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Archive for the ‘Country Life’ Category

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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THE Book Sale

When Hubby and I had been dating almost a year, we made a trip from Alberta to Saskatchewan to visit my family.

 

While we were there, we randomly happened across a fundraiser book sale in a mall, that was by the local symphony.  It was HUGE!  Thousands and thousands of books, donated by the type of people who frequent the symphony, so really quite a wide and interesting variety of textbooks, history, travel, gardening, classics, fiction and non fiction.  Prices ranged from 50 cents to three dollars.  We were in heaven.

 

So much so that when we checked and found it was an annual event, Hubby immediately marked it on the calendar for the next year, double-circled and everything.

 

It became our annual date.   We would drive in from Alberta, and fill our trunk with the next year’s worth of reading material, generally at a dollar a book.

 

Yes, I guess we ARE nerds.

 

This weekend was the opening of the book sale, and therefore, our annual date.  Now that we live in Saskatchewan, it’s a day trip, but I still took a day off work, so that we could go on a weekday and beat the crowds.  We revised and printed out our book inventory list (all 22 pages!).  We made babysitting arrangements (thanks, Auntie J!).  We spent a few quality hours hunting for great deals.

 

Hubby is trying to enforce a one-in-one-out rule with the books, as we are on the verge of having to reinforce the livingroom floor.   I am on the hunt for every Bobsey Twins and Hardy Boys hardcover ever printed (I have all the Nancy Drews), as well as a few other series, so that the kids will never lack for good reading material.   We have an occasional conflict over this, particularly given that Baby M won’t likely be reading for a few years yet, and the other hasn’t even been born!

 

We did pretty well this year, by both of our standards.  Hubby got some books he’s been hunting for, and I managed to limit myself to just one box of books between the two of us.

 

box o books

It’s not a small box, but it is only *one* box.  Some years we’ve come home with two boxes each!

 

We’ll be spending some serious time tonight cataloging and filing our new treasures.  we’re already anticipating having the garden planted so we can settle into lawn chairs on a sunny day and enjoy our loot!

 

yay books!

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Spring is coming.  No, really, it is.

 

spring flowers

With the weather forecast to finally come up to around the melting point, after months of -30, the announcers on the radio were all talking about people planning their gardens.

 

I planned my garden in December, and ordered my seeds in January.

 

The rural life encourages long-term thinking and planning, I think.

 

If you want eggs in November, you need to order the chicks in February, plan and build your coop and run in April, collect your day-old chicks in May, feed and protect them through the summer, and butcher your excess roosters in October.

 

chick in the grass

 

If you want carrots in November, you need to plan the garden in winter, order seeds before May, plant in spring, weed all summer, harvest in September, and monitor the root cellar through the winter.

 

carrot harvest

If you want goat kids (or milk) in May, you have to plan your breeding the January prior, reserve a buck, get the buck in February or March, raise the buck through the summer, order enough hay in June for all your spring kids and mommas, breed in November, and feed and monitor through the winter.

 

aurora the goat kid

Every year, we’re planning next year’s kids, or chickens, or garden.  We assess what’s working, and make notes about what to do differently next year.  We budget our money and our time, and make breeding, planting, and construction plans based on when we think we’ll have enough of each to get our projects done (though we’re almost always over-ambitious with both).  We think months, seasons, even decades down the road!  We planned our work for this spring, summer, and fall, last summer and fall, knowing we’ll have less time and energy than usual with the new baby.  We made our planting and breeding plans accordingly.  While I’m sure there are folks just starting to think about their gardens now that the weather is starting to turn, we’re way past that stage…we’ve got the seeds in the basement, the garden map figured out, and the seed-starting stuff will be coming out of storage soon to sprout the early tomatoes…

 

…because spring IS coming soon, you know!

 

honeysuckle flowers

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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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A Tough Post to Write.

I have wrestled with this post for a long time, now.  I don’t want to sound whiny or melodramatic, but I do want to be honest.

 

I will be glad to see the end of this summer.   It’s been a rough one.

 

We’ve faced illness, an overwhelming amount of work at the office, too much unpaid overtime, a beloved pet with cancer, hitches with the renos, a toddler throwing wrenches in gears, a ridiculous amount of work on the acreage, a scheduled hay delivery that did not materialize, leaving us stressed out and scrambling, and illness and a tragic death in our extended family.   And that’s just the big stuff.

 

With so many things going on, and going wrong, I didn’t have the heart to blog, even if I could have found the time.

 

I think it’s over now, though.  We abandoned the garden to the thistles back in July, so we’re just wading in to see if there’s any potatoes, and that’ll be that.  We’ve found a local market gardener to supply most of our veggies, and have secured most of the things she didn’t grow through other vendors.  I am trying to do some late canning – a bit of apple jelly, maybe, and the tomatoes we bought, but there isn’t much of a late-season push in the preserving department.  We’ll be tidying up the garden and flower beds for the winter, movign a few raspberry bushes and planting some flower bulbs, and hopefully putting in posts for one more fence before the ground freezes, then it’ll be winter, and we’ll put our feet up and relax for a bit.

 

Thank goodness.

 

In the meantime, I’ll be getting back into the blogging habit, so expect to see more of me 🙂

 

Here’s hoping autumn goes well for all of us!

 

 

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We really enjoy our chickens.  Roasted, barbequed, or in soups…and sometimes their personalities are cute, too.

 

Two years ago, we ordered fifty chickens, without quite knowing where we would put them.  We built a coop in one corner of the barn, but we discovered (the day we brought those chicks home) that it was drafty when it was six degrees outside and raining sideways.  So, we ended up with fifty chicks taking up residence in our bathtub for a week or so, until we could make alternate arrangements.

 

2013 chicks

 

This year, we ordered 25 more chicks, to replace the hens that the fox got last summer, and also with the intent of boosting our egg production, as we’ve found it astonishingly easy to unload eggs, even at a slightly profitable price.  There are other folks around here selling eggs for less than we charge, but we have an advantage:  one of our ‘bonus’ chickens that the hatchery included in our order lays green eggs.  Apparently a green egg or two is worth at least a dollar a dozen!

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

With that in mind, we ordered ten straight run Americaunas, the breed that lays the green eggs.  Apparently they can also lay blue, brown, and pink eggs, depending, so I’m hoping that we get at least five hens, and that at least a couple of them lay colored eggs.

 

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

We also got 15 Black Sex Link hen chicks.  We’ve never had them before, but I really liked the idea of minimizing the number of new roosters around here.  We still have plenty from the 25 or so we butchered in 2011; apparently we don’t eat chicken as often as I thought.  These BSL girls are supposed to be good layers, and very hardy in cold weather.  Hopefully this is true, as our winters are very long and cold.

 

 

2013 Black Sex Link chick

 

Knowing we had chickens coming, we had a plan, and even a place to put them.  The weather had been quite nice for several weeks, and there is a reasonably protected corner of the barn we thought we could reclaim; the coop we built for the 2011 chicks is, of course, occupied by the 2011 chickens, so that wasn’t an option.   Then, of course (of course!), it got chilly, and the rain came.  Great for my garden; not so great for day-old chicks.   At least this time we didn’t have to scramble to put a hook in over the bathtub to hang the heat lamp on…

 

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

Those chicks will be evicted as soon as the weather turns, though…

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Other kids get a play pen.  Actually, Baby M has two of those.  One for inside in the living room (which he mostly only sleeps in now), and one for the barn (which got taken over by baby goats, and stinks).  However, they don’t suffice.

 

You see, doing barn chores, or yard work, or really anything at all with an eleven-month-old in tow is basically impossible.  He wants to be held.  If he isn’t being held, he wants to explore.  He “helps”.  Baby M throws down anything you pick up.  He scatters piles.  He screams and scares the goats.  He pinches.  He puts things in his mouth that are not strictly edible.  Or that are just disgusting.  His clothes get filthy.  And so forth.

 

However, the work does not stop just because there’s a baby on the farm.  We managed for the first ten months by trading off – I would supervise Baby M while Hubby shoveled, for instance, then Hubby would parent while I did evening chores.  That was mostly functional for the day-to-day stuff, and my Dad and Step-Mom would occasionally come out and help for the two (or more) person jobs that we couldn’t manage anymore, like vaccination and tattooing.  Occasionally frustrating, but the necessary stuff got accomplished.

 

Then I went back to work.

 

And yard work season hit; spring finally arrived.

 

Now, we still trade off for chores, and for evening-and-weekend stuff like mowing grass and pruning trees.  However, there’s a lot to be done that just won’t fit into my before-and-after-work hours.  And somebody has to do it, baby or no baby.  So we built the Hay Pen.

 

Hay Pen 1

 

The Hay Pen is sort of like a play pen…but completely different.  We made a perimeter of hay bales around a relatively clean bit of ground in the barn, out of the way, but still in sight of the places we would tend to be when we were, say, milking goats or feeding bottle kids.  This has the added advantage of freeing up two adults for dealing with worming, vaccinations, disbudding, and such.  Luckily, Baby M seems to like the Hay Pen, especially when Molly Underfoot the barn cat comes to play.  Baby M does not, however, like the baby goats, who jump on the bales and nip M’s ears.

 

There may eventually be hay pens all over the yard.  There needs to be one behind the barn, where Hubby will be putting the squash this year, and one in the big garden.  Hubby is contemplating one in the back yard, too, so he can prune trees, rake grass, and pick strawberries without having to pay too much attention to Baby M.   We have a big garden wagon hat Baby M could hang out in, but he always wants to stand up, but the sides are too low for that to be safe.  With all the thistles and nettles in the grass, a blanket on the ground isn’t really ideal, either.   In the Hay Pen, Baby M can pull himself up on the hay bales, and cruise around quite quickly; he’s beginning to walk, too, so he’ll have a safe space to practice that as well.  Being made of old bales, we can make the pens as large as we like; even two or three bales to a side, if that’s how much space M needs to be happy.  Meanwhile, Molly Underfoot always seems to gravitate to where the baby is, and seems very tolerant of M’s less-than-gentle attentions, so she will provide hours and hours of entertainment, I’m sure…

 

Hay Pen 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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Operator Error.

Well, I’m long since back from Alberta, but having the odd struggle with getting back into the routine.

 

Yesterday, I went out to do the evening goat chores, and the girls managed to bust out of their yard while I was over feeding the boys.  The hook-and-fencing-staple system which had been a ‘good enough’ gate latch for almost two years…suddenly wasn’t.  We have known for ages that the staple had been slowly working its way out of the post, and had even pounded it back in a few times.  We even had an eye bolt that we could have installed weeks (or more) ago, but we got lazy.  Operator error.

 

Tonight, again doing evening chores, there was another goat escape.   We tie the girls up to feed them their grain, as everyone is on a different feeding program, depending on age and pregnancy/lactation status.  We’ve rigged up a system of leashes on the posts in the girls’ yard, where each doe can be tied out of reach of the others, and I can put down individual buckets for them.  The girls are used to the routine, and it takes about a minute to tie them all up, as long as you do it in the right order.

 

Well, tonight, I had tied up the girls as usual, and served up their grain.  While they were eating, I filled their water bucket as I always do, and was just going through the stall door to put hay in their stall when they all started kicking up a huge fuss.  Missy and Saffron, in particular, were lunging about so violently that they were choking themselves.  I dropped the hay and ran out into the yard, thinking that huge coyote was back.  Looking in the direction that all the goats were facing, I saw…

 

…two white bunnies, running back and forth.  Frolicking, even.

 

“But they could have had teeth, Mom”, six sets of wide goaty eyes said to me.  “Big, sharp, pointy teeth…”

 

Bleh.  I checked the buckets, and everyone was already finished their grain, so I unhooked them all to chase them into the stall for the night.  Of course, being flighty creatures, nobody would go into the stall – when I chased them, they shied away from the barn door, and looped back around to the far end of their yard, where they stopped dead and stared, quivering, at the last point where the rabbits had been spotted.  Stupid goats.

 

I grabbed them one by one, and shoved them into the stall, latching the barn door behind me each time.  However, seconds after I shoved the last goat into the stall, a couple of goat faces popped out the other barn door.  The one that their inside stall door should have prevented them from getting to.  Oh, yeah.  That stall door that was hanging open when I dropped the hay to rescue the stupid goats who were trying to hang themselves over a couple of frolicking bunnies.

 

Operator error, again.

 

Maybe tomorrow night will go a little more smoothly…

 

 

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Eighty Eight Pounds

…give or take a few.

 

We don’t have electricity in the barns, nor to we have running water to either of them.  Instead, we haul water in buckets.  Five and six gallon buckets, to be precise – two of them.  Twice a day.  Right now, we’re also hauling half-full (but partially or completely frozen) buckets back to the house, too, to allow them to thaw.  In the summer, when it’s hot, we haul full buckets out, and empty ones back, which is rather easier, though that’s sometimes a three-trip-per-day job in the hottest weather.

 

I worked out how much they weigh, and it came to about forty-four pounds per (full) five-gallon bucket.   Eighty-eight pounds out to the barn, and probably about fifty pounds back to the house.   It’s a few hundred yards from the house to the barn when you’re not carrying buckets (or carrying empty buckets), but it’s about seven miles, uphill both ways, when those buckets are full.

 

At least I get to save on gym memberships…

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