Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's day.

The first one without her was the hardest. Being that it was the Friday of mother's day weekend that she'd lost her grip on this plane of existence, the emotions that ran through me at that time were almost unbearable. Mother's day, however, was never really an easy one.

My mom suffered from depression for many years. And of course, she missed her mom. My brother and I would always do our best to make her smile on her special day, but sometimes she just wasn't having it. It was one of the two times a year we could anticipate a phone call from the police or the hospital (or having to call one of the two).

This is the fourth one since she's been gone. It has gotten easier as I've become more comfortable with the idea that she's still around in some way, and no longer suffering. So it's okay to be grateful for her bringing me into this world, without feeling guilty that I'm in it without her.


We went down to the river where I set some of her ashes adrift. The weather was beautiful, and the trail was quiet. We hiked as far as we could without our waders and just enjoyed the views.

The drive back home was short and sweet, an eagle followed us back to the highway from the creek. As soon as we arrived home, we kicked off our shoes and stepped into the garden.

...

Here I am, in the mountains, with an epic food garden outside my tiny farm house. Sandy Shores Farm.. in dedication. I'm learning a trade, driving a van, and living the slow life out on the country. My brother has a decent job, a car of his own, and we're both blessed to have partners in crime to share our lives with. This is all she ever wanted for us, to have a good life and enjoy. I know she's smiling with us.


xo

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The adventures of staying put.

If you know me, you know I have a hard time with the idea of staying anywhere too long. I get itchy feet, the travel bug bites me pretty frequently. Or at least it did.. I'm not sure if I'm just getting old or I've finally grown out of it. Not completely, I still like adventuring, as long as I have my home base to which I can return.


I've had some tempting offers for travel come my way the past few weeks, which I somewhat hesitantly declined. Usually if someone says to me, hey let's drive across the country or, grab a flight my way I have a place for you to crash while we go explore for the next month... I'd be all over it like white on rice. Not this time.

Staying put is an adventure for me. Putting down roots and having a place of my own is a kind of unknown. I've moved more times than the number of years I've been alive. Most of my twenties were spent toting a rucksack someplace or other. Renting rooms, basements or storage lockers to keep my belongings in place while I wander.

...


There's excitement in having a space to grow a huge garden. Every day something is happening out there, sprouting, growing, changing. Being able to produce my own food and have extra to share sounds like a pretty good time to me. Having something to look after and put energy into that has a bountiful return. It's fun, satisfying and relaxing to spend time wandering the rows and maintaining the plots.


Our space changes every day. Structures are built as they're needed, then disassembled and re-purposed as our needs fluctuate. Today the bird scares were taken down and their posts became our fence. Our poly tarps became our greenhouse, our rocks to hold the tarps in place became a border for the zucchini patch.

...


I appreciate simple luxuries such as having a kitchen to cook and create in. I don't mind having to clean it knowing it's my very own space. I get to use it whenever I want. That's a pretty rad thing coming from a long history of rooming houses, hostels, crashing couches, shared spaces or no place at all. Maintaining my home and living space is a pleasure I don't take for granted.

I feel so lucky and so blessed to have found a place in a small town in the valley. The commute to work can be a little far at times, but at least it's a nice drive with a sweet view and not being caught in gridlock city traffic. The sky is always changing, the clouds put on a show. We see columns of rain, patches of snow, and often enough a beautiful rainbow.


We went to town to buy a line trimmer on the weekend. And I was thrilled! It was my birthday gift. I couldn't wait to take it home and make my yard look good. I'm stoked for the season to change so I can see what this place looks like when the trees have leaves and it's sunny all day.


Oh yeah, and I'm learning a trade which in itself is another huge adventure. I'm getting better every day. If I learn the ins and outs, I could be traveling in the future to follow the work. I think we're in a pretty decent place to be close to developments for a good few years to come while still being able to enjoy life outside of it all.

Life is good. And still an engaging challenge to navigate through day to day life. Staying put isn't necessarily an 'easier' way of life than being transient, it's just different. Maintaining a routine, a house, a garden, a schedule.. it's satisfying. Learning more about our little town and the people in it is intriguing. I'm excited for the upcoming farmer's market season. For summer, and autumn, and everything coming full circle.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

4/20

I never thought today would be so hard. 14 years ago today was my first day in the field rocking my film SLR capturing the 420 scenes, celebrations and marches for freedom with the crew. Matt if you're reading this, thank you times a million for bringing me along. It's also my 14 year friendiversary with everyone's good homie Clay, and his amazing family. Today is the first year since that I haven't talked to him on this day. I miss him. We all do.


Three years ago was the first Toronto march since that I did not attend. It also happened to be Easter Sunday that day, and my mama didn't want to be alone. She invited me over for Chinese food Easter/birthday dinner. It was the first time in years I'd seen her smile (with teeth!), and the last time I ever hugged her goodbye. If only I had known it'd be the last time I'd see her face to face.

...

Yet as I stand here in this garden, they are with me. My mother lives on in the sunlight that shines bright through the rain. Our brother is heard in the excitement in our voices as we rejoice the emergence of new life. I believe it to be true that we live on in the hearts and minds of those who love us.


Today I am thankful for these memories. Today I am grateful to have my bare feet in the soil, watching my garden grow. For my life and everyone who has been a part of it, I am blessed. 


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Talk of the [tiny] town.

I suppose it's hard not to be noticed when you're the new kids in a small town, especially when the overall population is less than 150 people. People tend to be more neighborly, everyone waves as they pass on the road. Our epic transformation of the land we live on has drawn a lot of attention.


Though we live on a dead end road, there are several people that travel along it each day to watch the birds, or pick up hay and firewood from the farms at the end of the lane. Since we started digging, passers by have been slowing down to see what we are up to. We are now known as 'the gardeners'.

Last week a local cyclist, a retired officer, stopped by to chat while we were working the composted manure into our main veggie beds. He asked us how we like living out here, and commented on how we were blessed to have a 'million dollar view'. We talked about gardening and fishing, and how the small town vibes are much more inviting than living in the city. He was happy to see us out there working the land, and said he'd stop by later in the season to see how we're doing.


...

Ten days later, our beds are already sprouting. The landlord noticed our methods (and that they're working) and asked us to help poly a 'small' test patch on his huge farm. He was so impressed by what we could do with our little plot that he had his whole family stop by to take a look.


Even the people at the trading post have taken interest in our gardens, and we've lined up future trades. Our gardens will produce more fresh veggies than we can handle and preserve, so the overstock will be traded for farm eggs and honey. That means come late spring or early summer, ninety percent of our food intake will be from ten feet to a mile away from our home. If that's not eating local, I don't know what is!


Hopefully we will have some fish to add to the freezer too, fresh from the river. Fellow anglers in the area know our vehichle, and stop by to chat when we drive out to our spots. Though we've only been here a few months, this little town has become our home. And I love it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bring it Spring


It's been a long, cold and eventful winter, and I'm glad to finally see it's end. At the start of the season I had no idea where I'd be by the end of it, or that we'd get so much snow. Lesson learned, trust the almanac.

Moving out to the valley in the middle of winter was a huge risk for us, but I'm glad we made the move. Though it's not officially spring until tomorrow, we've been busy the past few weeks prepping our garden beds between the last couple winter storms.


The gardens are finally ready for planting. It took a lot of time and hard work to turn our compacted sandy, somewhat grassy yard into a rich, prime place to grow some food. Now that the topsoil and composted manure is turned in,  the grass is weeded out, and the beds are raked into rows, we can begin to sprout our seeds.

A lot of what we have will be started indoors over the next couple weeks, and after last frost the rest can be sown directly into the soil. We have 21 rows total between the two beds to work with, and a few dozen types of seed.

Our landlord was worried at first that we wouldn't have the time to maintain such a large growing space given how much we work, but so far even with shorter daylight hours we've managed to make it happen. It kinda helps that the van has been out of commission for drives to the city the past couple weeks, so I've had to skip out on the landscaping. Spending almost ten less hours a week stuck in traffic has given me more time to focus on other things.

My apprenticeship for instance. When I first started working with metal I wasn't as confident that I'd ever be good enough at it to make a living. But since I haven't been able to go to the city to focus on the landscaping, I've been working full time improving my metal working skills. It's another one of those things I'd never seen myself getting into but I'm glad I did.


Being contractors means setting our own hours, and since my productivity is improving we don't have to spend so many hours at work. We can indulge in occasional journeys down to the river to get our lines wet before work, finish a house, and still have enough daylight hours and energy to go home and play in the dirt.

Our lifestyle out here supports both my longing for a stable home base, and my sense of adventure. For once I'm finally able to get the best of both worlds. I have a place to call home in beautiful surroundings where I can garden and be comfortable, and I'm closer than ever to the wilds. It's taken a while for the reality to set in. Just a few months ago we had no real plan besides making it thorough the winter. And here we are, on the cusp of spring, ready to plant.. putting down roots in the valley. Thank the gods for our home sweet home.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Breaking ground.

It's been a long time since I've had a chance to reestablish Sandy Shores Farm, and I'm stoked for our new location. It's kind of ironic that I'd named the garden long before I even knew I would end up moving to the west. And here I am, on a farm on the river's shore, and our soil here is very, very sandy. Now that we have the first bed turned, we can think about how we will amend the soil.


After the snow melts again that is. It was nice and warm all week, and now we're amidst another big snowfall. We worked a couple hours a day all week to get a good start at establishing the first bed, which is now blanketed in a layer of the white stuff.


Collecting garden tools has been a slow go. All I have so far is the tools I have for work, a shovel and a hard rake. It's amazing what you can accomplish with so little and a lot of motivation. We used a pallet propped on an angle to screen the soil. As we tossed each shovel full of soil at the pallet, the clumps would roll down the slats knocking most of the soil from the grass roots. We could then easily remove the clumps of grass, shake them out and toss them to the side.


It was a long, somewhat tedious process, but every meter of ground we broke into was satisfying. After a few days we could visualize how we would lay out the first bed with our rows. I used my felco snips and a small hand saw to hack back some of the blackberry bramble from the far side of the bed to create a path. We spent the last few moments of daylight each day sitting in our chairs out by the garden to be, watching the sky change colours as the sun sank behind the mountains. What a feeling.


...


I've been trying to finish this post all week. The snow has since melted and we're at it again, building a box for our compost. There's another snowfall warning in the forecast, so we're trying to get done what we can before winter comes back around for it's final blow.


We've been out here for six weeks already. We moved out here when winter was full swing with big dreams for spring. Bit by bit the dreams are becoming our reality. The clocks turn ahead in a little over a week here, which means an extra hour of daylight after work for us to play in the yard.


The weather changes by the moment. When we came outside a couple hours ago it was sunny and warm. The temperature dropped right down and snow is falling up on the hill.


...



We had a thaw and a bit of sun yesterday in between snowfalls, so we grabbed some chicken wire when we went to town. Our landlord saw us out in the yard working, and said the yard looked really nice so far, and gave us the go ahead to start a second bed. We had a bit of an issue there when he said we could do whatever we wanted and then came back around and said we could only dig 8 feet of the far part of the yard. I'm glad he changed his mind.


Since we used our pallet screen to build the compost box, we had to use scraps of wood and the chicken wire to build a new one. We started turning the second bed using the new screen, and though it's taking a little longer, the soil is a lot cleaner. The next step is getting a dump load of compost. Once the snow melts. Again.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The valley under ice.

Just days after the valley was slammed with an epic snowstorm, the temperature rose as the next system rolled in. Snow turned to rain, but the windchill froze everything on contact. We woke up blanketed in a sheet of ice. We made an attempt to get out of the driveway, only making it to the next property over before having to turn around. With all the ice, snow and slush on the road, gaining traction was impossible.

Shortly after noon, as we'd suspected might happen, the power went out. Our area was one of two hundred other outages across BC leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark. Thankfully I'd just finished my baking for the day, so I had some fresh made snacks to load up in my pack.


With not much else to do, I decided to go for a walk. The rain had subsided for long enough that I could bring my camera out and capture some of the epic scenes left behind by the storm. And meet some of our neighbours in the process.

A couple houses down, one of our neighbours with the farm tractor (the one that dug us out before) was clearing the driveway for the old man at the wood shop. I had a chance to say hello. The old fella struck up a conversation and noticed my camera, and invited me onto his property to get some shots.

He commented on the sheet of ice that coated the barn reflecting the daylight, and insisted I take a shot. He has dozens of bird houses that were strung with icicles all over the yard. Old machinery equipment and a canoe hanging outside his shop looked as though they had been frozen for decades.


As he pulled the door to the wood shop open I felt a pulse of warm air hit me. He had the wood burning stove pumping and it felt nice to be warm. He showed me around, and he had a few customer orders sitting up on tables ready to be stained. There's a local native woman that paints beautiful scenery, wildlife and folk art on panels of wood which he then inlays in his hand made hope chests. Their work is sold to locals in the valley.

After telling me a few stories and showing me every piece of work in the shop and all the types of cedar he uses, he showed me out of the shop. He said if I ever had nothing to do again, I was welcome back any time. I told him I'd be back some day with prints for him.


As I carried on down the road I was joined by an old black lab that lived on the horse farm. She led me down the gravel path looking back every so often as if to make sure I was safe. I stopped a few times to hear the trees splitting under the weight of the ice, sounding off like thunder as the branches and tree tops crashed to the ground. Ice bombs began to fall off the wires above. I'd have to tread carefully for the next mile where several giant trees lined the road along the river.


I made it to the middle of a long stretch of trees when I suddenly heard the cracking right above me. I tucked my camera into my jacket quickly and ran for it. Smash! I looked back to see a huge branch shattered to bits on the road right where I was standing. I thought to myself, now I've done a lot of crazy things to get a good shot, but this might just be up there amongst the most dangerous. My heart was pounding, and I kept on going.


Finally I crossed the bridge over the creek where the old man with the scrap yard was shoveling his driveway. I wasn't expecting him to say hello when I waved, but much to my surprise, we ended up chatting for an hour. I've passed him a few times driving by and I always wave, and he never seems very eager to interact, so I was pretty stoked about our conversation.

After our long talk and the show around the yard of his massive inventory of trucks and parts, I was on my way again. I'd just made it to the end of my road when the plow turned down. I jumped out of the way with an enthusiastic wave, we'd finally be dug out of the mess! Moments after I'd sent a text home warning of the incoming plow, I got one back saying the power had been restored. I took a few more shots and turned back.


Just in time too, when I was about a hundred meters from the house the wind picked up again knocking down all the ice. More rain blew in, and in less than an hour there was no evidence that our world had been coated in ice. I was thankful that I'd made it out for my walk when I did, had I not gone I'd have missed out on a photo opportunity of a lifetime. We don't often get weather like this here, and the conversations I had along the way made it an amazing journey.


Today the sun is out, and the air smells like spring is on the way. I'm so thankful that our roads will be safe again and all the snow is melting, as beautiful as it was. The adventure continues...