Here on the farm, Summer usually brings with it the hustle and bustle of warm weather days filled with chores, activities and the ever endless To-Do list. It’s a time to take advantage of the longer days and the nice weather and get everything done outside.
This Summer started off a little differently as Dan is still home with us. Usually I have him home with me during his Spring Breakup from work, but this year Spring seems to be lingering, the world is on lockdown and the price of oil has tanked leaving him without work for now. Being in this situation may seem daunting to some, but thankfully, we were able to prepare for the possibility of him being off work ahead of time and had some savings and things set aside just in case. The oil patch is a never ending up and down fluctuation that we take in stride. With that being said, it’s been absolutely beneficial to us actually being able to smash out our To-Do list and check off everything on it, all before the end of June!
The farm life seems to have it’s never ending chores needing to be completed. This year that included expanding our outdoor chicken run, making some fixes and improvements to the pig haus, building and installing our new greenhouse and of course, planting this years garden. All while also adjusting to life with our new baby girl!
We converted our old vegetable garden into an expansion for the chicken run, doubling it in size to nearly 4000 square feet. This allows the birds to “free-range” in safety of the enclosure and netting, away from the clutches of predators, or big bear dogs! They are some happy chickens and I love having them a little bit closer in the yard.
At some point over the Winter the three little pigs had decided the flooring that had been in their house for the past three years just wasn’t up to standard anymore, and had slowly piece by piece, began removing it. Using OSB board we patched up the larges holes, laid down new plywood to cover the entire floor and then covered that with linoleum flooring. Here’s hoping the pigs can appreciate their fancy new flooring. The linoleum should make cleaning in there much easier as well as deter them from chewing away at any wood. With the pig haus done, we were officially done the “chore” portion of our To-Do list, and did that ever feel good!
Each Summer we plant a vegetable garden in the hopes that we will grow our own food for the Summer months and perhaps even for canning and preserving come Fall. Each year seems to be a battle against Mother Nature and a test of our patience. Preparations start in the late days of Winter and Early days of Spring, when the kitchen table becomes crowded over with seed starting trays. Everything is started in the house, then moved to the “Man Room” off the garage in the big South facing window. From there it makes the jump to our greenhouse when it is big enough to start hardening off and preparing for being planted in the ground. From tomatoes to pumpkins, cauliflower to corn, we try to pre start as much as possible due to our short growing season here in Alberta.
In the first week of June we had everything out of the greenhouse and into the dirt in the garden as well as all of our straight seeded vegetables into the ground. So of course, as our luck would have it, Mother Nature blessed us with a hail storm shortly there after. We sadly lost all of the tomatoes plants in the garden, along with most of our pumpkins. Our corn took a beating, along with our squash. Anything that we seeded had yet to come up, but was definitely much slower this year due to the wet and cold. Thankfully, our left over tomatoes that hadn’t been planted in the garden because we ran out of space were safely tucked away in the greenhouse and we may still see some fruit!
A couple days of heat and sunshine brought the beans out of hiding, our reseeded cucumbers have sprouted and our potatoes look quite happy. The garden is what it is most years, as we can’t control the weather, but we do work each year to improve our soil quality and layouts to give it the best chance possible.
For my birthday Dan surprised me with a new greenhouse package. With rather vague instructions, we were able to put it together and had it built in a couple of days. We added some little personal touches like a wood trim around the bottom which I torched for preserving the wood and also for a little rustic look. The greenhouse was built on a skidded platform which we then pulled across the yard to it’s final resting place across from the garden.
Inside we have built one raised bed which houses the leftover tomatoes, a couple pepper plants and my calendula flowers. We will add a second raised bed along the back next year and try our cucumbers and watermelon inside. We found an old ladder which we hung from the ceiling to use for trellising and hanging. We also created inside solar batteries to help aid in heating the greenhouse. These are four black barrel drums filled with water. The idea is that throughout the day they will absorb the sun and heat holding it inside and when the temperatures are cooler heat will escape from the barrels keeping the greenhouse warm. We also installed our own watering system, hanging eaves trough from both sides that drain into a large tote. The tote is rigged with a garden hose and the pressure of the water in the tote allows me to use the hose for watering inside the greenhouse. I am so happy with our little “green”house and will continue to work away at it over the Summer and into Spring to make it just so.
It was another rough Winter on our fruit trees, but we are happy to report that our berry patch is looking good. So much so, we decided to forgo on the trees and add more fruit bushes. We planted another whole row of Haskaps, a row of Saskatoons and two rows of Raspberries. Using cedar rails we hauled back from Ontario a couple of years ago we also built corner fences for decoration. A little piece of home. One day this berry patch will be thriving, and we may just fulfill our dreams of a home made wine and mead business!
We made the decision this year to forgo raising the meat pigs and butcher chickens on our own. We wanted to cut back on chores and have the extra time to enjoy this first Summer with Wallace. We bought two pigs from a local Hutterite colony and had them butchered and we will likely do the same for chickens in the Fall. It made more sense for us this year, but we will be back on track for next year.
One Spring chore that we couldn’t put off was shearing the alpaca. The two boys got their annual hair cuts a couple weeks ago. Dan’s friend comes with his shearing setup and gives us a hand, as well as my father-in-law who helps with restraint. The boys got a once over with a hair trim and a hoof trim. We will take the fiber this year again to the mill and have it spun down into yarn. I would love to start playing around a little more with yarn and fibers, especially dying my own. I’m thinking next on the wish list is a white alpaca for just this reason!
Now that everything is check off the To-Do list, it’s time to sit back and relax for the Summer. Just kidding! Who am I joking, I married a Burch! While we don’t have time lines or deadlines to meet on any more projects here, I am sure there will lots to do for the Summer.
A project I am excited to get back to working on is our bus conversion. The sub floor is in and now it’s time to seal up and paint the inside! We have the materials for painting and laying down the main floor when the time comes. This is a work in progress and will no means be finished this Summer but it makes for a fun project to spend our down days on.
We also have a couple more beehives to build and paint. We are now up to five hives on the farm as we split one hive and had that same hive split themselves again with a swarm. We were thankfully able to catch the swarm and re-home them into a new hive across the yard. Three out of the five hives are also donning their honey supers already and the bees are hard at work filling them with honey. Here’s hoping this is our year for a bumper honey harvest!
Our most important task this Summer is mostly to try and slow down, take in the time we have as a family and enjoy these days with our little girl. Wallace is definitely an outside baby. She has her best naps in her stroller parked outside by the chicken coop, beside the greenhouse or hiding in the shade of the treeline while we work away. She’s made the rounds to meet all of her animals and has the best big brother watching out for her, always hiding somewhere near by watching. Time really does fly by too fast, and she is already growing so much. I wish I could put a pause on all of it. For now, let’s just slow down and enjoy it all while we can!