Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A letter from a cat

Friends of ours went away for Christmas and asked us to look after their cat Nikki.  They were very concerned about leaving her so Nikki wrote them a letter...

Dear Mommy,
I wondered where you went!  The sunny weather sounds nice but not as nice as being able to curl up on your bed all by myself in the sunshine.  I told you we didn't need a dog – I can guard the house ALL-BY-MYSELF!!

Aunt Anita came and she even left extra treats in my bowl – didn't you tell her I could have ten?  Well she gave me a three extra – maybe she can’t count.  I ate all my wet food on both days- aren't I a big kitty?
I pooped on the floor this morning in my special spot just to see what she would do – hee hee – she had to clean it up!!
I am nice and warm and cozy and being really lazy.  I haven’t done much since you left – I get to have a holiday too!
I’ll write again soon – next time I’ll ask Aunt Anita if she has anything to tell you.  She didn’t tell me anything today she just petted me and talked nonsense.  I can tell she was trained by a dog!
Have fun – Meowry Christmas!!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Merry Christmas

It`s early morning on Christmas Eve at Shalom Engedi Farm.  I`m sitting in the soft glow of a look-a-like oil lamp wrapped up in a blanket.  It`s still dark outside and the house is quiet - except for the dog snoring softly on the couch beside me.

I embrace this early morning peacefulness while anticipating the busyness that`s still coming over the next few days with a house full of family.  Laughter and fun, board games and card games, shuffle board and too much food... talking over tea and cookies and munching on chocolate letters...seeing the new fallen snow... watching Home Alone 1, 2 and 3 - again.  This year we`re squeezing in a scrapbooking day as well.

Our family Christmas traditions are like the ribbon on the package of family.  Those are the things we do at this time of year that say I love you, I value you and you are part of our FAMILY. 

Christmas matters.  It colors our lives through the rest of the year - not because we have such great traditions or because we always get along perfectly but because it`s a time to say in words - we are family - through thick and thin - For Ever For Always No Matter What!

Those words ring true for us because someone else said them long ago.  At Christmas we celebrate  the coming of Christ the King - born in a manger as a tiny baby - who completely rocked this world.  He came for us who had no-family-and-no-friends-and-no-place-to-belong and opened His arms and His heart and then gave His life for us so we could be part of HIS family For Ever For Always No Matter What.

Every day is different for me because I am part of His family.  it changes everything.  That little baby - that Saviour King - He changed my life - He GAVE me LIFE.  He came for us.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.`John 3:16 (The Message)

So I`m sitting here on this Christmas Eve morning - in the quiet - remembering and being so grateful that I belong to His family and that I can experience the love of my family and friends this Christmas.  

Merry Christmas from Shalom Engedi Farm

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wood stoves - Cook Stoves - what a beautiful dilemma

It's been a bit of a process but we've finally made up our minds what to do about the wood stove - cook stove dilemma we've (I've) been struggling with. I have written before about my absolute love of all things old and beautiful but I would NOT want an old stove because burn technology and heat shields  have come a long way in the past 25 years and I am concerned about safety above all.  

Our search had several criteria. 

  1. It had to look good.  
  2. It needed to be efficient.  
  3. I would like to cook on it. 
  4. The price needs to be taken into consideration.  

It may sound shallow but that was in order of importance!

We spent part of the past weekend  learning about wood stoves by visiting different wood stove dealers.  We asked lots of questions and were able to see - in person - some of the stoves I had researched on-line. The real dilemma in making the choice lay in what we want the stove for in the first place.  Our first priority is an alternative way to heat the house - the second is cooking.  I had to keep reminding myself of that goal.

My all time favourite is the Heartland Wood Cook stove - and who wouldn't love it???  It's even more beautiful in real life!  This is the stove I drooled over - almost literally...  The problem: It was pricey - about $7000.00 and It has a small firebox which means it needs to be restocked regularly and although many people use it to heat their homes I was looking for something that I could fill up and leave longer than the 7-8 hours max it is rated.  Chopping wood is not on my list of - I-can't-wait-to-do-this-some-more so if I gotta do the work then I want all the bang  for the buck I can get for my sweat equity. 

I've researched the most efficient wood stoves on the market in the past few weeks and came up with the Blaze King. It's Canadian-made wood stove with a catalytic system built right in to create less emissions and therefore less creosote.  In some cases it allows for a 40 hour burn! Wow - that's impressive.  I watched all the videos on Blaze King I could find.  Great technology.  The problem: it is the ugliest stove you have ever seen and it didn't improve AT ALL in person.  It's a big square ugly box and no matter how I squinted I could never imagine it in my dining room and therefore who cares what it costs :)  If it was out of sight - i.e.  a basement or a garage - it would be my first choice.

One of the others I wanted to see was the Esse cook stove.  This stove made in the UK has great reviews for heating a home and cooking.  It looks nice too.  I liked it but the price tag of $7000.00 was more than my budget could bear.

So - we needed to look for something else.  We stopped in a place called Friendly Fires in Peterborough and walked into WOODSTOVE-COOKSTOVE-GAS-STOVE-BBQ HEAVEN!  We found really nice people who really knew what they were talking about.  We got the most answers to our questions of all our stops and they took their time to explain everything without making us feel we were taking too long (or we were dumb - which of course we were!)

All through this process I had my conversation with Michelle Mather in the back of my mind.  Last year she pointed out that having a cookstove as your main cooking appliance meant you would have to fire up the beast in the middle of the summer in order to cook - oh yeah. Her suggestion was to get a good quality woodstove - and she and her husband Cam recommended the Pacific Energy Brand (and later get a gas cookstove that looked like the cookstove of my dreams. oooh!)  

After looking at many other brands we settled on one made by Pacific Energy - the Alderlea. 

Built around Pacific Energy’s legendary Super Series steel firebox, the Alderlea T5 combines the very best features of both cast iron and steel stoves. Elegant, historic cast iron styling that adds to the decor of any room, radiant and convective heat, huge glass for a full view of your fire, a concealed cook top for peace of mind during power outages all in a proven easy- lighting, clean, long-burning heater with 30 years of wood stove technology behind it.

Matt - they guy we talked to at Friendly Fires mentioned hat one of the other men who worked there had guided the purchase of wood stoves for his whole family and wouldn't let them buy anything BUT an Alderlea because as a repair man he KNEW that these were the least likely to break down, the easiest to fix if they did and the most efficient.  Apparently people who own one never want anything else - even 20 years later they are coming back for the same stove.  Well - that was the kind of recommendation we were looking for. It's also pretty, it has a swing out cook top and the price of $2500.00 was more within the budget range.  

Our stove chimney will go straight up through the ceiling of the dining room, through the corner of second floor family room and out the sloped roof - the install cost was quoted at around $3000.00.  Spending that kind of money I think it's worth our while to purchase a really good stove rather than put an old stove in and hoping for the best.  I feel very confident the Alderlea will last for many years and safely do the job with style.

Soon we will have one more step done in the plan to be more self sufficient!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A baby lamb in time for Christmas!

There is nothing sweeter in the animal kingdom than babies.  Little baby Hubert is no exception.  He is a mischievous and playful little guy and we're already falling in love.  

Sometimes the best way to do things isn't exactly how they happen...and such was the case with our newest ewe Juliette.  We bought her from a friend who had left the ram running with the ewes all summer so he had no idea when she was due to lamb just that she looked good and pregnant.  She's a purebred Canadian, has been a mom before and had a sweet disposition - exactly the character traits I was looking for.

We'd been checking her often the last few weeks and expecting a baby-any-day.  Nothing.  Nothing. Nothing. I was getting just a little concerned because we have a weekend away planned and I didn't want to worry about lambing in the middle of our 25th anniversary dinner! Thankfully that won't be a problem.  My DS was putting the animals in for the night and came running back to tell me that Juliette was going to have her baby any minute.  Hurrah!

One of my beautiful daughters with 2 day old Baby Hubert
Such excitement!  We missed all the other births because they happened in the middle of the night so I really was hoping to be here for this one.  We got back to the barn just in time.  DS had already moved momma into the lambing jug to keep the other sheep at a distance. A lambing jug is a small enclosure - about 4 feet square - that provides a safe place for momma and baby to be for a few days after the birth while they bond.  It might have been better if she hadn't been confined before the birth but by the time I got there it was going to happen any minute so we just left her in the jug  

As soon as we got there I could see tiny hooves appearing - everything was happening exactly the way it should.  A few minutes later baby Hubert arrived into the world and all was well.  

I am just amazed at how energetic he was - struggling to get up on his feet and succeeding in less than 5 minutes.  He was wobbly to be sure but even that didn't last long.  Momma was doing her job licking him clean and very attentive and careful as she moved around the pen.  It didn't take long for him to figure out how to really is a wonderful experience to be sitting on straw in a dimly lit pen with the wind whistling outside and animals surrounding you watching a miracle happen.

All the sheep and Maybe the donkey had their heads over the rails to watch what was going on.  They were very interested in the new arrival and when he wobbled over near the corner of the jug they all took turns sniffing him.  It was so sweet to watch them welcoming the newest member of their family to the world.  

I thought Juliette was for-sure going to have twins.  She was huge!!  I waited and waited to see if another baby was coming but after a few hours I concluded that was it.  I went to check on her several times that night and at 11 pm I finally decided all was well and it was time for bed.  We left a heat lamp on all night but he was toasty warm every time I checked.

Hubert's fate is still up in the air.  His bloodlines are pure-bred Canadian and he will likely sire bigger lambs than our Shetland ram Mr. Sheepie ever will.  Should we keep him?  Should we sell him? Decisions decisions!

Another successful birth and addition to Shalom Engedi Farm and I am happy to report I lost a lot less sleep over this birth than the previous ones!  I think I'm getting the hang of this farmer bit and I can tell you it's better than I ever imagined!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fam-Jam - No Peeking till after Christmas!!!

It's Christmastime and I'm making home-made gifts again this year. I am incredibly blessed to be the recipient of my whole villages extra canning jars - or so it seems.  I put the word out and everyone seems to know that I will take anything they have.  Along with the more modern mason jars I have several boxes of these old beauties.  Glass lidded and zinc covered - jars to swoon over! 

After admiring them for awhile I decided I could part with some of them - you know you have a serious addiction to canning jars when you have to think it over before you commit to giving them away!

I filled the jars with a mixture of Epsom salts and lavender flowers.  Apparently it smells heavenly!  I bought essential oils to add to the mixture but my daughter (aka: the family nose) says they smell better without it but we're a low-odour family partly because I have no sense of smell and partly because I have allergies to so many things I err on the side of caution when it comes to fragrance - you might like the extra lavender scent.

I mixed 5 cups of salt to one cup of flowers - it filled almost three pints.  One pint is enough for about three luxurious and relaxing baths.  I used beautiful purple wrapping paper over the glass lid and under the zinc ring to match the purple ribbon.

Epsom Salts are not really salt at all - it's actually a naturally occurring mixture of magnesium and sulfate which are easily absorbed by your skin. Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function and helping to prevent artery hardening. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients,flush toxins and help ease migraine headaches.  You can read more by clicking on the hyper link  In short it's really good for you.  Lavender has long been known as the relaxation scent.  Apparently just smelling it causes you to relax, helps ease migraines and can help with insomnia.   So - this gift is more than just a pretty jar - it has all those wonderful qualities as well! 

The perfect Christmas gift!

Just in case my neighbours are reading this - yes please I would still like more canning jars.

(To Whom It May Concern... I know you're reading this and I told you not to peek!!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas 2012 at Shalom Engedi Farm

The old barn door.

The Christmas Tree 2012

I love oil lamps.

Rusty Cookie cutter - rust rocks!

These beautiful crocheted snowflakes were a gift from a friend when we first got married.  I want to make more for next year.

 Some of my favourite yard sale finds are old tart tins that I re-purposed into ornaments.

The Christmas Village has found a new place in this home but it's been part of our Christmas traditions for many years.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Video: A self sufficient village in medieval ruins

I've never posted a video before but this one is a really good example of people working together towards a common goal of building a self sufficient community in the ruins of a medieval town.  It's good to hear that your mind is the biggest thing holding you back - they have done things that are nearly impossible!!