The Gibson family farm has been in our family since 1906. It has been a fully functioning farm the whole time. My Grandfather and Great-Grandfather grew mostly canola and durum, and for the past ten years my father has been raising sheep. Our farm is located in the south-west corner of Saskatchewan. I grew up mostly in the city of Saskatoon, spending my summers out at the farm. You could say I have a bit of farm-kid in me. The farm spans for hundreds of acres around the farmhouse, but the garden is just down a path through the yard. This is where the magic happens...

What Seems Impossible- Fighting the Crisis in Africa

   I'm sure by now everyone has heard or read about the massive famine that was declared for certain regions of south central Somalia. This is disaster on the largest scale, with tens of thousands of Somalian casualties, and more and more dead everyday. Maybe it's because as North Americans we can't even imagine so much devastation, or maybe we're just immune from constantly being bombarded by news programs and newspaper headlines pronouncing tragedy after tragedy, but it's so easy to dismiss the issue at hand by changing the channel or flipping to the sports section. This time it's not so easy for me to push this to the back of my mind, and I challenge you not to push it away either.
    As I'm writing this, I'm drinking a cup of coffee and planning what to do with the bounty of my garden. I was fortunate enough to be born in a developed country, but more than that, I was fortunate enough to be born in a place where the soil and weather conditions usually work in my favour. As a Canadian, living in the prairies, I'm probably standing on the best land in the world, in conditions that are more often than not conducive to a prosperous life. Could I be any more lucky?
    Although I am grateful for my situation (that's an understatement), it is with a particular stab of guilt that I put on my rubber boots and trudge towards my garden. Just the other night, I had a BBQ with friends, and served three different kinds of meat (lamb, chicken AND pork ribs), gorgeous potatoes and garlic bread, and grilled vegetables. Add in a few bottles of wine and even more bottles of beer, and you have yourself a good time. After this feast was over, you know what I thought? I really should have made dessert. We didn't even say grace or take a moment to be thankful for what was in front of us. We just dug in, like it was our birthright to be so spoiled. On the other side of the world, there are people whose lives could be saved by drinking the dirty dish water I used to clean up after our meal.
    Now, feeling guilty will not keep those unfortunate souls in the Horn of Africa from starving to death. But being conscience and present in our own lives will go a long way towards being compassionate and generous beings. If you can afford it ( and we live in the top 1% of the worlds richest people, so I'm sure you could scrounge up something) why not send a donation via World Vision or any other non-profit organization to help the cause. Send $10 if you can. I spent more than that on a can of hairspray this week. I know $10 doesn't seem like much, especially when $300 million is needed to alleviate the suffering, but haven't you ever heard of the fable of The Crow and The Pitcher, in which a crow needs a drink of water, but can't reach the bottom of the pitcher to drink? So he goes and throws pebbles, one at a time into the pitcher to displace the water and bring the water level up so he could finally have a sip. A tiny pebble doesn't seem like much either, but each one is absolutely essential in achieving what seems impossible.


    Is there anything quite so wholesome as picking wildflowers in a field? I felt like a little girl prancing about in the long grass, worry-free and happy. Now, when I pick flowers, I love a complex variety of colours and textures in my arrangements. I find that's the key in any flower arrangement, wildflowers or store bought varieties.
    Furthermore, for me, nothing cheers me up like flowers in the house. I put them in the bathroom, on my bedside table, on the kitchen counter. Why wait for a man to send you flowers?? You'll be waiting a long time, trust me ladies. You need to take matters into your own hands, and get yourself some damn flowers!! You deserve it. Even just a sprig of lavender in a small vase or a single rose floating in a bowl. It's a bit luxurious, a bit of a splurge.
  If you are lucky enough to live on a farm, or are ambitious enough to take a drive through the country, you will be amazed at how many flowers you can find snuggling in the tall grass. And speaking of grass, there's nothing wrong with combining grasses or other greenery in with your flowers. They add one more dimension to your arrangment.
   If you live in the city, there's absolutely nothing wrong with grocery store flowers. Yes, greenhouse flowers are usually a little better quality, but they're more expensive, so don't feel bad about snagging a great deal while picking up milk or bread. I usually grab a couple different kinds of flowers, such as Lillies and Astroemeria, or Orchids and Pussywillows, and arrange them myself in a vase or jar.. The combinations are endless, just use your imagination!

I'm Cooked!

          Oh my Lord, I am cooked!. My skin is so baked by the sun it smells like fried chicken. I swear it actually does! At this point, my tan lines are so distinct, it's embarrassing. Especially my butt!! Even with my clothes off, it looks like I'm wearing white shorts! What do I do? I can't garden naked, and even if I did I don't think my butt would ever catch up with my back.
            Am I destined to spend my summer looking ridiculous? Nothing screams farm girl like two-toned skin. And yes, I know... no one is looking at my naked body (unfortunately).. but I know how silly it looks.
         But alas, I have a plan. It involves a little something called self-tanner. Maybe I can just apply it to the unexposed parts of me, evening out the colour. Even just a little bit. I have to be careful though, self-tanner is tricky. The first time I ever used it, I slathered thick gobs of it all over my face and neck. When I woke up, my face was the colour of pumpkin pie. No kidding, ask my friends. And yes, my mother actually made me go to school that day. People still bug me about it. And that was over a decade ago.
          Now, I'm more experienced with the stuff, but it's still intimidating. The only thing worse that a glowing white butt would be a glowing orange butt!! But I'm being careful, slowly building up the tan. And making sure I wash my hands afterwards to avoid the tell-tale orange hands that let everyone know your "healthy tan" is actually chemically induced. I'm somewhat confidant this genius plan will work... Now i just need to work on finding someone to appreciate my handiwork!

Nanaimo Bars

      Canada is the birthplace of many a tasty snack. My favorite? Nanaimo bars, hands down. For any non-Canadians out there, the nanaimo bar is an unbaked bar cookie named after the West Coast city of Nanaimo, B.C, possibly the most beautiful place on Earth. So it only makes sense that this treat is pretty epic, and steeped in Canadian tradition. It consists of three layers; a wafer and chocolate bottom, a silky custard cream middle topped with melted chocolate. Once all three layers firm up in the fridge, you cut your squares and eat them, refrigerate them or freeze them. Just describing them makes me giddy!
       I wish to share my family's recipe for anyone who cares to try it (which I HIGHLY recommend) For anyone who has never tasted one, put it on your bucket list. They're that good!!

                                                       GIBSON FAMILY NANAIMO BARS


2 squares of semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
                           1)Melt first four ingredients over a double boiler. Add the vanilla and egg slowly, and mix well. Add the graham crumbs and coconut (and walnuts). Press into a 9'' pan to form the bottom layer.


2 Tbsp custard powder
3 Tbsp milk
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup butter or marg
                     2) Beat all four ingredients until smooth. Spread evenly over bottom layer.

4 squares of semi-sweet or milk chocolate
1 Tbsp butter or marg
                   3) Melt chocolate and butter over double boiler, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate, which will ruin the consistency. Pour over custard and chill in fridge for an hour or two. You know the rest.

Gardening is not for Sissies!

          What happens if you leave a field garden to it's own devices for over a week with equal parts rain and sunshine? You come back to a jungle. Seriously, my garden is like a tropical rainforest of weeds!!! A machete would be useful out there. As would a good old fashioned sickle. But all I have is a hoe, gardening gloves, and a cute little knee cushion to kneel on. The good thing is the vegetables are so big I can actually tell the difference between good plants and bad weeds.
          I was awake at 4:30 this morning pulling weeds, and I didn't stop until 3:00 this afternoon. Now I'm about 15% clear. Hey, gardening is not for sissies!! At least out here on the farm I don't have anyone to impress so I can get away with dirt under my fingernails and twigs in my hair. I even got a blister on my hand today!!! My stepmother rolled her eyes when I showed it to her, but it hurt like hell!! So I did exactly what she told me not to do... I poked it with a sterilized needle and let the fluid drain. It looks better now but it still hurts. Just because I'm a farm girl for the summer doesn't mean I want farm girl hands. Yuck! Looks like an Olive Oil hand treatment is on the agenda for tonight.


Farm Girl Beauty Tips

   I'm back on the farm from yet another fantastic visit in Saskatoon. It was wonderful, I spent almost every minute with friends and family, and the weather was excellent. I had a massage, more than one hot shower a day and deep hot bubble baths. I indulged in more than my fair share of wine and beer (and a few tequila shots!!) Basically, the perfect summer.
     Of course, now that I'm back on the farm, it's time to get back to business. But after being pampered for a whole week, I don't want to just let the harsh elements of nature take away my restful glow. This is where my training as an esthetician comes in handy. I studied my textbooks religiously, and bought as many books on skincare and physiology as I could find. My opinions on expensive lotions and products are mixed. On the one hand, I think it's often true that you get what you pay for... on the other hand though, I know of many basic everyday products that work just as well if not better than their more expensive counterparts. I use many of these little tricks on a daily basis, and I'd love to share them with you. Here is a list of my top five favorites.
          1) Vitamin E Oil. This stuff is thick and sticky so it takes some getting used to, but at night I love to put it around my eyes as a rich eye treatment. You can buy Vitamin E capsules and puncture them with a needle, or you can buy a little bottle of Vitamin E oil. If this is too sticky for you, you can also use Rose Hip Oil, which is equally fantastic, full of antioxidants but a bit harder to find.
          2) Olive Oil. Olive Oil is probably the most useful product in your house. You can use it as a hair treatment (just massage oil through dry hair and hit it with a blast of heat from a blow dryer before shampooing) It works as an excellent hand treatment as well, especially for a gardener (massage it through your hand until most of it is absorbed, then wipe your palms on a towel to remove the excess. I've heard of people using it as a face wash (a friend of mine swears by it), it makes an excellent shaving cream, and can even be used as a healing salve for cracked heels.
          3) Polysporin . My sister uses Polysporin as a lip balm. It smooth and silky, and if you have cracked, chapped lips, it contains healing compounds to repair delicate lip tissue.
          4) Tea Tree Oil. An excellent choice for oily or blemish prone skin. I mix the oil with a bit of unscented lotion and put it on my face and back. I haven't had a breakout since I bought my first bottle of it at the drugstore. It has antibacterial and antiviral qualities. I have an entire book, just describing everything Tea Tree Oil can do; treat bee stings, mosquito bites, athletes foot, acne, infections, colds, sore throats..... the list goes on and on. You can also use it as a natural cleaning product.
          5) Vinegar. Yup just the basic white vinegar that's stashed way in the back of your cupboard. I use it to treat sunburns ( keeps the skin from peeling) and also as part of a body scrub ( vinegar or lemon juice, salt or sugar, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil) Rub this on your body in circular motions, and it will remove dead skin cells and get your lymph flowing properly. I've also heard you can rinse your hair with it after you condition to make it extra shiny. The vinegar smell tends to evaporate very quickly.
        These are just 5 little tips that are so easy and inexpensive you'd be crazy not to try them. But all the beauty remedies and products in the world won't do a thing unless your body is in good condition. Just remember, there is no better way to look your best than to have a good nights sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat lots of veggies and omega-fatty oils from fish, flax or nuts. And of course, smile!!

To Hail and Back June 21

                  I am enjoying the calm after the storm. Sort of. I'm also kind of panicking because I may have lost some plants, and can't get to the garden because its too muddy, and I'm stuck in the house for the rest of the day. But other than that, I'm enjoying the calm after the storm.
               Let me clarify... we just had the mother-of-all hail storms. I was enjoying some sunshine, catching up on some weeding, and all of the sudden the sky darkened and BOOM.... thunder, followed by an intense shower of hail. I jumped into my car and sped up to the house, just before it got REALLY bad. And believe me, it did!! The hail stones were only about the size of a pea, but that's all it takes to cause some serious damage to tender plants like peas and corn. All I could do was stand at the window and pray for my little plants. It was a sense of total loss of control.
                I think this must have been what the pioneers that lived here 100 years ago must have felt every time a storm came, or an early frost, or a fire or a drought. Total helplessness. You put everything into your crop or garden, hours of labor and a bit of money, and in an instant, it can all be destroyed. Of course, now if this happens we have insurance and can always get food elsewhere. But 100 years ago, if a storm came, it was like standing back and watching the years' sustenance go down the drain. People died from incidents like these, whole families starved to death. It kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
           That's not to say I wouldn't be devastated if anything happened to my garden... I'd be crushed. But just as you start to get cocky and almighty because you raised a few seedlings from the ground... nature rears it angry head and shows you just how insignificant you are in comparison. It's humbling.If you don't respect mother nature, she will bring you to your knees and make you respect her.
                Now I just have to play the waiting game, let the ground dry up enough to get down to the garden and check on my plants.        Pray for me?

Weeds June 15

Weeding. Weeding. Weeding. I have been weeding for over a week, and I'm only half done. And by the time I've finished the last row, I'll have to start on the first row again. But that's okay. For the most part I actually love weeding. I just sit right on the ground and dig in. I'm very thorough. My plants deserve the best, and I will not let any weed-bully get too close to my babies. Plus, I get a great tan from being outside. I find it therapeutic to just sit and do the same task over and over again. You don't really have to think.
                                  There are several ways to control weeds in your garden; one is to spray them with chemicals so they die, another is to lay down mulch such as newspapers covered with compost to suffocate the weeds. But I certainly don't want any unnecessary chemicals in my garden. And also, I like to walk in between my plants and sit on the ground in front of them, so mulch just isn't practical either.
That leaves me with one option... pulling weeds the old fashioned way. By the end of the day there's so much dirt under my finger nails they'll never look clean again. The pads of my finger are raw and my hands are cracking from being dried out. I have a solution to this, and don't balk at it, it really works. I like to slather my hands in olive oil and massage it in for 5 minutes. So what if your hands are a tad greasy, they will look much better after a few treatments. Another great option is to use udder cream (cream used to soften and heal animal's nipples after breastfeeding.) or a really thick hand salve such as Burt's Bees Hand Salve. Whatever product you choose, if you take care of your hands, they'll take care of you.

Burning the Midnight Oil June 11

Ohhhhh Boy it is late. And I still can't fall asleep. So I did what any rational person would do... I went to the barn with a couple bottles of milk and talked and snuggled with my babies. Lambs, that is. It's actually very therapeutic to talk to something that cannot answer you. Sometimes you don't want a reply, you just need to say the words out loud. Saying them out loud is like putting them in a journal, it gets your thoughts out of your head and onto paper... or in my case into the dusty midnight air of the barn.
A barn is kind of a spooky place at night. You have to walk to the middle of the barn just to turn the lights on, and once the light is on, you have 60 mama or mama-to-be sheep staring at you. Every little sound makes your heart race, and you start to think of things like ghosts and axe murderers. And once your settled into the straw with a couple of excited  babies, everything seems natural and wholesome again. On the way back through the dark, I fell!! I can't believe I survived the tragic incident, but I'm happy to report that I am fine now. It takes more than a fallen electric fence to hold me back!!! It was embarrassing that Minx the barncat was right there, witnessing the whole spectacle, me splayed out on the ground, face planted in the dirt. I swear she rolled her eyes. Is it a symptom of insanity to be self conscious in front of a cat?
I finally made it back home, which is where I am now, not scared of ghosts or axe murders at all, my dad is in bed in the next room. Which is where I should be. Sweet dreams everybody.

To Disinfect, or Not to Disinfect.... June 10

There has been a lot of hype lately about disinfection products like Lysol and Clorox. These companies manufacture all kinds of cleaning products, from sprays to wipes to dish soap and much, much more. I absolutely love those disinfecting wipes... not so much for the disinfection, but the handiness of grabbing a wipe, taking a swipe and being done with it all. And the Swiffer mop cloths are genius, so easy and quick. But there is a downside to using products like these. And this is where my paradoxical dilemma begins.
       I'm going to tell you a secret. Since I was a young child, I've suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don't count or check 15 times that the door is locked or anything like that. I just like order. And I don't like germs. And I mean I REALLY like order and I REALLY don't like germs. Messes make me anxious and I just want to clean and tidy all of the time. If I could vacuum the garden, I probably would.
                    On the other hand, I truly believe that a well earned immune system trumps a bucket full of disinfecting products any day. It's proven that people who are exposed to germs their whole life have a much stronger immune system than someone who was raised being sheltered from germs. I think that kids should pick their noses and get scrapes and eat dirt. These simple acts are the difference between a strong immune system and a vulnerable one. Everyone has seen the kid whose mother smothers him and refuses to let him play in the dirt and this kid is usually sick. 
       The rational side of my brain does realize that the surge of popularity in disinfecting products has directly resulted in loss of exposure to pathogens and bacteria. And these products have probably saved a lot of people from getting food poisoning or a stomach flu... but bacteria is very resourceful and it WILL find a way to survive. By disinfection an area, you kill all but the very strongest strains of bacteria. These survivors produce bacteria that is also strong and virile. Essentially this is survival of the fittest. In this case, the fittest happens to be the most active bacteria, and therefore, the most infectious. Not a situation that a germaphobe wants to find them self in. It's also worth mentioning that these products are very toxic, and they leave residue all over your house. Most of these toxic substances are carcinogenic, which means they can lead to cancer.
                          So, what to chose? I do indulge myself in tidying the house, but I try to stay away from using too many of these products ( except my Lysol wipes, which I will NEVER give up. No one can make me!)                                                    If I really want to disinfect something, like a cutting board covered in raw chicken juice, I boil a kettle of water, and pour it over the board. But for the most part, hot soapy water and some good old fashioned scrubbing is really all you need to have a clean and healthy home.

Meditation June 7

               I've never known how to meditate. I mean really meditate the way Buddhist monks do. I've bought all kinds of fancy yoga clothes and instructional DVD's. I've gone to classes and tried my hardest to really relax and center myself. It's a challenge. I have a scattered mind and I'm always thinking or worrying or fussing. I find it hard to sit down and concentrate on nothing but relaxation. My body always hurts which makes it especially  hard to spiritually remove myself from my body. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this in her book, "Eat Pray Love". It is a practiced talent to be able to truly meditate.
Today, I found my center. I went for an impromptu walk down the road between two fields. I wasn't planning on this walk, so I was wearing ballet slippers, not proper shoes. But I started to walk, the breeze was behind me, almost pushing me down the road. So I walked for miles, for no reason at all. I just wanted to be outside on this perfectly gorgeous day. I climbed up a big hay bale and sat, lotus style. (Lotus style is a yoga position in which you sit with perfect posture, legs crossed. Ya, at least I learned something from those yoga classes!!) 
I let my mind drift. I'm not sure if i fell asleep, but I felt lighter, like air. My mind couldn't focus on anything, and I didn't try to make it. I just went with it. It was like floating in water, or being held by someone warm. After a while I snapped out of it, jumped off the bale and slowly walked home, truly happy and whole. Now I know what meditating really is. It's not something you can force, you just have to let it in and let it out. Try it. Really. It's worth it.

Potato Soup June 6

The only thing I love more than gardening is cooking. I've been doing it for most of my life, and most people think I'm pretty okay at it. I'm terrible at reading recipes though, I get bored half way through the ingredient list and either lose interest or just make the rest up. Sometimes the results are disastrous but most of the time, things turn out okay. After so many years of practice I can usually gauge whether or not something will turn out well. And by "so many years" I mean almost 20, which to some isn't that many, but keep in mind I'm only 25!
I remember standing on a chair beside my dad in the kitchen (before he met my stepmother, which by my calculations puts me around age 5). He was whistling "Sesame Street" and instructing me on the fine art of icing a Minnie Mouse cake for my sister's birthday. Anyways, fast-forward 20 years and here I am this evening, eager to share a recipe I made up today for potato soup. The measurements are approximate because I wasn't paying that close attention to what I was doing, but here it is:
1 package of good bacon
1 medium sized onion
9 potatoes ( I used russet and red)
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups frozen corn
4 cups beef stock
2 cups homo milk
I browned the bacon in the bottom of a large pot, then I added the onions and cooked them until they were soft ( I removed most of the bacon fat before adding the onions, but you don't have to). I  peeled and chopped the potatoes into 1" cubes and added them, the carrots and the corn to the pot and added the stock to cover. I also added about 2 cups of homogenized milk, but I don't think it matters too much what milk fat % you use( The more milk fat, the creamier the soup will be). I also added about 3 teaspoons of pepper, and a little cornstarch to thicken it up. I let it all simmer for a few hours and voila... potato soup!! Perfect with biscuits.


         Wow it's been a great weekend!!! I went home to Saskatoon to spend some much-needed time with my girlfriends. Now I'm back at the farm, and it's time to work. Peas are finally coming up in my garden, as well as an army of weeds. We have one new orphan, so that makes three baby lambs to feed. And the mice... well I'm sorry to say they just didn't make it. I think they just weren't getting enough nutrition without their mama, and they were starving. I couldn't handle the sight of the emaciated babies, so I made the decision to put them out of their misery. It was the kindest thing to do, given the state they were in. I'll skip the details, but I will say that they had a quick and relatively painless death. I put them back in their box to ask my younger sister what she wanted to do with her deceased pets. When I got back.... the box was open and the mouse blanket was strewn suspiciously on the ground. Minx. The barncat. The hungry barncat. It seems that the painstaking effort I took in caring for these rodents was nothing more than a late lunch for Minx. She was laying on the porch belly up with a satisfied look on her feline face.
         Of course, there is nothing unusual about a cat eating a mouse, and they were already dead. I guess she was just taking care of my disposal dilemma. R.I.P. baby mice.
         Now, for a city girl, I think I have a pretty respectable demeanor when it comes to farm animals and the inevitable death they eventually face. I've seen my dad cut the head off a live chicken, I've actually held the chicken down as he did it. (**Interesting fact** Contrary to lore, chickens do not actually run around after their head is cut off, they just make a hell of a mess thrashing their wings around, spraying blood all over the damn place) I've helped my dad shoot sheep for slaughter. I was even in the car once when my dad hit and killed a fawn on the highway. It's not death that bothers me, but suffering. I hate that those mice suffered for days without their mother. I hate that the mother of my orphaned lamb twins spent the night with a prolapsed uterus. (You'll have to look that one up.) (On second thought, don't look it up, you don't want to know.) My dad eventually had to take her from the barn and shoot her. Again, it was the kindest thing to do.
         Farmlife is a balance between life and death all the time. Just as a mother perished from giving birth, new plants were emerging from the ground. As a chicken is butchered for meat, a family is sustained.  The role of a respectable farmer includes being an attentive care-giver. To respect your animals is to provide them with the best life within your means. There will always be suffering in life, but prevention is the best medicine. Take care of your animals and you'll have happy, healthy ones.

Summer fallow June 2

                                "Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart do not know how 
                                                                  to laugh either.” - Golda Meir

I have been walking for miles. I didn't mean to. I meant to just go to the garden and take notes on the progress of my tomatoes. But when I got to the garden I just kept walking. Now I'm sitting on the border of two fields. The one on my right is absolutely green and lush with canola plants. The one on my left is empty. 
                         What it actually is, is summer fallow. This is what experienced farmers do to conserve vital nutrients and moisture in their soil in between crops. Plants take alot out of the soil, and without a chance to recover some of these nutrients, the soil may become barren. 
These days I feel alot more like the recovering summer fallow than the flourishing canola. It's been a rough couple of years. Sitting in the dirt, I'm contemplating all the ways the human heart can grieve. My grandmother died without me ever realizing how much much I would miss her. I lost the man I thought I would grow old with, and then the one that pulled me out of the frying pan and into the fire. My sister and best friend left for the United States and the space between us now feels like a canyon. 
And then the accident. This accident did not leave me paralyzed. Did not leave me blind or brain damaged. Did not leave me dead. But it did change my life forever. My spine was injured, and no amount of surgery will ever fix it. From the moment I wake up to the moment I lay down to sleep, and all of my dreaming hours in between, I am in pain. Throbbing, aching pain but also grief. Grief over the loss of movement, and the loss of freedom. I now know what hopelessness means. I know the gravity of dependence on painkillers, the relief that only narcotics can bring.
I do not believe there is beauty in pain or in tragedy. Misery sneaks up on you from behind and steals your breath.  It is a barren place that everyone must walk through at least once in their life. But I do believe there is a fine balance to everything, and where darkness falls light must follow. The harder you fall the higher you must rise to overcome it.  This is how one survives a lifetime of being human. Allowing the tide to rise over your head, and then letting it recede back into the ocean. Holding your breath until it's safe to breathe again.
There is nothing noble or romantic about this cycle, it is as natural as night and day, as basic as crop and summerfallow.

Now to Feed Myself.... June 1

                         I'm happy to report that all six of my baby mice survived the night, and they're doing really good!!! They're taking in milk with the dropper, and they're moving around a lot more. This morning they were cold to the touch, which was alarming, but their temperature seems to have risen, thanks to a heating pad under the box they were in. My baby lambs are also doing really well, I have to feed them a warm bottle of milk four times a day. Bambi, the little brown one (which looks more like a fawn than a lamb, hence it's name) is definitely the more aggressive one. I have to separate them to feed them so Bambi doesn't get all the milk. Add in the barn kittens and the dogs, and let's not forget the swarm of mosquitoes I ran through on my way to the barn, I've done more than my fair share of feeding today.
Now to feed myself... 

It's not that weird, is it? May 31

                       Good Lord, I worked hard today, and the day isn't even over yet. I logged quite a few hours helping my dad load bales of hay onto his truck to bring home. These are the smaller square bales that weigh anywhere from 60 - 130 lbs, depending on how tightly packed the hay is. I packed about 130 of them. Keep in mind, that some of these bales weigh more than I do. Somewhere around the 90th bale or so, I found a little surprise in one of them... a nest of baby mice. 
                       At first I was kinda creeped out by these tiny, pink squirming things. But then I heard them squeaking, and I fell in love. I put them in an old carton that was in the truck, and gave them some hay so sleep in.  I put them on the floor of the truck for safekeeping. They're now beside me as I sit on my bed typing. I gave them a nicer box, and some soft fleece. I tried to feed them milk from a syringe, but all I accomplished was flooding their noses with milk. That's bad. They can drown that way. So, I'm at a loss. On top of that, I have to keep the mice a secret from my stepmother.... who is afraid of mice and would sooner give them to the cats as snacks than keep them in a box and try to feed them. I just hope they survive the night. Statistics say that in the wild, only about 50% of mice live to be adults. The chances of these guys surviving is not great.
My dad thinks I'm nuts (which I am of course). Just yesterday I was cheering the barn cats on as they took on a giant gopher and won. Now I'm coddling a handful of rodents and hoping they don't die. Some people keep mice as pets, so it's not that weird, is it?    Is it?

Spilled Milk May 30

          Well, after 23 successful births, we have hit a bit of a snag.We have a pair of twins that were born this afternoon that need milk. Their mother had a very difficult birth, and she is so weak she can't stand up. Furthermore... she has no milk. So, for now at least, these lambs will have to be bottle-fed.
     Lamb formula is a great alternative to milk when real milk is not available. It has all the nutrients a growing lamb needs, but it does have one downfall. Mother's milk is fortified with all of the antibodies that the mother has acquired in her lifetime. These antibodies are the baby's only immunity to the outside world. Lamb formula doesn't have this essential element. There is absolutely no substitute for the real thing. 
So, left with no milk, it seemed our only solution was formula. But my dad had an idea. We borrowed some milk from a different mother who had just had one baby, put it in a bottle, and fed those little guys. And man were those guys hungry!! They spilled half of it all over themselves just trying to suck it down as fast as they could!! But they were full up by the time they were done. This borrowing trick was only a temporary solution of course, but if they have to be on formula from now on, at least I can sleep soundly knowing they had a quick boost of the nutritious good stuff. 

Over-indulgence = Greed May 29

         Adjusting to small town life has been a challenge. As of this moment I am violently craving the Sticky Toffee Pudding from Earl's. Now, of course there is no Earl's in my small town, that's no surprise... but as of 6:00pm, there isn't even a grocery store!!! In the city, if you are craving something at 11:00 at night, you can pretty much damn well go out and get it. Last night around 11:00, my snack was a handful of Shreddies that I'm pretty sure were older than I am. (Important Sidenote: remember when cereals like Shreddies and Cornflakes used to come with toys in the boxes??? Why don't they do that anymore??? That was so awesome! My sisters and I were left with bruises from trying to get at those toys!)
         The more I crave something I can't have, the more valuable it becomes. This also increases the appreciation I feel when I finally get what I want. Maybe it's not such a bad thing to wait for something you desire. After all, we're all so spoiled here in North America having all the pleasures and excesses that we do that being denied having every single little thing might just make us a more respectful bunch. If over-indulgence equals greed then doesn't occasional denial equal gratefulness? Take it from me, there's nothing like a handful of stale Shreddies to make you appreciate a warm piece of chocolate cake smothered in warm caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice-cream. By the way, next time your in Saskatoon, go to Earl's and appreciate the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The Most Natural Thing - May 27

Lambing season is here!!! I've been anxiously waiting for the babies to come since March, which is when they usually come. This year they're late, which is better anyways, because March in Saskatchewan is absolutely frigid. A couple of years ago, I remember staying up all night in a giant snowsuit stuffing babies inside my suit to share my body heat. This year will be a breeze.
Just yesterday, six lambs were born, and two more arrived this morning. But the day is not over!!! We have 70 moms expecting, and lambs are capable of having triplets. But the standard is usually one or two. After the lambs are born, we put them alone in a pen with their mothers, so they can bond with each other. And do they ever!!! Never get between a protective mama and her baby!!! Last year I was thrown into the side if the pen a few times by an angry ewe who thought I was stealing her baby!! 
My parents are seasoned farmers, so they don't even bat an eyelash when the babies start pouring in. But I still think it's magical.      Except for the part where the ewe starts to eat the placenta!!!!The first time I saw a sheep chowing down on her own afterbirth... I screamed " Dad this sheep has rabies!!!!"  He rolled his eyes and calmly explained to me that this is actually quite common among animals who have just given birth. The placenta is rich in iron and other nutrients, just what a new mother needs.    I'll give you a minute to puke or faint, whatever your preference is. 
Another gruesome side of sheep rearing is when the baby is breech. See, lambs are all legs, and these lanky extremities sometimes get stuck in the birth canal. A difficult birth is known as"dystocia". This is an emergency situation in which the farmer has to step in. The farmer slips on a sleeve which is a thin glove that goes almost up to the shoulder, this prevents you from transferring bacteria into the mother sheep ( also provides a barrier between your hand and sheep insides...... ugh) The farmer must slip his hand and arm into the birth canal, readjusting the baby, while simultaneously pulling the baby out with the other hand.  It sounds slippery and easy, but trust me, it takes every ounce of strength to pop that sucker out!!! They do not come easy. But when the baby finally slips out into your hands, and your sweating and panting and exhausted ( not to mention the mother!!)  suddenly the whole atrocious process doesn't seem quite so disgusting. It seems like the most natural thing in the world.
Right now, in the wonderful province of Saskatchewan, we are in the middle of tick season. As a city girl, I’ve never even seen a tick. Well, except for the one unlucky guy that hitched a ride on my co-workers pant leg. We put him in a pill bottle and tried to keep him alive with African violet leaves and drops of blood from another incredibly generous co-worker who just happened to give herself a papercut. We named him Ted. Ted survived an impressive three days in his new home, before his untimely death which resulted in toilet bowl funeral. Poor Ted.  But I digress. Back to tick season. Quite honestly, I’m terrified of any tick outside of a plastic pill bottle. For starters, they’re very small, they lurk in tall grass (which I am surrounded by for miles) and... they suck blood!!!! Any creature that drinks my blood is not okay in my books.  Also, they carry the dreaded Lyme disease, which is extremely uncommon but non-the-less frightening.  The best way to protect yourself is by avoiding tall grass and wearing long pants and covered feet. Insect repellent containing DEET is also recommended.  My big black rubber boots seem to protect me just fine, but what about my dogs? Molly is basically a walking cottonball and Charlie is brown, which makes it hard to find anything in his fur. I tried the liquid stuff that you apply to the skin back of their neck. This is supposed to keep not only ticks away, but also fleas and mosquitoes. But it’s very toxic, and it made their fur incredibly greasy and reeking like orange cleaner. So into the bathtub with the pups and into the garbage with the rest of the toxic, greasy liquid.  So I guess it’s nightly fur checks for the dogs, which, trust me, will have to involve more than a few pacifying Milkbones (they don't approve of being inspected). But alas, I will sleep soundly knowing there are no ticks lurking in the shadows of my blankets.
3 weeks ago, I chose my seeds. Carefully. I tried not to go overboard as I tend to do any time a Master card is involved, so I just bought the essentials. Peas, beans, corn, beets, carrots ( three different colours... that’s right, you can buy different coloured carrots) onions, tomatoes and three different kinds of potatoes... red, gold and Russian blue. And lettuce. And garlic. Oh ya, and chillies.
I took them home, and carefully planted my heirloom tomatoes, and peas and beans in those little compostable pots that decompose in the garden. My dad laughed at me for starting peas and beans in the house, because they should be sown directly into the garden. But I just wanted a head start. It’s bloody cold in this province, and I want a steady income of peas, damnit.
Now, 3 weeks later my peas and beans have skyrocketed... they are almost too big for their pots now, but it’s too early to plant them outside. Which is what my dad claims he knew would happen. So what? I still have lots of seeds left, and I can still salvage my teenage plants, I think. They just got over-excited at the prospect of getting out there and planted in their rightful place in the garden.
My tomatoes, that’s another story. As I said, I planted an heirloom variety, a veritable rainbow of tomatoes ranging from yellow all the way to purple. The picture on the seed package shows a shining family of brilliant colours, plump and juicy on their thick green vines. I look at my seedlings. They aren’t complete failures as much as maybe just shy; there are little pale green stems with baby leaves poking out of my pots. In an uncharacteristic gesture of encouragement, my dad says this is normal, and they will in fact grow up to be big and healthy. But is it normal? They look like premature babies. I’ve always bought my tomatoes as plants from a greenhouse, so I don’t really know. I guess we’ll see...I’ll cross my fingers and say a little prayer for my preemies.  
So here we are. First week of May. I simply cannot wait to get my plants in the ground. But before I do that, the garden must be cultivated, and then supplemented with compost. I am ecstatic about this compost!!! Really, it's just the scrapings of the floor of the barn, which is just hay and sheep manure. This mixture is pushed via bobcat to a field just beyond the barn, where it sits in the sun, then the snow, then the sun again, until it decomposes completely.
And this is what makes my blood start pumping. Just thinking about that glorious pile of beautiful compost makes me delirious in anticipation of planting ANYTHING in this treasure trove of soil. Nothing you can buy is this good. They call it “black gold”. It's soft and crumbly to the touch, with just a hint of moisture... and then there's the smell!! It smells like spring itself. Earthy and woody.
Alright, alright. I'm rambling, I know. It's just that they don't make soil like they used to. Most gardens and fields are sprayed so heavily with pesticides and herbicides and chemical fertilizer that, on a microscopic level anyways, it's not really even soil anymore. It's just a pile of dirt.
And in my humble opinion, there is a significant difference between soil and dirt.
Soil is rich with organic material and beneficial bacteria that break down this organic material into compounds that plants need to to be healthy.
Dirt is just dirt. Dirt is dusty and lifeless. And although plants can survive in this kind of environment (nature always finds a way to survive) they don’t thrive. They long for nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon, and the perfect pH balance and soil structure to retain moisture. I feel bad for these plants. They’re like the poor kids in class that can’t afford nice clothes and fruitsnacks. I just want to give them a pick-me-up, and there's nothing like a good old dose of sheep shit to perk ‘em up.
                                    Perhaps i’ve given this too much thought...