Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baby duck love

It looks like my computer issues are finally resolved. It wasn't the satellite after all, but the router that probably got fried during the big windstorm. My internet service is still slow at times (granted, the signal is travelling up to space) but at least it's not timing out anymore.

And that's great, because tomorrow I'm offering another giveaway sponsored by Penguin Canada.

But before I get to that, I'm going to subject you to a ridiculous number of photos of our new addition: Mrs. Nibbles. Yes, Ella named her.

I was on my barn rounds this morning when I decided to check on Betsy -- the newly-single broody hen who recently kicked out her duck partner Jemima.

I thought I heard some peeping, so I took a quick peek under her skirts.

A just-hatched Muscovy duckling.

Unfortunately, as soon as Betsy saw that her tiny charge wasn't one of her kind, she freaked out a bit and started pecking at her. Given last year's tragedies with our duckling losses, I simply couldn't go through that heartache again, so I quickly scooped up the new hatchling, cupped her between my closed hands and brought her back to the house.

She was still crusty, so I'm thinking she was less than an hour old.

As I wasn't finished the day's editing work, I set up a makeshift brooder in my home office, using a deep plastic bin, some dried grass newly warmed by the sun and my desk light, refitted with an old incandescent bulb that throws off a surprising amount of heat.

It didn't take long before she started fluffing up and looking more duck-like and less on-the-brink-of-death like.

When the kids came home from school, I fabricated some excuse for getting then into my office -- even though I'm usually telling them to get out of my office. It took them a few moments to notice the brooder on my desk (perhaps a testament to just how messy it is in here) but when they did, Ella gasped and Jack broke out into a huge grin.

"Where did this come from?" they asked. Given that I was the kid who brought home wounded birds, stray pets and even tried to convince my parents that the garage was the perfect place to house a horse (in Toronto, no less) -- and never truly outgrew these tendencies -- it seemed a fair question.

"Betsy the chicken hatched her," I said.

"Really?" said Ella. "Wow.... Can I hold her? Please, can I?"

I said yes, but only after they washed their hands, unpacked their bookbags and lunches, and had a snack. We were gone for about 10 minutes, if that, when I hear a "peeping" sound clear across the main floor.

"Maybe she's hungry," said Ella.

"I don't think so," I replied. "Maybe she just misses us," I said with a smile.

Ella and I walked back into my office (nothing gets between Jack and his post-school snacktime) and even from across the room, I could see the brooder was empty. Empty? Where could the duckling have gone? She could barely stand up, let alone fly...

Right. I looked down and there she was, stumbling around my office rug like a drunken sailor.

"Are you my mother?"

Ella dropped to the floor, gathered the duckling in her dress and proceeded to stroke its tiny fragile body. She started chewing on Ella's dress buttons, so I thought maybe we could introduce a bit of food to our new charge.

I was out of the room for all of five minutes.

I guess any creature that comes to live on Rowangarth Farm has to get used to some degree of silliness around here. That and a whole lotta love.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Internet bothers

Hey, folks: Just a quick note to let you know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth (again) -- our internet satellite has been acting up, making blogging and uploading photos tricky. Back soon! xo

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our {this moment}...

...inspired by SouleMama

A single photo, no words, capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

Wishing you a weekend filled with laughter and love!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wildcrafting fiddleheads

Before we moved the farm, I'd heard lots of foodie hubbub about the deliciousness of fiddleheads, but never had the opportunity to taste them. Turns out we're sited on a treasure trove of these coveted wild edibles.

This springtime delicacy is actually the unfurled head of the Ostrich Fern (a telltale feature is the papery chaff) and can be found in woodlands or in our case, in the ditch along the road that fronts our farm.

While it's possible to buy fiddleheads at some farmer's markets (for as much as $6.99/lb), they're largely a foraged and wildcrafted springtime treat. If you're lucky enough to find some, be sure to only cut two or three fronds per plant.

The fiddlehead has a very short season -- less than two weeks, I'd say, before the frond uncurls completely and becomes inedible.

But when harvested young, the fiddlehead has a taste most often compared to a combination of asparagus, broccoli and green beans with woodsy undertones. Packed with vitamins A & C, these green gems are good for you, too!

Preparation is simple: rinse the chaff off the greens in cold water. Due to some reported cases of foodborne illness from eating raw fiddleheads, Health Canada recommends steaming or boiling before eating.

While many folks treat fiddleheads like any other kind of greens -- think stirfries, quiches and salads, for starters -- we like the quick and easy approach: I boiled this batch for 3 minutes, dumped the water and then steamed for another three minutes before tossing with some butter and dusting with salt & pepper. Delicious!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reflections on a woodland walk

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately,
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,
To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die
Discover that I had not lived.”
- Henry David Thoreau

It may be something of a cliche to quote from Thoreau when talking about the simple life, but he was my introduction to the idea of intentional living -- at least in the literary sense. And while I don't live in the woods, I spend a lot of time there.

It's a place that I find grounding. In a world that is often rushed and hurried, Nature moves at her own pace. But she waits for no one, and her gifts are both spectacular and fleeting.

I anticipate the arrival of the trilliums each year. As a spring ephemeral perennial, the trillium is only with us for a short while. Without frequent trips through the woods, it's easy to miss it.

While the white trillium may be known as common, I think it's anything but. That said, I'm always delighted to find one of the less common red trilliums.

This is the first year that I discovered trout lilies, with their nodding yellow heads and mottled leaves.

Another new find was this tiny six-leaved flower, perhaps from the Anenome family?

And these cup fungi were an intriguing discovery.

For the last few springs, Ella and I discovered the first trilliums together -- this was the first year I took this walk alone. Like her brother, she now goes to school five days a week.

The similarities between raising children and appreciating Nature's treasures isn't lost on me: it's about savouring the time you have, being present and not letting life's moments pass you by. Because like the trilliums, I miss them when they're gone.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Madcap Monday -- Together again

Last April, I posted about an unlikely pair: Jemima and Betsy, a Muscovy duck and a Columbia Rock x Rhode Island chicken who had decided to co-nest on a clutch of eggs.

Looks like they're back together for a 2011 hatching!

Happy belated Mother's Day to all you wonderful mamas!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yarn Along -- Jack's socks are done!

Taking inspiration from Ginny over at Small Things, here's this week's Yarn Along update:

I don't have anything new on the needles right now (just give me an hour), but I do have a project freshly off the needles -- yes, Jack's socks are finally done!

Author Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book Outliers, that the key to success in any field comes from practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours; also known as the "10,000 hour rule." If this is true, I must be an expert sock knitter now. Just kidding, sort of.

Here's a photo of him modelling the almost-completed pair before school this morning...

... and here's the completed pair (this is also my April Year in Colour project), along with one of the books I'm currently reading: May All Be Fed -- Diet for a New World by John Robbins.

I unearthed this book in a thrift store and as I was flipping through it, found this short passage in the introduction:

"May All Be Fed is an invitation to eating with gratitude for the blessed gift of life -- and to understanding how our food choices affect our health and our world.

In a culture that is as commercialized and depersonalized as ours can be, bringing consciousness and thanfullness to our meals is no small achievement. It is, in fact, an act of liberation."

Part one talks about how we can all benefit from eating lower on the food chain; part two offers a delicious selection of good for you -- and the planet -- recipes. I look forward to sharing some in the future!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nature's balance

I went for a walk on Saturday morning,
to survey the damage from the windstorm.

While we lost a number of trees,
I know we were very, very lucky.

Our home and our outbuildings were unscathed
and the wood can be used to keep our family warm.

But as I walked, I still felt melancholy.
The wounds seemed so raw.

But about three-quarters of the way through my walk,
I realized I'd spent so much time looking for broken and dead trees,
that I'd missed appreciating any life in the forest.

So I looked down and there it was: a promise of a trillium bloom.

Untouched and perfect.

Everywhere I looked I saw them.

And to think that it would have been so easy to miss this.

A simple reminder from Mother Nature
on the beauty of balance:

: there is death, there is birth

: there is old, there is new

: there is weak, there is strong

: there is darkness, there is light

: there is loss, there is abundance

: there is violence, there is peace

Happy belated May Day, everyone!

Madcap Monday -- Let sleeping ducks lie*

* A nod to James Herriot, author of "Let Sleeping Vets Lie".

Back in business!

After a slightly worrying visit from the hydro folks on the weekend (they took one look at the lines, turned to us and said, "Well, how are we supposed to get to that?") our power is restored!

Thanks very much for all your kind words of support, encouragement and 'been there, done that' stories.

I learned a lot from these past few days: firstly, there is a big difference between essential and convenience. The generator only provided power to a few appliances; namely it kept the well pump running, the fridge humming and the sump pumping -- and that was enough to restore my sense of security.

Secondly, I loved the absolute quiet and the complete darkness, save for the gentle glow of candlelight. These three things provided a glimpse into a different world and time, and it was lovely, serene and deeply soul satisfying.

However, the most enlightening lesson was this: I don't respond well to surprises and uncertainty. I thought I was a "roll with it" kinda girl, but evidently I'm not. Not yet.

Experience helps deal with uncertainty. It gives you the information you need to make a plan for next time. For example, I've got a better sense of what preparations we should make before the power goes out again. I'll write more about this soon -- thanks, Amy, for the suggestion!

Experience also aids in confidence building; that regardless of what life throws at me -- even something as minor as a power outage -- I can deal with it. I can cope. It'll be ok.

And recognizing my tendency to "react first, think later" gives me the power to do something different next time. And that kind of power doesn't come from having the lights on.
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