29 May 2016

The journey to silver.

I love silver hair. My mother has the most gorgeous bright silver... Mine is very slowly turning but with a dull blonde base I don't get that lovely salt and pepper thing like she had early on. 

So.... I decided to play. 

First, I used Feria Pastel Smoky Sapphire. The box shows this:


But all I got was blue highlights. 

Which was fun, but not really what I was after. Even a second application didn't change things much... I guess all those reviews that say this stuff isn't effective are correct. 

So... I got creative. I used two colours of Splat hair dye, and I even got brave and did a brief bleaching before I added the colour. Bleach is hard on your hair and after removing the henna last year, combined with a rather unfortunate tendency to neglect my hair for days on end leading to tangles that verge on dreadlocks, I have lost several inches of length. Still I figured this is likely the last kick at bleaching and lightening because the natural grey is coming in well enough to keep new hair reasonably light.

So... Bleach. 

Then blue and aqua, repeated until I got something I liked. I mixed the colour with conditioner, so it made my hair feel lovely and having it on for a long time was actually helpful, if messy.

Very blue. I like it. There were a few spots that were a bit too greenish for my tastes though, so I added more dark blue. 

Love it. Super fun. 

But silver is what I was after so following the colour wheel I used deep purple to counteract the greens a bit.

There were go! 

Okay the blue and purple highlights are not what I originally anticipated but they make me super happy. 

This is technically a semi permanent colour, so it will fade over time. And of course, my hair will grow and the roots will need colour. I'll just mix up blends of the various shades of blue and purple until what's in the jar looks interesting and comb it in. Let it sit for an hour or so, rinse, and voila!

It's a good thing that I like variegation and that I'm in an experimental place. I am very pleased with how much this has cheered me up... I've had a hard time paying attention to self care, so anything that makes me feel better about life and encourages me to smile and brush a little powder over my nose and keep my hair untangled is good. 

And three packages of hair dye costs less than half of what a therapy session is worth. :)

So much fun!

19 May 2016

Permaculture Inspired Design: Ponds and Drainage

One of the main drivers of this summer's landscaping work is to improve the drainage on the west side of the house. There is a sump pump outlet on that side, and the water table is quite high so it runs regularly. The drainage was not good enough to clear the water away from the foundation, so the sump pump ended up more or less recycling it. Over and over and over.

I have tried a few things this year, and learned that it's essential that the outlet reach at least several feet from the house or else it drains into the window well and floods the basement (yeah, that was not a pleasant thing to learn). I also learned that there's rock solid clay about one inch down ... actually, I knew that, since most of our land is clay covered in a smidgen of topsoil, but this particular spot is absolutely SOLID clay. The kind that will not soak up water. 

The kind that makes natural ponds.

Ponds attract birds, frogs, and dragonflies - all of which eat the mosquitoes that you probably think of immediately when someone says "pond". A pond with moving water and not too much plant cover will draw more predators than it will breed mosquitoes - you'll get more mosquitoes from boggy grass (which is what we had).

So, I and my shovel got to work. I dug a little stream bed and filled it with rocks, then dug out a big hole that's essentially a mini wading pool. The clay here was gorgeous - smooth and slippery and solid. I dug with the shovel, then just got in and scooped up gravel bits and such with my hands, using my feet to find the spots that needed more work. It was really cloudy and awful looking but by the next day the water had cleared!

I watched it overnight, and it filled right up. Rain (and lots of it, thank heavens) was in the forecast for today, so I did some more excavation as my initial test pond proved successful.

There are  two downspouts on this side of the house and they needed somewhere to push all the water as well. Each now has a small channel at the bottom that feeds to a small pondlet, which then has an overflow of it's own. The pondlet to the north flows into the main pond, and the one to the south of the main pond flows into the little pondlet at the base of the next downspout. (Yes, three downspouts and the sump outlet, all on the same side of the house. Is it any wonder we need to work on the drainage?)

It does all look rather industrial at this point. I will be planting all around the edges with cattails, grasses and plants from down by the creek, and possibly some water lilies (permaculturisits: there are LOTS of edges!). Oh, and I'll definitely put in more willows. The whole area will be shelter for birds and other critters as well as providing flowers for bees - I've already noticed a dramatic increase in the number of birds and insects in the yard since starting the landscape design changes. I think all that fresh dirt and the puddles from watering the grass seed have made a worm buffet!

We did get the forecast rain (which was especially welcome as the smoke from the fires north of here was making it really nasty), and the drainage is working as I had hoped! There will need to be more work done, of course ... the pondlet/stream north of the main pond needs to be tidied up and enlarged, I need to install some rain chains, and I will be extending the whole system down the hill to the pasture. My goal is to have a little pond that is gravity filled from the outlet from our sump pump and rain gutters - the sump pump is going to run anyway, so it might as well do some of my work for me! Gravity is working with me, as there's a lovely steep hill going down to the pasture. I'll just need to make a little stream that runs down the hill and dig a pond at the bottom that the cows and donkey can drink from. No doubt Caleb will swim in it on hot days, too, especially since our creek seems to be almost dry. I think the beavers have been expanding their upstream domain again.

See the red building in the top corner? That's the chicken coop ... I'll make a diversion from the creek to provide them with some water en route as well. The collection of logs and such is a 'water break' (sort of like a wind break, but for water) under the eavestrough opening. This is the first spot where I need to install a rain chain, to help keep the water coming directly down and not blowing sideways with the wind. Nonetheless, it's catching and moving the water where I want it to go.

You can see that the little pondlet has overflowed and is making a soggy mess in the grass. That's what we used to have every time it rained - just soggy grass, which would sorta drain towards the pasture but only sorta. With all the grass roots and such, it moved too slowly to really clear. With a smooth clay creek bed, it should flow nicely down the hill.

With the changing climate, holding water is getting to be more important: this is our first real rainfall of the entire spring ... we have had a couple of little sprinklings of rain but no major dumps from the sky. Hence the Fort McMurray fire and all the other assorted messes of this very dry spring. Having some water capturing features in the landscape will mean I can plant things that will be kept watered even if I am not paying attention, that birds and other little creatures can get a drink even when things are very dry, and I can dip a bucket in to water the chickens or other plants and such if I need to, without using well water. Seems like a good idea.

Best of all, if I can keep the water away from the foundation, the sump pump will have less work to do (and thus a longer life span). There'll be less chance of the basement flooding. And the stock water should be automatically refilled for most of the summer, without any work from me.

That's the plan, anyway. So far, the prototypes are working well so I am hopeful.

14 May 2016


So today I realized that I was quite annoyed at my family.

When The Reluctant Farmer is home he is - justifiably - on his time off. He works away for two weeks at a stretch, and when he is home he does a lot to help out. But his two kids are also here, and the work load far more than doubles. The kids just hang out with their dad and play… Which is a good thing (and something I feel jealous about because I didn’t get to do that when my kid was small for assorted reasons, most of them out of my control).


At 12 and almost 14 they are way big enough to be doing more.


I’m not policing chores and asking for help every day and paying attention to who did what and so on… I’ll still be the guy tracking all of what needs doing and that’s exhausting.


I clearly need more help and the Small People need the experience of contributing to the household as well.


When things aren't working you need to look at process and infrastructure - something needs adjustment.

I made a list of chores I am willing to hand off. I rated them with points, more points for bigger jobs. I told my husband that he gets to set the target each kid needs to meet, and I made magnets for each job with the chore title and points (on puzzle pieces my friend had given me - perfect!).

You do a job, you put the magnet in your square.


You can volunteer for any job that has a magnet available - I made enough to spread out the jobs and vary the amount of effort required. Since the kids are here two weeks at a time (with a couple of days back at mom’s in the middle during the school year) the target will be set for the two week stretch. Being an idiot can result in an increase. Doing extra will probably be worth something but haven’t worked out the details yet.

I’m hopeful.

I figured that rather than fuming silently it was better to just attempt a solution - I knew my husband agreed in principle that the kids needed to be doing more, but we hadn’t had any real process that worked.

Maybe this will.

11 May 2016

PTSD Support Dog : job one

I sleep, knowing that he is right beside me and if anything happens that I need to wake up for, he'll let me know. 

Plus, Ben is an excellent co-sleeper. 

30 April 2016

PTSD Support Dog

Ben is really good for me. 

He has come a long way in his training since he came to live with us in January of 2014. He still gets wound up when new people come to the house, but he is starting to believe that I am the boss, not him, and if I say it's okay then it's okay.  He is way more confident and content. 

I've been taking Ben with me on errands to town all this past winter: he has a car seat and a safety harness and has had outings to the pet store and to pick up the kids from school. It's getting warmer, though, so I can't leave him in the car now... But I feel so much better when he is with me.

So... today I decided we would see how he does in public places. 

Legally, he is a support dog, not a service dog (there is a difference, and the regulations are a little outdated, but anyway..). This means that he isn't guaranteed public access, but it's kind of a grey zone and as long as a dog acts like a service dog in public, problems are unlikely. I don't want to push the envelope or be rude or complicate things for others with more serious disabilities, so if challenged, we'd just leave, no problem. 


If Ben can accompany me to more places, I can do more at less of a personal cost. I don't know why, but having him with me helps.

So today we stopped first at the pet store and got a blaze orange vest for Ben. Then we went to West Edmonton Mall... on a Saturday. 

Normally I'd avoid this at all costs, but my new lenses were in and I had to go pick up the Organic Box anyway, so off we went. I figured if Ben had trouble at the mall I could always take him back to the car, which I'd parked in the shade just in case.

We got gear sorted, left the car, and Ben  trotted along beside me, through the mall doors, up the steps, and into LensCrafters. Nobody seemed to think it odd. Ben sat down right at my side as soon as I stopped at the counter, and didn't make a peep. 

While the glasses were being fixed Ben and I walked the mall: up and down escalators (pretty tricky, but he figured it out!), past people eating, by fountains and shops and the ice rink and over the bridge in Phase 3. There were lots of "ahhh! Look at the cute dog!" comments, and a little kid in a stroller saying "PUPPY!!!", but overall everyone seemed to think it was no big deal.

Ben was clearly stressed by the experience but his behaviour was fantastic. Absolutely excellent. He sat beside me on the bench on Bourbon Street (even with all those food smells!), lay nicely at my feet when asked (in the bathroom and at various spots where I sat awhile), stopped and sat in heel position (usually without being asked) whenever I stopped walking.

What a good dog. 

I ordered a patch for his vest, now that I know he can handle public access: it says PTSD Support Dog

This summer we are travelling to BC for a family meet up and Benny is coming along. I don't want to just leave him crated while we go do fun things, so I need to work on his training and give him the skills to join us on our adventures... Because sleeping without him is very hard, so he needs to come along, and doing busy things is somehow easier when he is beside me. Usually a trip to WEM on a weekend would do me in, but it took a lot less out of me today. And that's a good thing.

For the record, I would like to see broader and clearer regulations for people with support / service animals: right now, access is legally available for dogs that provide Substantial Services for People with Substantial Needs... but for people like me who do better with a dog but can cope without if necessary, there's no clear guidelines. Ben and I are in a grey zone governed by good will and common sense, which is not too tough in Canada, thankfully. But still. I'd go through testing or get a license if there was a way to do so. 

In the meantime, Ben and I will practice behaving politely in public. Next adventure: a restaurant. :)

29 April 2016

Journal Table Cleanup

The Journaling Table got tidied today.

I saw a neat idea that I decided to implement: six pack bottle carrier as pen and art supply organizer. 

I covered it with paper and pretty tape, used paper clips to attach envelopes to the sides for stickers and such, and voila. 

Now I can get back to writing... I am currently making pages and adding them to a thrift store photo album. 

It's good for me. 

28 April 2016

Upcycled bucket bag

I found myself in a sewing mood. 

I pulled out my bin of reusable fabrics (cut from old clothing and prepared for use then rolled and stored in an under bed container) and found some denim and parts of two old sheets. 

Here's what I ended up with :

Construction is simple. 

Trace a plate on your fabric for the base. Then mark a "starting point" on the edge of the plate and roll it along a straight edge of fabric to measure the length of  the side - add enough for your seam allowance then cut a rectangle that long and as tall as you want the bucket side to be.

Make another set the same from lining fabric. 

For outside pockets, cut another rectangle only shorter, I used flannel folded in half with the fold as the top edge. Stitch it to the right side of the side piece, top stitching at intervals to make multiple pockets. You could do the same on the lining for interior pockets, though I didn't on this one. 

Sew the side seam to make a big tube, then stitch the bottom to the sides, right sides together - just go slowly and ease around the curves. 

Make the lining the same, then slide it into the outer bucket. My lining was a little taller than the outside piece so I folded it over and stitched it down like a hem - if they are equal height, just fold both in and press then stitch together -  blanket stitch with embroidery floss makes a great edge. 

After that, decorate!

I appliqu├ęd hearts, and made a little bag for my thimble (which I really don't want to lose, it was my Gram's)...

And I made a needle book with two layers of fabric machine stitched together then a slim roll of tshirt fabric basted along the middle for stabbing through:

The strap is a piece of heavy binding of had, with thrift store ribbon stitched along the centre, then hand basted to the side of the bucket. 

The finished bucket holds a stash of thrift store ribbon, thread, and embroidery floss, there's a pocket for scissors and one for a pencil or two... It should serve to contain my stitching mess a little bit better. 

And it was so much fun in expect to make several more - perhaps with quilted sides next time. :)