Tag: Wheelie Good Coffee

Learning when to quit

I am tired. VERY tired. Life is, as usual, hectic and only going to get busier! So much so that I haven’t posted on here for ages. Since the last post, I totally failed to get a promotion that I had high hopes for at work, we saw Rocky Horror (fantastic!) Halloween happened which was great (I was the Starbucks Siren, the most evil creature in the universe. At work. Wearing a cardboard corset. All day.), I started writing a Zombie novel for Nanowrimo, the Farmers’ Market moved to its indoor winter location, I went to the CBC Tweetup, met the host of the Morning Edition, Shelia Coles properly and won a CBC coffee mug, I got a new ferret tattoo, Amy, Jen and I had a wee bit too much to drink in the new pub and sang murdered a few songs at Karaoke, and I helped paint Miri’s daycare green and orange. Also, I found out the Irish Poutine is a Thing. AND, we’ve booked our flights back to the UK for Christmas! So, life has been generally good.

However, I am finding that I have to slow things down a bit to fit the important things in (and I don’t like it one little bit). Something BIG this way comes, which will remain cryptic for now, but this Happening is taking up virtually all my spare time and energy – and it needs to. Recently, I resigned from the exec of the beer club, and from the CVAF (arts festival) planning committee – fortunately both groups were very understanding and very excited for me! I haven’t gone to Word Up Wednesday for months (the poetry slam) and I haven’t even written anything for it either. I was swearing and stressing about my Nanowrimo novel until both Carl and my parents gently reminded me that I was supposed to be doing it for FUN, so I gave up on it – and I really found that difficult. Nanowrimo is my THING. I love it, and I really wanted to develop my plot this year. I got to 15,000 words and actually feel guilty about it.

With the advent of Winter – by which I mean about 20cm of snow and minus-ridiculous temperatures already – we decided to gracefully retire Wheelie Good Coffee from the Farmers’ Market until the Spring. We did manage a few weeks in the new indoor location, but we were still having to pedal the cart across town, and that made the cart grumble (and us too, to be honest). Snow and extreme cold take their toll on rubber and we had two blown tyres in 3 weeks, then as the first snow fell, the pipes in the cart frozen absolutely solid, and we had to take a fan heater to it to defrost it. No serious damage was done fortunately, but we didn’t want to risk anything irreparable happening. Plus, we both really enjoyed having the whole weekend off work. It’s been ages since we could do that.

Unfortunately, all this means I am seriously beginning to resent my day job. The people there are still awesome and nothing specific has got worse, I just don’t like it taking up all my time when I have other, far more exciting and fun things to be getting on with. I cherish my independence, and as such, I think I’d feel the same about any job right now: in simple terms, I just don’t want to work for other people. Ever. I spend more time with work colleagues than I do with my husband and daughter. I drag myself out of bed for it at some ungodly hour and walk to work in -28 celcius while it is still dark, and leave just as it is getting dark again. It brings in enough for us to be financially quite comfortable, but what’s the point of having money if you have no time to spend it?

The BIG, cryptic Happening on the horizon may dash any hopes of financial security for quite some time. But it will be sooooo worth it, and I am madly excited!!

Becoming a Regina Farmer

Miranda came home the other day saying she wants to be a farmer when she grows up. Fair enough – we’re in the right place!

Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket apparently – a lot of agriculture happens here in the Big Flat Spaces between towns. Abundant grain elevators. Last year at the Mustard festival, we learned that Saskatchewan is the largest exporter of mustard seed in the world. And then of course, Regina has it’s own Farmers’ Market. ( awaits jokes along the lines of “how do I farm Reginas?” from Mr Chapman) It is awesome. It gets bigger every week. Something like 13,000 people visit it on a week day morning. It wins awards.

Not every market vendor is actually a farmer. I don’t think the bread guy grows his own wheat, and I don’t think the pastry people grind their own flour..and as for me, um… well anyway, everything is made locally at least. All the vegetable vendors grow their produce locally, and it is all the better for it. There’s even a cheese stall with  my favourite goats cheese from their goat farm, and a man selling meat from his ranch, who originated from Cumbria, England. Although I am not a farmer, the market has welcomed my coffee business with open arms and empty travel mugs. It would be seriously difficult to cultivate and farm coffee in Saskatchewan anyway. But, I brew it here, straight in front of local Saskatchewinians, and more importantly, Bill roasts it here too. I feel like we fit in.

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Lacking the appropriate >800m above sea level altitude, the climate that never drops below 18C and the required humidity means I can’t farm coffee here, but to my surprise, I have actually managed to grow vegetables here – and not just any vegetables, MUTANT MARROWS. Apparently courgettes and marrows are both called Zucchini in Canada, but I mean excessively large tubular green things anyway. One little project I’ve been working on when I’m not at beer club/poetry slams or either of my two jobs, is gardening. Marianne and I have been tending a small plot in the local community gardens (allotments, to UK folk), and under her tutelage, I’ve managed not to kill anything (an amazing achievement!). Our veg even survived numerous storms and the wettest summer anyone can remember. I have been eaten alive by mosquitoes down there, so I feel my blood sacrifices may have been beneficial to the mutant generation process.
Who would have thought this:

humble beginnings
humble beginnings

– could produce this?

marrow
A Mega Marrow!

I should point out, that is one Mega Marrow of Many. One was so large I couldn’t get it home on my bike. I’ve made zucchini pasta sauce, zucchini gratin, stuffed zucchini, deep fried zucchini, zucchini Thai green curry, zucchini stir fry and zucchini relish. Marianne made zucchini chocolate cake too, and I even gave away seven of the buggers to people at work. And both Marianne and I still have several of them in our freezers.

I NEVER WANT TO SEE A ZUCCHINI/MARROW/COURGETTE EVER AGAIN!!!!

My neighbouring stall on the market last week was Scandinavian Sweethearts, who make amazing pickles with homegrown veg. The Scandinavian sweetheart told me she had over 300lb of cucumbers this year. I can sympathise, but then, she is intentionally growing them in bulk. Ours were… not intentionally so oversized… Mind you, it seems to be a Saskatchewan trend this year. Market Manager Ada has been spotted modelling a huge cabbage on her head. Perhaps this is what happens to you if you spend too long in the company of Regina Farmers….?

Launch day! Again!

Yesterday, 19th May 2014, saw the launch of my 3rd coffee business, Wheelie Good Coffee. You’d think with all this experience, starting up would be a breeze by now. Fat chance!! For nostalgia purposes, I read back over my post from September 2009 on here, when we launched Doctor Coffee’s Cafe Ape Van. Five long years ago, I was equally exhausted and apparently nearly fainted at my friends’ wedding and developed a mysteriously swollen ankle. In hindsight, it is easy to see these were signs of early pregnancy! This time, I am aching all over and knackered, but no other Big News to report I’m afraid.

Wheelie Good Coffee has already taken on a life of its own online. I’m at http://www.wheeliegoodcoffee.biz, and most significantly, @wheeliegdcoffee on Twitter. Twitter has been invaluable, both for inspiration and for the support to actually get this idea off the ground. I’ve received so many positive comments already that I feel more confident about this venture than ever before. Part of me attributes this to living in Regina, and particularly in Cathedral village, which is the first neighbourhood where I’ve encountered genuine community spirit. So to all my local Tweeps, THANK YOU, and I love you all!

The business is relatively simple and small scale. My wonderful, talented and handy husband built me a coffee cart – essentially a huge wooden box on wheels, housing an enormous kettle. This cart is pulled by my tricycle, Twyla, and I can pedal my way to events and trade outside downtown during the summer, at festivals, on markets, and so on. What’s that you say? How do I trade when it’s -40C outside? Well, that’s easy. I have a website where I sell my home-roasted coffee beans online, (teaching myself to roast requires a blog post in it’s own right!), along with mugs, tee shirts, my books and various accessories. The weird looking, very conspicuous coffee cart attracts people, and those who say “I like your coffee, how do I make it at home?” get directed to the online shop. At least, that is the plan.

Here’s the cart:

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All the coffees are Pour Over:

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and here it is all set up for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival:

ImageSadly, I didn’t get a photo of me in action. I didn’t have enough hands! I got utterly swamped, unable to make coffee fast enough! I was sponsoring an Arts Festival event, a mass singalong of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi outside Connaught school (read between the lines here!). If you turned up and sang, you got free coffee. In return, I got priceless exposure and publicity from it, a lot of tips (!) and a great opportunity to test out the coffee process with an appreciative and sympathetic audience. It worked – I got home to find online orders for coffee beans and despite exhaustion, I sat up til gone 11pm roasting coffee fresh for my new customers!

The weather could have been better, but it was not as bad as I’d feared. Horrendous rain was forecast, and 70kmph winds! It was windy, but we managed to miss the rain, fortunately. However, circumstances were far from ideal, because my coffee cups kept blowing away! I couldn’t serve the coffees fast enough because I didn’t have enough hands to simultaneously grind coffee, pour boiling hot water, dose up my coffee fllters, AND hold the cups down and out of the wind at the same time! Doh. But, the coffee filters do work, and people loved it – I quote “you can’t get fresher than that!”

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This all happened on Monday, Victoria day and the first day of the Arts Festival. The weekend prior to that was just mentally busy for both of us. Eternal gratitude to Carl for building the thing, but getting it out of our basement proved nearly impossible. As Carl maintained, the cart did fit neatly through the door to the basement. However, what he’d neglected to account for, was getting it off the stairs, and round the side of the kitchen cupboards. ALMIGHTY amounts of swearing ensued, and all his neat edging got pinged off to spare half a centimetre. BUT, we got there. And it didn’t fall apart, nor explode, nor collapse under its own weight. We had to hire a generator because there was nowhere to plug in outside on the street, and that required a lot of inquiry. The Roca Jacks coffee beans were eventually hand delivered late Sunday morning, after I had got myself into a state of low-level panic over their absense. Cycling it was a whole new experience. In a terrible bit of bad luck, one pedal just sheared off my trike last week, leaving me with an annoyingly long walk home one night, and now, no engine for the cart. So I had to make do with Yoshi, the two wheeler. Suddenly, balance became an issue again. I didn’t have any time to practice, but fortunately the whole thing relied on momentum. Starting was agonising, and stopping required about ten feet and excellent brakes (not something Yoshi is renowned for!). But once I was going, it wasn’t too heavy at all, even with 50litres of water on board. However, I now have sore muscles in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. Toning your glutes really is a pain in the arse.

BUT. I can pedal it. It does work. I make a GREAT fresh coffee. Bill’s Roca Jacks beans are just as good as they always were. Cathedral people are awesome, friendly and supportive, and the Cathedral Arts Festival got off to a great start despite the weather. I am achey, exhausted, happy and excited about Wheelie Good things to come!!