The Tribe

 I would love to credit the artist for this but it was the result of a very lucky Google Image search.

I would love to credit the artist for this but it was the result of a very lucky Google Image search.

I spoke with a friend today who I had not spoken with in ages.  Certainly years in real life, although from time to time we touch base online.  Something has felt off lately for me and she put it very accurately into words, telling me everything was fine out her way (east coast Canada) and that nothing is wrong but that she misses her tribe.  I am taking some liberties here because we didn't get too detailed about her definition of tribe and I am sure a lot of this will be my own projections but tribe in this context did not mean family.  It meant friends.  More than just friends, it meant those whose ideals are in line with your own.  It meant those whose opinions you are genuinely interested to learn.  It meant those who get it.

So why, after not being on the website since Christmas, did such an innocuous observation prompt a blog update?  Because I get what she meant.  I sit here and I explain the farm thing to people who ask.  I explain it passionately and from my heart, understanding that as I do, many folks are mentally creating a list of reasons why they have not pursued their own lofty goals.  Hopefully I don't need to explain that I'm not bragging about anything when I say that.  It's just something I've observed in the four years since we moved into a 40 year old camper in a field and started to build a house we had no business building.

And now that home has become something else.  It's a story.  I can look at the wind fence that we built and I remember the day we brought Tucker home.  I see the quonset and remember how we had a party once it was built where I was truly astonished by the number and variety of people who drove all the way out just to wish us well.  There are sad memories as well.  There have been times I've felt hopeless here.  Or trapped.  Or told Erin "If it snows one more time this year, I swear to you I will burn this motherfucker down."  and I can say at the time I meant it. 

However there was something in the description of her Tribe that brought my mind back here.  To the website I started with the hopes of inspiring others to buck the system, reach for the stars, be all you can be... all that fun shit.  But now that's changed too.  I'm no motivator.  There are some people who can draw blood from a stone just by inspiring it.  I am not that guy.  In discussions about ambitions and goals, I have very little patience for excuses and for reasons people just can't.  That said, this place; this website, this property, my time... these are all openly at the disposal of anyone who wants them.  I've made offers to many ultimately uninterested parties that if you have something you want.  Something that eats at the back of your mind when you are trying to sleep.  If you have a drive, and the thing holding you back is money or time, then that is where Alchemy fits.  I submit an open offer to anyone who fits that description and who wants to belong to this Tribe, that you can live here rent free for as long as it takes for you to get where you want to be.  All I ask is that you contribute to chores from time to time.  That's it.  From there, you can pursue whatever it is that speaks to you without fear of making ends meet.

There are many people who read this, to whom it will not apply for a variety of reasons.  For them I wish for nothing but the best and I sincerely hope they have found their own Tribe.  If it is for you however, or if there is a part of you that wants to take a step or two down this path to see where it leads, I encourage you to reach out.

As always, thanks for visiting.

Alchemy Farms Open Invitation

Hi and happy long weekend!

I felt like we were due for a website update by now. We've started a Facebook page to keep you all up to date with farm stuff (as well as posting an occasional video of an early morning rant or the chickens running across the prairies) but writing here always feels a little more comfortable. The Facebook format requires short, memetic information drops and it's nice to come here and stretch out the old writing muscles from time to time.

So what's new? We've been up to the usual farm stuff of course. The horses are more or less settled and we built a round pen to train them that looks a little like a sacrificial altar when the sun hits it first thing in the morning. The garden is built, the paths are in and we're just waiting for a streak of frost-free days to indicate it's time to put stuff in the ground.

As busy as our days have been though, I've found myself feeling very peaceful and focused lately. I'm back to a quality workout routine at the gym in town, which has been great. More applicably here though, I've decided we need to re-focus on the purpose of this website which actually is sort of two-fold;

First and most obvious, we like to keep a log of our progress on the farm for our own benefit and to keep friends and family who aren't near us apprised of our adventures and mishaps.

Secondly, I want to build Alchemy as a place where people can go to be inspired and motivated to pursue their own adventures. See, I had a conversation with a friend recently who was asking how we plan to monetize the website. Would we build it as a life-coaching and strategy business? Tiny house planning for people new to that world? Sell eggs?? The fact is, I don't really WANT to make money off of any of this. The idea of telling people “Come visit us, let's have a conversation about your dreams. You'll be amazed at how attainable they actually are. We can help you! (for the low low price of $49.95 per session).” feels gross. The fact is the world would be a happier place if more people were spending their days intentionally and doing the things they actually want to do and as hokey as it may sound, if we can help a few people get closer to that, it's payment enough.

So what does that look like in practice? Honestly, I'm not sure but I think it has to start with you. We've been creating our own story for a while and in doing so we've discovered some great practical tricks and loopholes, budgeting strategies and some great sources of inspiration to get you through those times when you aren't sure it's worth going against the grain. I'm happy to share these things and to help in any way I can, but the first step is yours. Whether you're looking for a tiny house, an inspiring career, or just a way to sidestep a financial system that you can feel at your core is broken, just send us a message. Chances are if we can't help you make progress, we can put you in touch with someone who can.

So that's the challenge. Thanks as always for visiting and supporting us.
I sincerely hope to hear from you soon.

All the best,
Mike

Spring Update

...if you can even call it spring with this snow nonsense!  Actually I can't complain too much, seems we are getting the nicer parts of this weird menopausal weather compared to people to the north of us.  

We have managed to get a good start on a few projects, the garden is almost done (just some fence left to put up and re-raking the rows where the feathered dinos have scratched it up), the Quonset guys have put in the posts that will support the pony wall the Quonset will go on and the yard had been tidied up.  The grow-op is also in full swing and we have kale, asparagus, winter squashes, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and peppers in various cups and containers under the growing lights until they can go outside!  The garden is 4x bigger this year so Mike will be busy with that!  I'm looking forward to helping too, every year we learn a little more.

And of course we are finally ready for the ponies to show up!  This past month we put up gates, got a shelter, water tub, salt lick and our first bale of hay brought over!  As is typical of how things work, I had planned to pick them up tomorrow but with all of this wet weather we decided it would be easier to wait until things dried out a bit to avoid getting a) the trailer stuck in the mud b) the truck stuck in the mud c) the horses stuck in the mud and d) the husband getting stuck in the mud.  Hopefully next week will be nicer, happy birthday to me!


Did I tell you about the ponies?  I think I just mentioned them briefly on Facebook (oh, that reminds me we have an Alchemy Farms Facebook page now so I can put up pictures daily instead of swamping the blog with them!). Anyhow Red, Pinkerton and Lua are our special guests!  They will be staying here until the beginning of October.  Originally we were only getting 2 (Pink and Lua) but Mike found Red and he had to come home with us as well.  I'm hoping to get Pink broke to ride and get lots of groundwork with Lua but Red can't be ridden so he will be a babysitter for the young horses and hopefully he will enjoy getting the velvet petted off his nose because he is a big sweetheart.  I'm nervous.  It still seems insane that horses are coming HERE.  Mike is completely fine and not worried at all.  Mike is also building me a round pen to work them in!  (Again if this weather would smarten up it'd be in progress now!). We picked up some of my horse tack boxes last week (how do I have so much stuff??) and hit a used tack sale where Mike talked me into buying a western saddle (I love it, I hope it fits me and the horses!)

 

This has been a busy month that's for sure and things show no sign of slowing down.  Oh, we finally got real furniture so our night stands aren't plastic tubs and the TV isn't held up by pieces of flooring nailed to scrap 2x4s (like a bunch of grown ups!). We had also planned to finally install a backsplash for the kitchen but I accidentally melted it (long story) so that was like fate's way of saying "That's a job for future Mike and Erin"...(who will undoubtedly at a later date say "Past Mike and Erin are such lazy bastards!")

Anywhodle...chores beckon me, no rest for the wicked and all that (the birds are on the road and the dogs are eating the calf poops next door because everyone gives mom a hard time when dad is on night shift!!!  Lousy critters...)  I'm hoping my next post will be inviting you to a Quonset warming party!

 Bye for now!

Bye for now!

Time vs. Money (Cathartic Projections)

Hi! How's it going? Sorry, I haven't been writing much but I am back now with news and updates but first some thoughts...

So at the beginning of this month a new position opened up with the City (Airdrie). The posting read: “If you are Erin you have most of the skills we are looking for so please apply. You'll make more money and it'll look good on your resume. Also you'd be great at it.” Ok, that might not be the verbatim wording but pretty much. So I applied. And before too long I got a phone call from the person hiring to ask me...Can I do 5 days a week IN OFFICE?

Geez. Wow. Like I knew it'd be 5 days but...away from home? I'd either have to commute or sleep over in Airdrie. Mike would have to do all the farm chores...But that extra cash...Man, we could hire someone to do the Quonset, we could get new wheels for the Boler, Mike has been getting into climbing...I could finance him on a trip to Yosemite for a month...he'd love that! And maybe I could get a horse...I wouldn't see it if I was always in Airdrie but maybe I could board it up there? I could get my hair done! We've been talking about getting new tattoos, now we could afford that! And the experience! It'd look great on my LinkedIn profile! Maybe if I just did this for a year or 2 it'd help me get a job closer to home!...And...and...and...

...And I pretty much just spent all this “extra” money and experienced great career “benefits” in my head before I even got to the interview for the job...so I said yes, I'd commit to 5 days in office if I was selected.

...and Mike and I were happy with that. We chatted for HOURS about how our new normal would be if I got the job. We figured out a system of me coming home on nights he wasn't working and where I'd stay up north on the nights he was. We figured out how we'd spend our down times and how it would effect any vacations we might want to take this year.

...and I got called for an interview last week and I went in and did it...

...and...I found out today I didn't get the job.

...and...I am kind of profoundly relieved.**

I know that is crazy, there were so many pluses for the new job! But in a clarifying moment of “I regret to inform you...” I suddenly realized that my time is a lot more valuable than any extra cash.

Yesterday I spent my lunch hour chopping wood for my wood stove. Today at lunch I rode horses. Tomorrow is the first day of my 4 day weekend. I'll go ride again, then climbing, then a concert, then a family event and then I'll still have another day off. And every day I'll spend time with my best friend in the world (Mike, not the chickens). Either result would have been “good” (primarily because I don't believe in “bad news” much like the tortoise in Kung Fu Panda) and we would make the best of it but I'm happy it went the way it did.

I (we) also decided we were in a bit of a holding pattern here at the farm. Nothing here was really progressing, we had a few future plans but nothing to be excited about. So in my newfound wave of forward momentum we decided to go ahead and just get the stupid Quonset built! No waiting to “save up money”...so we have to take a little out of our savings but I believe you have to invest in yourself some times and money just happens. Today I'm also going to start learning about fostering a rescue horse and I told Mike to make a plan for our summer road trip. It might not be a month long and we might just eat oranges and ramen noodles but it will be an adventure!

And now for the pictures updates!

  Yes...it's finally happening!

Yes...it's finally happening!

Dad and Pup Yoga.  If I worked away from home I'd miss things like this!

Mom and I celebrated Sam's birthday.  A before and after.  Mike told me to go to bed after I sent the second one.  (Because I had a job interview the next day...ooh...)

A view of a chinook, the cows have returned to the back 40, the chickens playing in the mud, I think one is holding a mouse.

Chicken Montage! Sprouted grains, new boots, "stay out of the damn car", sharing a watermelon with the puppy, not wearing the proper protective gear for the job site, coop cleaning means fertilizer for the shelter belt.

Getting ready for a barrel clinic, Hubby making valentines day pizza, our seed order arrived!

Ok I think that's all for now!  I'm sure I've missed stuff but hey, at least it's an update!

Cheers from the Farm!

M&E

**Ok, in the interest of complete honesty I kind of thought I was a shoo-in so when he said “Obviously you know the interview didn't go well” I was a bit taken aback but live and learn. From now on I will use strictly blackmail or bribery to get jobs, no more interviews!

Why the Idea of a Soulmate is Nonsense

Happy early Valentine's Day guys!  First off, I apologize for the radio silence for the past... yikes 52 days!  There have been some big changes around the farm that have taken up a lot of our attention lately (Erin is working on an update post to come out shortly).  In the meantime, I wanted to discuss with you some ideas about love and soulmates that have cropped up over the past few weeks as stores start filling the aisles with heart-shaped boxes of good-but-not-great chocolate and a menagerie of animals holding a cartoon representation of a human heart.

 Apologies to anyone offended by this little guy but if you too have the emotional maturity of a 14 year old, you're welcome.

Apologies to anyone offended by this little guy but if you too have the emotional maturity of a 14 year old, you're welcome.

Which I actually love by the way.  Not ironically either, I really like all things Valentine's Day.  Which is hopefully going to help any romantical-types to stay on board when they get to this next part.

The Idea of a Soulmate is Antiquated and Statistically Improbable
Right, so let's get the big one out of the way early.  Our little blue marble is home to roughly 7 billion people (thanks Google).  To put it in perspective, 7 billion inches is over 110,000 miles or roughly 2.75 laps around the circumference of Earth.  I mean even if you rule out half the population based on gender and another 3rd or so because your soulmate should not be a child and probably won't be an octogenarian that's still an astronomical number.  It isn't finding the one orange fish in the sea, it's finding the one grain of salt on the beach!  The reality is it's far more likely that there are several, even hundreds of people with whom you are perfectly compatible and with whom you could lead a happy and satisfying life.  However the knee-jerk response to that thought for a lot of people is that it is pessimistic and existential but if you stick with it, there's a lot to be said for a world where there is more than just one perfect soulmate.  For example;

Being Someone's Everything Would be Unfair and Exhausting
Recently, we were watching How I Met Your Mother.  If you've never watched it, here's a quick summary (spoilers); a guy spends 9 years telling his kids a story about meeting their mother who plays a small role in some episodes of the final season and then dies.  The rest of the series is about the same guy falling hopelessly, nonsensically, irritatingly in love with somebody else and setting in motion countless over-the-top romantic gestures to try to get said girl who is his EVERYTHING.  It started a conversation for us where Erin asked "Do you think you could go on without me?"

 The sit-com guy response to that question.   Also, watch Airplane if you never have.  Great movie.

The sit-com guy response to that question.  
Also, watch Airplane if you never have.  Great movie.

 Now being that Erin is not a sit-com wife and is not in the habit of asking entrapment questions, this was something she actually wanted to know.  After a bit of consideration, the answer was "Of course I could.".  I mean don't get me wrong, spending time with my wife and (admittedly) our dogs is the best part of my day and losing that would be devastating.  I could see setting up shop at a shitty bar in Amsterdam for a good long while and maybe getting a few ill-advised tattoos but it wouldn't KILL me.  She felt the same way if roles were reversed and honestly, I think that's what you want.

I mean picture the alternative.  Someone hinging their whole existence on you and your look, your personality and actions.  You would have to be infallible or at the very least, appear that way.  How do you grow as a person without your partner becoming disillusioned?  How do you have an honest conversation about your ambitions and fears in a relationship like that?  How do you ask them to pass you a roll of toilet paper?? 

Wouldn't it be better to be with someone who... well... has their own shit going on?  I mean you want to spend time together, but you want to WANT to spend time together.  When that want becomes a need, it's unhealthy, unfair to your partner and honestly I think indicative of someone who needs to have more going on in their life.  It makes you more desirable as a single person as well.  Most adults want to be with a complete stand-alone person who has hobbies and interests and ideas outside of themselves and their relationship.  

Which sort of ties into the last point;

Everybody Likes Getting Flowers
Have you ever heard a girl say "I hate getting flowers"?  That's a lie.  Everybody likes getting flowers.  Hell, I'D like getting flowers because it means that someone, in the normal course of their day (working, driving, plotting revenge on their enemies, buying dog food, whatever), thought of you.

 "Carol's been having a hard week.  I should pick up some lilies and a soft taco on the way home."

"Carol's been having a hard week.  I should pick up some lilies and a soft taco on the way home."

When boys become teenagers, there's a few-year period where our brains break and we decide we like girls SO MUCH that it's almost all we can think of.  In my case that also meant being a pretentious, insufferable dick who was by some miracle not choked to death by his wallet chain.  During that period, I remember asking my mom if my dad ever did anything romantic for her.  I'd just discovered girls and so every over-the-top movie gesture and song lyric seemed perfectly reasonable and I didn't see my dad standing outside any balconies in the rain.  She said "When he's out sometimes, he brings me home my favorite chocolate bar." which at the time sounded so profoundly stupid, she might as well have just said "He doesn't steal from me." or "He seems to think genocide is a bad idea."  Looking back on it now though, that simple statement had everything you need for a healthy, loving relationship.  They had at that time been married over 20 years and every once in a while she still crossed his mind and he'd do something small and thoughtful for no reason other than it might make her day a little bit better.

Real, actual love cannot be communicated solely in grand, romantic gestures.  It's best expressed in little everyday things.  Get up and grab the movie snacks, take the kids out of the house for a couple hours when she has a morning to sleep in, toss the guy a beer while you're up.  All these things are, at their core, tiny inconveniences that show that you care and when you add them up they amount to more than screaming "Wait!  Don't marry him!  I love you!" at someone's wedding which, when you think of it is actually a dick move.

 Asshole.

Asshole.

So no.  I don't believe anyone hates getting flowers.  What people typically mean by that is that they hate forced pseudo-romantic gestures performed only because of the date on the calendar.  Which is fair really.

 

So that's about it.  I hope that helped some folks get inspired to spontaneously do something for their loved ones.  Please feel free to leave some of your thoughts on the topic in the comments below.  I hope these points didn't come off too harsh or pessimistic.  Really truly I do believe in love and I hope every last one of you picks it up like a warm fuzzy version of the flu.  Or the Gangnam Style dance.

Thanks as always for visiting!

Thankful Feelings!

Facebook just reminded me that 2 years ago this week we came out and took our first ever pictures of Alchemy Farms. Looking at those photos really reminded me how far we have come and made me think about just how much help, love and support we have gotten from all the people in our lives! I'd like to use this post to express how much we appreciate EVERYTHING!

 But first...chicken!

But first...chicken!

The Cabin: Knotty Pine Cabins – so easy to work with and always willing to answer house questions for us...even after they didn't need to help us any more!

The Land itself: Dave and Cindi, not only for “picking” us but also for pushing the possession date as far back as possible so we had to pay for 2 mortgages for the least amount of time.

The Camper: We lived in the camper for FIVE MONTHS! Thanks to Joyce and Albert for just giving it to us. It was (and still is!) a great camper that we couldn't have done without!

Unloading Day: Thanks to Allana, Sean, Brian, Justin, Wally, Harry, Sandy, Brad and Nick for coming out on a snowy April day and unloading a whole HOUSE for payment in just coffee and donuts.

 A bit old...we have stairs now!

A bit old...we have stairs now!

Thanks to Neighbors: Mavis for inviting us to brandings and BBQs and generally just making us feel like part of the family. Gord for bringing over his tractor to help us with our “pit” problem and for (unsuccessfully) teaching me to line dance. Not to mention always having a open invite to their pool in the summer. Janice for always babysitting the pups and chix and only asking for beer and salsa in return. Kristin for being around to ride Raz with me. Bob and Jane for supplying us with wood so we don't freeze to death come winter. Rod for teaching me how to use post pounders and tractors and other farm implements I have no business operating! Trudie for letting me come ride her beautiful ponies. Todd for giving me a job for the summer and lending us a water filter when we first got our water hooked up so we could pee in a REAL toilet! Dave and Cindi for letting us shower in their house in those first hot, water-less months of camper living, for always helping us with literally EVERY farming question we have, getting our fields hayed for us, helping us plan the Quonset and get beef ordered, teaching us more about cows than we ever thought possible, helping Mike build fences for our future PONIES and probably a million things I am forgetting. Lance and Toby for making sure we had lots of veggies the first summer we were here and helping Mike learn all about gardening last year, for donating AND dropping off an old playhouse they had so we could remodel it into the fabulous chicken coop we have now. Also for bringing over the tractor to dig up the area that would become our shelter belt and always making “harvest day” a blast.

 This picture perfectly sums up their relationship.

This picture perfectly sums up their relationship.

Thanks to Friends: Linds and Brad for taking the first ever “family” picture of us on our land, lending us several tarps that you will never be getting back! Also for buying us a burn barrel and looking after Sam the week we went to Cuba. Carly for coming out to do a planting design for us (even if we didn't actually use it yet!) Sean for doing innumerable house stuff but notably building us stairs and THE WHOLE BATHROOM (this is why he has a chicken named after him). Allana for voluntarily crawling under the house with me to heat tape and insulate pipes (they haven't frozen yet knock on wood!) and for helping me with the flooring! Mark and Leesha for helping Lance deliver the worlds heaviest playhouse/chicken coop. Nick and Christie for coming out and helping put up the chicken pen. (I like when Christie used the “widow maker”) and for the almost CERTAIN knitting of chicken sweaters in the future. Rachel and Tyler for teaching us how to hold cows at a branding, lending us a chicken transport box and answering all chicken related questions I might have. My boss Corey for inexplicably letting me keep a job I love and work it from home. Everyone who came all the way out for my birthday BBQ! Everyone who has let me crash at their house on the days I come to Airdrie for work. Everyone who contributed to our 8 Questions projects. Jesse for having us on his podcast.  Everyone who made the big long drive to come out and visit us!

Thanks to family: Mike's grandparents for the canning bath and the very stylish set of cow horns in our kitchen. Not to mention storing our stuff in their basement for...wow...like 2.5 years now? We should probably get it out of there! Harry and Sandy for letting me/us stay in the spare room literally more times than I can count. Also always being there to help us in any way possible. My mom for her constant support and always telling us that this whole deal IS a good idea!

Thanks to the chickens for the eggs. Sam for being on mouse patrol and always being by my side. Tucker for making me laugh with his fatness.

Thanks to Mike for being the best partner in life that anyone could ask for. I wouldn't be anywhere without that dude.

And YOU! For always reading the blog, asking questions, answering surveys and generally being a witness to 2 people with some pretty unconventional ideas. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Happy Holidays and the best in 2017!

 Our first Family picture in December of 2014!

Our first Family picture in December of 2014!

Mid November!

Holy smokes, can you believe its only like a month and a week until Christmas? This fall has flown by!

Can't say its been terribly exciting project-wise at the farm, after Mike expanded the garden we really didn't have too many more outside projects aside from getting a new vent cover on the big camper. (Don't ask my why we didn't do that a year and a half ago as it has been broken literally since we got it.) We did get everything sort of tidied around the yard in preparation for snowfall (covering the mower, moving the wood pile out behind the dirt pile so we can actually use all of our driveway etc. We also just got 2 big loads of wood from our awesome neighbors to the north so I'm feeling much better about the snowy winter ahead! Mike also moved the old garden wind fence over around the chicken pen so they are much happier now and more protected. He did this on one of the windiest days here so far which I thought was pretty sweet of him! He also built an axe target after we went axe throwing a few months ago, he is getting pretty good at it too! (The throwing I mean.)

 A very dramatic fencing sky!

A very dramatic fencing sky!

OH I almost forgot to mention our new chickens showed up a few weeks ago! Well, 3 of them anyhow. The other 3 got eaten by coyotes right before they were scheduled to come over so I think the remaining ones had a bit of PTSD when they showed up. After a few days of pecking they all got sorted out and are now happily eating their breakfast oatmeal (chicken food + water = chicken mush) together.

 All the chickies getting along!  Molly, Goldie and Gus have joined the group.

All the chickies getting along!  Molly, Goldie and Gus have joined the group.

What else have we been up to...hmm, oh we went with mom to Jasper/Cadomin for a weekend. We were almost in a horror movie (that might still happen but our director had a baby), mom went to Amsterdam for 10 days, we had our 7th anniversary and of course Halloween which we did in style and I made some little kids cry with my costume. We also saw a pretty cool silent movie at a church downtown accompanied by free-form pipe organ music and it was crazy cool.

We got this year's beef delivery again, complete with dog bones which the critters have been leaving directly behind the car tires. Mike picked up some hours at the liquor store in town and is really liking it. He is hoping to get involved with a new climbing place opening in Okotoks in December as well. We did a bit of hiking while the weather was still nice and have a trip to Big White planned in December to get our snowboard on! Mom is coming down to pup/chicken/house set for that which is awesome.

 Trying to get me AND both dogs in the picture, marginally successfully...

Trying to get me AND both dogs in the picture, marginally successfully...

 "It's so nice up here, let get a good picture of the dogs!  They are posed all nicely and..."  Once again, Sam refuses to look good in a picture.

"It's so nice up here, let get a good picture of the dogs!  They are posed all nicely and..."  Once again, Sam refuses to look good in a picture.

 Our Anniversary picture.

Our Anniversary picture.

Ok that might actually be it!

Contest Time

Happy Halloween!

It's bribe time again.  I've had a new idea for our place brewing over the last month or so and I wanted to get some feedback from you guys.  I certainly don't expect free advice so as is (becoming) the custom, I plan to draw for a fifty dollar gift card to Amazon for filling out the survey at the end of this entry.  It'll be too late to get yourself a costume, but you may be able to get some exercise gear to work off all the Halloween candy you ate because they sell them sumbitches in boxes of a hundred and apparently kids don't trick-or-treat anymore, amirite?  

 Google "too much candy" as an image search and it's just PAGES of puking pumpkins.  You're welcome for that information.

Google "too much candy" as an image search and it's just PAGES of puking pumpkins.  You're welcome for that information.

 Yep.  This is exactly a realistic expectation of how you would look after 3 days of eating right an exercise.

Yep.  This is exactly a realistic expectation of how you would look after 3 days of eating right an exercise.

The idea is called Primal Alchemy.  The goal is a three day retreat at our place where we will attempt to re-connect people with their bodies as strong, useful tools rather than just Segways that haul around our magnificent brains.  Folks would arrive in groups no larger than five on Friday night and would stay until Sunday evening.  

In that time, we would prepare all meals and snacks using only ingredients that originated within about five miles of our cabin.  That actually leaves us pretty wide open for food since, in addition to our own expanded vegetable gardens and fresh eggs, we would have access to grassfed beef and likely some organic pork as well.

The underlying message throughout the retreat would be that although our minds have evolved exponentially over the past 500 generations, our bodies have been largely unchanged in that time and by tapping into some of those primal activities and nutrition, you can discover results that benefit all aspects of modern life.  Participants would sleep in the yurt  to simulate the sense of tribe bonding that would have been historically essential to survival and in the evenings, we would gather around the fire to discuss the day's activities as well as anything else the group found interesting.

Activities could include:

Yoga- As a five thousand year old tradition, there's no doubt about the benefits of yoga. I picture a beginner level morning session in the yurt guided by a competent teacher (read; not me) as well as a possible evening meditation practice before bedding down at night.

 No caption.  Guys I literally can't improve on this.

No caption.  Guys I literally can't improve on this.

Primal Movement- I have been digging through some online resources to learn what I can about building an obstacle course to improve, balance, strength and concentration. Think American Ninja Warrior but on a smaller, farmier scale.

 Like this!  Only smaller, do-able by a human... and with a puppy probably bothering you.

Like this!  Only smaller, do-able by a human... and with a puppy probably bothering you.

Primal Combat- Sounds more extreme than it is.  I picture a no-sparring introductory boxing lesson.  There is a lot to be said for the health benefits and camaraderie that comes from this type of exercise and the "thuk" you get out of a mitt when you hit it just right is something that speaks to everyone.  I might include a beginner jiu-jitsu or wrestling class as well if I can find someone to instruct.

 So this happened once.  Keep in mind too that photography didn't used to be a phone in your pocket.  Somebody made this happen and went "Well, people are going to want to see this.  Somebody get the photographer."

So this happened once.  Keep in mind too that photography didn't used to be a phone in your pocket.  Somebody made this happen and went "Well, people are going to want to see this.  Somebody get the photographer."

Primal Weaponry- Similar to the feeling you get when you hit a punch mitt just right, the sound of an axe landing in a wooden target cannot help but make a person feel like a badass.  If this idea is popular with throwing axes, it could be expanded as well to include spears, knives, etc.  

Hiking- Our close proximity to the porcupine hills lends itself well to hikes and nature walks.  Ideally, we could convince one of the neighbours to allow us on their private land to spend some time reconnecting with nature.

In summary, the purpose of this retreat would not be to demonize modern culture or to posit the idea that we were somehow better off as cavemen.  We weren't.  Shit was trying to eat us literally daily.  My hope for these retreats would be to remind people that our bodies still need to move like they did in those days because they haven't evolved a whole ton since then and although most people won't incorporate all aspects of the program into their daily lives, they may pick up yoga or boxing, or join an axe throwing league and those small changes can play a major part in improving our lives.

And now the survey!

Name *
Name

Alright, that's all for this week.  Get your surveys in quick, we'll be doing a draw for the gift card Sunday night (November 6th).  Thanks as always for visiting and have a great week!

An Article About Food

Hi and Happy Wednesday guys!  I wanted to put up a quick post this morning (let's pretend it's still morning and that the day hasn't already gotten that far away from me) because our friends over at nabalo.com are putting together a new project.  A magazine that will touch on and legitimize some pretty interesting health and wellness oriented topics.  They are also looking for contributors, so if there's something near and dear to you that you think might fit and you want to meet girls by saying "As I mentioned in the article I wrote for this magazine a while back...", you can get in touch with them via the website or by emailing nabalo@nabalo.com

So I decided to shoe-horn myself into their project and write about a topic I've been doing a bit of research and experimentation with lately; ketosis.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out so I've gotten their permission to share it here with you.  If it's something you've heard of or likened to pot-smoking-hippie-culture, give it a quick read.  It might change your mind:

BRAIN = HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS. BODY = WASHINGTON GENERALS

Your brain has out-evolved your body.
Honestly, it has. I mean, check the scoreboard:

BRAIN

  • Cars
  • Art
  • Music
  • Smartphones
  • Architecture
  • Comic Books
  • The Snuggie (not every idea is a good idea)

BODY

  • More or less the same since hunter-gatherer days in 8000BC when not getting eaten by anything that day was cause for celebration.

There is of course plenty of evidence to support the idea that people are still evolving like this point made in a 2009 issue of Discover magazine in an article entitled They Don't Make Homo Sapiens Like They Used To:

“...'other changes, especially over the past 10,000 years, are distinct to specific ethnic groups. These variations are well known to forensic anthropologists,' Hawks says as he points them out: 'In Europeans, the cheekbones slant backward, the eye sockets are shaped like aviator glasses, and the nose bridge is high. Asians have cheekbones facing more forward, very round orbits, and a very low nose bridge. Australians have thicker skulls and the biggest teeth, on average, of any population today. “

That's it really. I mean, think about how many advances the brain has had since you were a kid. Granted, that will mean different things to different people but if we take being born in the 80s as an example (since all the cool people were); color TV - still a fairly recent invention at the time - looked like this and the internet wasn't a thing. Those advances were all made in 30-something years. The body took about 330 times that to get to “eye sockets shaped like aviators”!

The point I'm getting around to here is that advances we've made in food, especially since the dawn of industrialized agriculture, follow this same exponential trend. They are incredibly cost effective, take very little effort to produce and can last literally for years without spoiling. Brain-wise and on paper, that's an impressive feat. The problem is that our bodies are still wired to process what we had evolved to consume all those thousands of years ago. (Industrial Ag practices have also cut a pretty wide swath of moral grey area, but that's another topic for another article)

I realize that this is approaching the “Carbs are evil. Did you know Hitler ate a lot of carbs?” reactionary pseudo-science that we've all heard from the patchouli-steeped recesses of the interwebs. I hear that. I get it. Here's some stuff about biology to help you through:

 

THE UN-BORING-AS-POSSIBLE-WHILE-STILL-GETTING-THE-POINT-ACROSS SCIENCE BEHIND KETOSIS

A good portion of the points made in this section came from the work of Dr. Peter Attia who put himself through a rigorous and incredibly thorough process to determine the physiological advantages of ketosis when, as a medical resident and marathon swimmer, he still found himself classified as “overweight”. His findings and admittedly lengthy presentation can be found here. The bulk of the science is in the first 40 minutes or so. Most of the rest is about the testing and processes he underwent in order to be certain he could recommend ketosis to other people in good conscience. He's an excellent presenter and it's definitely worth a watch. Ok, moving on.

So what IS ketosis? Well to answer that, it's important to understand a bit about how our organs work, specifically liver and the brain.

The Brain:

  • Requires glucose (sugars, provided in over-abundant quantity in a modern, western diet by carbohydrates) to run.
  • Cannot use fat for fuel.
  • Only interested in doing what they do every night, Pinky.

 

The Liver:

  •  Stores glucose to be delivered to the brain.
  •  In the absence of carbohydrates, will process fat into 3 organic compounds. The most important of which, for this discussion will be Beta-Hydroxybutyrate and Acetoacetate (hereafter referred to as Ketones, mostly because Beta-Hydroxybutyrate and Acetoacetate take a really long time to type out)

MOST importantly; the brain can use these Ketones in place of glucose (again, think “carbs”) as fuel. This means that in the absence of carbohydrate consumption and once glucose stores in the liver are depleted, the body will go into a state of Ketosis, where the liver burns fat to create Ketones that can be used by the brain and other organs as fuel.

In fact, you've evolved this way . If you think about what food there was on offer 10,000 years ago, there weren't a whole ton of carbs. Animal fats and above-ground vegetables would have been much more readily available and so it would make sense that the body would adapt to what was around.

Okay, now if you've stayed on board through that bit or at the very least you appreciated the Animaniacs reference, you may want to know more about how to enter ketosis and why this idea differs from other carb-restricting fads (looking at you Atkins) that you may have heard of in the past.

 

COMMONLY ASKED KETO QUESTIONS:

Isn't this just another Atkins-type thing?

Probably the most common question I hear in discussions with people about ketosis. The Atkins diet and other low-carb diets were on the right track in terms of carbohydrate restriction, however a lot of them allow for entire cheat days or present a “2 weeks til you're there!” diet structure. The problem with that is that people start to see results in their bodies and energy levels and then dump a cake and 2 pizzas on it, which kicks your body out of ketosis and re-fills the liver's glucose stores. Hokey as it may sound, this type of diet isn't A DIET. If you hop-on and hop-off, there will come a point where you are eating too many carbs AND too much fat. This is intended as a dietary shift (and not an incredibly restrictive one if you skip down to some of the meal ideas at the end of the article.)

 

How long does it take to enter ketosis?

It's different person to person. On average, if someone were to fast (eat almost nothing) for seven days, their body would likely have entered ketosis. Oh but hey, since fasting for 7 days is a TERRIBLE IDEA and a massive shock to the system, especially if this is your first time cutting out carbs, it's much safer to simply restrict carbs for a while until the body's glucose stores have run out. Think of it like a bank account where you want to overspend while you're working at Dairy Queen. Sure, there's still a little bit coming in, but the idea is to have the overall number lower at the end of the day than it was at the start.

 

How can I check if I'm in a state of ketosis?

By peeing on a stick! Ketone strips can check the presence and levels of ketones in your body and give you a general idea if you're in a ketogenic state. There are also breath and blood testers, but they're significantly more expensive and who wants to jab themselves with a needle?

 

And finally, the big one:
What can/can't I eat?

First off, there is a super helpful website that provides all kinds of info, tips and recipes on ketosis here but it's good to have a couple rules of thumb:

Meat: The old adage of white meats and fish being a bit better for you than red meat still holds true unfortunately, but steak and ethical ground beef certainly won't do too much damage.

Veggies: Try to eat mostly above-ground growing vegetables as root vegetables have a lot higher carbohydrate content

Fruit: Stick to berries if possible. Bananas and apples are higher-carb and many other fruits have a ton of sugar in them. That's not to say don't have an orange here and there, just don't have ten.

Snacks: This part is important and almost the sole reason I was able to convince my wife to try this with me. Snacks can include eggs, cheese, cold cuts, olives, and most nuts. Remember, you are trying to provide your liver with good fats to use as fuel in place of glucose.

Alcohol: Obviously it's best to avoid drinking altogether, but then why not live in a cave in the woods and try to make friends with the wildlife because your life is basically pointless in terms of human interaction. On that note, red and dry white wines are the best of the bunch. Or if you're a liquor connoisseur, vodka and tequila are do-able. Beer is sadly the worst offender for carb content.  Also, keep an eye on quantity. Many folks report a lower alcohol tolerance in a ketogenic state.

Remember, there are still a TON of meal options so if you're picturing being at a family dinner with a group of friends, sadly munching on a handful of lettuce while your loved ones scarf down “real” food, that simply isn't the case nowadays. These are just a couple of screen grabs I took from the recipes section of the keto website I linked to earlier. You're also typically in good shape if you google “Real Food Recipes” or “Real Food Challenge”.

That's really all there is to it. The first little while will be a challenge and you may experience some side effects, as is common with anything good for you (anybody ever able to hop right out of bed after starting a new workout program?) but the result is worth it. Besides looking better, most people report higher energy levels and less interruptions in their sleep.

And so. In conclusion. TOO MANY carbs are evil and Hitler probably did eat a lot of them.

Thanks as always for reading, leave a comment below!

 

Cool Down

...and just like that...SUMMER IS OVER!

...or at least it feels that way with the leaves turning yellow and cold overcast couple of days.  But the weather is supposed to be nice on the weekend so chore weather isn't over yet!  (Mike will be ecstatic to hear that ha ha.)

My last update was back in July so let me try and think of where the last few months have gone!

Hmm...well we've gotten the Boler out a bunch!  First a chilly group camp for the July long weekend, then a week long trip out to meet friends in Kookanusa (such nice weather!) and another chilly weekend in Waterton for September long.  Sam as usual had a great time camping.  Tucker did too as long as he didn't have to wear his "dog bra".  (His refusal to tolerate a collar lead us to buying him a very uncool harness.). When dog bra was employed he spent most of the time sulking under picnic tables or accidentally singeing off his ear fur beside the campfire.  He did have his cute moments though and many families we ran into on the trip were forced to buy their children puppies after they spent their weekends playing with him.

 Island Lake near the BC border.  Sam, Tuck, Mike and even I did a lot of swimming on this trip!

Island Lake near the BC border.  Sam, Tuck, Mike and even I did a lot of swimming on this trip!

 ...and frankly, it was exhausting!

...and frankly, it was exhausting!

We are still helping out on harvest days every week though I think this is the last week for those since it's getting so cold at night.  Mike expanded his own garden 4x this week so we'll be ready to plant big time next spring!  He got some pretty cute pumpkins in time for Halloween!

The chickens are enjoying the fall weather and still getting out to have dust baths in the mole hills.  We bought a trap so hopefully there will be less mole hills soon!  We designed new feeders for the chickens and are going to install some insulation for them soon.  We also just found out that we'll be keeping the neighbors' chickens over winter.  And yes, that means I finally have a reason to buy CHICKEN CHARMS!!!!

Mike finished all our fencing and it looks AMAZING!!!  It's so exciting to see our land become more than just a house in a field.  Plus pony shopping in spring ;).

Our drainage is fixed now!  Woohoo!  Mike and our excavator got trenches/weeping tile/gravel pits dug and filled in so now hopefully no more sinkholes.  However we are back to square one as far as grass so it's a bit muddy out there.  Mike bought us some grass seed though so we'll be putting that out before snow falls.

Only one outside project left...I'll give you a hint...starts with a "Q"!

We have found time to do some fun things.  I've been able to ride a bit and Mike found a friend to practice jujitsu with at the local school.  Should be a fun fall!  (I'm trying a carousel effect, so click the below picture to cycle through...)

I've been getting my domestic on lately so I have the root veggies stored, salsas made and I tried that fireball whiskey pumpkin pie recipe that's floating around on facebook.  It's pretty good but make sure you half it.

 

Alright...that's all for now!

"Happy" as a Finish Line

This week I decided to give Erin a break from the blog.  She has done an excellent job keeping you updated on our trials and tribulations over the past couple months, so I've stolen the reins to once again discuss something new that occurred to me this week (it may have occurred to you years ago, I don't know your life).

 This picture isn't here for any reason.  I just saw it on the internet and laughed for too long.

This picture isn't here for any reason.  I just saw it on the internet and laughed for too long.

Over the past week, I got to sit down with two close friends on two separate occasions and catch up.  This was a blue moon level rarity as they are both what I'd consider successful people.  They have both worked hard and put in the time to land themselves in respectable careers, (In a subsequent discussion with Erin, we decided the mark of a "career" is one that we felt we would not be able to walk into on Sunday and have the jist more or less figured out by Friday.  I digress.) they are certainly not stress cases.  They're not bald, or fat, or miserable or any of the cartoonish qualities many of us have come to associate with the corporate world, but they are both very corporate.  

In both conversations, the topic of contentedness came up, and as happens with friends who have come together after a time walking different paths, we compared notes.  

It didn't come as a surprise to learn that they both envied a few aspects of the lifestyle we've adopted this past year.  It's unconventional and in cases of unconventionality, one tends to focus on the positive.  Hearing a lot more "Chickens are fun and we make our own hours." and a lot less "There's a sinkhole under the house that could swallow us in our sleep like the damn Sarlacc scene from return of the Jedi"

 This scene for those of you not as fluent in Nerd.

This scene for those of you not as fluent in Nerd.

What DID come as a surprise was how much I found myself envying that grind.  I listened to them tell me about restaurants they'd been to and places they had traveled for work.  I saw photos of the toys they were able to afford and saw the clothes they wore.  I really started to wonder whether we had pulled of the highway too early and missed out on some of the essential experiences of 21st century 30-something life.

 Should I want to be more like this guy?  Unfair question.  Everybody wants to be this guy.  If scoffed at that, you are lying to yourself.

Should I want to be more like this guy?  Unfair question.  Everybody wants to be this guy.  If scoffed at that, you are lying to yourself.

Now to be clear, I LOVE what we've done here.  I'm proud enough to have built a website around it in fact.  What I realized was not that we need to change anything, or that we'd made a mistake at all but that happiness is not a finish line.  It's like if you went to the gym religiously for 3 months, got in shape, uncovered your six-pack and went "Well.  That's health achieved.  Next thing."  Happiness works the same way.  To be content takes work and a person needs to constantly weigh their decisions in terms of how it will better themselves and their situation.  I have been spending so much time on farm life (fencing, cabin, maintenance, veggies, chickens, maintenance, quonset, maintenance...) that I forgot it's important to remain a three dimensional person.  As a symbolic gesture, and one that my mom and my wife loved and were not thrilled with respectively, I finally shaved off what I was passing off as a beard and I've quit drinking for the month.  The second thing is just because I find I'm more productive without a couple of beers at the end of the day.

The point I'm trying to make to you is that you can't have just one goal and expect to be a complete person.  I've been preaching that philosophy about corporate life for years but I forgot it applied to other lifestyles as well.  It's easy to keep on doing what you're doing as long as you have that "one day I'm gonna" carrot dangling in front of you, but you need to constantly evaluate your internal compass and FOLLOW it.  NOW.  

Even if all you do is shave off your hobo beard and wear nicer clothes now and again.  Thanks again for visiting.

Hug Life

I'm happy to report that this weeks entry is much less catastrophic sounding!  I think we finally have a good handle on our drainage situation (and the fact the torrential downpours have reduced has sure helped the stress levels).  The guy who dug our Quonset pit (the 6" pit that ended up being 8' deep) is coming out to help us with some grading.  Hopefully we don't get extra depth this time!  Of course the wild flowers I planted and a bunch of pretty storks-bill are right where he needs to dig but I guess I'll sacrifice beauty for not having the side of the house collapse ha ha.

 So much...STUFF!  The Quonset will be coming in handy!

So much...STUFF!  The Quonset will be coming in handy!

 Storks-bill and a puppy being (as usual) in the way.

Storks-bill and a puppy being (as usual) in the way.

We have been letting the chickens free range a lot lately.  We don't let them out 100% of the time mainly because they know EXACTLY where the garden is and would be in there like a shot if we didn't have the fence up around it.  It is pretty fun having them around when we are working outside as they are very curious and always come over to see what we are doing.  Sushi is especially interested and likes to help with jobs like re-stacking the wood pile and mowing the lawn.  Unfortunately for Sam this means yet another creature butts in front of him at the water dish outside...Sushi is definitely not afraid of the dogs!  (Actually none of the chickens are and will gladly run Tucker off when he gets too closer to them.)

 Sharing some chili with a friend.  Sushi does not like celery so she would spit those on the ground for Tucker to eat.

Sharing some chili with a friend.  Sushi does not like celery so she would spit those on the ground for Tucker to eat.

This nicer weather has allowed us to kick off more new projects lately...its hard to remember the winter and spring when we almost had too much time on our hands!  It seems like we have things to do all day every day.  We have still been doing harvest day at the CSA on Thursdays (getting it down to a fine science now I think!) and this week Mike and neighbor Dave have started putting up our fences.  I'm going to try very very very hard not to fill those fences with horses (or goats or sheep or a miniature cow) before next spring.

 The start of our fancy new fence!

The start of our fancy new fence!

We haven't been able to use the Boler again since last camping trip.  We tried to go the weekend before last but it...didn't work out.  We left on Friday afternoon and I decided I wanted to try driving the truck and trailer so I'd get better at it.  The Mazda does not have the guts to pull that thing up the hills along highway 22.  So it was a bit stressful going 80km/h while the traffic was piling up behind me.  Fortunately it flattened out once the 22 meets highway 3.  Unfortunately this is when the tornado and golf ball-sized hail warnings happened.  I pulled over to the side of the road just at the hail came down and Mike spent the next 5 minutes dealing with a hysterical wife before he switched places with me and drove us to Claresholm, basically out running the storm (the Mazda was revving pretty high on that stretch!)  I had calmed down by then and decided I wanted to end on a good note and it was barely raining so I'd do the last 40 minute stretch home...and it immediately started down pouring again.  We made it home but some wine was consumed upon arrival.  Like all of it.  Sheesh.

Hmm...what else?  Oh!  I got to play with bees this week!  Like full on bee suit and everything!  Our CSA neighbor and her friend have 2 hives so I was able to go help and move some frames around so the bees build their honeycombs in the right spot.  It was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be (or thought it would "bee"? Zing!)

 Mike's home garden looking awesome!  Those big things are squash.  In the background the chickens are plotting how to get in and eat that squash.

Mike's home garden looking awesome!  Those big things are squash.  In the background the chickens are plotting how to get in and eat that squash.

 Tiny pumpkins are starting!

Tiny pumpkins are starting!

 The sunflower is almost ready for its close-up.

The sunflower is almost ready for its close-up.

Yesterday Joel came for a visit and we talked him into coming up to the hills to help with a branding.  Mike got much less beat up than usual (he must be getting the hang of it!) and I did injections and did not stab a) myself or b) others so I call that a success!  My thighs are sore today though from doing 75 squats in a row to give the needles and Mike's whole self is sore from "wrasslin" so I think it'll be a quiet Sunday for us today.

That's all for now!

 "Cheese?"

"Cheese?"

The Week of Mild Catastrophes

Time for an Erin blog since I made Mike do the last big one!  As usual it's been busy!  My work has reduced my hours a bit which has been nice since there seems to be something that needs doing here every single day lately.  Mike teases me and says that I shouldn't go into Airdrie for work anymore as every time I leave the house something happens here!  A few weeks ago it was Tucker's stitches coming loose (he got neutered by a less than competent vet student) and last week it was the sudden appearance of a sink hole in our driveway/under the house.

 You probably cant tell but Mike was less than impressed with this development.

You probably cant tell but Mike was less than impressed with this development.

We spent the weekend getting it filled in and tamped down but I'm sure with all this rain it will be reappearing soon enough (though we have much of the water on that side of the house diverted now.)  In 2 weeks we have a friend of Mikes who is a landscaper coming by to help us look at drainage options, but in the mean time we have a band aid or two in place.  This weather has been very nice for the new thistle patches that have decided to spring up EVERYWHERE in the lawn so all my spare time this week has been dedicated to the art of Round-Up and aggressive root digging techniques.  And some swearing.  I think I have a handle on them now but they'll be back in time.  Thistles are tricky, it takes 4 or 5 removals before they are really GONE gone.  I need to get some gas in the jerry can so I can have a big burn in the barrel of all the picked thistles and work out some frustration ha ha.

 Eat a dick thistles.

Eat a dick thistles.

Another fun event happened earlier this afternoon when the chimney decided to leak water (??!?!!)  Sigh.  Once we got that under control I decided to shop vac out the old ashes while I was there to discover the vacuum was clogged and ashes spewed everywhere out the back of it.  On the bright side the egg in my pocket I had forgotten about did not break during these shenanigans.

Seems like we have been bouncing kind of reactively from thing to thing lately.  On the bright side we have been drinking a lot more so that's been good for the economy. ;)

Things aren't all bad though, just a bit tiresome at this EXACT moment.  Mike is still working at the veggie co-op and now on Thursdays I go help for "harvest day".  We took the Boler out camping to Willow Creek and did not freeze to death nor succumb to Carbon monoxide poisoning from the propane heater in it.  We bought all our fence posts and wire so Mike and Neighbour Dave should be able to put that up once it stops raining.  I also lost the Quonset war so that will be going up this month (hopefully, knock on wood, fingers crossed.)  Actually it'll be great to have the storage space and to be able to keep the Boler inside.

 Pictured:  Erin, Sam and Trucky with the Boler.  Not Pictured:  Tucker because he spent 2 days under the camper crying because he had to wear his collar.

Pictured:  Erin, Sam and Trucky with the Boler.  Not Pictured:  Tucker because he spent 2 days under the camper crying because he had to wear his collar.

Mikes garden at home is looking great and our little berry patch is coming back nicely after the saga of "The Worlds Worst House Sitter".  (You didn't hear about that?  Let's just say the guy watching our house while we were in Oregon for the conference was...less than responsible).  Oh! And the grapes I was growing last year came back!  The vineyard plan is back on!!!

 Looking like a pretty legit garden!  I'm proud of that guy!

Looking like a pretty legit garden!  I'm proud of that guy!

Ok, I'll leave things there for now.  To sum up...well it's not always glamorous on the old homestead and sometimes things can be a little overwhelming but you just have to take things one day/wine at a time.  I'm glad I have a good partner in all this!

 Not the partner I meant but still...A puppy in a T-Shirt for no reason!

Not the partner I meant but still...A puppy in a T-Shirt for no reason!

 Oh and we got 2.5 bales of hay this year.  It's been a little dry...

Oh and we got 2.5 bales of hay this year.  It's been a little dry...

Farm Update in 25 (but actually more like 30) Pictures

Hi again,

I've been procrastinating about this entry a bit.  Spring/summer here has been insanely busy with the whole wind fence/chickens/painting classes/road trip/cheese making/mead making/mead botching/mead repairing/Thirsty Acres volunteering.  So Erin suggested just doing an update in photos this week.  She suggested 25 but I'm bad at eliminating pictures, so it's really around 30.

Oh and on a side note, we were inspired at the Mother Earth News Fair in Oregon so we're building a Tiny House Transition course that will deal a bit more with the emotional and mental preparations and strategies for downsizing, as well as some strategies for building if you are not already a professional builder or handyman.  So keep an eye out for some teasers.  There's a very good chance I'll throw some sections on here and hassle you guys for feedback.

Anyway, enough of that for now.  On with the slideshow!

That's it for now.  Sorry for the lack of comments, this is the first time I've used this format to post photos and I wasn't able to make them work.  I feel I should explain the foot-gunk ones though.  That was at the conference.  Erin and I signed up for a (in my mind questionable) procedure where they dropped your feet in some salt water and charged the ions to draw out all the toxins and whatnot.  Different gunk meant different health issues and you could bring this gadget home for only 1000 dollars!  Anyway, it was a neat experience but Oregon is like 90% breweries so any toxins that were zapped away were promptly replenished later that day.

Thanks again for visiting and have a great week!

Our Much Overdue Poll Results

Oh heeey... Listen, I totally sent this blog post out like last week.  You didn't get it?  Oh man, that's so weird.  No.  No, it didn't get kicked back to me.  Jeez... technology amirite?

Okay that's a lie (and incidentally my least favorite professional-world excuse for "I totally forgot I was supposed to do that for you.") but I'm here now and I'm ready to make it up to you.  First things first...

THE RESULT OF ALCHEMY FARMS' FIRST EVER BRIBERY FUELED SURVEY:

 No, I don't know why young Monopoly Man wants you to betray Jesus, but it's an image that came up when I Google'd "bribery clipart" so it's staying.

No, I don't know why young Monopoly Man wants you to betray Jesus, but it's an image that came up when I Google'd "bribery clipart" so it's staying.

After tallying up the nearly tens of results from last post's "What should we sell" survey, we concluded that the top three things people would most like to see from us are:

 Canned goods???  Like JAM... right?  Like NBA J- look, forget it.  We're moving on.

Canned goods???  Like JAM... right?  Like NBA J- look, forget it.  We're moving on.

1) Canned Goods - Our most popular request was for canned goods and preserves.  We'll keep you posted on the excellent recipes Erin concocts with the incredible veggie deliveries we get from Thirsty Acres this year.  This is mostly because at present all I can get to grow in our garden is onions so... there's that.

2) Honey and Beeswax - Thankfully not the front runner, which will allow me to put off getting bees for another season (listen, I'm not SCARED of bees, but c'mon.  Who loves bees?) We do however have some access to beekeepers in our area and could probably direct your requests for bee byproducts if you're interested.

3) Tea/Eggs tie - Not a super-awesome sounding article of clothing but actually a draw between eggs and tea.  Eggs will likely be a while to get to selling as we need to do some research through Alberta Agriculture to see what approvals we would need in order to adhere to their guidelines.  The herb garden is well on its way, however, so we should be able to offer some teas once we decide on some blends we like.  Iris and Rolf, we may not be able to ship internationally because it occurs to me as I write this that a big bag o' tea looks a whole bunch a like big bag o' weed.

 H-uh.  So yeah, I guess "tea eggs" are a thing.  And straight up NOT something I want to put my mouth on.

H-uh.  So yeah, I guess "tea eggs" are a thing.  And straight up NOT something I want to put my mouth on.

That's it for now.  We did pick a winner for the 50 dollars to Amazon but we have withheld contact information at the winner's request, I assume because she doesn't want "aunts" and "cousins" coming out of the woodwork to get into the will now that she's fabulously wealthy.

I realize also that we owe you a farm update and I swear it's on its way.  In the meantime, here's a little teaser that makes me laugh literally every time I see it.  You're welcome.

 Sushi:  Most gangster of all of Alchemy Farms' hen posse.

Sushi:  Most gangster of all of Alchemy Farms' hen posse.

Thanks as always for visiting and have a great week!

Alchemy Offerings

Good morning folks!  Yes, we are still here.  Sorry about the lack of updates over the past few weeks, but it has been absolutely hectic around here lately (more on that in a later post).

For now though, I would like your input.  We have decided that since we aren't quite busy enough, it would be a good idea to get into a new venture at Alchemy this summer so I'm offering a 50 dollar gift at amazon in exchange for you donating us a little of your quality down time and filling out the form at the bottom of this entry.  We'll pick a winner next Saturday, April 30th so good luck!

 Actual item available at Amazon.com for some reason

Actual item available at Amazon.com for some reason

So we did a little brainstorming about what we could get into that people might be interested in buying from the website.  Listed below are our top answers and an estimated price point for each, not including a shipping charge if one applied.

 

Herbal Tea ($7)

 This is what tea looks like.

This is what tea looks like.

I had some success last year making tea from home-grown anise and echinacea.  We could have this grown, dried and packaged by mid-summer I'd suspect.

 

Goat's Milk Soaps and Creams ($10)

 A helpful diagram I found online that illustrates the ever important "front" and "back" of a goat.

A helpful diagram I found online that illustrates the ever important "front" and "back" of a goat.

We had thrown around the idea of goats for a while, so we would either get our own or see if we could source the milk from a goat farm we came across in Vulcan.  Either way, pretty local and hipster-friendly.  Fragrance would be added using essential oils and our own herbs.

 

Free Range Eggs

 Don't let this picture dissuade you from picking eggs in the survey.  Chickens can't actually talk.

Don't let this picture dissuade you from picking eggs in the survey.  Chickens can't actually talk.

It looks as if our lead on meat hens isn't going to pan out and since we already have the coop built, why not get some laying hens?  The regulations on selling food are a little tricky though, so I can't estimate a cost yet.  I would imagine 5 or 6 bucks for a dozen though and probably available in the fall, with the best eggs coming in spring 2017.

 

Honey and Beeswax Candles ($5-ish)

 I apologize for nothing.  That's funny.

I apologize for nothing.  That's funny.

I know Erin's been pretty excited about the prospect of bees and we have a few neighbours who could guide us through the intricate process of not getting constantly stung, so this one would make sense.

 

canned goods ($5)

Between what we'll be getting from the Thirsty Acres CSA and what I can convince to grow here, we should have an excess of veggies this year so Erin suggested doing a bit of canning.  I know she makes a mean eggplant chutney and we'll keep any extra from the batches, so I secretly hope everyone picks this option.

 Speaks for itself I think, yeah?

Speaks for itself I think, yeah?

 

Artwork and handicrafts ($ Per Project)

Erin's a hell of a painter and she's sold a couple of projects before, so why not offer them on the site?  Tough to estimate a cost though, as it would depend on the project but I can assure you it wouldn't be one of those "My drunk aunt Cheryl could paint that with nail polish and tears, how is it $1400?" situations. 

 This is one of Erin's from a couple years ago

This is one of Erin's from a couple years ago

 I always tell her I like her art because it looks like what it is.  Evidently I'm not super cultured but I likes what I likes.

I always tell her I like her art because it looks like what it is.  Evidently I'm not super cultured but I likes what I likes.

 There are some pretty neat projects that can be put together with farm salvage and barn wood as well that I suspect we'd dabble in.

There are some pretty neat projects that can be put together with farm salvage and barn wood as well that I suspect we'd dabble in.

 

shirts, clothes, etc. ($25)

We had a few ideas for Alchemy shirts, hats, bags, etc.  Of course it's hard to decide whether you'd be interested in that without prototypes in front of you, I just wanted to check on the likelihood of you guys forking over 25ish dollars to buy clothes from us.  Also, I'm VERY picky about T-Shirts.  Like.  Weirdly so.  So there won't be any cheap cotton, built on a mannequin frame that is the shape of no human currently living, with a big plastic unbreathable logo on the front type shirts being sold here.

 What's the difference between these fellas...

What's the difference between these fellas...

 and this guy?  A brand new T-shirt of course!  Also like... two or three pretty messy divorces and a very possible meth addiction, but T-shirt though!

and this guy?  A brand new T-shirt of course!  Also like... two or three pretty messy divorces and a very possible meth addiction, but T-shirt though!

 

So that's it!  Just pick your top two product ideas in the form below and click submit.  I'll let the winner know next Saturday morning so get submitting.

Because honestly guys?  Bribery works.

 
Name *
Name

Picture Updates!

Been a busy few weeks so here are some highlights!

Last weekend Mike was on feeding duty again and this time he let me drive the truck!  No cows had babies on our shift but they'll be popping in the next few weeks for sure!

We also fed the non-maternity pens with the young long horns and the bulls.

 Is this not the cutest son of a bitch you've ever seen in your whole damn life?

Is this not the cutest son of a bitch you've ever seen in your whole damn life?

 And what about THIS adorable bastard!?  Was there a sale on sweet black noses?!  LOOKIT HIS LITTLE HORNS!  For shit sakes little cow...

And what about THIS adorable bastard!?  Was there a sale on sweet black noses?!  LOOKIT HIS LITTLE HORNS!  For shit sakes little cow...

 Zorro and the Lads chowing down.

Zorro and the Lads chowing down.

This weekend we also had about 4 yards of mulch delivered which we shoveled out and spent all Sunday putting under our existing pine trees.  I only have one picture of this long and arduous process...

 Someone accidentally got sprayed by the hose and then got tired from being in the way so he had an afternoon nap all up in dad's vest.

Someone accidentally got sprayed by the hose and then got tired from being in the way so he had an afternoon nap all up in dad's vest.

We also got our wind fence frame delivered this week (yay!) so we just have to put the upright boards on it and then the cabin *hopefully* will not get blown off its foundation in the spring winds.  Lance came by with the discer and now we have a garden and a shelter belt ready to be planted in!  We also stopped by another neighbour and collected a whole trailer full of horse manure for our new gardens.  The glamorous life never stops at AF!

Dog Days of Spring!

Holy moly, I haven’t done a farm update since...February 1st?!? Geez! I used to do one of these every single week on the old blog!

Well of course the new addition has been keeping us busy. He is learning his name and “Goddamnit quit that!” pretty well :). Cuddly puppy stage is done and now we are in constant play mode, much to Sam's chagrin.

  "Guys, I don't know where you got this thing but I think it's defective..."

"Guys, I don't know where you got this thing but I think it's defective..."

  "...seriously, when are you taking it back?"

"...seriously, when are you taking it back?"

  "I guess he's alright."

"I guess he's alright."

  "It's nice to have company when I am looking at this paint can..."

"It's nice to have company when I am looking at this paint can..."

  "Ok, I admit, it's nice to have someone to cuddle with during car rides.  Don't tell anyone I said that."

"Ok, I admit, it's nice to have someone to cuddle with during car rides.  Don't tell anyone I said that."

It's interesting raising a puppy while we are both at home so much. Sam had to spend a lot of time in his crate when he was young since we both worked full time. It will be neat to see if its easier to raise a pup who can play outside whenever he wants. Tucker also made good friends with a nearby puppy so its nice to be able to let them wear each other out and it gives Sam a break!

 Puppies love ice cubes!

Puppies love ice cubes!

 ...and they F%*$ing hate wearing their collars!

...and they F%*$ing hate wearing their collars!

Work has been busy for me but it's still awesome to be able to work from home. Mike has been working like crazy for the neighbors: feeding cows for one, planting veggies and helping with a website for another and doing odd jobs for a third...and now he's gotten a remote job like me to do CAD work with a company he was previously employed with! After a pretty quiet winter, spring is starting to really ramp up!  I can't get it to caption but below is some gin we made...to...y'know...help work?

We saw a play in Okotoks a few weeks back which was really fun. We expressed interest in helping be crew but they never really got back to us...just as well, I don’t think we'd have time now anyhow!

We tried our hand at being renovators for mom and re-did her kitchen drop ceiling and lights. I forgot to take “before and after” pictures but I think it looks pretty pro!

Speaking of “weeks ago” (because I’m lousy at updating) there was a Booster dance in Nanton we went to and met more new people. I love our little town so much, everyone is so friendly (and always know EXACTLY where we live. “Oh the cabin with the red roof right?”)

House wise we have been busy again! We built a deck off the back steps so we can finally get our last building permit signed off on this May.  Isn't Mike cute?  Handsome and handy!

 The finished product!  Plus "Puppy Ramp" because small dog keeps falling down the stairs.

The finished product!  Plus "Puppy Ramp" because small dog keeps falling down the stairs.

We were out replacing fence posts and tightening wires along the front of the property yesterday so that looks much nicer.  Below is Mike tightening wires and then using the "widow maker", a big manual post-pounder you lift up and drop down on posts to sink them in!

The back splash I ordered online finally showed up (long story there!) so that will be this weeks project since its currently sitting in the bedroom to unfurl a bit. All the pine inside is completely done and we put pictures up so it looks like someone is living here now!

Mike has started some of his seeds so we have a bunch of teeny lettuce sprouts and today we'll start the peppers!  The "grow op" is below!

It was Mike's birthday this week so we did a little Geo-caching near Indian Graves campground (sort of by Chain Lakes.)

The next 2 weeks will be the start of prepping the ground for our garden and our shelter belt! Mike has plans to put some cardboard and mulch down for the garden and our neighbor is going to bring over a disc tiller to make short work of the hard packed ground where our little trees will be going! I think we are going to supplement our purchased trees with some poplars and spruce that can be dug out of the ditches in the hills.

(The 30 mystery items from the last post are still on hold. I was able to point out to Mike that we have no experience caring for ONE mystery item, let alone 30! We'll see how all that shakes out!)

There has been some controversy with our (not so) little Quonset recently. Well from me anyhow because I suddenly decided one day last week that I could not stand to have it in pieces on the driveway a second longer. So I put it up for sale “just to see if people would be interested” as I told Mike. My thinking was that we could just get a Sea Can instead, then we don’t have to pour concrete, get it assembled, build a front wall and buy doors. Mike had a counter point that he absolutely REFUSED to have a Sea Can on the property and that we already have a perfectly good Quonset out here. I mentioned that that line of reasoning is like marrying a girl just because she is already living in your house which I thought was a great argument but just got me a pretty exaggerated eye roll. So we compromised with seeing how much its going to cost to actually get the Quonset functional before we think about selling it. We still aren’t allowed to get a Sea Can but I guess Mike does have a point. I GUESS. Ha ha.

Wow, so that was a bit of a novel! Hopefully next time my updates will be sooner so I wont have quite so much to say ha ha!

 Freshly washed just for this blog post!

Freshly washed just for this blog post!

P.S. Mom R. had to get surgery this week so the pups decided to send her a nice picture.  I had to include the outtake of that picture to prove that Sam is quite possibly the least photogenic dog ever to have had a picture taken:

  "Get well soon Grammaaaaaaaahyamaa..."

"Get well soon Grammaaaaaaaahyamaa..."

 

 

 

 

Guest Article

Hey guys, happy Sunday!

As I had mentioned last week, the good folks at  Nabalo  asked me to write an article on "Manifesting Your Dream Life".  I'm super happy with how it turned out so if you didn't catch it through the Facebook post last week, please feel free to check it out and comment if you're so inclined.
If you'd like to see how they put it together (truthfully,prettier than this!), check the link:
http://nabalo.com/blog/on-manifesting-your-dream-life

 Have a great week!

 

March 10, 2016

I'm writing this article at 9am on a Wednesday morning from a small pine cabin my wife and I built last summer. I'm wearing sweatpants and a warm flannel shirt and my dog is curled up next to the wood stove. Out the front window is a too-open view of the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta. We'll drop some trees in this summer that should, over time, provide us with some privacy and protection from the chinook winds.

If you stuck with me through that, please understand the reason I have gone into such detail was not to brag (although if you rolled your eyes through part of that description, I get that. It could definitely come off like a brag) but to explain that it was not always this way. Less than two years ago, my wife and I were living in a modest townhouse in a city where I didn't work. This unfortunately meant a half hour commute in clear traffic that usually ended up pushing an hour. We had a spare bedroom that was never used but that we kept nicely furnished “just in case”. We drank just a little too often and would regularly grumble about “Sunday night brain”; that unsettled state of mind you get just before you go to bed on a Sunday while thinking about all the things you have to fit into the coming week.

Our lives were not miserable. Our jobs were not miserable. We were both respected, valued and paid well enough to afford necessities with a smattering of luxury when we felt we deserved it. It was all very good... but it wasn't our dream. Our dream was to build a tiny house and free ourselves from financial burdens that were unquestioningly shouldered for a staggeringly long period of time by our peers and – at the time – ourselves. We longed to be more intimately involved in our food production and processing and so the idea of farming and homesteading held great appeal.

There were just a few issues. For one, we knew absolutely nothing about building our own home. In fact at one point in our lives together, we actually moved out of a perfectly nice older house because the fence was falling down and there were some minor repairs to be done inside. That said, we believed that if it could be done by someone, it could probably be done by us. Which leads me to my first point:

Change the narrative in your own life. Sit down and watch a kids' movie. Literally any kids' movie: Kung Fu Panda, The Lego Movie, The Lion King, Shrek... Seriously, pick any of them! What's the overarching theme? You can do whatever the hell you want. Sky's the limit. Whatever you put your mind to. All that jazz. So why is it that at some point in our lives, that narrative goes from “I want to be a rock star!” to “Well, I can't be a rock star... maybe I can sell guitars.”? From “Some day I want to have a painting hanging in the Louvre” to “Wow, art does NOT pay well... maybe I can go see the Louvre if I save up my vacation days.”? Honestly, it's probably because someone you respected at some point in your life told you you couldn't and you believed them. We all did. Why do you think the world isn't filled with rock stars and painters?

The good news is that voice that thought it was unstoppable is still there. Maybe the direction's changed and your life experience has it pointing you towards something different than it was when you were a kid (in fact if it is, that's a GOOD thing.) but it still has an opinion and it's probably right. The first step in listening to it though, is bringing your personal narrative away from one filled with doubt and responsibility to the one you had as a kid. The one that will pick a direction, start moving, and figure out the details along the way.

On that note, it's very hard to decide every morning to walk your own way if there is an external voice in your life providing you with an unnecessary supply of doubt or negativity so it is important to:

Surround yourself with like-minded people. This one's not rocket surgery. Once you have found your heading, if anyone in your life is interrupting your forward momentum by telling you what you're doing can't or shouldn't be done, it is important to phase them out. At the very least, steer conversations with them to lower impact territory like sports, movies, or if it's absolutely necessary – the weather. Dreams are a fickle business and if negativity starts to creep in, it's a slippery slope back to the grind.

That isn't to say don't talk to people about what you're doing. Just be smart about it. Use services like meetup.com to search for other people interested in what you're after and get out there. There is no better motivation to get after it than by talking to people further along in the process. This can be an intimidating endeavour at first. You may worry about coming off inexperienced or naive but keep in mind that if it's something you're passionate about, that will show through in your conversation and others who are passionate about the same thing will respond in kind.

By now, hopefully this is making sense. Maybe even cracking the rust off some gears that haven't been turning in a while. So it's all well and good to say “follow your passion”, but what if you aren't sure what that is? There are some strategies that can help you to:

Pick a path. Believe it or not, most people have an inherent understanding of their own destiny. Given enough distraction-free time, everyone has a calling to be followed. A really great example of this is the idea of “vacation brain”; that unfocused, disinterested feeling you get when you return to work after a great couple of weeks off. Unwinding. Decompressing. Really taking it in. The fact is, this is mankind's natural state of mind, we've just packed our day-to-day with so many stresses and distractions that we no longer have access to it. We are the only animal that exists in a more or less constant state of stress, which makes our natural instincts – those being the ones that will guide us toward our dreams – hard to identify.

So what can be done? First and foremost is simplification and streamlining. If you can distill your existence and financial requirements down to only what is necessary to you (this is an important distinction which we'll get back to), then the pressure to find time and money to keep the ship afloat becomes much less, freeing up your mental and spiritual faculties to be focused on more fulfilling fare. That isn't to suggest living an ascetic lifestyle, just that it's important to take stock of what you actually do and do not use. Only been out on the quad twice in as many years? Sell it and cancel the insurance. You may not save a ton of money, but removing the guilt caused by the idea that “I should be doing this more. It cost money and I never get out there anymore.” is a step in the right direction. On the flipside, if you enjoy watching movies, or playing video games and you use it as a regular outlet for relaxation, then obviously don't get rid of your TV!

My last piece of advice (and then I promise I'm done here) is:

Don't be afraid to change direction. So what if you roll the dice, pick the dream and go for it and... it doesn't work? Nothing. Seriously nothing happens at all. You just found one of 10,000 ways to not do something. The nice thing is it also costs you nothing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try something new. Don't be someone who is married to the plan. Recognize when it isn't working and do something else.

So that's about it. I wish you all nothing but the best and I truly hope you take that first (scariest) step outside the norm. I'm pulling for ya.