Country Chronicles: My thumb might not be green

Lots of news at the ranch these days. Want an update?

Sprummer 2012 isn’t all I cracked it up to be. It has rained like crazy, it has been so wet. Like sometimes I think we should start building a boat of some sort.  And then June 9? Four days after I planted out all my garden seedlings the kids and I had started, it snowed. A fair bit. I nearly cried.

Some things survived I think. Red cabbage is hardy. Peas just don’t quit. Onions popped. Strawberries might bring a crop of 5-10 (individual berries not kilos).

I don’t know if I can take all the blame for all of our gorgeous seedlings meeting a fatal end. Who can expect snow on June 9? Certainly not me. In any event there was also a happy discovery. A gorgeous, huge rhubarb patch up in the woods. Looks like someone else tried to garden sometime in history? Perhaps I will start a rhubarb farm. It might be the only thing hardy enough to live here. We’ve been loving strawberry rhubarb pies, compote and Darlas delish muffins.

Today I replanted most everything. tomatoes, carrots, squash, eggplant, beans, peppers, zucchini, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, cilantro, sunflowers. Here is hoping it doesn’t all rot or get washed away in the torrential rain fall. In other garden news, using hay in your lasagna garden when you are in the midst of a very damp spring might not be the best choice. It sort of looks like I might have an alfalfa crop to end all others. Boo…

In other ranch news: Ferogie moved out and Jordan moved in. We miss Fergs, but not as much as we would have before we realized he doesn’t finish book trilogies he starts (PS I took them back if you are looking ;-). The kids are still naming Jordan. We look forward to E’s nickname for him…though I doubt it will be as catchy as the others as she named them when she was just two. Now that she is nearly four she doesn’t say nearly as many hilarious things.

Yesterday we took a lion and a princess to the car show downtown. It was awesome and I will cry the day they are too cool to do what they think is fun and rad.

Today we had a family chocolate fondue after school. I think the kids may have liked that.

There is still an adorable constable about this week. Sam makes a fine companion.

I have no idea where they learned this behaviour from…

My husband is really good at gift giving. I turned old this weekend and he bought me this awesome and perfect for w-ring addition to the deck (and yes we know we can’t leave it this close to the roof). I bought him underwear and tshirts (gift giving is not my forte…or love language).

I won a CD this week. Thinking about this song from it for many hurting friends of mine…

Tomorrow is ONE THING TUESDAY! Think about something that makes you feel ALIVE, BLESSED, JOY Filled? Come back and tell me?

Country Chronicles: Lasagna Gardening (aka too lazy to double dig)

Feddersen Garden 2012

Oh what a magnificent ‘pause’ I am having. Naps. Baking. Gardening. This week wins (save a trip to the dentist for my very first filling of my life…worst).  All the fun projects we dreamed about all this long cold winter also got started over the last week. Joel flattened my garden area and I got to work digging the soil. I spent a solid 12 hours picking rocks and turning over the soil and do you know what I found? More hard soil, more massive rocks. So to honour the lazy gardener that I am I remembered what I heard on the radio about “lasagna gardening” or layer composting. Apparently you can start your garden anywhere,  while skipping the double dig. This method is thought to be better at reducing weeds and water use as well. It made sense to me (plus I could stop picking the ginormous rocks).

Newspaper layer

First you select where you want  your bed then just go ahead put on a three layers of soaked newspaper. This will apparently draw the needed earthworms to your patch. Next you toss on a layer of peat moss.

Peat Moss

Next a layer of hay. (Abin? I might need to steal your saw table…).

Hay layer

Next a layer of bark mulch.

Bark Mulch

Then repeat. If you are doing this in the fall (which is preferred) then you can just leave until planting. If you are doing now (like me) then you will need to also add a solid four inches of good soil on the top. I want to get this bed ready as soon as possible as I want to plant some early crops now (peas, lettuce, spinach). I think this method will be expensive this year as I am needing to buy most of the layers, in the future you can just use whatever you have around the house alternating between brown (shredded paper, fall leaves, hay) and green layers (raw compost, grass clippings, trimmings from plants). The top photo is the layout for our garden this year! Click the image if you want to create your own garden or want to read more about my planting plan. If you want to read more about this method you can read this or watch this. I will let you know how things grow! I have a feeling that the ‘above ground’ veggies will do great, while things like carrots won’t enjoy having to try to navigate down through my rocky ground.

Also at our house this week? BIG excavation! We’ve had a lot of work done on our switchbacks. While it wasn’t the miracle that Joel and I had sort of hopped for (you know, like suddenly our driveway was 10 feet long and flat?) I think it will help. The grade is reduced a little and now all of the corners are flat (you are not climbing steep grades whilst still turning a corner). We have gravel coming in too and hope things will be much better by next winter!


Hey gardeners out there…what do you think? Do you think I will get a crop with this method? Love to hear any tips you have!!!


Country Chronicles: Spr-ummer

Turns out that we don’t get spring here at Switchback Ranch. We get “w-ring” in which it is like spring: it warms up, the snow melts, everything gets sloppy. But unlike spring in town, it is still possible that we could get snow. It is sort of miserable. Two days ago, the fog rolled up and sent itself packing.

And then YESTERDAY? SPR-UMMER arrived. IT IS THE BEST. And it won’t really end now until September. You see it doesn’t get terribly hot up here, not like in town. We just get this glorious 25-28 degrees celsius. It is the season of having too much fun outside and loosing track of time, of eating on the deck, of long-awaited projects. It is wonderful.

We are back in the sandbox:

(O has his first short hair of his life…it is KILLING me. Why does he look 12? Mercy.)

The hose is out:

The scooters are scooting:

The chalk is arting:

The flowers are coming up (and it would appear that all my end-of-season-on-sale planting survived! Yay blueberries, grapes, rhubarb, lavender)

In other news: Sam is staying. He is such a sweet dog and we all love him. But. How scary are these photos? He loves to hunt sparks from the campfires. It is the only thing he seems to have any violent streak about. If this beast doesn’t look like the thing of nightmares though, I don’t know what does.

Usually he looks like this and thinks he is a lap dog. His other favorite things are chasing Joel on dirt bikes, going for hikes, shedding and making Abby growl. His tongue didn’t used to seem so huge before Sprummer arrived. He prefers Wring….easier on a Pesky Shepherd (I tried to teach O about dog breeds, he miss heard me and starting calling Sam the Pesky Shepherd…it seems appropriate).

AMAZING how a little bit of sun changes EVERYTHING. Over-spiritualize much Melissa Ann? That was just a raging case of cabin fever and nothing treats that faster than some sprummer sun, an impromptu road trip (to Coldplay with friends no less), and a lost day planner (which means I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing, so I’m just not doing it…it is very therapeutic).

Thanks friends! What fun! Going to miss you somethings fierce.

Country Chronicles: The Black Beasts of Switchback Ranch

There has been some excitement at the ranch over the last few days.

For one thing Joel came home. Hallelujah.

For another. We have a Nancy Drew-esque mystery on our hands. We have spotted a species of cat that even our Conservation Officer cannot identify.Image

He has sent these images to the Provincial Vet and some others. We are waiting to hear the results today. It is all very mysterious and exciting. I spotted him out my window at dusk. He was about the size of a coyote and that is what I thought it was. By the time I got my camera he had passed over onto our neighbors property. I took these photos from my deck with a 200 mm lens. He looked like a domestic cat (but much too big) with a tail like a cougar (but much too small)…and jet black.


Two days later we accepted voluntarily another black beast onto the ranch. Meet Samwise Gamgee (Sam for short).


He is a shepherd/husky mix. He is our neighbors dog and has sort of adopted us. They were two single brothers with busy lives and so Sam has found his way to our house quite frequently over the last few years. In fact he brought me a deers leg my very first morning here (that is Joe Rich style for a casserole). The brothers are now off up north etc and think Sam would be happiest with us. He is having a sleep over for a few nights to see how he fits in with our family. He is only two and bounces a lot. A MASSIVE bouncing dog can be quite a thing to have around a three year old.


But. He seems to have the most submissive temperament I’ve ever seen in any dog. Let alone one this big. Here Owen told him to sit. When Emily did the same he rolled over onto his back….that little girl knows well how to be the Alpha.


And it turns out, I may have accidentally attached to him. We are having a breeder over today to see what he thinks of him. I might take him to an obedience class to see if I can handle him. I like the fact that he has never been in a house. I like the idea of having a beast that I trust, especially whilst the mystery of the mutant cat persists.

Country Chronicles: (Wo) Man-Up

When I fly solo at the top of Switchback Mountain, usually I would be a little petrified to see this:

At these temperatures when it rains in town it SNOWS up here. Happily I just completed the Hunger Games trilogy yesterday so I am feeling all post apocalyptic and mad with reckless independence. I had Joel teach me to use the beast before he left so while it would be nice to not have to use it, we’ve had an inch or two already.

I even hit Costco this morning for a solid ten days worth of rations….er…I mean groceries. Plus, I have allies. Super Fed and Super Pink hit the ground with a vengeance  this morning.

Lets dance snow storm.

Check in on me in 12 or so hours?  

Country Chronicles: A Dance Studio

Miss E? She has been a handful lately. I spent three hours reading journals and blog posts about when Mr. O was 3.5. Turns out I was certain he might be a career criminal. Feddersen kids at three are tough, strong, feisty, stubborn…they shout a lot.

But today? Miss E? At her first Highland Dance class? Anything but…all sweetness and bright light. It was wondrous.

She was amazing, adorable, graceful.

I cried a little.

And…who would’ve guess? A Highland Dance studio in Joe Rich? Most excellent.

E is wearing the shoes that both her Auntie Shell and I wore for our Highland lessons. And of course a tutu; I couldn’t resist. She couldn’t stop looking at herself; though I must admit it was hard to look away.

Country Chronicles: Perspective.

The valley has been deep in fog these days. Every tree and leaf is edged in hoarfrost. The fog so dense it feels like it is following you. It is oppressive, heavy, creepy and sensationally beautiful.

And in one sense, it also isn’t real.

If you drive up the road just five minutes in any direction from valley bottom you will find blue skies, no clouds. The fog distorts, tricks, lies. Sometimes you just can’t trust your own perception. Sometimes it isn’t the truth. From our home the skies have been clear and blue and we have been sitting atop a marshmallow stuffed tightly into the lake bottom.

Yes I am sorry to tell you Kelowna, the skies have been blue for days. Clear. Not a cloud.

I’ve been tricked this week too though.  I’ve been fooled in the dark of night.  Though the sky is clear, and the moon reflects blue; still I find myself watching the shadows. Though I have walked every inch of this place this winter and not seen a foot print of any beast, still I watch the shadows for one to come and devour.  That is what happens to my focus then fear starts to invade it.

(some day I will learn to take photos of the moon)

This girl of mine? The one that growls sometimes? The one who has a temper that explodes? She is scaring me. She makes me nervous. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, raising a daughter might be the scariest thing I have ever done.I am terrified that I will go all Tina Fey on her when she turns 13. I will say “heels are really uncomfortable, and other things women say to each other”; clumsy, awkward, keeping communication rolling isn’t my strong suit. I am not good at asking questions. So when my eyes peel open at 2 am and all I can think is all the ways I will go wrong. All the things she will need to walk though, all the pain she will face, my heart near stops.

There are two ways to live this journey and I have chosen to walk both at different stages. I have watched the shadows, waiting for something to come and get us. At times I have also chose TRUST the better path. A path where I look for the joy, the best, the blessing in each moment. I choose to look at each moment with this firecracker of a girl as glimpses of her power, her strength, her tenacity. I will choose to take the lid off the pressure cooker, to take each moment as it comes. To let her be, to find herself, to keep modeling gentleness despite the fact that at this moment she is (in her words) “EXTRA, EXTRA, TOUGH”.

How about you? Do you find yourself watching the shadows or basking in the sun’s light? Sometimes it is a matter of moving just a few feet to the left, the view might completely change.


it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

At our house?

We are more than ready to cuddle in deep for Christmas holidays. One more day of busy and bluster and then? We are settling down…way down.

There is still a trip to get organized, gifts to buy, things to bake, but I am not getting obsessed with that this year. It will get done. Or it won’t. Either way, no one is going to die.

All I know is? Starting tomorrow at 4:45 operation relax begins…

And there is a good chance no one will see us again until 2012.

(OBSESSED with those little round submersible LED lights! I’ve put them everywhere!)

Just kidding…there is fun to be had that we won’t miss.

From our family to yours…we wish you the merriest of seasons!

Joining in the Christmas Tour of Homes because…lets be honest…that driveway of ours has chased everyone away, and our tree is something to behold! Click over for HUNDREDS of fun decorating ideas!

Country Chronicles: Oh…Hello Winter

Last weekend winter arrived with fists of fury.

Old Man Winter doesn’t seem to be messing around this year.

And around here? We’ve embraced it completely.

And really…one just cannot play in the snow and not have it followed by hot chocolate right? And its science I think, that when it is this ‘wintery’ I most certainly cannot be blamed for pulling out the Christmas mugs,

and maybe, all the decorations?

But really, my excuse is that we must start the season early because ours will end early. Yup its  really happening. Joel and I have spent the week working on our documents for our Kenya trip with World Vision. December 28 baby…sneaking up fast. So yup…our arms are packed full of Hepatitis and Yellow Fever vaccines. Giddy up.

Oh and the boys finished their treehouse…take a gander at this beauty. We call her “Abins Cabin”

Or this? Joel turned an old shed into a wood fired sauna.


Its true. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Only my husband would install a sound system before he cleans up his tools. He is a visionary alright? Lay off. Plus look how strong he is:

Its been a year now since we took the leap to move out here and every day I am more thankful. We are having a blast. Nothing makes my heart more glad than a living room like this:

Advent begins this weekend too so then it will officially be ‘okay’ to start getting ready for this sweet season. Christmas 2011 is primed to be one of legends at our house. Excited to create traditions and memories for our kids this year!

How about you? Have you started getting ready yet? What are your ‘advent plans’?