The fuel that keeps warming you

Dead elm tree in segments

We live an area affected quite significantly by Dutch Elm disease and the Emerald Ash Borer. Anyone familiar with pictures from our land will know that it’s dotted generously with dead trees standing amongst the living. For the most part, this represents wood that we will get around to harvesting as and when we can.

Heading into this winter, we were aware of a large elm behind our house that really needed to come down. We also knew we wouldn’t tackle it on our own. It was simply too close to the house and we’re just not that experienced with felling trees. We called the experts in, and one morning they came, felled it and cut the trunk into 16-inch lengths. Sadly, I was out the morning this happened, and I only got to hear about it afterwards from my husband and our youngest son. Apparently, the tree made a fantastic ‘whomp’ when it hit the ground, shaking even our concrete house. I wish I had been at home for that!

Later that day, Reggie had a blast exploring the tree that was now laid out across our back lawn, a broken echo of its former self.

Dog exploring fallen tree

dog-exploring-under-branches-of-felled-tree

If you’ve never tried to split elm, you don’t know true frustration. It’s a fibrous wood that hangs on and puts up a fight. This was definitely the year to invest in a better axe than the one we’d been using, and my husband put in the research before making a final choice. It’s from Fiskars and it’s every bit as good as the reviews said it would be. Part one of the clear up was splitting those 16-inch lengths into logs for the woodstove and hauling them over to the chicken coop where our outdoor wood storage sits.

Father and son at wood splitting time

Fortunately, our youngest loves to use the handcart for hauling just about anything, but especially wood. Which meant that cutting up the thin branches for kindling fell in large part to me.

Clipping branches

Our older boy came home from a shift at the library in time to help out with branch clean up and raking.

Clearing up after a felled tree

Happy to help in his own way, Reggie snagged bits of branches here and there and generally kept the mood fun.

Dog with a stick in his mouth

Wood is that amazing fuel that warms more than once. It warms when you cut it down, again when you split and haul it for seasoning and storage, again when you carry it indoors (when perhaps you also split larger logs before burning), and finally when it burns. How good is that?

First snow

First snow of the year

Just last weekend we were outside doing a final clean up of a felled tree and the attendant firewood before the snow flew. And fly it did, a proper snow on Monday, November 17th. A full two weeks ahead of last year, which was already early for where we live. Last year’s snow was heavy and never left; this year’s start to winter has been pretty fierce, but it looks as though it was a little too early. We’re promised a melt and warmer temperatures at least one more time before winter truly settles in.

Boy walking in first snow

That first snow is so special to children and I loved watching my youngest son through the window as he gingerly made his way outside for a first play before school on Monday. Making the year’s first snowprints.

First snowprints in November

That first day was pretty, almost magical, every branch in sight feathered with the stuff, the air only just cold enough for a snowfall. By the next day, the temperature had dropped and the wind was biting, but blue skies returned. Along with shoveling routines.

Boy shovelling snow

Snow does have a way of transforming ordinary objects into something otherworldly. It makes you look at everything afresh, even an old, much-patched aluminum canoe.

Silver canoe in snow

Meanwhile, our chickens are tucked up for the long months ahead, just getting on with business as usual.

Rooster crowing

P.S. I can’t even begin to imagine what the residents of Buffalo, New York are doing with the epic snowfall they’ve just been walloped by.

Coriander: the harvest that can wait

Bowl of coriander seeds

Pulled from the garden at the end of the season and left to dry out fully for a good few weeks, our coriander has finally arrived on the kitchen island for final harvesting. I know it would be far easier to find a large bag and leave the plants suspended inside of it, but it’s surprisingly relaxing to pluck the small, dried seeds and drop them into a bowl. My husband started the process a while back, and I was reminded to pick up the task again when it came time to close our screened in porch for the season.

I wasn’t organized enough to save any of the leaves of these plants, known as cilantro (or Chinese parsley), but I did season many meals with them during the summer months. Cilantro is one of my favourite fresh herbs, and coriander is definitely a favourite store cupboard choice. I love that they come from the same plant, one that is delightfully easy to grow.
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November

Chickens at feeding rock

November is here. Frosts are more frequent, the cold is creeping in. We lost some of our flock to a turkey vulture or buzzard.

First one of the young roosters on Hallowe’en. Esme, the original mother of the flock, and our family favourite, went missing. We had to assume the worst. And after several days of keeping the flock cooped up, we lost one of our older roosters.

We won’t let the remaining ten chickens out until we’ve had a good hard look at how we can keep our free ranging flock a little safer. We had it safe for a little too long and it’s hard getting used to this new reality.
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