Heading into Summer

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We just passed the halfway point of May, and we’re heading into summer at a terrifying speed.

Both Will and I are doing Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan this summer, which means are work schedules are INSANE.  We’ve been trying to prep for crazy times ahead by making large meals and freezing the leftovers, so we won’t survive on take-out and frozen pizza for the month of June.  How do you theatre parents out there do it?  Do you just have to say no to working at the same time?  I’m not sure what I was thinking when I said yes to this summer.  I was thinking I really want to act.  I wasn’t thinking about what this would do to our lives.  We will survive, I hope.  Thankfully, we have a lot of help.  Will’s mom is coming to stay with us a number of weeks this summer, and my parents will be on nanny duty for those times that daycare can’t cover, and our friend, Angela, has agreed to nanny for the weekends we work.  It takes a village.

Now for the homestead update:

Pigs

Petunia had her babies.  She did great – she needed no human help, and she has turned out to be a great mommy.  She had eight piglets, but unfortunately, we lost two of them.  One was stillborn, and one drowned in the water trough.  Newbie mistake – we should have put a rock in the trough for them to climb out if they fell in.  All fixed now, but it was a sad day.  Fun fact:  we screwed up our courage to castrate the male piglets (I had a shot a whiskey), and as we separated the piglets into males and females, it turned out that we had all females.  I couldn’t believe.  We really lucked out.  The piglets are currently being weaned, and we’ve sold three of them to our friend, Sheldon, who is probably coming to get them within the next week.  I’ll be sad to see them go, but I know that Sheldon will give them a very good life.

Chickens

I have officially lost all self-control when it comes to chickens.  I now have 39 chickens, nine of which I think are roosters.  It’s still too early to tell with some of the littles.  I love them.  I just love chickens.  If I could make my living working with chickens, I think I would be deeply satisfied.  Laying hens or meat chickens – it doesn’t matter.  I like ’em all.

The meaties are here! #cornishcross #pasturedpoultry #raiseyourown #saskatchewan #homesteading

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Geese

Mama goose hatched out two goslings.  Another rookie mistake – we let her sit on the first clutch of eggs she laid.  I doubt half of them were fertile.  She sat on ten eggs, and hatched two.  Also, if we had take the first clutch, there’s a chance she would’ve laid a second clutch. Fun fact:  not sure this is even biologically possible, but we have two ganders and a goose, and it appears that the goslings have two different daddies.

Turkeys

We bought a batch of hatching eggs from an online auction, but turned out the fertility rate of the batch was very low – only ONE hatched.  Thankfully, he hatched with two chickens so he wasn’t all alone in the brooder.  We bought three more poults to raise so that brings the turkey total to four.  Thanksgiving is going to be very tasty this year.

Barn

The barn.  Oh the barn.  I love this barn, but man, it’s a big job taking care of it.  We are getting ready to paint it this year, and replace the windows, since four of the six windows are broken and covered with plywood at the moment.  I rented a power washer to wash it down and get rid of some of the peeling paint, hopefully reducing the amount of scraping that needs to be done.  What a mess!  There are paint chips all over the yard.  The power washer scared the devil out of the chickens, but the pigs didn’t seem to mind.  We were hoping to hire a couple of people to help us, but no one responded to our want ad, so we’ll go at it alone.  Next Saturday.  If you stop by, be prepared to paint 🙂

The kiddos

Liam is his ever-energetic self.  I can barely keep up with this kid.  His energy is astounding.  He’s so imaginative and creative – he plays well by himself and with others.  And he loves baby Fred.  It’s going to be hard on him when Freddie goes home.  Even now, when Fred goes for a visit, he gets upset and cries, “My baby back!”  This parenting thing is rough – how do I explain Fred’s return home to a grieving two-year old?  I can’t even comprehend it myself some days.  Foster care is a complicated thing.

Freddie is just a super sweet, smiley baby.  He eats well, sleeps well, barely ever cries and smiles all the time.  We sure are going to miss him.  We thought he might be home by the end of the month, but looks like it’ll take a bit longer.  That’s okay with me – I’ll spend as much time with him as I can.

Me

I cut my hair.  I just couldn’t handle the long hair anymore.  It so wasn’t me.  I just looked tired all the time, and it made me feel tired all the time.  If I wanted it out of my face, then I had to put a ponytail in, which really hurts after awhile!  I don’t know how you long-haired gals do it.  I like my hair short.  As I approach 40, I think I can officially stop trying to grow it out long.  It’s just not me.

That’s about all that’s happening on our little plot of land right now.  Hope you’re enjoying the lovely spring weather.  Get out and plant something!  Soak up the sunshine! Enjoy the rain!  Until next time . . .

Spring Glorious Spring

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It’s over!  Winter is freaking over!  I know this to be true because our farmstead has turned into a giant mud pit, but this year, the mud ain’t gonna get me down.  Mud means temps above zero, and temps above zero means SPRING!  

It also means there are a million and one projects around here that need to be done RIGHT NOW.  Seriously, last week, things just started to fall apart.  We broke the blade for the tractor, the pump on the well suddenly stopped working, the stairs need railings, I need to install two new light fixtures, we have wood to chop, and on and on.  Throw in work, two kids under two, a pig ready to farrow and 14 eggs about to hatch, and it is really, really busy around here lately.

Some updates:

Woodstove

After paying $821 to fill our propane tank in February, we decided to get a woodstove to offset some heating costs for the rest of the winter and future winters.  Best. Decision. Ever.  I’d like to move our bedroom into the living room so I can be near the wood stove all day and all night.  I love wood heat.  

Blizzard outside. Warm fire inside. #saskatchewanweatheriscrazy #blizzard #newwoodstove #march #winter

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Chickens

I hatched eggs!  From my very own ragtag barnyard crew!  I started with 24, and 16 eventually hatched. These cute little dudes are actually three weeks old now and have moved out to the coop since I have another batch of 14 due to hatch tomorrow, and they’ll need the brooder.  

I alos bought another ten white laying hens from a nearby farm.  They were in rough shape when I first got them, having never seen the light of day, but they look really good now.  I’m going to buy ten more this week.  Poor battery cage hens.  Makes me sad to see chickens live like that.  

Just brought home ten new chickens. Poor girls. I bought them off kijiji (like craigslist), and I basically rescued them from an egg mill. It was one of those industrial chicken barns where the chickens supposedly "free range." They are skinny, filthy, missing feathers, and have the palest combs and wattles I've ever seen. I don't think they've ever been outside. Ever. I have them quarantined from the rest of my flock right now just in case. But at least they are active. They were so quiet on the ride home, I was starting to worry. Once they got inside the coop, they started scratching and exploring. Hope they enjoy their new lease on life! #chickens #instagramhomesteaders #homesteading #layinghens #howchickensaresupposedtolive

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Pigs

Petunia is due on Wednesday.  Fingers crossed that all goes well with the birth.  I have shoulder length gloves and lube, but I really don’t want to have to use them.  Berkshires are supposed to be quite good at birthing and don’t usually require intervention.  Let’s hope.  

Farmstead/homestead projects

Now that the weather has warmed up, I’m itching to start working on outside projects.  So here’s the list:

  • The well.  As I mentioned, the pump suddenly stopped working.  We’re not sure why, and we haven’t had time to look at it yet, but I’m getting tired of hauling water from the house to the barn, so this is at the top of the list this spring.  
  • Insulate and side the foundation of the house.  This should hopefully solve the ice on the walls problem we had this winter.  
  • Staining. I need to stain the playset, the front and back steps, and the porch deck.  
  • Everything barn. The barn needs some TLC.  We’re planning to hire a couple of out-of-work actor friends for a weekend and get a fresh coat of stain on it.  It also needs new windows and a scrub down on the inside.  
  • The old house. It’s starting to become a safety concern.  The back part of the house, the kitchen, is falling off and separating from the main portion of the house, and giant cracks in the stucco have appeared.  A large chunk of stucco is currently wavering in the wind, and will probably fall any day now, hopefully not killing anyone on its way down.  The electricity for the pump still runs through the old house, so we plan to move it to the panel in the “new” house.  I think demo may have to happen sooner than I had planned.  
  • Perrenials.  Really, really want to get some landscaping done this summer. 
  • Clothesline.  My brother is removing his from his backyard, so I’m installing it here.  Can’t hardly wait!  

There’s a million more things to do, but as this is a marathon and not a sprint, I must prioritize.  We won’t be demolishing the old house anytime soon, but I think the rest of the projects are doable this year.  Hopefully.  

Winter on the Homestead

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This winter is seriously kicking my ass.  

There’s been little snow, lots of extreme cold, and nothing wants to work below -30C (including me!)

A small list of winter problems include:

  • Two frozen tractors (both eventually started but the steering column is frozen on the big one);
  • All four heated water dishes for the animals froze over, so I had to haul fresh water morning and night;
  • Cabin fever with two kids, cooped up in the house because the windchill is so extreme, exposed flesh freezes in a matter of minutes;
  • Chicken frostbite problems.  Pretty sure one of my roos is going to lose his comb.  I moved them out of the coop and into the barn, which I know for sure is dry.  It’s been my experience that chickens can withstand extreme cold as long as they’re dry and out of the wind.  They’re doing much better now.  And the cat is happy to have company in the barn.  
  • Ice on the walls in the basement.  ICE ON THE WALLS.  ARGH!

With as much trouble as I’m having this winter, I was curious as to how my ancestors handled winter on the prairies.  I’m lucky to have well-documented family history on my maternal side.  In fact, my maternal grandma’s family homesteaded in the same area that we ended up buying our acreage.  They attended the one-room school house down the road from me, and by some miraculous, curious circumstance, the barn from the old school house ended up in our yard, so I now own the barn that my ancestors used to keep their horse in while they attended school (her name was Daisy!).  That’s almost magical to me.  UPDATE:  Apparently my intel on the barn was incorrect (or perhaps I made an assumption I shouldn’t have), but the barn came from the quarter section surrounding the school house, not from the school yard.  It’s a bit disappointing to say the least.  


As the baby napped today, I decided to do a bit of reading about their experiences with winter.  I learned that I am a winter WIMP compared to what they lived through.  

I am cozy in my well-insulated house, with central heat and electricity.  My ancestors lived in a shack attached to a granary their first winter.  But they couldn’t afford to heat both, so they all moved into the granary, which was 24′ by 14′.  Nine in their family, and another family of four with them.  Each mother had a baby on the way; one due in February, the other in March.  

“Our poor granary!  There was a furnace in the middle and a cook stove at one end.  But the ceiling at the far end frosted over every night and when the fires were lit for the day, it would rain in that area.  Mother put an umbrella over Laura’s head and spread the oilcloth from the table over the bed. ”

I have a well-stocked larder, with canned goods, bushels of potatoes, beets and carrots.  Plus, if I run out, I hop in my warm car and drive to the city and get groceries.  

“And then there was the whole question of food.  Dad had the means to buy next to nothing.  They butchered a steer and when they needed to, bought a bag of flour.  They also bought a bag of brown sugar to make our only dessert, syrup.  We had no potatoes because they had frozen and weren’t edible.  We had no eggs, no butter, and since the cow didn’t calf until spring, no milk for the entire winter.  But we lived!”

I have a cistern full of clean water in my basement, and an electric pump on my well to water the animals.  The pump is less than ten metres from the barn.  I have a washing machine and a dryer.  

“Getting fresh, soft water was always a problem for us in those years.  Our wells were hard water wells.  We just couldn’t find soap that would form suds in our well water.  We had to haul water from several miles away.  My washing facilities were a tub and a washboard.  Our means of trasportation was a wagon.”

I have modern machinery, and a means of making a living that doesn’t depend on the weather.  

“Then, in the winter, came the task of hauling the grain.  I will never forget the winter of 1927, when I was fifteen years old, Benny, Eddy and I hauled grain to Blucher eleven miles away with a team of horses hitched to a bob sleigh.  We would leave in the morning when it was still dark to load our sleigh with a shovel, and then drive to Blucher.  I will never forget the day when we arrived at the elevator to find it was 52 below zero F.  In order not to freeze, we were forced to walk the full twenty-two miles.”


Incredible.  Extreme hardship.  But even as I read these horrific accounts of survival, the hardships they endured are not the defining factors of their lives, nor do they regret a moment of their past. 

“We found everything here so beautiful!  Every day, sometimes two or three times a day, we, the little girls, would climb to the top of a high hill about a mile from home.  My, it was beautful!  Everything was so fresh.  Every low spot was filled with water.  The skies were filled with ducks, geese and wild turkeys.  Everything was so new and strange for us.  WE LOVED IT!”

“It was a wild country compared to today.  The slough close to our house would fill with wild ducks and geese every night.  When they took off, there were so many in the skies, it would cast a shadow on the ground.  It was a beautiful country to us at the time.”

“I was born June 11, 1915, the eleventh of a family of twelve.  Even though my dear mother must have been very tired at this point, I am certain that I was received with as much love as the first child, because love was the very essence of our home.  Just like a baby warmly wrapped in a blanket, we, too, felt surrounded by a blanket of love, as we grew up in an atmosphere of joy, patience and good humor.  ”

The air hurts my face, the wind feels as though it is ripping my skin off at times, and somedays it’s enough to make you want to sell all your posessions and move to Guatemala (or at least BC).  But there’s also incredible beauty, living skies, wild ducks and geese, open spaces, and always, always, love.  

Besides, it eventually does warm up again.  Spring always arrives.

My grandma, looking all bad-ass in her pants and hat, sitting on the tractor with two of her brothers.

Oh Life.

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I’m almost 39, which means I’m almost 40, which means it’s about time for another life crisis.  Or upheaval.  Or rebirth.  Or whatever you want to call the existential pain I’m in.  Lately I’m a weeping, angry, directionless, spineless blob of jelly that doesn’t want to make any decisions or changes; I only want to curl up in bed and sleep for hours uninterrupted, and when I wake, my course has been decided.

Working in this office has exposed me to a world of people I didn’t know existed.  The people who pretend to work for eight hours a day, and then go home and watch television for four hours every night, so that they have something to talk about the next day because they aren’t really living their lives. The people who are so addicted to buying stuff, that’s it’s not enough to buy one item, they have to buy TWO of every item.  (Yes, two of the exact same thing because the short-lived thrill of purchasing one is not enough anymore).  The people who are so full of hate for anyone outside of their culture, race, or economic class, that it spews out of them constantly, and the people around them that find this an acceptable way to talk about and view the world.

I don’t know what I want, or what I want to do anymore.  I have to make money, but doing this for money is not good.  It’s not good to sit on your ass for eight hours a day and stare at a computer screen, pretending to work, flipping between windows every time someone walks by your computer to make it look like you weren’t scrolling through Facebook’s endless news feed.  It’s not good to feel your brain rotting because yesterday you spent an hour wiping dust off the leaves of an artificial plant because there’s not enough work for a person of your intelligence and efficiency to fill eight hours.  It’s not good to feel like vomiting whenever your boss says, “Coffee time!” because you know it’s going to be 15 minutes full of racist, sexist, homophobic comments, and you’re the ONLY ONE who doesn’t agree.

I’ve been trying to quit for two days now, but I’m a coward.  I’ve quit jobs in the past in person, but I just can’t make myself walk into his office and say the words.  I’m scared of what his reaction will be.  My boss is not an unreasonable man, but he’s certainly not a kind man, nor a very understanding man.  I’d like to just leave a letter on his desk and walk away for good.  Can I do that?

Anyway, here’s a more uplifting topic.

Homestead update:

We butchered the pigs.  (Okay, that wasn’t super uplifting, I realize)  It was a difficult weekend, but I would raise pigs again.  Will did the hardest part of dispatching them.  I’m in awe of what he’s been able to do.  He’s incredibly brave (and I’m so cowardly, I can’t even quit a job.  Sheesh!)

We had a ridiculously early snow at the beginning of October, and the roads were so bad, we were snowed in for a day.  It was very pretty, though. We got a blade for our tractor since our little John Deere snow blower couldn’t handle the wet, heavy snow.

Jenna enjoyed the snowy days very much, but sadly my carrots and beets were still in the garden (I got them out eventually,and they were just fine.  Actually, I think it helped make them a bit sweeter!)

Day 8 of #octoberhomesteading. My dog enjoying "autumn" on the prairies. #autumn #Saskatchewan

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We bought some straw bales from a farmer near Vonda (not too far from us).  I used them to insulate the coop, and provide a cozy spot for Jedi the barn cat.  Three of my five chicks are confirmed to be roosters, and two of them are total assholes to the hens, so it makes my decision quite easy on who to keep and who to send to freezer camp.  They’re all so beautiful, though.  Seems awful to dispatch such handsome roos.

Day 1 of #top5homesteadingfavorites hosted by @southwest.shenanigans! Day one is #homesteading. My top five faves about homesteading: 1) Animals. I love animals. Always have. Even as a child, I much preferred the company of animals to humans. Out here, I can have soooooo many animals, even a kitty, which I can't have inside because I'm terribly allergic. 2) Gardening. I have a ginormous garden out here, probably about three times the size of the garden I had in the city (which took up most of my backyard). 3) Food. I can raise, grow, and harvest the majority of my food. I have control over my food supply, and that's really important to me. 4) Solitude. I'm an introvert. I need a lot of time alone. I need quiet. I love the peace and solitude of working on the homestead. 5) Connection to my roots. My family on both sides homesteaded in this area. Since our ethnic culture was either forgotten after leaving the home country or discarded on purpose in the interest of self-preservation (did you know that Canada put over 10,000 Ukrainians in concentration/labour camps during WWI?), homesteading is the only way I feel connected to my ancestors. Canada is too young to have its own culture, and sometimes, it makes me feel very disconnected. Homesteading tethers me to the earth.

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We made bacon. It turned out quite salty, but yummy.  Less Mortons next time.

And now to smoke some bacon! #thankyoupigs

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I feel prepared for winter now.  I wasn’t feeling very prepared a few weeks ago, but now I’m ready.  I know that time will work everything out eventually; it always does.  It’s just so difficult getting through the fumbly parts, where nothing is decided for sure and too many things are up in the air.  I try to live my life by design, instead of by default, but I’m not so convinced these days that it’s the best philosophy.  I would love to throw up my hands right now, and surrender these petty human difficulties to a higher power.  Let the gods sort it out, not I.  Perhaps that’s what I need to do anyway – just let go a bit and let life happen for awhile instead of always having to be in charge.

Until next time, take care everyone!

Harvest Time

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The best/busiest time of the year.  I am in awe of the farmers around us who work around the clock when it’s time to harvest.  You’ll often see them combining well past dark, headlights shining, trying to get the crop off before bad weather hits.  Thank you, farmers.  Growing up in the city, I never learned to truly appreciate the work they do to feed us.  I’m only one generation removed from the farm, and yet, I really had no idea what harvest entailed.

So watching the combines and swathers at work day and night has really put my small harvest in perspective; however, I feel no less busy.  Often I’m working well past dark to put aside the fruits of our labours, which will feed us during the winter.  Indulge me a crazy moment here, but I feel in my bones that it’s going to be a bad winter.  It’s going to be cold and snowy, so I’m in full on winter prep mode.  I have no reason to back up this feeling, but what’s the worst that can happen?  If it’s an awful winter, then we’re prepared; if it’s a mild winter, then we’re over prepared – win-win situation.

First up, potatoes.

 

We have so many potatoes.  We’ve only harvested half the potatoes we planted so far – the fingerlings and the Yukon Gold.  I still have Blue Russian and our own Hilliard Steet seed potatoes (we’ve saved the seed for about three years, and I no longer remember what type of potato they are!)  I thought we’d have at least a bushel of potatoes (which I think is 50 pounds) but now I’m thinking we’ll have more like three or four bushels of potatoes.  The fingerlings alone were 50 pounds, and we have to eat those right away because they don’t store very well.  Potatoes with every meal this winter – breakfast, lunch and supper.

 

Onions

 

This is the BEST onion harvest we’ve ever had.  We’re so pleased with our onions!  To finally have a garden that doesn’t have onion maggots is simply wonderful.  Next year, plant fewer potatoes and more onions.

 

Tomatoes

 

I pulled all the tomatoes quite early because we had a couple nights of hard frost at the beginning of the month.  The tomatoes didn’t fair so well anyway – a lot of them had damage on them from something (?), and they are now molding as they ripen.  Next year, the tomatoes have to be planted in a more sheltered spot.  They’re a bit too sensitive for a country garden.

 

Fruit

 

I’ve put up peaches, pears, cherries, apples, sour cherries, and grapes – the last two in the form of juice.  The larder is coming along very nicely.

 

 

Squash

 

The star of the garden this year (besides the multitudinous potatoes) was definitely the pumpkins.  Over thirty pumpkins!  The most I’ve ever grown was ten, so I don’t really know what I’m going to do with thirty pumpkins this winter.  We also had a couple of spaghetti squash and butternut squash, but they didn’t do as well as the pumpkins.  Any pumpkin recipe is welcome.

 

Chickens

 

We finished butchering the last nine meat chickens.  The first six took us four hours to butcher, start to finish.  The last nine took an hour and a half, start to finish.  Yay for experience and learning!

My little laying chickens are growing bigger every day.  Just last night, I confirmed that out of five chicks, three of them are roosters.  Sigh.  That leaves me with only four hens going into winter, one of whom no longer lays.  And now I have to find homes for two roosters.  They’re already starting to crow and charge each other.  Perhaps someone would like to trade a roo for a laying hen?  I can assure you they are very good looking roosters!

 

Pigs

Three (not so) little pigs. #homesteading #hobbyfarm #saskatchewan #pasturedpork #pigs #growyourown

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All I can say is – not so little and cute anymore.  The biggest one has quite the attitude.  It will still be very difficult for me when it comes time to butcher, but they’re getting more aggressive by the day.  Still pretty awesome creatures, though.  I like them a lot more than I thought I would.  Since we butchered the meat chickens, we’ve basically only had the pigs for daily chores (the laying hens have a very large feeder and waterer).  I’m going to miss having the daily feeding chores.  Plus, I love having a slop pail to put all our food scraps in.  Nothing goes to waste.

 

In other news, we got ourselves a farm dog.  Her name is Jenna, and she’s a beauty.  Sleeps all day; barks all night.  Loves to wander far and wide.  Really loves to wander – she’s run away twice in the past month.  But we got her back – eventually.

 

Looking forward to things slowing down a bit now, once the harvest is all in and tucked away for the winter.  This weekend I’m going to pull the rest of the potatoes, and harvest the beets and carrots.  Next up will be hunting (moose and deer) and then the pigs.  Our larder shall be full indeed, and my heart full of gratitude for all the nourishing food.

Monthly Homestead Update

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Rain, rain and more rain.  That pretty much sums up the rest of July and early August.  It has been a rainy, rainy summer.  So rainy, in fact, that my garden is molding.  I went to pull beans yesterday, and they were mostly a fuzzy, slimy mess.  I salvaged as many as I could, and the rest shall be fed to the pigs.

In other gardening woes, something is eating our root veggies; namely, turnips, potatoes and sunchokes.  My current theory is voles, since they are the frustrating little creatures that leave mounds of dirt all over the grass.  What does one do about that?!

Gardening in the country is very different from gardening in the city.

Thankfully, the beets continue to do well, and many batches of beetniks have been made and consumed.

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Jedi has turned out to be the best barn cat ever.  Not only is he a great mouser, he’s also super friendly and sweet.  It’s nice having a pal follow me around in the evening when I feed all the animals.  Soon we’ll be getting a farm dog, too!

IMG_1240[1]One of our hens had bumblefoot in both feet, so we had to perform surgery on her about a week and a half ago.  I think it was more traumatizing for us than for her.  She seems fine.  Although, I don’t think we got it all.  One foot was quite swollen again yesterday.  I’ll check on it when I get home tonight.

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We slaughtered the first six of our fifteen meaties this weekend.  My mom and dad came out to watch Liam and work on the barn while Will and I dispatched three hens and three roos.  It all went pretty well except for the plucking.  We cheaped out and decided to pluck by hand instead of buying a chicken plucker.  Not doing that again.  Some of those birds looked downright abused by the time I was done plucking.  I ended up having to skin three of them because they just looked so awful and those damn feathers wouldn’t come out!  Next batch, we’re using a chicken plucker.

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Liam and I went to the annual Cherry Festival in Bruno last Sunday.  It was lots of fun.  I enjoyed the cherry-themed food (elephant ears with cherry sauce, cherry smokies, cherry ice cream), and he enjoyed the bouncy castle and the kids’ train rides.  I also bought three sour cherry trees to plant – Romeo, Cupid, and Carmine Jewel.  Bruno is an adorable little town.

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The little laying chicks are getting bigger every day.  The last two days, I’ve heard a strange warbling sound coming from the coop early in the morning.  Weird, I thought.  I’ve never heard the hens make that sound before.  Today I realized that it’s not a hen making that sound; it’s a roo!  One (maybe two) of the littles are roosters, and they’re starting to crow!  It’s an adorable teenage/cracked voice crow!

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I continue to work away at my full-time job.  Not quite adjusting to a full-time working schedule yet.  It’s been difficult.  But I like the money.  At least that’s one stress removed from my life now!

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I keep plugging away though.  Get up at 5:30 p.m., have a cup of coffee, and plow into the day full-steam ahead.  Don’t stop until 10 p.m. and then it’s time for bed.

Hope everything is well on your homestead.  Until next time!

The Past Month on the Homestead

The chickens are growing at an alarming rate.  They are also eating feed at an alarming rate.  I guess that’s what they’re supposed to do!  Only three or four weeks to harvest.  Anyone know of a butcher or abattoir in the Saskatoon area willing to process 15 chickens?  I’ve had a couple of leads on Hutterite colonies that may be willing to do it.  Time is running out.  I guess if all else fails, I do the work myself.  The old-fashioned way.  Just not looking forward to hand-plucking 15 chickens.  Although, their feathers aren’t exactly plentiful.

#hungrychickens

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Work started on fixing up the barn, and then we were completely halted by the rain we’ve had this past week.  We demolished the old soffits and fascia, and attached new rafter ends to the rotted ones.  It’s funny how an old wood building like that can look like it’s about to fall apart if you touch it, but it’s actually incredibly difficult to take apart.  I thought we had to do the work immediately or the barn would start falling to pieces.  But no, that old barn has a lot of life left in it just as it is.

My father has spear-headed this restoration (thankfully – because I wouldn’t have a clue what I’m doing), and the barn is going to look amazing by the end of the summer.  New soffits and fascia, new windows, and a fresh coat of paint.  It’ll be one sexy looking barn when we’re done.  I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think the barn had soffits and fascia when it was first built.  It appears they were added later.  People more knowledgeable than I – would a barn have been closed in or would they have left the rafters exposed in order for air to circulate in the hay loft?

Fixing the barn today! So excited to restore this gorgeous barn to its former glory. #barn #mydadrocks #saskatchewan

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The garden is looking really good.  I finished the first round of weeding.  I found all sorts of things growing in between the weeds – corn, peas, squash, beets, radishes.

There's carrots in there. Somewhere. #gardening #newgarden #weedssuck #roundupismynewbestfriend

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Now I’ve started on the second round of weeding.  The tomatoes could use some love and attention as well.  I have a feeling they’ve sprouted a lot of suckers.

Weeding the garden always starts out feeling like a chore, but by the end, I feel refreshed and full of energy.  It ends up being one of my favourite activities in the summer evening.  Especially if I’m feeling a bit blue or stressed out.  I leave it all in the garden.

My favourite evening activity – garden therapy. #gardening #weedingismyworkout #gardentherapy #homesteading

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Gratuitous pig pic.

Hey pigs. #pasturedpigs #homesteading #saskatchewan #feedmewoman

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Those darn pigs broke out of their corral last week, and greeted me at the back door of the house when I got home from work one evening.  Will bought an electric fence the next day.  We were going to try to fix up some of the old corrals, but we’ve decided to remove them as they fall apart and just use electric fencing instead.  It’s so much easier to work with.  Maintaining a wooden corral is a lot of hard work.

The little laying hens (and/or roos) moved into the big girl coop last Wednesday.  We had house guests and needed the spare bedroom, so it was time to leave the brooder.  I put them in a dog kennel in the coop, but then I needed the dog kennel, so I created an enclosed nursery under the nesting boxes.  It’s working really well.  Think I might make it permanent.  They’ve settled in nicely.  The big girls don’t even seem to mind.  There was a bit of noise the first day, but now they pay them no attention.

I needed the dog kennel because we adopted two barn cats from the SPCA:  Jedi and Liv.  Jedi is super friendly and awesome, and I haven’t seen Liv since I let her out of her kennel.  They told me,” Don’t approach her; let her come to you.  If she wants to.”  I’m pretty sure she’s still in the barn.  Somewhere.  The weather has been so crappy; where else would she go?

And in other news, I have joined the full-time workforce as a receptionist/admin assistant for a small accounting firm.  This is all so new to me – working full-time.  How do you get things done when both people in a household are working full-time?  Things like various errands and appointments and making supper and washing clothes?  Do you really have to cram all that into evenings and weekends?  When do you relax?  When do you sleep?  When do you spend time with your children or your friends?  I don’t get it.  But I’ll give it a shot.

I’m working for the money.  Making three times as much per year as I ever did as an actor.  Money is a very strong motivator.  As I get older, the promise of being able to afford to retire someday is also a very strong motivator.

That’s the news from the homestead.  Hope everything is lovely in your world, too.  And if you have any tips on how to survive being a mom/wife/homesteader who also works full-time, please let me know!

Back on the Homestead!

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I’m back at Sparrow Hill and all is right with the world.

I got back last Sunday evening and immediately got to work the next morning.  I had ordered 15 cornish cross chicks to be picked up on Wednesday morning, and they needed a brooder.  Will saved the day by building this beauty:

Picked up the chicks Wednesday morning, and they love their new home.  They’re cute and fuzzy.  Must keep reminding myself that I’ll be eating them in seven to eight weeks.  Now to start construction on the chicken tractor . . .

Then Wednesday evening after Will was done work, I packed up Liam and a picnic supper, and we headed out to our friend Sheldon’s farm to pick up our pigs.

Sheldon bought the Duroc pigs earlier in May, and he graciously agreed to get three for us and take care of them until I was back in town.

They are two months old, and about the size of a medium dog.  We brought them home in dog kennels in the back of the truck.

The stayed in the barn for the first couple of days, and then Will caught them one by one and hauled them into the corral on the north side of the barn.  Man, can they squeal!  They are so much happier in the pasture!  They run around in the tall grass, and dig, and chase each other.  In the barn, they just huddled in the corner and slept all day.

Will and I had agreed that he would take care of them, but I just can’t help myself.  I want to take care of them.  I know I’ll be eating them in several months, and I’ll probably get very attached, but I don’t care.  I’m a grown-up; I’ll deal with it.

Piggies! #pasturedpork #pigs #farm #homesteading #saskatchewan

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Our first pigs came home today!

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Liam’s a big fan of the pigs as well.  He’s not allowed in the corral, but he loves to peek at them through a small hole in the gate.

There's pigs in there! #pasturedpork #homesteading #toddleradventures #countrylife

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I canned cherry pie filling today.  The fruit truck has returned to the Farmers’ Market, and the sweet cherries are here.  Unfortunately, the sour cherry trees across the street from our old house were cut down to make way for new school portables, so I don’t know where I’m going to get sour cherries from this year.  But at least I got sweet cherries!

I am so happy to be home again.  Happy to be back to sunny mornings, like this:

And beautiful sunsets, like this:

Sundown on the prairies. #saskatchewan #landoflivingskies #countrylife

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Three Weeks Down . . . 

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Three (possibly four) more to go.  I’m actually having a really great time.  The director is fantastic, the cast is fantastic, everyone is fantastic.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  I’m just incredibly homesick.  

When I did the show at Christmas, I thought, this is a very bad time of year to be away from home.  Spring will be better.  But no, turns out, there is no good time of year to be away from home.  

Things I am currently missing out on and/or really want to do/buy:

  • Planting the garden
  • Planting the trees
  • BABY CHICKS!
  • BABY GOATS!
  • BABY PIGS!
  • Transplanting the grapes and raspberries from our old house to our new homestead
  • Fresh asparagus (although that also would have had to be transplanted to the new place.  Hope the tenants are enjoying the asparagus)
  • BABY LIAM! He will be 18 months old by the time I get back.  His baby days are now behind him.  Sniff, sniff.  

We also had an attack on the chicken coop a few nights ago.  Two went missing, and two were found injured.  One of the injured succumbed to her injuries yesterday and kicked the bucket, but the other one is doing well.  Unfortuntely, Ginger was one of the chooks that went missing.  Ginger, the one who survived the great dog attack of 2014.  Ginger, who was more like my pet than a laying hen to me.  It was probably a fox.  Will has seen one twice in the yard since the attack.  Coming back for another lovely chicken dinner.  

It’s such a strange relationship we develop with livestock.  They aren’t pets exactly, but I do feel a great responsibility towards them, and it’s very hard when something happens to them – I don’t feel sad exactly, just a deep sense of having let them down.  It was my job to protect them and care for them, and I failed.  Anyway, I’m sorry Ginger.  I hope your death came quickly and painlessly.  I’ll try to do better going forward

In Memory of Ginger 2012 – 2016, Sweetie 2015 – 2016, and Sparky 2015 – 2016


 

Happenings on the Homestead

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Awesome things are happening lately.

My Dad bought us a tractor.

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And the tractor made a garden.

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I’ve planted the garden with four rows of potatoes already:  Seed potatoes from our old garden, Russian Blue, Marilyn Fingerling, and Yukon Gold.

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Will cut a large hole in the side of the new coop and installed an excellent window for the girls.

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I made a nipple waterer for the girls, but alas, I cannot train them to use it.  I’ve tried showing them how it works, smearing yogurt on it, smearing peanut butter on it, putting scratch underneath it, and nothing works.  They refuse to use it.  If you have any ideas on how to train a chicken to use a nipple waterer, please let me know.

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I found the old door to the outhouses in pieces, and put it back together like a puzzle.  It says, “The Rose Bowl.”

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The seedlings are all looking amazing.  I predict an epic garden this year.  As long as wildlife doesn’t decimate it.

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I leave you with this awesome picture of one of my chickens.  I call it “Chicken with a Shovel.”

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