April has arrived, and with it, a sure sign it is Spring on the farm! The sun rises earlier, sets later and gives off more of it’s warmth as it shines down on us. The snow has all but disappeared in the yard, leaving behind the only trace it was ever even here, MUD! That’s right, the melting snow and the ground still frozen with perma-frost means that the top layer of soil has turned to that inevitable muddy mess. But it’s nothing an old pair of jeans and some rubber boots can’t work through!
March was a busy (and always exciting) month on the farm as Dan and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. It’s funny how time just flies on by when you’re having fun. I am so grateful for this amazing man in my life who helps me to make all the dreams come true.
March also brings with it some St. Patrick’s Day fun, and I don’t think anyone was more festive than the donkey boys, maybe not by choice. They are always such good sports for my antics and this celebration was no different. How cute are these two leprechauns?!
Spring means it’s time to clean up on the farm after a long, snowy Winter. Donkey, alpaca and pig hooves are all in need of a trim, the hay shed needs clearing out and organizing and the trailers in the yard are put back into their rightful places. It feels good to have everything back in order and looking neat once again in the yard, except if you count the muddy mess that is slowly drying up.
Little bouts of Spring showers have helped to clear away what was left of the snow. While I don’t know how much the animals appreciate these dreary days, it sure does make for some candid animal shots and pretty backdrops for photos.
When that sun does shine, everyone is sure to be out enjoying the rays. The pigs have taken to sun bathing out in the grass of their pig pen, wandering across the little stream that runs through their pen to be in the long grasses. I love seeing their little shapes wandering through the pen. The goats have began to use their goat playground, and even got an addition to their pen this weekend as we opened up the fenceline. They now have free range to an adjoining pen in the woods, complete with stream and wooden bridge.
The donkeys and alpaca are beginning to wander more in their field as well as the snow melts and little shoots of grass begin to pop up here and there. This will be the first summer of exploration for the alpacas out back and we are so looking forward to it. In the mornings they can be spotted over by the far gate of the field, not too far from the donkeys boys. I look forward to summertime night walks through the bush trails with the back field gang.
The chickens sure do feel Spring in the air, and egg production has exploded in the coop. We are getting on average 10 eggs a day from the ladies, and this number is expected to go up as we reach Summer. While the pen is a muddy mess we do limit the chickens to their run time, and keep them in the run attached to their coop for a couple of weeks in Spring. This allows the ground time to dry up and for the grass to get a head start for the Summer months. While the ladies aren’t too happy about it, they still have plenty of room for activities like sunbathing, dust baths and perching in the run, and soon enough the wait will be over.
We have had an amazing opportunity through the farm to join in an amazing program called LOOP. LOOP works with Save On Foods in the city of Edmonton and area to take outdated product from the shelf to the farm. Any items nearing or past expiry, any items damaged or not up to customer packing quality are bagged and boxed and made available for pickup for farmers in the program. Right now we are on a cover list, but have had the opportunity to have two pick ups in the last month. We get items such as produce, dairy, bakery goods, deli goods, even left overs from the florist department. It sure makes for some happy creatures at chore time! The best part of it all has been being able to share with our neighbours. We look forward to more pickups, and I am sure the animals do too!
After such a long, cold Winter we are also happy to report that both of our bee hives seemed to have survived the odds and are both doing well. During the warmth of the sun during the daytime the hives are busy with activity, little busy bees coming and going. While we have not had an opportunity to open up the hives yet for inspection, we are hopeful that these are all good signs. In the coming weeks as the day time temperatures rise we will complete our first hive inspections of the season and remove the insulation covers. We have made available a source of sugar water to give the bees any kind of boost they might need, but they are definitely returning to the hive with pollen. The pussywillows have been out in bloom for a couple of weeks, and this being the first food source for bees in our area, gives us reassurance that our bees should be on track for this Summer season. Bring on the honey!
My favourite part of Spring, is finally getting to get my hands back into some soil! There a few of our gardens vegetables that we like to pre-start for the season so they have a better chance of producing in our shortened season here in Alberta. We started first our tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage. Once the seedling have sprouted and spent their time on our kitchen table, they are moved out to the man room of the garage to be transplanted and set in the window. Next, pumpkins and watermelon took their place in the kitchen, followed by squash, broccoli and brussel sprouts. So far everything is looking green and happy, and I am excited to be thinking about getting back into the garden this Summer.
Another fun little project we took on this Spring on the farm was trying out hand at hatching our own chicks. What is a farmhouse in Spring without some chicky babies in the laundry anyways? We got ourselves an incubator, collected the eggs we thought would be fertile and started our first hatch! Chicken eggs incubate for a period of 21 days. For the the first 18 days the eggs are kept at a constant temperature and humidity, as well as placed in an egg turner to automatically rotate the egg, mimicking what a mother hen would do. On day 18 the eggs go into “Lockdown”, where the egg turner is removed, and the lid is not opened on the incubator until the chicks have hatched. We started our first hatch with 18 eggs, knowing that not all would likely be fertile as we have one rooster and about 20 hens in the coop. We successfully hatched one chick, our first little chicken created right in our own laundry room! While we did have two other eggs which pipped, meaning the chick broke through the air sac of the egg, sadly the other chicks did not survive the full hatch. We ended up getting a couple day old chicks from someone down the road to keep our little baby chick company, and have put another batch of eggs into the incubator to try again. It has all been a learning experience for us.
Just because it’s Spring, doesn’t mean that knitting projects have stopped for this homestead maker! I am addicted to knit socks, and they make for the perfect project for those warmer days as they are lightweight and easy to take anywhere. Evenings spent out on the deck after work in the sunshine can almost always be sure to include a knit sock project. I am currently on my fifth pair, and have an endless supply of yarn to keep me going this season. I also started a little side project in between pairs of socks for when I just need that little break to switch things up. A friend from back home provided me with a pattern her grandma gave to her for the newborn hats they supply at the hospitals. This is a project so very near and dear to my heart right now, and in knitting these tiny little hats, my heart has found some comfort and purpose. I plan on filling a box with these little knit hats and finding a hospital in which to donate them too.
Perhaps the most exciting news this month I have saved for last, we welcomed a little furry face to our farm family!
Our little bundle of joy arrived last Friday to the farm and has brought so much joy, laughter and happiness to our lives. Our new little puppy, who goes by the name of Hank, has been the perfect little addition to our homestead. He is a Leonberger/St.Bernard cross and is looking like will turn out to be a big boy! He is slowly but surely winning over the affection of his two big sisters, who are already showing him the ropes of farm life. We’ve made introductions to the chickens, pigs and goats successfully. We are making sure we take our time introducing him properly to the donkeys as we definitely do not want any kind of accident. So far, they are getting to know each other through the fence line and the gate, and it has all been successful. Just yesterday Deuce stuck his head through the gate and was snout to snout with Hank, and to his surprise received a kiss on the nose. I don’t think it will be long before the donkey’s are accepting Hank as a friend.
With Dan being on days off, it gives him the opportunity to be home and overseeing the daily goings on and introducing and teaching Hank the ropes. I think he is going to make the best chore buddy and all around great farm dog!
For now, I’m enjoying puppy life, and getting in all the cuddles I can while he’s little!
Stay tuned for more photo updates and watch as our little pupper grows here on the farm with us!
Wild & Witchy
Sharing a couple of my favourite diffuser blends lately as we head into this Spring season.