Posts Tagged ‘family’

April 1st, 2003, I was working at a job I didn’t like very much, living in a place I often found quite lonely.  I had just gotten a dog (Fox) from the SPCA, and was on the road a lot between where I worked in Alberta and where my family lived in Saskatchewan, 8 hours away.  My grandma was in the hospital, with cancer.  It was not a very happy time.


April 1st, 2006, I was kicking back in a little ocean town in Morocco, writing a joke email to my family that I had been hired as a camel tour operator.  I had taken a year off work to travel, and had been away from Canada for around five months by that time.  I can still smell how that little town smelled, with its cooking tagines and salt and rotting fish.   I had been in Morocco for a few weeks, and was heading up to meet a friend in Portugal.   I took a surfing lesson from a man who spoke no English, and (mostly) survived, though I did get a board to the face.


April 1st, 2007, was around the time I met Hubby.  Neither of us remembers the exact date, but it was Easter time.  Our first date was at a little 50’s diner, and we showed up driving matching little white beater cars.  I remember the way his huge hands engulfed his coffee cup, which he turned around and around, a sweet nervous gesture.


April 1st 2009, Hubby and I were in Guatemala, backpacking there and in Belize for a month, as a ‘honeymoon’ prior to getting married.  We lost our luggage, climbed a volcano (well, okay, I hired a horse), poked around some incredible ruins, watched the Easter parades in Antigua, and had a grand old time.   We traveled so well together!  I knew then, for sure, that we were a truly good match.


April 1st, 2011, we had just taken official possession of our acreage in Saskatchewan.  We (I) got enthusiastic, and ordered fifty day-old chickens, four goats, and a tractor to plow up an enormous garden.  We survived.  Barely, some days, and with chickens in our tub for a week, but we survived.


April 1st, 2012, I was getting ready for baby M’s arrival, painting, cleaning, re-arranging the house, and planning the garden.


Today, I am bottle-feeding three goats, getting ready for three does to kid, and have just ordered another twenty-five day old chicks.  We’re planning another big garden, and I already have a ton of plants started, with plans to plant a whole bunch more next weekend.  I go back to work at the end of the month, and Baby M is finally starting to eat and sleep predictably.   He’s an awesome kid.


I am a very lucky girl.  It’s been an amazing decade.



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It Takes A Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  Even with Baby M being only three months, I can see how this is true.

We’ve been traveling for the last couple of weeks, up to Alaska to go to my sister’s wedding.  Travel with a baby would be challenging enough, but trying to eat at restaurants while working around Baby M’s allergies was pure frustration.  We were not as successful as we hoped we would be, and there were several nights where M was back to inconsolable screaming and general misery.  Surrounded by family, however, there were always willing hands to pass him off to, so that we could take naps or just get a break.  We even got to eat entire meals, while they were still hot, using both hands, without interruption!  It was nice to have so much help.


We have such wonderful families and friends, and lots of support, but now we’re realizing how unfortunate it is that everyone is so spread out.  I wish we could gather everyone in one place nearby, but it’s just not going to happen.  Aah, well, at least we’re lucky enough to have such amazing people in our lives.


I will get back to regular posting once we’ve unpacked and gotten the house and barn back in order…

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Our official due date is Monday.  I think the doc miscalculated by a day, failing to take leap year into account, and the due date in my head is tomorrow.  I don’t actually have any sense that the baby is going to come tomorrow, but what do I know?  I’ve never done this before.


We finished the painting (though I never did get around to doing a mural in the nursery), carpet cleaning, barn cleaning, flower beds, laundry, bag packing, and furniture assembly, but the garden is still not done, and the lawn is going to need swathing if it gets hot after the rain we had today.  We got the buck goat and alpacas moved into their new enclosure, and put a hundred bales in the barn a few days ago (well, Hubby and his brother and sister-in-law did…I supervised).  We have the critical details sorted out, at least.  I am not moving too well anymore, and am basically completely useless; Hubby has been driving himself so hard for the last couple months that I am trying everything I can think of to force him to slow down and take more breaks.  I need him functional when the time comes. I, of course, have been conserving my energy, and barely get out of my comfy chair, it seems.


We had company this week – Hubby’s brother and sister in law and their kids – it was fabulous to have them here, and so much fun to watch the kids get all excited about the animals.  My nephew checked the coop for eggs about fifty times a day, and my nieces both had a go (with limited success) at milking the goat.  It was a nice visit, but, as always, too short.  I just wish I had been a little less fat, overheated, and impatient, but not much to be done about it, at this point.


My sister is planning to come up on Monday.  She tells me I must hold the baby in until then, so she can see my big belly.  I told her we’d see.


So, really, not much homestead news to report; mostly, we’re just settling in for the wait…



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It has been a busy week, and one full of people, which is very unusual for us.


When we bought this place, there were a number of granaries on the land.  Some were designated to stay,  but two belonged to someone else, and were not sold with the land.  These granaries have been a bit of a curse – what is now the Goat Mahal started out holding several tons of canola, which we had to wait for the owners to remove.  Likewise, the strip of grass that was supposed to be buck pasture also happened to be the only access for emptying and removing the two granaries that were not staying on the property.  Unfortunately, they were not removed in time to fence the pasture for this year, but oh, well.


The three brothers who own the granaries grew up within five miles of here, and live and farm just a couple miles up the road.  They seem to be good folks – bluff fellows who have a real get-‘er-done sort of attitude. I have chatted a fair bit with the middle brother, and get a kick out of him.  He seems to understand how difficult it is to move into a community where everyone grew up with everyone else.


At any rate, the brothers were moving the granaries this week, which entailed three separate visits – they had to mow around them, then clean and partly dismantle them, then finally come with a crane to lift them onto trailers to move them out.    You just can’t not go out and say ‘hi’, though, so much time was spent in chatting on the front lawn, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, instead of cleaning and canning and building fences and such.  Oh, well, at least we’re getting to know those neighbors better.


Then, Hubby’s parents came for a weekend visit.  They drove I-don’t-know-how-many hours to stay for a day, which I think was crazy, but it sure was great to see them.  I miss my Alberta family.


Yesterday, the former owner of our place stopped by.  He has a habit of randomly showing up at about lunchtime, then staying until we pointedly ask him to leave.  He is not creepy or malicious or anything…I think he is lonely, mostly.  He is around our age, and most of the folks around our age either grew up and left, or have kids and such, so are not much into random drop-ins, I suspect.   He is single, and lives with his parents just up the road.  He is also a bit slow, I think, and does not always ‘get’ the more subtle social niceties.  He seems very kind, though, and I would not mind the visits so much, if they did not completely destroy whatever we had planned for the day he shows up.  Yesterday, it meant the beans and chokecherries did not get picked, nor did the buck yard get worked on.


In fact, we also skipped supper and showers, as the neighbor did not actually leave until it was pretty much bedtime.  I suggested that he should go at about 7, but he told me he would just finish up the coffee in the pot, first, as he poured himself another cup.  At 8, I told him point-blank that he had to leave.  By 8:30, he finally did.  Ugh.


Today, he showed up, unannounced, just as we were putting lunch on the table.   Hubby had to drop his fork and go help him unload a trailer – he had brought by more than a dozen bushels of wheat, flax, and barley that he had cleaned out of the harvesting equipment, and samples from testing last year’s crop that he had no further use for.  So, basically, our chicken feed should be covered for the foreseeable future.  Considering it costs $13 for a bushel-bag at the Co-op, that is a pretty significant savings for us.  Luckily (from our perspective, anyhow), he did not plant a garden this year, and we have extras of several things, so we’ll be paying that one back in bags of potatoes and onions, and later, when the chickens start laying, with some eggs, too.  At least we finally have something to give back to people.   We do really appreciate the generosity.  However, we also did not offer to make any coffee today…

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So we had our TV – less home invaded by two adults and three kids (aged 4 to 10) for the weekend – Hubby’s brother and his family.  I say invaded, but really, we were absolutely delighted to have them.  They drove all day to come and help us dig holes and plant things and cut down trees and bushes.  They said they wanted to do some ‘real work’ for awhile.   And take pictures of their kids doing ‘country’ things like building forts and planting trees.   The kids were pretty disappointed that we did not have chickens or goats yet, but made do with the house pets.   One of our dogs outweighs any two of the kids put together, but by the end of the weekend, even the littlest one could boss her around – the pooches soaked up all the attention.  The cats were less impressed, and mostly hid out, but that just gave the kids a new thing to stave off boredom – cat stalking.

The weather co-operated, sort of.  It was clear and sunny, and sweltering – almost thirty degrees Celsius on Sunday.  Not ideal for yard work, but certainly better than cold and rainy.

On Saturday, I grabbed my hand pruners to cut a couple of eyeball – poking – height dead branches from the crab apple tree.  Five minutes later, I was searching for pruning shears for two kids to help.  Twenty minutes after that, their mom came out with the bow saw, and by the end of the morning, we had cleared a big, gorgeous area under a maple tree that had been completely obscured by caraganas and lilacs.   It took hours and hours, and our sister-in-law spent even more time cleaning up the ground and raking everything out.  It was not a job we had planned to tackle, but it is much appreciated – now we’ll have a shady spot to kick back with beverages on those thirty-degree days.  Sis says it is her housewarming gift to us, and I can’t think of anything I would have liked better!

Meanwhile, the boys (all three of them) dug post holes.  The little guy was really enthusiastic about digging, and motivated the adults to keep at it, which was an accomplishment all in itself.  While Hubby was digging by himself, one of the ground squirrels came by to tell him off, and was so busy watching Hubby while it ran that it fell in one of the post holes.   That one was good for a laugh!

The kids were fascinated by the hummingbirds at the feeder, and the littlest one would holler every time one came to have a drink.   “Hummingbird!  Hummingbird!  Hey. guys, come see the…oh, it’s gone now…”  It was pretty cute.

Somewhere along the way, I wanted to identify a couple of plants that I was wondering about.  I had my wild plant book and a ten year old shadow, and we wandered off into the woods beside the house.  it turned out that yes, in fact, we do have stinging nettles, and also tons of  chokecherries and possibly wild gooseberries or currants, though I will have to see them bloom to be sure.   We also disturbed a frog.  Instead of shrieking and being grossed out, my niece tried to catch it.  When she couldn’t, she asked me to help.  We dragged the poor little guy in and set him in a jar on the windowsill until suppertime, when we let him go again.

Having kids around really brought back memories of my own summers on my Auntie’s acreage when I was a kid.  I hope they had as much fun as I always did.

I was also very impressed at how little water an extra five people used.  Now, this family has been on missions to third world countries where water is precious, and know all about conservation, but really, the five of them used less water than the two of us usually do.  They did, however, eat more than we had accounted for.  After going through a loaf and a half of bread and a whole box of cereal by the end of the first day, we made a quick run into town for groceries.  It would have been less of a deal if the weather had been cool, and we could cook on the stove without heating the house too much, but in this weather, we were kind of down to sandwiches and cut veggies.

We accomplished a lot over the weekend.  The boys finished digging all of the post holes for the goat yard, and started putting the posts in, as well.   They also dug a bunch of holes for our latest delivery of trees and bushes, and my sister-in-law and I planted blueberries, currants, blackberries, hazelnuts, cherries, apricots, apples, pears, and a plum.   I now have four big circular flower beds in the front lawn, though they mostly won’t hold flowers this year – we never got around to building the raised beds for the strawberries, so they are living in the flower beds with the roses.  It will actually probably be quite pretty.   Brother-in-law figured out how to get one of the painted-shut windows open, and we took down storm windows and hung screens for the summer.  Hubby and I also put in fifty asparagus plants and a couple of rhubarb roots.  Those ones looked kind of dead, so we will see if they actually grow or not.   Sister-in-law and the kids moved most of the brush pile for the kids to build a fort with – ‘coincidentally’ in the spot where we had wanted to move the brush pile to.   Then there was a lot of pruning, and clearing the sitting area.  All in all, I am not sure if they will want to come back, with all the work we made them do, but it moved us forward by weeks on the digging, planting, and building, and we are very grateful for that.

Of course, now the forecast is for frost tonight, so it appears that planting out the peppers and tomatoes was, in fact, premature.  Oh, well – we’ll find some old sheets and towels, I guess…

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We have been making little discoveries all over the acreage, now that the snow is gone and things are starting to leaf out.  We’ve found wild strawberries, wild roses, peonies in a random patch of tall grass by the (crab?) apple tree, raspberries, and what looks like an elderberry bush.  Hubby stumbled across an old rhubarb patch, right in the middle of a truck track behind one of the sheds.  There are a few other odd plants that I will have to identify – one of them might even be horseradish.  Of course, there are also a ton of what look like little stinging nettles – they are too little to tell if they are nettles or wild mint, just yet, and I have no interest in finding out the hard way.

There have also been swarms of bumblebees and hordes of little wood frogs.  Today, we saw hummingbirds for the first time, and also caught a glimpse of the woodpecker that we have been hearing for ages, but had not seen.   There were magpies squawking and swallows swooping.  We heard a bird song that sounded like all the world like a ringing phone, though it went on long past when the machine would have picked up, and was in the wrong direction, anyhow.  There are these little rodents, that look like squirrels but act like gophers, which we have been watching for a couple of weeks.  We also saw one of the bunnies on the lane while we were eating dinner.   This place is suddenly crawling (and sprouting and hopping and flapping) with life.   Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are out in swarms, also, but it’s a small price to pay to have the rest of it.

Hubby is determined to take pictures of all of the birds here in our area, so we hung up a hummingbird feeder, as we doubted we would ever get one to stay still for the camera, otherwise.  So far, there have been two ruby-throated hummingbirds visiting, and hopefully we will see lots of them, as we hung the feeder just outside the kitchen window, where we can watch it while we eat.  Of course, as soon as Hubby set the camera down, one flew right up to the window and tapped on it with his little beak.  I laughed!

In other news, the garden is coming along, albeit more slowly than we would like, with me being so creaky and all.  We’ve gotten the potatoes in, now, and also some radishes, parsnips, kale, chard, spinach, golden beets, lettuce, and broccoli.  We are going to try adding another quarter – row every week or two, to have a fresh supply through the summer.  That’s the theory, anyhow – we’ll see how fast we run out of room and / or patience.  We’ll make a big planting of the storage crops (beets, turnips, carrots, and such) later in the summer, so that they mature right around first frost.

Hubby found an old compost pile from some former residents, and hauled a few wheelbarrow loads over to my front flowerbed, which I decided to plant in tomatoes and peppers, instead.  It seemed like a great place for them, as it is sunny, protected, and close enough to the bathroom to lug buckets of used bathwater (“greywater”) out to water them with – the bed is right out the front door.   It is still a little early, but Hubby has been hauling the plants in and out every day to harden them off, and the weather has been fine, with a forecast for more of the same, so hopefully they won’t get too chilled at night.  We put in eight tomatoes, four hot peppers, and four sweet peppers – we started more, but they would not all fit.  While I was at it, I planted some little potentilla bushes that I bought on a whim, and some tulips and daffodils that were given to us by a friend who neglected to plant them last fall.  I tucked some herbs in between the bigger plants – parsley, basil, oregano, chives, and some garlic cloves that I just tucked in here and there.  That should be an entertaining “flower” bed, for sure!

We likely will have to put the rest of the garden on hold, now, as we have family coming in for a visit over the weekend.  If the kids get too bored with our lack of a television, we’ll set them to work planting beans and corn, but otherwise it’ll just have to wait until Monday…

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I hate to admit it, but traditionally, Christmas has been my least-favorite time of the year.

It’s dark.

It’s cold.

It’s expensive.

It’s a long, long drive to visit my family.

Now, having said that, I really, REALLY like all of my family, and love to spend time with them.   I love to eat good food…and I am related to a LOT of good cooks.  I even like singing carols.  It’s not really Christmas I get so frustrated with…it’s the blatant commercialism.  The stores don’t even wait for Halloween to be over before putting out cheesy plastic santas and cheap plastic crap that is designed to poison your pets and kids (and planet).   I’m not fond of malls at the best of times, but when I forget what time of year it is, and get stuck in Costco for TWO HOURS in an attempt to buy FOUR ITEMS, I hate Commercial Christmas all the more.

Dear Husband and I were discussing it last year, after the gift-opening orgy and subsequent broken and discarded toys, and decided:  No More.  We broadcast our intentions of not buying any more Christmas gifts.  No more fighting angry crowds at malls, no more cheap disposable junk, we’re done with it.  We told our families that we DO NOT, under any circumstances, want any more stuff.

We’ve held up our end of the bargain.  Christmas gifts in our circle will be consumables:  jam, canned fruit, pickles, cookies…all home made.  And because we have been planning this all year, we picked extra, preserved extra, and have lots for everyone.  Instead of wrapping them in (disposable, plastic-coated) Christmas paper, I dug out some fabric from the scrap box, and hot-glued it on the canning jar rings, with some ribbon.  The jars are actually very pretty!



When we announced our anti-commercial Christmas plans, we thought we heard a few relatives heave a sigh of relief.  We hope that folks don’t sell out at the last minute and get us crap we don’t want or need (especially with the big move coming up), and we hope we’ve given folks something they like.  If not…well, at least we’re not wasting money or wrecking the environment.

Speaking of wasting money, there have been two huge benefits to giving home-made gifts.  First:  money.  Our expenses happened back between June and September, the time when Hubby generally has more work anyways.  We don’t feel the financial pressure like we have in the past.  Likewise, we are not feeling as rushed, because the work was done in the summer and fall, when the days were longer and I had more energy.  The only wasted shopping time this year is the two hours I spent stuck in Costco when I forgot it was that time of year and went in to buy tomato sauce and coffee.

The second big benefit has been social.  With a pantry full of salsa, three kinds of pickles (carrot, bean, and beet), fruit preserves, and ten flavors of jam, we have been quite generous with family and friends.  And neighbours.  Colleagues.   Random people who have helped us out.  Our various clubs.  Even the homesteaders in our area who we’ve met from internet forums.  We can afford to be generous like that – we have lots!  It feels good to be able to give people something nice, and folks seem to appreciate it.

Now, to see who holds up their end of the bargain…

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