Sunday, 31 March 2013

In like a lion, out like the Easter bunny?

Photography skills courtesy of Adam

This picture truly testifies the saying that March comes in like a lion out like a lamb. It was taken in early March and the dual rainbows are breathtaking--all after a torrential rainstorm that is.
We regularly spend Easter Sunday at my Grandpa's and it was a very fulfilling afternoon: the house was full with aunts, uncles, cousins and even a dog this year. Our plates were full of stuffing, turkey, ham, yams, carrots, potatoes and salads. And the late afternoon was filled up with activities.
Our post-meal adventures involve a traditional Easter egg hunt where all the adults are drawn outside to watch, laugh with (or at?) their very adult children going around the yard with bags scooping up chocolate eggs. Fortunately we have also gotten wiser as we get older: by now we are more than happy to whisper: "hey...check out the tree over there--think I saw something you might want" or literally put respective chocolates in each others bags (our eggs are labelled). 
There was a time, a number of years back, when it was a big deal to get all the eggs possible. Although I don't remember this exactly we have photographic evidence to prove it: us cousins were doing the annual egg hunt when one of the adults noticed that someone had literally found a hole in the system. My cousin was tagging along behind his brother and readily scooping up the chocolates that were, like Hansel's breadcrumbs, trickling out from the hole in his brother's basket and leaving a trail. I believe his regular chocolate count doubled that year. Isn't that what we all need siblings for? 
So, if you count seems oddly low this Easter double check your basket. And speaking of counting, in a few days Mom turns 50! We are responsible for supplying dessert so we brought three cakes to celebrate her birthday. 
The cakes were from the Fort Bakery and the place card stuck on top was creatively mastered by yours truly with some coloured card stock and fancy cutting scissors.
I will leave one minute for awe over my artistic achievement.
My favourite part, other than the cake itself, was the little tag line we added which reads:
Celebrating 44 years... (plus Hst!)
I hope you had an eggtastic Easter and please comment below and tell me what you got up. What are your special Easter traditions? 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Crossing my t's and polka dotting my i's

Red trench coat? Check. Dark-wash skinny jeans. Check. Large enough purse to hold camera and notepad. Got it. Green tank with dressy metallic stitching? Yes. Faux tweed blazer to look business-like. Check. With polka dot lining? Of course! 
Calm? Uhhh...let me double check...
These outfit pictures were done last Thursday when I ventured into the field (...but off farm, go figure) to report on an annual general meeting of a young farmers organization. Time to put my dream of writing to the test (or is it printing press?) This was the first time I have ever reported on something that wasn't school related and where, instead of representing myself I was going on behalf of an actual paper!
The joy! The nerves! The sweat! (Anti-perspirant? Check.)
It went exceptionally well--and its inspiring to see men and woman my age passionate about farming!
It was a lot to take in, especially for a beginner, but something that I do for extra confidence is I plan my outfit out ahead of time. If I feel great about what I'm wearing that means I will venture out of my comfort zone (like asking for a group shot of the newly elected board) because I'm not second guessing my flats, or worrying about my top because if I don't like it...And even if my heart is pounding, which it was for most of the night, I know its beating up against the polka dot lining of my blazer, and I feel myself stand a little straighter and get that group picture. 
When I got home and I rifled back through my notebook I realised that I had enough pages of scribbles to make up an article but I had not quite gotten all the names correct and missed some altogether.
Today, I just came back from a meeting with the owners (and the heart and soul) of the paper where my piece is destined to be printed and they assured me that they could help sort out the names. (And we covered a million other things, but one post at a time...)
So even if I crossed all my t's, it is lovely to have someone check it over and dot the i's.
And thanks to my "i-dotter" of this post Mom, for her photography skills. Happy Thursday!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Easy as (apple) Pie!

A cook book this well used must bring some Joy!

Here's a delicious and quick apple pie recipe.

The reason it only takes fifteen minutes to prepare and thirty to bake is because the shells are the ones you can pick up from the supermarket. Pre-made, already in a tin, waiting to be filled.

Of course, making things completely from scratch is always admirable, but this particular Sunday it was sunny outside and I wasn't about to be caught in the kitchen for too long--but I wanted to make my pie and eat it too.

When dealing with the pie shells simply follow the back-of-box instructions.
Easy as Pie Filling Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450'F

5-6 Cups of peeled, cored and sliced apples
2/3 Cup of brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2  Tablespoons of cornstarch
1/4 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon vanilla

Add ingredients together in a bowl and mix with until well coated. Scoop into pie shell, moisten edges and invert second shell on top. Score edges with a fork to adhere the shells. Bake at 450'F for ten minutes then reduce to 350'F for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream!

So not only did I have a slice of my apple pie, but I went for a bike ride, had a nap, read a book and watched a movie. If you ask me, that's a full course!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Birds of the feather

We were out doing morning chores when a high (but not screechy) whistle, I am not exactly on-par with bird sound description, filled the oddly quiet morning air. It was quite musical even thought in the moment I went off on a tangent about how it sounded like those little Compsognathus (yes, I needed to look that up) dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

After scanning the sky Mom and I noticed a large eagle perched alone in the tangle of our oak tree branches. He was joined by what we consider a "bald eagle" because he had the white feathered head. The first eagle only had mottled brown feathers and so did the third the joined soon after.

During this time of year having an eagle soar over our barns is a regular occurrence and maybe having two or three in a tree (which, for any bird enthusiasts is called a convocation) is what we consider normal.

But every time an eagle glides across the sky, one thousand feet up or only three hundred I always stop it my tracks. It is something about that large wingspan, the calming circles they make in the skies and about having that vast blue canvas all to your flying leisure which leaves me in awe.

Last summer a relative passed away and although she lived a relatively long life it was still of course much too soon. However, her service was truly a celebration of a life lovingly lived. What moved me most was the conclusion of her eulogy, which was something she often said herself:

I came to Canada on the wings of an air plane and I will leave on the wings of an eagle.

Whatever wonderful things you get up to this weekend I hope your soar!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Viva la difference

The two pictures above where taken about three hours apart. In a mere 180 minutes I ended up in lovely Fort Langley, ran my errands and then happened to saunter past Roxanns Hats : my piece of hat heaven on earth.
Should you, upon entering this boutique, be blinded by its pearly brightness grab onto a holy rail (to steady yourself) and the friendly clerk inside who will outfit you with a lovely sunhat (summer stock is in!) to shade you against the light.
I wasn't exactly perusing for summer stock. I have six straw hats in various styles and counting but was, just maybe, looking for something.
A felt cap, with its sale ticket wagging in the wind like a hand beckoning me closer, caught my eye. I didn't want to move too fast but after a quick look in the store mirror and the sales woman exclaiming a good match I decided to bring the cap home and introduce it to my other hats.
You may call this speed shopping, but I'm not worried, if this infatuation only lasts for a few months I have sunhats to check out.
But as of right now, I like how we go together!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Still Stalling?

This post is a continuation of Wet Weather Means A Stall, Mate . Please check it out to avoid any spoilers!

My photo-journal continued:

No mini cement truck here! This is the delivery of layer #2.

Perfectly smooth cement that we laboured for hours to get it just so. Not like anyone made a quick hand stamp while backs were turned. And not like it was done in quick setting, permanent cement, either. 

The purpose of the cement is so the rubber mattresses adhere to it and keep the shavings from sneaking under and causing the same problems as before.

Mattresses placed and for the shavings (or do I say sheets?)

Looks like our new stalls are all the rage...or all the calm. Our Holsteins are enjoying their level (not lumpy!) four layer beds.

What an active week! It has left us pretty exhausted but the good news is that I am more than happy to go sleep my unmade bed, on my single mattress that's a little uneven...on second thought maybe I'll stall for a few more hours...

Friday, 15 March 2013

Wet weather means a stall, mate!

The days of endless rain and grey skies are officially upon us (also known as early spring) although I hear rumours that fellow Canadians to the east are still shovelling snow. The only inches British Columbians are concerned with are the wet and green ones--our grass just keeps growing!

Which poses a question: when the fields are still too wet for fieldwork what keeps farmers busy? Aside from the milkings and chores we simply head indoors or should I say, inbarn.

This week of rain meant that we donned our figurative hardhats (instead of baseball caps) and laced up our work boots (instead of the usual rubber ones) and ventured inbarn for some "inside projects." What was on the agenda? Some much needed housekeeping. The cow's beds, or free-stalls (since they are free to come and go as they please) were getting a little messy; not messy as in soiled sawdust (we do official clean-up morning and night and unofficial tidy ups throughout the day--which is more times than I actually make my own bed...oops...).

Our cows sleep on rubber mattresses covered with shavings and through the years these mattresses were getting a little bumpy and uneven due to the shavings sneaking underneath.

However, we were not going to laze about on this issue, even if the sole purpose of this project was so our lovely Holstein ladies could laze about more comfortably. It was quite the process (a week long one) and made for long work days but we straightened these matters--er mattresses out.

Follow my photo-journal about our week long inbarn activities and see just what farmers get up to:

Out with the old! This excavator was a small cutie (can you hear all the men on the farm wincing?) But we needed something small to fit under the barn roof so the boys had no choice. We used it to scoop out the old sawdust.

In with the...skid-steer? Just kidding, we needed to drive up on the stall curb in order to get the entire bucket unloaded. These are deluxe free stalls: the cows now have four layers of leisurely comfort. First layer? Fresh sand.
Here we are packing the sand down for a smooth, level surface and for layer #2 (the cement). But that's the boring part. The best part is that little nifty machine Adam is handling is called the Wacko Packer. Haha. Oh the simple joys.

Thought the excavator and skid-steer where big?

See what other sizable machines turn up on the farm in the following post and of course the finished project...and how the ladies of the barn feel about all the improvements. Will it be a success? Or will noses be turned and milk withheld?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Not a great but a gouda story

I decided to venture a little beyond my usual shelf in the dairy section of the supermarket to the herald place of speciality cheese (also known as the area of smaller portions for no small price). I purchased some Dutch Gouda for my Apricot and Gouda scones to be made later on that afternoon but before I skip down to that delicious recipe my perusal of the cheese counter brought to mind a rather cheesy story of when I was small:
My brothers and I had been on errands with my Dad and we stopped in at the local grocery store to grab some bits for dinner. My Dad, per usual, made a quick stop at the cheese counter and while he was pondering over Havarti and wishing for a wedge of Raclette our young eyes spotted a square of cheese that could have been plucked right out of a Sunday cartoon: it was spotted with perfect, circular holes!
Before you could say Emmental (the type of cheese it was) one of us had plucked it from the cooler as we three exulted in unison over the wonders of this "mouse cheese!" and consequently begged Dad to add it to his basket. He did but on the condition that we must eat the entire wedge which, he reasoned, should not be that hard seeing how much we already loved it. The wedge, when divided into thirds gave us three a good sized snack. We readily agreed and could not wait to get through the till so we could peel back the plastic wrapping and enjoy. 
When we reached the truck Dad divided up the wedge and I remember taking a great bite...and absolutely hating it. The flavour was off. The texture was wrong. My anticipation deflated like a balloon and so did my attention span. It was not cheesy as the cheddar I was familiar with nor as wondrous as the Sunday cartoons which had spurred the enthusiasm in the first place.
I tried to pawn my portion off but Dad caught this side deal (even though I had no takers) in the rear view mirror and insisted, since we all had wanted it so badly that each of us was to finish our piece of "mouse cheese." I do believe I cried on the way home over the cruelty of it all (whether I was upset at Dad or the fact that "mouse cheese" wasn't what I thought I don't quite remember). Moral of the story: don't bite off more than you can chew.
Now for the gouda part:
Apricot and Gouda Scones
1/2 cup Dried Apricots, quartered
1/2 cup Apple or orange juice
3/4 cup Unbleached flour
1 cup Whole wheat flour
3 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Baking powder
1/2 tbsp Ground nutmeg or cinnamon
4 oz.  (120 g) Gouda, grated
2 tbsp Butter (room temperature)
1 cup Milk
These aren't No Bake Scones they are just Not Baked Yet Scones
Preheat oven to 375'F.
Place quartered apricots in a small saucepan add juice and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes covered and then let cool. In a large bowl mix in dry ingredients with Gouda. Cut in butter and add milk while stirring dry ingredients. Add apricot mixture to dough. Place large spoonfuls of dough onto lined parchment paper baking sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until scones are golden brown.  Serves 12.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Interview with the Water Buffalo: The Cow Chronicles

This week I had the opportunity to meet a Water Buffalo which was quite the exciting affair. I felt the need to dress up so I opted for a semi-casual approach because I didn’t want to give the wrong vibe—and we were meeting over lunch after all. I decided on my Levi’s and wore my brown Louben blazer to dress it up and the boots? They were simply practical since this get-together was taking place in a barn.               
I was feeling pretty good about the whole situation when I turned the corner leading to her pen and then it struck me: we were both wearing brown coats. Oh, the horror! I could tell she noticed it too because for the first few moments I stood in awkward silence while the chomp of her cud chewing echoed vacantly in the barn.

Button-it-Up Sweater--the one that nourished my soul !

How, I racked my brain, to break this uncomfortable silence. Should I comment on her coat? Or leave it? Pretend this didn’t happen? But it was so obvious. I tried to be tactful:
“Had that nice coat of yours for long?”
Her ears flicked forward challengingly. They were large and low:
Hand painted earrings (x2)
“I was born with it on,” she snorted.
Silence. I couldn’t compare to that.
“Where did you get yours?” She asked.
Mine was made to measure.”
Great. So now I seemed unauthentic and cheap. Let’s try the compliment route:
“Did it always fit you so well?”
“Why? Looks tight to you does it? It so happens I am on the tenth month of my pregnancy! Bet your clothes wouldn’t fit nearly as well if you were in my hooves.”
Had I offended her? Maybe it was her extended gestation period that explained her curtness. It definitely clarified her rotund figure. And that load of hay—yikes, her cravings must be at an all-time high. She didn’t exactly have a ‘pregnant glow’ for her hair was coarse and stiff. Not glossy at all.
“Couldn’t you find one a size up? Make that extra month a little more comfortable? And you know they say black is always slimming…”
She exhaled sharply through her nose:
“This happens to be the only one I have and the only colour I would ever wear.”
Had I insulted her financial situation? Could she only afford one? Well regardless she was a stubborn animal too, I reasoned. Our meeting concluded shortly afterwards. She did let me take a picture, but as I slung the camera back over my shoulder she murmured under her breath:
“You really should choose something else. Brown isn’t your colour.”
I left the barn but mentally agreed with Ms. Water Buffalo: brown isn’t my colour. I also decide then and there to keep the company of Holstein cows…at least with them it’s only black and white, none of this second guessing business.

Pictures of my outfit with thanks to Mom.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

When the farmer is away...

...the cows will play! We have had some interesting shenanigans on the farm as of late--it would seem that the cows are partying even when the farmers are home.

Wait a minute...aren't you a little big for that pen? 

This photo is of new mom Mani and her baby calf Eric who is about one week old. On our farm we have nursery pens that are at the front of the barn for close monitoring of new born calves and the moms. It is our mooternity ward (sorry, could not help myself).
Unfortunately, Eric had been feeling under the weather and so we erected a temporary pen in the corner where mom could moo and fawn over him but we could make sure he is actually drinking his milk. Like babies with breast milk, udder milk is a new born calf's only sustenance for the first few weeks (babies are months). This colostrum, which is initial milk the mom carries during the pregnancy and after birth is rich with antibodies. Shall we equate it to a protein shake? 
All in all this plan worked until Mani decided she was jealous of Eric's extra attention. In the wee hours of the morning she nibbled through the ropes that kept the pen closed, ushered out Eric and (literally) became his stand-in. Dad noticed the swap out and snapped evidence on his phone. If you ask me Eric looks surprised about being booted out by his own mom and Mani is downright disappointed that she won't be getting bottle fed this morning. Shucks. Sometimes life just isn't fair!
What predicaments have your pets gotten into? With all the animals that live on the farm we always have someone getting caught up in something or squeezing into someplace two sizes too small. Of course we help them get out--after taking a picture, that is. Happy Wednesday! 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

About the P Bomb...

I love those days when you can ask yourself: if I could do anything today what would I do? But instead of just thinking about it, actually doing it! It's like that quote:

Vision without action is a daydream, action without vision is a nightmare.

Today, I took action on my vision and spent the early afternoon strolling around historic Fort Langley, a few miles from our farm. It is aptly called the birthplace of British Columbia and has the original Hudson's Bay Trading Post to prove it. I visited 'The Fort' as we called it, numerous times in elementary school and what remains in my memory was the gold panning. Such fun!

However, the cause for my travels today was due to our lovely weather, especially after three days of non-stop rain. It was much too nice to be in a mall, but excellent weather for shopping because sans rain coat, boots and umbrella I can actually change in and out of something under five minutes instead of fifty. Also, Fort Langley has quaint shops and the best antique store I have ever (and most likely will ever) know. The Fraser River and Coast Mountains are the beautiful backdrop of this town and everything was dusted with a wintry, golden sunlight. Need I write more?

Shoes: Fluevog Vancouver
Just as I was about to go out the door my Mom (therefore credited photographer of this post) suggested we take some pictures of my Sunday Stroll outfit and seeing that there is a Fashion component to this blog I readily agreed.

Savvy Stripes Sweater: Winners, What A Tight Weave Belt:
Hand-me-down, Colonel Mustard Shorts: Community Vintage

As soon as we had ventured into the front yard my shots were photo bombed by the ever attention stealing cat Conrad. Finally, to his great pleasure he was included in the final take, but not before rubbing against my tights, sitting on my shoes and batting the camera lens cover. I suppose I should be thankful that only he and not his four siblings ambushed the shoot. Had that happened my Mom and I would have been outnumbered two to five, covered in cat hair, most likely being sat on, with the camera being batted about and my camera case a new found cat fort.

Photobomber: Conrad the Cat
My afternoon concluded with a lunch at Fort Fish and Chips (we are close to Fort Langley but not close enough for delivery--which might be just as well). One piece cod and fries nourished my stomach and a cute sweater I bought nourished my soul.

What do you envision doing on those lovely "if I could do anything what would it be?" days? Share below!