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Hey kids,

I thought maybe I should check in here on the blog since it may seem like I have disappeared off the face of the earth.  Rest assured I have not, but instead have been taking a rather long and unplanned break from the blog and any other kind of writing in general, really.  There have been a few developments around here to prompt this hiatus, most notable being that, back in May, my beloved Big Brother had a stroke. 

I am happy to report he is doing wonderfully and is home and on the mend, and I am very very proud of him for how hard he is working in his recovery and how well he is adapting to this massive crappy curveball life threw at him.  While he does have some physical weakness on his one side, Big Brother’s major hurdle is that the stroke affected his speech – he knows exactly what he wants to say but has a hard time spitting it out.  And while this in itself shows just how unbelievably lucky he was (it’s about perspective – it could have been so much worse), not being able to express himself as he normally would has required a great deal of adaptation on his part and an amount of patience that boggles me.  It would be so easy for him to give up and not even try to talk.  It would be so easy for him to withdraw and wonder why he got dealt this shitty hand in life.  But he doesn’t.  I’ve always idolized my Big Brother  – he’s been my hero since the day I was born – but now?  Now I want to tell the world that this, this right here, is what it is all about.  This is my strong, amazing Big Brother and I couldn’t be more proud of him. 🙂

I also want everyone to know that stroke can happen to anyone.  Big Brother is only 40 years old, and as best as the doctors can tell, his stroke was caused by his sleep apnea.  Please, if you have sleep apnea  WEAR YOUR BREATHING MACHINE.  Even if you are young and as strong as a bull moose,  just wear it.  Also, if you suspect something is not right with someone you love just call 911 or go to the emergency room.  It is not a waste of time.  Big Brother is most likely here today because my incredibly smart and astute sister-in-law Bex figured out what was going on and got him to the hospital instead of letting him to back to bed (his stroke happened while he was sleeping).  I’m still amazed that Bex put the pieces of the puzzle together and reacted so quickly – I can’t say that I would have.  Who would suspect a 40-year-old would be having a stroke?  We owe everything we have today to her, my wonderful sister-in-law.   And, please, learn the warning signs of stroke.  Medical treatment of stroke is time-sensitive with the best possible outcomes if help is received within 2-3 hours.  If you even think that your loved one might be having a stroke, just go and get help.  It’s worth it, no matter what.

Right now I am working on a more in-depth post about stroke because I think it’s important, and about Big Brother because he’s a pretty awesome guy and I want to introduce him to all of you, but I want to get it right and my writing mojo seems to have vanished for the time being.  I also didn’t want to write about everything that has been going on until I knew what I wanted to say, and writing about other things as if nothing had happened seemed dishonest and somehow disrespectful.   So I’m not sure if my hiatus is over yet or not, I guess time will tell.  We do have some fairly neat homesteading-type things going on around here that I want to share, I just don’t know when I’ll do that.  Maybe tomorrow, maybe not.  We’ll see.  Until then, I hope everything is well in your neck of the woods and that you’re all behaving yourselves.   I’ll be back soon.

Later, kids. 🙂

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Hey kids,

Well, my week ended on a pretty awesome note.  After a rather trying work week, I settled down for my Friday night ritual of basking in the warm electronic glow of internet bloggy goodness to find that Simone from simplehealthyhomemade had given me the Versatile Blogger Award!  I am really touched (and quite frankly surprised!) since I hardly ever write on here, and to learn that there are actual people out there who are enjoying what I do write is a really good feeling.  She also said some very sweet things about me so, Simone – thank you.  You made my day. 🙂  And please, show her the love and check out her blog. Her recipes are just like her blog name says – simple, healthy and homemade, and they simply rock.  I’ve bookmarked many and imagine I will only be adding to the list. 🙂

So here are the rules for accepting the award, hopefully I do ok!

1.  Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.

2.  In the same post, add The Versatile Blogger Award.

3.  In the same post, thank the blogger that nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.

4.  In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.

5.  In the same post, include this set of rules.

6.  Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

For my 15 nominated bloggers, I’ve decided to shake things up a bit.  I’ve been doing a bit more exploring and have come across some really awesome blogs that I just love to read.  This list is by no means all of them, it’s simply a matter of too many great blogs, too little space. 🙂

Northernhomesteader – homesteading in Alberta.  I love to read about how fellow Canadians are doing it, and look forward to reading about how their story unfolds.

I also live on a farm – a blog I love so much I’ve already added it to my blogroll.  Old ways, old farm and a pleasure to read.

A Year On The Farm – farming in Georgia and another pleasure to read.  I’ve requested that Julia post gratuitous cow pictures so I can get my cow fix through her vicariously. 🙂

soilentgreens – organic farming in Texas.  She hates Monsanto and makes me laugh, which are two easy ways to get into my good books.

Mr Poopers Day Out – Best blog name ever!!  Goats, knitting and on St. Patrick’s Day she posted pictures of goats wearing hats.  It’s love, kids.

Giantveggiegardener’s Blog – vegetable gardening in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  350 lb pumpkins!! 62 lb zucchini!!  An inspiration since every year I try to grow a giant pumpkin.

greenpioneerwoman – awesome food storage recipes.  I’ve mentioned them before, but her elderberry muffins are now legendary here.

mikethechickenvet – Yep, he’s an actual chicken vet!  A wealth of information and I appreciate his objectivity.

wuppenif OR what would happen if…? – homesteading near Ottawa, Ontario.  I like to read about like-minded people close to home.  Sort of like having a coffee with a neighbour.

animalfarm – a small farm in Ireland.  I daydream about going to Ireland, until then I have this charming blog.

domesticatedphysicist – another pleasure to read and a little bit of everything.  It cracks me up that she nicknamed her husband “Beard”.

thefarmingwife – cooking, food preservation and gardening on a farm in Nebraska

Just Another Day on the Farm – of course I’m going to nominate Farmgal, she’s my #1 go-to for inspiration and info.  Heck,  even the stuff I google takes me to her site.  Plus, she likes zombies. 🙂

The Milk Maid Marian – from Australia.  I have a serious soft spot for dairy farmers.

Letters From An Urban Trench – soon to be homesteading in Northern Ontario.  I look forward to reading what is to come.

And 7 completely random (but fascinating) bits of information about myself:

1.  I’ve never eaten a Big Mac.  It’s kind of sad that people are shocked when they hear this.

2.  I was once in the same room as Stephen King.  Not close enough to touch him, which is probably a good thing because there would have been touching.

3.  I cried like a baby watching Dante’s Peak.  You know, when the grandma jumps into the lake of acid to save her family….what?  It was sad.

4.  I secretly nickname everyone I know.  Mildly offensive names that pertain to personal hygiene are good (e.g. “Stinky”), while some are just offensive (e.g. “The Harpy”).  But that’s why they are secret.

5.  We once drove non-stop to Oklahoma so Mr. S compete in a world championship fishing tournament.  Saw a guy at a rest stop in Indiana in the middle of the night with clown makeup on.  Kinda blew my preconceptions of Indiana out of the water.

6.  John Corbett is my boyfriend, he just doesn’t know it yet.  Don’t worry, Mr. S is cool with it.

7.  I didn’t change my name when I got married, so technically Mr. Sandybanks has my name here on the blog.  I also chose Sandybanks as my blog alias because for some reason I think it sounds mildly dirty and this amuses me.

So there you have it.  Thank you again to Simone for nominating me, and happy reading kids!

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I had big plans for today, but it turns out ol’ Ma Nature did to.  Seems she picked today to give us some real spring weather, as opposed to the premature summery weirdness as of late.  Not that I’m complaining – March is supposed to be wet and cold and I would rather have normal than freakishly lovely.  I know that sounds strange, given the amount of complaining I do about winter, but I have found the recent run of unseasonably warm weather a bit unsettling.  Also unsettling was the thought that I would soon have to break out the shorts again and thus expose the world to the sight of my “winter” legs.   But as it turns out it’s cold and blustery outside today, with the kind of rain that stings when it hits you, so after a bit of poking around I retreated to the house, looking for things to do, and with my legs safely hidden from view.

I have been sorting through all of my seeds and planning the garden for this year.  I have also determined that I may have a seed hoarding problem.  Of course, what one person calls hoarding, another may call “zombie preparedness”.  I am that other person.

Sometimes you have to stop and take a look at what you have.  You know, actually open jars and stuff.  Here’s some parsnip seed I don’t remember saving, but yet there it is.  Neat.

"Thanks for getting this new and interesting thing out, I really need to take a whiz."

 Once the kitties started digging through the boxes, it was time to put them away.  And no, I couldn’t have just done it at a table.  That would be too logical.

No signs of life so far in the trays in the windows.  I look at them every night with a wee bit of excitement.  I’m sure some of you out there know exactly what I am talking about.

Out in the garden there are a bunch of things I left that made it through the super mild winter.  I’m so excited that the whole row of kale is growing again.  Because, you know, I can save the seeds…

The brussels sprouts are back too, which is pretty darn cool.  I’ve never had any overwinter so have no idea what to expect in terms of flowering and seed saving.  Plus, these were a hybrid so will be a future experiment if I do get any seeds.

And since we’re outside, I might as well show you what Mr. S was doing before it got raining in earnest….my future chicken coop!  This was the old pumphouse where they used to fill up the tractors.  After a lot of dilly-dallying about fixing the roof in the old milk house to use as a chicken palace, we decided to fix this up instead so I can at least get a few chickens in the meantime.  There’s going to be a fenced-off yard, and I figure I can stuff about eight or so in there.

And here’s the back side, because I find it so fascinating.

So that’s what I’ve been up to today – basically anything but cleaning my house.  What have you been doing?  🙂

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Hey kids, I thought I should check in before anyone gets any crazy thoughts about me falling down abandoned wells or being carried off my marauding farm-pirates or something, and because organizing a search party would be pretty much useless since only a couple of you actually know where I live.  And while I suppose a province-wide search would be theoretically possible, Ontario is a really big place full of many hazards and I would hate to expose you all to that, and there would be the whole Toronto corridor to deal with and traffic would simply be a nightmare.

All joking aside, I have been in full hunker-down mode lately as I have not been feeling exactly 100%.  After a couple of weeks of trying to let an ear infection run it’s course I finally broke down and  got checked out and ended up on some sort of time-release antibiotics that, in some ways, were worse than the infection itself.   I won’t go into details, but it wasn’t pretty kids.  In the meantime I’ve had a good case of the doom and glooms going on, mostly because I’m sick of feeling like crap, and other than going to work I’ve been avoiding most human interaction.  I’m human and it happens, and luckily I have a wonderfully supportive husband who doesn’t take it personally when I get my grump on, and two furry little weirdos who I actually think prefer it when I do.  Me not feeling well means many more snuggle opportunities, although I am getting a little tired of being a travelling kitty warming station.  I love their furry little faces, but it is nice to, every now and then, stand up without disrupting someone’s beauty sleep.

Anyway, all of this has meant that I never did keep up with the $10/week food storage challenge, or at least reporting about it anyway.  I did complete the month doing my best to stay within the parameters of the challenge, though.  Am I glad it’s over?  Honestly, yes.  Was it easy?  It should have been, but it wasn’t.  The challenge itself should have been a breeze, but I’ll admit my heart just wasn’t into it, feeling like poo and all, although physically I was capable of getting everything done that needed to be.  I did keep going to work afterall, and despite my whining I really am not a sally and can rally with the best of them.  I did learn a few things, mainly I am not nearly as prepared as I had hoped I would be, and for that alone I am glad that I did the challenge.  Mostly though, I have been thinking about modern medicine and the luxury of being able to hang back when things get tough.  Great-Grandma sure couldn’t, and I surely could not either if I didn’t live in a time and place that made necessities like health care and food readily available.  I’ve got a whole separate post on this subject simmering on the back burner, but I’m going to let it stay there for a little while yet – it would be too easy right now to get a-rantin’ and that’s not what I want to do.  But I will say this: people who seem to want The Zombie Collapse of The World and Everything annoy the crap out of me and make me want to smack the pants right off them.  But like I said, I’ll get to that later.

So with all this curmudgeony kitty-snuggling going on, I really don’t have much in the way of new and interesting things to share as I’ve been more in maintenance mode than anything else.  I do however have one really awesome find to report on – Green Pioneer Woman’s elderberry muffins.  I made these during the challenge using sauce from our foraged apples and wild elderberries Big Brother found way back in the fall.  They got the official Dad Seal of Approval which is pretty high praise – when Dad says something is “great”, you can generally count that it is.  If you like elderberries, check them out.  They’re good stuff.

Meanwhile things are changing around here, though.  Already I can feel the shift, and it makes me glad. The killdeers and red-winged blackbirds are back, and as usual my heart lifts when I hear them singing. Their return marks the turning of a page  for me much more than any calender does. All this week I noticed how much more light was left in the sky after I got home from work, and with today’s spring ahead it will only get better from here on out.  Suddenly I am anxious for my seed orders to arrive, and to get planting and let the new year to begin in earnest.  Suddenly I want to shake off the stupor and get going.  Good stuff, indeed.

So what is it like in your neck of the woods?  Has spring found you or are you still waiting to get going?  What marks the turning of the seasons for you?  Tell me about it!

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This past Sunday I was doing a little baking, attempting to use up some of the excess stuff I have kicking around left over from Christmas (someone remind me why I bought 1 kg of marshmallows??).  Normally I don’t read the labels on processed stuff like this because I know they are full of garbage, but this one caught my eye.  I decided not to blur out the brand name because, hey, they put this crap in there, not me.

Do you see the words “sodium metabisulphite”?  That’s what did it.  Not to go into too much detail about my personal life, but I work in a lab and we use sodium metabisulphite to dechlorinate municipal water.  And we wear gloves when using it.  A little googling later I also found out it is used as a sanitizer, an ingredient in film development solution and an industrial bleaching agent in addition to the food industry’s use of it for keeping dried fruit from oxidizing (browning).  Oh, and it is also apparently really handy in removing pesky tree stumps.  And kids, as an additive goes, this isn’t even one of the bad ones.

I’ve been mulling it over the past couple of days and I’ve decided that, in general, the human race is pretty much insane.  But then again, I have been pretty grumpy lately.

I’m not even going to look at the marshmallows.

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Liebster Love

 

Hey kids, I’m a Liebster!

Farmgal from Just Another Day On The Farm has given me the Liebster Blog award!  Me!  I am really quite touched to have been included in her list, Farmgal is a constant source of inspiration for me and to be included among her “dearest” (liebster) is quite an honour (if you want to know why, click the link to her blog – she rocks).  Plus, I totally *heart* anything Deutsch. 🙂

So what is a Liebster blog award?  It is given to showcase up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers that are favourites of the person giving the award.  Upon accepting the award, the recipient must pass on the love and choose five Liebster blogs of their own.  Here are the rules:

1- Choose FIVE up and coming blogs to award the Liebster to. Blogs must have less than 200 followers.

2- Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.

3- Post the award on your blog. List the bloggers you gave the award to with links to their sites.

 

I’ve had a very hard time coming up with five Liebster blogs of my own, for a number of reasons.  Many of the blogs I follow either don’t meet the criteria, I have no idea if they meet the criteria (as in I have no idea how many followers they have) or have already been covered by other Liebster recipients.  I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and just post what I love and that, to the best of my knowledge, follow the rules.  My apologies if they do not, and I figured no one would mind getting mentioned twice. 😉

1.  Outtakes On The Outskirts – cats, chickens and country life all with a wicked sense of humour.  Got to love anyone who would describe a mouse as a “freaking fuzzy ninja”.

2.  Providence Acres Farm – from Barrie, ON.  I lost this one for a while when *someone* reset our computer back to the factory settings and I lost all of my bookmarks.  Lots of great information and the wine!  Oh, the wine.

3.  Rural Dreams – farming and self-sufficiency in Saskatchewan.

4.  Backyard Farms – from Toronto, ON.  I like to read about how city gals do it too.

5.  The Cult of Otis – no farming or homesteading here, but I am completely smitten with these kittens.  Ok, cats. Mighty, majestic cats.  I wouldn’t want to disrespect the Leader or the Brothers.

 

There you have it, my five Liebsters.  Thanks again Farmgal, and happy reading kids!

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Christmas and Catching Up

Merry Christmas, kids!  I know I’m a little late, but just like Bob Cratchit I’ve been making rather merry and am behind my time. 🙂

This Christmas, as usual, was a whirlwind of activity that had me feeling like I was nearing the end of a marathon, and I guess in a way I was.  Over the past few years as I add more and more to my repertoire, my “busy season” seems to begin sometime in April when the garden goes in and finishes off with  the last of the Christmas baking and visiting.  This Christmas eve found me leaving work early and sliding into home with what felt like a big dust trail behind me, but with a big smile because, officially, the festivities could begin.  I spent that evening delivering cookies to the neighbours and visiting, something that is my own personal tradition and one that I treasure.  I am surrounded by some really amazing people and all too often we fail to take the time to stop and catch up with each other.  At Christmas there’s no excuse, it simply must be done.  

My neighbour, H, always warrants a special visit.  H will be 98 in two months, and by any and all measure is a remarkable woman.  I marvel at the things she has seen and done and always come away from our visits with a bit of awe.  H still lives in the house she was born in, on the farm she always worked, and keeps a sharp eye on the barn where her son and grandson still milk the cows.  This visit I got caught up on the goings on around their place (it’s a fact that I have serious cow envy and will literally listen until…wait for it…the cows come home), and the problems they have been having with their breeder.  Picture two women, a generation apart, sitting at a kitchen table talking about bull semen on Christmas eve.  I really do love where I live. 🙂

Leaving H’s it was off to S’s.  S is very special to me and more like family than anything else.  Some of my earliest memories involve her, since when she was a girl whenever she would get bored she would end up at our place and babysit me for fun.  S was my own personal elf this year, helping me with the sneaky Christmas sneakiness by bringing my hubby’s present home from town for me ( a tool chest – no way it was fitting in my dinky car) and hiding it in her milk house.  She even offered to wrap and deliver it for me on Christmas day!  I declined her amazing offer, so after the initial visiting was through off we went to the barn to wrap.  Picture two middle-age-ish women, standing in an old milk house, giggling because one of their husbands will have to put pants on to get his present.  Have I mentioned that I love it here?  🙂

Then, finally, home to my patient husband for a quiet night of old movies on the couch and red-hot poo-poo’s (otherwise known as finger foods).  Christmas day was spent at home at my request, and for the first time Mr. S and I cooked the dinner for my family.  It was a hit, even though we missed Grandma’s stuffing and I botched the sauce for the pudding.  Oh well.  Boxing day found us on the road and off to Mr. S’s family, who had patiently waited for us to begin the family merriment, although the visit was too short as I had to return to work the next day.

As usual, I wish that I had taken more pictures.  I always seem to forget.  And since I won’t post pictures with people in them, consider this fair warning – the following is kitty-heavy. 🙂

I had meant to do a post about Grandma’s springerle, but as you can see that didn’t happen.  Guess there’s always next year.
 
 
 
This is what happens when I try to wrap.
 
 
Christmas morning kitty, pretty Lyla Jane.
 
 
Our other Christmas kitty Ginger, just hangin’ out.
 
 
 
My new kraut cutter!!  Yeah!  No more borrowing one!  Shout out to the folks at Berry Hill.  We are so amazingly impressed with their customer service.  Mr. S ordered this for me, and when it looked as though it wouldn’t make it here in time a guy from Berry Hill drove to Michigan to pick it up.  Unbelievable and greatly appreciated.
 
 
I got some blog-related books too.  Of course, this is what happens when I try to take a picture.
 
And this.
 
 
And finally this.  *sigh*  I’ll let you know what I think of the books once I read them.
 
How was your Christmas?  Hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season, and all the best to you and yours in 2012!
 

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