All posts by Selka

I'm a Canadian woman living in an off-grid tiny house on a small organic orchard farm in Nova Scotia, always aspiring to a "better"- more conscious, ecological, and organic- life. I blog to keep my family and friends up to date; to share things I've learned and discovered with difficulty so that hopefully, it will help others who internet research to proceed with less difficulty; to maintain a practice of writing; and to create an illustrated journal of the arc of my life. I try to post every second day. I write about my garden, my travels, Iceland, my chickens, dog, bees and other pets, books I read, and stuff that I build and make. My husband is passionate about bicycling and he sometimes pipes up with stories about bikes and bicycling. Sometimes I swear. You can follow on Facebook too, but all I ever do there is put up my blog posts.

Firefighter

You know what’s great about a small town?  Having big fish opportunities.

Sure, the deputy asked if I was interested a couple months ago, but I’d all but forgotten about the Volunteer Fire Department until he walked across the paddock to where I was tilling the pond and told me “Yeah, tonight, 7pm, show up.”

A few hours later, I was in the head-to-toe yellow fireproof “turn-out gear”, riding the engine and learning to link hoses to hydrants, all the while on the inside going “I can’t believe this is happening!  I can’t believe this is happening!”  What an extraordinary opening, due to luck and chance and cool connections and the fact that this tiny town just doesn’t have enough volunteers clamoring to fill the 10# rubber boots.

WOW!  Overwhelmed by feeling of good fortune and opportunity.  So excited.  Things I never thought I’d be:  Structural Firefighter.

On to something I have always wanted to do: work in a library.  The first time I entered the small, limited-hours local library, I got my new library card and got straight to the point: “Need any more staff?”  Of course they do.  It’s a volunteer-run library, although linked to the BC inter-library network and very respectable.  Calloo, callay!  I start Tuesday!

Ah, life is GOOD.  I love my life.  How do these things just happen, so easily?  I love dreams coming true.

Go Mantis go

After first till
After second

I rototilled the garden today, with a tiny Mantis tiller that was barely up to the job.  Over and over, I let it churn well into the dirt, then yarded it and some dirt back towards me, then let it go dig a little deeper, repeat.  Working back and forth along the leading edge, and constantly picking the rocks it drug up.  This was the only way for its modest tine reach to really turn over at least a foot of earth.  It meant doing lateral row motions thousands of times, with the consequence that I now feel exactly like I’ve done thousands of lateral rows, but I’m happy with the dirt.  If the thing weren’t rented by the day, I’d definitely have taken two days to do it.  Six hours straight running of the machine, and my back feels every minute, but the results are nice.

All the manure that wouldn’t dissolve out of its pellet shape in the first till was softened by the rain we’ve had since, and as I churned the sedimentary clay with some of the sand that lay beneath, and the manure mixed in thoroughly, the soil looked much darker and more promising.  I’m quite happy now with the results.  The soil is a year and many yards of compost and manure and mulch from beauteous black soil, but at least it looks like it will support life now.  I continue to be joyously appreciative of the total absence of weeds in the former pond, and smug about my choice to turn pond to garden (we’ll see how long that lasts).  It was rocky to till, but absolutely rootless.  Hopefully the last till ever and the rest is up to straw and the worms.  I know many worms died today.

It was a perfect day for it, a sunny window in an everlasting week of deluge.  I got a nice sunburn, in fact, which reflects that I worked my way consistently across the garden facing west the whole time.

RSS feeds

I made my first website when I was about 20, back when altavista, angelfire and ICQ existed, and blogs and templates didn’t.  The html was write-your-own.  My 7yr old brother helped a lot, but nevertheless.  I mean to say, I’m no technological idiot (neither savant), but the concept of RSS feeds escaped me for so long that I’m just gonna share this super simplified explanation of what they do for anyone else like me that missed it.

They are especially useful for following blogs like this one, that don’t post with a predictable rhythm. Hint hint.
So.  An explication: Continue reading RSS feeds

Pond-tackling day!

Organic matter? Who, me?

It didn’t take terribly long to tear out the old pond liner.  Although it’s brittle and full of slits, I consider it very valuable still for suppressing weeds and grass in other places.  It’s heavy stuff, still, en masse, and  moving the sediment and displacing the small pocket of remaining water and swamp was dirty and tiring.Could it be that easy?  Of course not.  Naturally, there’s an older liner beneath the black, 5ml poly, only peeking out in places, and mostly entirely buried under no less than 6” of thick clay.

I'm getting better at taking before pictures

That’s the bad news.  There’s much more clay than I thought.  Also sand, and not too well mixed together.  It seems once water flowed through this pond, and left considerable sediment over the poly layer, which had original sandy soil beneath it.  Now there are distinct layers, and I’ve been hours slowly tugging and working out the plastic from between the two, so that it can be tilled. Continue reading Pond-tackling day!

The five pallet compost

First things first.  We need a compost.

Before
After

The flu released me this morning.  After three days of staggering anytime I needed to move, and fearing fainting at any moment, I’m surprised to feel practically full strength immediately.  I cleaned up a number of little nests of junk that were making my eyes hurt today.  That was quite esthetically satisfying.

One of the major nests was lamentably in the ideal location for a compost bin (thanks for finding it, Mogi).  By the horse manure pile, where stink and flies already make their home, out of sight of our dwellings, and in Mucky’s turf, where the bear fears to tread.

It all went shockingly smooth and faster than I expected.  When does that happen?  Lumber (and random fencing, barbed wire, garbage, tarps, etc) out, pallets in, and … we’re done.  Practically built itself.  There’s only about a half-dozen nails in this.

Pallets rule.  I have weird affection for pallets, because I appreciate the (very, very, I know) simple elegance of their design and their underrated versatility and workhorse endurance.   Continue reading The five pallet compost

54 to go

Cat added for scaleThis is what 50 books looks like.

I was so gung-ho to garden when I got back but my body had other plans.  I’m sick as anything with an intestinal bug, and I’m sleeping as much as possible.  When it’s not possible, I’m reading.

After totting up where I stand on my 100 books/year mission (it’s not pretty- four months left and I’m barely half way), I sifted through my four boxes of “haven’t read” for 50 that most excite me.  I liked the way they looked stacked (in NO particular order).  Although the tower as pictured  is far too tenuous, I’ve left them arranged with all spines enticingly revealed, so that if any one grabs me in the moment, I can grab right back.

Montreal

I’m on a hedonistic, city-level capitalistic bender of an adventure.  It’s not productive at all.  It’s not well thought out, and is completely indulgent.  I have lots of things I could be up to at home, but I lit out on this adventure to make the break from working decisive.  It is that.  Since it’s not really underwritten by a mission, it’s kind of relaxing.

Work was hard this March and April and my response to that for decompression was correspondingly extreme- going to Montreal to catch a UFC fight.  Hitchhiking home would have been productive, to spark more book work, but my awesome brother ferreted out that VIA was having a 60% off fare sale, and so I’m going home on the train.  Another tick off the list.  I’ve always wanted to take this train.

But I’ve spent a lot of time in the last week surrounded by people, walking around Canada’s biggest cities, navigating the undergrounds, shopping, and searching for nutrition in concrete jungles.  It’s not only a sharp contrast to how I intend to live my life (and do), but it’s an immersion in things I morally disagree with.
Continue reading Montreal

Biodiesel!

Unreasonably excited about the first fill-up with Bio!

It went like this.  I asked everyone I thought of, “where can you get biodiesel around here?”.  Anyone driving diesels, when I was hitchhiking, anyone who looked vaguely alternative.  Most people knew where Bio used to be available,  and a few people said “there’s someone in the valley making it.”  But no one knew more than that.  Then one person had a name. “There’s a guy in the valley making it.  I think his name’s Chris.”  Then a couple more people also knew his first name.  Still, not enough to go on.

On my way through the valley with a friend to go to the hot springs, we stopped at the health food store for halvah and to ask about Bio.  “oh yeah, I think his name’s Chris Summers.  And here’s a phone book”  Waahahaha (the sound of sunbeams parting clouds)

We were at his house in minutes.  A dollar a litre, here’s a funnel.  This family is so fully in production, with 1000s of litres ready to go,  it’s astonishing to me that so few people for so long could put me in touch with him.  FYI for locals- phone book under Vallican, and he’s in the Pennywise.  You can buy 5 gallon containers to go, and he visits Nelson weekly to exchange empties for fulls, so it really couldn’t be easier.

I was absolutely ecstatic to pour Bio in the tank for the first time. That’s what I got this truck for, after all.  Felt so good and freeing, to be at the end of a recycling loop, instead of counting km and feeling answerable for every one in terms of global cost.  Do I really need to drive this today?  Total weight off my mind to finally find my source!

It seemed to me the needle was moving more slowly, too, but I’ll have to run a few tanks scientifically to know for sure.

Just as I’m about to leave for my ridiculous mission, the sun warms the grass and the air seems full of life and I’m touched with enthusiasm for rending and tearing and building.  I’ve been so buried in work I haven’t wanted to force anything else into my overcrowded brain.  But I had a look at the barn I need to work on and found it patiently and hopefully waiting to be shucked from its shell of disrepair and turned into something cute.  So much potential!

I need to create an envelope of insulated living space to move my stuff into it.  I’m thinking rockwool insulation, canvas instead of drywall, a couple patio doors replacing the barn doors for some passive solar.  Definitely bedroom in the loft.  Composting toilet.   I’m planning to partition the giant space and make a smaller habitat at first, that can be expanded later.  I’m still mulling over the plumbing.  How much is enough?

Then there’s the garden.  There are a number of retired gardens, all owned by grass again.  I’ve got my eye on the old pond.  The ruined liner is tattered, but the earth beneath is black and rhizome free because of the water and poly.  It would make a lovely terraced garden, and in the middle of the horse paddock, it’s already fenced for deer. The obvious downfall is that the depression will be a cold sink, with all the coldest air around pooling there, frosting earlier as well.

Then I can move on to camper renovations.