Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A little bit of everything...with photos!

In no particular order:

Provincial Winter Fair - We took three kids and five lambs to the Winter Fair in Kamloops September 24-29th. We rented an 18 foot RV (bliss) and stayed in the campground with all the other 4-H families. The KXA site (Kamloops Exhibition Association) oversees a number of organizations, including the racetrack, some sort of rodeo association, the Provincial Winter Fair (PWF) and others. So our campground was actually in the center of the racetrack. Fortunately no horses were racing during this time.

Friday was a flurry of Ivory soap, blow dryers and carding brushes. The kids managed to get their lambs coiffed but a few of them needed to be prodded along by the sheep leader. Friday was showmanship for the pre-clubbers and Helen placed third in her heat in this event. She still has another year in pre-club so we expect she will do well next year, too!

Saturday was showmanship for Katie and Stephen and they both placed well in their respective heats, with Katie moving on to a championship round. Katie game fully tromped around on her cast. We made a fast trip back to Barriere ER the day before to have the cast replaced due to a sore spot inside. Believe it or not it would have taken longer to wait at the RIH ER in Kamloops!

Sunday was weight classes for the lambs and while the lambs did well, it was Helen's lamb that moved on to a championship round, placing 2nd in her heat to get there. Sadly she did not move on from there. But, placing so high meant on auction day her lamb was one of the first to be sold (supposedly better prices).

Monday was auction day. I'm starting to become immune to the tears after two years of watching young kids leading their animals to the holding pens, sobbing their hearts out. Helen's lamb sold for $300 to somebody we knew locally. We had arranged buyers for both Katie and Stephen's lambs and Stephen was quite upset that Chris bid on his on behalf of the Pandoh's (Pawan and Simita, who paddled Bowron with us this past summer). It has taken the better part of a week for him to get over it.

Chris and I had an interesting time keeping the bid up to the price my brother Tom would pay for one lamb and for the Pandoh's lamb. The auction is very much pre-sold and the lambs typically go for more than they would at market because so many generous people like to support 4-H kids. Needless to say, with Chris being sick, our bids back and forth went somewhat awry, resulting in the auctioneer calling out to me "Hey lady, you still in???" when I assumed Chris had already bid the next dollar amount and I was walking away...hey, those guys talk too fast!!!!

Just prior to PWF, Terry Prehara, the woman who sold Katie and Stephen their ewe lambs, emailed us to let us a know that a friend of a friend wanted to find a good home for a Khatadyn lamb. This breed has hair! It is also considered a meat breed and can lamb every 7 months. Apparently the rest of her flock was taken down by a bear (including the ram that may have impregnated this lone survivor). Not to pass up on free livestock, as well as add to our "pets" we gladly accepted this lovely ewe. Her name is Hershey and she is very sweet. We are not sure if she is actually pregnant yet but the next few months will tell. If she does lamb in the spring, I'm thinking of showing one of her offspring as an open lamb at PWF just to see what the judge does! The hair on these lambs is very coarse, more like a donkey or horse. The tails aren't docked because it is the wool on "normal" sheep that mats up and gives the sheep infections. This is simply not the case for Hershey. So another new experience for us!

On Thursday of this week the KXA gave notice that it will no longer operate off the grounds...their landlord (the First Nations Band in Kamloops) gave them a $100,000 + tax notice for last year, with an indication that it will be twice as much this year! The KXA simply does not have the money so the PWF may be looking for a new home...the North Thompson Fall Fair grounds in Barriere has been put forward as a possibility. It did raise the question with us as to whether the kids would see the proceeds of their auctions, but I believe the auction ran through the B.C. Livestock Association...I haven't heard to the contrary so we are patiently waiting for the kids 4-H cheques to arrive as usual!

Our fall has been dominated by preserving. We have done pickles, jam, applesauce, apple pie filling, apple butter, apple chutney, roasted tomatoes with salt, brown sugar, balsamic vinegrette, olive oil (recipe available to anyone who wants it!). A few weeks ago I bought 300 quart size wide mouth canning jars for a total of $44 and the couple who were moving threw in their canning shelf! Chris spent a day setting everything up in the lunchroom (one of the two rooms in the shop building we keep heated in the winter). It looks amazing and although we have put our canning on it, it barely makes a dent as the shelves can hold about 500 jars!

The apple trees on our property that Chris pruned in the spring (half an hour with the chainsaw) surprised us. The apples are huge this year and are actually quite tasty. In past years they have been tiny and inedible. My dad's apple tree on the bordering property produced this year with its usual lovely apples and we found that mixing the two varieties makes great apple juice. I canned the first batch using old gem jars with glass lids and rubber seals and it worked just great. I love the fact the rings are re-usable. Chris, in an attempt to recover apple sauce during our juice making adventure, built a simple press. This worked, but not well and after about one quart of apple sauce recovered from a load of apples, he gave up. We have since been coveting proper apple presses and steamers! I did dig out my potato ricer which worked not too badly. We've found several free plan sets on the internet (notably Mother Earth News) and with our spare time this winter (?) may try to build one. The trees are still fairly loaded with fruit, so we may give juice another run in the next few days.

After a season of canning I've compiled a wish list: First a bigger kitchen. I hesitate to complain too much about mine as our friend Kim Robinson has been canning this fall in an RV kitchen! Second, a stainless steel funnel. I have a plastic one and it makes me a little nervous. Third, a magnet pen to pick up snap lids from hot water. I've been prying them apart and getting a shot of hot water all over me when I do. Fourth, lots of BIG pots to cook in. Fifth, a bigger stove. I've been daydreaming about a canning shed, independent of the house, with its own gas stove, etc. etc. I wake up when I realize my house still needs a roof. Sixth, an apple sieve. Seventh, a cherry pitter. We didn't do cherries this year, but last year I yearned for one.

Piano lessons have started again and I am working toward sitting my Level 2 exam next year. I'm doing scales and getting to do a lot of classical music. I actually love classical music, although I don't know much about it. Right now I'm working on a variation of I'm a Little Tea Pot, a Ragtime piece and Entree in A Minor. I'm really enjoying it. Chris has decided to stick with more popular music as he is not much interested in exams any more.

The kids decided not to take strings this year in school. We are somewhat relieved about this as the rentals were costly (about $600-700 for the cello and violin) and we didn't really feel they made a lot of progress in the instruments compared to their piano instruction. Katie, who had the option of taking band this year, opted to take Fine Arts because of the Drama component. Her desire to learn the guitar hounded me all summer and last night I agreed to dig out my guitar and teach her to play. We both think that piano gives them a really broad based musical foundation that they can take with them and learn any instrument...we still have a flute in the house (mine, which I still play occasionally), and although I hesitate to mention it so where they can read it, I think my brother Tom's trombone is still at Dad and Gail's!!

This week I attended Katie's Grade 6 class to McQueen Lake just outside of Kamloops. The school district owns this camp and it is an Environmental Learning Centre. I chaperoned a group of six girls and I have to say it was o.k. There was hiking, orienteering and population control activities (about wildlife, not the grade 6 class!) I became distracted when I heard that the School Board maintenance guys Chris and Mark were on site exchanging the solar inverter for the site. McQueen Lake's wash house is composting toilets (6 per side) and has a solar tracking system. I got into a really interesting discussion about sustainability with Mark and Chris and learned that NorKam Secondary has a solar project that is tracked on the internet. I invited myself and Chris to look these guys up sometime and check out all the green initiatives our school board is involved in.

The first night it took me an hour and a half to settle the girls. Apparently 11 year olds are still fascinated with gas in the basement, something I though only 11 year old boys would still be interested in. That, combined with belting out Taylor Swift songs, made for an interesting musical show. At one point I threatened to get a big pointy stick if anybody talked again, but apparently I wasn't scary enough as this seemed to be really funny to them...

Several weeks ago Stephen decided it would be a really great idea to have a rooster. He's very keen on trying to hatch our own chicks next spring. We have explained to him that our hens have probably had the brooding instinct bred out of them, but he does not seem put off by this (I'm not sure he even understands it!). After reading Barbara Kingsolver's tale of getting her commercially purchased turkeys to breed in her book Animal Vegetable Miracle, I was more than open to giving our own fowl experiment a chance.

To give Stephen credit, he browsed the Buy and Sell, Craig's List and Kajiji looking for deals on roosters. He called people to ask questions about breed, age, virility (although he described it as being "able to do the deed") and price. After a week of checking around he found a rooster in Barriere for sale for $8. He set up a time and today he and Chris and Helen picked up the rooster. He is kind of neat and crows a lot which I find hilarious. Although it appears he can "do the deed" I'm wondering if all 25 girls might be a bit much for him. We need to do a bit of reading to see if we should get him a few buddies...

There's a photo of Chris here which he thinks is pretty good and he's given me "permission" to use it. And, because I don't appear often on this blog, I've included one Katie took of me when I found out I won the Best Bread baking contest (did I mention I got a big red and white rosette?). This is the photo I had to submit to Fleischman's to get my prize. Yes, I'm sunburned!

We are still depending entirely on the kids' cameras for photos, but on a promising note, I did hear Chris say it would be nice to take really good pictures! And, even though he may think he's a closet Luddite, I'm counting on the gadget guy coming out of him when we look at that Nikon D-90 on Wednesday!

We are starting round #10 tomorrow on the house. With 4-H, school, McQueen Lake and some nasty viruses we picked up since school started, the house has been ignored. But today Chris moved some dirt around and we will re-start in the morning. Tonight we will start re-reading about bond beams with an eye to getting that going when round #10 is complete. If anybody is interested in coming out to help, let us know!

1 comment:

Crystal said...

I would love to have your recipe for the "apple pie filling, apple butter, apple chutney, roasted tomatoes with salt, brown sugar, balsamic vinegrette, olive oil (recipe available to anyone who wants it!)"

I am researching earth-homes with hopes of one day having even a tiny one for a little further north then where you are at... Dawson Creek or Prince George?? :)