Visit From Grandpa Maclean and Grandma Martin

My parents came for a visit last week to spend some time with the twins. The weather was great and my mom was able to go out for a ski in the mountains and Janet was able to go for a small run and take the dogs for walks while grandma and grandpa watched the babies.

Grandma spent lots of time hanging out with the babies and helping Eileen practice sitting up.

Eileen sitting with Grandma
Eileen sitting with Grandma
Eileen and Ewan in their Christmas Sleepers
Eileen and Ewan in their Christmas Sleepers

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First Attempt at a Euro Mount

Trophies and antlers have never been the objective for us when hunting, in fact, even when we have shot an animal with a decent rack, we’ve never done anything more than take the skull plate and toss the antlers into a tree or perhaps the garage. For us, it’s all about filling the freezer, enjoying nature and time with each other, and the satisfaction that comes with hard work.

This year, Davis shot a whitetail buck with a fairly interesting rack with lots of broken tines and an abscess and I thought I would take the opportunity to learn how to turn it into a European/skull mount. Lucky for me my parents were in town for a visit and my dad was able to give me a hand.

I think it turned out really well for a first attempt and I definitely learned a few lessons to keep in mind for any future endeavours.

Click on images to enlarge.

Euro Mount of Davis' Whitetail
Euro Mount of Davis’ Whitetail

Sadly I don’t have any pictures of the process, but here’s what we did.

Continue reading “First Attempt at a Euro Mount”

Making Venison Bone Broth

In the interests of utilizing as much of our kills as possible, and because we love a good homemade stock, I decided to use the bones from our deer and elk this year to make bone broth. Dad used to do this when we were growing up but for whatever reason, it’s something I have never bothered with. I guess having dogs to give the bones to gave me an easy out but dogs can only chew so many bones and there are enough buried in the back yard as it is.

Step one (after removing most of the meat from the bones) was breaking down the bones into smaller pieces so that they could be tightly packed into a stock pot, especially the elk which is a large animal with large bones. This was accomplished by separating all of the joints with a knife, then using a reciprocating saw to cut the larger bones into smaller pieces and exposing the bone marrow.

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Two half sheets of deer and elk bones
Two half sheets of deer and elk bones

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2017 Hunting Trip

Every year my two brothers and our Dad head up to a hunting camp a little bit north of Valleyview Alberta in an effort to fill our freezers with delicious wild game meat. This year we called in support from Janet’s parents so that I could head up north for a week without feeling too guilty about leaving Janet alone with seven month old twins.

As this is a post about hunting, expect to see some graphic images, if that’s not for you, you may not want to proceed. You may not want to eat meat either if you can’t handle where it comes from, but that’s another subject. 😉 Continue reading “2017 Hunting Trip”

Thanksgiving in the Okanagan

For Thanksgiving, we braved the longest drive with the twins yet and made our way to my parents vineyard in the community of Kaleden in the Okanagan valley in British Columbia. What is normally an eight hour drive became a nine hour drive with the twins but all things considered it went remarkably well with only two feeding breaks and minimal crying and the fall foliage made for a very scenic drive through the Rockies and then the valley.

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The view from mom and dad's deck, thanksgiving 2017
The view from mom and dad’s deck, thanksgiving 2017

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2017 Garden Report

As noted in a previous post, my parents stayed with us shortly after the twins were born in order to help us manage the first few weeks.

In addition to helping with the babies, they also helped out around the house including planting our garden for us.

For the fifth year in a row, we’ve had an excellent growing season, in fact, this year was the best I can remember with 5 weeks worth of heat warnings in Calgary, unheard of as far as I can remember.

Between the work my parents did planting the garden, the maintenance that we did throughout the year, and the excellent conditions we made out pretty well!

We have enjoyed lots of tomatoes, radishes, snow peas, beans, arugula, kale, lettuce and herbs throughout the summer.

We had an incredible abundance of basil and arugula so I have been steadily making and freezing pesto. At this point I’m sure we have enough to last us through the winter.

Calgary is also subject to pretty frequent serious hailstorms so I have been working on jerry-rigging a frame over which we can drape polyurethane in the event of hail, and it can also double as a greenhouse to buy us a few more weeks towards the end of the growing season, we also ended up using it to help support different climbing plants.

Click in images to enlarge.

Our 2017 Garden (after beet and radish harvest)
Our 2017 Garden (after beet and radish harvest)
Our 2017 Garden with Polyurethane
Our 2017 Garden with Polyurethane
Inside Our 2017 Greenhouse
Inside Our 2017 Greenhouse

The greenhouse worked really well and definitely bought us a couple of weeks to help vine ripen our tomatoes, and today it protected what’s left of our garden from a serious winter blizzard with 60-90km/hour winds and 15cm of snow. There is a low of -5C tonight so hopefully it will keep everything warm enough until it starts warming up again tomorrow.

Sean stopped by this afternoon to help me repair some places where the wind had pulled the seams apart, with a little luck it ought to hold for the rest of the season presuming this crazy wind dies down and I can refine the poly next year.

Our Herb Garden After Being Transferred Indoors
Our Herb Garden After Being Transferred Indoors
Roasted Garden Tomatoes for Tomato Basil Soup
Roasted Garden Tomatoes for Tomato Basil Soup
Tomatoes, Carrots, Arugula and Pickled Beets
Tomatoes, Carrots, Arugula and Pickled Beets

Not pictured is all the crab apple liqueur, jelly, juice, sauce and butter we made, the pesto, blanched beans, rhubarb, tomato basil pasta sauce, and tomato basil soup in the freezer. Even with all that we have harvested we still have lots of kale, arugula, and beans that should continue to produce presuming the garden survives the -5C tonight.

2017 Greenhouse in Snow
2017 Greenhouse in Snow

Camping at Jasper National Park

All summer Janet and I had been planning a big week long camping trip to Waterton National Park for early September as neither Janet nor I have ever been, despite the fact that we keep hearing such glowing reviews. Unfortunately, the night before we left, the Kenow wild fire began to threaten the park and the entire area was put on a voluntary evacuation alert. So, late the night before we were supposed to leave we had to figure out a new destination, and with most of BC on fire, and bits of Alberta, this was no small feat. Because we had a whole week we wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t right on our door step, but at the same time we didn’t want to drive too far with 4 month old twins. We eventually landed on Jasper National Park.

The next morning we loaded the babies into the cab of the truck, the dogs into the bed, hooked up the tent trailer and hit the road, and what a road it was! The Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper is simply spectacular. I can’t think of another highway I’ve been on with so many incredible mountain views. At times you literally drive along alpine meadows as you pass by glacier after glacier. Unfortunately the entire area was inundated with smoke from one of the many fires in BC so visibility was extremely limited, at times we couldn’t even see the mountains immediately beside us, none-the-less, it was a drive to remember. Luckily for us, the babies handled the 5.5 hour drive really well (which hopefully bodes well for our upcoming 10 hour drive to the Okanagan).

Ewan in his camping attire
Ewan in his camping attire

We spent the first day settling in to our campsite at Wapiti campground and hanging out at Pyramid Lake near the Jasper town site. Janet did some paddling with Luna and enjoyed the smokey views while I hung out on the beach with the twins.

Click on images to enlarge

Ewan working on his tan at Pyramid Lake Beach
Ewan working on his tan at Pyramid Lake Beach
Janet and Luna on Pyramid Lake
Janet and Luna on Pyramid Lake

Unfortunately, because of a bit of a miscommunication, and a misunderstanding about how the campsites at Wapiti campground are booked we ended up having to move from one campsite to another on our second full day! This was further complicated by the fact that rain was forecast for the entire day and we didn’t want all of our stuff, ourselves and our babies to get wet so when Janet woke up early and saw that the campers in our new campground had left early, and the rain had not yet started, we sprung into action and took down our camp, took down the tent trailer, moved over 3  sites, and set it all back up again in about 2 hours, with two babies in tow all before the rain started. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself!

Wapiti Campground
Wapiti Campground

The change in weather cleared out the smoke, but also brought with it cooler temperatures and a lot of rain. This was further complicated by the fact that all of us were sick with a pretty nasty respiratory virus. This was the babies first bad cold and we had to work hard to keep them warm and dry. With day time highs of 12C and lows of 2C for a few days in a row, a fire ban, and lots of rain, this was a lot of work. To make matters worse we were faced with one problem after another with the tent trailer. First our batteries failed, then we blew a fuse, then a lead on the thermostat broke and with no wire strippers and no soldering gun, we were pretty much out of luck on that front. We cuddled Eileen and Ewan all night every night in an effort to keep them warm which Ewan enjoyed, but Eileen prefers to sleep in a starfish position and would often bitterly complain about being cuddled with a shrill cry. There was one night when Ewan’s breathing was so laboured we seriously considered taking him to the local emergency room, and/or cutting the trip short.

Ewan and Eileen in Wapiti Campground
Ewan and Eileen in Wapiti Campground
Ewan and Eileen Keeping Warm in the Tent Trailer
Ewan and Eileen Keeping Warm in the Tent Trailer

Despite all these challenges we toughed it out and managed to enjoy ourselves. We were really impressed by the shear number of children friendly hikes, lakes and wildlife in our immediate vicinity. The park is huge and we saw only a tiny portion of it, but that small portion was packed with interest.

We hiked Malign Canyon which was particularly stunning although we did end up getting completely soaked (but managed to keep the babies mostly dry under our rain coats) from the considerable rainfall.

Janet in front of a spring in Malign Canyon
Janet and Ewan in front of a spring in Malign Canyon
Malign Canyon Waterfall
Malign Canyon Waterfall (one of many)
Blue Water in Malign Canyon
Blue Water in Malign Canyon
Malign Canyon
Malign Canyon
Malign Canyon Waterfall & Bridge
Malign Canyon Waterfall & Bridge

In 5 days we saw 9 lakes not including a handful that we drove by on the highway and Janet paddled on 3 of them, and we weren’t even on a mission to find lakes.

Kyle and Ewan above the third lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes
Kyle and Ewan above the third lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes
Janet overlooking the Fourth Lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes
Janet overlooking the Fourth Lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes
Fourth Lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes
Fourth Lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes
Mika Overlooking Lake Annette
Mika Overlooking Lake Annette
Janet Paddling on Lake Annette
Janet Paddling on Lake Annette
Kyle and Ewan enjoying the view at Annette Lake
Kyle and Ewan enjoying the view at Annette Lake
Kyle Paddling in Edith Lake
Kyle Paddling on Edith Lake
Janet Paddling on Edith Lake
Janet Paddling on Edith Lake

We saw deer, a black bear, lots of interesting birds, loons, trout, and tons of elk including this brute that we saw right off the highway, I think he might be the largest I’ve ever seen in person.

Wapiti (Elk)
Huge 8×7 Wapiti (Elk) – no zoom

While the drive home was not smokey as the drive up had been, it was shrouded in cloud which at times provided no more visibility than the smoke. We did manage to take in a few impressive views on the drive home despite the clouds and rain though.

Janet Below the Athabasca Glacier
Janet Below the Athabasca Glacier
Our Truck and Trailer Below the Athabasca Glacier
Our Truck and Trailer Below the Athabasca Glacier
Alpine Meadow along the Icefields Parkway
Alpine Meadow below the Athabasca Glacier along the Icefields Parkway
Atmospheric Mountains of the Icefields Parkway
The Crowfoot Glacier along the Icefields Parkway
Atmospheric Mountains of the Icefields Parkway
Atmospheric Mountains of the Icefields Parkway
Atmospheric Mountains of the Icefields Parkway
Atmospheric Mountains of the Icefields Parkway

Meeting Great Grandma Eileen & the West Coast Maclean Crew

For labour day weekend Janet and I packed up the babies and hopped on a flight to Vancouver to spend some time with our family there and most importantly, so that the babies could meet their great grandmother, my Oma; Eileen’s namesake.

This was the babies 3rd flight on the way out and 4th on the way home and to date they have been excellent flyers (with a little prep work from mom and dad).

Click on images for a larger version.

Airport Check-in
Airport Check-in

Unsurprisingly, Heather no longer has Wayne’s crib given that he’s now 30-something and we couldn’t exactly take our baby boxes on the plane so some creative thinking was in order. The result: suitcases make for a pretty decent baby bed!

Suitcase Bed
They didn’t actually share a suitcase, that would be silly

Aunt Heather and Uncle Peter graciously hosted us for the weekend and organized a visit at Oma’s place for us all. As always, they also made sure there was lots of excellent food to eat as well.

Oma was so happy to meet the babies and it was really lovely to hear Oma showing off her great grand-babies to her friends. The babies were definitely popular with the other residents and staff there.

Oma with Ewan, Eileen and Madeline
Oma with Ewan, Eileen and Madeline

Everyone took turns holding the babies.

Loren and Vicky with Ewan and Eileen
Loren, Vicky and Madeline with Ewan and Eileen
Wayne and Ewan
Wayne and Ewan
Heather and Peter with Eileen and Ewan
Heather and Peter with Ewan and Eileen
Madeline and Ewan
Madeline and Ewan
Bowen and Eileen
Bowen and Eileen
Vicky, Madeline and Bowen with Ewan and Eileen
Vicky, Madeline and Bowen with Ewan and Eileen

It was so great to have my Oma, my brother Loren and his wife Vicky and their kids Madeline and Bowen, Vicky’s mother Ping, my cousin Wayne, my aunt and uncle Heather and Peter and Janet, Ewan, Eileen and I all together in the same place at the same time.

The Whole Crew
The Whole Crew

The babies had a great time as did the rest of us and we are looking forward to the next time we can all get together.

No consents were obtained for sharing any of the photos above, if you have any concerns, please let me know. Better to ask forgiveness than permission… right?

Newborn Photo Shoot

We are having a little difficulty getting new albums to display in our photo album but we can share those albums in blog posts so here are the long overdue images from the newborn photo shoot.

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