since the last post...

 ... so, so very much has happened! We are settled in to our amazing new old house, with just a few little things left to be done. (Does everyone wait for so long for carpenters to finish up the last details? It seems to be a common experience.) I can't wait to share boatloads of before and after pictures... but the 'after' isn't quite ready yet. Moving is so. much. work. I had forgotten how much I loathe it, since we'd been in our last house for nine years. Ugh. My heart goes out to you if you're in the process! But we're here now, with the chickens and bees, and a new kitty, and life is pretty darn amazing - I thought I'd share a quick update.

I haven't touched the 'real' camera in awhile, and I'm missing it. I do love having my phone with me, though, for capturing all of those sweet moments that might otherwise be missed. Like P learning to pick up chickens properly, and the boys having some summer fun. T has very specific ideas about having his picture taken, and they usually involve him avoiding the camera in some way.
 On my drive to work, if I take a tiny detour after dropping the boys off at school, there's a causeway over a lake. And on some mornings, I get to see the most beautiful sunrises. The extra 3 minutes is totally worth it. Especially if other cars don't come along and I can take as many pictures as I want to. (My artistic process involves stopping in the middle of the road, since it's a causeway and you can't really pull over.)
And from the back door at the new old house, I've been enjoying sunsets like this, over the back field. There are deer at the edge of the woods many evenings, quietly going about their business. It's so quiet.
Quiet except for two hooligans, that is. The boys are ridiculously cute, as usual. They love it here, too, and are usually very willing to help with chicken chores, stacking wood (our wood furnace is kind of awesome!) and P even helped me to clean the floors throughout the entire house today. We're in the midst of a really nice phase right now with much less bickering than we were dealing with. Moving is such a huge thing - I think we're all settling in and feeling more like ourselves.
The neglected garden that we started before moving in has given us plenty of potatoes, some hefty squash, and the tomatillos were bountiful. I'm dreaming of next year's herb garden and what I'm going to grow for the chickens.
And speaking of the chickens, I've been learning lots! Turns out that bathing one after work isn't too terrible a way to pass the time, even when she stinks and has vent gleet. It also turns out that mites are a thing. We lost one of the ladies to a mink. The mink was promptly dispatched with a bit of assistance from my Dad, with much drama and fuss amongst the other ladies. They've been molting, and I am proud to report that most of the formerly-bare bottoms are now beautifully fluffy. Sherrie's Chicken Rehab is working! I am completely in my element when I'm down at the barn getting them all sorted out and collecting eggs. They're good company, too - so gentle and quiet and funny.
And now it's November. We started lighting the candles at supper tonight, as we usually do on the first night after the time change. The hardest part of this time of year is definitely the darkness. But there are so many things I love about it - being cozy inside with wild weather outside (this weekend was perfect for staying in), ginger and cinnamon, cold, crisp air, apples, daydreams about potential Christmas decor in this new house, scarves and sweaters. I love this season!


bock, bock, bock

Folks, this post has been a long time in the making. And when I saw 'long time', I mean several years. I have seriously wanted to keep chickens for at least seven years, for a variety of reasons. I wanted the boys to be able to know the joy and responsibility of caring for animals that provide food that we eat every day. I wanted the funny companionship of these lovely creatures. I wanted to be able to feed them kitchen scraps and compost their poop to use it in the garden, making a nice tidy loop. And the eggs! We eat a lot of eggs, and fresh eggs are just the very best. We've been living in town, so I first decided to approach town council about amending the by-law prohibiting backyard hens back in 2010. That didn't go through, and since the spring of 2011, I've been patiently waiting. Reading every book I can get my hands on, visiting friends' hens, and daydreaming about collecting warm eggs. Waiting to find our forever home and property and have space to care for my very own hens and share the whole experience with the boys.

And so, I am so very pleased to report that I am now the proud owner of a flock of a dozen ISA Brown Layers. Allow me to introduce them, won't you?
First, the hens are a year old and already laying. I wanted some instant success and to avoid some of the chick intensity, and these ladies came up at just the right time. The previous owner was having some trouble with pecking in her flock (these twelve were in with many other chickens) and so they arrived here missing lots of feathers "on their butts", as Phillip likes to say. I lovingly refer to my tiny chicken operation as Sherrie's Chicken Rehab, as they appear to be a bit of a motley bunch. Apparently their feathers will take five or six weeks to grow back in, and I'm hoping that since they have some more space and lots of attention, they'll grow back beautifully. I don't know much about their past life, and I've only had them for a week, so I'm always observing them carefully for anything untoward, and I'm hoping that there aren't any underlying health issues with any of them.

They are so sweet and personable already! After a couple of days adjusting, they come trotting over when I arrive, looking for treats. Especially this beady-eyed beauty. She has been dubbed Jessica Fletcher. She's very much a busybody, and comes running as soon as I arrive. Unlike the others, she won't leave my side while I'm cleaning the coop, collecting eggs, and just having a little visit with the hens. She tilts her head from side to side to look me over, pecks at my toes, hands, pant legs, fingers, and waits patiently for me to feed her an extra little treat or two. She also solves murders in her spare time and is a wickedly accurate typist.

 You can see the bare butts above. I'm watching carefully for any signs of broken skin or any other complications.

 The coop was all set up by the previous owner. We gave it a very thorough cleaning, some fresh bedding, and these ladies settled right in. They really are a joy to hang out with, and they're good layers - we collect 8-10 eggs each day.
 This poor hen above seems to have lost the most feathers, and as she was grooming herself a bit, I caught this picture where you can see how bald her back end is.

 Thanks to my sister, who bought me these boots for Christmas last year. Jessica Fletcher really likes to peck at the left one in particular.
Back in 2010, I bought this ceramic egg holder, in full faith that I would have my very own hens' eggs to fill it with someday. I didn't think at the time that it would be four years down the road, but here we are, and it is so satisfying.
If you have chicken experience, please feel free to leave any comments with tips, hints, suggestions, etc. - I'm completely open to any and all advice!



Hello, friends! I collected a few sprigs of lavender that I've been enjoying by the kitchen sink over the past few days, so I thought I would share it with you along with a little update of what's been taking place in my little corner of the world.

First, the bees are doing very, very well. Both hives are settling in nicely. We've been checking on them regularly, and have found both queens each time, saw eggs and larvae at different stages, scraped off a bit of extra comb and even had a few tiny tastes of honey! I am smitten. Adam really is in charge of the bee department, though - he has his beekeeper notebooks and makes the plans and does the research; I'm a more-than-willing participant.

I knew that it would be cool to have bees. I knew that I would be completely enthralled with them and have a sense of responsibility to my tens of thousands of fuzzy little wards. But what I didn't expect was how mindful I'm forced to be when doing the inspections. I can't be holding a frame of brood covered in hundreds of moving bees and looking for nearly-invisible eggs while checking texts or making a grocery list. The mindfulness is its own reward; the experience is such a fulfilling and pleasurable sensory experience that it would be a shame to be distracted. The hum of the bees working away at their tasks, the beauty of light reflecting on a nectar-filled cell, the stickiness of honey and wax covering fingertips, and of course the taste of honey are as rewarding as collecting a harvest from the vegetable garden. But my favourite is the scent - something elusive about the combination of warm moving bee bodies, smoke, honey, and wax is completely intoxicating. 

House news: we're still in our same lovely house, but just for a couple more weeks! We will be renting it out, have tenants lined up, and I'm optimistic that things will work out beautifully with this long and drawn out situation after all. We will be moving to our forever home and farm (farm! I feel like an imposter just typing the word) very, very soon. There are boxes and piles and lists everywhere, and we have some wonderful family who will be helping to look after the boys over the next few crazy weeks as we move. I am doing my best to relax into the whole situation and trust that everything will indeed get done, but the part of me that craves complete order before attempting a task is trying to resist a meltdown since the nature of moving house is such that it... well, it's chaotic and messy and everything that I don't do well with when I'm feeling stressed. Wish me luck and all of the patience, love, and kindness I can muster! It will all get done, and I will do my best to handle it gracefully.

Instead of thinking ahead, though, I want to savour the lovely times that I've already enjoyed over the past month. I've had several great visits with friends old and new, and that really is my favourite part of the summer. I really need that connection with people unrelated to my school-year work-life to make me feel like myself again. And there's nothing quite like a lovely chat with an old friend on a lazy summer afternoon. I've been lucky enough to enjoy several of those over the past few weeks, and I've tried my best to soak in every minute and save it somewhere in my mind for late November or mid-February when I miss it most.


pinch me - the bees have arrived!

The bees have arrived! It hardly seems real. I've been dreaming of this for years. And now it's really happening!

We installed them on Friday at the new old house, and they appear to be happy and healthy. Above is the nuc box that each hive came in. Each has four frames and many, many sweet little honeybees. The drive home was lovely - a gentle humming in the back of the car that smelled amazing. (And yes, I drove a little bit extra carefully.) Somehow, honeybees manage to make the combined scent of honey and beeswax into something even more rich and lovely than either thing individually. I wish I could describe it accurately. On Friday, we moved them into the boxes that we had ready, where they will settle in, spread out, and keep building. The boys were fascinated, especially Thomas, who pressed his face in as close as he could get for a good look. They're just the most beautiful little creatures. We're planning our move for July, so after that, if you need me, you'll find me sitting and watching their comings and goings.

I am over the moon - so excited to add another layer of life to our new old house!



We have an old lilac that has had a rough few years. The past couple of years, we've had almost no blooms. This spring, though, it is showing off a bit, and I love every second. There are a couple of lilacs at the new old house, too - I couldn't be happier about that! It's definitely one of my favourite flower scents. I should be a bee in my next life, I think.

Things are continuing on, as they do. The days at this time of year are so long! It makes me feel as though I could get ALL OF THE THINGS done every day. But then, after supper when I go outside to putter on the back step with all of my potted herbs and pansies (this usually only lasts for three minutes before someone needs me) I soak it all in and chill out a bit and realize that all of the things will never be done, so I might as well enjoy the sun and the warm breeze for a few minutes longer.


all you need is less

Sorry if this post appeared twice in your blog feed - my mistake!

I'm popping in with another little book review (the last one for now!) that I think you might enjoy if you're new to this whole natural living business and are perhaps overwhelmed and want one book as a go-to resource. It's called All You Need Is Less: The Eco-friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity by Madeleine Somerville, a fellow Canadian from the other coast.
It's intended for "novice hippies", a term which I love, and which fits perfectly with the book. It's very hands-on and instructional, and includes sections on gardening, lifestyle, body, and home, with recipes for things like toothpaste, deodorant, cleaners, and general information about living more simply. 

If you're already fermenting kefir and making your own soap and shopping second-hand, this might have a lot of information that you already know (library!). But if you're just starting on this whole journey of living a more intentional life with less of an impact on the planet, it's got plenty of good information, recipes, and how-tos. 

My favourite part of the book is Madeleine's description of natural.
 "Natural is a bit worn and lived-in. It is welcoming and comfortable like the crinkles around a person's eyes that hint at a lifetime of happiness. Natural is forgiving and warm, and shouldn't be just another thing to feel bad about. If I had the power, I'd steer this whole eco-friendly boat away from the guilt and the one-upping and back to that warm space, back to that sense of feeling good by doing good." (p 165)

Madeleine blogs at Sweet Madeleine (I love this post from earlier in the week; it captures parenting little ones beautifully,) and you can read more about the book here.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book to review; all opinions are my own.


as of late

Phillip turned seven on Monday. He's everything (and more) than I thought he would be at this age - everything is funny, silly and goofy, and "butts" are especially so. It's so much fun to carry on conversations with him about his plans (to marry a certain girl in his class, have Thomas live with them - oh, but he has to check with her first). He is his own kid, and is as strong-willed, stubborn and determined as they come, and some days, that just about does me in. I'm hoping these characteristics will serve him well in adulthood. He's also generous, smart, and loving. And he loves math. Someone at a yard sale gave him this adding machine on the weekend, and he has been having the best time calculating his profits from future egg sales. Adam got an even better picture on Sunday. I just love him to bits.

And Thomas had his orientation day for pre-primary last week! He was (and is) so very, very excited to go to school. He'll be there for the whole day, like Phillip. It's hard to believe that this season in our little family will be shifting so drastically this fall, with no little ones at home with Adam during the days. Bittersweet.

The apple trees are in bloom, and they smell incredible. This crooked beauty is at the entrance of the path to the camp; I made the little welcome sign last summer. Speaking of the camp, it's being overtaken by carpenter ants. We're trying borax and icing sugar and are hoping it's effective. Fingers crossed.

We're planning a trip this summer, and will be passing through Portland, Maine. I'm excited to visit More & Co., and I'm hoping that we'll have the better part of an afternoon to spend in that general area. Is there anywhere that we absolutely must visit? Eat supper?

The new old house is coming along beautifully! This is the dining room. The light! So much light.

And with that, I'm off to bed. Good night!


Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden

"What can I learn about my own nature from nature? I can learn everything."

The book Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller was recommended to me a year or two ago, and I really, really loved it. In fact, I was thinking about it again a few weeks ago (which is a minor miracle for this mama who has so many million thoughts in my head at one time that I rarely remember much from books I've read) just before I received an e-mail asking if I would be interested in reviewing Karen's new book. I usually immediately delete those e-mails, but having read and loved Momma Zen, knew that this would be a book that I would enjoy, and that I would be happy to share with you.

The premise is this:
While house hunting in the summer of 1997, bestselling author and Zen priest Karen Maezen Miller stood with her husband in the backyard of an empty house. The yard was Southern California’s oldest private Japanese garden, an oasis of ponds and pines that had stood mostly intact for nearly a hundred years. While it needed a great deal of work, they knew in their bones the place could only be theirs and made an offer the very next day.
Flush with faith but light on know-how, they moved in and started working.  In Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden (New World Library, May 15, 2014), Miller uses her experience in that garden to help readers understand that the insight and contentment they are seeking “out there” actually reside right under their feet in their everyday lives.
“I began to garden. I got scratched, tired, and dirty. I broke my fingernails and ruined my shoes. I yanked out what I could have kept and put in more of what I didn’t need. I pouted and wept, cursing the enormity of the task. I was resentful and unappreciative,” writes Miller. “But when I ventured afield, sidelined by things that seemed much more entertaining or important, I always came back to this patch of patient earth. Time after time I realized that everything I want or need — the living truth of life, love, beauty, purpose, and peace — is taught to me right here, no farther away than the ground beneath my feet.”
Miller’s teachings speak directly to the anxious ills that far too often overwhelm. Her writing is pragmatic and personal, grounded in the simple truths of the natural world. Gently insistent, her voice conveys the intimacy of a face-to-face encounter, the living transmission of Zen. 

As you may know, I am all about both gardens, plants and nature as well as the everyday moments which are the pieces that make up our lives. I really do believe that once we start opening our eyes (and hearts, really) to everything that's around us, right where we are, that's when we begin to live wholeheartedly. (I'm also currently reading some BrenĂ© Brown and 'wholeheartedness' is one of her things.) 

Let me say that I don't know much about Zen practice, and you certainly don't need to in order to enjoy the book and glean some wonderful truths from it. Karen's writing is lovely and thought provoking and not a chore at all to read.

I'm still mulling over an excerpt from pp.90-91...
"... I hear someone say she is trying to live in the now. We typically say this with our heads tucked in humility, as if confessing a secret aspiration for which we believe we lack the talent, opportunity, and training. Someday I'm going to star on Broadway. Go to the moon. Live in the now. But we are all living in the now. Now is the only time there is. Right now, you may think you're living in the past or future, but you are only thinking about another time. Nostalgia seems like a harmless pastime until it renders you blind. Worry seems like a reasonable activity until it renders you insane. When our thoughts dwell in neverland, we're bound to feel sad, angry, afraid, powerless, inadequate, or overwhelmed. If you feel that way, it's a good bet that you've gotten ahead or behind the times. Perhaps it would be kind, even wise, to suggest a different way.
Someday must be the great lie of our lifetimes. We tell it for forty or fifty years. After that, we trade its false promise for the dead sentiment of the good old days. Both are thieves that will steal time right out from under your nose, and you will grieve your passing life as if robbed."

Yes, yes, YES!

So get thee to thine library, or order the book and check out her others while you're looking. (I haven't yet read Hand Wash Cold, but I'm looking forward to it!)

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. All opinions are entirely my own.


one of the last posts from this house

May is my favourite month. It feels like the summer and its warm weather are stretching out indefinitely before us, many of my favourite flowers and trees are in bloom, and the daylight hours are so long. Flowering cherry trees are the highlight of the month for me - they're so delicate and ruffly, pretty and fleeting.

We're going to start packing up this house over the next month or so, and we'll be moving to our new old forever home. I can't wait, but I will miss lots of things about this house. (It's for sale, and we just lowered the price, if you're interested!) This giant cherry tree is definitely one of the things I'll miss, along with the tulips, quince, woodland hyacinths, and the big willow tree. It's the house we brought our baby boys home to - it's always going to be a special place to me.



Now that the snowdrops have pretty much finished their show for this spring, the daffodils have appeared. These particular ones are from the property at our new old house, and I kind of enjoy the greenish tint, and the ruffliness. It's like sunshine in a Ball jar. Yes, please!


flying by

It has been a very full time for us lately, in lots of good ways, and the time has just been flying by. Making time for things other than the necessities has been challenging, with work, the new old house renovations, and so on. Even so, I've been trying to walk at least three times a week, and have a friend a few blocks over who I'll often walk with. I mix up the routes I take, but one of my favourites passes by this lovely golden grass. The fresh air never fails to make me feel more alive, and I'm always glad that I went.

I almost always listen to a podcast when I'm walking on my own, and my new favourite is the Girl Next Door Podcast. And they mention me in the latest episode! A warm, warm welcome if that's how you ended up here. Browse through the archives and enjoy your visit! I'm also on Instagram, which is where I post most frequently. I'm glad you're here!

We have some company coming tomorrow for a few days, which will be fun, especially since the forecast includes lots of sun. I hope that your weekend is lovely, too, and that you make it out for a walk.