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!