A Wintry Day in the Life

A Wintry Day in the Life

By March 3, 2016 Storytelling 20 Comments

I awake in the morning before the sun at 6am when the sky is still dark blue and the bright moon shines into my bedroom window. When I make breakfast and bring my two year old downstairs, the sun is rising through the kitchen windows, touching the monochrome grey world with golden yellow light and then a flood of bright colour erupts over the snow covered landscape. After the wee man is changed and fed and happy I clean the ashes out of the wood cook stove and dump them outside in the ash bin and then light a fire –streaking my forearms with black soot every time. I make tea, I wash dishes, and I play with my son in the early morning hours. I’ve been a single parent since December and am still trying to get the hang of juggling all the things. Sometimes for a change of scene me and the kid walk over to my friend’s cafe for tea and breakfast and to chat up the locals before the work day starts.

Wintery Day in the Life

Mostly though, I usually wake up to being snowed in and having to dig myself out again so I can get out of the house and into town, so my employees can park in my driveway, and so I can get to the garage and wood shed. Alex and Errol can only come into work after they dig themselves out too. My snow blower was awesome until it stopped working and I was left with drifts of 2-5 feet of snow to clear out. It amuses me greatly that when New York and New Jersey got hit with a big snow storm, it was all over the news and social media. We get a nasty snow storm here almost every week and the world cares not –neither do the townsfolk. They know the snow is coming and they bring in extra firewood, buy their groceries, and hide inside until the snow stops. You shovel your driveway only after the plows have gone by, or your driveway will simply be blocked again by a mountain of snow from the road.

Some older houses in town have bad insulation and poor heating. I feel really lucky that I have a furnace and a wood stove. Visitors always comment on how warm and cozy my little house is. I’m glad I have the furnace as back up. If you only have fire and your fire goes out, your pipes freeze and burst. Errol says he feels like Cinderella because he’s bound to his fire, but he can pack it with wood and forget about it until sunset and it will still be burning. My wood cook stove is vintage from the 1950s and full of holes, letting in air and burning up all the wood every hour, making it inefficient and needing to be replaced before next winter. I feel like Seymour constantly feeding Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. “Feed me Seymour, feed me!”

At home

When late morning comes, my forager and shop assistant Alex walks over from his place just up the street and my shipper Errol drives in from his tiny house on Morning Glory Farm. Alex starts processing herbs and making herbal products for the shop and Errol starts to print invoices and work on shipping out orders. I cook brunch for us while chasing the toddler around and out of the kitchen. He is constantly trying to get into everything right now –climbing and grabbing at everything and giggling and running away… A troublesome blend of extreme cuteness and endless mischief.

He goes down for a nap after we eat. The silence is beautiful, but we fill it with conversation and music; blues, folk, hip hop, rap, electronic… I lend a hand and try to get as much work done as possible while the little man sleeps, helping with shipping, labelling, inventory, photos, or answering emails.

Cooking and herbalism

We three are kindred spirits, of a similar age and mindset, and new to town. If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while you know I give everyone nicknames. Alex is The Greenman (aka The Forest Spirit) and Errol is The Psychonaut. We’ve all been classified as hippies by the locals. And we are. Anti-capitalist communist hippies of a discordian anarchist persuasion who look forward to the inevitable fall of civilization… but you know with goals of brotherly love, environmental awareness, and self-sufficiency. We each moved to Killaloe to get away from the city and the currently unrealistic life that is expected of our generation: go to school, get a degree, get a job, get married, buy a house and cars, have kids, and retire happily ever after. What do you do when you can’t afford school or hated it, can never afford a house in a city, your marriage only leads to unhappiness, and you can’t get a job or can only get one that sucks away your soul?

Errol left engineering school for the military and has now just left his position as an army medic after seven years to become a nomad with his tiny house on wheels. Alex left the city and his job as a prison guard to become a forager travelling between Ontario and Quebec. I left library school a few years ago to run my own business and more recently left Vancouver to be a herbalist in rural Ontario. And here we are. We sit at my kitchen table and dream of spring and of foraging and homesteading. I need lumber, guns, and honey bees for the spring. We want to grow edible and medicinal mushrooms in a shed in the yard, learn to hunt deer, keep honey bees, go on foraging trips… to be wild and rewild. How cool is it that our team building exercises for work are plant journeys, drum circles, product testing, and will soon be foraging trips, camping, hiking, canoeing, and hopefully paintball. There are farmers’ markets, workshops, the Killaloe Herb Gathering, and Raven’s Knoll events to get involved with… I have a good feeling about this year.

Herbal goodness

Serendipity has been a recurring theme for me since moving to this small town. What I’ve needed, I’ve been provided with in short order. I needed help with the shop and found Alex and Errol simply by running into the right people at the right time. It’s just icing on the cake that we all have skills the others lack and want to learn from each other. I will share my knowledge of plant and tree identification, foraging, herbalism, gardening, permaculture, and butchery. Alex has experience with honey bees, is our resident forager and mushroom expert, and is apprenticing to learn how to do everything I can do as a herbalist.

Errol is a retired army medic and Alex is a former army cadet so they will teach me to shoot, though they are both partial to crossbows. Errol just built his tiny house on wheels last year and will likely help us build the mushroom shed and maybe a smokehouse or two… Once upon a time I used to be a professional cook, particularly skilled in butchery. My parents are planning on getting more pigs on their farm this year so I can teach us all how to ethically slaughter and butcher them in an area that is full of livestock farmers and hunters, but surprisingly few abatoires and small scale butchers.

Errol and his tiny house

Yes, we’re dreaming big. Because why not? And then why not actually do all these things when spring and summer come? We aren’t the only ones with wild stars in our eyes. There are many young people in the area doing their best to rewild, live off-grid, homestead, or just enjoy sleepy small town life. It is quite the contrast to see many local youths eager to leave this small town for the city, while at the same time, young people disenchanted by the city are moving here on purpose to live a more rural, practical life with a focus on tight-nit community. Part of me believes it has always been this way since we started to congregate in cities at the dawn of civilization.

Me so thrilled to shovel all that snow

We talk about these things and and so much more from science to the realm of the absurd. And then the kid wakes up and I finish my work and go get him. I play with him in the living room or take him outside if the weather and the snow cooperate while the guys finish their work for the day. Sometimes I cook dinner and we hang out, sometimes they head home. Tuesday nights are for potluck and Friday nights are pizza night at Garth’s Cafe. I’ve started hosting a trance drum circle at my house twice a month. There’s a winter farmers’ market and then a dj and dancing at the Lion’s Hall once a month for kicks. Winter seems endless sometimes, but keeping socially active makes it not only bearable, but wonderful.

The sun sets in a glorious wash of pink outside my large living room windows and then the world darkens to monochrome blue grey again and the town becomes eerily silent. The little man goes to bed for the night, I finish up any work that needs to be done, clean up, put away laundry, take out the compost, bring in firewood in the snow, shovel snow, and then usually fall asleep myself.

a day in the life

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Brent says:

    Gosh, you are so my favorite Leo.

    Slainte’ to you. X

    • Brent says:

      Thanks for sharing your amazing journey. Beautiful scenery and the comradery of the people really make me happy for you. Little guy has an amazing mother and role model.

  • I did not realize you were now single-parenting. I was the same to my first, a son, for nine years. As such, and a self-employed artist, it was challenging and glorious. I love reading about the life you are carving out for the two of you, and the addition of your assistants. Living the good life, indeed! I know, for I am sitting here with soot streaks on my arms, and tea in my cup, as well. Best wishes!

  • Robin W says:

    Wow! I can’t believe your little man is already two! So cute! It sounds like your new adventure is off to a wonderful start. Wishing you all the best! Xx

  • dre says:

    Cheers to carving out the awesome dreams into reality. It’s nice to romanticize, but the daily truth of it, to me, is even better. Much more difficult, and infinitely more fulfilling. I wish you all the best.

    Your delightful forays into mushroom medicine reminded me that one of my favorite herbalists just wrote an interesting article on ways of preserving mushroom medicine that seemed like something you might like. Let me know if you’d like a link. Her blog is at Old Ways Herbal.

    And I have decidedly fallen in love with the pine pitch salve. Thank you.

  • Afshin says:

    Lovely post Sarah! Your posts never fail to enchant me. I become a kid all over again! Good luck with all your work and preparations!

  • Soli says:

    Whenever you post these kind of things you remind me of what I eventually want in my own life and inspire me hard. And I am sorry to hear that it’s just you and the wee one in the house now. Both of you, be well. :)

  • Aubrey says:

    I haven’t commented before, but there is a time for everything. You are doing such an amazing job of carving your own path, giving it your own touch. I really enjoy reading of the happenings in your life. It is wonderful encouragement for those of us who haven’t quite spread our wings. Much love. ♡

  • James says:

    So full of vitality and purpose. You do new beginnings better than anyone I know!

  • Pamela says:

    Your wee boy is adorable 😀 Your home looks lovely and your way of life sounds so magical.

    Sorry to hear of your break-up, I hope things get easier for you soon <3

  • Bran says:

    A beautiful way of life. Without the hard work you do, you would never truly connect with your environment enough to understand it the way you obviously do. Reading about your life is how I spent my lunch-time, day-dreaming about running away to the forest to finally breathe.

  • Miriam says:

    Once again, your words never fail to paint a beautiful picture of your life. I too am sorry to hear that you and the Poisoner parted, but all things in their due course… Much love to you and yours!!

  • Catherine says:

    It was nice to read your post! I live in Montreal and go foraging by myself, having taken a few herbology courses while studying naturopathy and then teaching myself about wild edibles and herbs. I’d love to learn more, about trees and mushrooms…and everything! I’m guessing Alex goes foraging in the country in Quebec but if he visits the city (more particularly the suburbs as I live in the West Island), I’d be happy to go foraging! You can see what I’ve posted on my website so far (it’s a work in progress). ~Catherine :)

  • Jonquil says:

    Two years old already! How time flies on strong wings. Such a busy year to look forward to.

  • k8 says:

    This might be another way to share your knowledge and guide a younger generation! http://www.upworthy.com/see-adorable-photos-of-7-forest-schools-from-around-the-country?c=upw1

  • Nikkie says:

    Slainte mhor dear Sarah!

  • Jessica says:

    Holy Moly! I was nodding my head the entire post.

    First off I’m sorry for the single mother ordeal. I hope it was for the better? I wish you and your littler one to be happy. Your child is so lucky to grow up around you!

    I too am part of the young generation, age 26, and I have sold my condo in the city and have moved 45 minutes away to the forest of the Rocky Mountains, Pine, Colorado.I quit college and my boyfriend and I started our own towing business and I still have to travel to the city to pursue that, but we are hoping to move the business to the mountains closer to home! We are interested in the sustainable lifestyle. One step at a time!

    I love love that you are a witch(if you proclaim yourself one) and you speak of guns and butchering!!! Do you know how hard it is to discuss with fellow pagans about those subjects??!! All beings are sentient!

    I love reading your blog!

    Much love from Colorado
    Many Blessings

    Jessica Warren

  • Amy says:

    I have always loved your blogs!!! Sorry about the break up :(
    I hope you and your son are happy and healthy!! Anyways just wanted to say what an inspiration you are and super jealous of your wooded landscape!! I wish I lived in a wooded area like that! So beautiful!!
    Keep up the beautiful blogs and thank you for sharing your wonderful world!!!

  • Donna says:

    What a nice read. We in the lower mainland miss you but I love that you are living such a life. If I was younger I would live that too. I didn’t know about you and C and sorry to hear that. Please keep the photos coming bi love them. Hugs.

  • bill says:

    Thankyou for all you do.