Frosty Mornings and Farm Friends

We met the frost in the forest, in the small hours of the morning when the sunlight is just starting to grow to bright enough to penetrate between the branches and dead leaves. Our boots crunched across the leaf littered ground, breaking through the ice that had formed over the puddles in the middle of the mud road. The engine of the old farm truck rumbled and the steam from the exhaust crept out from behind us. Today was a day for lumberjacks, and that’s just what we were that morning bundled in our plaid coats, mittens and toques.

There is something so peaceful about spending a day in the woods; cutting splitting and stacking. I think, perhaps, it’s one of the best ways to cleanse the soul. Dan handles the saw work, using his chainsaw like a painter would a brush, slicing and cutting through the timber in swift, equal movements. I follow behind, gathering the smaller of the pieces into the back of the truck, and using the wood splitter to break down anything that wouldn’t quite fit into the woodstove. Bending over to gather is getting to be a bit of a chore, working around this growing belly, but I can run that splitter like no one’s business! In one tank of gas on the chainsaw, we have it down to a science to fill exactly one full load in the truck. Four years of cutting wood together got us here. The greatest reward, our home stays warm and cozy all Winter long off of our hard work, and you just really can’t beat the smell of that wood stove.

Early September found us out with the bees, removing the honey supers from our two established hives and replacing them with boxes that held the feeder pails. The feeder pails remained for all three of the hives until the freezing temperatures started at night, and got us about three whole buckets of sugar water fed to each of the hives. A quick check and we were happy to see everyone was in a good place for the change of seasons, even our split hive was establishing themselves well. We completed our final treatment of the season, this one for varoa mites, using oxacylic acid (derived from rhubarb leaves) and a fogger inside of the hive. After a couple days of rest after the treatment was completed, the feeder boxes were removed, the top boards of the hives were closed and each hive was individually wrapped in their own insulation cozy. We slid each hive closer together, with our weakest of the three our split hive snuggled in the middle of the two, then they were ratchet strapped to the bench so they couldn’t be bothered from wind or snow accumulation. Now, they will sit there for the Winter months, as the bees cozy down and work hard to stay warm and fed for the season. All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed and hope we see them all again in the Spring!

The FlowHive supers were brought into the house to warm before extracting honey. The technology behind the frames is that you are disturbing less of the comb structure and saving the wax for the bees to re-use. Essentially, a tool is inserted into the top of each frame, which cracks the comb and then splits the cells, allowing the built up honey to flow out of the frame while leaving the comb structure and wax intact. The bees had a late start into the supers this year, due to weather and conditions, so only one of the super boxes was partially framed in with honey. But this was the first year any of the bees had ventured into this part of the hive and we are beyond excited. A total of 14 lbs of late summer honey was collected and jarred. Thank you bees!

We also finished up our first garden season in the new plot this September. Summer might not have exactly cooperated with us this year, but the little harvests we had to show throughout gave us hope for the years to come, as we continue to break the ground and add what is needed to the soil to make it work. If there was one thing we did grow this year, it would be peas. We had peas for days! They still were still blooming and going strong in September, which goes to show what an odd growing season we had this year. With all the rain, creating mud, weeding became almost impossible and the garden was soon enough a jungle. There were times I contemplated getting serious about the weeds, until I noticed our honey bees and bumble bees busy in the flowers of the thistles and dandelions that had taken over. I left everything as is, and decided this year letting the bees collect pollen and nectar from the weeds for winter made more sense to me than clean,tidy rows at that point. I’m hoping they pay me back next year in honey!

I had some of the best help for garden clean up this Fall, as my Mom and Dad were out visiting. I took full advantage and we spent a whole afternoon in the vegetable garden getting things wound down for the season. Pulling out pea trellis and beans, digging up potatoes, picking little pumpkins to ripen, and even managing to fill a couple buckets of corn cobs. Dad even took on the task of removing Dan’s soaker hose system which had become entwined and overgrown in the rows of weeds. It was a successful cleanup, and the next day Dan and Dad built a little alleyway to accommodate the travel of our clean up crew, the three little pigs! They were some happy pigs each morning when the gate was opened and they followed me across the yard to the garden. They spent days in there rooting around in the carrot clean ups, taking down the corn stalks and basking in all the yummy goodness.

A change in temperatures and a decrease in daylight has begun to take it’s toll as the change in season becomes apparent in the chicken coop. We made it through the moulting season, and have moved on to the ” I don’t think I’ll lay eggs” season. Which is ok with us, as the ladies provided a surplus of eggs to us this Summer and deserve the break they get in laying over the Winter months. The coop is ready for the cold, wrapped in it’s usual plastic wind break around the run and the nesting boxes snuggled in their insulation wraps. A last big clean was done, walls washed down, new bedding added, poop hammock emptied and we are ready for what this next season brings us.

We had a sad start to October on the farm, as we had to say goodbye to Little Black Hen unexpectedly. I never knew how much room one little chicken could take up in your heart, but I’ll tell you, it’s a lot. She was such a special little chicken, always greeting me at the gate of the coop, always checking out the dogs along the fence, taking treats from my hands, tolerating me holding her for all of the pictures. She even spent an afternoon as a house chicken, which I may add she was not a fan of but made me very happy. She spent four amazing years with us here on the farm and is already greatly missed in the coop. My little greeting crew is gone and with it a piece of my heart. Sometimes, farm life is just plain hard.

Everyone out in the back field is doing well and enjoying these last few bits of autumn we are offered. The donkeys and alpacas spend much more of their time away from the old hog pen and closer to the bush line. We’ve even seen them a couple times on forest adventures, the donkeys leading and alpacas in tow. Soon enough we’ll be using up all that hay we stored in the shed, but for not there is lots for the eating still out back.

Deuce over the summer has developed a lump on the left side of his face just above his lip. We had coordinated a vet visit for him, but after struggling to get him on the trailer for a couple of hours, we were fortunate enough to have the vet come out to us to take a look. It turned out to be what he called a sarcoid, which is a benign tumour like growth that can be quite common in donkeys and horses. He was able to remove the lump and stitch him back up, all the while Deucey was the best little donkey patient. I knew I loved these donkey boys, but watching him get his sedative and start wobbling, leaning up against Dan while the vet worked on him, made my heart hurt. Setting a hand on his rump for reassurance while he teetered and stood like a champ. This was very minor surgery, I can’t even begin to fathom otherwise. I think it’s safe to say these two are far from just farm animals. They are loved and cherished, they are large pets and I’d sure be lost without them. Big hugs from Dan afterwards made everything ok!

A few weeks ago I arrived home to see that we had acquired yard goats throughout the day. Thank goodness they are very cooperative goats and accompanied with a small bucket of grain, everyone followed me back to the pen and through the gate. This continued for three days as we were completely stumped as to how they kept managing to escape the pen they had been in for a year with no problems. Turns out, all the moisture and puddles we had laying in the front yard that adjoins the goat pen, had started to dry up and disappear with the weather cooling and the sometimes freezing temperatures. There was a nice little goat sized space where they had been crawling under the fence where the fence post had heaved out the freezing ground. Dan was quick to pound it back into place and there have been no escapees since, although they will yell across the yard to tell you how mad they are about this daily!

Thanks to the LOOP program, everyone on the farm has even already been able to start enjoying pumpkin treats. Pumpkin is so good for the animals here on the farm, as a high source of fibre and a source of protein. It also helps to act as a natural deterrent for worms. I am sure as Halloween draws near we will be up to our ears in pumpkins, but nobody here minds!

Hank continues to grow like a weed, standing well above both of his sisters now. For such a big dog, he has the sweetest of personalities and continues to fit more and more in on the farm. There are some days I am not sure whether or not he knows he’t not a donkey, and I don’t want to be the one to crush his hopes. I think they’ve accepted him as one of their own anyways. He’s always close by when its time for feedings and is the best chore dog there ever was. I think it would be safe to say he is a Momma’s boy, and that makes my heart happy.

The best part of the Fall by far, was getting to have my Mom and Dad visit for a week at the end of September. I think Mom showed up with a whole carry on suitcase full of baby items, ready to take on the Grandma role. We spent the week at work here, turning our old spare bedroom into the nursery of my dreams. How special it will be to tell this child how much love and hard work Grandma and Grandpa put into this room, just for them. With Dad’s help on construction, Mom busy painting, we redid the entire room right down to the trim and added in a shiplap wall. We built the crib, put up and filled bookshelves and really made the space come to life. Refurnished antique pieces from Dan’s dad are found in the nursery, along with my antique set of Wade figurines I collected as a little girl. A special book from my brother sits front and center on the bookshelf and the beautiful handmade blanket from my Mom hangs on the side of the crib. Not to forget are the many hand me down’s from friends and a couple special little gifts from an old friend who refers to me as “the daughter he never had”. We are beyond thankful and feeling so blessed. Little one, you have a village waiting for you, who already love and adore you.

All work and no play wouldn’t make for much of a holiday, so we made sure to have a day of fun away from the house. Dan took my Dad with him to work for the day, showing him the ropes of the oilpatch. Mom and I took a day trip to my favourite local flower farm, where we hand picked and arranged our own bouquets in the most quaint greenhouse you ever did see.

The time always flies by when Mom and Dad come to the farm, but I am always so grateful for their company, help and never ending support. We’ll be seeing them again soon, as the count down to our little Winter babes arrival starts to dwindle. It is hard to imagine that in just three months, Dan and I will be first time parents. Oh, what a wonderful though that is!

In the mean time, here’s our BUMPDATE photos, since we’ve been slacking on the blog here in the last month.

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