Camel Bones and Canopy Walks: Adventures in Vancouver with Uncle B

Last weekend I went on a short notice trip to the Lower Mainland. A cultural society asked me if I’d do some facilitation work for them in Chilliwack, and I wanted to, but I had the kids in tow (Jason as doing all his ski patrol certification that weekend, so he was out of the picture.) My creative solution was to fly down Uncle B from Fort St. John, to babysit the girls while I facilitated. That definitely made the weekend a cost neutral exercise, but it was great for the girls and I to spend time with B, who we usually only see once a year. Plus, we had a weekend full of adventure in Vancouver! Thanks to B for joining us and showing the girls and I a great time.

Click on the images to embiggen…

Stinging Nettle Chickpea Salad

Stinging nettle chickpea salad with bacon

Yesterday, we ventured into a new realm of wild crafting cooking. It was the first time I cooked stinging nettles. Everyone loved it!

There is a fellow in town who makes a living wild harvesting plants and mushrooms. He sells them to local chefs and our grocery service, Urban Harvest. When we saw the nettles as an option in our weekly grocery delivery, we ordered one bag for the clinic (my husband practices herbal veterinary medicine,) and one bag for the house. Herbal tinctures are easy to make. But nettles to eat?

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First, I read a bit about cooking nettles and making them safe. The Wolf College has a lovely helpful post… We saw these guys at the Mother Earth News Fair, and they were fabulous! I felt reasonably confident I wasn’t going to burn my children’s mouths out.

Then I went to the garden shed, got some gloves, and ventured in!

Recipe: cook little bits of bacon in some olive oil. Add a can of washed chickpeas. Stir about in the bacon fat. Meanwhile, with gloves! Wash the stinging nettles. Chop them up, and boil them in salty water for five minutes. Now you can handle the nettles. Drain and throw them in with the bacon and chick peas, add a little sweet mustard, champagne vinegar, salt, and well! Delicious, hot, stinging nettles salad. I served it with garlic roasted squash.

Enjoy! And remember, wear gloves until the nettles are cooked.

Ecotherapy: Spring gardening with my puppy

It’s the first day back to school after spring break, and I just finished an hour of yard cleanup in the backyard. The birds are chirping, and I can see Laughlin and Tully are sunning themselves on the back deck. (Maggie, meanwhile, has chosen a quiet place in the sunny living room.)

We’ve been working away at the yard for almost a month now… Boy! It takes a lot of work to keep our little backyard homestead running.

Gardening with my puppies

Gardening with kids and dogs is a messy business. First of all, we don’t look outside for four months of the year. Except to pooper scoop of course. But besides that, we just let everything run amok over the winter months. Then in the spring, there is a lot to do. There are toys, garbage, and overgrown vines everywhere.

The kids add a bit to the mess as well, as they are finally getting outside and playing our d the neighbourhood. Below is a “nest” they made in the front yard magnolia tree last night. They’ve also set up the hammock, despite the apple branches still all over the ground.

Kids and spring gardening

On top of the usual maintenance, we didn’t really do a lot last fall. We were so in the midst of starting our clinic that we didn’t even eat all the tomatoes on the vine. Sacrilege! We just didn’t have the time. So there were tomato vines to take down, perennials to cut back, and all the usual autumn maintenance as well, on top of the spring work this year.

There is something deeply satisfying about all this work, however. Last year in the spring when I was dealing with bad health and stress at work, I took to starting my day with a half hour in the garden. It was my own little ecotherapy program. I found that every day I did this, my heart was later and my productivity was higher. There are many studies that show our connection with nature feeds the soul, and focuses the mind. It’s good for me to start the day with some exercise and fresh air, and the dogs love being outside with me together. They are calmer and more content through the day as well.

Spring flowers coming up

Gardening with the puppy has its challenges! This morning I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder. I usually let the chickens run around the backyard when I am doing some gardening, so they can get some extra greens. Tully is still learning about chickens, and how, specifically, to leave them alone. His sight hound instinct comes out, and I can see his body strengthening, lengthening, and aiming right for the hens who at peacefully nibbling. Then he bounds with joy towards their fluffy bodies. I had to throw myself on him a couple times, as he was galloping towards the poor birds, who were by this point madly clucking and running away.

It’s a work in progress. Just like a spring garden.

I remind myself that Maggie, especially, was horrible about the chickens when they first arrived, and now neither of the two older dogs pay them any mind. I will just have to be patient with him, and soon, too, he will be chicken proof. And as I train him to leave the chickens alone, I will also get more peaceful time in the garden.

Walking with a Dozen Irish Wolfhounds

This weekend we slipped away over the Misty Mountains to Mission, BC, for a 24 hour getaway. The whole purpose of our trip was to go walking with the BC branch of the Irish wolfhound club.

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Before we left, the girls asked, “why are we going, when we don’t even have an Irish wolfhound yet?” (Not that they were complaining, they were super excited.)

Their father replied… “We went to Harambee and adoptive parent meetings before we ever had you!”

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They thought that was hilarious comparison, but really, our visit was for the same reason. Before the girls came home, we learnt from any parents about hair, attachment-based parenting, and dealing with piercing questions. Irish wolfhounds are giants, and they have particular health and lifestyle concerns. We wanted to talk to other Irish wolfhound guardians, learn more about the breed, learn about raising them, health concerns, and tips and tricks.

So we drove down, spend the night in a hotel, and went for a 5 km walk with a dozen hounds and their people the next morning. It was very nice… We met lots of good people and got to chat about all things to do with the breed.

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The dogs were as I expected, but even more gentle, lean, and gangly. I was struck by how long their legs were… But they weren’t quite as tall as I had remembered. No, I’m not having second thoughts. Rather, I was enamored by them! I think Jason, with all his hesitancy about a giant dog living in the house, was also impressed by their lovely dispositions. The girls thought they were awesome.

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Maggie, our lovely old bird dog, did just fine. I couldn’t believe it she made it most of the walk, and what good condition she is in. If a dog came up behind her, with her being deaf and blind, it did start of her and she snarled once or twice. But generally speaking she seem to get along with the other dogs.

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Of course, Laughlin, our cairn terrorist, was completely overwhelmed and snarled and snapped of every giant dog became his way. (Embarrassing!) But it’s a testament to the wolfhound breed that none of the big dogs so much as batted an eyelash, and I was once again convinced that this was the perfect dog for us. Laughlin is what they call in Jason’s herbal medicine studies “hot ,” and almost all Irish wolfhounds are “cool.” This means that Laughlin, a typical terrier, is always running on instinct and adrenaline; whereas, the wolfhounds are much gentler and have a relaxed temperament. It will be a good combination to balance him out.

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This is a six month old puppy… Interestingly, Laughlin was perfectly fine with her. Somehow, even with the size, he knew it was a baby.

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The girls did us proud, as they told stories and ask questions of all the people they walked with. I barely saw them over the 5 km, but afterwards, several people came up to me and told us what lovely girls we have. True! And they did us proud. Unlike our terrier.

It was a great learning experience, and we will likely go back once a year to compare notes and learn more as our puppy grows…

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PS: these people are not running from the law, but I didn’t have a chance to ask permission to post their pictures. So you just got to see the dogs. 🙂

The Road Not Taken

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

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And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost