Thursday, 20 December 2012

Organic Land Care and Permaculture

I'm nearly finished my Organic Master Gardener course.  What an education it's been!  Soil ecology is a deeper, more incredibly complex topic than I ever imagined it to be.  This course was far from a fluffy "grow pretty flowers" experience ~ it was meaty and challenging, loaded with technical information and plenty of ecology/botany/chemistry.  From politics, to agriculture, to health, to ecosystems and back again, it was a ride I'll not soon forget.   It quite literally blew my mind and has broadened my view on many global topics in addition to giving me a solid knowledge base for organic growing.  I'm certainly not an expert, but at last I feel that I have a foundation on which to continue my studies (and a hefty list of topics to further study).

I've spent the better part of 2012 reading about Permaculture and I'm hooked in a way that keeps me up at night...   The more I read, the clearer it has become - I NEED to take a Permaculture Design Course.   Permaculture is a field of study that can only be read about for so long before one must be taught in person.  There's no substitute for seeing the techniques and design elements in action and working alongside fellow students with a knowledgeable, experienced instructor.    I'm beyond thrilled to now be registered with Verge Permaculture for their 2013 PDC.

I'm really eager to take things to the next level on our little piece of land and perhaps even carve out some work in this field at some point in the future...

Stay tuned ~ I have a feeling that 2013 is gonna shake this place up in a really big way!

Monday, 17 December 2012

The BEST things in life

I'm determined NOT to race and rush about this week "getting ready" for Christmas.  Slowing down to live more simply has given us much to think about on the topic of celebrating holidays... A lot of soul searching for sure.  Gone are the days of frantic rushing ~ instead, a slower, deliberate pace has taken over.  

We're overjoyed to be Grandparents and we're loving every moment of it!  This kind happiness just CANNOT be bought :)

On another happy note, Kelly has accepted a fantastic new job IN TOWN and he'll be home every night.  He starts in January and after 16 months of being apart, this is TRULY the most joyous news.  I've been given the best Christmas gift I could ever receive - my family TOGETHER!

The BEST things in life are FREE XO

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Life is so gloriously full right now.  From waking until bedtime ~ the hours, minutes and moments are FULL to the brim with (mostly) good things.

Watching Penny grow and change is a favourite pastime,


as is watching my son in his own journey (fatherhood).  

The ballet performance, the award given to Reece, the volunteering,

the Christmas concert, the choir, the gift making (and receiving - thanks Ruthy!)

the baking, the creating, the wrapping, the decorating, the planning and the cleaning.

Let us also not forget the shovelling and ploughing for there has been a LOT of snow this week.  2 hours each time X 2 days so far this week.  More to come.  I REALLY need to learn to use the tractor with the snow thrower.

Oh yes, it's busy XO

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Last Days In November

Winter's pink glowing skies are pretty to look at but the bitter cold temperatures have me working cozily indoors...  I've been writing Christmas cards and letters, addressing the envelopes and tucking pictures in to send all around the world.  I know that not many people send paper greetings these days, but that's exactly WHY I do it.  It's so nice to get a lovely handwritten card in the mail...  I LOVE receiving newsy letters and cards, so I keep up the tradition and send them out each year.

We've also been making lists ~ SO many lists!

We have grand plans to make this Christmas season one of FUN experiences as a family  (and a little less about gifts).  As we have slowly transitioned to a simpler lifestyle (with less emphasis on spending and more emphasis on doing) the retail frenzy that surrounds us at this time of year feels so.... assaulting.  I'm nearly done with my seasonal errands and shopping, so December can be all about decorating the house, baking and having fun with the family.

Kitty helps me in his usual way, purring and getting his wet, muddy paw prints all over everything :)  He is SO naughty but we love him anyways...

Meanwhile (on this simple living journey), regardless of Christmas plans and holiday preparations, bread still needs to be made, meals need to be cooked, chores need to be attended to...  the daily rhythm continues. 

On a bright red note, I was delighted to receive this large FREE poinsettia recently as an offer with purchase at our local Superstore (grocery store).  I always shop there because of their consistently low prices and good selection, but also, because every week, they have a different gift with each qualifying purchase.   Many weeks, that gift is a $25.00 gift card, but sometimes, the gift is an actual item.  This one is cheery indeed :)

Baby Shower!

The star of the show was Miss Penny herself ~

and of course her beautiful Mama, Kelsey :)

One of 3 splurges... (roses, Lindt chocolates and a lovely journal for the guests to write their wishes for Penny).

A few days before the shower, I washed all my good china in preparation (so dusty from Fall harvest out here in the country).  The day before, cakes and cookies were baked. 

Paige (9) made these cookies (I helped a little with the icing but the rest was her!)

Megan (15) baked and decorated the chocolate cake all by herself...

and we decorated the house with tissue paper flowers which were composted at the end of the day.  

Kelsey's lovely Mom (Shirley) and me with Penny - 2 Grannys! XO

It was a wonderful Tea Party for a beautiful wee little girl :)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Pre-Christmas Funk

This happens to me every year...  I become irritable and depressed when I go out.  The retail mania that has come crashing down all around us is impossible to avoid.  Every store I enter is stuffed to the brim and the blaring Christmas music that is supposed to motivate me to spend money and buy everything in sight GRATES on me.  Most annoying, everyone we see asks my children:

What do you want for Christmas?

Are you kidding me?


I LOVE Christmas but I HATE the retail atmosphere.  How did it get SO BAD?

Is it just me?  Am I just old and cranky?

I have a few more small gifts to pick up and I'm planning to head to our city hall building where a lovely shop is nestled in the back of the first floor.  Filled with handmade things made by local artisans, it's a treasure trove of unique, quality gifts that you won't find in the big box stores.  Alleluia!  Taken from my nearby city's website:

W.A.R.E.S. - Shopping

W.A.R.E.S is a small retail shop located in St. Albert Place that provides SAPVAC guild members the opportunity to display and sell their wares.  The name W.A.R.E.S. stands for Works of Art Representative of Every Studio, which stands up to the mandate of SAPVAC and helps promote, develop and foster awareness for visual arts and crafts within the City of St. Albert.

Hours of operation: Thurs. to Sat., Noon to 3:30 p.m.

 I also have a fair amount of food shopping to do in the coming weeks with a lot of entertaining on our November and December calendar.  I'm working hard to use up what we have in our stockpile, but the need to pick up fresh food is always present at this time of year (no garden in winter).

I'm aiming to finish up all my shopping by the end of November so that I can hole up in December and enjoy finishing some crafts and gift making.




Saturday, 17 November 2012

Christmas Gift Making

I've got homemade vanilla steeping in a dark cupboard just like my friend Rose.   Thought I'd try vanilla infused maple syrup as I hear that's quite lovely on waffles or pancakes...

On my grocery list is good quality vanilla ice cream as it's an ingredient in a homemade Hot Buttered Rum recipe that I'm eager to try.  The jar of pre-made mix that we've been buying every year costs a fortune and hardly makes more than 8 mugs full.   Hopefully the homemade version turn out well and I'll share the recipe here :)

I'm making a few other things but I can't share here or it'll wreck the surprise!

What are YOU making for Christmas this year?

Friday, 16 November 2012


Life at Little Home In The Country has been busy of late...  not just because of this little sweetheart (our darling Grand-daughter, Penny), but for a whole host of reasons!

My Organic Master Gardener course is going well, although I must admit, it's much more of a challenge than I expected.  I'm extremely happy about that, because I'm learning more than I could have ever imagined about soil ecology, agriculture, botany (and so much more).  I'm priming myself to take a Permaculture Design Course in 2013 (which has been my goal all along).

Aside from my personal schooling, the children are now settled into public school life which is mostly a very positive experience.  The hardest part is how busy our evenings are ~ when everyone's energy is waning, there's a lot to fit into into those precious evening hours...

Kelly is still working away, although it appears that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel...  with any luck he'll be in his local position by late Spring 2013.  Keep your fingers and crossed, will you?

The garden is sleeping under a few feet of snow, hopefully rejuvenating and relishing in the glorious layers of organic matter that was spread before the snow fell.  It'll be at least 5 months before we see the soil again.  Such a stark contrast to full days toiling in the hot sun just a few months ago...

I'm sewing a baby quilt for Penny and am busy planning a baby shower for my lovely Daughter In Law (which will be at our place next weekend).  I'm in a bit of denial about the scope of it and I really should get cracking on more of the prep and cooking.  Follow up with me, will you?

Chat soon :)

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Today is Remembrance Day ~ A day to honour and remember Canadians who lost their lives serving our country.  

Thank you for your courage and your honour.  We will remember you, always.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Blizzards and Beef

 Winter arrived with a firm handshake yesterday.

It snowed most of the day, snarling traffic and slowing the world down...

The children had no bus service today due to extremely icy conditions.

Oh, the joy of a SNOW DAY!

After breakfast and chores, the kids bundled up and tended to the serious work of building up the bale hill.   The neighbour children once again spent the afternoon here having good old fashioned fun interrupted only for a warming cup of hot chocolate :)  I like my kids to play outside as much as possible (even in winter), as I fear that most kids don't get near enough exercise and fresh air.

Meanwhile, between snow shovelling sessions, I've been busy in the kitchen, trying to use up a few packages of beef from the freezer that are nearing their expiration date.  Yesterday, I used my FoodSaver to marinate some short ribs and it did a fine job.  I've also used it on some very tough steaks that ended up having the texture of tenderloin, so I'm beyond pleased with it and as always, I wonder why it took me so long to try it?  I've had that Food Saver for 2 years, I think!

Today was meatball day.  This much loved recipe of my mother's is a favourite but I tend not to make it too frequently as meatballs always seem a bit fiddly to me.  I defrosted the last of the lean ground beef from our previous pastured beef order and meatballs were a nice change for us all.

Mine baked a wee bit too long - they should be a tad less brown on top but they were tasty anyways.  Do try them - they are SO good, you'll not have ONE meatball leftover (if by some strange twist of events of you do have leftovers, they are spectacular in sandwiches the next day).

As well, there are 2 banana loaves cooling on the counter as I type...  organic bananas were 50% off due to them being a bit over-ripe (which is just perfect for baking).  I love taking full advantage of budget helpers such as that... if they had more I would have bought them all and froze them.

I'm off now to finish up my chores... my sweet little Grand-daughter Penny is coming over with her parents for a wee visit with her Granny :)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Frugal Winter Fun

We discovered that the second large round bale of straw that we had delivered makes an EXCELLENT foundation for a sledding hill!  Kelly used the tractor and the snow thrower to pile up the snow on one side of the bale.  The kids were busy shaping and smoothing the "hill" and they rolled snowballs over toward the bale to build it up.  This clever idea kept our kids and the neighbours busy for 8 HOURS on Sunday :)     

With warmer temperatures over the past 2 days, most of the snow has now melted (as you see in the picture), but more of the white stuff is in the forecast.... 

$20.00 for straw = 5 months of fun and outdoor exercise

I'd say that's frugal!  

Friday, 2 November 2012

Current Fascinations

Oh yes indeed, my number ONE current fascination is our gorgeous little Grand-daughter.....  in between precious, frequent sessions of gazing at her adorable little face, I'm working on my course material (albeit distractedly!).  

One of my assignments is a soil sedimentation test from 2 weeks ago.  The results are rather surprising.  We have a lot of clay here in Alberta, and this test sure confirms that!  Sand is at the bottom (about 2cm worth), black silt is on top of that and clay is the largest layer on top.  The water is STILL murky with suspended clay particles, but if you look VERY closely, you can see the top of the clay layer in the murky water.  As it's STILL not fully settled out after 2+ weeks, that layer is still growing.  

 I'm humbled by the sheer volume of information about the elaborate ecosystem within our soil and I have begun to realize how every living thing on the planet is somehow dependent upon it.  That fact serves to clearly illustrate the urgent need to both protect and preserve this precious, life giving resource.

Monday, 29 October 2012

It's a Girl!

Sweet baby Penny made her peaceful entrance into the world yesterday at 4:45pm after a smooth, quick delivery.  We are OVERJOYED to have a new baby in the family!
Grandma and Grandpa love you, Penny XO

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Birth Day

On the first "official" snow day of the season, we wait in anticipation for news of the birth of our first Grandchild...  baby is making his/her entrance into the world today :)

Will update when we hear!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Cold Weather Scenes

The chickens aren't minding the colder temperatures.  They do wait until closer to 9am to get busy in the garden, but once they are out, they stay busy outside all day.  Jacques is a fine and handsome fella, isn't he?  He's second in line to the throne, but he takes every opportunity to shoot for the moon, jockeying himself into the alpha position.

Our alpha rooster, Claude is the clear leader, and he certainly straightens Jacques out in a very firm but non-violent way.  He's a lover not a fighter :)  The 2 "boys" crow all day back and forth in competition until they are hoarse and their voices crack.  We all laugh so hard ~ cheap country entertainment...

As you can see below, we've got a nice deep litter layer on the garden for winter protection.  Spent greens, leaves, manured wheat straw and finally, flax straw.  All we need is a nice blanket of snow to tuck it all in under a protective cover for the winter.

The greenhouse freezes at night, but during the day hovers close to zero.  

In it, I've got lettuce, beets, celery, herbs, broccoli, onions and a few other things struggling to grow...  It's doubtful that I'll actually see much of it reach harvest size, but a girl can try, can't she?

 This is the second 900 lb bale of organic flax straw that I've had delivered recently. I'm using it as protective mulch for new plantings and also as grass killer.  Where the bale sits now will be a HUGE flower garden come fall of next year.   I'm lazy and don't want to dig out the turf so by spreading the straw thickly now, I'm hopeful the grass will die off within a year just in time for fall planting in 2013.  The Honeycrisp apple tree in the foreground is toward the north of the property, and the crescent shape strip of straw is planted with Saskatoon bushes, curving to capture the sun from the south.  They will grow to 10' tall and will (fingers crossed) provide some shelter for the new flower garden by way of a microclimate.  Time will tell - I'm probably being overly optimistic :)

Indoors, it's obvious that it's Fall - apples and pears grace the fruit bowl,

and the very last of the tomatoes are finally ripening.

 Woollens and fleece have come out and are put into daily service

 as are the cozy fleece sheets.

Lego and beading projects are spread out after a long summer of them being packed away.

Mommy's "toys" are coming out of storage, too - fabric and sewing await my calloused gardening hands.

I've got a baby quilt to sew - our first Grandchild is due in ONE week!  Hop to it, Grandma!  Stay tuned... :)