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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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writely2015

R.I.P. Baroness

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Just a pile of feathers…

The Baroness is Resting in Peace all right. She is resting…not having any eggs…trying to re-grow some feathers. Having gone through 21 one days of broodiness, with not a nice warm brown egg in sight, she is now post-Henopasual and has decided to go bald…otherwise known as molting vs. melting. 

The chicken keeper is the one melting down. During the molt lots of nasty stuff can go down, including and pretty importantly, still no eggs for cakes.

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Just when I thought I was out of the woods…The Baroness takes herself off her imaginary eggs after a normal hatching period of 21 days and decides to give up her broody nasty ways. All my folk remedies including frozen peas and ice cubes under her ass…had no effect. Times up. She takes herself out of solitary and begins hanging with her pal Maria doing happy chicken things like scratching around for bugs, chatting with friend, and chilling. Yippeee! Problem solved. Time to start laying eggs again which usually takes three days after the broodiness ends. Not.   Feathers, feathers everywhere!
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So many feathers that I feared a predator had snuck in the coop and ended it all…
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Still here…just super itchy.

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Looking bedraggled

Putting myself in her claws life sucks right now. She has just spent three weeks alone, hardly eating or drinking, fighting with me when I try to remove her from her fake children and now she is loosing her crowning glory, one feather at a time. It’s so much worse when hens loose their hair. Bald is in for men and they boldly own it. Not so much for women…

Molting can also cause bullying. It’s even more sinister than you think. The bullying is not about picking on the hen because she is not looking her best. The bullying is related to cannibalism! New pin feathers growing in have visible blood showing which brings on some survival base instincts. Other chickens want to eat their molting friend and peck them mercilessly.

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So far Maria is empathetic and is not shaming or trying to eat The Baroness.

IMG_1519.jpgSo, my chicken research says molting is pretty common after a broody hen hatches her chicks. The Baroness bought into this whole hatching thing despite no fertile eggs to sit on or any eggs at all…big time… so it’s not surprising that her changing hormones triggered a molt. It’s also a pretty common time of the year for molting as well. The molt happens not only for aesthetic reasons but also for health reasons. Brand new feathers help trap warm air during the cold winter months better than old feathers.

Now she needs my help in the form of extra protein. One book offers a helpful recipe for Molt Muffins which include oats, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut milk, peanut butter and…. mealworms. Don’t think I’ll be baking those anytime soon but I will offer her some of the ingredients.

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How do you solve a problem like Maria? You don’t have to. She lays her egg, every single day, without fail or fuss. The Baroness is the high maintenance one….

Where beer begins – hop harvest on the Naramata Bench

It’s harvest time on the Naramata Bench and Square One Hops is an anomaly where it’s vines, pears and apples being harvested. The only hopyard on The Bench makes an interesting photo essay subject.

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The bines are cut from the trellising and a tug-of-war ensues.
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The bines grow to a Jack-and-the-beanstalk towering height before harvest.
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The aromas in the hopyard are a wonderful mixture of citrus, herbal, piney, spicy, garlic, onion, grassy and tobacco. Each step I take on left-behind hops and bines releases these subtle yet heady IPA scents.
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A season’s worth of growth is astounding.
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Part of the crew cutting the bases of the bines. This perennial plant will tower again next year.
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It’s a science to determine when the hops are at their hoppy best.

 

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Smoke from area wildfires makes for some moody photographs.

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Feeding the beast. The hops harvester is a beautiful thing as many small operators pick the hops off the bines by hand.
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Brian Tarasoff, who along with wife Kari, own and operate the two-acre Square One Hops operation in Penticton, is in his element and covered in hops.

 

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The hops will then be dried and most pelletized.

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Hops pellets are preferred for use by many brewers.
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Perfectly ripe hops awaiting the crew and ultimately the brewmaster.

Garagiste North – the small guys’ wine festival with big beautiful wines

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IMG_0976.jpgGaragiste North brought together 28 small producers and a highly appreciative group of wine lovers in Penticton on Sunday to offer a sampling of why small is better — Carpe Vinum indeed. The first of its kind in Canada, in it’s fourth year and sixth festival, Garagiste North, The Small Producers Wine Festival, celebrates the artisan winemaker creating commercially produced small case lot wines (under 2000 cases). The term Garagiste (gar-ah-jeest) comes from a group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region of France, producing “vins de garage” or “garage wine.” They were small-lot winemakers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow industry laws and protocol.

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The event took place in Penticton under hot and sunny skies

 

 

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The Garagiste pop-up wine store was on site and I chose three of my favourites to take home: Black Cloud‘s Red Sky (Bradley Cooper & Audralee Daum), Schell Wines inaugural Chardonnay produced by the event’s co-founder and author Jennifer Schell (The Wine Party) and her brothers Jonathan and Jaime and a Forgotten Hill Wine Co.  Pinot Gris (Ben and Maya Gauthier).

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My take-home treasures to be savoured in a more leisurely fashion.

 

Partial proceeds from the event will benefit the Garagiste North Wine Study Scholarship at Okanagan College, which is great.

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Maya Gauthier and her amazing Pinot Gris

“Being a small producer means giving everything you’ve got,” says Forgotten Hill Wine Co.’s Maya Gauthier. “You’re not starting with big money and you have to love what you do to make it happen. The learning curve is incredibly steep and the workload is so high that only those with a major passion for wine are willing to take it on.”

Forgotten Hill Winemaker Ben Gauthier says, “The result of that is that these small winemakers are putting their heart and soul into the bottle and it really, really shows in the finished product. Every wine has a different, individual story to tell. At the same time, we have the advantage of not being bound by any (or not many) rules: no one is telling us what to do!”

The Forgotten Hill’s Vineyard is a four acre plot on their property, planted in 3/4 Pinot Gris and 1/4 Pinot Noir. “Ours is the highest vineyard on the Naramata Bench, sitting at over 2100 feet,” says Maya.  “We balance out our high elevation by having an enormous rock face behind the vineyard, which reflects heat during the day, and radiates heat into the evening. Our soil is predominantly gravel and sand, which allows us to control the vigour and produce small grapes, and low yields, with intensely concentrated flavours. We also make use of deficit irrigation, meaning that we water very sparingly, which helps to enhance the varietal characteristics of our grapes.”

Ben’s style is “meticulous minimalism” with the goal of  showcasing the varietal and the terroir, without any interference. “We want the winemaking to be true to what the vineyard delivers, to the season and to the soil. All we want to do is coax things in the right direction. ”

The Gauthiers planted the vineyard in 2008, with a winery in mind as a long-term goal.  Since planting the vineyard they have built a home, a bed & breakfast, and had two daughters, and now, finally, the winery has come to be. They opened in June and have a lineup that features Pinot Gris, Rosé and Pinot Noir. A Syrah and another Pinot Noir will be released in Spring 2018.

“We really enjoyed the event, and loved having the chance to interact with likeminded wine peeps,” says Maya. “We are able to swap stories, build a personal connection with each other and with the customers, and strenghten the ties in our community of small producers. Vive les Garagistes!”

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Schell Wine’s t-shirts were a hit. They were designed by Jennifer Schell’s niece, Hillary Schell, a doodle artist.

 

“It is a really is a unique community – and a super passionate one,” says Jennifer Schell of the Garagiste. “This is what makes our festival so different and why we attract the real wine lovers to the tasting. The name Garagiste (going back to its origins from Bordeaux) represents the renegade winemaker and those who experiment with new blends and varietals. The is what is also happening here and what defines our group, our Garagiste Guild as we are calling it.”

Jennifer says plans are in the works for the first Garagiste Symposium and trade show this January focussing on the needs and culture of the small producer. The event will be taking place at Okanagan College in Penticton who are the event venue sponsors. She is also signing a new book deal — Garagistes of British Columbia.

“We also enjoyed the first event yesterday with our Riedel sponsor on board. So fabulous having our high quality wines tasted in the highest quality crystal glassware.  Our focus is also to educate wine lovers about the entire process of winemaking from vine to bottle by allowing them the opportunity to talk directly to the growers and winemakers behind the label.”

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“As for Schell Wines … after working with the Garagistes and putting these festivals together for the last few years with my event partner Terry (Meyer-Stone), I wanted to become a Garagiste,” says Jennifer. ” I called my two brothers to ask if they wanted to start this new adventure together and they were in. I love that we have this family project together – gives me more time with them in a very busy world. I signed up Rob Westbury at Nagging Doubt Winery as our winemaker – he is a Garagiste and also my brother’s neighbour. So this made the perfect match for us.

“We purchased the Chardonnay grapes from Kitsch Wines that is on East Kelowna Road- just 2 minutes from my parents’ farm and where my brothers and I grew up. So, this felt right with fruit from our neighbourhood representing our unique East Kelowna terroir and what wine from grapes grown on our family farm would actually taste like.

“I am also known for being a huge fan of Chardonnay – so this first wine had to be a Chard. My niece designed our logo and also the ‘doods’ for our Chardonnayism and Chardonnayist t-shirts.”

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Artist Hillary Schell and the label she designed.
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Audralee talking Black Cloud.

“We find the Garagiste events to be the most ‘real’ interfaces with the wine consuming public,” says Black Cloud’s Bradley Cooper.  “There’s none of the that ‘we’re here to get a buzz and catch up on gossip’ at the other big shows.  The average Garagiste attender is engaged, curious and aware.  They’re ready to try and discover.  Since we’re still unknown to many people despite starting up in 2008, we value the kind of exposure Garagiste affords.

“Small producers can sometimes innovate in ways larger operations may find difficult.  There’s a certain agility with being small production,” he says.

Bradley’s winemaking philosophy is “…start with the finest grapes you can afford which will solve or eliminate many issues down the road. After that, intervene only when you must, but if you must, don’t hesitate or waffle. Wine doesn’t favour procrastinators in its formative months.”

Black Cloud’s Red Sky is pretty special. Wine people in BC and beyond will be talking about 2015 for decades to come.  As Brad says, “Was it the first of many warmer vintages or was it an anomaly, a gift from southern climates? What we know at this time is that it was warmer and earlier than just about any growing season in the modern era (post 1988). Which resulted in some unusual circumstances.”

“The 2015 RED SKY started out as juice bursting with flavour and plenty of Brix, or sugar in solution.  Unusually, it was also a little higher in the pH department.  To avoid having a flabby rosé (who likes a flabby rosé?), we cold fermented at about 12C and boosted the natural acidity by about half a gram per liter.  Cold fermenting helps lock in the fruit flavours. Yeast selection was initially feral but to ensure a strong finish at the end of the race we added our old pal Romanée Conti 212 when about 1/2 half the sugar had been depleted. The result of the yeast family feud is the complexity and savoury nature of this rosé.”

Brad describes The 2015 RED SKY as strawberry, cherry, rhubarb in the nose and in the palate. And enough tannin to stand up to just about any casual food pairing from pizza to picnics to pastrami. “Unusually, the alcohol is on the high side but the big, round body of the wine manages that with considerable aplomb.”

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Organizer Jennifer keeping her cool on a scorching hot day

Here are some other highlights of my tasting day…

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Tall Kyle Lyons of Tall Tale Wines from Okanagan Falls. They produced 290 cases of Pinot Noir Blanc and Syrah Nouveau with an interesting fermentation method hailing from the South of France.  The red is best served chilled and has a fresh, fruit forward taste.
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Love, love, love their labels. How Canadian is this or what?

 

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Wendy Coulombe of vin Amite Cellars Inc of south of Oliver pouring Compass, a Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Malbec blend that generated a lot of buzz at the festival.
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Kristine Witkowski talks with Naramatian Pam about their Bottega Wine Studio‘s Seven Directions and Bottega. The wines are made in the North Okanagan. Seven Directions is Rosé exclusive and  Bottega’s winemaker Daniel Bontorin crafts small lot red and white wines from grapes from the Okanagan that he feels display the highest potential for great Merlot, Cab Franc and Viognier.
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Anthony Buchanan Wines produces 300 cases in Penticton from grapes northwest of Oliver. Anthony specializes in single vineyard, site specific wine. Amazing.
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Andrew Stone of Anarchist Mountain Vineyard produces 400 cases of unbelievably good Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a red blend called Mayhem in Osoyoos.
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Nighthawk Vineyards, five years in the making,  from Okanagan Falls has awesome labels by Kelowna artist Alex Fong. “The Chardonnay has a beautiful nose,” says festival guest Chris from Kelowna. “This is the kind of wine that I immediately begin meal planning with. I would love this with a pasta in a beautiful cream sauce.”
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Roche Wines Dylan Roche showing off two beautiful bottles, a 2016 Rosé and a 2015 Pinot Gris. Their gorgeous winery on Upper Bench near Naramata opened just recently and is an instant hit.

 

Henopause — When a chicken goes broody

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Going all Linda Blair on me.

Out of the blue, The Baroness has turned into a maniac. She won’t leave her nest and growls and bites when you try to dislodge her. She is no longer the docile chicken who follows me like a puppy making happy chicken noises.

This new creature has gone broody. Her biological clock has flipped some weird switch and she has stopped laying and is desperately protecting one of Maria’s infertile eggs. When that’s removed she is as hell bent on protecting absolutely nothing and is a fowl in a foul mood.

I now use gloves as I lift her from the nest dodging henpecks. Once out she screams and flaps her feathers indicating her frustration at being ousted from her invisible eggs with their invisible chicks forming in them. She clucks worriedly.

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Pacing all around the run she is locked out of.

Since a setting hen only takes short breaks to eat and drink a bit and stretch her legs, most broodies get skinny. She is not herself when she is hungry. She is also making life difficult for Maria by hogging the prime egg laying box. Maria waits patiently for her turn and then finally squeezes in and awkwardly gives the Baroness another potential chick to hatch. Oh and I’m down to one egg layer now as broodies don’t offer up poached, fried, scrambled or egg salad. The broodiness is also catching and sweet-tempered Maria may fall prey.

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She tries all sorts of crazy cirque moves to try to get back to her invisible clutch.

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The cure includes:

  1. Gloves and courage and picking her up out of the nesting box
  2. Remove Maria’s egg out from under the Baroness pronto
  3. Locking them both out of the coop after Maria has had her morning egg
  4. Inserting a bag of frozen peas or ice cubes under her tummy
  5. Pen the offender in a cage — solitary confinement – with no nesting material

The results:

  1. She sees me coming with the gloves and we go at it until she is removed from the box…literally kicking and screaming.
  2. Baroness doesn’t really care if she is laying on an actual egg or not. She has a vivid imagination.
  3. She finds a suitable “nest” pretty much anywhere, fluffs up her feathers and sits ALL DAY in that spot.
  4. The peas melt and are canabalistically and joyfully eaten by Maria. The ice cubes happily turn into nice warm water in a ziplock.
  5. Last resort… solitary… coming up

“I find that gently removing the broody hen from the nest, taking any eggs she is sitting on, and then releasing her at the far end of the run where I have some special treats for everyone, generally works in just a few days,” says Lisa Steele in Fresh Eggs Daily. Clearly she has not encountered The Baroness. We are on day eight of the battle. She has taken to sharpening her beak on any solid object.

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Steely-eyed determination
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The flap after the scream.

So much for “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” The Baroness is haunting my dreams.  My Rent the Chicken  farmer says I can send her packing and get a replacement if she doesn’t get her act together and give me eggs to make fluffy cakes again. Mmmm…would you do that to a friend with Henopause who becomes ill tempered as she copes with a hormonal issue? Maybe if the friend bites…

Cardboard, duct tape and hope – Naramata cardboard boat race

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Never surrender
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Uber Canadian…celebrating 150 at Manitou Beach flying the cardboard flag proudly.
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Some solid engineering here and great paddling by the beaver
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The S.S. Sink  a Moose…this year’s winner
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Stanley Cup hats?
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Amigos before they sunk
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Shark heads proved to be a bad idea

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Bermuda Triangle
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Prow detail
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This team launched before the bell and quickly sank re “Cheaters Never Prosper” right?
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Bail, bail, bail
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Better engineering next year Dad

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Que Syrah indeed
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Pirate Power — The Zac Pearl stayed upside right

Sunset dinner in the vineyard at the Vanilla Pod

IMG_9482.jpgLingering over dinner at Poplar Grove’s Vanilla Pod restaurant during a warm smoky summer sunset is one of those memories to be teased out on a grey January day.

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Summer in a glass.
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Negroni sunset
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Creme brulee with namesake vanilla pod. Tastes even better than it looks…

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Poplar Grove is perfectly positioned for its views of Okanagan Lake.
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Post dinner trip up Munson Mountain to watch the strange sunset.

IMG_9495.jpgThinking of all the evacuees worrying about their houses and their land and the hard working fire crews and wishing for a good soaking rain…

Lavender harvesting with every bee in Naramata

IMG_9306.JPGHarvesting lavender…those words together sound pretty idyllic. Even in the heat and smoke from Okanagan fires it is a pretty amazing way to spend a morning. It is the only farm work I’ve done where you come home hot, dirty and sore but smelling better than when you started.

In movie speak It’s The Colour of Purple, Scent of a Woman and Attack of the Killer Bees all rolled into one. The glorious purpleness of the fields, the clean, stringent and all encompassing lavender aroma and the buzzing of a zillion bees make the time spent at Forest Greenman Lavender Farm in Naramata an intense sensory experience. This photo essay captures the sights of the morning…your imagination will have to fill in the rest.

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The bunches are left to dry in the sun before being collected to hang to dry.
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Farm owner Doug hams it up while Brian does all the work.
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It was about 30 degrees by quitting time.
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A neighbour, aptly named Harvest, dropped by to help.
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Doug felt the bee population had never been as high. Two harvesters got stung, an occupational hazard.

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It takes several passes with a scythe to collect enough lavender to make a big fat bunch.
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The bees were everywhere. They seem to move along as you work and only sting if they get caught up while you are gathering the stocks or while transporting the bundles.

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It’s the last year of Forest Greenman Lavender Farm for Doug and Karolina as they have sold the farm. Be sure to drop by this season to get your aromatherapy.  It’s not the last year for lavender though as the couple have a new venture in the wings involving this amazing plant.
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Some of the lavender we harvested will be distilled for its essential oils.
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Some will be sold in dried bunches.
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The lavender fields are rimmed with lovely fruit trees.
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This old Massey-Fergus is a beauty.
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These are special cherries, Balatons. I traded my labour for some to make the best jam in the world.

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A few bunches came home with me!
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Thanks Doug and Karolina for letting me pitch in.

Steep well my friends…how our raspberries become distilled Legends

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Ingredient and end product pictured on our Naramata raspberry farm

Our raspberries are summer captured in juicy jewel bites. When they hang out with Legend Distilling‘s craft vodka along with some BC blueberry and cranberry pals summer is but a pour away, anytime of the year.

IMG_8485.jpgA good portion of our Naramata Carpe Diem berry farm’s raspberries end up at Legend Distilling, a short walk from us. They use them as a cocktail garnish and in their Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka.

Distiller and Legend owner Doug Lennie was pressing off the fruit that had been infusing  into his craft vodka for a secret amount of time when I dropped off this morning’s harvest.

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Doug giving the batch a stir
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The spent fruit goes into a fruit press
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The raspberries have given up their lovely hue to the vodka.
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Fruit press in action
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The pressed juice goes back into the steel tank and the vodka will be bottled and labelled next week.

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The whole operation is closely supervised by distillery dog Roxy

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The vodka has a beautiful colour and Legend’s legendary view is the perfect backdrop. It tastes out of this world but for me the lovely fruity aroma is the best part.
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I can’t think of a better home for our organically-grown raspberries…

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The great chicken coop escape

 

IMG_8268.jpgThe girlies would tell you this tale if they could but their typing is hunt and peck at best and would take far too long. I think the whole event confuses them as well. An aside… Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between more than 100 human or animal faces. They love to play, they dream (about eating millions of bugs?), they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great moms — they talk to their chicks while still in the egg and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.

IMG_8288.jpgA week into chicken husbandry I am still getting up at 6 a.m. to check on them. In my pjs, no coffee on board, I duck into their coop to change the water and hear the run latch gently click shut with me inside.

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The run is some distance from the house and the sleeping Handyman who decidedly  does not wake up at 6 a.m.

Three old ladies stuck in a lavatory”

The old weird song lyrics start going through my head…

Oh, dear, what can the matter be
Three old ladies locked in the lavatory
They were there from Monday to Saturday
Nobody knew they were there

I try using a stick to poke through the hardware cloth and lift the latch up.

The first one’s name was Elizabeth Porter
She went in to be rid of some overdue water
And she stayed there far more than she ought to
And nobody knew she was there.

Maria and The Baroness are watching me curiously. (Re side note…they are smarter than you think.) I then try pushing the hardware cloth out, with a fair bit of force, in several spots. The Handyman is really good at building things and the coop is racoon-proof, or so we thought.

The second one’s name was Elizabeth Pomphrey
She went in and made herself comfy
Then she said: “Girls, I can’t get my bum free.”
And nobody knew she was there

After only a week with my new pals we aren’t super comfortable with each other. They are eyeing me suspiciously and making low murmuring sounds. Another aside…Researchers have shown that there are at least 24 different sounds chickens make and maybe as many as 30. While chickens don’t have nearly the vocabulary that us humans have, and their chicken brains don’t allow for abstract and deep conversations, they are still a very vocal and conversational critter.

I finally hit on the solution and break a few zip ties that are securing a set of overlapping panels of the hardware cloth and make my great escape. Coffee!

The last one’s name was Elizabeth Carter
She was known as a world renowned farter
She went in and played a sonata
And nobody knew she was there.

Later that day The Handyman installed a rope gizmo allowing the latch to be opened from the inside as well.

 

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The day after the escape from the coop I woke at 6 to find the nesting box door hanging open. I ran to the coop expecting it to be empty or a scene of indescribable carnage but found the girlies milling about in the run, all feathers accounted for. The new bungee addition makes the coop really racoon proof.

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Chicken TV

Because chickens are clever creatures, each occupying a different role in the pecking order, keeping them in your backyard gives you a chance to see the individual personalities and quirks. Maria is fascinated by holes of any kind. She is also the boss.

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Here she is sorting out the perfect spot for a dustbath. Distracted momentarily, The Baroness steals her spot… not for long. After a dust up Maria reclaims her throne.

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The girls and The Handyman

Despite being told I am the chicken lady and in sole charge, I catch The Handyman letting the girls out when he is working on the farm…and he talks to them and makes a special clucking noise. The exercise king, here he is taking them on a little jog…which is funny itself. Something about chickens running cracks me up.

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A taste of country life

I love our chickens. Who would have thought it. They are curious, interesting, sweet creatures who demand little and give us eggs daily. I feel good about giving them great food, room to roam and a nice, cruelty-free life.

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Hens with Benefits

They give us breakfast in return and lovely fluffy cakes.IMG_8150.jpg

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