Getting a Jump on Spring

That way I can enjoy my pak choy and cos that much sooner.

Living where we do gardening can be a challenge. As I write this it is March 25 and we have 10″+ of snow in many spots still. Our growing season normally starts May long weekend but with greenhouses and cold frames we get things started earlier. Late October is usually a safe bet on harvesting your root veggies although I just pulled an arm load of onions we missed out of the tiny bare patch of my raised bed today (Even though my kids said they got them all I thought their haul looked a bit on the light side). So that being said we mainly get June-Sept as our best growth months. Anything later than that will be Russian kale, chard, radishes, certain salad greens like mesculin and root veggies but growth rates are near nil.

While doing my silviculture work I was taught that the tree planters will often try to find a raised planting location as the higher parts of the terrain will melt off sooner than the lower spots (This is why I got some onions today, my raised beds are starting to show in the snow). The result is a 25% longer grow season for the trees. Another trick is to plant the seedlings near a heat sink such as a rock, log or stump. This gives them extra warmth nearby to help them through the cold nights after being planted. We also look for ideal soils to put them into but in your home garden this should be already taken care of, I try to remember all these techniques when doing my own home gardening.

When planting out my spaghetti squash seedlings I will put them beside a hunk of firewood. I start them early indoors in a window mounted cold frame. I can leave the window open a crack to keep them warm and they love it. I did an experiment a few years ago and put some out with and without a heat sink and only the ones that had the heat sink survived the cold nights. This practice adds a couple weeks to my season.

Even in my greenhouse I will grow my first batch indoors and plant out when the soil just gets warm enough. Being that seeds often need 22C/70F or warmer soil temperatures for germination, I like to get a jump on it. That way I can enjoy my pak choy and cos that much sooner.

Looking inside my greenhouse today I see that some of the seeds of my red orach plant have already volunteered to germinate. I guess I should have collected my seed last fall haha. ~Scott


Thunder Bolt & Lightning

I took it as an omen that I was truly meant to go home. It gave me goose bumps all over again.

One thing that many folks might need to get used to while living in the mountains is the storms. When we get a storm up here in these iron rich mountains you are really in it! You watch the dark, menacing clouds as they gather above the closest ridge and come billowing in. One moment there is light fluffy clouds and sun, the next you can see, smell and feel the cold moisture cascading down upon you.

Here we can see the rain falling on a nearby slope as it moves in. In winter we observe the snow whitewashing that slope a good while before it hits us. I’ve learned to start packing up my outdoor projects before I get clobbered by a heavy storm, this particular slope to my West happens to be a prevailing direction for most of our weather to move in from. We get to tell if merely a light rain is approaching or if we better get the tarps tied down fast.
All great info to keep an eye on and I find I am looking at the view often to know what’s coming.

I’ve had a few very close calls with lightning the last few years up here. I’ve been on many mountain lakes fishing as bad storms roll in, incredible to see but it will raise the hairs on your arms and neck. But aside from all that fishing in foul weather my closest calls both happened in my neck of the woods. I was up on a high, rocky lookout that faces North under the high tension wires B.C. Hydro put in this area. I get to look down a peaceful stretch of the Shuswap river as it curves through the little valley down there and was watching a storm roll in from the Enderby/Salmon Arm areas to the West. It was a good one, I could feel the energy in the air and the wind was fantastic. It really gets the ticker going!

After a few short minutes the lightning started. Up here it will be reaching the ground in spots making one feel like they are right in the middle of it all. Seeing the electricity arcing through the air at nearly eye level a half kilometer away is a sight to behold for sure. Until it gets to be right on top of you.. My boldness let me stay up there as it came right at me. I was in no hurry to go home and sit in the house, loving the storm, I just watched it come.

It was when a bolt shot down, lighting up the sky right above me in a bright white and blue burst, hitting the wires and following them from directly above me down to the next set of insulators. I am just guessing that it was a small discharge being that it didn’t harm the wire or continue down to light me up. I can tell you though that I was in the cab of my truck spinning tires and down the road before the instantaneous boom of thunder stopped. Haha. I had seen this happen again on my way down the hill heading home and that time it looked less of a strike and more like a gathering of energy from around the wires. From my second perspective I got a much better profile look at the phenomenon. Did’t slow me down any, I was out of there!

On my way home a patch of Sun was shining through and a huge double rainbow stretched out along the valley. It was brilliant and the one end looked to me to be right at the lookout I was enjoying and the other seemed to complete the arc right at my homestead. I took it as an omen that I was truly meant to go home. It gave me goose bumps all over again.

The second close one was just a bit Northwest of my place, about 3.5 km away. I was working in a 21 metric ton excavator doing silver culture work for a local mill. We were getting a cut block cleared of excess slash and seeding it with conifer seeds. My partner Mike was working a ways off nearby about 600 meters away. We try to keep an eye on each other in case of emergency, you never know when a fire might start or a guy tips over a machine, he might need help.

A lightning storm moved in fast, since this happens often I just kept working. The light show was pretty close this day and I saw a couple real close flashes, one in particular looked to go out from above and away from me.

Well a couple minutes go by and Mike comes up grinning and asked if I want to get off the mountain. “Did you see that bolt that almost hit you”? I figured why bother, the worst of the storm has already passed. He tells me that last bolt he saw came right down at me and turned away about 50 meters above my machine. Pretty damn close, I had seen the flash but I couldn’t tell just how close it came and how it turned away. So after some coaxing I agreed that it might be safest to come back when the storm was over to finish up. We would have been fine I am sure but why risk it? Our boss wouldn’t be terribly impressed if we let ourselves get hurt.

You never really know which way a storm will go and where the worst of it will strike so we get caught in it from time to time. Such is life, so we enjoy the good times when we can and laugh off the rough ones after conquer them. ~Scott

Here Kitty, Kitty

Now it’s a good thing the cat wasn’t a man eating variety or I would have been an easy meal that day

A fond memory of ours was a drive we took in my little red racing jeep (my pet name for my first jeep yj). Ally and I headed back behind Brenda mine and South of hwy 97C early one year at least 12 years ago. It was cold but sunny, socked in with fog in the valley, but up there it was gorgeous.

Many km out of Peachland B.C. we were enjoying the day when we came upon this mature Lynx. Such awesome creatures, this cat just crouched beneath a pine and watched us. We took some pics but I felt I needed a better angle so I took off over the snow. Off trail… and I sunk up to my waist. Haha.

Now it’s a good thing the cat wasn’t a man eating variety or I would have been an easy meal that day! But after what I’m sure was a laugh from ol’ Lynx there, and this picture taken by me, it left.

Being that we were on a day outing and had some time to burn we decided to take note of where the wildcat went into the tree line. After my spooking him such as I did he went away then up ahead. Basically it went out a few hundred yards ahead of us, crossed our path and headed into the woods. You’d think that was it, awesome sighting at 40 or so feet away, but over.

Well I knew that area a little from my days up at Pennask Lake working at the hunting/fishing resort about 30 km to the North. So we back tracked a half km then headed South as well. After oh.. a half dozen km we came to a natural gas right of way, we followed up it a ways and we waited. After nearly an hour of near silence, maybe more, at last we see our friend. And it wasn’t alone! There was at least seven of the beautiful cats travelling as a group. Some bigger, some small, it was a sight of a lifetime. So rare to see them in a large group like that, we were wonderfully thrilled to witness it. A blessing for sure.

Of all the big cats I have run into in the bush that was the most spectacular and a cherished memory of my life. Thinking of this always reminds me of a moose hunting trip my late friend Riley and I took up North.

We were a couple hours North West from Quesnel, up in Nazko country. We seen many moose but up to the point of this story we hadn’t harvested ours. We were in a group of four hunters and two designated drinkers, a Father/son team. The elder pitch drinker did end up getting himself a mule deer (during a sober mission up a mountian to cell service) and after we dragged it to his truck he brought out about half his wives’ kitchen knives and asked which would do best. God did I laugh, and handed him my knife…

Any ways back to me and Rye. We were clipping down the road in total Rye style, about 70kph, travelling between chains of lakes when I yell at Rye “Hey there was a Lynx sleeping back there”! He slams on the brakes a moment later and we skidded at least thirty feet. Winds it up in reverse and after a bit I go “Whoa”. There it was laying there under a tree, sleeping soundly twenty feet off the road.

I need a picture. So with this crap disposable camera (pics never turned out)I quietly creep out of the truck and walked right up to the Lynx and snapped it’s picture. Turns out my junker of a camera is pretty loud at ten feet away and the Wildcat woke up. I’ll never forget the look in it’s eyes when it looked up, relaxed a bit, then it’s eyes focused in and it tensed right up. Eyes went wide. Then up and off in a shot it ran 80 or so feet into the open pines and turned to watch us some more.

As I turned around I see Rye with my rifle (I owned both the 30-06 we took on that trip) leveled at his hip pointed right at me. The bugger said he had me covered…. safest cat in the bush that day I tell ya!

I miss Riley dearly, one heck of a mind, one heck of a worker, but after that day I always let him walk in front while hunting. ~Scott


Thawing Our Creeks’ Culvert

So I brought out the big guns… I fixed my tiger torch. 200,000 btu baby! Booya!

We have been having a problem. These years with less snow fall early on in the winter result in deeper frost penetration during the following cold snaps. For us this means a frozen culvert on our creek.

This year we had it freeze solid at the end three times, had it been placed properly originally there would be no issues. Ours is at a good elevation where the creek enters it but it doesn’t follow the creek bed. Had it been laid properly it would have it’s bottom in the creek bed for the whole length of the pipe rather than terminating in a two foot waterfall like ours. This would help keep the end warm, ours freezes. A way to remedy this would be to re-dig the pipe in and perhaps size up the pipe as well. The temporary fix is to plow snow over the end to help insulate it but this year we didn’t have a lot and I left the end uncovered. So here I will share my tips for thawing a culvert.

The first time it happened I took a six foot crow bar and chipped my way in as far as I could until I had a long cone chiseled in to the icy pipe. Since I was unable to get the water moving with the chipping alone I dug out one of my old 30 minute road flares. I shoved this as far up the pipe as I could and voila, I got running water!

The second time I kept my eye on it and just chipped it free before it got too bad, but the third time it caught me off guard a month later and froze up really bad. Not only did I chip it as far as possible but I used another flare and it didn’t do it either. *Note for the future, put something to raise it up so that the melt run off doesn’t quench the lower half of your flare! haha. So I brought out the big guns… I fixed my tiger torch. 200,000 btu baby! Booya! lol. This melted it through with out any nasty flare smoke or further chipping. It saved my but.

If I don’t get my culvert flowing when this happens soon my creek backs up, over flows it’s banks and would eventually wash out my driveway and part of the main road. The chipping out as far as you can really helps get you in there and the torch finishes the job well. I have had to go over two feet into the pipe to get flow again. It sucks but can be fixed, soon I hope to redo the pipes trench right and be done with that nonsense!

Good luck with your water next winter and keep a keen eye out for troubles, catching them early makes for a lot less work. ~Scott

The Chicken Compound

My plan is to start with 20 meat hybrids from the local hatchery to see how the spacing is for them, the tractor is 11′ x 7′ approximately.

Last spring I was given this large steel mesh cage by a neighbour when I was clearing a pasture for them. It looked to be meant to mount to a flat bed truck of some sort but someone had cut it up a little. Fine by me, I seen a chicken tractor in it from the get go. I ended up carrying it by dangling it with my excavator and walking the machine home with it. I was too busy to do anything with it until winter so it was put aside. Sweet score!

So winter comes and now I have time. I ended up not wanting to run my machine down the hill and back just for that so I just used the tractor. With some swearing and slipping I get it chained onto the bucket of my tractors loader and drag it to the shop in reverse. All things considered it came with very little damage. I was pleased.

After using my oxy-propane cutting torch to clean off all the bits that I didn’t need and trimming the bottom to length I welded a 4″ angle iron skid to each side so it can be dragged on my uneven fields. The cage came with double swing out gates on the one end so I rigged up a locking system and a latch as well as welding a 2″ square tube across the front where I wanted to put a 2″ ball hitch. The hitch got 1 1/2″ square tube to truss it out a bit so the 3″ x 2″ hitch tube that I used can handle all the weight I plan to add to the coop.

Princess auto in the nearby big city (150km away) had a sale on really wide trailer axels and the hitch jacks with a 500lb rated wheel. I snagged one each and a couple wheels cheap. Still the new steel and parts came to about $400 plus oxygen, propane, welding rod and the electricity it took to make the magic happen. She ain’t cheap but I can call it bear proof haha. I need all that and more out here. I lost some sheep to a cougar last spring and I’m not big on feeding my dinners to the local critters too much. My chicken dinner! Get your own sandwich cat!!

Later on this spring sometime I intend to put an A frame roosting coop on the top with tin roofing and 2″ x 4″ lumber. A ladder plank into the bottom, a feed/water system and some roosting perches should be awesome for the meat birds. We should do well with the system I plan to build.

My plan is to start out with 20 meat hybrids from a local hatchery to see how the spacing is for them, the tractor is 11′ x 7′ approximately. Once the coop is added on top I am sure I can up it to maybe 25 or even 30 birds. We will see. Until then I will just tarp it for them and go with less. We have lots of lush grass (come spring), will give them grower pellets and by moving them around with the tractor or a jeep they should get plenty of fresh chow with clean pasture.

So far I am thrilled with my armoured chicken tractor. Even though my daughter says chickens are friends not food I am going to have to get geared up for processing them soon. And get her some fresh pullets to go in her pet egg layers too.

I will keep everyone up to date as we progress with the new food production by adding more details on how we are making out in future posts. And please… get outside and enjoy the fresh air! It is wonderful. ~Scott

Morals & Morels

One thing we do need to be aware of is over harvesting.

When spring takes its turn and transforms our snowy wonderland from the clean, white landscape to a slippery, muddy mess opportunity strikes for the various flora and fauna. As the new years growth takes a hold of the Earth we get to see the once cold, white world change to a sweet smelling, beautiful Eden full of life and sound.

One of my favorite things to look for come April and May is the wild morel mushroom. I live in an area heavy with black morels and they are incredible! The texture and patterns that make up the body of this most interesting of fungi can steal away ones imagination.

When picking these choice edible mushrooms I like to use a mesh bag or colander for gathering them into. This allows any bugs that may be upon the prize to wiggle out and drop off as the mushroom dries and helps with the airflow to facilitate drying. Some people will use them fresh, some like to dry them out for later and some like to soak them in a salty brine to drive out any remaining critters that could be still inside. If they are there, you will see them in the bottom of your brine bowl.

Morels prefer disturbed areas in pine and poplar forests where I am. Mostly higher than 500 meters above sea level. I find mine in the 700-1000m range but I do see them much higher too at work. As I do my work in silviculture, rehabilitating the forest after the loggers finish, I especially find the spring morel in the burned off areas. These are prime locations to pick mushrooms and the higher you go in elevation the later in the season you will find the fresh morels.

One thing we do need to be aware of is over harvesting. If you leave some of the older, less fresh and desirable caps you will ensure that there will be more to come in following years. The one thing we don’t want to do is destroy the value of future harvests by being greedy today. I added an Amazon affiliate link below to the exact field guide I use to identify mushrooms when I go out picking. It’s a good one!

I filmed a YouTube video of us finding morels a couple years ago. I picked 15 lbs that year and decided it would be fun to show everybody what to look for when out picking. Yum! ~Scott

Savings with Cedar

My record for walking out of the bush so far is 33km. I’d suggest avoiding the need to do that in the future.

Over the last few years I have cut a few hundred fence posts. You see, to buy a 4″+ thick and 7′ long post here it is about $7 each. That adds up! In order to save money I go out and cut my own posts. I choose cedar because around here they are plentiful and they are resistant to rot. Typically I can find the tops of the older trees with the harder wood left over from the logging operations. This is good as the younger, skinnier trees won’t last as long in the Earth. Plus I save them from being burnt up in the slash piles and keep their carbon out of our atmosphere.

When I cut my posts I look for an area where all the tops have been brought to the road side in preparation for piling to burn. When the logs are processed road side rather than at the stump I get the easier pickings. I choose 6″ posts if I can and cut them 9′ long (a store bought post this size would run ya $15 each). I pound them in with my excavator 4′ into the ground so I get an ultra sturdy post. I use my chainsaw to make a point on the fat end. When it comes time to put them in I use a 6′ long crow bar with a chisel tip to stab a hole into the ground and work it around a bit to open up a small cone shaped hole. This gives a guide to hold and direct the post as I tap it with the excavators bucket.

It is good to peel the bark off them for not only looks, but it also helps them last longer. A two handled draw knife is the tool to do this best. Leave them stacked up off the ground for a year and cedar bark practically peels itself. This is wonderful. With my range fence I didn’t even bother to take the bark off, they will still last a long time bark on. Usually every time I go firewood cutting I manage to bring back a few good poles or posts. And when I find a nice spot where I can get a full load of posts… well the firewood has to wait for the next trip. The poles save me three times as much money than the firewood does haha, that and they are harder to come by. Put 35 or 50 posts on your truck that you would have to other wise pay $10+ each for and the savings sure adds up!

Just be sure to be safe, learn how to use a chainsaw safely and let someone know where you are going. My record for walking out of the bush so far is 33km. I’d suggest avoiding the need to do that in the future. Haha. Oh and make sure you aren’t stealing someone’s wood. Get permission and be very sure not to take marketable timer from the sites. That will keep you out of trouble.

Have fun!  ~Scott

Jake’s “mouse”

I still wish I kept that squirrel and trained it to collect Fir tree cones for me. I can sell those by the pail full for good money. Live and learn.

So this one cool fall night, October 24 2016, our youngest son Jake comes sheepishly into our bedroom doorway to tell us about a little critter that has made it’s way into his room. Being that it was past their bed times and the fact that the two of us were snuggled up in bed as well, not wanting to be disturbed, we weren’t really excited about this development.

“What is it Jake, why are you out of bed?” I ask.

“There’s a mouse on my bed.” Jake whispers in his own mouse like voice.

“well just flick it off the bed and one of your cats will deal with it.” I said, wanting to get back to our snuggle.

Now to this Jake just looks at me with wide eyed horror. But he does leave us alone for a short time only to return a few minutes later. This time he informs us that it is still there but now on his window sill as he stands there in his pj’s quietly. I think to my self ‘how does a little mouse get up on a window sill?’

So I figure I better get up and settle this problem for him so I can get him back to sleep. Upon entering into his room we look at his window sill and see nothing. Quickly though I hear Ally belt out “Holy S#!t, that’s not a mouse!!”

It was a big grey flying squirrel hanging from the top of the window. And it is freaked right out! Hahaha. So me being me I grab it hoping it won’t bite. It bit, I felt his teeth go right to the bone. I’ve handled many smaller rodents, bats, squirrels and snakes that the cats bring home but never anything this big. Usually a little bite is no big deal here. So I drop it and go for my skidoo mitts.

After donning the necessary safety gear, a mitt, I take our newest visitor into the kitchen for it’s mug shots before releasing it on the terms it is never to come back inside our home. He bid us farewell with the flick of his tail and made off into the night.

I still wish I kept that squirrel and trained it to collect Fir tree cones for me. I can sell those by the pail full for good money. Live and learn.


Day one with the blog

Our hopes are to be able to share and learn some of the much needed tips, tricks and techniques of living the “land rich, live poor” lifestyle.

So today is day one of our first blog at the homestead. Five years in now on the land in central British Columbia, Canada we have gathered a good many funny and even some useful stories about life in the sticks and starting from bare land.

As we continue to share our experiences and adventures I will try to add in a few stories from my grand parents and their set ups in the day on the Canadian prairie. Our hopes are to be able to share and learn some of the much needed tips, tricks and techniques of living the “land rich, live poor” lifestyle. haha. Along the way we will be having links to videos about how things have been done, what we do to get along today and small hobbies that add to the richness of our lives.

Feel free to look around and give feed back or comments on what you think and maybe how we can improve the experiences we have together here. I also have started a YouTube channel dedicated to our lifestyle if that may of interest. Please feel free to check it out.

Enjoy!   ~Scott