I’m not sure how, but today is the first day of December already, which means November has passed us by and before you know it, the hustle and bustle of the holidays will be here and gone.
Ummm….could we go ahead and just slow time on down!
The passing of November took with it another Open Season for hunting, and this year definitely looked a little different for me. My overalls wouldn’t do up anymore with this belly (thank goodness for coat extenders). I most certainly couldn’t climb into my tree stand, and I just made it up into my little blind. But for me, it wasn’t about shooting a big buck for the wall and this year we really do have lots of meat in the freezer already. This year, I was OK with not even having to fire my rifle. What I refused to miss out on is the beauty of the changing seasons, on the quiet wonders of nature. I didn’t want to miss out on at least a couple afternoon sits, quiet and calm, surrounded by field and forest. When our resident Momma doe and her twin fawns come walking out of the tree line and stop right in front of where I sit hiding. This is what the season really means to me. So there was no buck down this year, but I am blessed with a full freezer of farm raised meat and for being allowed these little views into the calmness of Mother Nature’s miracles.
Here on the farm we are ready to welcome this season of cozy weekends, of cold snowy days, of white Winter wonderlands and holiday spirit. We are ready for a season of slowing down, of living in the moment, of enjoying each others company and appreciating what life has given us and where it has brought us this past year. There is so much to be thankful for this season.
Chores continue on the farm, despite the falling snow and dropping temperatures. Winter brings forth the task of keeping waterers thawed, fresh water topped up, clean and dry bedding in place and hay available for munching at all times. As always, we are so grateful for the LOOP program we are able to be a part of and the fact that throughout the Winter months our animals will still have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, bakery items, eggs, dairy and the odd treat (yes this includes chocolate cake). Some days I feel like our animals are eating better than I do!
You will not see much of the three little pigs through the cold Winter days, as they hibernate away in their pig haus. Snuggled together in layers of straw, snouts peeking out to determine when it’s dinner time and safe to leave the comfort and warmth of bed. The pigs do grow a longer hair coat during the colder season, but it is still not enough to protect them against our harsh Alberta Winter elements. An insulated house with warm bedding is a must for the pigs when it gets cold out.
In the coop, some of the hens refuse to leave the shelter of their house as well, drawn out only by the tempts of treats. Our chickens have access to a covered run in the Winter, which we block of with plastic sheeting to protect against the wind and snow. With the help of the suns warmth, it makes for a tolerable environment outside of the coop. This is where there food and water is kept during the colder months as well, to help with any kind of humidity problem we try to avoid inside the coop. Humidity is a huge Winter killer and can do a number with frostbite incidents. Free access to fresh water and grain keeps the ladies going, even if they aren’t laying me any eggs in protest. Sorry girls, we are just getting started with this weather forecast!
The goats also tend to hide out more inside of their shelter on the colder days. It is a large enough building that it houses a shelter within a shelter, which is stock piled with dry straw for bedding down in. All four goats can fit comfortably inside for cuddling, while having access to their hay feeder in the other half of the shelter confines. The only reason they have to leave is for fresh water only a few steps away. You are sure to still hear their bleats when walking the yard for chores, and curious little heads poke through the doorway looking for treats.
Out in the back field the donkeys and alpacas are also adjusting to the Winter weather. They have a large shelter which fits all four comfortably with minimal squabbling. Topped up with dry straw for bedding and facing into the sunshine, it works for taking away the Winter chills. We keep two bale feeders topped up with hay and a heated bucket allows for access to fresh water. Everyone out back has grown in their Winter coats, with the donkeys looking like their shaggy selves and the alpacas gaining back their fluff.
Deuce’s face has also healed up very nicely from his minor surgery in October. While it took some work, I couldn’t be more happy with how he looks. From bandages, to grazing muzzles and all the sprays and creams in between, I think we won the itchy scratchy pull your stitches out battle in the end!
And then there is my big Winter bear dog. Hank seems unphased by the weather change, which is no surprise seeing how fluffy he got with the change in temperatures. Always on guard, racing out back at the slightest commotion to the back field with the girls, chasing squirrels throughout the trees and sleeping outside our bedroom window. He is my morning greeter, always waking to come for a cuddle and hug before I leave for work (OK and maybe the last bite of whatever I had for breakfast that morning and saved him). He towers over both of the ladies now, but loves their company, driving them both crazy I am sure. He is such a lovable big guy, but don’t be fooled, you don’t want to meet him in the dark of the night in our yard!
Another Winter-To-Do which we started last year, is making our own homemade suet cakes for the birds. Using the pork fat saved from butchering our Summer hogs, we melt it down to liquid form, mix in peanut butter and bird seed, let it set, and VOILA! Winter bird feed! The cakes and pucks are hung up around the tree branches at the back of the house and bring in all kinds of visitors. Little chickadees, blue jays, Whiskey Jacks and my favourite, little red headed woodpeckers. So, on Winter weekend mornings you can find me in the quiet hours as the sun rises, coffee in one hand, camera in the other, watching all the little winter birds busy in the backyard.
Before life gets busy on us again during the holidays, Dan and I took advantage of a day off together and took off on a mountain adventure, perhaps you could call it our little “babymoon”. The mountains are always my must go destination when we are able to get the time away from the farm. There is just something about that fresh air and closeness to nature that soothes a tired soul. So, we found a Christmas songs channel on the radio, bundled up and spent the day chasing snow clouds through the Rocky Mountains!
Perhaps my favourite stop this trip was Pyramid Lake, a new destination for both Dan and I. I had to take advantage of the beautiful backdrop to capture a great bump shot. The best part, a little side story behind it. The first time my parents visited the West, they ventured to Jasper National Park. At the time, I was a cute little bump in my Mom’s belly. I think that must be where my love of the mountains bloomed. It seemed only fitting that we should take our little Burch bump to the mountains to share the love. So, here’s 30 weeks. In the middle of Jasper National Park. Surrounded by the wild I love. With this little wee family we are growing.
We took advantage of a nicer week of weather to embrace the holidays here on the farm, hanging the Christmas lights on the house, putting out our wreaths around the farm yard and even getting out the decorations in the house. Dan is a trooper, and each year takes to the rooftop to perfectly hang our strands of lights on the house top. I love the way our house looks when we arrive home in the darkness to it lit up.
The owners before us also left a whole bunch of Christmas wreaths out in the shed, so each year we use them to decorate around the yard. From the old garden gate (soon to be expanded chicken run) to the gate at the end of the drive, we miss no opportunity to be festive!
Inside the house, the aromas of scented salt dough ornaments and drying citrus fruit made the holidays come alive. This year I dried out oranges, grapefruit and lemons from where else, but of course our LOOP pickup, to use for garlands and hanging on the branches of our Christmas tree. Resorting to Pinterest, I found a recipe for salt dough, and created little ornaments to hang on the garland and also in the tree this year. A couple special ones were even saved to be used as gift tags this season.
Keeping with tradition, we set out to the woods out back with our trusted farm truck to look for this years perfect tree. Of course with this being Hank’s first Christmas here with us on the farm , we had to bring him along for the adventure. We weren’t long, armed with hot chocolate, Christmas songs and the chainsaw, finding and falling our perfect Christmas tree. This year was a little different, as it will be Dan and I’s last Christmas as a married couple. Next year, I so look forward to starting this tradition with our wee family and our little Winter babe.
With John Denver Christmas songs blaring over vinyl records, we stood our tree in the house and hung the decorations. I may be a little biased, but this might just be one of my favourite trees yet!
With the countdown to our little Winter babe’s arrival dwindling, the slow down in pace on the farm is much accepted. Time to prepare and prep. We have been working on filling our freezer with as many leftover freezer meals as possible. I think we’ve finally got all the basics ready to go in the nursery, although I am sure we will find out what we missed as life happens. Next thing you know, we’ll be packing and having our hospital bag at the ready!
I’ve taken on all the projects for this little one, from knitting to sewing and crafting. I knit my first ever sweater (baby sized of course)! I am part way through a knit stroller blanket. I’ve made several little pairs of pants and matching hats on the sewing machine. I even made several of my own swaddle blankets and burp pads. There is a quilt in pieces on the spare bed waiting to be sewn together. I can’t wait for this little babe to enjoy all these handmade items from Mom.
I had my Mom mail me some baby pictures and we pilfered through some of Dan’s dad’s albums at the farm to start a little collection of photos for our babe. Now, to find a little photo album to put them in! I think judging by these photos, we are in for one cute little Burch Baby!