That be the moon out my window this morning 😊


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The chickens are confused…..


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This – is what my back yard usually looks like before I go to work. image
This is what it looks like this morning.
Just a little apocalyptic….
There are currently a hundred or so forest fires burning in this province at the moment – some small, some many thousands of acres. imageimageimageimage
Little hard on the breathing – had to turn on all the lights to get the chores done – and all the chickens ran back into the barn – thinking it was time to roost.
On the upside – it finally started to rain ever so lightly. I’m thinking maybe the ash will be good for the garden 😄

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Post Caterpillar Gardening Update


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Brown Mustard

Gardening in Zone 3 is a bit of a trick.  In theory we have about 90 days frost free – pretty much hogwash for the ten years I’ve been here….. we’ve gotten hard frosts every single month of the summer.  I watch the weather report obsessively – the tarps to cover the garden beds are never very far away.  We’ve also gotten days upon days of heavy rain in a row, and days upon days of hot blistering hardpan sunshine without a raindrop in sight.  So – first trick of the trade – grow anything and everything you think will produce in less than ninety ideal days, grow things that like pouring rain, grow things that love the baking sunshine, grow things that taste better after a hard frost.  One way or another, you will get something to eat, freeze, pressure can or preserve in one way or another.

This year the whole gardening thing has seemed a fight.  A fight to have the weather even remotely decent enough to plant in, a fight to have the garden beds thaw so we could dig in manure, and of course a fight to save the pathetic little sprouted plants when the mother of all caterpillar infestations hit and the only green thing in sight, were my garden beds. Ultimately we survived it, the garden beds survived it – save for half the buckwheat (who knew caterpillars liked buckwheat?), and several small just emerging potato plants.

I envy my fellow bloggers and facebookers their gardening prowess.  I envy the fact that while I’m sitting here in the winter wondering if I should go shovel more snow or sit inside my toasty house and drool on seed catalogues – many of you are harvesting, some year round, and others are planting, others are at the weeding stage and others are getting their greenhouses set up.  It seems sometimes – everybody south of our place is a month or two or ten ahead of me.  Still – getting to see the trials and errors and successes of other gardeners keeps me going with the hope that at some point, the weather will change and I’ll get another years worth of food out of my own garden.

The Brown Mustard above – is something new for this year.  I actually make and can my own varieties of mustard, love the stuff.  It occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t try growing some of it…..wow!  I’m going to have an awful lot of mustard 🙂

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Dragons Tongue bush beans

Most all of our garden ‘beds’ are three plus feet high – soil to within six inches of the top.  This serves a couple of purposes, one – weeding is extremely easy. I am long since past enjoying crawling around on the ground suffering sunstroke while I pull weeds.  Once I pull the initial offenders and the plants start to take off, the shade they provide pretty much guarantees there are no more weeds to be had.

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Beets!

I have two four by six foot beds of these planted……we love beets and can never seem to get enough of them.  This year I planted four different varieties with the idea that whichever grew the best would be the keeper for next  year.  Problem is….I can’t remember which I planted where 🙂

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Buckwheat, Redbor Kale, Brocolli, Cabbage

No, I’m not kidding – this bed is about three feet wide, three or so high and about twenty feet long.  I actually have good success with companion planting – that is planting like minded veggies with each other.  Aside from hoping for an optimum growing environment, I also ‘crowd’ things as close as I think I can get away with.  Again, it keeps the weeds almost nonexistent, keeps weaker plants from flopping about, creates some built in shade for hot days, and we water a lot less when the soil isn’t exposed to the sun for hours on end.

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Cauliflower, Winterbor Kale

This bed is the same size as the one above…..but not as far along, as it is situated where it only gets full sun for about four or five hours a day.  It is however, my favorite place to plant the cauliflower – which in my experience does not like to be in full sun once heads start to form.  This may not be the case for everybody, but it works for me.  You’ll notice the wire grid on the bed – stucco wire actually – there is stucco wire available for all the beds (I removed some for pictures) – because we have cats.  Cats love fresh dirt – I don’t love them in my garden.  It’s a catch 22 – we farm, we have lots of feed around, we have mice, we need cats.

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Graffitti, Green, and Cheddar Cauliflower from last year.

These are the varieties I planted again this year, for some reason or other I can’t grow a white cauliflower to save myself.  On the flip side of the coin – now that I’ve eaten these varieties, I wonder what I was doing eating the white variety in the first plate.  This stuff is second to none for flavor!imageKidney beans, Borlotti beans, lettuces

This is a glimpse into my wee greenhouse – I’ve tried growing these beans outside – but the season simply isn’t long enough.  Thought I’d have a go at putting them into the greenhouse – and luckily – they shade the lettuces, which I usually plant outside, but didn’t this year for lack of room.

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Tomatoes – all Romas, in the greenhouse.

I have a few plants outside, but always have better success in the warmth of the greenhouse.

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Potato Patch

This is the only thing I will plant in the ground – actually, I plant them in used up wasted goat hay.  Sometimes we till it in, sometimes not – basically I toss them on the hay, cover with some more hay, water on occasion and voila!  Again, I plant close, which is a pain when I have to fork hay in for hilling, but easy to avoid weeds.  I generally don’t panic over weeds in the potato patch – grass I’ll pull out, but pigweed or nettles generally get to stay around – good for the soil, edible anyway, and if they start to take over I simply pull some and toss it to the pigs.  There are five varieties in there – (sorry, not good on the technical names) – purple, Yukon Gold, Russet, Red Norland, and pink fingerling.

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Last, but not least – our ‘dual blade’ lawnmowers Sam and Sahra, and the calf Dilly, playing at the ‘mom I’m starving‘ game with Daisy Duke 🙂

Until next time – hope everybody is having an awesome gardening, farming, summer!

 

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Caterpillar Chaos: not for the squeamish.


We are in the middle of an epic – and I mean EPIC, tent caterpillar infestation.  They happen every ten or twelve years….and although the north has been under attack for a few years, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that our property is ground zero this year.

It’s been a few weeks now, and honestly, there’s not a green leaf of any sort in sight for as far as I can see….poplar is a favorite, willow, aspen, wild roses – as I write this, the caterpillar cupboard is now bare bare bare.

At some point – soon I’m hoping, they cocoon.  At some point after that, they hatch out as moths, breed, lay eggs and next spring we have the dubious pleasure of watching the offspring eat the trees again.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though (in theory) – they eat themselves out of house and home at some point and the population implodes.  Let’s hope.  I fully expect to have another attack next year – but I’m hoping not as bad.

In the meantime, good thing I’m not squeamish (although there have been moments).  I’m especially not fond of the ‘raining down on my head’ caterpillar thing. ICK.  All one can do when you have bazillions of them – not much.  We’ve spent a lot of time sweeping, stomping, smooshing, hosing off of things, drowning, mowing……..there is NO end to them.

So – following are a few pictures – barrels of caterpillars, buckets of caterpillars, caterpillars climbing the house, encroaching on the back door, laying seige to the feed room, hanging out on what’s left on the trees.

So far – (and thank God) they have not shown an interest in my garden. :)<strong20140611-141207.jpg

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Blogging Again ….. ish…. A glimpse into the life of….


Well.  I knew it had been awhile, but really?  Where has the time gone and why is it that there never seems to be a spare minute to sit down and write?

Spring is here.  Sort of.  Today it’s sunny, the ground is starting to dry up – but still, this Spring is taking its time, and I mean really really taking it’s time.  The weather man is calling for snow on the weekend, and although I generally don’t complain too much about winter weather, I am truly sick of it.

So what have we been up to?  Well I mentioned that Bruce was due for knee surgery – it went well, the rehab went well and he’s generally happy with the results.  His biggest beef with having blown out his knee? Not being able to do stuff.  Not being able to work with the draft horses, not being able to stay on top of the numerous things one has to stay on top of with the farm.  But we’re getting back to it.

Of course as things usually go around here, the morning after the surgery, when he was supposed to be ‘resting’ the knee – our draft mare Sahra cycled into a heat and decided she would rub her big arse on the gate post separating our field from neighbor to the South, until she had it down flat.  Literally.  Then she set about heading across a ten acre field along with her half brother Sam, to visit the two mares over there – just because she could.  Naturally, I’m at work.  Naturally Bruce doesn’t think to call a friend who has horses who would have  been happy to come over and help fetch them – no.  He gets a call from the neighbor letting us know the drafts are over there and no they can’t close their front gate to the road because of the deep snow, and he has to take the wife to work.

So – he bundles up, fetches up halters, lead ropes, hammer, nails to fix the gate and painstakingly heads off through four foot drifts, trying to use the holes the drafts made with their platter sized hooves, likely looking like a drunken sailor had anybody been watching, and finally makes it to the neighbors barn.  Well they aren’t the least bit interested in getting haltered, and being smart, know very well that he’s not moving too quick through the drifts and if they just stand there like bricks then maybe they can stay and visit a little longer.  Now my gelding Colter is no dummy either – it’s not that he’s not inclined to get into trouble, he’s just more inclined to notice that the cranky mare has vacated the big round of hay and promptly takes advantage of the fact that he can stuff his face into it and eat until – well the horses come home.

So Bruce tries – and tries to halter the drafts.  He finally gets around to Sam and pops the halter on, the lead rope on and like horses sometimes do, Sam decides that he’s not going anywhere if Sahra isn’t going anywhere.  Sahra decides that if every time Bruce makes it through the snow around to her head, she simply has to turn a one eighty and he’ll be looking at her big butt.  Exhausted, knee killing him, almost at his wits end, he finally remembers a trick he watched me do once to get the horses moving, and simply started twirling the lead rope through the air until it started making that weird noise they don’t like and voila!  Horses bolt for home.

So much for resting the knee.

 

April 7th, our little heifer Daisy Duke gave birth to the cutest little calf – another girl in the family – and despite us not knowing when she was due, and being just this side of worried we would be at work or some fool thing when she had it, turns out she picked a Monday morning before work to calmly pop it out with nary a peep. Great excuse for me to take the day off!  Amazing how quick they get up and get to the chow line – hardly five hours later she was jack rabbiting around like nobody’s business.  Of course with the calf, comes the milk – and lucky for me, one of my fellow bloggers was able to offer some sound advice on the ‘who’s in charge of the cow/calf dynamic’ when it comes to deciding you want some of that milk for yourself.  I’m an old hand at goats – much simpler if you ask me…..I leave the boys on momma for six weeks, the girls for eight and simply wean them and start milking.  For Daisy – I decided in the end I would take the morning milk for now – gave the two of them a week together then we pulled the calf off overnight and let her sleep in the milking parlor.  Haha on us – wow.  Daisy hollered for the entire night – I turned up the TV and closed the windows trying to tune it out, kept expecting neighbor to the South to phone over and ask us what the hell was going on – seriously it sounded like we were sticking her with a pitchfork until dawn.  It was ever so tempting to simply head out to the pen and let her have the calf, but I stuck to it knowing that in the end neither of them were going to die of an eight hour separation.  Come morning I brought Daisy in, tied her up, tied the calf next to her and milked away.  Next night – not a peep out of Daisy, smart cow.

Now Bruce is all about the BUTTER.  Before I can blink he manages to round up the loaner of an antique cream separator from a farmer down the road who despite purchasing the finest cow in the land last year, has yet to be able to catch her and milk her – though he’s holding out hope for her calf.  In the meantime we’re welcome to use the separator – which would be just awesome if I were actually pulling a whole gallon off of Daisy every morning, but I’m not yet, and there’s no sense in getting the separator dirty for a couple quarts of milk – seriously, that thing has a zillion parts that ALL have to be cleaned after each use.  Still, I managed to skim the cream the regular ‘with a spoon’ way, and last weekend we made butter.  Yep – it’s good. I also have a block of Muenster cheese aging away in the back room – going to give it a try this weekend.

The biggest issue I’m having with Daisy really – she’s not much interested in standing all that still for all that long.  She’s not a huge cow, but I recall it being a whole lot easier to wrestle a stubborn goat into standing still than I do wrestling Daisy.  She’s a sweet personality, but once she decides she’s had enough, well it’s amazing how far she can back up, go forward, back up, hang a left – all while being tied up.  Last weekend she took advantage of a moments inattention on my part and planted her hoof straight into the bucket of milk.  ARRRGH!  Sigh…… Bruce looks at me – ‘what happened there?’

‘Thought I’d give the cats an early Christmas’

Yeah.  Here kitty kitty kitty – nine times as we have nine cats – oh yeah, they know what fresh cow milk is and don’t much care if it’s had a foot in it or not.

Training training and more training, on both our parts. Now Bruce swore he was going to be the one to milk this cow.  I swore I wasn’t going to milk anything again until I had running water.  Let’s see here……I’m milking the cow and I still only have running water in the shower.  Good thing I’m an easy going sort (ha ha not).  I have a plan.  Once Miss Daisy Duke is standing still for longer than it takes me to haul milk out of her like my pants are on fire, I will turn at least part of the chore over to Bruce, until he has the hang of it.  I don’t know – I guess there are people that can milk and people that can’t.  Seriously, every time he tries, he swears Daisy is EMPTY of milk.  I point out that if I can get milk and the calf can get milk, she’s not out of milk.  We’re working on it.

(well you can see what I mean about finding time to blog……it’s now a month since I started this one 🙂

So – just in the past month or so – I have running water in the kitchen. No kidding.  And a drain.  Wow! Hats off to all the way back homesteading women who did everything without the luxury of running water.  It’s been almost ten years to the day and I will say – I like having running water in my kitchen.

Update on the Muenster cheese.  Now I don’t know what exactly muenster cheese is supposed to taste like, but I’m pretty certain I didn’t hit the mark.  One of the reasons I picked that one to try was it uses a whole gallon of milk, and it’s ready in a week.  Sooooo……make cheese, press cheese, dry and turn and salt cheese for a week and voila!

In theory.  We got home on a Friday night and I brought this perfect little wheel of cheese into the kitchen, sliced into it – I was happy to see some cheese loving bacteria hadn’t helped itself to the goodies – I took a bite.  I chewed.  I made a face.

‘Well?’  Bruce awaits the verdict.

‘It tastes,’ I said, ‘like dirty socks would smell like.’

‘Really?  Give me a slice.’

I hand over the other half of the slice and wait.

‘Yep.’ he says.  ‘That’s actually a really good description of what it tastes like.’

I took the remainder of the slice and tossed it out for the cats – my cats actually eat nearly anything.  Except smelly sock cheese.  It was still there the following day and the day after that.  I cut the wheel in half and split it with the dogs.  It got eaten…..but that doesn’t say much considering the dogs are less fussy than the cats.

Now, I’m back to making the regular cow milk version of soft cheese – similar to a goat Chevre, but with a few different steps.  Good enough for the moment – it’s quick, I can let it do it’s cheese thing overnight and drain it the following day while I’m at work, it freezes well.  I am still trying to find a reliable, quick, easy to make ‘hard, sliceable, cheddar type cheese’ for Bruce who isn’t a fan of the soft cheese.

So in the last month, Summer has arrived.  Because it took so long to get here, getting the garden in was a bit of a panic.  For starters we had to dismantle four of the garden beds – two of which had collapsed, and rebuild them.  These aren’t garden beds Bruce built – things that Bruce builds will be here long after we’re dead.  These beds were built by a fellow who used to bring us firewood.  I had a truck I wanted to sell.  He wanted the truck but couldn’t afford it – not that it was worth that much.  So I made him a deal. (Note to self – stop making deals because you want to help somebody out) Aside from bringing us wood, which we paid him for, he also in his spare time built log furniture, beds, garden benches etc.  I said to him that if he build me four garden beds similar to the ones Bruce already had in place, he could have the truck.  Well he thought he was getting the better deal – so he also offered to build us a nice log bed for the house.  Fair enough.

Now I don’t know what got lost in the translation, but the garden beds he made us began to collapse almost from the minute we started filling them with dirt.  As did the double bed frame he made us for our bedroom.  Sigh.  Regardless, I spent an entire day off shovelling the dirt out of them, Bruce spent an entire day rebuilding them and we both spent a weekend digging them over with manure and more dirt and finally got the garden planted.  The greenhouse needed attention too – every fall we cover it with tin as the poly won’t survive the snow load – but this year the poly needed to be replaced altogether.  That got done, and planted.  Potatoes got planted. Now we water and wait, water and wait.

Daisy cow update: We’re getting along just fine at the milking thing, no more foot in the bucket issues – she has a new game. A minute or so into milking and she flips up her tail and drops it across the back of my neck.  Stop milking, move tail, keep milking.  A few seconds later – thump.  Tail on the back of my neck.  Stop milking, move tail…… today she has a new idea.  Swing tail between legs and drop in milk bucket.  Stop milking move tail, start milking, tail lands in bucket, repeat.  Thankfully I have a really deep milk pail and at least the tail isn’t actually in the milk.

Daisy has come a long ways – she’s now tame as can be, halters, un-halters, comes when called, knows the routine.  I’m now on Bruce about her feet.  Our soil here is not conducive to wearing feet down on the four leggeds – hers are going to need a trim. Now cows are not horses, or goats…..I’m pretty sure there’s a guy around this area that has a table that flips over horizontal for trimming cows.  I’m not going to call him – it reminds me of the time we called a farrier to pull the shoes off of the drafts and trim them up.  “Sure,” he says, “I’ll have a go at that.”

He arrived, got out of the truck, walked down the drive to where the drafts stood waiting.  “Oh.  Those are some really big horses!”

It all went rather sideways.  The drafts took an instant dislike to the man, he was instantly afraid of them.  Next thing we know they decide they want nothing to do with him, back up as a team and break a twelve foot post rail we had them tied to.  I thanked him for coming, suggested maybe we would work with the drafts a little more and call him in the future.  I wondered what part of ‘DRAFT’ horses he didn’t understand during our phone conversation.  Point being, I’m expecting Bruce to train that cow to let him deal with her feet.  Oddly enough – last night he thought he’d let her out of her evening time with the calf – early.  Into the barn, into the milking parlor and Daisy is laying there chewing her cud and has no intention of getting up and heading out to the field early.  Her internal clock says it’s not eight o’clock yet.  On a whim, Bruce parks his rear on the floor with her and proceeds to clean out her feet with a handy hoof pick.  Daisy didn’t even blink.  Huh.  The man is good at this stuff, I’ll give him that.  Still can’t get a drop of milk out of her, but I’ll trade that for feet that are trimmed and in good shape anytime.

Horse update:  Anybody who’s owned horses knows they cost money.  Totally blew the budget this year on just plain old regular horse type maintenance.  Vaccinations, booster shots, tetanus.  Float teeth.  Remove wolf teeth from Sam. Deworming. Last but not least, we had Sahra implanted with a slow release hormone so she will stop cycling for the summer.  This will save our fence posts, save her tail from rubbing right off, save any injury to her privates, save her the trouble of moving our fifteen hundred pound horse stocks several feet in the other direction because she CAN.  Some mares cycle and you wouldn’t know it.  Sahra is not one of those mares.

Bruce has now got the stone boat built – just need a pole and a few other small items and the drafts will be going to work hauling it around as we start clearing the bush of dead wood – something we did not get to doing this winter. A couple of weeks ago I managed to blow another day off, thrashing through said ‘bush’ and digging up, pulling up, cutting up a fifty year old barbed wire fence that was mostly overgrown and buried in the undergrowth – and no, I did not have too many pleasant thoughts about the previous owners for letting the fence rot where it stood.  What a mess – but now I can comfortably consider letting the cow and calf and the horses should they want, hang out in the bush and clear it of poplar saplings and the such.

Well on that note  – I’m waiting on the bread to rise in the pans (this is how I managed the time to write this) it’s about to go in the oven, the house is so hot I can barely stand it and once the bread is out I’m escaping to the great outdoors and a never ending list of chores – until next time, hope all my followers out there are having a good day.

 

 

 

 

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The “New Math”


A repost from my daughters blog 🙂

Day of the Week Fat Pants

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

One day,  a cave man put his interesting rock down next to another interesting rock. And something happened. An idea began to percolate in the depths of his tiny underdeveloped brain. “Hurg! Gurp!” he exclaimed! He had more rock! 

He scooped up his treasure and ran to the next cave where his buddy was chillin by the fire; “Hurg! GURP!” he explained to his buddy and set the rock next to the other rock to demonstrate his cleverness. “Meh…” said his buddy. And buddy got up and set down his rock, and another rock, and another rock. 

“Derp!” said the first cave man. His buddy had more more rock. It didn’t look the same as his more rock. So he hoiked up his loincloth, stuck out his tongue and decided he would have to give each more rock it’s own name. “Hurr…Dee…Durr” as he pointed to each…

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Old Rainey and the Well…..


Well – finally – minus 33 this morning at my house!  Winter hasn’t let me down after all 🙂  Minus thirty is the magic number for letting the cook stove die out and lighting up the wood heater.  The cook stove can manage the job, but we have to fire a lot of wood in it fairly often to get it to keep up to the task, and when we come home from work it’s generally out.  As far as cooking, I have a choice – I can jockey pots and pans around on the heater by lifting the cover and cooking on the steel, or I can re-light the cook stove and quickly make dinner – gets brutally warm in here if they’re both going at the same time.

There are rules to abide by when it’s this cold out – the biggest one being, there is no ‘just running out to grab something’ in your plaid and your crocs.  You get dressed.  Parka.  Winter boots.  Gloves.  The theory of course, is if you happen to slip and fall and knock yourself unconscious – and you’re laying there like an idiot in your plaid and your crocs with your jammies still on, you are likely going to freeze right to death before anybody finds you.  There are other rules – if either of us is outside feeding animals or splitting firewood by ourselves, there is an internal clock ticking away in each of our heads.  If Bruce isn’t back in the house in xyz time, I bundle up and go look for him.  If I’m not back in the house in xyz time, he bundles up and comes looking for me.  Just common sense sort of stuff.  Minus 33 isn’t really all that cold, when you consider it can get to minus 45 here….. mind you that hasn’t happened for a few years now.

Regardless, I’m a happy camper at the moment…..the sun is beaming away, the sky is a gorgeous blue, the horses are dozing out by the hay round, the cow is lazing about with the geep next to her own pile of hay happily chewing her cud.  The cats aren’t stupid, they all bail into the barn to snooze around the wood stove out there, the geese and ducks simply act like winter is no different than summer, the dogs shun their hay filled houses for a spot on the snow in the sunshine, and the goats, though inside their own barn, are contentedly dozing away in the sun coming in the windows.  It always interests me now animals are so adaptable compared to us thin skinned humans.

So – in the previous post, we were well on our way to a lagoon, and had Old Ignaus come and ‘witch’ our well.  We also had a raven with a scrambled brain staggering along the back of my couch trying to rewire the circuitry in his head well enough to at least feed himself.  I will say, there was definitely nothing wrong with his bowel – fortunately I had found a huge roll of shop towel – every half hour to an hour I’d ‘reline’ the sofa with it and toss out the old stuff, kept a careful eye on his condition because seriously – the house was getting pretty high.  The minute I figured he could manage on his own I was going to pack his carcass back out to the goat shed – genius talking raven or not – there’s no keeping a bird like that in the house.  Raven excrement is noxious!

We had set out to and finally managed to find a drilling company that was willing to come drill our well – the biggest issue really, was that where Old Ignaus had pinpointed the spot to drill, wasn’t accessible to any of the big rigs most drillers use.  Bruce, is a ‘thinking ahead’ sort of guy – as in “when I’m 80 I don’t want to have to walk five hundred yards to the barn to feed animals”.  As a result, he built everything close to the house.  As a result, we have a ‘courtyard’ of sorts, surrounded by a barn, chicken shed, goat shed, cabin, house…..you get the idea.

Enter: Old Rainey and his derelict drill rig.

Now Old Rainey, much like Old Ignaus, has been up here forever – and has spent more time than I’ve been on this planet, standing at the back of an old hammer drill, listening to the scream of the diesel engine on the derrick deck, the ka-bang ka-bang of the casing hammer, going next to deaf in the process, and studying shovel loads of mystery rock as he tries to decipher whether or not he’s close to hitting water.  He’s short, stocky, surprisingly good humored considering the monotony of his chosen profession and was happy to tackle the job of drilling us a well.  Before we can blink, he’s ricocheting around lagoon man’s equipment, cranking hard to the left and full throttle through the courtyard with a five ton truck stocked with many hundreds of gallons of water for the drill, and many hundreds of feet of steel drill casing.  He managed to stop just short of the old smoke house, jumped out and made for the drill rig at the end of the driveway.  Putting the rig into position proved a little trickier because he had to back up to the big X we had spray painted on the grass – but again, some determined throttle, some bumper car steering and voila!

Now Old Rainey knows about clay.  He knows if you stand in one spot too long you will simply become mired in the stuff and likely sink all the way to China.  It was too late for the casing truck, it was already sitting a foot lower in the ground, but the rig, he wisely planted the stabilizers on large chunks of wooden beams to try and keep it above ground, rather than below.  We were pretty excited by now – the idea that in a few days, maybe a few more, we’d have water of our own – negated the certain mess we’d have to deal with once  he was gone.  Old Rainey left with a promise to return early the following morning and start drilling.

Now I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – actually, I’d never really given much thought to the process of drilling for anything – so of course when he arrived the next morning, we were outside with our coffee’s ready and waiting for the big event.  Up up up went the derrik and all of it’s parts.  Chug chug vroooom ROOAAARRR went the diesel on the deck.  I backed up a few steps – I wasn’t expecting that kind of volume – closer inspection made me realize that the muffler on the diesel having long since rotted out, had been replaced by a large aluminum beer keg stuffed with I’m not sure what, to keep the noise ‘muffled’.  Sure.  Old Rainey grinned, waved, switched on the welder, hooked up the hose for the water from the casing truck, attached the head to the drill, hung a length of steel casing under the hammer and Ka- Bang!!  Ka-Bang!!!  The ground literally shook – the house shook – I’m not kidding.  I made a quick trip back into the house to make sure all of my dishes were still in the cupboards, refilled my coffee and ventured back outside.

So the process of drilling goes, in simplified terms, something like this.  As the hammer is pounding the casing into the ground, the drill is drilling down the center of it, the water is pouring onto the head for lubrication, the pump is pumping the slurry up and out to be sprayed wherever it is aimed to spray.  Once a piece of casing is about half buried, another piece is hauled and hung into place, the welder gets fired up, that casing gets welded to the casing below, the diesel goes from idle to scream – and the hammer starts hammering again, the drill starts drilling again, the water pumps and the slurry sprays.  And repeat.  And repeat.

The novelty of the whole thing wore off in very short order.  Still, I kept my game face on – I hauled a chair out to the patio, fished around and found my earplugs for shooting, armed myself with fresh coffee and went and sat.  And sat.  And sat.  Bruce came and sat too.  I decided to try and count how many casing lengths he was welding together, one after another, trying to get an idea of how far he’d drilled, how far he might have to drill.  After a couple of hours I gave up.  After a few more hours I was really hoping for water at sixty feet.  Several more hours after that, it became clear that we weren’t going to have water at sixty feet.

Thankfully, Old Rainey was of an age the didn’t feel the need to prove anything to anybody by working an eighteen hour day – he shut the rig down to an idle and broke for a late lunch.  Finally able to hear each other, we talked about this and that, he mentioned he was thinking of retiring ‘one of these days’ – ‘lotta years standing behind that rig’.  I made mention that it would be nice if he could direct the ‘mud/gravel’ slurry to an open-ish area between the outhouse and the goat shed, he made mention that ‘it kinda sprays wherever it sprays’.  Fair enough.  Lunch done, he stood and fired the rig back work, I went back into the house and pushed the dishes back as far as I could on the shelves, moved some knick knack sort of stuff onto the counter so I wouldn’t get brained by an errant do-dad while making dinner.  In all honesty, I didn’t think I could stand the noise and the constant shaking and pounding  for very many more days.  I was actually looking forward to work on Monday.

Now we had enough money in the kitty that we had figured on a plan.  If the well came in at x feet, it would cost x amount.  Then if you allowed y amount for the hydrant, the pump, the wiring to the pump, we would have z left over for what I had been wanting since we moved into this house.  A new cook stove.  The old cook stove was serviceable, but it was OLD.  It took kindling size wood, the legs had long since buckled causing it to lean rather alarmingly rearward, the fire brick was cracked, the insulation over the oven was long gone.  On a trip to pick up the wood furnace, the second winter we were here, Bruce had come across the Cadillac of cook stoves.  He brought home a brochure – I wanted it no question.  It’s plain – no frilly dilly nickel trim, no fussy trivets, it’s BIG, it has a water reservoir, it can accommodate a water jacket in the firebox should one want to hook it to a range boiler and have running hot water.  It had two huge warming ovens, a good sized oven for baking, a drawer in the bottom for whatever, and best of all the firebox was huge.  It takes regular sized firewood, loads from the end, has a big glass door to see the fire through, and even better, it was air tight and CSA approved – meaning we could at last get fire insurance.  So – as much shaking and rattling and rolling as Old Rainey was creating out in the yard – my biggest worry was we wouldn’t have enough to get the stove – and that stove wasn’t cheap to get.

Day two brought more of the same.  Ka-bang!!  Ka-bang!!!  There was no conversation to be had, you simply couldn’t hear yourself think.  About mid afternoon, Old Ignaus made an appearance. Turned out Old Ignaus and Old Rainey knew each other well – and after some hugging and laughing and back slapping, he settled in next to Old Rainey and watched the drill drill, the hammer hammer and the slurry pile up and begin to coat the outhouse and the trees next to it.  As two mostly deaf old-timers, they had their own language of signals and managed, from what I could tell, to have a lengthy conversation as they studied a shovel load of slurry, picked through the gravel in it like they were mining for gold, and turned back to the rig to ka-bang some more.  Eventually Old Ignaus left with a wave and a smile and no information on how close he thought we were to water.

Sixty feet came and went.  We went back to work. Each night we’d get home to a rig still standing, silent except for the tick tick tick of metal cooling down, a few less casing on the casing truck, a few more feet of slurry that was now decorating the goat shed – and no water.  Come the weekend, I geared up again – earplugs, coffee, this time a good book to read while I kept an eye on Old Rainey and his rig – looking for any sign on his weathered face as he studied yet one more skiff of gravel from the slurry pumping out of the hole.  We survived the weekend.  Two hundred feet came and went – I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper and began to calculate just how far he could drill before there would be no cook stove to be had, how far he could drill before there would be no pump to be had, how far he could drill before we could just pay for a hole in the ground.  I was beginning to get nervous. We went back to work.

Come Tuesday, we arrived home to an alarming sight.  The derrick was no longer standing – it was laying flat on the truck as if for transport.  Now we knew he hadn’t hit water, there was still a half length of casing sticking out of the ground, everything was as it had been – excepting for the derrick.  We were about to make a phone call when Old Rainey returned in his truck.

“Shear pin broke.” he pointed at the derrick.  “I was standing here shootin’ the breeze with Old Ignaus and she started rockin’ and shakin’ – Old Ignaus gave a yell and I shut her down!”

Sure enough – one of the large shear pins that joins the derrick to the rig was missing completely – and apparently though he’d managed to ‘shut her down’ – he wasn’t able to do so before the pin sheared – the entire derrick simply tipped back and slammed down onto the truck with a mighty bang – the cab was a little shorter, but other than that, both men were injury free and the rig was repairable.  He assured us he’d have it up and running again in the morning.

Wednesday we came home to an even more alarming sight – the rig was still standing, but the entire yard was a mine field of used well casing.  We probably stood utterly stupefied for a good five minutes before we started wandering amongst the debris.  In another ten minutes we found it.  A half piece of twisted broken casing.  This – was not good.  I wondered if Old Rainey was going to choose this moment to retire.  Bruce made the call – it was as we suspected.  The previous day, as the shear pin weakened and the rig started rocking, the hammer hammered down one too many times on an off angle before Old Rainey managed to hit the switch.  As soon as he repaired the rig and started drilling again, he knew – somewhere down that hole was a piece of casing that hadn’t survived.  He tried.  He finessed the next piece, he changed the angle of the rig, he figured if it hadn’t split the whole way round he could maybe tweak it along until it was in a more solid section of ground.  It was not to be.  He spent the rest of the day pulling casing.  Pull casing up, cut the weld, toss casing aside, pull casing up, cut the weld, toss aside, repeat.  And repeat.

Now what.  Cement, that’s what.  There’s no leaving an open hole in the ground like that – it’s illegal, it’s dangerous.  Bags and bags and bags of Portland got poured down that hole until there was no more hole to pour it into.  I suspect it wasn’t the first time Old Rainey had run into this particular issue……once the hole was filled, he simply fired the truck up, backed up about ten feet and raised the derrick and started drilling again.  Ka-bang!!  Ka-bang!!!  No wonder the man was nearly deaf.  No wonder he wanted to retire.

Come Saturday, Old Ignaus made another appearance.  He took a look at the rig, a look at the casing strewn about and shook his head.  He was very, very disappointed.  The fact that Old Rainey was drilling not ten feet from the original ‘X marks the spot’, in his mind we were way off the mark.  No telling when we were going to get water now……

Ka-bang!!  Ka-bang!!!  It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear it anymore, or feel it shake my house, or rattle my dishes, but at some point you have to become numb to it – that or throw yourself into traffic.  We don’t have enough traffic out here to make the effort, so I simply gave up, pretended it wasn’t that big of a deal, pretended that really – if all we got was a deep hole in the ground and nothing else, well – at least we had a hole in the ground.  Come Sunday, Ignaus arrived with his wife.  I’d never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Ignaus as of yet, but she was a dear of a woman, promptly pulled up a chair a few feet away and politely tried to make conversation around the Ka-bangs!! as Ignaus went and got the low down on the condition of the slurry/gravel mess that by now, had coated everything in a thirty foot radius, including the ground, with several inches of dried muck.  It mattered little that the weather was cooperating, that the sun was shining – the yard had taken on the menacing look of a nuclear wasteland.  I couldn’t fathom how we were ever going to clean it up. So there we sat, Mrs. Ignaus and I, politely making what conversation we could over the racket, she would say something, I would lean close to try and catch enough of it to appropriately nod or smile, and she the same.

“Ignaus is pretty disappointed we had to move the rig!” I shout at her.  “It’s not where he witched now!”

“Oh yes!” she nods.  “Ignaus has witched three or four wells at our place!  Still haven’t found water!  We’re on the community system you know – they brought it down our road just last year!”

I nod.  My smile is absolutely frozen into place.  I was trying very very hard not to break out into hysterical laughter – worried that if I did so, I might be unable to stop.

“Would you like a cup of tea!?” I manage to stand and wait for her polite nod and smile before heading into the house to put some water on.

Ka-bang!!!!!! I was ever so happy to have a job to go to on Monday – I really didn’t know how Old Rainey could stand it.  For the next week we came home with no small amount of nervousness, hoping all was still well, the rig still standing, no broken shear pins, busted casing – hoping he hadn’t run into a boulder the size of Texas down there somewhere, hoping we got water before he had to drill to China.

It was the following weekend, Saturday I think, when weary of trying to read, weary of rearranging dishes and knick-knacks to keep them safe, I gave my earplugs a good shove and wandered outside.  The rig was idle for a moment, I supposed Old Rainey was breaking into his lunch.  I made the patio and waved.  He hollered something and waved back.  I sat.  He waved at me again – I realized he wanted me to come over to the rig.  I made my way over, took my earplugs out.

“That’s your water!!” he points to the murky looking slurry being pumped from the hole.

I stare at it for a moment – trying to comprehend what he just said.  “What!?”

“That’s your water – don’t worry – it’ll clean up in a minute or so!!” he fiddles with some levers on the rig, banging the drill up and down for a bit.  “I’m just loosening up the gravel at the bottom!  Clearing out the mud!  Think you have about ten, maybe fifteen gallons a minute!!”

“How many feet!?” I finally think to ask.

“Four hundred and two!!!” he says with a big grin, happy to give me the news.

Four hundred and two feet.  Water.  Another few hundred feet and we’d have been clear down to the Fraser River.  Not that I was complaining……

It was another few weeks before the pump was in, the thing wired to the breaker panel, the hydrant installed.  Bruce was adamant that we run the hydrant and simply fill the existing cistern for the house – his theory – if you hook it directly to the house, every time you turn on a tap, the pump has to switch on and off and on and off….. in his mind, considering the cost of the pump (the deeper it has to pump from the more expensive the pump) it made sense to just turn it on once, fill the cistern, the barrels for the animals etc., and if there was a pump to pack it in, the jet pump in the house could easily be replaced for just a few hundred dollars.  We’re still using the hydrant today – on one hand, the pump has never failed.  On the other hand, it is a bit of a pain in the winter to drag the big hose out and fill all the water up once a week. I’ll take that though, over having to pay for a pump that costs four thousand dollars.

The lagoon got finished, the tank pumps wired in, we were finally able to hook up the toilet – very strange being able to ‘flush’ – Bruce and I are both so hard wired to conserve water it took us months to get over feeling bad for flushing five gallons of water into the lagoon.

The cook stove?  Well, there wasn’t enough to pull that off – we did however, manage to scrape up enough to get it anyway, some months later.

Squishy – made a good recovery.  Once he decided to attack the rosemary plant on the window sill behind the couch, I marched him over to the goat shed – better for him to scheme things someplace other than my house.  His eye cleared up, and aside from the original issue of not being able to fly, he does just fine.

Next up?  I’ll come up with something 🙂  Stay tuned…..

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