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.
Fresh, 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!
Also 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!