The seasons are shifting here on the farm. The days are getting shorter and the mornings a little darker; the air is cooler in these moments of change. The yards and fields are filled with the sound of busy insects, preparing for the next season. The clicking of grasshoppers, taking off from underfoot through the grass, the buzzing of busy bumbles and honey bees as they forage and frenzy on wildflower pollen. The hogs have been shipped off of the farm for yet another year. The corn in the garden is tassling out in cobs, popping here and there between rows. And perhaps best of all, the sunflowers are arriving in all their glory around the beehives. Fall is definitely in the air already!
Perhaps I feel the change most on our walks we’ve taken up during weeknights through the woods out back. The colours are changing, ever so slightly, in the leaves on the birch trees looking over us. Some leaves are already scattered across the trails, starting their mosaic of colour that will blanket the forest floor. I’d like to blame it all on the rainy season of Summer we had but deep down I know this isn’t the only action of Mother Nature causing change. There’s a smell in the woods, left over from rains and damp, where the mushrooms are growing in abundance, that tickles my senses. The slight chill in the shaded overgrowth of trees sends a little shiver down the spine. Soon, it will be time to replace my open toed sandals for moccasins, my t-shirts for flannel and sundresses for jeans. But I’m not letting go quite yet!
The ladies, Hank and I have thoroughly been enjoying our evening jaunts. It’s doing us all some good and it’s good for the soul too. Some nights we criss-cross through the donkey field trails, wandering to the wooded back, zigzagging through the trails my husband has so lovingly cut for us. Some nights take us to the goat pen, following the little cut paths through the underbrush, over the bridge and across the streams still running this time of year. It’s not long before we’re spotted, and the bleats of curious goaters follow us through the foliage. These are some of my favourite walks with all the creatures in-tow. We’ve even been brave enough to venture out of the fenceline on occasion, slipping out the gate in the back pasture and following the lease road south. We were a little late in the season this year, and I don’t think the rains helped our cause, but we managed to forage on the patches of wild raspberries on our very back cutline on the property. There wasn’t enough this year for our usual batch of wine, but they did make for a yummy raspberry mint limeade when we got home!
Life felt so busy all Summer here on the farm, and I’m welcoming this slow down with open arms. First, the kettle is put on the stove to boil, as I fetch my french press from the cupboard and my coffee grounds out of the pantry. I allow myself one cup on the weekends, because what would a Saturday or Sunday morning be without a hot coffee?! Mug in hand, it’s outside to the greet the day.
My first stop is usually at the beehives. There is something about watching the hives come to life in the mornings, as the sun touches the hive entrances and warms the bees awake. Slowly, one by one, the first bees lazily fly from the hives to start their day of forage. Come mid-day the hives are bustling with bees coming and going, it is such a sight to see, and can be heard far from the hives on a hot day. It’s been another Summer of learning for us with our bees, as we completed our first ever hive split, had to re-queen not only our split but one of our established hives as well and learned that not only did the rain effect us, but had a large part to play in the bees lives this season too. Having done the split, and robbing frames from our established hives, this won’t be the year yet for us for honey harvest. But we are excited that the yellow hive has decided to start using the flow frames in their honey super. Whatever they have stored up their will be the only honey we take this year for ourselves, as we hope to help out our split hive for the Winter to come. In the next week here, we will remove the honey supers and set up in their place our fall feeders, as well as completing our fall treatments for mites. I never thought I would ever call myself a beekeeper, but I think this Summer we have definitely earned the title.
Next, you’ll find me in the garden. It has easily become one of my favourite places to pass away the time this Summer. And if I may, just toot my own horn a little here, I am absolutely in LOVE with the fence Dan and I built this Spring. I often feel like I’m in the English countryside, surrounded by my waddle fence we built by hand. Even though the garden has gotten a little out of control this year, it was our first year in the new location and these things take time to establish. Just the other morning while out picking peas and beans I thought about attempting some more weeding, that is until I noticed how many of our honeybees and bumblebees were busy in the flowers of the thistles and dandelions that have taken over. I left everything as is. Because letting our bees collect pollen and nectar from the weeds for their Winter storage makes more sense to me than having clean, tidy rows at this point in the season. Here’s hoping they’ll pay me back next season in honey!
While it may not have been the best year in the garden, there are still vegetables in there persevering despite the weeds. We’ve had lots of salads with dinner with lettuce from the garden. We had the best pea harvest I’ve seen since moving to the farm. The beans are just getting started, but so far are looking good and have made appearances on our dinner plates. I have one little squash, a couple little bitty pumpkins, my first ever kholrabi and some hopeful cabbages. There’s even some tomatoes holding onto hope in there too. It wasn’t the best season for strawberries, but the ones we did get to pick were big and juicy. While there won’t be much for canning this season, we’ve been enjoying some little harvests and that makes me happy, and the work worth it.
If you look close enough from the garden, often you can see at least one of the three little pigs suntanning in the far corner of their pen. Soft little snorts of content float through the air, as they root and explore in the long grass beside their own little personal stream. If you call out, Tui stops short in his tracks, head up and ears alert, before bee-lining it for the gate. Good morning greetings mean breakfast, obviously. You can tell these little pigs are starting to trust us and feeling at home. Tui especially. The other morning a quick snout scratch turned into Tui laying down and rolling onto his side for belly rubs. Oh my heart exploded. This little grumpy gus wanted my attention!
They may be the smallest animals on the farm, but most mornings the chickens are by far the loudest. Our little flock is one of the first on the farm to wake up, with rooster calls and clucking heard across the yard. I love how everyone comes running when they spot you coming towards the run, hopeful for treats and goodies. You can tell the seasons are shifting in the coop, as feathers start floating around everywhere. Molting season is upon us! Along with molting, comes a slight drop in egg production. We start supplementing in the Fall with black oil sunflower seeds for the chickens. The increase in proteins and vitamins helps them to grow those feathers back and give them a head start as they head into the Winter months.
The next pen in line would be the goats on our morning farm tours. Depending on what time you’ve drug your butt out of bed and got your coffee, the goats may or may not be waiting with morning greetings. If you’re behind schedule, they’ll be long gone to the woods exploring. Doc is especially curious about morning coffees. These four sure are entertaining, and once you’ve been spotted in the yard, there is no end to the bleating and calls from the goat pen.
Of course it wouldn’t be morning rounds without a visit out to the donkeys and alpacas. The boys still spend most of their days over by the hog pen, even though the pigs are now gone for the year. They also have a habit of following along the chicken tractor when it is moved each day. They’ve become the clean up crew along with the dogs. I love looking out the kitchen window and seeing everyone in the back field.
Of course Hank is always with me for our morning checks, he has turned into the best not so little chore dog there ever was. He is the best big little farm dog, and we are so lucky to have welcomed him to the farm. He is going to be a big boy, but he has the right personality for it, and is just the sweetest boy. He’s even grown on the girls. The three of them had a spa day the otherweek, and Hank was a rockstar for his first bath. Also, have I mentioned that Hank loves peas? He also loves pieces of apples and blueberries, but only one at a time. He is one healthy pup!
The last stop before we head back to the house in the morning, is always at the wildflower gardens to watch the bees. Hank loves to stop and smell (or eat) the flowers and I like to see him watching the bees buzz around with curiosity. A little late to bloom this year, the wildflowers are taking off now. Poppies have come and gone, cosmos are starting to bloom and there is lots of borage for the bees to feed on. My gladiolas are in full bloom right now, to mine and the bumblebees delight. It’s a magical little space.
Outside of the farm, Dan and I love to take time in the Summer to enjoy all that Nature has to offer around us. On a sunny day off, we pack up the truck and head on down to the river! Canoeing the Pembina river is one of our favourite ways to spend a Summer day. We were lucky enough to steal one day this season and head out in the canoe. Fishing, relaxing, floating and paddling the day away. Always a beautiful sight to see from the river.
OK… let’s get to the part we’ve all really been waiting for….
I know I’m one of the lucky ones, but I have felt so good so far throughout my pregnancy. Despite a little fatigue in the first trimester, a little heartburn showing up in the second, my body and I have been feeling great. I’m feeling the magic. My body is slowly starting to change, and you know what, I think every now and then I feel a little something happening in there.
I feel so blessed, for each and every moment of this pregnancy. It was a struggle, a battle, an emotional roller coaster and a lot of heartbreak getting to this point. But we made it, and we couldn’t be more thankful.
Dan has been a trooper; dealing with the crazy mood swings, the random requests for night time popcorn snacks and the middle of the night pee breaks. Also, he’s been wonderful at helping me to capture all the little moments of this journey we are on.