The West is Burning

The other day, I was out playing with the goats (and with 9 kids so far, I’ve been doing a lot of that).  I looked up and saw smoke.  Lots of smoke.  I went running to see what was burning, and it was the field just across the road from us!

just across the road from our house

just across the road from our house

Now I understand that burning stubble is a long-standing practice, and probably locally common.  We haven’t seen much of it (or any, really) since we’ve been here; thinking about it now, that was probably because the fields were more or less underwater until past the ideal planting time, so burning wasn’t really an option. This year, we had less snow and an earlier spring, and everyone is burning their fields.   People know what to do, and the fires have been controlled, but boy, there’s been a lot of smoke.

stubble burning

It’s still really disconcerting when it’s right at your mailbox, too!

a little too close for comfort

a little too close for comfort

I was out in the windbreak along the driveway the other day, trimming and sawing down windfallen trees, and thinking.  You get to do a fair bit of thinking when you’re doing work like that, because it’s mostly just repetitive motion, using your muscles and leaving your brain free to idle.   I had a lot of sawing to do, and I was worried that I’d work myself so hard that I’d have trouble brushing my hair the next morning.  I was feeling just the teensiest bit sorry for myself, and thinking that an acreage has to be just about the world’s most expensive gym membership.


A lot of work

A lot of work!

Then I heard some noise above me, and looked up to see not one or two, nit even five or ten, but fourteen cranes flying overhead.    I sat in the grass and watched them fly for a while.


It might be an expensive gym membership, but having an acreage is also cheap therapy!

Before we settled down on the acreage with the chickens and goats, Hubby and I traveled.  We backpacked, separately before we met, then together, and tried out an all-inclusive once, too.   Between us, we’ve been to over a dozen countries on four continents.   We both love checking out other climates and cultures, preferably for at least a few weeks at a stretch.


Egyptian monument


About a year after settling the goats and chickens in, it hit us:  we were stuck.  My sister was planning a wedding, and we had no idea if we were going to be able to go.  We couldn’t just leave the critters for a two weeks while we traveled to her destination wedding, but we didn’t feel we could ask any of our neighbors to watch them, as the average age around here is approximately 75, and we haul water from the house to the barn twice a day.  Uh-oh.


We eventually found a paid farm sitter who was willing to come out to our place…for a price.  A high price.  A very high price.  In fact, our farm sitting cost almost as much as the rest of that trip put together, and the sitter was not as reliable as we would have liked…up to and including ignoring some of our instructions!   It was not at all a viable option over the long term.   So we have been limited to day trips or, at most, overnighters for quite a while – a couple of years, now – which really sucks for a couple of wannabe globe trotters.


Camels in Wadi Rum


I would guess that is why the majority of people who get into hobby goats get out again –  in about three years, if the stats are to be believed.


Not us, though.  We’ve found a stellar farm sitter (two of them, actually), who live relatively close, are physically able to take care of the critters, and who are trustworthy and reliable.  We’ve had them watch the place for a couple of days here and there, but we recently went away on a vacation for a couple of weeks, and left them in charge.  They dealt with unexpected inclement weather and a mass goat escape, and kept their good humour through it all…and the place was in great shape when we got home.  What a relief to know that we can schedule a holiday, or even go to a wedding or a funeral in another province, without having to worry about how to get the goats fed and watered while we’re away!


We have our freedom back now.  I’ve signed us up for a couple of last-minute travel discount websites, since we all have our passports, and our super-fab farm sitters are willing to come by on short notice.  Yay for us!  I just can’t emphasize enough how much freedom we suddenly have, or what a relief it is.  If you (like us) love to travel, make sure you have a realistic plan for how you’re going to take care of your critters when emergencies come up, or when the travel bug bites – it’ll save you a lot of money and heartache, and help you keep your sanity while you work on your homesteading dreams.


Sea Turtles in Hawaii

(We went to Hawaii.  Took the kids and Hubby’s parents.  Had a great time.  Would love to share some pictures, but WordPress is having a bad day, so perhaps in another post…)







Apparently I can’t do it all.  Or at least not at the same time.  I know, amazing, huh?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve set out to write a post, but then getting sidetracked with photo editing, business issues, crying babies, goats, or a diaper blowout.  Unfortunately, in all of that, Rural Dreams is getting short shrift.  I’ll get back at it, I promise…eventually!

Meanwhile, some cuteness:

cute kids

more cuteness

Goat Shopping

I really do love my Toggenburg goats, but, as I have mentioned before, there are a couple of major drawbacks to having a less-popular breed – primarily relating to genetics.  As one of only two registered breeders of Toggs in my whole province, I have to range pretty far to find bucks that are not related to some, or occasionally all, of my herd.  This is not really uncommon – one lady drove for more than 12 hours to come and buy a buck from us, for exactly the same reason.


This little fella traveled over 12 hours to his new home

This little fella traveled over 12 hours to his new home


We could have put off getting a new buck until 2016, as we did not have any girl babies in 2014, so there are no major issues with daughters in the herd…for now.  However, we’ve bred all of our does this year, so by 2016, we will NEED a fresh buck, and there is really no guarantee that we will have any more time (for shopping, and also to go collect the buck) or money (ha!) than we have right now, so it seems like a good idea to get going with the whole thing.  Also, with fresh blood in the herd, we could finally start offering ‘homestead packages’ of a few does and an unrelated buck…something that we have not really been able to do, to date, but that is in the long-term business plan.


Buck shopping is equal parts frustrating and fun.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at photos of girl goat rear ends – nobody seems to be too concerned about showing off their bucks, but *everyone* wants to send you a picture of the nicest udder in their herd.  Even shopping for a boy, you better be looking at pictures of his mom and grandma, since what they have in the udder department will tell you a lot about what the buck is going to add to (or subtract from) your herd.   Goat breeders, on the whole, are friendly and down-to-earth, and it’s been fun chatting with folks about pedigrees and breeding plans.  On the other hand, trying to find someone who has an appropriate animal *and* can ship it to us, *and* is willing to hold it until weaned is really asking a lot, and there are some really nice herds that we just couldn’t buy from this year because of circumstances.


Looking at all of these goats, and their pedigrees, and their show ribbons and such has really got me thinking.  We should be showing our girls, as well.  One of our does has both a mother and a twin sister who’ve gone Grand Champion in major shows, and the mother of one of our bucks is also quite decorated, as is the grandmother of another.   It would be fun to hang out with all of these folks I’ve been emailing with and talking to over the years, too.  Too bad it’s such a logistical nightmare with young children, and all of the shows are a long trek for us.  Aah, well, maybe down the road a bit.


Meanwhile, I’ve got some more udders to go examine…


Toggenburg goat doe

Thank Goodness for…Winter?

Whew, it’s been a busy summer…and fall!  Between gardens, goats, chickens, baby, and business, we’ve been living at a dead run since about May!

The pile of squash leaves after the frost (and one wheelbarrow of harvested squash)

The pile of squash leaves after the frost (and one wheelbarrow of harvested squash)

As a quick update, Hubby’s garden turned out great – moving it up close to the barn was a wonderful idea – it got a lot more attention when we were walking past it twice a day, and most everything thrived, including the squash, which went wild and started taking over the lawn, and the mangel beets, which we’ve never had any success with before, but managed this year to grow one nearly as tall as toddler M:

Finally a success with mangel beets!

Finally a success with mangel beets!

The goats loved those beets, too!  Too bad we only grew a few test plants.  Perhaps next year…


One drawback to having the garden so near the livestock was discovering just how much damage chickens can (and will) do to developing squash.  While it didn’t cause us too many issues in the end (we pulled in two wheelbarrows of pumpkins and spaghetti squash, plus a bit!), it was disappointing to see at the time:

What free-range chickens will do to the pumpkin patch...

What free-range chickens will do to the pumpkin patch…


We had planted a couple of garden beds to flowers, just to keep the grass and weeds from taking over, as we wanted to reduce our garden workload as much as possible.  I was pretty happy to be picking myself a bouquet of glads for my birthday – an unplanned bonus.  Hubby may be digging me more flower beds when we get serious about the garden again!


These guys grew with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss and attention

These guys grew with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss and attention


Fortunately, Baby J has turned out to be quite a laid back baby, and we’re doing much better in the sleep and getting-stuff-done departments than we were with toddler M at a similar age.  This is not to say we’re accomplishing a whole lot, but rather, our extensive baby preparations have allowed us to more-or-less keep up with the basic work, rather than falling terribly behind!


Baby J

Baby J


Hopefully now that winter’s finally here (it’s been hovering between -25 and -30 for close to a week!) I will be able to get to some of the stuff that’s been on the back burner during our busy seasons…including blogging!  I don’t promise to get back to weekly posts just yet, but you will be hearing more from me than in the recent past.


Now, off to figure out the breeding roster for the goats!

Well, things continue to be hectic around our place, with garden harvest and the rush to finish outdoor projects before the snow comes (our first frost will probably be next week already).  It’s hard to type while holding a baby, and it seems that if I am not pulling onions or cooking dinner or trimming goat feet, I am pretty much always holding a baby!  So, instead of a rambling blog post, here are a few pictures of the things that are keeping us busy:


squash harvest 2014


squash is taking over the garden!

squash is taking over the garden!

random hens


Grapes in Saskatchewan?  You bet!

Grapes in Saskatchewan? You bet!


so cute!

so cute!