jax from had already added his brother Miller to their farm. When she found out what was happening she asked for Jax to try to locate him to a new home. That's where we stepped in. She had him for a little over a week and was able to bond with him however he was still very skittish around others and in particular men. We thought that given our initial visit we could provide Jax with a home where he could flourish. I was able to get Jax to bond and listen to me easily but he would not go near Ed. During the first two days Jax attacked Tono on three occasions. The third time we found Jax broke the skin on Tono's neck quite severely. We were having second thoughts about keeping this pup. We did some research and found that we could show Jax that Tono was in charge by being sure he saw that Tono was fed first. That seemed to do the trick as Jax is now following Tono's lead completely. We were comfortable that the two dogs were going to get along and we were right. They even managed to corner a skunk and kill it. Now that was a fun wake up call at 5am! Thankfully neither dog seemed to get sprayed but our truck was rather ripe for a few days.

The House That Jax Had Built

Since Jax is accustom to being outdoors we realized he needed a shelter and got busy constructing him a place out of the elements. We had saved a discarded building from the dump some time ago. We thought it may have been a rabbit hutch but regardless felt we could make use of it and this was the perfect time. 

 We went to work removing all the chicken wire and the wood that was not needed. The next step was to cut it in half.

Then it was time to add the insulation. We still had the sheets of insulation which initially were for the house build but after going flying around the property during the storm a couple of months back many were damaged. We gathered up all the pieces and this appeared the perfect time to put some of it to use. 

We did each half individually and then put them together. We found our homemade wagon a perfect location for completing the job.

With both sides together we put a tin ridge cap over the roof to cover the seam and keep the elements securely out. Now it was all ready to be moved to it's final location for Jax's inspection.

We have been trying to coax the ever skittish Jax into his house. It appears the idea of new is just a little bit much for the pup. We found that by placing treats in the house he has gone in and out on one occasion. We are not really too concerned as Tono also took some coaxing to begin to use his dog house.

To add another bit of drama to our pup's adjustment he managed to pull out of his collar and will have nothing to do with any attempts to replace it around his neck. This is unfortunate as he was scheduled to be neutured last week. We have rescheduled that for another 2 weeks down the road and hope that we will be able to get a collar and a leash on him comfortably by that time.

In the meantime Jax has taken to sitting atop the sand pile to look over his domain. This is the reason we chose the location we did for his house.

Who wouldn't fall in love with this beautiful creature?

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sunflower Sprouts - They're For The Birds

Our Chickens Favourite Treat 

We currently have 8 layer hens. A combination of the the original Red Sexlinks we purchased in 2015 and the Frey's Special Dual Purpose Hens saved from last year. While they are free range within a large electric fence enclosure (we don't feel comfortable enough with the wildlife to let them completely loose and quite honestly we also don't want to tempt our dog Tono) we like to supplement the wilds they have to feed upon. 

Last year we would occasionally put some of the black sunflower seeds under a wire box and allow them to sprout. When we removed the box the chickens loved it. This year we decided to make it a production. 

We have seven boxes lined up. 

Each day one is flipped and the chickens have a feast. 

They devour the patch quite quickly. 

You would never know there was anything growing there when they are finished

The ground is then covered again with seeds. The box is replaced and the seeds watered as needed. And the process goes down the line.

We use the same black sunflower seeds that we use in our bird feeders. It is purchased by the 50 pound bag making it a very inexpensive healthy treat for our flock.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Snow and Sunshine

How Excited Can You Get For Sun?

It's been an interesting winter. We started out in November with a sunless month. December was slightly better and then January improved a bit more and now that we've hit February this first week has been great! The snow and temps have been higher than average with us even getting above freezing in January. Not nice, thanks Mother Nature.

Today we woke to the biggest snowfall we've had this year and the best part was the sunshine that we have to show it all off. Tricia loves the fresh snow out here in the bush. Before the plow went by she took some pics of the beauty of it all.

We don't get traffic to make the roads messy. 

We don't get sand or salt on our road which is nice on Tono's paws.

 The build up of the snow looks so picturesque

Our snowblower decided to give up a week or so ago and we had to find and order the parts and they came in just before the snow. Ed wasn't much of a mechanic before we came up here but his skills have improved out of necessity. He fixed the snowblower yesterday and will be getting to clearing his path to the outhouse quickly. Nothing says you've got work to do like trudging through the snow to get to the outhouse. And yes he uses it even when it's -30 as it was this morning.

You can see Ed has his work cut out for him in getting his outhouse path cleared.

Our solar set up is running great. We did have to use the generator during those bleak weeks. Every two or three days required us to run the generator to charge the batteries. Once again as necessity is the mother of invention Ed was getting tired of pulling that cord on the generator to get it started. Somedays it took the better part of half an hour and then once it got really cold... well let's just say it wasn't pretty to watch. Now, after watching some videos he has a drill and socket to start the genny. It can still take some time when it's cold but 5 minutes compared to 1/2 an hour makes him happy to have put that together. Now we have to watch the panels to be sure the snow is removed so we can get all the benefits the sun has to give. 

This new setup has meant we can do so much more than last year.

If you don't know us personally you wouldn't know that Tricia put old 'Goldy' (the 2000 Mazda B4000 4X4 pickup truck we bought to come up here) into the ditch (and if you have never been in the north a ditch is 4-6 feet deep up here) on January 3rd. No major injuries, in fact she has just started some physio this week as the aches and pains started up last week. So we spent some time looking for a new vehicle. We are now the proud owners of a 2008 Dodge Ram. Never would have 'picked' a red truck but when you live in the bush in a not so densely populated area you have to take what's available. It's much bigger than the Mazda and Tricia is taking her time getting used to driving it.

 And here it is! 

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Monday, October 31, 2016

So You Want To Raise Chickens

Our Chicken Adventure 2016

As you may know we have had layer chickens since late June 2015. We decided this year that we wanted to try our hand at raising our own meat chickens. We did some research and thought we would go with the Frey's Dual Purpose breed (a slower growing breed) to avoid the problems people found with other quick growing meat breeds.

We had prepared a coop that would keep our layers separated from the new birds. We were very pleased that entire structure could be made from recycled materials. Our research had told us that the birds would not mix well and that the new birds needed to be about the same size before we could think about introducing any of the hens into our layer flock. This was another reason we chose the Dual Purpose breed. We thought we may like a few to be kept as layers.

In early July we picked up our order at the local pet store. In our area that is the easiest option for getting birds. We had ordered 15 3 week old unsexed chicks. We chose that age as we do not have the ability to have the heat lamp that is required for day olds and unsexed as it was a slightly cheaper option and to broaden our experience since to date we have only had hens.

Here is the first look at our new additions on our YouTube channel

Initially the chicks were confined to a small portion of the coop. This was done in part to help them keep warm as the nights can get rather chilly for a young bird. We also wanted to be sure there were no corners in the area as young chicks are notorious for piling up on each other and a corner is the best place for them to lose their young lives. You can see video on how we started them out in the coop here.

And here they are at 5 1/2 weeks using the full coop.

Just shy of 15 weeks later we thought it time to try our hand at butchering. Since this was being done outside we had to be sure the weather was right and not wait too long as it would be cold before you know it. We picked the first rooster and Ed, who had watched many how-to videos, was the one with the knife. We have a few videos of the process which you can see on our Northern Dirtbag YouTube channel. There is one of the butchering, one for the plucking, one for the final hanging step and lastly one of the finishing. The first one was dry plucked so that we could experience the process.

The first rooster was finished and Tricia had a try at peeling chicken feet. It's not difficult. You slip them into boiling water for about 20 seconds and then the skin just peels right off. We had people ask why we peeled them. Tricia had never used feet before but wanted to as an addition for stock making. It was what we saw on a video is the simple answer but after being asked we investigated further and found that chicken feet purchased at a store are nice and clean (not sure of the process and don't want to know) so that most don't peel those. Also we found that some people don't like the flavour the skin adds to the stock. While the feet do make the stock much more gelatinous we don't know if there is much change in the flavour but we skinned our chicken feet for this first go.

We were quite happy with our accomplishment and had the chicken for dinner that night. It was DELICIOUS!

We had 16 chickens left. 7 roosters and 9 hens. We thought 4 new additions to the layers would be sufficient. Thanks to Google we learned that one way to add birds to your flock is to add them after dark. We did one the first night and found in the light of day that she had been picked on by the other girls. The next night we added another and that seemed to help. The remaining two were added the next night  and they all seem to get along now. We were concerned that we saw no eggs in the other coop, even though they had nesting boxes. There have now been a few tiny eggs, some which are soft shelled and a couple outside the boxes, in the run, which we attribute to our new hens.

 That left us with 12 chickens to get ready for freezer camp. Oh and yes we are very pleased that our new solar set up allows us to run a freezer in the warmer weather. We decided to switch to dipping the birds into hot water to make the plucking easier and faster. Fortunately we have some very kind neighbours who loaned us a propane burner. That made getting and keeping warm water much easier. We planned to do 4/day for 3 days. Thankfully we started with the roosters as the hens were definitely easier and it would have been a shocker had we started the other way.

We now have a freezer full of chicken. We look forward to once again enjoying chicken dinners and the leftovers that inevitably come when you cook a whole chicken for only two people. Tricia is excited to again be making her own stock and the soup options that follow. This will be her first try at cooking stock on the woodstove. We only have the small woodstove in the trailer but winter's cold means it runs non-stop and she loves to keep her stock cooking for 24 hours.

We are still planning what we will do next year but this years experience means that we feel quite comfortable raising and butchering our own chickens.

Have your raised your own chickens? Or maybe you have cows, goats or rabbits? Share your animal raising adventures with us in the comments. We love to read the experiences of others.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tea from Nature

Look to The Ground to Raise Your Spirits

We are tea lovers. Ed cannot start his day without his pot of tea. Sweet and light is how he likes it. Tricia steers away from caffeine so her preferences are Rooibos, Fruit and Herbal teas. Although she will have an occassional caffeinated tea if the flavour sounds yummy.

Living in the bush has offered us a new tea type - Nature's Tea.  While there are many options available, the more you look, a couple of  our favourites are Cedar tea and Pineapple Weed tea.

Cedar tea many people know about. You can gather the amount you need from a local bush. Watch that it isn't close to traffic or in an area that is sprayed. Natives will suggest you offer tobacco to the tree in thanks. We were happy to learn that Cedar is a good source of vitamin C and when you are trying to eat local in the dead of winter that is just as comforting as the warmth of the tea itself.

Be aware of the possible toxic effects of drinking too much Cedar tea. Cedar is not dangerous topically (Cedar bathes and using cedar as an insect repellant) but limit yourself to one cup per day of tea as there is a substance call Thujone in Cedar which in small doses is fine however in larger doses it causes damage to brain, kidney and liver cells, causes convulsions, and can be lethal. Do your own research.

Here is a simple Cedar tea recipe which you can reduce for smaller quantities.

Take 2-3 branches (approx. 150-250g) and boil in about 4 liters of water for ten to twenty minutes. Pour out the first boil, and fill with the same amount of water. Bring to a boil for five minutes, then simmer on low heat for another five minutes. Remove the Cedar.

Once boiled a first time the tea is safe because most of the oil and dirt have been removed. You can reuse the same cedar over again up to four times. After four times the tea is too weak for a medicinal effect but you may still enjoy the flavour.

Pineapple Weed tea was something we had never heard of prior to moving up North. The weed is abundant but you may have just over looked it. The flower heads really do look like little pineapples. And they smell yummy when you crush them between your fingers.

The first time Tricia tried making it she collected the weed not knowing that it was only the heads that were used for the tea. 

It doesn't take much to make yourself a cup or two. A small handful will easily brew a couple of cups or half a pot. 

Just let them steep in freshly boiled water until the flavour you desire is reached. Think of Chamomile tea, it is that mild if only steeped briefly. 

The colour is as light as the flavour but Tricia found that she enjoyed leaving it steep until it was cold and said the flavour, although definitely tasting 'green', was very nice. 

Have you tried other teas from Nature? Let us know in the comments and if you too are a tea lover send us an email message as Tricia has a special note for you. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

When The Dog Wakes You To Go Outside

A Morning Not Soon Forgotten

At anytime during the night our dog Tono can, quietly, with just a simple whimper, wake Ed from a dead sleep to let him know he wants outside. It can happen at anytime. It can happen multiple times throughout the night. But on this day Tono did something he has never done. 

On the morning of July 5th Tono barked to wake us. Not thinking much of it Ed got up and went to the first door, we have two, to let the dog out. As he did so Tono began to huff and puff making Ed think the dog was smelling something. Tono is a mix of Akita, Husky and Wolf and his sense of smell is incredible. He often barks out in the bush and we know he is scaring off whatever it is he smells out there.

On this morning, as Ed opened the outside door, he noticed the BBQ had been upturned. He was lucky to see anything as Tono flew past him and bolted around the corner of the entry. That solidified Ed's notion that Tono was on the hunt for something. I thought that I heard more than just Tono sounds outside. Ed looked out the window and saw what had Tono's attention, a BEAR. Right there just a few feet in front of him there was a full sized Black Bear. Ed made sure that I knew what was going on and I jumped out of bed to get a look. Knowing that Tono was no match for a full sized bear Ed yelled for him to stay away and grabbed the 22 and a magazine of ammo. I grabbed the camera. I was able to snap a couple of shots through the screen door before Ed fired off a few rounds in the general direction of the bear in the hopes that he would take his leave.

And he did. He scurry off into the bush. Thankfully Tono kept close by and didn't pursue the bear although he wasn't interested in heading back inside.

Certainly a morning where we could not return to sleep after all that excitement and one that will be remembered and recited for quite some time.