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.

We had a lovely surprise at the end of June when friends of ours, the Wittal’s, welcomed two healthy twins into the world. A boy and a girl, we were over the moon for them. It put the pressure on for me as I has been busy making baby quilts for the pair, and when they arrived a month early, this Auntie was not prepared! I was able to get them completed and gifted this past week. These two quilts are the third and fourth baby blankets I have made. And tooting my own horn if I can, I am so flipping proud of myself. Each blanket I complete gets a little better each time, my technique improves and everything looks sharper and cleaner. I have been having so much fun quilting and look forward to my next project!

This coming week we are looking forward to having my brother Mackenzie and his girlfriend Alexis visit us here on the farm for the first time! I can’t even wait for them to arrive on Wednesday, and we have some fun days planned to head to the mountains and show them what the West is all about!

Now, I’ve spent enough time inside this morning writing, it’s time to head outside and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and warm breeze!

 

A Strawberry Moon in June

A Strawberry Moon in June
We took a little stroll, out along the wooded fenceline.
Stumbled ourselves upon a little patch, wild strawberries growing in the shade, the beginnings of saskatoon berries apparent.
Settled on a little sprinkle of daisies, you kissed me gently, tasting of summer berries.
And I knew that I would love you, for every season to come.

 

Here on the farm we are waving goodbye to June and welcoming July with our arms opened wide, faces to the sky, welcoming the sunshine and heat of Summer. I don’t know where the month of June disappeared to. One moment it was here, the next it was gone, leaving behind it the beginnings of wild flowers, hope for the vegetables growing in the garden and the promise of berries and honey, their scent thick on the warm air.

The beginning of June was filled with family time, making it the best part of the month for me. My Mom and Dad arrived and spent two whole weeks here with us on the farm. We had them busy at work on the rainy days, as they tore apart, cleaned, organized and painted our kitchen, giving it the complete once over. I can’t believe what a couple coats of paint can to do a room! Our once green (don’t ask me why I thought this was a good colour choice at the time) kitchen has been transformed to a bright and opened beautiful space. I am so thankful for all the hard work Mom and Dad put in while here for us, also helping us to put a fresh coat of paint down the side entrance hallway and the bedroom hallways.

Their visit wasn’t all work, and getting to spend quality time doing the things I love with them was the best part of summer so far. Showing off all we have accomplished here on our little farm, how much we’d grown and built since their last visit two summers ago. Mom and I spent a solid day visiting local greenhouses, picking out plants to fill up my front flower beds. We weeded (Mom is a weeding machine!), planted and Dad helped to edge the beds, making everything look so sharp and clean. My garden beds have never looked so good in the Summer! If you couldn’t find Dad in the afternoons, he was more than likely out weeding in the vegetable garden, and I don’t know who was enjoying the peace and quiet more, Dad or the three little pigs who were getting the buckets full of picked weeds! Mom and I visited the St. Albert Farmers Market for their first Saturday of the season, bringing home some tasty treats and fresh vegetables. Dan and Dad got out for a couple afternoons of fishing, even snagging a fish here and there.

We took a little road trip South, and brought home two new faces to the farm during their visit. Calvin and Hobbs are the newest additions here on the farm, and while it took a little while to settle in, and I am sure they will fit right in in their own time, it has been a slow process. These two alpaca gentleman didn’t come with much of a background story. All we know is they are in their early teens, which in alpaca years is starting to get up there. They are quiet boys, but will come up for a handful or bucket of grain. The donkey boys have decided they are ok friends, and do share their shelter with them at night or in the rain. With everyone out back in the pasture, it really is starting to feel like a little funny farm family.

Evening strolls with the donkey boys have become a thing here on the farm too. We have one new trail from the back of the pasture that leads out through the bush to the end of the fenced cutline. Some days I swear they are more dog than donkey, the way they follow along on the trail, or decide that they want to lead and go barreling past. We even ventured off the beaten path one day for an adventure, and wouldn’t you know it, those donkey boys were right there along with us. Breaking new paths, hopping over fallen logs, and all the while stopping for some tasty green treats along the way. These two just warm my heart so. I just cant imagine this wild little farm life without them.

The three little pigs are enjoying the warmth and sunshine too. Often in the afternoons you can find all three of them out sunbathing or exploring the newer back area of their pen we added in with the addition. There is lots of grass and mucky dirt to root around in back there, keeping them busy for hours. Thanks to Dad’s help while visiting, we were finally able to trim the boys tusk. They were in dire need of a cut, but it proved to be more than a two person job for me and Dan alone. They should be good to go now for quite awhile, and we snuck in a hoof trim while we were at it! One sunny Saturday morning I snuck out to the pig pen to spend some times with the boys. It took a little coaxing and patience, but Tui came and laid down right next to me, letting me pet and scratch him. He settled in so much that he fell asleep snoring to belly rubs. I just can’t get over some days how far these three little pigs have come since they day we brought them home to the farm. This summer marks their second year here with us.

wordswag_1530468228092The ladies out in the coop are enjoying the summer too, as they explore the outdoor run and graze on fresh grass and bugs. We did a big clean of the coop, clearing out all the bedding and washing down the insides. Using my essential oils, I made up a spray of water, vinegar and lemon oil which acts as a cleaner and leaves behind a nice fresh scent. More and more I have been incorporating essential oils into my daily life, and now into the farm life too! The ladies must have been appreciative, we are getting more eggs than ever, which means lots of #eggvignette pictures for me on my Instagram account!

 

If you’ve been following along so far this summer, you’ll also know we started a journey into beekeeping. It has been such an amazing learning experience for us both and bees are just such incredible little creatures! Every ten days we try to peek into the hives, in search of the “egg of the day” which assures us that the queen in alive and healthy, and new bees are being born. We now have both brooder boxes on each hive, and the honey super on one of our hives. One hive has fallen a little behind, but we are taking it as a learning experience and not giving up! When doing research before getting bees, we had read that starting with two hives is a good way to start so you can have something to compare. We are sure glad for two hives now. If i have learned one thing from the bees, it is that art of calmness. I thought I would be panicky and afraid of the bees, never having been stung by one, but it is the complete opposite. After chores I love to stand around the hives and watch the busy bees come and go. The odd time you get in one of their flight paths and can feel one bounce off of your head, but I am not afraid of being stung. I respect these little bees, and therefore I like to think they are respecting me.

With all these busy bees around, it will exciting to watch as our vegetable garden grows and hopefully, flourishes. We’ve been able so far to keep on top of most of the weed, with thanks to Dad for all his weeding and Dad on the rototiller. Rows of beans and peas, side by side to zucchini and lettuce, flowering squash vines and rows of onion tops. Our corn is standing tall in several rows, it looks like we should have cabbage for days, and we are hopeful for our broccoli and brussel sprouts, but not holding our breath. The garden is looking great so far this year, and we are excited to watch it grow these next couple of months. We also have a new keeper of the garden, Miss Fannie Lou, our Mrs. Scarecrow who is standing tall in the middle of the vegetable patch. Life’s too short not to have a little fun, and she makes me smile standing in the garden.

With the warmth of summer comes another season, rhubarb. It is the time of year for rhubarb everything! My favourite thing to make out of the rhubarb patch is cordial. I add this to many different cocktails and drinks throughout the summer and is now one of  my must haves. With the remnants of rhubarb left over from making the cordial I have been busy baking up muffins and cinnamon rolls too. Nothing beats some tasty rhubarb treats in the summer. While I don’t think we will have enough in our patch this year to try another batch of wine, we look forward to growing it out next year for just that reason!

Along with the vegetable, the flower beds have taken off since Mom and Dads visit and help. Everything seems to be in full bloom, from the hollyhocks, lupines and foxglove, to the wildflower patches we planted for the bees and beneficial insects. Little button daisies have popped out of the ground, sunflowers are starting to stretch for the sky and I am sure I have seen a couple of my favourites hiding, poppies!

While Mom was here, we spent an evening picking wild rose petals, boiling them down and making my first ever batch of rose water. It has so many health benefits, and is especially great for skin care. Since making it, I have been using it morning and night in my facial routine. I think this will come to be a new summer tradition, that I will be missing come the winter months!

With Dan being off work for the last couple of months, we’ve tried to make the most of our days together this summer before he’s back to work.  We’ve spent afternoons on the river, dropped the canoe into the water and spent the afternoon paddling and fishing our way along. Stopping along the way to get out on the sand bar and fish and sit in the water, catching up on life around us. Sometimes it a quiet evening spent out back around the campfire, dancing away under the stars and hanging with the girls who love napping on the benches beside the fire. We had a cloud free night to enjoy the full moon in all its glory. June’s full moon is referred to as the Strawberry Moon, because the Algonquin tribes would tell time by the moon and the moon in June symbolized the time when berries were ready to be harvested. She was a beautiful sight, and I was lucky enough to capture a shot on my camera! These are the moments I live for in the Summer, spent with my love, adventuring and enjoying each others company. Sometimes for us life gets busy, and we forget to stop and enjoy the little things we are blessed with. I like to think this is what summer months are for, reminding us to be thankful and grateful.

Today we are hunkered down in the house, as it rains outside. We were in need of the  moisture and so we are making the most of the day inside, catching up on little projects and those movies we’d been meaning to watch. It’s a great way to wind down from the long weekend and prepare for the week ahead. We hope everyone had a great Canada Day!

 

 

A Summer for Bees

A Summer for Bees

Bee-lieve it or not:

  • You can thank a bee for every 1 out of 3 bites you take while eating food.

  • A single colony of bees will pollinate up to 300 million flowers, per day!

  • 90% of the world’s nutrition is comprised of food crops which wouldn’t grow without pollination from bees.

 

Fun facts, but the not so fun truth behind it is the decline in bee populations world wide.  It seems as of late we are seeing more awareness on the subject, and we think that’s great here on the farm . This summer Dan and I decided we would do our part to help the cause, and so we became first time beekeepers!

Beekeeping has been something we have been talking about since the early days of starting out our little homestead. We always knew it was something we would get into one day, and it just so happened to all come together this Spring for us. We are so excited to learn and grow as we raise our two hives of bees this summer.

Being as we are the Burches, we obviously couldn’t do things the conventional way, and so instead of your common hive boxes, we purchased Flow Hives. If you haven’t heard of the Flow Hive, there are lots of videos and demonstrations, along with information online! One of our hives was a wedding gift from friends last Fall, they really do know us well.

First order of business was assembling the hives, picking out our protective paint colours, learning as much information as possible and then searching for our new tenants.  Working at the Farm Store in town had given me an in with one of our local bee farmers. He and his family have been raising bees for almost fourteen years now. We ordered two packages of bees along with the order he places to fill his hives (they fill around 100 hives). They arrived the first week of May, and Dan drover over to the farm to pick them up.

While there, he spent the day with Wayne (said bee farmer), learning the tips and tricks for getting yours bees out of their packages and into their hives, helping him do around 20 of his own hives. It was such a great learning experience and he came home with so much knowledge to share with me. When I got home from work we suited up in our bees suits (coveralls, a bee hat with protective netting and gloves that reach up to your elbows), and released our bees! I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck, as I had been slightly terrified of flying, stinging insects up to this point having never been stung. But I kept reminding myself over and over in my head “Respect the bee and the bee will respect you!”. My mantra must have worked, because I was more calm than I would have ever thought possible, and for 8500 bees being released for the first time in over a week out of their packaging, so were the bees.

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetOnce the bees have been gently dumped from their travel tubes into the brood box of the hive, we gently replaced the frames we removed to accommodate them. The lid was placed quickly on top while we got ready to deal with the Queen. It is most important to ensure you have a healthy, happy queen bee as she is what the hive revolves around. The queen arrives in her own special cage within the travel tube.

First steps for the bees are to comb out the frames within the brood box so that the queen can get to work laying her offspring. Wayne was kind enough to provide us with a pre-combed frame which we placed inside the hive to give our little bees a bit of a head start. Because pollen and nectar sources are still scarce at the beginning of May, we placed a feeder tray in each of the hives, filled with a solution of sugar and water. This allows the bees food and hydration to begin constructing their comb.

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We left the bees to their bidding for the next week, in the mean time we signed up and attended a local bee course in the city. What a great day! There was so much we already knew from our farmer friend, but we were able to take lots away from our class too.

We had decided already that we were not going to be raising our bees in a holistic manner, and that was our choice. Some may agree or disagree, but we felt it was what would work for us. So that meant that the first week after arriving, it was time to treat our hives. The first round of treatments are little strips of medication placed inside the hive in twos. The bees rub against the strips and their job is to kill the teeny tiny mites living on the bees. Varroa Mites have the ability to wipe out a hive if not kept under control. They feed off the fat of the bees, and lay their eggs within the brood cells. They are big spreaders of disease and sickness amongst bees. The strips will remain in the hive for up to 41 days so that they can be there for two complete brood cycles of bees.

Several weeks later the next treatment began, this one for the prevention of American Foul Brood. Once you have Foul Brood in your hive, the only way to get rid of it is to burn everything. It can be a devastating disease to bee colonies. Bee larvae will not develop and a pungent smell of decay is present in the hive, as well as the comb turning a shade of gray.  Medication is mixed with icing sugar and placed inside the hive for the bees to consume. You treat once a week for up to five weeks.

Doing these treatments give us an opportunity to peek inside of the hives and make sure everything is developing as it should. On our last check, you could clearly see the areas of white comb capped honey storages, the yellow capped comb of brood and even the cells with the larvae inside! The hives are fragrant f pollen and honey and it would appear as though we are on the right track.

We are so excited for this journey into beekeeping, and the rewards that will come with it. We have already seen our little orchard alive with bees as they fly from apple to pear  to cherry tree pollinating, stopping along the way at our Saskatoon and Haskap berry bushes. We look forward to seeing how our garden will thrive this season with an increase in pollinators. And of course we are excited for the fruits of our little bees labour, honey!

Follow along with us this summer as we start out on our journey of becoming the beekeeping Burches!

Spring Must be in the Air…Somewhere

Spring Must be in the Air…Somewhere

I am sure that Mother Nature must just be confused. That perhaps she fell so in love with Winter, that she’s forgotten what time of year it is supposed to be. Perhaps her love affair with the chill winds and dancing snowflakes, froze time and her heart grew solid as ice. Perhaps Winter whispered sweet nothings in her ear and sent chills through her being, and now she doesn’t want to let that go.

It’s the only reason I can think of that we’re still getting snow and frigid temperatures in April.

This should be a month of melt and mud. This should be a month of rain showers and new growth, of garden planning and Spring cleaning. Instead, it’s started out like the month of January, snow falls and temperatures well below -20 degree Celcius. But here on the farm, we are not letting it get us down!

While the month of March got away from us, flew by before we even had a chance to blink, it was a love filled month full of adventure. March is a special time of the year for Dan and I. It is  our anniversary month, and this was our first whole year of being the Burches, together. While it’s been an adjustment for me, learning how to re write my signature, figure out a neat way to write initials, I have loved this past year of being Mrs. Burch. When we escaped to the mountains to vow our love together a year ago, we hadn’t planned for a honeymoon at the time. We enjoyed our time, exchanged our vows and came back to real life. So this year we planned a special Anniversary get away / Honeymoon,  which took us down to the U.S. of A, music city, Nashville!

Nashville has always been on my bucket list. It has always been a place I have wanted to travel to. The history and the music called to my soul. So when we made it down there this past month, it was all I had dreamed of and more!

Our first stop, of course, was a show at the Grand Ol Opry the night we arrived. We sat in the audience staring up at that stage, listening to the music of country stars young and old. I don’t think you could have wiped the smile off my face. After the show, we got a back stage tour of the building and saw into some of the dressing rooms, saw where the musicians snuck in through a back entrance and saw the mail boxes where all the fan mail awaited.

Next day,  March 17th, our anniversary day and also St. Patrick’s Day, found us enjoying a couples massage at a local spa, touring the Rymann Auditorium and enjoying some drinks at the famous honky tonk, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. We spent the evening hopping between bars and enjoying all the live music and bands playing.

Sunday we hopped on the trolley and enjoyed a tour of the city, making stops at the American Picker’s store, a whiskey distillery and the Johnny Cash museum. We ended the day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and then back to Broadway to take in more live music and some southern hospitality. Last on the list was a visit to Ernest Tubb’s famous record store, bringing home a Merle record and some Earl Scruggs banjo on vinyl.

What a way to spend a long weekend with my love, celebrating one year of marriage. Nashville, we will be back to take in more of your sights and music wonders!

We left the warmth and T-Shirt weather of Nashville and returned back home to the snow and cold. But coming home always warms my heart, when we pull up the drive to the sound of busy hens in the coop, the snorts of hungry pigs in their pen and the hollering call of donkey boys from the back field welcoming us home.

The end of March brought us the Easter weekend, which was spent with Dan’s family here on the farm. Dan took the weekend off of work so that he could spend some time with his family amidst his busy work schedule. Sometimes life in the oil patch is hard and demanding, but we’ve come to learn that you appreciate your time so much more. We cooked up a ham dinner, and were surrounded by friends and family. To us, that’s what the holidays are about.

The donkey boys were in the holiday spirit, and the Easter bunny made a surprise visit to the animals on the farm. Carrot treats for all on Sunday morning!

I think the general consensus on the farm is that we are ready for the snow to go! In the back field where the donkey boys reside, there is still snow that’s past the knee in places. The warmer weather days with sunshine have the boy’s a little spunky, chasing each other, and the dogs, around the field. They are so entertaining. I can’t wait for the snow to be gone out back so that we can go for walk’s with the donkeys.

The longer days and increase in daylight have our chicken ladies in an egg laying frenzy. We decided to stick with our flock this year and not add any chicky babies into the mix. We are happy with the number of hens we have and the egg production we are getting. And I can’t complain about all the colours we are getting in our egg basket this year!

Even the three little pigs are venturing around more outside on the days when the sun shines hot and warm. Their little fuzzy hair doos are thinning out and that is a sure sign that it must be almost Spring!

With the winter chill still in the air, I am taking full advantage of having days stuck inside by finishing up a knitting project for a friend. I am knitting this blanket for a friends daughter who is a girly girl and likes unicorns. I couldn’t have found a more perfect yarn at Michael’s than these Bernat cakes. I better get cracking if I want to get this piece finished before Spring does finally arrive!

I’ve also been taking this time to learn more about and start my journey into essential oils. Whether it be for mood support, hormone balance or just a little lift throughout the day, I am finding all kinds of uses for plant medicine. I am also blessed to be a part of a great tribe of woman through my Instagram page who I am learning from daily about uses for essential oils. I carry my diffuser with me from room to room, for uplifting scents during the day to calming, sleepy blends for bedtime. I also have a diffuser cuff I wear daily with different potions. I have learned about cleaning uses, insect repellents and healing properties and am looking forward to carrying on using essential oils in my daily life. Along side my oils, I have also journied into the healing properties of crystals and have started a small collection of precious stones. Some sit on my bedside table for bed time, some I carry on my person on a daily basis. I am still learning, and look forward to where the journey is taking me. The other interest I have taken up is tarot readings with my Animal Oracle cards. While I am still learning and growing with my deck, I love the way I am able to open up and accept my readings. It has been a fun and growing process.

I took advantage of a snowy afternoon and got out my banjo to play a few rolls. While I am definitely no Steve Martin when it comes to picking, I love the twang of the strings and the calm of making music. I’d love to find some one in town for more lessons, and may just have a lead through work. Here’s hoping something pans out!

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We are anticipating Spring’s arrival and the warmer weather as we start out this season with a new venture on the farm, bee-keeping! We received the most wonderful gift of our first bee hive from friends last fall and now have our second Flowhive to add. We have the perfect spot picked out for them to sit, right in the middle of my wild flower circle. We have been in communication with a local bee farmer who we are getting two kits of bees from, and I look forward to chatting and learning from him as we start out here on the farm. Our bees are set to arrive here the last week of April or the first week of May and so we have been busy here doing lots of reading and prepping for their arrival. There is lots to be learned and I am sure it will be a learning experience this summer, but we look forward to doing our part to save the bees and one day indulge in our own honey!

Did you know that one of the first food sources for bees in the Spring months are Pussywillows? While we are way behind on them budding this season, they are finally making an appearance out back and we have loads of them. They have always been one of my favourite spring blooms, but now I love them even more!

Getting out back to check trail cams and explore the woods has been made a little difficult as things start to melt and the ground gets soft. The other day we ventured out with Dan’s drone he received for Christmas to play around a little and take some pictures of our land. While we may still need some pilots lessons or practice on flying, it is so much fun to play with! And the views just can’t be beat!

These last couple of days here on the farm have felt a little more Spring-ish. The doors to the house are wide open letting in a fresh breeze. The rush of water can be heard flowing through the eaves trough, which means the snow is finally starting to melt and while they are still calling for about 10 to 15 cm of snow fall for tomorrow, we decided to get our butts in gear and start sowing some seeds for the garden. Yesterday we started a tray of peppers, tomatoes, brussel sprouts and asparagus. On today’s list: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and onions. As well as Elderberries and some morning glory flowers. I think once we fill the kitchen table with seedlings there will be no doubt it feels like Spring and that will make the wait more bearable. I also took the opportunity to transplant my violets which had outgrown their pot, adding to my growing collection of houseplants I have actually managed to keep alive!

We look forward to Spring here on the farm, as it is always a busy month. Garden prep will be in full swing, animal housing clean up will begin and we will be one step closer to warm summer nights, bonfires and visits from family! Counting down the days until June when my Mom and Dad will be out to visit. SO looking forward to having Mom’s help in the flower beds, putting Dad to work with some kitchen renos and just getting to spend time with my parents. August is also going to be an exciting month as my brother and his girlfriend are finally making the journey West and coming to visit. Looking forward to showing them our home and taking them on a kick ass mountain adventure.

So Mother Nature, wake up! And please bring us our Spring!

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle a Little Love Wherever You Go

Sprinkle a Little Love Wherever You Go

Oh February, that blasted month in the middle of Winter, after Christmas and New years, where you’re fighting off the Winter blues. Where the weather is frigid and frightful one day, then verging on a Spring teaser the next. It’s that month where Mother Nature can’t decided what to do next, and the longing for Spring sets in.

February is also the month of love. Valentines’s Day brings cookies and cards and chocolates. It means holiday baking is in order, of course! Bring forth your best recipes for sugar cookies, it’s on! I must admit, today consisted of Nat King Cole crooning over the vinyl on my record player, as I danced around the kitchen decorating heart shaped cookies. What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic! And when the fridge is brimming over with cartons of farm fresh eggs from the ladies, I had to make some kind of a dent in the stash.

 

Along with kitchen dance parties, this weekend was all about me, and I took full advantage. I read an entire novel in 24 hours. I can’t remember the last time I took that much time to read a book I was digging. If it’s not on your list, you need to check out “The River at Night” by Erica Ferencik; I couldn’t put it down! It was just what I needed. I received my first essential oils in the mail, so I took some time to read up on those, and start using them in my daily routine. I am looking forward to learning and growing in this oil journey I’ve started on.  I worked away on my sock (yes singular still), knitting away the afternoons. I am sure to be finishing it up one of these days in the near future, or so I hope.

It was great having such a relaxing weekend but let’s be honest, I’m missing my Oilfield Man. Last weekend my husband Dan was off, so we got to spend some quality time together out exploring in the newly fallen snow we received. We got around two feet of snow over two days and it was so much fun trekking out back and cutting new paths through the bush. We snow-shoed for over 2KM, according to my google Fit app. I was impressed, and even broke a sweat, all bundled up for the elements. We had a great day out exploring in the woods and getting outdoors.