Monthly Archives: January 2013

Book recommendation: The Dirty Life


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I referenced The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball in my first blog post of 2013. I wanted to highlight this book here on our blog because I just found it so inspiring and incredibly wonderful and I think that absolutely everyone should read it!

I couldn’t put this book down. It is a hilarious, honest, invigorating memoir of one woman’s epic personal adventure that brought her from a NYC apartment where she never cooked to 80 (I think?) acres of land where she currently runs a FULL-DIET (amazing! meats, dairy, maple syrup, fruit, veggies, grains, etc) CSA (that plans to operate completely fossil-fuel free in a couple years!) with her infectiously-sounding crazy husband. Their story encapsulates in so many ways the homesteading-dreams-turned-real-life adventure that I’ve always been awed by and personally craved. The book brilliantly combines the author’s experiences with love, food, and farming, and I was seriously bummed when I read the last page. I wanted the book to go on forever!

Anyways, in addition to my shameless gushing over this book, that (I’ll say it again) EVERYONE should read, I’d like to include some quotes from it that I copied down. So many of the things Kristin Kimball described rang true to my own personal experiences here on our little market garden hobby farm. Here are a few:

On consumerism:

“The last old habit to fall away was shopping. I could feel the need to shop building up in me during the week, like an itch. I’m not talking about shopping for clothes, or shoes, or any of the other recreational kinds of shopping people generally do. I mean only the oddly comforting experience of flowing past shiny new merchandise, the everyday exchange of money for goods… When I went for days without buying anything, without setting eyes on commerce, without even starting the car to burn up some gas, I felt an achy withdrawal. The only shopping options within ten miles of the farm were a grocery story and a hardware store, and on Sundays I’d visit the former and wheel a cart around the aisles, bathed in fluorescent light and Muzak. More and more often, though, I couldn’t come up with anything we really needed, not a thing I really wanted, and the cart would remain empty… More and more often I was happy to stay on the farm for our Sundays, walk the pastures with Mark, and fall back on our trusty old triumvirate of bed, stove, table.”

On compost:

“Of all the confounding things I encountered that first year, the heat of decomposition – its intensity and duration – was the most surprising, the one that made me want to slap my knee and say, Who knew? That heat comes from the action of hordes of organisms, some so tiny billions can live in a tablespoon of soil. They are in there, eating and multiplying and dying, feeding on and releasing the energy that the larger organisms – the plants and the animals – stored up in their time, energy that came, orginally, from the sun. I think it’s worth it, for wonder’s sake, to stick your hand in a compost pile in winter and be burned by a series of suns that last set the summer before.”

On farm work:

“I was in love with the work, too, despite its over abundance. The world had always seemed disturbingly chaotic to me, my choices too bewildering. I was fundamentally happier, I found my focus on the ground. For the first time, I could clearly see the connection between my actions and the consequences. I knew why I was doing what I was doing and I believed in it. I felt the gap between who I thought I was and how I behaved begin to close, growing slowly closer to authentic.”

On meaning:

“…farming takes root in your and crowds out other endeavors, makes them seem paltry. Your acres become a world. And maybe you realize that it is beyond those acres or in your distant past, back in the realm of TiVo and cubicles, of take-out food and central heat and ar, in that country where discomfort has nearly disappeared, that you were deprived. Deprived of the pleasure of desire, of effort and difficulty and meaningful accomplishment.”

On art:

“A farm is a form of expression, a physical manifestation of the inner life of its farmers. The farm will reveal who you are, whether you like it or not.”

On success and fear:

“In his view, we were already a success, because we were doing something hard and it was something that mattered to us. You don’t measure things like that with words like success or failure, he said. Satisfaction comes from trying hard things and then going on to the next hard thing, regardless of the outcomes. What mattered was whether or not you were moving in a direction you thought was right. This sounded extremely fishy to me. This conversation played out many times, with me anxious, Mark calm, until once, as we sat together reviewing our expenses I was almost in tears. I felt like we were teetering over an abyss. I wasn’t asking him to guarantee that we’d be rich. I just wanted him to reassure me that we’d be solvent, that we’d be, as I put it, okay. Mark laughed. ‘What is the worst thing that could happen?’ he asked. ‘We’re smart and capable people. We live in the richest country in the world. There is food and shelter and kindness to spare. What in the world is there to be afraid of?”

And a lovely quiet moment while making maple syrup:

“I liked running the evaporator. Mark was busy nailing together wooden flats to start our seeds, so it was quiet, solitary work that started two hours before dawn. I had never been a morning person in the city, but on the farm I’d learned to love being outdoors before light. I felt like I was sharing some kind of secret with the unhuman things around me, the birds not yet stirring in the trees, the mud quiet on the ground. I carried provisions to keep up my strength: a French press of ground espresso beans, to be brewed not with water but with boiilng sap for an electrifying drink that had to be sipped in small quantities; also, a dozen eggs and a shaker of salt. Thomas LaFountain had taught me to drop the eggs one by one into the finishing pan, where they would crack with heat and the thickening sap would seep into the cracks and darken and sweeten the hard-boiled eggs, which are fished out with a long spoon and peeled and eaten hot with a heavy sprinkling of salt. I took a plate of pickles, too, an antidote in case I accidently overdosed on sweet.”

Guest blog post: Early Days on the Farm


(All photos in this post credited to Carol Moerman)

I am so thrilled to share a guest blog post written by Carol Moerman (Chris M’s mom). For readers who aren’t familiar with how we all ended up on this piece of land, it began with Chris M’s parents purchasing it many years ago. Some of this history is included on our About Us page in Chris’ bio, but I’ve been hoping Carol would share her version of the early days with all of us. I loved reading this (and seeing her photos – I want a horse and a llama to follow me around now too!), so without further ado, please enjoy this lovely bit of farm history provided by Carol…


Early Days on the Farm
by Carol Moerman 

“The Moerman Ranch” (as we used to call it) came about in 1989, in response to repeated requests from Chris and Ben (10 and 8 years old respectively) – enamoured with their uncle’s hog farm in Alberta – for Murray to give up pastoring and become a farmer. Murray spent his early years on a farm in Ontario, and had such fond memories of his childhood, we decided to see what could be found close enough to the city to do both.

When we bought the farm it had been used primarily for horses, complete with 4-stall barn and riding ring. Our first acquisition was a bred sow (Rumblebuffin), and Chris was launched into pig farming. She was also a 300 lb pet, escaping her fencing at night to roam the yard, always back in her pen in the morning.

Our five children were quickly transformed from ‘city kids’ to farmers. Homeschooling allowed them to spend much of the day outdoors, mostly playing, but also building fences, caring for animals, and planting gardens. In addition to pigs, we raised chickens (developing a thriving egg business, and meat birds for food) and turkeys, eventually acquired a horse (a rescue from the SPCA), a cow, calves, sheep, goats, and a llama, in addition to dogs, kittens, rabbits and ducks. The boys joined 4-H and Chris won reserve grand-champion with one of his pigs at the PNE his first year (a good eye for pigs right from the start :).

We also had a large garden, growing enough to freeze in corn and beans for the winter, as well as provide fresh vegetables throughout the summer, not only for the seven of us, but also the ‘extras’ often living with us. Murray’s mother joined us when his dad passed away, and tripled the size of our gardens (she was a REAL farmer :), and loved being in the garden several hours a day. We used manure from our animals to fertilize, and our kitchen compost (novice organic gardeners). A local market gave expired vegetables for the pigs and horse.

As children grew up, and lives became busier with friends, sports, and eventually university, we downsized, getting rid of all but the chickens for eggs, but still maintained the gardens. When our work took us away from Maple Ridge, leaving some of our young adults still at home, their interest in farming lay dormant and so did the land.

Seeing Chris’s interest in farming renewed, with Julie’s support, and Kai thriving in this healthy, productive environment, fills me with joy. He has taken it further, with his studies in permaculture and bio-diverse farming methods, joined by friends who share his passion. The place is looking better than ever. Let the adventure continue!



A new kind of calendar (life informed by the seasons)


Photo: rows of tiny onion seedlings sprout on our kitchen table in anticipation of late-spring weather when they can be transplanted outdoors in garden beds.

I was talking to my friend S the other day about the influence of seasons on our lives. S, whose every email leading up to winter solstice included a countdown to the beginnings of longer, lighter days, is a long-time gardener who has years of experience with seasonal changes. Being a relatively new gardener, this winter marks the first time I’ve really felt and noticed the impact of how my now-closer relationship with the earth has influence over my own mental calendar. 

The influence of seasonal changes on our day-to-day activities, emotions and mental states aren’t new to anyone, but the influence of seasonal-and-thus-the-garden’s-changing-needs is new to me and the fact that I’m feeling it now triggers feelings full of appreciation for the earth and the power of it’s pull (and thankfulness that it hasn’t completely foresaken humans who have so ignorantly and viciously tried to separate themselves from it).

It was a fairly simple and probably insignificant-sounding experience that inspired me to reflect on this (and I apologize in advance because I can already tell that my attempt to explain this in writing is falling far short of how I imagined myself being able to explain it in my head), but it began in late November/ early December. Our garden shrivelled up with the cold rains and shorter days and I gladly took that as my cue to hibernate indoors for a full month, spending very little time thinking about the garden and instead going to bed early, baking, cooking, reading and truly just being luxuriously lazy. My separation from the 9-5 schedule of office work almost a year and a half ago had quickly catipulted my mental calendar into a very loose, oh-it’s-that-day-of-the-week? kind of state, and so my month of hibernation from the garden gifted me with very little need for any kind of calendar at all. 

However, as Christmas activities wrapped themselves up in that last week of December, I felt a very noticeable and unintended shift. I became aware of the subtleness of slowly-lengthening days, I began to observe thick, olive-coloured shoots of tulip and daffodil bulbs forcing their way through cold, frost-licked soil, and I quite suddenly felt rested and aware of the garden and its needs. It was in this moment that I felt it – the influence of the subtle changes in the season and in the soil beneath my feet on my own life. And in that very subtle but obvious moment, I felt a sense of awe and humbleness at being privy to the influence of nature on my physical and emotional self. 

Although my experiences with the earth are largely human-created (I’m not, for example, spending my days foraging for wild foods in a forest. Instead, I’m changing soil environments to suit seeds that I want to plant and grow and ultimately conrol), I have, much more than ever before, separated myself from the age of industry and technology and begun to, inasmuch as I know how, return to what feels like a pre-industrial way of living (obviously still very far from what life was truly like back then, but it is a long shot from where I was a few years ago).

So, I guess I just wanted to express that somehow in a blog post. I wanted to recognize and celebrate the influence of the earth (and all those subtle workings within it and on it and around it) on my life. There is a sense of tenderness and magic when humans open themselves up to living in harmony with the earth and although that’s something I’ve always believed in, it seems that now I’m actually starting to truly experience it.