FIND ME WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

FIND ME WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.

-J.R.R. Tolkein

 

With the hustle and bustle of Christmas gone around here, and the New Year started, we had thought we would find ourselves with some time to enjoy life and to slow things down a little. Who were we kidding?! Our weekends have been filled with baby showers, family dinners and classes.

For Christmas, I signed up Dan for a class that would fulfill a lifelong dream of his, bladesmithing. He, his Dad and his brother Joe all participated in a two day course of knife making and each brought home their own 4″ hunting blade that they designed and made. Each knife was unique and they all looked great. It was a great weekend for the boys and a nice treat for Dan who works so hard and is always making sure everyone around him is happy, that he deserved his own happiness as well!

Yesterday we had a gathering at our neighbours across the way to celebrate the birth of their new little baby boy. After the baby shower, we had Dan’s family over for dinner and enjoyed Dan’s renowed Wellington with a twist, using the back strap from my deer this year. Venison Wellington may just be my favourite, and how neat is it that I can say I provided that meat!img_20170115_193456_650

15876367_650582398447215_5997462409097248768_nWe have found ourselves finally getting a break in the arctic temperatures and the days couldn’t be more beautiful outside. We got to open the door up on the chicken coop so everyone could venture out for some fresh air and sunshine. It took a little coaxing with our left over pancakes, but before long George was out crowing and calling his ladies to follow. We have seen a big increase in our egg production over the last couple of weeks and are up to usually anywhere from four to seven eggs a day. Even the pigs have been spotted outside the house more, venturing around in the snow and taking in the sunshine. Everyone is loving the warmth! Our little donkey boys are doing great too and their Hee-Haw’s are getting louder with each week.

Throughout the chaos, I have been able to find img_20170113_175252_743the time to slip out to be with nature. Each afternoon when I get home from work, I jump in my little truck Suzi-Q and venture out beyond the fenceline into the woods in the back. Out back I have set up snares in several different areas for rabbits. So far, we have caught two snow hares. I am in the works of preserving the skins to use at a later time.

15877169_144699936026893_6337895686075318272_nGetting out into the woods has been my escape as of late. Walking through the brush trails, listening to the birds and squirrels and even as the warmer weather sneaks in, listening as the snow falls from the branches of the trees above. We had a chance to get back to the very back of our property to retrieve the cards from the trail cam we keep back there. What a wonderful surprise to us to find a couple of Lynx on the camera just this past week. They are such beautiful and solitary creatures it was such a blessing to have seen them on our camera.

img_20170106_094053_299I have also made sure to find time for my other passions, including finally picking up a book I had waiting on the back burner to read. I stumbled across the words of Aldo Leopold this past November while I was “pinning” quotes for hunting season and being outdoors. His writing took my breath away and left me with goosebumps. The way he describes nature and his surroundings is unlike no other. So I had to get his book A Sand County Almanac. It has been a great read thus far and it is encouraging my love for nature and for preservation. img_20170106_102308_554

And of course, there is always some kind of knitting project on the go! Michael’s had a big yarn sale over the weekend so I was able to pick up yarn for a few new and old projects. I have been attempting my first hat, I have a new blanket on the go and of course picked up some cotton yarn to make up more dishcloths!

Last but not least, we bottled a new Syrah here on the farm and our custom labels are my favourite yet! Inspired by custom etched glass bottles we received as a Christmas present, we may just be onto something here with Mad Albert. I see a brand in the future of our wine journey!madalbertwine

So while our lives have seemed kind of crazy as of late, it has been so important to us to make time for ourselves, to make time to get outdoors and to make time to do the things we love. Because really, that’s how one retains their sanity in this crazy crazy world!

December 31, 2016

December 31, 2016

And now  we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.

– Rainer Maria Rilker

 

What a year 2016 has been here for us on the farm. I can’t believe we have already celebrated Christmas and that tonight when the clock strikes midnight, we will be welcoming in the new year, 2017. Where does the time go?!

We can confidently say that we accomplished a lot here in the past year. That we faced our fair share of challenges and obstacles, that we met and exceeded goals we’d set for ourselves and that we’ve created new opportunities and dreams for our future.

Perhaps my favourite memory for 2016 is that the manIMG_20160824_082100 I love and want to spend the rest of my life with, asked me to marry him! That he got down on one knee, in the rain, in the mud and asked me to spend the rest of my life making a living with him. And I can’t wait to do just that! While we don’t have anything set in stone yet, there are 365 days in 2017, and I am sure one of those days will come to find us married. I cannot wait to become Mrs. Burch.

This year brought with it too its fair share of hard times and challenges, that together we weathered through and grew because of. This time last year was one of the last days of work Dan put in with a company he had worked hard for for ten years. When the oil slump hit Alberta, it also hit us hard as well. Unforseen finanacial costs put a dent in savings and a life lived comfotably had all of a sudden taken a turn. It was a great learning experience for us. Learning what the most important things in life were, that together we could make it through anything and that we maybe really were meant for the simple life after all. We made it through the slump, and after a year of no work, Dan has found himself in the perfect job for our future. I am a true believer that things happen for a reason.

In this past year we have watched our land grow from a piece of property to a homestead in the making. What started two summers ago with six laying hens as a birthday gift, has turned into twenty laying hens, two different coop setups and a big chicken enclosure. We rescued three little pot belly pig brothers and welcomed them to our farm this past summer, as well as four pigs we raised for butcher in November. We just got all the meat back and we will be heading into the new year with a freezer full! Last, but certainly not least, for Christmas I received two miniature donkeys as a gift. Our little farm is surely growing and I couldn’t be happier about the direction we are going.

We increased the size of the vegetable garden in the summer, and while Mother Nature may not have been on our side, we found Fall with lots still to harvest and add the the pantry. We planted a few more varieties of fruit trees, a couple fruit bushes and new flower beds. We tried our hand at some new preservative recipes, including a family favourite Tomato Chutney, from Dan’s Grandma Sweetie Pie. We are hoping this year to make the move into exploring life with bees. It will be a work in progress and a learning curve for sure, but we are excited to move forward with our little farm and to help out nature by raising bees.

More land and cut lines were cleared, new trails forged through the bush and a big watering hole dug out in the back. This year will be a year for adding the last touches on fencing, planning out corrals and new barn plans to be thought of. It may find us with a few more critters in our care, you just never know!

msjeanThere was also sadness brought with the past year. We lost my Grandpa William who had battled with lung cancer and kidney issues. He was a strong man who held on. My Grandma is even stronger for continuing on with life and for being there for our family. We also said goodbye to my little Emma Jean, my first and only dog, my little pugger, my shadow my best friend. It was so hard to be out West away from family while all these losses happened, but I have an amazing support network and could feel the love all the way across the country.

We are playing this New Year’s Eve low key, as we have had a crazy couple of weeks celebrating the Christmas holidays. We are not venturing far from home, and plan on spending the day tending to the animals, perhaps checking some of our game cameras out back and even getting in some snow shoeing. With the sunshine the last couple of days I have been out shoeing around our back fence line. It is one of my favourite winter past times! I love creating a set of tracks in fresh untouched snow, listening to the way the shoes crunch along. And of course having my side kick Lily to guide and keep me company.

May everyone enjoy their evening, may you be surrounded by friends, family or the one you love. May you look back on 2016 with happiness and accomplishment and look forward to 2017 with hope and eagerness. A very Happy New Year to all!

Here are my resolutions for the new year:

A new skill I’d like to learn: bee keeping, shearing, and fibre spinning.

A place I’d like to visit: Bora Bora, Nashville

A book I’d like to read: I have a pile of books I received through a book exchange, I want to have each one read before the summers end.

A letter I’m going to write: I want to make sure I send more letters to my Grandma and more phone calls. I want to make it a Sunday evening thing.

A new food I’d like to try: Not really a food but I want to try Kombucha and try making my own.

I’m going to do better at: Being patient, being kind and being me!

 

See you all in 2017!!!

 

 

There’s No Christmas Like a Home Christmas

There’s No Christmas Like a Home Christmas

There is no Christmas
Like a home Christmas
For that’s the time of year
All roads lead home!

Christmas is fast approaching. If you’re one of those people counting down you already know that there are only 12 days to go. And as we grow nearer and nearer to the holidays, I find myself thinking more and more about home. img_20161209_164923When I moved out West almost four years ago now, img_20161210_093942I knew that I would be leaving behind my home town, my family and my closest friends. It was a hard decision to make, but life had a whole new adventure waiting for me in the West. It lead me to where I know I am supposed to be in life. I met the man who I intend to spend the rest of my life exploring with. We are building our little dream farm together. And one day I plan on having a little family of my own. We have created a home here together, full of love and plans for the future.

But every year as Christmas creeps up on us, I cant help but think of my first home, in Ontario with Mom and Dad and my brother. The way Mom always had the most gorgeous Christmas decorations around the house, her greenery out front on the veranda and of course the tree. The bits and bites cooking in the oven, making cherry cheesecake together because it was and always will be my favourite dessert. Dad going out early in the mornings to check the roads, perhaps having to wait to open gifts until he got back from plowing. Our traditional Christmas movies: A Christmas Story, National Lampoons and of course the old school Grinch cartoon.

January will mark one year since I have been back to Ontario. And this year has brought with it a lot of change. We said goodbye to Grandpa this year and to my sweet little pup Emma Jean. My heart breaks to know I wasn’t there to be with family in these times. I know this will be a hard Christmas for my Grandma, but that she is such a strong woman with a strong family by her side and that they will make it through. I also know Christmas will be a little different this year without Emma nosing through all the gift wrap and tissue. Coming home the first time and not having her to greet me at the door will be the hardest part.

I’m not the best “Christmas” person. I think that Christmas has lost its true meaning. That it’s become a huge market for consumers and producers; commercialized past the point of return. It’s all about the gifts and glam and money. When it should be about family, time and memories.

img_20161211_000537Dan and I do a good job here of keeping traditions strong to keep our, or should I say my, spirits bright. Each year we host a Christmas party for friends and family. We have a huge dinner, of turkey and ham (which this year was from one of our very own pigs raised here on the farm). There is drinks to be had, fun games to be played and a gift exchange to end the night. The house is always full and bustling and to us that’s what the holidays are about. Getting together and catching up with everyone.dinner.jpg

This year we also went out back and cut down our owntreetruck Christmas tree from a tree grown here on our land. We took our old trusted farm truck Randy out back, found the perfect tree, cut it down and hauled it back home. We had to take about three more feet off the length to get it to fit in the house, but it came with a good laugh. Once inside, I will admit, it a looked a little sad at first. If one is used to store trees or fake trees, this one we chose was not uniform or full in any way. But once the lights were up and the decorations on, it become the most beautiful tree you ever did see. It has character, and that farmhouse look and feel. It couldn’t be a more perfect tree; covered in home made decorations, decorations collected through out the years and even decorations from childhood.

img_20161211_184927This year we tried our hand at making home made eggnog from farm fresh eggs from the chickens. It was quite yummy, topped off with a little whipped cream and nutmeg. How could it not be when it was made with bourbon and real maple syrup?! It’s perfect for curled up by the wood stove knitting or reading.

Another way Dan and I make Christmas special is by putting together our handmade gifts baskets for Christmas gifts. They contain samples of the canning and preservatives we made in the fall from the garden, bottles of our home made wine and this year the mead we made, as well as home made laundry soap, hand knit dishcloths and tins of bits and bites that I made from scratch. Some of the best gifts are home made, hand made and straight from the heart.

img_20161208_214749With this man by my side, I am making it through the holidays. In my new home, that I’m making complete with my man by my side. We will get back to visit my parents in the new year, and it will give us something to look forward to.

This will likely be the last post until the new year as we get busy with Christmas plans, dinners and travelling around the province. May you all have a very Merry Christmas. May you be surrounded by friends , family and loved ones. And may you not forget the true magic behind the holiday season.

We will see you, in 2017!!!

Winter is the Time for Home

Winter is the Time for Home

November was a busy month for us here on the farm; with hunting season, baby showers and getting ready for the winter months. Now we find ourselves in December, and I am wondering where this year has gone?! I guess 2016 has just flown right by us.

Winter has arrived for the long haul. There is snow on the ground and a chill in the air, well okay lets be honest the temperature outside today is reading -16 degrees Celsius, that’s a little more frigid than a “chill”. We are in for it now for the next four months.

The animals have been bedded down for the cold. img_20161125_161532We wrapped the outside run of the coop with plastic wrap to help block the wind and hold in heat. On days when it isn’t too too chilly out they will still have access to their outdoor enclosure. They must be settling in better and getting over their moult as we are finally getting more than maybe one egg a day. I will take the three eggs a day! img_20161127_183120 The pigs also are ready for the cold. We stuffed the Pig Haus full of fresh, dry straw for them to bed down in. With the mud flap over the door and the three of them snuggling, the insulated house does a good job of staying cozy warm. They’ve also all grown in their winter hairs and looks so hairy.

img_20161201_165558

We added a little Christmas spirit outside this year, as we found some wreaths hiding in one of our outside sheds. The posts I usually hang my bird feeders and butterfly houses on in the summer now each have a wreath, as well as one on the front of the Chicken Shed. Even the animals get to feel a little festive this year.

This past Saturday was spent putting the final touches on the house outside. We were able to get up our Christmas lights on the house, with minimal frustrations and angry words. I did up my first Christmas “urn” using an old milk can from my father in law and some fresh greenery. My Momma would be proud, although it is nowhere near as beautiful as her creations are. I also spent a couple evenings turning some old barn board we had into some Christmas signs, which I placed by the front door and above our entertainment stand in the living room. For a first time go, they didn’t turn out too terrible.

Inside the house, Christmas is in full swing. With old antique decorations, to some new hand made wooden signs, the only thing we are missing is our tree! We will get out one night this week after work to pick out the perfect one for our home from our very own backyard. I am so excited to be able to do that this year. I would have never pictured being able to pluck a tree off my own land for Christmas! We will spend an evening decorating, making our very own Eggnog for the first time and preparing for the Christmas party we are hosting here this coming weekend.

The cold weather has been the perfect excuse forimg_20161130_175308 hiding
inside and getting some last minute knitting done for Christmas. Today being my day off, and me feeling a little under the weather, there should be no reason to not get it finished. Other than the wood fire is roaring and I could easily go for a nap! I also have some new books to dive into, and whats better than a cold day spent sitting beside the fire.

Winter is also the perfect time for all my favourite eats. There is nothing better than a hot bowl of chili on a cold night. This year was the first year getting to use our meat grinder when we butchered my deer. I had never made chili with venison before, but it is now my new favourite! And who doesn’t like venison jerky?! I think this year we have perfected our recipe and our smoking technique!

Stay tuned for the 2016 Burch Christmas party pictures and of course, our Christmas tree!!!

 

There’s No Season Like Deer Season

There’s No Season Like Deer Season

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold

 

If you had asked me ten years ago about my views on hunting, you’d have gotten an answer much different than one you would receive today. I would have told you about how barbaric I thought it was. How sad I felt for the poor animals. How hunters were monsters out looking for fun and trophies.

I always like to reflect on something my Dad once said to me. And, while at the time it was in relation to the job I had working at a local pig farm, his words echo in my head every time I disagree with something. He said to me “Pooh-bear” (because that has and always will be my pet name) “If you’re faced with something you don’t agree with, how can you stand up for what you believe if you don’t first learn all there is to know about it.” Those words have been so true in so many parts of my life.

So who was I to judge those who hunted until I had learned myself what hunting really was.

When I first met my fiancé Dan, I knew he was a country boy through and through. His family had lived the farm life, he had grown up hunting the land, he was comfortable around guns and knew what respect of the land was. At first I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, but today I wouldn’t trade any of it. One of our first dates including heading out back on his father’s land and shooting the 50cal. gun they owned. I hadn’t been much for guns or shooting at this point, but I wasn’t going to look like some sissy on our first date. It was then I realized that guns were going to now be a part of my life. So, I needed to be comfortable with that.

Soon after moving in with Dan, I signed up in town for a gun safety course. It was a two day course in town that would allow me to handle all types of guns, learn the ins and outs and by the end, be registered to handle, fire and own one of my own. The most important thing is to be confident and comfortable.

Last year my father-in-law gave me the gun that Dan hunted with as a young boy; a .243 Remington. Dan and I would spend evenings out in the back field target practicing and getting to know the rifle. By November, I was comfortable enough to buy my tags and perhaps try some hunting of my own.

I would walk out back, through our fields and sit in my little make shift blind in the snow. It was such an amazing experience that first year being so close to nature. Sitting there and hearing the snow fall, the way it sounded when it hit the trees versus the ground. Listening to the birds and squirrels squabble in the trees. I remember the first time a deer walked across my path, the way my heart stopped and my breathing caught. How this magnificent creature was standing right there in front of me and didn’t even know I was watching. I had never been so close to a deer in the wild. And when he gave his blow and snort when he spotted me to warn others of my presence, I thought for sure I was a goner. I didn’t even know deer made noises like that. I thought he was heading straight for me in a charge! But listening to my surroundings and hearing more than one set of feet take of made me realize he hadn’t been the only one close by and I was maybe stealthier than I had thought. I survived, as they took off through the willows and I made my way back up to the house.

Sitting, alone in nature, gives one so much time for thought and reflection. I was beginning to understand how a person could want to spend so much time out in the bush, away from the world.

At this point, I still wasn’t convinced that I could kill something that I could shoot my gun and choose to end a life. But I was about to find out, I was more ready than I could have imagined.

I spent my days off over at my father-in-law’s farm. I’d wake early in the morning, make the drive over, and climb up into the blind in the sky, just in time to catch the sun cresting over the horizon. We’d sip on hot drinks, nibble on candy and watch the world below us unfold as morning took place. We’d spot a doe here and there, perhaps a small buck would walk across our sights, but we were holding out. It was during an evening sit that my first buck walked out into my view. We spotted him in the binoculars, and then lined him up in my scope. I had him in my view.

Before we get into the next part, I need to make mention of something I had thought was only a term hunters used. I now know today, it is more than a word. It is something that consumes your very being. BUCK FEVER. When you have that deer in your sights and you’re getting lined up for the fire, its like this feeling over takes you. Your body starts shaking, your heart is pumping so loud you cant even hear yourself think. The struggle is real.

I got my first buck that night. Before the sun touched the ground I had dropped him in one shot.

I thought I might embarrass myself and cry. That I might feel like a monster for killing such a beautiful creature. But I didn’t. Dan’s family has nothing but respect for the wildlife and land that they hunt. I was surrounded by people that night who were hunting for the right reasons. I helped with every step of the processing. We skinned and gutted and hung my deer. A few days later we returned to cut up and package the meat. What meat we couldn’t use was brought home and used to feed our dogs over the winter. Our freezer was full. Just last month we finished the very last roast we had had from my first buck.

IMG_20161104_142557.jpgWhen this November came around I had a new appreciation for hunting season. I had respect for my firearm, respect for our land and respect for the life I was aiming to take. I was bound and determined this year to get my deer off of our own property. I would hurry home from work to do an evening sit, check my cameras religiously to see who was coming and going.

And last Saturday, it happened.

Dan and I headed out to our North cutline in the early morning and spotted the 5×5 buck that I had just spotted on our cameras the week before. He was headed down the cutline right towards us as Dan called him in. It was such a different experience from last year being so up and above the situation, to this year having him walk right towards me in my scope view. When he was about 70 yards out, I was sure he was going to make a quick turn into the bush, I made my shot. He was down. We went back to the house and got old trusted Suzi-Q. With help from the neighbour we got him loaded in the truck and back up into the yard at the house. Again, I helped with the whole process.

Today is butcher day. We will refill our freezer for another year. And I can be proud to say that I am the one to thank. I can be proud of the work I put into getting that deer, the patience it took and the commitment. I can be proud of the respect I showed to the animal, and that every part will be put to use.

Although ten years ago me may not be in the same mindset, I am nothing but proud of the woman I am becoming. Through each life lesson I am growing. I am one step closer each day to the goal of self-sustainment that we have for ourselves here at the farm. Someday, I look forward to this being something that we pass down to our future generations That our children will learn the same way I did, with the help of a great man, that hunting is a lifestyle not a trophy.

 

To Err is Human, to Forgive, Canine

To Err is Human, to Forgive, Canine

I find that life here on the farm never has a dull moment. That when we opened up our home and our hearts and welcomed animals onto our property, we invited with them all kind of trials and tribulations.

I am constantly learning. And while it always seems to go that the lessons you learn best, you learn the hard way, they are the ones that stick for life.

It’s taken me some time to begin this blog today. To decide which direction I’m going and how I am going to share with you my latest lesson. Because it was a hard lesson to learn. But one that was eventual in coming.

I have decided that the best way to put it is, that it was a lesson in forgiveness.

Here on the farm we have two lovely farm dogs who protect and watch over us, who provide us with companionship and love. Sophie is our Great Pyrenees Maremma cross. She is an old regal soul. Her bloodlines are for livestock protection, her ancestors had been used countless times as large guard dogs to flocks and herds. Lily is our Newfoundland Bernese cross.  She’s our big goof who’s always good for a laugh or smile. Neither of our girls are malicious or have ever showed any signs of bad intent towards our farm animals. They get excited at introductions and quickly fall into a routine with our animals. While the pigs and chickens are both kept in separate closures away from the girls, we have made sure to make introductions and to have them in the pen with us on occasion to teach them right from wrong.

In the last month, we acquired some new additions to the farm. Farm cats to be exact. They are adorable, with their little pink noses and funny coloured eyes. And while I know they are here for a purpose, that purpose being to catch mice, how could one not fall in love. I became attached and maybe that’s where the problem really began.

In the last couple of days we have been letting them out of the garage to peruse around the yard at choice. We kept a close eye on the dogs and had decided we were in the clear. Everyone was getting along just fine. For two days we watched them roam around the yard, frolicking around in the grass being completely ignored by the dogs.

Until last night.

Last night my lesson began.

We had been sitting out on the deck enjoying an evening together. We were sipping away on a Sunday fix of Pumpkin Spiced Whiskey and winding down the weekend before a new week began.When Lily came around the corner.

I will spare you the details that I still can’t help but replay over and over in my head. The wave of emotions that seemed to flood over me as I took in the situation. Anger. Sadness. Hate. Disgust.

I came inside while Dan dealt with the situation. I don’t know what I would do without that man. He is my superhero, my knight in shining armour, my shoulder to cry on and my biggest support. He is amazing.

Needless to say, of course, my favourite little kitten of the bunch was gone.

In the moment I hated Lily. I hated that she could kill something when she was such a kind and loving dog to me. I hated that she had been so good for a couple of days and that out of nowhere that happened. I hated that there wasn’t even a way to punish her because she would never know why.

And that’s when it started to sink in. She didn’t understand. She was a dog. It was in her genetics to be a hunter. It was her purpose in life to chase and prowl on her prey. A dog, unless caught in the act, can’t be punished for something because their brains aren’t capable of putting it all together. And how could you punish her for doing what she was bred to do.

I went to bed last night in tears still. Couldn’t hardly sleep. Woke several times to rush to the bathroom feeling sick to my stomach. When I woke this morning I was still angry inside. I avoided going out so I wouldn’t have to see my bad dog. And when it was no longer possible to postpone it….I ventured out.

She was of course waiting for me. Like she always is. Tail wagging, eyes lit up with excitement. At first, I admit, I pushed her away a little. Muttered under my breath that she was a stupid dog. Went about my chores. When I finished, she was sitting under the tree watching me and all of a sudden I felt like a terrible human being. She didn’t understand that I was mad at her for killing my cat. She looked so sad when I had pushed her away.

So I forgave her.

In the moment, I needed to forgive her for acting like a dog. I needed to find peace in the fact that the kitty was gone and that it may have been terrible and heart wrenching, but that I could do nothing to change it or bring it back. I needed to realize that Lily was my dog. She was night guardian and my watch dog when I am by myself at the house. That sometimes when the world is too much, she’s the fur I cry my tears into and the hug I need to be ok. And she is just a big goof, who maybe just loved a little too much.

I can’t continue to be angry. And I can’t continue to blame Lily. I think we’ve both learnt a valuable lesson. So I am moving forward. Letting it go.

How can I not when just this week, I too took a life in my own hands. This was my second year venturing out hunting, and as excited as I am to say I got my buck and our freezer will be full for the winter, I killed something too. So who am I to be mad at a dog for acting like a dog?

 

The Pearl-Grey Month

The Pearl-Grey Month
“November is the pearl-grey month, the changeling between warm crimson October and cold white December; the month when the leaves fall in slow drifting whirls and the shapes of the trees are revealed. When the earth imperceptibly wakes and stretches her bare limbs and displays her stubborn unconquerable strength before she settles uneasily into winter. November is secret and silent.” –Alison Uttley

October came and went, bringing with it vibrant colours of leaves and harvest, the pure white of the first snow and taking with it the last breath of life of Mother Nature before she surrenders for the winter months. Now we welcome November, the gateway to winter month. The month where nature shuts down and prepares for its winter hibernation. Where animals are on the move to prepare for the cold and inevitable winter ahead of them. Where we ourselves start to prepare for what lay ahead for the next five to six months.

img_20161021_093219

Here on the farm we are ready for what Mother Nature has to throw at us this winter. If you listen to all the old farm tales or the almanac, it would appear as though we are in for a winter! Each morning I wake to a blanket of fog outside. I drive to work, which is my least favourite thing to drive in after snow. img_20161019_180452And while some days there seems to be a lift and the sun peeks her face down upon us for the afternoon, when I get back into my truck to drive home I find myself once again in a fog. The farmers say that this means three months from now we are in for some heavy precipitation. So be ready for January, we are expecting a crap load of snow!

img_20161020_082350All of our animal housings have been winterized. The chicken coop has its usual heat tape and insulation coverage on the nesting boxes. We have moved all the chickens into one coop for the img_20161103_205313winter so there might be less maintenance for us. It has stressed everyone out a little and the shorter days and colder nights don’t help. We find ourselves down in egg production already and hopefully this isn’t a sign for the long winter ahead. In the summer we would have almost a dozen eggs a day, now we are lucky if we get three eggs. It was a hard wet summer for our girls and you can see it in the way their last moult has hung around. We have started to add a little vitamins to their water, provide a little more protein in their feed with black oil sunflower seeds and to top up their dust bath with ashes from our woodfire.

The pigs seem to be unfazed by a change in the weather or light. They still line up at the fence and squeal away when it is meal time. The wet summer was hard on their pen and it had become a muck hole. The only thing at this point to make it better will be a good hard freeze. The three little pot belly boys have grown in their winter hairs with the cool down. They have come such a long way from the pigs we first brought home that day from the rescue. They are friendly, less timid and more and more are enjoying the scratches and love I feel the need to give. The other four meat pigs we have been raising are quite big now. They are about the weight we would like them to be for butchering but we are holding off until we maybe get a deer or two so we can do all the messy bits at once. That will be a day  I think I will need some girl time in the city. As much as I know it is a fact of life and that’s why we had them here, and as much as a I did my best not to get attached, I still find it hard to even think about. Perhaps some year I will toughen up and be a real farm girl. But for now, I think a pottery class in the city followed by lunch at a vegetarian restaurant is in my near future!

img_20161101_183302All the animals got to enjoy the spoils of Halloween. I had posted on a local Facebook page about collecting pumpkins after Halloween to feed to our animals and got a great response. In total I brought home fifteen pumpkins that the pigs and chickens have been munching on all week. We also did our final peruse through what was left of our ripening tomatoes in the garage and collected what we could use and fed the rest to the animals. We made one last big batch of salsa from our Summer tomatoes to add to the pantry.

The change in seasons also brings along a new favourite time of year for me, hunting season. I had always been against hunting growing up. I hadn’t understood the true meaning behind what it is to the majority of people. It’s not about getting the biggest rack off a buck. It’s not about shooting something for the sake of taking its life. It’s about having a respect for nature and an appreciation for all that it has to offer. Last year was the first year I went out hunting.img_20161104_142557 I would  camo up, sling my rifle over my shoulder and make the trek out to our back cut lines. It was a good forty minute walk to get out there, get settled in and then begin to watch. And the wonders you see when you give yourself up to nature. I had never heard the way snow fell. How it sounded different when it hit the trees than when it landed on the ground. The way the birds and squirrels chatted. The way you could hear a deer creeping through the grass and the warning blow they would give when you were spotted. It was such an amazing experience and such a great time of reflection being out there alone in the wilderness.

I did get my first buck last year. I had watched him for a couple of days from the tree stand, waiting for the right opportunity to arise. On the second last day of hunting season, right before the sun was to go down, I took his life.img_20161030_205901 He didn’t suffer. He went down right away. We went and took his body back to the house, cleaned and gutted (which I helped with every step of the way). That night we cooked up the heart, and it was delicious. Every piece of meat off that deer was cut and packaged for the freezer. What we couldn’t eat was frozen for the dogs. There was no waste.

This year we have several bucks on our property here, and when the time is right, we will try to get one to once again fill our freezer for the winter. And we will respect the fact that Mother Nature has blessed us with the opportunity to do so.

img_20161030_062952This year I also went out for my img_20161029_102058very first goose hunt. It was such a different experience from what deer hunting had been last year but it was a good time with good people. While we didn’t have anything to bring home afterwards, it was great learning all the ways your setup is key and all about how geese think. We built blinds to sit in and had decoys out on display. Depending on the way the wind is blowing, makes big difference in how you set up your decoys. Geese sit with their bodies facing into the wind so they can pick up scents off the air. I cant wait again for next year to give it another shot.

img_20161024_112950This month has also found us with time to sit and enjoy each others company. We keep the wood piled high in the house for our wood stove and it is by far my favourite heat source. I have knitting projects I’m finally getting around to finishing up, some mid day baking getting done and of course a whole new slew of books that need to be read. Winter may be cold and harsh at times, but with all I have in my life to be thankful for, I know this winter will be filled with warmth.