~ For people who are passionate about respecting the earth, walking in nature, observing wildlife, local diet, making do, repurposing, organic gardening, foraging for wild plants and fungi, natural health, scrumptious healthy cooking, renovations, DIY, crafting, raising children simply and mindfully, taking time for stillness, and living in harmony with the seasons.
Today is Wolf moon and if you know anything about me, you know that I love wolves. I was first captivated by wolves as a very young child and they have visited me in my dreams throughout my entire life. When I first moved out to the cabin a wolf appeared close by and I took it as a very good sign that I was in the right place at the right time. Last summer (ten years later), I saw another grey wolf standing out back next to my goose tractor. S/he was very still and relaxed and after looking at each other for a few minutes s/he quietly stepped into the woods and disappeared.
I first read the story of La Loba, or “Bone Woman” in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Este’s seminal book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, and like many women, it touched me to the core. The story I share here is my interpretation based on my own intuitive experiences with La Loba.
You may have heard of her. You may have seen her in your dreams or caught her reflection in a still pond looking back at you. Or while sitting around a fire you may have heard the faint, faraway sound of her singing carried on the night wind. If you are really lucky and have ever been to the wild and loneliest places in the deserts and mountains of northern Mexico, you may have even caught a glimpse of her—a silvery gleam in the eye or a flash of shaggy tail under a rough skirt that is frayed at the edges. She has many names but I am told that her people refer to her as La Huesera, “Bone Woman,” or La Loba, “Wolf Woman.”
She is very, very old. She is small, hunched over, deeply wrinkled, and has gnarled and bony—but surprisingly strong hands. She works tirelessly at her one important task: to search and find and gather bones—especially wolf bones. Each day, she wanders and walks, eyes to the ground, searching. And when she finds one, she picks it up, tucks it into the folds of her skirt and lovingly carries it home.
She does this endlessly and when she has finally collected an entire wolf skeleton, she carefully assembles it, each bone in its place on the ground. And when the Moon is full and the air is thick with magic, and breath, and completion, the old woman sits by her fire deciding what song she will sing. When she is ready, she stands and raises her arms above the skeleton and sings her chosen song, quietly at first, then louder with each repetition. As she sings, she prays, and in the flickering flame of the fire and the silver-white light of the Moon, you begin to see the wolf skeleton slowly begins to flesh out. She continues to sing and soon the skeleton is fully fleshed out and tinged with fur. She sings some more, and louder, and soon there is a tail… and ears… and whiskers… and claws… and a moist, black nose. She sings some more, her hands and arms gracefully moving, and finally the wolf begins to breathe… As the Old Woman reaches the end of her ancient song, the wolf opens its eyes, gets up… and begins to run. And as it runs, if you are lucky and the Moon is bright, and if you squint your eyes just a little, you might see that the wolf is suddenly transformed into a woman, who continues to run, wild and free, laughing into the night.
Pinkola-Estes, Clarissa. (1992) Women who run with the wolves: Myths and stories of the wild woman archetype.
I remember the very first time I visited this cabin. It was mid-August 2010. I had recently left my old life in the city behind and was now in search of a new home “in the bush.” I spent many days searching, driving down quiet country roads off the beaten path just waiting for that special gut feeling when I’d know that I had found it. I had explained to a realtor that I was looking for a secluded property surrounded by wilderness and was annoyed with him when he announced that he was showing me yet another cabin on Pigeon Lake. The last time we were out here he had shown me a tiny clapboard cabin on a property the size of a postage stamp with neighbors just a few feet away on both sides. Oh yes, and an asking price that was double my budget. I reminded him that I was not looking for a lake property and that Pigeon Lake was far too expensive for me.
“This one is different.” He replied as he drove us toward the lake. “It’s a special property. You have to at least take a look.”
We pulled up to a large pan-abode cedar cabin with a huge stone chimney. It was beautiful but my eyes were drawn to the woods beyond it. I got out of the realtor’s car and the first words out of my mouth were, “Show me the land.”
The owner, Terry, was there and I was happy that he was available to answer all of my many questions. As we walked through the property and cabin he told story after story of the local history here and the significance of this special place.
In the 1940s the Freiman’s owned and operated a mill here and many homes built in the city of Leduc (40 minutes away) were built with lumber from this very mill.
But here is where the stories got really interesting. Forty years ago, Reverend Dr. Gerald Hutchinson and his wife, Miriam, retired, bought this land from the Freiman’s, and built this cabin here. Hutchinson had worked in the area as a United Minister since 1949. Being of a deeply curious nature, he had asked the simple question, “Why is this area called Mission Beach?” No one around here really knew the full story and so he spent the next fifty years of his life researching the early contact between the local Aboriginal peoples and Protestant missionaries.
He was particularly interested in Reverend Robert Rundle, chaplain to the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Edmonton. Rundle started a mission here with the First Nations people of this area in 1840. Having lived in Banff when I was younger, I was familiar with the famous and picturesque Mount Rundle and was surprised that a man who had had a mountain named after him in the Rockies had also spent time working with Aboriginal peoples, helping them farm the land, right here on the shore of Pigeon Lake.
Very little was known about Rundle and so Hutchinson knocked on doors speaking with local peoples. Then he and Miriam travelled to England and Australia gathering fragments and piecing together the stories and history of Rundle and the time he spent here on Pigeon Lake. He wrote and published three books on this findings, including The Rundle Journals, 1977; The Meeting Place, 1990; and A Mission on Wooded Soil, 2009.
In 1956, he established the Rundle’s Mission Society and two years later, the Rundle’s Mission Lodge was built just a few minutes’ walk up the road from here. In 1965, the Mission was formally recognized as a National Historical Monument.
In his university days, Hutchinson had studied agriculture at Olds College. Having grown up on a farm in Duhamel, Alberta, he had a lifelong passion for the grey wooded soil of this area as well as a deep desire to help the farmers and Aboriginal peoples who lived on this land. Gerald and Miriam lived here in this cabin for thirty years until Miriam needed to be closer to the city for medical reasons. They sold this property to Terry who was a close friend and board member at the Rundle Mission Society. He and his family had owned it for ten years but were now moving west and wanting to sell it to the right person.
The property for sale was only 1.7 acres but it was backing onto 150 acres of protected land (220 acres in total if you count land across a highway), which were donated by Gerald and Miriam to the Conservancy of Canada.
As we continued to walk the land and tour the cabin things just felt right. I loved everything about this place, the ramshackle greenhouse made of reclaimed window panes, the huge slabs of stone and petrified wood that Rev. Hutchinson had singlehandedly hauled back from Jasper on a homemade wooden trailer behind his Volkswagen Beetle, the botanical fossils in the grand fireplace, and all of the other interesting rocks that he left behind here. I loved the eleven huge spruce trees (I call them “Grandmothers and Grandfathers”) who stand in a protective line behind the cabin (Miriam made Terry promise that he would never cut those down) and the way that the property was so interesting with its sloped land and the absence of any straight lines. I love the way the property was edged by two small canyons and surrounded on three sides by the protected land and the lake on the other side (across the road and behind some trees).
As Terry and I talked, I shared my Metis background, that I also was a writer, educator, and gardener; and that I also had a deep love of the land. Terry was warm and friendly but as I was leaving he let me know that his asking price was firm and that he could not go a penny less. My best possible offer was considerably lower and I was amazed when it was accepted! Terry told me later that he knew I was “the one” the moment I got out of the car and said, “Show me the land.” He really could not imagine selling Gerry’s cabin and land to someone who was just looking for a recreational lake property and said that he had actually turned down a few offers already. After spending time with me he knew that I would love Gerry and Miriam’s cabin and land as much as they did and that I would take very good care of it. He also thought it was right that after all of the work Gerry had done with Aboriginal peoples that this place would now be owned by a Metis woman who could appreciate the scope and significance of Gerry’s work.
Six weeks later, on September 30th, I finally took possession of the cabin and arrived in the late afternoon with the key and a U-Haul truck full of my possessions. The sun was shining brightly and it was as hot as a summer day despite being early Autumn. The sky was a vivid blue and the trees had all gone bright yellow and orange. A breeze was teasing the leaves out of the trees and they fell like a gentle, swirling rain. I sat alone on the front deck of this beautiful cabin watching the indescribable beauty of the falling leaves for a long time. The beauty of surrender, letting go… I realized that I was in a mild state of shock and not fully able to understand how it was possible that I was even sitting here… That after waiting for years—decades—in the city that this gorgeous cabin and land were my new home…
As I continued to sit and marvel at the beauty of the falling leaves the sun began to sink lower in the sky. Suddenly the light shifted and everything was now bathed in a rich golden light. The sky was now golden, my bare arms and legs looked golden, I am sure that my red hair must have looked like it was on fire, and the leaves that continued to fall and swirl were also pure gold. A few landed on me and I did not brush them away, but instead, completely surrendered to the medicine and magic of this place.
I spent that first night sleeping on an air mattress in the living room. When I awoke I opened the living room curtains and was amazed to see a huge Great Horned Owl sitting on the arbor about 15 feet away. I held my breath as I watched it for a few minutes, then it swooped down to the base of a large apple tree where it effortlessly caught a mouse and then flew away. A few days later I saw the owl again in the back yard.
A year later, I had the honour of having Gerry, his son, Ken, and Ken’s late wife, Jean, over for a visit here. We also attended his huge 100th birthday party at the Mission where he gave a delightful speech and received a plaque from the Queen.
Rev. Dr. Gerald Hutchinson passed away a year later on April 14, 2015 (Miriam passed away in 2010 at 94 years of age). Gerry and Miriam’s ashes were mingled and their gravestone in Fisherton Community Cemetery located behind Rundle Mission reads, Together forever in the land they loved.
What you may not know, is that a small portion of their ashes were reserved and sprinkled under a patch of wild blueberries at the edge of this property by their three children, Ken, Beth and Rob. Nowhere on earth will you find blueberries that taste quite like this. They are shockingly sweet, grow in wooded soil, and belong to this land.
This is my tenth year of living in this cabin and I never forget that I am living in a very special place with a very special story. Although I am 50 years old now the stories of this place never grow old. My son (who also attended Gerald’s 100th birthday party as a baby) is eight years old and he loves living here. He can show you on a globe the exact location of Pigeon Lake, Alberta (he once claimed he could see our cabin on the globe). As he grows, I tell him the story of two very special people, Gerald and Miriam Hutchinson, and how they dedicated their lives to telling the story of this area of Pigeon Lake, our tiny spot on the globe, known as Mission Beach.
Yesterday evening, we enjoyed the first day of the year in a magical way—on a sleigh ride, through the woods, in the dark, through miles (and miles— two exactly) of twinkling Christmas lights.
The sleigh ride event was offered by the Pigeon Lake Watershed Association who partnered with Pigeon Lake Horse Drawn Rides as a fundraising event to support programs for a healthy lake and watershed. We were gifted with tickets by some good friends (Thank you!) and we made a donation to the Association to add to the fundraising pot. We were very excited! Although we had been on a handful of wagon rides (usually at the Village during Christmas or on visits to Fort Edmonton Park) we had never been on a sleigh ride through the snow.
The weather miraculously cooperated. After extreme cold warnings for over a week (-40*C with windchill) it suddenly warmed up to 8*C that evening! We dressed warm up for the 30-minute ride and when we arrived, we were greeted by Catherine (of the PLWA) with hot chocolate and a cozy fire.
The ride was truly magical. That really is the best word to describe it. Maybe because it was the first day of the New Year filled with promises of new adventures… Maybe because it was dark and the fire and Christmas lights glowed so brightly… Maybe because the ride was long enough that you felt immersed in the nocturnal world of the woods… Or maybe it was that hit of Baileys in the hot chocolate combined with the heady scent of horse and hay…
Regardless, Pete and Tug (two extremely large and handsome Belgian horses) pulled our heavy sleigh through the deep snow like we were feathers. Our teamster, Rus, made sure we all were comfortable and kept us laughing. He also gave Chayton (eight years old) a few impromptu lessons on how to be a teamster, letting him hold the reigns, steer, and even stopping and starting the horses. “Step up!” (That was an experience Chayton will always remember! Thank you, Rus!) A handful of small downhills on the trail made Chayton scream with delight (“We’re on a rollercoaster!!!”) and he enjoyed trying to touch the miles of strings of Christmas lights, which were always just out of reach.
Click here to see a video of the Christmas Light Night Ride on the Pigeon Lake Horse Drawn Rides website.
Pigeon Lake Horse Drawn Rides has been serving central Aberta for over 5 years. Owned and operated by Mike Patterson and Karen Sterling, they offer many services throughout the year, including:
Christmas Light Night Ride
Daytime Sleigh Ride
Birthday Party Wagon Ride
Photography (in partnership with Sterling Photography and Marketing)
They have a variety of wagons and sleighs, including a carriage, oak wagon, hitch wagon, bobsled, and sleigh (comfortable seating up to 3 passengers).
They also offer Horsemanship and Pony Exposure.
Located close to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park, include Pigeon Lake Horse Drawn Rides in your travel plans. Come out for the day and enjoy the horses and our beautiful Pigeon Lake Watershed!
Thank you to Michael for taking the picture of us last night (we forgot to bring our phone). Also, all photos on this page have been “borrowed” from the Pigeon Lake Horse Drawn Rides website (it was dark when we were there). Please visit their website for more excellent photos and video!
Pigeon Lake Watershed Association (PLWA) is a charitable, not-for-profit environmental advocacy group made up of people who live, work and play in Pigeon Lake and its watershed. Our mission is to enhance, preserve and protect Pigeon Lake and its watershed as a healthy and environmentally sustainable ecosystem for current and future generations.
On December 16, 2021 we finally (FINALLY!!!) launched our online store. I say “FINALLY” because this was something we had been talking about for three years with very little to show for it.
I started making “Gifts for the Gardener” three years ago and sold my garden décor, photography, body care, journals, bookmarks, and a small selection of nature-inspired jewelry at markets, art walks, music festivals, and other special events. I also sold some of my products in a few stores, including Magpies Collection, and more recently, Mulhurst Bay Books & Gifts.
The jewelry and silk scarves were the most popular items and soon became all that I sold at markets. I really needed more space… I needed a store!
I started researching and learning everything I could about eCommerce and setting up an online store. However, there were a number of obstacles that needed to be addressed before the store could become a reality. First, we desperately needed unlimited high-speed internet. When high-speed first became available in my neighborhood there were just too many trees around the cabin to receive the signal and so we had to make do with lower speed via satellite. On our limited plan, my son, Chayton, (who is home schooled) would often use up the data by midmonth and our internet would slow down to a crawl making it impossible to do any work online.
Last spring, we decided to try to upgrade our internet and was happy to learn that our internet provider now has mini towers that they can install on your roof. Now we are able to receive a signal without having to cut down any of our trees. And with our new unlimited internet plan we can each use the internet throughout the month without running out of data.
A few more challenges involved needing a new computer (I was sharing mine with Chayton who often used it for school), needing to stock up on supplies and inventory (in case someone actually buys something online), and needing to get back into balance with my health (auto-immune issues). I am happy to report that I love my new MacBook Pro (Chayton loves having the old Mac to himself), my inventory is growing as I continue making things each day, and yes, I am feeling much better, thank you.
As a mom, there was also the problem of “never enough time.” With cooking, cleaning, gardening, home schooling, and taking care of our animals (chickens, goats, geese, rabbit, dog, budgies, fish), there never seemed to be enough time left over for a business venture. Then Brian got me a new bed and I started sleeping better (and no more sore back). With better sleeps, I was able to reschedule my whole day, now rising at 5am to have three-to-four hours of precious uninterrupted time to work on the business. Brian is a huge help with some of the cooking, cleaning, chores and errands, and when I go to bed at 8pm, he spends the last two hours of his day with Chayton, watching a movie, quietly reading together, and brushing teeth.
And here we are, three years later. The store is launched and open for business!
I will continue participating in markets, art walks, and other special events, but now I can pick and choose my favorite ones. I will post any Upcoming Events so that you will always know where to find me. I will also do more Open Houses, Tent Sales, and Wine & Cheese events right here at the cabin throughout the year. And while this is not a physical store, anyone can make an appointment to visit my studio here at the cabin to view all of my products and do some shopping in person.
This has been an exciting milestone for us. With the launch of the store, we look forward to posting more blog posts and youtube videos. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming soon:
More DIY, recipes, projects and articles on cabinorganic blog and youtube channel
Homeschooling/life learning projects and articles on Red Feather Smooth Stone blog and youtube channel
An exciting new writing project on Delena Rose
We are looking forward to seeing where the next chapter takes us. Thank you for being an important part of this journey with us!
On this day—the shortest day and longest night— we honour both the darkness and the return of the light. This balance of night and day is an essential part of the balance of the universe.
Winter in Alberta, Canada is a dark season. Our days are short and often very cold. Here at home, we spend more time together indoors near the fireplace, reading, visiting, and making music. We slow-roast our meals and bake more. We rest, daydream, and make plans for the garden for the upcoming spring and summer. These last dark weeks of winter are a time of reflection and inwardness. For me personally, this is a time of taking stock and letting go of the things that are no longer working in my life; a time of appreciating change and the freshness and new ideas that change often brings; a time of gratitude for my life and my loved ones.
Wishing you all peace, harmony, health, abundance and prosperity!
Until recently, my only experience with pickled eggs was peeking through the window of an old pub and spying on the ones in gallon jars that were lined up on the worn wooden counters. It never occurred to me that I could order one just to try it. I’m not a big fan of pickles or sour things so to spoil a perfectly boiled egg by drowning it in vinegar just seemed wrong.
Three years ago we set up a chicken coop and got our first chickens and for the first time in my life I became spoiled with a daily supply of freshly laid eggs. Once you have had this experience there is just no turning back.
When you have your own chickens, you sometimes find yourself in a position of having too many eggs in your refrigerator. We sell our eggs to a few choice friends and neighbors but sometimes people go on holidays or just don’t need eggs that week. As our hens lay around 18-22 eggs per day, keeping the eggs from accumulating in our fridge can be a bit challenge. When I have a surplus, I bake more often, make eggs benedict for breakfast, and crème brulee for dessert. My neighbor has inspired me to try soufflé… I’ll let you know how that goes.
In the meantime, I recently decided to try pickling some eggs. Brian and his parents like pickled eggs, so I thought that if I made them at least someone would eat them. They were quick and easy to make and to my utter shock and surprise, I found that I loved pickled eggs. They are amazing on their own as a snack, chopped up in an egg or chicken salad, or sliced in half and served on a bed of greens. As I don’t like food that is too vinegary I eat them while they’re still mild, after just a few weeks of soaking in the brine.
I thought pickling eggs would be a great way of preserving our extra eggs for those long, dark months when our hens are laying less, however, jars of pickled eggs just don’t last very long in our house.
I have been using Jean Pare’s recipes in her Company’s Coming: Preserves cookbook. She has both a traditional vinegar recipe as well as a sweeter version. I love them both. Try them and let me know what you think.
Pickled Peppers Eggs
12 large hard boiled eggs, shelled
1 each: yellow, red, and green pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 large onion (red, Spanish, or yellow), cut into half rings
2 cups white vinegar (I use white wine vinegar or pickling vinegar)
1 cup water
¼ cup granulated sugar
8-10 whole cloves tied in a piece of cheese cloth (or leave them loose and strain the vinegar as you pour it into your jars)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Arrange eggs a few at a time in a 2-quart jar. Place colored peppers and onions around them as you fill the jar.
Brine: In saucepan, bring all 5 ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Boil for 5 minutes. Discard spice bag (or strain liquid). Pour over the eggs mixture. Brine must completely cover the eggs completely. Cover and store in refrigerator at least 4 days or more before eating. Keeps in refrigerator at least 6 months. Makes 2 quarts.
Sweet Pickled Eggs
12 large hard boiled eggs
Cold water to cover
1 large onion, cut into half rings
2 cups white vinegar (I use white wine vinegar or pickling vinegar)
2 cups water
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spice, tied in a piece of cheese cloth (or leave loose and strain when pouring into the jar)
Arrange eggs and onions in a 2-quart jar.
Brine: In saucepan, bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Add pickling spice and swish the bag around for 30 seconds. Remove bag. Pour brine over the eggs mixture to within ¼ inch of the top. Seal. Brine must cover the eggs completely. Cover and store in refrigerator at least 1-2 weeks before eating. Makes 2 quarts.
Following my recent posts on the building and setting up of our chicken coop and yard, I wanted to add a few pictures of the coop in winter. The coop is insulated and ventilated—and we have a heat lamp in there that operates on a thermostat—so the chickens are quite comfortable even on the coldest days here in Alberta.
To extend some level of comfort to the outdoors, Brian wraps the entire small yard in plastic, creating a greenhouse, which keeps the chickens reasonably warm when they venture out. The plastic traps the heat, keeps the snow and moisture out of the yard, and blocks the bitter winds. For example, on days when it is -21 degrees celsius outside, it can be as warm as -14 degrees celsius in the yard, depending on whether the sun is shining. This helps keep the coop warm day and night as the window and south- and west-facing walls are against the warmed yard.
Brian hangs the plastic in autumn and takes it down again in spring. He staples the sheets to a wooden frame, then staples thin wooden strips on top of the plastic to hold everything tightly in place. It can get quite hot in there once the weather warms up in spring so we often take the plastic down in stages so that the chickens don’t overheat but can still be out of the wind until it warms up enough to take it all down for the rest of the season.
We carefully roll up the plastic and reuse it year after year (we are on our third year and have only had to replace the door piece once as well as part of the back piece where the goats rubbed through it on the other side of the fence). So far there has been very little waste.
Here is Chayton feeding the girls their evening scratch. It’s nice for us to have a warm place to hang out with the chickens even on the coldest days.
On September 20, 2015, we installed a new window in one of the bedrooms of the cabin. The old window was put in by the previous owners and it wasn’t a very good one. The panes didn’t fit together properly and it let in a lot of cold air in the winter.
Pictured above is the old window. Brian sourced a new window on Kijiji (he is amazing at finding things on that site) and bought it. It was brand new and beautiful in its wooden frame. We stored it until Brian was ready to install it. As it was larger than the old window Brian and his dad, Dale, cut a larger hole in the cedar logs. (Dale is outside standing in the loader bucket of his backhoe.)
Once the hole was measured and cut, Dale and Brian brought the window over in the backhoe and installed it. They were quick and efficient as they had installed windows many times before. Chayton stayed in the room the entire time despite the cold and performed the important task of handing tools to daddy and grandpa. He was very interested in the whole process.
The backhoe made the job a lot easier as it provided a platform to stand on and did all of the heavy lifting.
This new window has really added to the quality of our lives: it is more attractive both inside and out, it is larger so we can now view the chicken coop from up there, and the bedroom is a lot warmer now in winter.
This project was a small step (among many) that we have been taking over the years toward maintaining the cabin and making it more energy efficient.
We celebrate Winter Solstice here at cabinorganic. During the darkest, shortest day of the year it seems that there is nothing more important to do than celebrate. It’s been over a month of doing morning and evening chores outside in the dark, as well as spending more time indoors—a strange shift in our daily rhythm after spending most of our time outside in the spring, summer and fall.
On this day we use minimal electric lighting and instead light candles and a fire. We spend the day baking cookies with a winter theme (star and moons, or snowflakes), read books about the Winter Solstice, make music, play outside, then we have a feast.
Buttery ‘Sun Bread’ is often involved.
Afterward dinner, we open a few Solstice presents and spend the rest of the evening visiting, playing more music, and enjoying our time together.
For us, Winter Solstice is about welcoming the return of the sun and longer days. It is also an appreciation and celebration of the dark. We do not fear the dark but welcome its gifts. Winter Solstice marks the turning of the wheel- a new year—a new cycle— beginning again. So we honour this day as our own New Year’s and end the night with bubbly and toasts. We also spend some quiet time during the day and evening, reflecting on the past year and making plans for the coming year.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, and all of the best in the coming year!