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Archive for the ‘acreage’ Category

Yesterday was the first day that really felt like spring.  There have been several warm-ish days recently, but most of them were really gloomy and overcast, or even raining.  Yesterday, there was sun, and it was lovely.  We all spent the afternoon puttering outside, in our shirtsleeves, finally!

Splashing in Shirtsleeves!

M enjoying the warm weather and puddles.

 

Spring is the dingiest time here on the acreage, though.  Between the mud on the kids and the mud on the dogs, the house is never clean.  Melting snow reveals all sorts of garbage that has somehow collected over the winter, as well as all the fallen and broken branches taken down by wind and snow.  Things need picking up and organizing.

Spring!

The sandbox, and a lot of leaves that need cleaning up!

 

I dug out my pruning shears and cut back several shrubs, while the kids picked up garbage, and Trevor (Hubby) cleaned up old leaves that had collected in the strawberry beds and strung fence around the grapes to keep the dogs from digging them up.   Cherry the mastiff passed away last spring, and we got another rescue mastiff about a month later; Brutus is a great pet, but it turns out he likes to dig, especially around the foundation of the house, which is a bit of a pain, and we need to figure out ways to discourage that.

Brutus

Our ‘new’ mastiff

Dog holes

Brutus’ digging is a bit of a problem.

On the bright side, my chives are up already!  In the south bed, they are up several inches, and very green; in the east bed, they are shorter and yellow-er, but they are up there, too.  We got these plants from my Mom, when she was dividing her own clumps; all three of them have thrived, which is great, because there’s something special about fresh chives in your scrambled eggs, and with the increased daylight, the hens will be kicking it into high gear soon, and we’ll be eating egg everything shortly.

Chives

The chives on the east side of the house – less growth, but more photogenic, out of the afternoon sun!

It’s kind of exciting to be thinking about planting things again.  I spent my evening planting my seed starts – we’ll plant them out in the garden in the last week of May and first week of June.  I am trying something new this year – I desperately want to grow melons, but in zone 2, it has proven difficult (impossible, so far).  I know some people here are growing cantaloupes in high tunnels, but I haven’t had any luck with any melon so far.  Part of the issue is the short season, and melons don’t appreciate transplanting; it is not generally recommended to start the seeds at all, and especially not more than a couple of weeks before planting out.  However, I don’t think that gives them enough hot days to set and ripen fruit.  This year, I’ve planted half a dozen melons in 2 liter (2 quart) pots, in the hopes that they won’t get root bound in the 6-8 weeks before our last frost date.   We’ll see if it works or not!

 

Meanwhile, we’ve got tons more pruning to do.

Valiant grape in need of pruning

This Valiant grape (still dormant) is desperately in need of pruning!

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Not *quite* two years, but close enough – yikes!

 

It has been a somewhat…eventful…couple of years, too.  Hubby went back to school to get some education in web development, and we had to sell the goats in order to find the time for him to work school in around acreage maintenance and childcare, but he got his certificate with high honors, and we’re casually looking at goats again.  I’ve had some health challenges, and have been trying to keep my graphic design / illustration business afloat through the crazy time challenges we’ve had.

 

On the bright side, we’ve continued expanding our knowledge and refining our garden, and the orchard is coming along nicely – we harvested a 5-gallon bucket of apples last fall, as well as crabapples, chokecherries, black and red currants, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries; we’re expecting the plums and pears to start bearing in the next couple of years, too.  We end up drowning in squash every fall, and I’m getting pretty good at inventing ways to eat them.

 

We’ve kept the chickens, too, and have added a few breeds to the roster.  We got Cochins last year, and we’re hoping that we’ll get some broody hens out of the deal, who will raise our chicks for us, and save us all the fussing with heat lamps and such.

 

I’ve got (yet another) ambitious order of trees coming for spring, and we’re looking at plowing up another garden bed, as we’re running out of room in the smaller one by the barn; I ordered some roses, too, to prettify the place, now that we have most of the fruit trees we really wanted.  Perhaps I will find some time to post about our growing, picking, cooking, and preserving again this summer!  Meanwhile, here is a little photo of the kids, who are also growing like weeds:

The kids, reading

I can’t believe I’ve got a child old enough to read!

 

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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!

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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…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I live east of town.  Almost due east, actually.

 

It wasn’t planned that way, it just kind of happened…the place we wanted was east, so east we live.  If I had it to do all over again, though, I would purposely look for a place east or at least south of wherever I was going to work and shop.

 

You see, I drive to work at 7am, and, for a good chunk of the year, the sun is just coming up about then.  My friends from west of town spend several months a year battling the sun in their eyes while they commute…but the sun is at my back.  I’m comfortable.  I’m at less risk of hitting a deer or moose that I couldn’t see due to glare.  It’s a smooth-sailing commute.

 

sunrise 1

I drive home sometime starting around 4 or 5, and guess what?  I don’t have the sun in my eyes then, either, since I’m heading east when the sun is west.  It makes a huge difference.

 

resized sunset1 mod1

You’d think I planned it this way.

 

resized sunset 2

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We had a bunch of running around to do in town yesterday, including a vet appointment for one of the dogs.  We are desperately trying to wrap up projects, including getting the laminate flooring finished, the barn cleaned, and the house in some semblance of order.  Anything ‘big’ we want done needs to be finished before I go back to work full time on Monday, as it will be near-impossible for Hubby to accomplish much with a clingy 10 month old hanging off his leg, and no ability to do anything noisy during nap time.  Unfinished projects had been piling up, and we realized that we were never going to be able to do the eavestroughing ourselves before work starts – between the late spring and all the other half-finished things in the house, we decided to admit defeat and hire someone else to do it for us.  I was really reluctant to spend the money, but, a couple of weeks later, it is melting, and we have no icicles or large and growing puddles by the basement walls, which is completely worth it.  Maybe the basement will even stay dry this year.

 

I had ordered a truck load of water, so that I could run several extra loads of laundry over the weekend – I want to wash the spare-bedroom bedding, as well as all my packed-away work clothes, just so that they’re fresh.   I mentioned to the business owner that our driveway is fairly slushy right now, but that it is still freezing up at night, so would be okay as long as he came first thing in the morning.

 

The driver showed up at 1pm.

 

He made it about halfway up the drive.

 

Now, I like the water guys – both the business owner and this particular driver have been very good to us.  However, I was pretty frustrated with them yesterday afternoon.  You see, the driver, having gotten quite stuck, decided to try to get out, and wouldn’t hear of us calling a neighbor to bring a tractor over.  So, instead of a ten-minute tow job, we ended up with an hour and a half of diesel fumes, spinning tires, back-up beepers, shoveling, and general frustration.  While buddy did get out in the end, about a quarter of our driveway is now a huge mud pit with foot-deep dug-out ruts, and we missed our vet appointment and had to re-schedule.  We were late getting to town, late for dinner and chores, and very late getting to bed, despite having to be up early this morning to go on our annual book sale date.

 

Now, admitting defeat really isn’t my forte, but sometimes, even I recognize it’s better to just stop digging bigger holes and go ask for help…

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Garden Porn

Well, it’s that time of year again – the dead of winter doldrums have hit, so the seed companies take advantage by sending out their brightly-colored little catalogs of garden porn.  Naked seeds, laying suggestively on colorful cloths, dirty carrots, blushing tomatoes…the pictures on those shiny pages are enough to make any gardener shiver.  And covet.  And spend far more money than was strictly necessary, on things that there isn’t necessarily enough space for in the garden…yet…

 

Seed Catalogs

 

I always spend hours pouring over these catalogs, wanting.  Wanting to try all the different varieties, wanting to see how they grow, how they taste, what they really look like in my garden.  I have discovered that most of these things aren’t really suitable for neglectful gardeners in zone 2 dryland, where even hardy tomatoes and peppers and melons need a lot of watering and covering and coddling.  It does not seem to stop me, however.

 

This year, I am trying a new tactic to combat over-spending on seeds.  I wrote out a list of every vegetable we actually eat, then allowed myself to order a couple or three varieties of each of those.  I’m getting two kinds of beet, for instance (Cylindra, and some golden variety, though I have not yet decided which one).  I’ll get three types of dry bean, maybe four (Jacob’s Cattle, Red Kidney, Black Turtle, and maybe a Maine Yellow Eye), and two types of wax bean.  We already know which varieties of peas, carrots, wax beans, turnips, and onions we like, so those are easy.  I am debating about whether to try hybrids for cucumber, summer squash, and broccoli; we have not had as good of luck with these as I would have liked.  I am totally stuck when it comes to squash, though; even if I allow myself two types of pumpkin and three other winter squash varieties, I can’t narrow it down to that.  I love squash so much, and it’s a go-to storage veggie for us, so I might just get one of everything!

 

For the things we have never tried (kohlrabi), that are marginal (artichokes), and ones we’ve never had any luck with (melons), I am setting a ‘fun budget’.  This is a budget of money, but also a budget of garden space.  While we have more room than we will ever need for gardens, there is only so much space Hubby can actually manage to keep weeded, watered, and picked, so we’re in heavy negotiations over what is reasonable, and what is completely crazy.   Anything we agree on will still probably be overly ambitious, as we’re both total optimists about the garden, but maybe we can pare back a bit from the 8,000-plus square foot (literally!) monster that we began with.   Of course, I’m still looking at two types of artichoke, several melons, a couple of novelty gourds, and so forth; ‘restraint’ is kind of relative…

 

We are also looking at trying some new tactics with the gardens.  The main bed is currently located a long ways from the house, past two hedges, and through a large patch of grass that will hopefully be fenced off and turned into goat field sometime soon.  It is not very accessible, and it’s out of sight, which means we forget to weed and water as often as we should.  We want to move the garden to a more obvious and accessible location, though we don’t have any place close to the house that is big enough.  What we hope to do is plow up as many as four new beds, in various places between the house and the barn, and near the barn, where we are more likely to weed/water/pick, because we will be seeing them more frequently.  As well, this would resolve the issue of how to juggle garden duties with caring for Baby M; the new locations would be near shady protected spots where a baby could be parked in a play pen, rather than being out in a hot, exposed, windy open field.  We will have to wait for the snow to melt in order to measure up the patches, but we think we’ve found enough places to make this work.

 

So back to the picture-circling for me…I’m sure in two months I’ll be complaining about where to put all my seed starts, but the looking and wishing and choosing sure is fun!

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