Waiting on Spring, and Other Things

Waiting on Spring, and Other Things

Often the promise of Spring is enough to get one through even the most bitter of Winters. And let me tell you, this past month has been a test of this from Mother Nature, as she continues to dump snow on us, attempting to freeze us and despair us with the coldest of days we’ve had thus far. February was the winteriest of months we had all season, but I do believe there is an end in sight.

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This past week the temperatures dropped once again into the harsh negatives. Minus forty below to be exact. And while everyone on the farm has grown accustomed over the months, its hard to deal with once you’ve had a taste of warmth and sunshine. But we continue to trudge on, as we enter March, and hold on to hope that Spring has to be getting close to that corner, right?

The animals seem to have no indifference to the cold spells anymore, but on a warm sunny day everyone is out and about soaking it in while they can. We’ve just about figured out the perfect number of bales needed for Winter, as we start to see the corners of the hay shed and trailer where they’ve been stored all Winter. With the sunshine today, I’m feeling like it should be no time at all before everyone is out on green pastures. In reality, we still have the season of MUD to deal with when the weather starts to cooperate.

The beginning of March brought with it National Pig Day, which we celebrated by sharing some before and after pictures of the Three Little Pigs on our social media accounts. The first collage is the day we brought them home from the rescue, nearly three years ago now. The second collage is a collection from this past Summer and Winter. Looking at these photos makes my heart ache for those little pigs we first met, how scared and unsure they were, how scabby their skin and thin their hair was. Then I look at the boys now, at how far they’ve come and I am proud. I love those little pigs, and the love shines through in their little smiling pig snouts, their thick hair coats and their little adventurous eyes as they roam their little home in the woods, living their best pig life!

We were able to get out to check on the beehives on a warmer day. It’s hard to know what’s happening inside the hive when all you can do is look from the outside and listen. One of the two hives is definitely very bustling, as you can hear little wings buzzing inside to keep warm. The second hive has notable noise, but not as strong as the other hive. Bees can be see around the entrance, dragging out the dead, on a warm sunny day. All we can do is hope that the cold is done with, the warm weather will soon be here and that our little bees have enough food in the hive to make it until then!

February may have been the coldest month on the farm, but it was also a time for all things love! Valentine’s Day had me in the kitchen baking all the sweetest little heart sugar cookies I could. I always have so much fun with sugar cookies, and the best part, getting to use my “new to me” Pyrex bowls! And of course none of this would have been possible if not for the handful of laying hens that have not given up on me this Winter. Thank you ladies for continuing to provide me with farm fresh eggs!

All this cold weather isn’t a bad thing when you want to hide out inside and complete all the projects! My mom sent my a beautiful puzzle which I worked on over a particularly chilly weekend. The 500 piece, quilted picture took me two full days to complete, and let me tell you, puzzle pieces aren’t what they used to be! This one had pieces of any shape and size you could imagine. Today, I tore that one down and started onto the next one!

I’ve also been taking advantage of cold days stuck inside to finish up and work on some new knitting projects. I am currently working on the second pair of socks for my Mom. After having to frog my last one (that means I had to rip apart the entire sock due to one silly little mistake), I am back to where I left off and almost done the first one of the pair. I have yarn for a pair to knit for my brother’s girlfriend as well, then I want to start trying out some different patterns for my own. After a little weekend away in the city, and some retail therapy at a little local yarn store, I am set for a while on sock yarn! I love all the beautiful skeins available and it is always so hard to choose. I also may have made a pit stop at Michael’s for yarn for my newest little side project.

Because all the cutest little patterns come in crochet only, and I cannot for the life of me seem to figure that one out yet, I had a friend make me up the cutest little pattern I found for free through the We Are Knitters site. This little alpaca was too cute to pass up on, and she did the most amazing job!

Of course my other passion during these cold, cold days is reading, and being stuck inside has made it possible to put a good dent in my must read pile. We just had our third book club meeting at the end of the month of February, where we discussed The Hazel Wood. It was such a good read, with a unique writing style and an out of the box approach at fairy tales. The next book we are reading is American Marriage and, while this one is definitely going to be more down to earth, I am looking forward to diving in. A recent finish for me as well was the Tattooist of Auschwitz, which I finished in just two days because I couldn’t put it down. A heartbreaking true story from the Holocaust this one is a must read for everyone! Another book I have on the go is from one of my favourite authors right now, Ruth Ware. Her thriller style, murder mysteries hook me from the first chapter and always throw me for a loop before they finish. Currently reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and again, not disappointed!

With hopes for Spring’s arrival we have also began to start seeds for the garden this year. Getting a head start on some of the veggies makes sure we can enjoy them fully in our shorter growing season. So far we have started tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower and cabbage. Having little seedlings popping up on the kitchen table also makes these last few days of Winter a little more bearable, and gives us something to look forward to this Summer. In the next few weeks of March we will start more seeds; including onions, pumpkins and watermelon. I have to admit, it gives me Spring fever to think of gardens and playing in the dirt.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for following along with us here on the farm. We love sharing our stories and photos of our little wild farm life for all of our friends and families.

 

 

 

 

In the Dead of Winter

In the Dead of Winter

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February, the month that breaks the everlasting lengths of January days. The month that begins to promise an end in sight. But do not be fooled. February can also be the harshest of months. When the snow falls deep, and the thermometer drops to polar temperatures and the world stands still. It brings the kind of cold that makes your face hurt, that covers everything in sight with a frosty cover.

On the farm, February is the month that tests all that you do.

Going into this “Polar Vortex” as they call it (although lets be honest, I remember last winter when we had a whole week around the -40C mark and I just think, hey welcome to winter in Alberta!), the most important thing is to make sure all the animals have what they need to endure the cold.

20190130_155113Fresh, dry straw bedding was given out to everyone before the cold hit. Having dry bedding ensures that all the little toes (and hooves) on the farm have a barrier from the frozen ground and snow to keep them warm. It also provides a means of snuggling into and preserving body heat against the bitter cold. Everyone on the farm has either a house, coop or shelter to escape out of any wind and elements.

Another must : fresh water! Most people would tend to think that animals drink the most water in the hot summer, but having lots of fresh water available during the cold is important as animals drink more in the cold. That means hauling buckets of water from the house, out to the back field daily when the water in the feed shed freezes. But a girls got to do what a girls got to do for her critters.

So far, everybody is battling the cold like champions. The three little pigs spend their days snuggled into bed in the Pig Haus and are only seen when the gate chain rattles for dinner. We feed them their regular pellets during the winter, supplemented with a scoop or two of grain to warm the belly. I love when I open the gate and see their little snouts peeking out of the door, little snorts greeting me.

The “back field gang” as we’ve been calling them are also braving this cold spell well. The donkeys have decided the alpaca are good snuggle buddies, and early in the mornings everyone can be found sleeping in the shelter together. With their shaggy coats the donkeys do ok in the cold, with shelter to escape to, lots of hay available to munch on and a little scoop of grain here and there. The alpacas, Beetle and Bailey, also have a good winter coat to protect them from the elements. We feed the alpacas a mixture of pellets, calf manna and alfalfa pellets for a little boost on the colder days.

It is with great sadness we share that over the holiday season, we said goodbye to our other alpaca gentleman Hobbes. I truly believe these two were much older than what was let on when we adopted them and that unfortunately it was just their time. Hobbes suffered a stroke which left him with no function in half of his body. His fight was gone with the loss of his brother and so we said goodbye to him and let him be in peace with Calvin. These two will always hold a big piece of my heart and they will forever be remembered here on the farm.

Our little goaters are surviving the cold, often sleeping in the house within the shelter we built them or underneath of their feeder. They are always the first little greeters when you start chores, their little bleats echoing across the farm yard. Momma Sue still loves to give kisses, almost as much as she loves to munch on hair or coats strings. My big bully Otto is rammy with treats, but such a loving big boy with me, standing up on my chest when ever I have treats. Doc and Jasper have become so friendly too, looking for pets and cuddles, these two boys have really filled out over the last few months.

The chickens seem to be unwillingly tolerating this cold spell, some days not leaving the coop or huddling under neath in the built in run. They always have topped up feed and water, although trying to keep it from freezing is a constant task. We have suffered only a couple of frozen egg fatalities, making sure to check twice  daily for eggs to prevent this. Throughout the cold spell the ladies continue to lay at least a couple eggs a day to keep our stocks up.  Chanteclair, our big beautiful Meline man of the coop, has suffered a slight bought of frost bite on his comb and wattles. While it’s hard to treat when it’s still so cold, our go to for frostbite first aid is some Prep H for the swelling and Polysporin to keep away any infection. A petroleum based jelly can be used on combs and wattles preventatively for frostbite, but only if it isn’t present yet.

Earlier this Winter we said goodbye to Bitchy Pearl, our little white frizzle hen who was in the second batch of hens we ever had on the farm. She passed suddenly, but not from the cold. She will be missed this summer with her antics as we reach into nesting boxes and don’t have her attacking our hands.

Before the cold snap, we ventured out to peek at the bee hives. When the weather is this cold there is definitely no opening the hive, so the only indicator we have as to what is going on inside is the humming noise of bees and looking at the front entrances of the hives. There were little piles of dead bees around the entrance of each hive, which is normal because as bees die the other bees will push the dead out of the hive as house keeping. A small pile is a sign of healthy life cycle. We can only wait and hope that they are surviving this cold snap and have enough food storage supplies to get them through until Spring.

One of my Winter goals was to make bird feeders for the cold months. We had asked the butcher to save us the pig fat when our hogs went in this past Fall. Dan used some of it for making sausages and mixing in with our deer meat, but there was lots left in the freezer so I thought I should use some of it up making my own suet cakes for the birds. I melted down the pig fat (which was a long, and stinky process in my kitchen), mixed in and melted down peanut butter and then stirred in bird feed purchased from the local hardware store. I poured it into molds and cups and strung them up in our trees out back. They turned out great, and are a huge hit with the little chickadees and even woodpeckers!

My other Winter project has also been finally finishing up my first pair of socks! It has been a start and set aside kind of project over the last year, but I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. And now, I’m hooked! I have since finished up two more pairs, a matching set for me and my Mom, and have yarn on the side for three more pairs. It’s definitely addicting once you get the hang of it, and if I’m sitting I’m knitting this Winter!

It wouldn’t be Winter without some snowy adventures in the wild, and snowshoeing is my favourite way to get around the trails on the farm. Dan recently cut us new trails in the back field bush where the donkeys and alpacas stay. Judging by the little hoofprints and piles of poop, the donkeys are getting as much use out of them as I am! The best part is our little convoys when I head out. With the dogs usually in the lead, the donkeys follow me and, not wanting to be left behind, the alpacas reluctantly take up the end of the train. It makes my heart so happy and I can’t wait until this Summer for all our forest adventures.

We even had an afternoon fire out in the woods before this cold spell hit. Dan cut down and stripped bark to make us a little fire on one of our trails. We sat and enjoyed nature (ok and maybe a marshmallow or two) with the ladies close by keeping watch. These random afternoon adventures are some of my favourites!

Another of our Winter adventures led us to the mountains where we visited Abraham Lake. This has been on my Winter bucket list so I was so excited to make it there this year. This man made lake, from excavation, has naturally occurring methane which in the cold of Winter causes bubbles to become trapped and frozen in the ice. It is a beautiful sight! We stopped for a little picnic lunch, went out on the ice to explore and take pictures, and then took a little hike up the side of a mountain slope. The view was literally breathtaking, as I got to the top of our hike and realized maybe I had more of an issue with heights than I had thought. The view was totally worth it! We even had the chance to get up close to a group of mountain goats. There is just something about the mountains that clear the mind and charge the soul.

Since I haven’t written since we returned from Christmas, I’ll drop some of our photos from home here. We had such a great visit with family, and it was so special to spend Christmas amongst loved ones. From day trip adventures with my brother and his girlfriend, to visiting old towns and shopping with Mom and Dad, not a moment was wasted!

February may just be getting to the mid point, but Winter has got to be getting closer to the end point. If we can survive these next few days of cold than I think we can all make it until Spring. With everyone bunked down today with a -30C temp outside, I’ll be found inside by the wood fire knitting away. Stay warm everyone!

 

 

Wild & Witchy

An update for my soul sisters, my fellow moon children and old souls alike. 

The end of January brought with it a magical time if you’re into or follow the phases of the moon. The January full moon, or Wolf Moon as it’s called, also happened to fall this year the same time as the Lunar Eclipse. With alarms set and warm clothes on, I spent a good part of the night outside watching the phases of the moon and capturing what I could on camera. It was a sight to see as the full eclipse sent the moon into a glow of red in the sky.

The winter blahs on these cold days have me playing around more with some diffuser blends and some of my favourites for this month are listed below. Whether you need cold relief or just some emotional support, these two should have you covered!

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AProcessed with VSCO with a9 presetlso I discovered the most healing bath time routine for myself, in a hopes to tame some of my crazy hormones. 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, 5 drops Geranium EO, 5 drops, Lavender EO, 5 drops Clary Sage EO and 3 drops Patchouli EO. Light some candles, sink in and enjoy!

I’ve been personalizing my space in the bedroom, little by little, and am finally feeling like it’s mine. I received the most beautiful macrame wall hanging all the way from Australia via an Instagram giveaway. It also came with crystals ( because you never really can have enough) and a book about said crystals. While home in Ontario over the holidays, I tracked down my favourite IG stained glass artist, and purchased two pieces I had had my eyes on. A moon phase hanging for my room and a honeycomb piece to hang in my kitchen window. When I told Dan it felt complete and was searching for a word to describe it he blurted out “Witchy”. He gets me!

This Winter I’ve also been working at up-ing my house plant collection. Don’t tell my husband, he hasn’t noticed them yet, but in addition to the spider plant I already have, I have added one more hanging plant and a small potted plant. I would love to get a big potted plant for our bedroom, but think I will have to wait until I can get to a greenhouse for that! Having plants in the house is not only good for cleaning the air, it makes the environment more welcoming.

Making sure to get in my “ME” time is important for the soul, especially during these long Winter months. I started a planner for 2019, have been dabbling with journaling and make sure to start my weekends with a hot coffee and vinyl. Because let’s be real, pictures of coffee and toes never gets old!

Stay wild, Witches!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby, It’s Cold on the Farm

Baby, It’s Cold on the Farm

Tis the season for all things Christmas as the countdown to the holidays begins to dwindle. The Christmas lights are hung on the house in all their glory, our little mini tree is up and decorated, and our stockings are hung by the fire. The winter decor is out, the fire is going, and our little farmhouse is quite cozy on a chilly Monday morning. 

This year we will be heading home for the holidays, and flying to Ontario to spend our first Christmas with my family in four whole years! To say I am excited would be an understatement! So much has changed in four years back home, and it’s time for this girl to get back in the loop. I can’t wait to spend the holidays season surrounded by my family and sharing it with my husband.

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We still wanted to be in the holiday spirit on the farm, so we found a mini tree to put up and decorate (much to Dan’s delight). It looks cute tucked below our window, beside our hanging stockings. There have even been a few presents to grace the bottom as we hosted Christmas dinner with Dan’s family a little early, and of course all of our “Friendsmas” dinners.

Each year we also hang Christmas wreaths left behind by the previous owner on our gates at the end of the drive, along our garden fences and on the feed shed. Because even the critters deserve a little Christmas cheer!

We started the holiday season in sadness on the farm. This past Summer we welcomed two alpaca gentlemen to the farm. I knew they were older, but just not exactly how old our two guys were. When Winter came their age definitely began to show, and despite doing all we could for the both of them in regards to shelter, warmth and extra feed, it was time. We sadly said goodbye to Calvin, who passed suddenly on a Saturday morning. It was the first really big loss on the farm, and it was felt by everyone. We took several days to grieve and come to terms with him being gone. My heart was breaking for his brother Hobbes, who was sad and depressed, and showing it. 

I reached out to a lady I had met in the Summer, who we had taken the boys fleece to to have made into yarn. Her and her husband own an alpaca ranch where they raise alapacas for fibre, and are only an hours drive away. She said she would have a replacement for us for Calvin and a new friend for Hobbes to help him cope. So we loaded up the livestock trailer, made the drive over, and returned home with not one, but two new friends for our Hobbesy. Beetle and Bailey are settling in well and our trio of alpaca are always together, whether it be standing around the feeding, exploring the trails through the bush, or snuggling in together at night. My heart is happy they are bonding with Hobbes and he has two new friends to help heal his heart. You’ll also see Hobbes is sporting his new uptown winter jacket. This will help to fight against the wind and elements a little better for him this Winter as his fleece hasn’t grown back quite the same since the previous owners trimmed him. 

The donkey boys who share the back field with the alpacas are also adjusting to the changes and making new friends with our two new additions. The boys are  also sporting their winter fluff and are just too adorable for two bad donkey boys. Dan created a few new trails through the bush for us, and they are all within the fenceline of the back pasture. We have been going for afternoon walks in the Winter to get out and get some fresh air and exercise, and the donkey boys love to follow along through the woods. Judging by the trails and footprints, they are frequenting the paths out back in the bush. 

The three little pigs like to hide out from the snow and cold, and spend most of the Winter days inside the Pig Haus snoozing away. They are the first ones at the gate when it is breakfast time though! I love all the sounds of the barnyard coming alive during morning chores. These three boys have come so far since they moved into the farm and I swear that Oscar is smiling for most of his photos. 

Mama Sue decided this year she was going to try out for Santa’s team, and who am I to tell here she’s not a reindeer? I think she’s the cutest little goat with antlers you ever did see! The four little goats are doing well this Winter. They are burning through hay like nobody’s business. They are always good for a smile and can be heard pretty much from any where in the yard. 

Our ladies in the coop have all but stopped laying this Winter. We are lucky to get an egg a day and have been on the verge of buying a carton from the grocery store on several occasions. We have three new ladies who should start laying any time, and we are holding out for those eggs. We saved three hens and one rooster from out batch of butcher chickens this past fall. Our rooster, who Dan has name Chanteclair from one of his favourite childhood movies Rock-a-Doodle, has finally started to crow and has completed our menagerie of barnyard sounds. 

November was a busy and rewarding month for us on the farm. Being open season for rifle and hunting, we spent the majority of our free time sitting in a tree stand out back. Mother Nature is so amazing and I feel so blessed to be able to have the land we do and the opportunity to watch nature unfold right in front of our eyes. Have you ever heard the wings of a bird cutting through the air? Have you ever been nose to nose with a yearling doe? Have you heard snow flakes falling on branches, crashing down around you? Sitting in nature is my favourite part of hunting season. Watching as a doe and her triplet fawns walk down the cutline straight towards you, stop to graze and frolic. Hearing the world come alive in the morning light, the woods erupting with the chatter of squirrels and hustle of little birds. 

Dan and I were both lucky enough to fill our white tail tags this year, and our freezers are full for another season. I am so happy Dan was able to spend the time out in the bush with me. Usually he is busy at work providing for us, or spending his time showing me the ways of hunting, so it was really special this year we could both take down our bucks together.  I also bought my first, very own gun this season. A little 0.22 for predator control on the farm and chicken hunting. And wouldn’t you know it, first day out I took down my first chicken with it! We definitely are not going hungry on the farm here any time soon!

With the cold and snow, it has made for the perfect evenings to curl up beside the woodstove and get all my projects completed! From knit dishcloths for our Christmas baskets, to my first attempt at home made soaps and finishing up some quilting, I have been keeping busy crafting this Winter. Looking forward to starting some projects for myself in the New Year, including a quilted lap blanket and finally getting my second sock knit for a pair!

I also found time for a little holiday baking, and of course some reading! I joined an online book club and have been loving the book choice and discussion. Looking forward to next months meeting already! I may have a whole shelf of new books waiting for me after the Christmas season. We also bottled our latest wine just in time for the holidays, a mid-winter mulled wine! Looking forward to enjoying that one over the holidays with family and friends!

We wish all of you the merriest of Christmases, may your time be spent with those you love and cherish. Happy New year from the funny farm. We will be seeing you in 2019!!

 

Wild & Witchy 

For those interested, below are a couple of my favourite diffuser blends for those cold winter days or holiday festivities! 

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Witch, Please

Witch, Please

It’s Halloween, Witches!

 

Tis the season for ghastly ghouls, spookish spells and all kinds of treats and fun. While we do not usually get many trick or treaters out to visit us on the farm, we still like to have a little fun ourselves. Our pumpkins were purchased this year because the little itty bitties we were able to grow in our pumpkin patch were by no means big enough to carve. Our goal continues into next year to grow carving pumpkins, and we are not giving up! For this year, the pumpkins are carved, the candles are lit, and the front of the house is looking a little spooky! 

We also had some fun and dressed up for a costume Halloween party at a friend’s this past weekend. Can you guess what Dan is? (HINT: its from a pop commercial from Superbowl a couple years ago!). 

The best part of pumpkin carving, all the yummy treats for the pigs, chickens and goats! We save all the insides of the pumpkins, and any pieces that are carved out, and feed them to the animals. Pumpkin works as a great natural way to deworm and is also a really good thing to have on hand for farm animals that are a little backed up. Everyone in the farm yard is happily enjoying a pumpkin breakfast today!

The ladies of the coop are slowly getting over the fall moult and growing back their feathers just in time for a shift in seasons. We make sure to feed lots of black oil sunflower seeds during a moult to provide extra protein for feather development. During this time laying seems to all but come to a halt, only getting maybe an egg a day from the hardy girls. I finally today have one dozen eggs saved up, since about last week. It will be nice to have the eggs back as I have been refusing to buy from the store and we have been going without eggs for breaky for some time now.

Mother Nature decided to bless us with our “Indian Summer” these past couple of weeks so we have taken full advantage here on the farm. Everyone is ready for winter, with shelters prepped, coops wrapped and insulated, waterers plugged in and hay and straw piled and stored under cover.

The sunny warm days made for the perfect weather for a big coop clean before the snow sets in for good. In the winter we bed down the chickens a little different than we would in the warm summer months. We start with a layer of peat moss on the bottom. This layer acts to soak up any moisture in the coop and act as an insulation to hold in heat. Next layer is shavings sprinkled on the coop floor and in the nesting boxes. Shavings are also good for soaking up moisture in the coop. Humidity control in the coop over winter is one of the most important parts of a healthy flock. Unwanted humidity in the coop causes frostbite on those coldest nights, breathing issues and issues with birds keeping themselves warm. Lastly we bed down with a layer of straw on the floor and in the nesting boxes. This helps to insulate and keep the ladies warm enough on their own in the coop that they don’t require a heat lamp to supplement them. We also use a poop hammock, a piece of tarp that hangs under the roosts the chickens sleep on, to catch any droppings. Regularly emptying the poop hammock prevents any kind of condensation or humidity left from poop in the coop. It also helps to keep the coop cleaner. We top up and add bedding as needed until Spring when a full clean is possible once again.

The three little pigs have been loving this last little bit of nice weather as well, taking full advantage of their pen expansion and exploring and rooting up all kinds of goodies. My new favourite morning routine includes sneaking into the pen, food ready and calling the boys for breakfast. You can hear the three of them come running from where they are exploring, snorting and grunting on the way. I have never seen these three run so fast; they sure are comical! A happy pig snout is one that is covered in dirt. As the seasons change on the farm, one of the first tell tale signs of cold weather on the way is when the pigs starts to grow their winter coats and start getting fuzzy.

The donkey boys are ready for winter, as they grow in their shaggy coats and bangs. I love how cute they get with a little extra fluff. Donned with new halters, we have been teaching these two boys some manners. To show them who’s really in charge, we have started a couple evenings a week tying the boys up to a wood post along the fenceline. We let them stand there until they can stand with no fighting or pulling. This will help us going forward when we need to trim feet or give any kind of shots, etc. The boys hooves are trimmed up, dewormer given and we are ready for the winter season ahead.

The alpacas are a little slower, but they too are growing in their coats for the winter months. While we have the donkey boys preoccupied with fence posts, the alpacas are getting a scoop each of crumble leading into winter. In a hopes to get them fattened up a little before the cold sets in, we will continue to offer them crumble along with their supplemented hay and free choice water. They sure are coming along, and wander right up to the gate when we come down for chores. They are such unique creatures, and they make my heart so happy.

Even the little goats are filling out their winter wear getting ready for the cold. We have built a shelter within a shelter to house the goats on the coldest nights. This little house inside with three walls and a roof stuffed full of straw bedding will work great to bundle in together when its chilly, out of the wind and elements. It also gives us room to keep their hay feeder under the shelter roof so we are not wasting hay. These four eat a lot of hay! Over the winter we will supplement a little here and there with grain and of course free choice water.  I’ve been loving getting to know them each and their personalities. They’re little noises fill up the farm yard doing chores and make my heart burst with joy. Did I mention Momma Sue loves to give kisses?!

October was a month for making all things apple on the farm. While our orchard trees are growing and will one day fill up their section of the yard, this year I purchased apples from a local farmer. From apple cider, apple sauces, apple butters and even apple pies, most days the aroma of apples was wafting from this farmhouse kitchen. Some of these goodies will be added into the Christmas baskets of preserves we gift our friends and families with over the holidays.

Side note: there are a ton of yummy cocktails you can make from apple cider and apple butter! Who knew that apple cider maragaritas were a thing?! You’re welcome!

Crafting for Christmas is also in full swing on the farm in the fall. One of the items in our gifted handmade baskets is hand knit dishcloth sets. I like to get a head start and already have thirteen made for this up coming season. Along with knitting, the colder less desirable days stuck inside make for the best quilting days. I am in the middle of a blanket project, my first time quilting in triangles. I am having so much fun getting to know my machine a little more and experimenting more and more with some simple smaller baby quilts.

On the random days we get off together, Dan and I have been taking full advantage of our time to get our wood pile ready for winter. Currently we have cut and stacked about four cords of wood. We’d like to get at least two more to be comfortable for the length of winter. I love spending an afternoon out in the bush with my love. Dan bucks saw and cuts the wood with his chainsaw, while I stack the pieces in the back of the truck and use the wood splitter to turn those big pieces into more reasonable wood fire sized logs. Once and awhile the girls slip out the back pasture gate and meet us in the woods. Exploring around and sleeping on trails while we work out back. Then we return to the house and stack the cut wood out beside the side entrance for easy access. While I love nothing more than the heat from a wood fire, I do not love the spiders that come with it, and finding them hidden throughout my house. You win some you lose some I suppose when it comes to firewood.

The end of October brings a close to all the beautiful fall colours, the smells and tastes of autumn. But it also means a new season is upon us….. OPEN SEASON! This week November starts and with that, hunting season will open. I have my blind all set up out back, and we have been keeping an eye on our trail cameras set up out back as well. There are a few handsome gentlemen making there way around our land this year. I can’t wait to get out back and start sitting and waiting. My favourite part of hunting is being hidden out back and watching the world around me unfold. The sights and sounds you hear while sitting in a hunting blind are the things you miss out on in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

So as we reflect on the fall season, and wave goodbye to autumn and all her glory, we look forward to the season ahead of us here on the farm. We are ready for the winter months, for the chilling cold and snow. We look forward to a slower season, a season for friends and family, for crafting and finishing projects.

 

 

For those interested in a little something Wild & Witchy, below I have shared some of my favourite fall diffuser blends for essential oils! My journey with essential oils started just over a year ago, and what a community I have joined and found support in through oils. I hope you enjoy these blends as much as I do, and stay tuned next time for those winter fragrances!

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Pumpkin Spice Season

Pumpkin Spice Season

Pumpkin spice and everything nice.

There is no doubt about it, the seasons are changing. The leaves on the trees are changing colours, dropping to the ground and creating beautiful mosaics upon the grass. There is a chill to the air; my soul is awakened with the crisp, coolness. I live for Fall. I thrive in Autumn. The change of the seasons makes me happy. 

You can smell it in the air, that last breath of sweet summer time. Sun ripened berries, sickly sweet, fermenting. Forgotten or overlooked, now making the birds intoxicated,  drunkenly running into the house windows. Busy little creatures gathering and storing. Squirrels squabbling in the trees above, dropping little pinecone presents. 

The morning sun sleeps in a little later, greeting us with frosty mornings and lifting fog. She sets earlier, leaving behind cascading colours in cloud streaked skies. The chill in the air the perfect excuse to dig out those sweaters, pull out the pumpkin flavoured everything and cozy up for the first wood fire of the season. The trailing smoke on the breeze the last note needed to know, Autumn has arrived in all her glory. 

Fall on the farm is the season of prepping. The shorter days and cooler temperatures the first sign that it’s time to get ready for those long winter months ahead. Our hay shed has been packed full of bales that will feed the donkeys, alpacas and goats (yes goats, keep reading to find out more!). We built a little tarp shed to house our straw bales which will bed down all of our animals over the cold winter days. In the next few weeks shelters will be equipped with extra wind breaks to fight the chill of those wicked winter winds, the chicken coop and little run will be wrapped with plastic for wind protection and the nesting boxes wrapped in insulation to the keep the ladies warm.

This will be our first season wintering our honey bees, and we are hoping we are prepared! The hives will be wrapped with a protective insulation, but humidity control and ventilation will be very important. Straw bales will be stacked around to act as wind breaks. We have started pail feeding the bees to supplement their storages for winter. A mixture of water and sugar free fed to the bees along with pollen patties supplement their honey storages and pollen sources to support them during the winter when foraging is impossible. We did indulge, only a little, this season in the spoils of all of hard work with the bees. We did not want to take away too much from them on our first year, but we did want a little taste of what our bees produced. We processed one frame from each hive, spun them down in our extractor and jarred 10 small jars of honey this fall! It was delicious! We had enough to share a little with friends and family, and this little sneak peek of what is possible has us so excited for next year with two more established hives!

This week we said goodbye to the five hogs who have been our summer residents this year. A freezer full of farm raised pork will reward us for all of our hard work, love and patience with the pigs this year. The pen we created for them in the spring worked perfect for happy pigs, with low brush to hide in and around, lots of mud holes for cooling off and space to run and play. While the cycle of life may sometimes seem unfair to some, here on the farm I have learned that these animals we raise with love and care have known respect and kindness and will provide for our family and friends. And while I have my days too where life seems unfair, its something I have come to terms with and am proud of.

This summer was also our first season raising chickens as meat birds. Dan built the cutest little chicken tractor which we pull around the yard for the birds to free feed off grass. We call it the “Little Swiss Chalet”. The fifteen birds we raised will be butchered later next month and sent to freezer camp to feed friends and family.

Last weekend we were blessed with the first taste of winter, as Mother Nature dumped our very first snowfall on us. I do believe Calvin and Hobbes were just as unimpressed as I was, while the donkey boys remained unphased by the changes. Everyone out in the back pasture have started to become friends, often catching the donkeys and alpacas grazing in little groups throughout the day. It makes my heart so happy as our little farm grows. The alpacas are even starting to trust us more and more, coming up to the gate to investigate for treats and being more curious about the goings on on the farm. Prince and Deuce are their usual bad donkey selves, slipping through open gates, bugging the pigs and making sure we know they are out their with their brawls floating across the field. But we love them oh so much for their antics and personalities. Who knew a donkey could be so loved by a girl.

The three little pigs are enjoying fall, or what we have left of it, munching on apple treats. I can tell when the cooler weather is coming because my little pigs start to get their fuzzy coats back. We once again expanded their pen a couple weeks ago, giving them extra space for rooting, a little more wooded protection and even a little ditch that runs through for water and mud bathing. They are some lucky pigs! These boys have come completely out of their shells here on the farm this past year. From the little pigs we couldn’t get near the day they came off the trailer, to the loving, treat taking, scratches behind the ears boys we have now. I can’t even imagine how empty this farm would feel without their funny little pigs sounds as they wait for their dinner.

The ladies of the coop are experiencing their fall changes too. Moulting season is upon us, and that means feathers everywhere! We supplement our girls with black oil sunflowers and meal worms to help them through their moulting with an extra boost of protein. Moulting also means that egg production has dropped, but we are only seeing a minimal decrease with the amount of hens we have this year. While the girls look a little rough now, they should all be ready for the winter weather when it arrives. It doesn’t affect our eggs orders, and just this morning I packed up three dozen heading out the door this afternoon!

Now for the news I am sure you have all been reading patiently waiting for……an introduction to the newest residents who arrived just a couple of weeks ago to the farm!

GOATS! An animal that was right up top with miniature donkeys on my farm animal bucket list (which if you had asked me more than five years ago if I ever saw being a possibility I would have answered no). Two weeks ago we welcomed four little goats to the farm. We spent the weeks leading up to their arrival using all of the odds and ends I have collected on the farm over the last year to build them the best little goat playground you ever did see! Tunnels made out of old stumps, ramps from fallen trees, platforms from wire spools, old tire towers and, the best of all, a hanging bridge! This should more than keep our new friends entertained!

The smallest, but mightiest, of the bunch is our little mama goat, Curly Sue (a.k.a. Mama Sue). She is two years old and came with one of her babies to us, Jasper. Our biggest boy of the group is Otto, named after the white figure eight patch on his side,he is one year old. Last but not least is Doc (named after Doc Martens for his black boot legs) who is also one year old. They are the sweetest, friendliest little herd of goats, who each have so much personality. I am so blessed to have welcomed them here to our little wild funny farm, and I am sure they will be the happiest little goats in their new forest home.

The change in the season marks the end of our gardening. This year proved to be bountiful in harvest, offering us lots of beans for the freezer and canning, our first ever broccoli from the garden, corn on the cob which we enjoyed and had enough to put into the freezer, a few squash, some tiny pumpkins and carrots and beets which are still in the ground waiting to be picked. Each year we learn more and more about our soil, about how placement plays into affect and about the growing season here in our northern climate. We can’t seem to grow peas or cucumbers to save our lives, but that’s ok because I found the sweetest little Baba who sold me all the cucumbers I needed this year for pickling. Once again our pantry is full for the season and our hearts are even more full with thankfulness.

One of our biggest tasks come fall, is that of prepping our wood stove heated home for the chill of the winter months ahead. That means playing lumberjack out back. This year we had plenty of fallen timber from the new trails Dan cut for us that has had time to age and dry in the bush. Dan swings his chainsaw and this girl gathers and splits. We make the best team for wood cutting! In one weekend we have managed to stack three cords of wood, and are hoping for another three to five before the snow moves in to stay. While it may be lots of work, having the wood stove in the house keeps that winter chill at bay. I can’t even imagine a winter without it now. It’s the kind of warmth that get right to ones soul.

On those days we find ourselves with time to spare from daily chores, we like to adventure together. And while this adventure was purely done for my enjoyment, Dan was such a great sport. We found the best little gem of a spot only an hours drive from the house. Farm Fresh Florals is a local flower farm that offers pick your own flowers and bouquet instruction. When you arrive you are handed a bucket of water and clippers and set loose in the carefully orchestrated patches of flowers and grasses. Once you have chosen your flowers, greenery and grasses, the owner Jen aids you in cutting down your selections and creating the most beautiful bouquets! I had such an amazing afternoon and came away with the most beautiful flower arrangements! A must visit, I will be returning for sure next summer!

The frost and rain has taken care of any fall blooms I had remaining on the farm. It was great year for hollyhocks,  the best I’ve done yet for dahlias, and sunflowers. My gladiolas were a little late and the snow came before we got to see their beautiful blooms. I did attempt to cut them and bring them into the house to bloom but I was too late. Next year will be the year!

Fall projects are in full swing, with new quilting projects sitting on the side lines, dishcloths to be knit and blankets to be finished. I love an evening sitting by the fire with my love knitting away. There is something comforting about the way the needled click clack away and a project grows right in front of your eyes. Dishcloths have become a Christmas gift staple, and so I always try to get a head start on them. Plus it always means a trip to Michael’s for yarn, and who doesn’t love that?!

Fall will bring many changes to the farm, a shift in the seasons, a change in weather, shorter days, but we are ready for it. We look forward to cooler weather, wood fires and tasty pumpkin treats. Finishing projects, checking off our to do list and getting ready for winter. There is always so much to do on the farm, and we wouldn’t trade this life for any other!

 

 

 

 

The Donkey Days of Summer

The Donkey Days of Summer

Barefoot in fields with hooved friends is the best way to spend Summer days.

 

I don’t even know where Summer has escaped to. One minute we were celebrating the Full Moon at the end of June, blink, and July’s Full Moon has also passed us by. This Summer is flying, and I wish I could find the pause button and slow – it – down.

Mother Nature tested us this month, barraging us with rainstorm after rainstorm. We received the most horrid night of hail, waking both Dan and I in the middle of the night with thoughts that the roof might just collapse in on us. Marble sized hail fell from the sky for almost a half hour. It wasn’t until the light of the next morning arrived that the actual damages were visible. Flower beds were flattened, vegetables were shredded and even our vehicles felt the force of Nature, pock marks in the hood evidence. We were devastated. All of our hard work and planning seemed to be destroyed over night.

Thankfully as harsh as Mother Nature can be, she is also forgiving. While my flower beds are definitely a little sad looking compared to the full beauty they were sporting, they have for the most part bounced back. Flowers are blooming, bees are busy, the only tell tale sign is my poor shredded hostas who won’t be bouncing back this season. In the vegetable garden our plants prevailed, and we have a harvest to boast about. Our carrot tops stand tall once more, and we have had several little meals of baby carrots straight from the garden. Our broccoli florets flowered for the first time this year. Beans are growing in bunches on our plants and little baby zucchinis are growing right beside them.  Squash and pumpkin plants are flowering, little heads of lettuce are trying to grow big and we’ve definitely got a bountiful harvest of potatoes hiding under the soil. I think sometimes our patience needs to be tested so that we fully appreciate what we are blessed with.

Our other big concern with the storms, was our bee hives. We had previously started using a ratchet strap to hold down the hives and lids, as we’d had some windy days filled with anxiety. Thank goodness for security, our hives greeted us the next morning untouched and unharmed! The only thing that didn’t fair well was my beautiful circle garden of wildflowers. While the clover lay flattened, my sunflowers still stood tall and I am holding out hope for some beautiful blooms!

Our journey this Summer with bees has definitely been a learning experience. We’ve had our ups and downs, our moments when we don’t even know whats going on, and our moments of “ah-ha”. We’ve seen first hand the signs of a hive that’s queenless, as we do believe we lost a queen last month. As we watched, waited and hoped for the bees to straighten it out themselves, we also witnessed what happens when your hive absconds. As we watched the numbers dwindle in the hive, we came home one day to find one of our apple trees out in the orchard alive with a swarm of bees. We suited up that evening, took an empty brood box over, and captured the swarm. We added the swarm box back to the original dwindling hive, separating the two with a sheet of newspaper so that the pheromones from the queen would attract the other bees and they would eventually chew through the paper and join. We aren’t sure that this worked, that the hives joined, and that they perhaps didn’t swarm again, but the population was up once again in this hive. After watching for a couple of weeks for the “egg of the day” and not seeing any, we knew we needed to take action again. We removed a frame full of uncapped brood from our good hive and added it into the struggling hive. This was in a hopes that the struggling hive would use this brood to create a queen and still keep up the population.

When we completed our hive check just last night, our struggling hive has brood to be seen in the frames. We are hopeful that this has saved the hive and that they’ve got themselves a new queen to carry them through the winter months. While we may not get any honey this year as we let our hives develop and figure themselves out, we’ve learned so much and look forward to the months ahead in this journey. I think it’s safe to start calling ourselves beekeepers now!

Everyone else here on the farm seems un-phased by any inclement weather that may have passed us by. The donkey boys are loving life out on pasture, and they are learning to share better and better with the alpaca gentlemen. You can always spot the pairs out in the field grazing, sometimes even all four together. They love to wander into the woods on a hot day for shade and the alpaca love a good soak down with the hose! While they are still quite shy, the alpacas have come so far in the two months they’ve been with us here on the farm. We love having them around. My favourite thing is watching them run through the fields, loping along, they are so majestic!

With the summertime wild flowers in the yard being in full bloom, that also meant it was time for my annual photo-shoot with the donkey boys and their floral crowns. I do believe I need a little Jenny for this job, as the boys just want to indulge in a tasty treat. I feel like a Jenny would appreciate my artistic endeavors a little more.

The three little pigs love the long summer days in the sun. They have rooted up so much of the back area we extended in their pen. It’s the perfect spot with boggy soil and mud puddles for cool downs. There is plenty of shade among the trees too, but they can often be found out sunbathing in the dusty dirt. Tui has been surprising me lately with his affection, and it makes my heart burst with joy. During evening feeds I sit down on the front porch of the Pig Haus’ and watch as everyone squabbles over bowls. Once Tui finishes bossing everyone around and gets his fair share of dinner, he wanders over for a scratch. He places his little pig snout on my knee and enjoys the scratches behind the ear and belly rubs. I never knew this little pig would be so affectionate!

Of course we can’t forget about the lovely ladies in the coop, who despite the rain, have used any days of excessive heat as an excuse to go broody. As long as I still get some eggs during chores each evening, I’ll let it slide for now. Hot, hot days call for cool treats in the coop and the ladies have been enjoying tasty treats of frozen watermelon. On weekend mornings I’ve been taking my coffee with me outside to enjoy some quiet time in the coop. I love sitting and watching the hens scratch around and forage in the run. The little chicks we picked up to raise for the Summer are growing like weeds and will soon make their move from the Pickup Palace into their mobile run in the yard for the rest of the Summer months.