The Last Days of Summer

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….

The BUMPdate!

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.

Rainy Summer Days

Rain rain go away,

Come again another day.

-English Nursery Rhyme

At this point in the Summer, we are months behind where we would be normally, if Mother Nature wasn’t deciding to flood us out. Just when the sun peeks her head from the clouds, the rain drops begin falling, big and soft, hard and fast, sheet like. You name it, we’ve had all the types of rainfall this season.

Despite the seemingly never ending Summer showers, we are still making the most out of the season while we can here on the farm. Despite her best efforts, Mother Nature has not yet been able to completely kill everything growing in the vegetable garden this year. Our colder weather crops are hanging in there, with little carrot tops peeking out of the soil, peas growing to incredible heights and little baby cauliflower poking their heads from between the foliage. With the weather it’s been hard to get out weeding in between rows, so the garden is looking a little overgrown this year. But fingers crossed we will still be seeing a harvest of most things planted. I mean, the weather has to turn around at some point, I’m thinking August must be our month!

Moving our garden this year was the best thing we could have done, as it now sits on a little slope, giving us the drainage we need during this rainy season. Meanwhile, back in the old garden, the weeds have taken over next to my little patches of wildflowers, which are struggling to bloom with a lack of sunshine. They persevere, and I am finally seeing the first little pops of colour appear.

Out back in the woods, the wildflowers are flourishing under the canopies of trees and greenery. Taking advantage of breaks in the rain, forest walks are a must for picking wild wood bouquets. I love a good ol’ adventure into the woods with our little pack, Dan usually leading, Lily and Hank off adventuring, and Sophie and I meandering along taking up the rear of the line.

The garden isn’t the only thing the cooler, wet weather has been hard on this summer, as we make sure to keep a close eye on the beehive activity. It is hard for the bees to get out foraging in the rain, but you better believe those hives are buzzing while the sun shines! Our first split from earlier in the Summer is still in the nuc box. We had been hoping the hive, along with the help of frames full of eggs and brood from our other healthy hives, would encourage the bees to requeen themselves naturally. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case yet and so we intervened. We purchased a queen bee from a local beekeeper and have inserted her into the nuc box. We will check in a week or so to make sure she has taken to the hive, and then move this new colony into a hive box so they can start preparing for their Winter season.

The rain doesn’t seem to bother any of the other animals too much here on the farm, as everyone has shelters out of the rain and warm bedding to hide out in when the weather turns. But you can find everyone out basking in the rays when the sun does show her face. The alpacas and donkeys are usually found over by the pig pen, cleaning up what little grain they can convince the pigs to spill outside the pen. The goats, having free access now to the woodland lot beside them, can be spotted time to time crossing the little creek bridge or rummaging through the undergrowth along the back fenceline. Of course the three little pigs are in pig heaven, with all this rain creating a constant little creek through their pen, with lush greens for snacking and soft spots for lounging.

If there was anybody else hoping for sun as much as me, I would think it would be our laying hens. They miss their sunshine naps in the grass. Egg production has kept up fairly well, all things considered. Maybe our LOOP pickups are keeping them satisfied enough to keep laying! We also made the decision to get rid of our big rooster, Chanticleer, and send him to freezer camp. He was starting to get a little too ambitious with some of our ladies. Since, then we have noticed an increase in eggs again. We also have a handsome new little man of the coop, Thor, our Icelandic roo. This little heritage breed is so beautiful, and while he won’t get much bigger, he has lots of personality to make up for it.

Hank continues to grow like a weed. He has now reached the same height as Sophie and Lily, and has a long ways to go yet to being full grown. He is just the sweetest little pup, and has fit so well into life on the farm here with us. I wish he’d stop growing so fast, I don’t know where my LITTLE big dog has gone!

It wouldn’t be a summer season without some home made goodies and fermenting going on on the farm either. With our rhubarb patch out of control this year, the only logical thing to do was start a big batch of rhubarb wine! We are excited to play a bit this year with the recipe and see how we can improve from last seasons batch. We also had a bumper crop of Haskap berries from our bushes this year, and while it wasn’t quite enough yet for making wine, we did get to indulge in a haskap meringue pie that was pretty delectable.

Perhaps the most exciting news to share in this blog post, which we have been waiting some time for, is to share with everyone that our little farm will be growing by one! The struggle was real for Dan and I over the last couple of years, as we battled through infertility. It was a huge test on our marriage but it also brought us so much closer as a couple. It was a battle we were fighting together, each and every step of the way. We couldn’t feel more blessed to announce that our little bundle of joy will be arriving January 2020. I am a true believer now, that good things do take time, and this little babe was totally worth the wait!

Monsoon June

“Let’s just sit quietly and listen to the secrets the rain wants to tell us.”

-John Mark Green

It’s been raining for weeks here on the farm. The sunshine tries to make a break for it in the sky, as the clouds part and her light shines down, but only momentarily. Then the rain clouds move back in and begin their deluge again.

To say everything is wet, would be an understatement. The ground is so saturated the rain is simply pooling and puddling at this point, and there is MUD beyond all mud. We have definitely had a monsoon June kind of start to summer.

All this rain has turned the pig pen for the meat hogs into a flowing torrent of stink. The pigs do have some high ground where their shelter is to escape from the elements, but the remainder of the pen is just muck! It makes for some tricky chores, wading through the mud and fighting off hungry hogs. We are ever so thankful for our LOOP pickups, and the pigs enjoy four to five 5 gallon pails full of goodies each day.

The little broiler birds, who are definitely not so little anymore, have made the big move out to the back field. They now share the grassy area with the donkeys and alpacas. Each day they get moved one coops length onto new grass, so they are free to range, while still having free access to grain and fresh water. So far so good out back for the birds! The donkeys are sure to follow along after a coop move, cleaning up any spilled grain!

I think the boys out back are getting just as sick of this rain as we are. The donkeys usually take to the bush for cover from the weather. But the alpacas have quite taken to the pigs, and hardly leave the side of their pen. We think this is because of their herd nature and protective instincts that they like to stay close to the group of hogs out back.

Dan used to tease me that we weren’t building an ark and we didn’t need to collect all of the animals. I think he may be taking back those words as the rain continues to fall today.

Along with everyone out back, the three little pigs, goats and laying hens have all been enjoying their LOOP foods as well. The little chickens from the Pickup Palace coop have been integrated into our flock, and they spend their days out with the older girls exploring and checking out their new surroundings. I think they are going to fit in well! The three little pigs do not venture too far from the pig haus in the rain, but on the occasion the sun does shines, they can be found out back of their pen taking in the rays. The goat pen has also become a lush oasis, with the creek flowing heavy and little pockets of water forming mini ponds in the bush.

Despite all the rain, our garden seems to be surviving. It was such a good decision this year to move the garden, allowing us a sloped pitch for drainage. All this rain seems to be running right out, and there has thankfully been no flooding. While we need the heat and some sunshine to help everything out, there is flowers on the tomatoes and pumpkins, we are actually growing peas this year that are thriving and our potatoes definitely look good, but need a hilling. One of these days I’ll be able to get in there and get my weeding done!

My flower beds are also blooming in spite of the weather, spreading joy with colour. They are also in a desperate need of weeding, which won’t be happening anytime soon. My lupines have taken off this year and I am so excited. I started them from seed two years ago and placed them through out the beds at the front of the house. My side garden of hollyhocks is suffering a little this year, but with time, it will be full and beautiful.

Our fruit trees suffered this year from the weeks we had of below minus forty cold in the winter. The tops of the trees all died, leaving only some new growth sprouting from the bottoms. It was a hard blow for us, as some of our trees had been here for four years. So far, it would appear that the berry bushes have all survived. We had our first harvest of haskap berries. These arctic berries as they are sometimes called, are almost a mix of a saskatoon and a blueberry. I look forward to having enough one day for mead or wine! My raspberries all look at though they will be back in full bloom this year and we look forward to that season as well.

I made sure to take advantage of a break in the rain to collect wild rose petals again this year. They flourish all over our property here and have so many benefits when made into rose water. Wondering how to make your own?

  • Collect fresh petals. I like to leave one petal on the bud so that the roses will still turn into rosehips later in the season.
  • Rinse with cold water to wash away any bugs or pests.
  • Put the petals into a small pot, adding water to just cover the petals.
  • Heat over a low heat, making sure to not let the water come to a boil. A boil will cause the properties of the petals to be destroyed, and will alter the colour of your water.
  • Heat for 20 minutes, or until the colour has left the petals.
  • Strain off and store in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

The rainy days have also made it a little harder for hive inspections, but we make sure to take advantage of any breaks in the rain to check on our busy little friends. A couple weeks ago we did out first split on one of our hives. We didn’t want the bees to swarm and leave, so we took several frames of eggs and brood, along with some bees, and put them into a smaller box called a nuc. They will stay in the nuc until they are able to create queen for themselves, or we intervene and add in a queen bee. At that time, they will be moved into their own hive box to start saving up supplies for the Winter. Both of our other hives now have the honey supers on top, and we are keeping our fingers crossed the rain won’t hold them back too much for honey production this year.

The rain may be here to stay for a little while yet, so we are not letting it get our spirits down. We take full advantage of the sunny days we get, and on rainy days, we take some well deserved down time. I’m keeping up with all my summer reading, am excited to be starting a new book club with a good friend and as always, take advantage of the time indoors to knit. We’ll wait out the rain knowing the sun has to be coming back out soon!

Spring Hustle and Bustle

Where in the world did Springtime go? With the blink of an eye we have headed straight into June, and I’m at a loss for where the time has gone. The hustle and bustle on the farm has filled our days and nights, as we busily prepare for the Summer season ahead of us. So….ready or not, here we go Summer!

Since we haven’t written in what feels like forever, I think the most important news to share is that we have a new family member, of the fur variety. Hank arrived on the farm on May 9th, and has since stolen our hearts and tested the patience of Sophie and Lily. Hank is a Leonberger / St. Bernard cross. He is going to be a big boy! We love him so much already, as he sprouts like a weed, and even the girls have come around and accepted their little brother. He keeps us on our toes, fills us with joy and is always putting a smile on our faces. He has such a personality, and yet is such a chill guy. He has done so well with all of the animals on the farm, including the donkeys who I was the most nervous about. He is shaping up to be the best little BIG farm dog there ever was. Sophie and Lily are the best of teachers too, making sure he sticks to the rules and learns his manners.

One of our biggest Springtime projects was moving our vegetable garden to a new location in the yard. While our previous plot served us well and gave us harvests each year, the looming Spruce trees at the side were cutting down on the sunlight and keeping one half way too wet.

We picked a new spot, with full sun, a little incline for drainage, and located right beside the bee hives for optimal pollination. Dan dug off the first layer of sod, rototilling the soil underneath to break it up. We added in the soil pile we had been saving up in the back field, filled with aged manure and nice top soil, working that into the ground. Once the plot was worked and ready to go our next task began…a garden fence!

Mostly, we needed to keep Hank out of the garden, so we devised a plan, grabbed the chainsaw and headed out back to the bush. Dan bucked down tamarack logs for the posts, sharpening them at the ends so we could drive them into the ground. After each post had been pushed into the ground around the garden, we started the hard part. Of course Pintrest was to blame, but I had fallen in love with a picture of what they call a wattle fence. So back to the bush we went, this time for all the willow, ten truck loads to be exact! The willow was weaved through the posts of the garden to a generous height, and voila, our wattle fence was complete. It was a labour of love. There were times I regretted my decision. But it is beautiful, its finished, and it does it’s job of keeping hank out of the vegetables.

Spring also welcomed some new residents to the farm, who will hang out here for the Summer and then hit freezer camp come Fall. That’s right, our hogs have arrived for the season. This year is the most pigs we have raised yet on the farm, but so far, things are going well. We have nine hogs in the usual pig paradise section of the field, where they have access to a shelter, grain and fresh water, as well as all the mud holes a pig could wish for, lots of willow for shade and shelter and tonnes of room for exploring. Thanks to our LOOP program, we have also been able to almost cut our feed costs in half! We have been lucky enough to have a couple of store pick ups in the last month, as well as an impromptu pickup with the flat deck trailer that included all the spinach, kale, beansprouts and watermelon! Needless to say, we have some happy pigs on the farm!

Our other group of Summer residents are forty little broiler birds. My husband is a handy man when it comes to all of our animal pens and shelters, and he created the perfect meat chicken mobile coop. Our littles are enjoying life on fresh grass, and can be moved along as needed. They are also getting in on some LOOP spoils! These birds will stay until fall when they get processed and sent to the freezer. Hank also finds them very interesting, and can often be found sitting outside their coop with Lily.

A select few of the littles whom we hatched here on the farm, and whom became friends of those we hatched, are living out their days in the pickup palace as they grow. This way, they have access to our other chickens through fencing so they can become familiar with them until they are big enough to be let out with the entire group. I will admit, having no chickens in the house feels a little weird after two batches of hatches and a couple of pools filled with chicks in the garage. Oh Springtime chicky babies, you never get old!

The ladies of the big coop are enjoying the longer days and the long grass in the run as the season have changed. Chantecleer as always, keeps his eyes on all the ladies, and they all love free ranging in the run on a warm day. The ladies are not forgotten when it comes to the LOOP goodies, and the coop in the morning is a real buffet!  All this love means one thing for us too, all the eggs! We are averaging at least a dozen a day at the moment, and with that, eggs orders are flying out the door. And of course, egg pictures never get old, especially in Summer.

The three little pigs can be found most days lounging about their forest pen. Tui likes to sun tan, although it makes me a not happy farmer as he tends to get a little sunburnt if he stays too long. Thankfully there is lots of treed shade and even a little stream running through their pen. Perfect for cooling down. The three little pigs are eating like kings with their LOOP foods, indulging in yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables and juices. We are so thankful for this program and for everything it does for the animals on the farm.

The donkey boys are shedding out their winter coats and getting their sleek summer look on. They spend their days running around the field and often can be found over by the pig pen. I am sure they are trying to negotiate for grain from the hogs. They are so funny to watch out in the field in the evenings, chasing each other back and forth. We look forward to all the summer woodland walks with the donkey boys.

Beetle and Bailey are looking a little different these days as they both sport their new hair cuts. Thanks to the help of my father in law and a friend of the family, both of the alpacas received their Spring shave down. I am so thankful for all the help we had and the amazing setup which made the job so much easier than anticipated. While they look a little naked now, they will feel so much better in the Summer heat and they will have their coats grown back in time for Winter. We saved the fiber and took it to the local mill where it will be turned into wool. Enjoy the following before and after pictures, I know they still make me chuckle.

Not to be forgotten, the goats have been enjoying the freedom of their englarged pen. They now have access to a side field, with stream and bridge and lots of exploring and snacking options. They still startle me when I see them through the fence behind the garage, but they do love getting out and exploring the woods. When we take the dogs for a walk out in the bush there, they are sure to be close behind.

We are happy to report that both of our bee hives are thriving so far this season. With our treatments for mites and foul brood out of the way, it will be no time at all before we add on the honey supers to the hives. The best part of moving our garden has been listening to the busy bees working while playing in the dirt. My circle garden of happiness around the hives is also doing well, with little sunflowers sprouting up everywhere. I think it’s going to be another Summer for the bees on the farm, and we can’t wait for our own home raised honey!

It’s sure to be a busy Summer here on the farm, but it feels so good to have everything done, and ready to go for the season. The greenhouse is empty of plants, the seeds are all in the ground, feed is set up for the animals, pastures are filling out nicely and we are so excited to enjoy the sunshine and warmth that’s on its way. I think we are in for a great Summer here on the farm!

 

 

 

One Day, Babe

Do not give up on the dream you have, Momma (and yes, you deserve that title). For you are a mother in your soul, down to the very bones of your body. You are a mother to the animals you care for daily, that rely on you for food and water, who come to you for love and attention. You are a mother to the children who come into your life, be they nieces or nephews, or children of dear friends, for you nurture and teach these children, as if they were your own. You are a mother to this earth, as you dig in the soil and plant in the ground, watch as your seeds sprout and your flowers bloom.

Do not give up on that one day babe you long for in your life. Do not put your dream aside. Love yourself and love that you are strong and that you are healing. Love that one day, you are going to be the best of mothers, because you have waited so long to love and cherish a child of your own.

Do not blame yourself. Do not hate your body. Although you may not get along right now, and it may not feel like it most days, your body is a temple and deserves to be treated as such. So do just that. Nourish your body. Eat your greens, don’t skip on the avocado, drink plenty of water, get your sleep, go for walks and if you want that bowl of icecream at the end of the day, do the damn thing and eat it! Because you deserve it.

But Momma, what you should do, is feel. Let whatever is happening in that moment take its course. Feel it, cry about it, yell about it, scream at the top of your lungs if that’s what you feel compelled to do in the moment. But do not hide those feelings, not for one minute. You don’t have to always pretend like everything is ok. It’s ok, to not be ok. You don’t always have to be strong. You don’t always have to be brave. You are allowed days when the best you do is get out of bed, go to work and come back home again to start it all again the next day. Feel what you need to feel, and then keep on going.

What you should do is surround yourself with a village. There will be those who will never leave your side, there will be those who stand silently by because they don’t understand your struggle, and there will be those who flee because you’re bravery makes them insecure. Do not let this change you. Do not let this change your path. Stand strong, beside those who love and care for you, and know that together, you will make it through all this.

It’s not going to be easy, I’d be lying if I said it was. But you can do this. Even on those days when it feels like you can’t, please do not forget why you are going through this battle, do not forget how far you have come on your journey. Don’t look back now. Keep your eye on the prize. One day, that babe will be yours. One day, you will hold that sweet little bundle in your arms, and you will tell them all about how you fought for them beause you knew life wouldn’t be complete without them.

One day.

So hang in there, babe.

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Let’s Break the Stigma

A few months ago during Bell’s Lets Talk Day, I shared a situation in my life over social media, in an attempt to connect with others who may be in a similar position. The out reach I received blew me away, as did the number of women who could relate to me, who shared their stories with me, and who ignited a flame of hope inside of me. So this week, during National Infertility Awareness Week, I am sharing our story.

INFERTILITY.

This word has consumed my life for the better part of two years now. This word has been hidden deep inside of me, consuming me and my husband and our everyday life, without me even knowing it. And when I shared this, and when I reached out for the first time, all of a sudden this word seemed to lose its grip on me.

View More: http://brzphotography.pass.us/dan--hadleighTwo years ago, Dan and I were your typical newlywed couple. We had run away and shouted our love from the mountain tops, we both had a career and job, a lovely farm to call our own. It was time to write that next chapter in ours lives; children.

I went off of the birth control pill that I had been on for nearly ten years of my life. And within that first month, I knew something was off. I didn’t get that monthly visit from Aunt Flo. I pushed aside any kind of thoughts, chalked it up to the fact that my body needed to sort itself and its hormones out, and life continued on. After four months of still not having a period, I booked myself an appointment with a local doctor in town to figure out what was going on with my body. I was prescribed a hormone to induce menstruation, and began to take this every couple of months. I was holding out hope that eventually my body would catch up, and start working on its own.

After a year of this, I wanted to get serious about figuring out what was wrong with my body. I wanted answers. I was referred to a women’s clinic in Edmonton. I saw a doctor. We didn’t click. I left without the answers I was looking for, and yet another drug to take for my issues.

When this course of medication still didn’t get us the child I was now longing for, I asked to be referred to a new clinic in the heart of Edmonton specifically for reproductive and fertility issues.

So, in December, after a year and a half of seeing doctors, completing all the blood work, ultra sounds, contrast radiology and any other test you can imagine under the sun, I was finally diagnosed with P.C.O.S (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). A condition resulting in hormone imbalance and metabolic issues, it affects 1 in every 10 women and is a common cause of infertility.

Finally, I had an answer.

I thought having an answer would solve all of my issues. I thought knowing why my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to would make me feel better.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Now I had a name for it. P C O S. I had the reason why my body wouldn’t cooperate with me. But there wasn’t the simple answer I wanted. There wasn’t one set plan of action that would be guaranteed. There wasn’t one miracle drug to make it all go away. I knew I had this, and now I needed to know how to deal with it, how to cope through it and what I needed to do to help my body out.

The struggle has not been pretty.

You know that toy you buy off the shelf, or that electronic item you covet, but then it just doesn’t work right. So, naturally, you return it. You take your receit back to the store and you give them the item back because it doesn’t do what you want it to.

That’s my ovaries.

Except there is no receipt from God to be like, “Excuse me, Lord, these don’t work properly, may I exchange them for a set that do?”.

My defective female organs cause me grief. More than I would have thought possible or would like to admit most days. They make me feel broken. Like what kind of woman am I if I can’t even function like a woman is supposed to.

And these hormones, don’t even get me started on the hormones! I have never in my life had such up’s and downs, such highs and lows, all within an hours time. My husband will vouch for it, sometimes I am a complete monster. The struggle is real. Some nights I wake three or four times, drenched in sweat and hot as Hades. Night sweats; they’re a thing and they’re not fun.

Each month is like a roller coaster. You begin with this hope and determination. You see the hills before you, maybe that little corkscrew turn halfway through, and you face it head on. I take a hormone medication which allows my body to ovulate. I start to climb that first hill of the roller coaster ride, with hope in my heart, that I will ovulate this time. I can’t do basal body charts, they end up looking a lot like the Rocky Mountains because of the imbalance in my hormones. I have tried the ovulation tests at home, to no avail. So I wait, and I do blood work to see whether or not my body cooperated. First hill down. Then they throw in the corkscrew. Timed sex. Yes I said it. Did you know that there is a defined time when your eggs are released, travelling down the Fallopian tubes, waiting to meet that little sperm. It comes down to a time frame of about 24 to 48 hours. Do you know how much fun sex on schedule is? For the sake of sharing too much information, let’s just say it takes a strong couple and a little imagination to make the best of it! The second hill, is the largest, it’s that looming drop you have anticipated the whole ride. It’s called the two week wait. It’s the two weeks when, that little egg who has hopefully met it’s sperm, is travelling down the Fallopian tubes to be implanted into the uterus. It’s trying to figure out if you’re experiencing early signs of pregnancy or just early signs of PMS, because let’s be honest, they are way too similar. And for me, I endure the long and looming ride up that hill and I crest the top and for just one moment, there is hope, before the ground drops beneath me, my breath catches in my chest and I feel the whole world falling away. Hello Aunt Flo, we meet again.

Each month is a mix of joy, hope, anticipation and then heartbreak. It is the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows.

But I am trying to work through it, the best that I can, in the healthiest way possible.

I will tell you this, I wouldn’t be on this journey if I did not know how much of a rock I have in my husband. My husband is my biggest supporter in life. He works hard every day to make all of our hopes and dreams come to life. When I can’t pull myself from bed some mornings, when the tears won’t stop pouring from eyes, when life overwhelms me, he is there, holding me, comforting me, being silent and strong when I need it. If this man was not my partner in this life, then I would have given up on this journey already.

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My Mom has also been there for me through my journey. She is my closest and best of friends. And while she may be half way across the country, she is always just a phone call away. She has listened on the other line as I cry and explain in anger how life just doesn’t seem fair. She is my voice of reason sometimes when I want to act irrationally. She has cried her own tears through the phone line as we talk and sometimes just sit in silence, feeling what we need to feel to get through this.

Having this support system, and the support of some of my nearest and dearest friends, gives me hope and gives me strength to know that I can get through this, and that my dreams can and will come true, one day.

20190416_183004Over the years I have collected little items here and there. A child’s farm book. A beautiful quilt kit. A stuffed pig. All these items I hold on dearly too when it all becomes too surreal. I keep them on the top shelf of my bookcase. They don’t stare me in the face on the days when it is all too much, but they are there for when I need hope and purpose to keep fighting. I have also started a little side knitting project that feels close to my heart and gives me purpose. I was gifted a pattern for the little newborn hats they give at hospitals. So in my spare time, I knit these little new born hats, put them in a box and one day will find a hospital to donate them to. The first one was hard, I finished it, and then immediately broke down into tears on the couch while my husband held me. This first little hat sits on my shelf of the bookcase.


Another step I took in my journey to healing, was seeking help.

I hadn’t noticed that ever so slowly, this gradual shift was taking place with me. I had no energy anymore. I had lost interest in a lot of things that used to bring me joy. Sewing projects sat out on my spare bedroom floor for months incomplete. Knitting projects stared at me from the shelf. I hadn’t sat down and written in weeks. All these little things that used to bring me joy, no longer sparked my soul. I was tired, ALL THE TIME. There was no reason, I went to bed early, had a good sleep and woke up at a reasonable time. But I woke feeling exhausted. And the crying. There was so much crying. A picture here, a sad song there, and I was beside myself with emotion, and the tears came.
Finally one day, after a spell of tears and feeling completely exhausted, I told my husband that I needed help. That I was not OK. And while I knew I had all his love and support, I needed something else.

So I started seeing a therapist. I see her once a week now, and I am healing. I am writing again. I am knitting again. I didn’t know at the time how much this burden was weighing me down, but I feel like slowly the weight is being lifted from my shoulders. We are working through ways of dealing with my emotions and imbalances in healthy ways. Through writing or journaling, through mindfulness meditations and through being true to myself and my needs.

It’s OK, to not be OK. But there is help out there. Please know, there is always help out there.

Our journey is far from over. Currently we are on our fifth round of hormone treatments.

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But I wanted to share our journey, I wanted to reach out and tell our story for others to hear, not for pity or apologies about what we are going through, but in the hopes that maybe our story will speak to someone who is also struggling. That maybe someone needed to see these words to know that they were not alone. Maybe someone needed to read our story to know that there is hope beyond the heartbreak. That maybe someone who is struggling will read this story and find the bravery to seek the help they need.

I hope for all of these things.

That Sweet Spring Air

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?!

20190316_181919Spring 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.

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