A Strawberry Moon in June

A Strawberry Moon in June
We took a little stroll, out along the wooded fenceline.
Stumbled ourselves upon a little patch, wild strawberries growing in the shade, the beginnings of saskatoon berries apparent.
Settled on a little sprinkle of daisies, you kissed me gently, tasting of summer berries.
And I knew that I would love you, for every season to come.

 

Here on the farm we are waving goodbye to June and welcoming July with our arms opened wide, faces to the sky, welcoming the sunshine and heat of Summer. I don’t know where the month of June disappeared to. One moment it was here, the next it was gone, leaving behind it the beginnings of wild flowers, hope for the vegetables growing in the garden and the promise of berries and honey, their scent thick on the warm air.

The beginning of June was filled with family time, making it the best part of the month for me. My Mom and Dad arrived and spent two whole weeks here with us on the farm. We had them busy at work on the rainy days, as they tore apart, cleaned, organized and painted our kitchen, giving it the complete once over. I can’t believe what a couple coats of paint can to do a room! Our once green (don’t ask me why I thought this was a good colour choice at the time) kitchen has been transformed to a bright and opened beautiful space. I am so thankful for all the hard work Mom and Dad put in while here for us, also helping us to put a fresh coat of paint down the side entrance hallway and the bedroom hallways.

Their visit wasn’t all work, and getting to spend quality time doing the things I love with them was the best part of summer so far. Showing off all we have accomplished here on our little farm, how much we’d grown and built since their last visit two summers ago. Mom and I spent a solid day visiting local greenhouses, picking out plants to fill up my front flower beds. We weeded (Mom is a weeding machine!), planted and Dad helped to edge the beds, making everything look so sharp and clean. My garden beds have never looked so good in the Summer! If you couldn’t find Dad in the afternoons, he was more than likely out weeding in the vegetable garden, and I don’t know who was enjoying the peace and quiet more, Dad or the three little pigs who were getting the buckets full of picked weeds! Mom and I visited the St. Albert Farmers Market for their first Saturday of the season, bringing home some tasty treats and fresh vegetables. Dan and Dad got out for a couple afternoons of fishing, even snagging a fish here and there.

We took a little road trip South, and brought home two new faces to the farm during their visit. Calvin and Hobbs are the newest additions here on the farm, and while it took a little while to settle in, and I am sure they will fit right in in their own time, it has been a slow process. These two alpaca gentleman didn’t come with much of a background story. All we know is they are in their early teens, which in alpaca years is starting to get up there. They are quiet boys, but will come up for a handful or bucket of grain. The donkey boys have decided they are ok friends, and do share their shelter with them at night or in the rain. With everyone out back in the pasture, it really is starting to feel like a little funny farm family.

Evening strolls with the donkey boys have become a thing here on the farm too. We have one new trail from the back of the pasture that leads out through the bush to the end of the fenced cutline. Some days I swear they are more dog than donkey, the way they follow along on the trail, or decide that they want to lead and go barreling past. We even ventured off the beaten path one day for an adventure, and wouldn’t you know it, those donkey boys were right there along with us. Breaking new paths, hopping over fallen logs, and all the while stopping for some tasty green treats along the way. These two just warm my heart so. I just cant imagine this wild little farm life without them.

The three little pigs are enjoying the warmth and sunshine too. Often in the afternoons you can find all three of them out sunbathing or exploring the newer back area of their pen we added in with the addition. There is lots of grass and mucky dirt to root around in back there, keeping them busy for hours. Thanks to Dad’s help while visiting, we were finally able to trim the boys tusk. They were in dire need of a cut, but it proved to be more than a two person job for me and Dan alone. They should be good to go now for quite awhile, and we snuck in a hoof trim while we were at it! One sunny Saturday morning I snuck out to the pig pen to spend some times with the boys. It took a little coaxing and patience, but Tui came and laid down right next to me, letting me pet and scratch him. He settled in so much that he fell asleep snoring to belly rubs. I just can’t get over some days how far these three little pigs have come since they day we brought them home to the farm. This summer marks their second year here with us.

wordswag_1530468228092The ladies out in the coop are enjoying the summer too, as they explore the outdoor run and graze on fresh grass and bugs. We did a big clean of the coop, clearing out all the bedding and washing down the insides. Using my essential oils, I made up a spray of water, vinegar and lemon oil which acts as a cleaner and leaves behind a nice fresh scent. More and more I have been incorporating essential oils into my daily life, and now into the farm life too! The ladies must have been appreciative, we are getting more eggs than ever, which means lots of #eggvignette pictures for me on my Instagram account!

 

If you’ve been following along so far this summer, you’ll also know we started a journey into beekeeping. It has been such an amazing learning experience for us both and bees are just such incredible little creatures! Every ten days we try to peek into the hives, in search of the “egg of the day” which assures us that the queen in alive and healthy, and new bees are being born. We now have both brooder boxes on each hive, and the honey super on one of our hives. One hive has fallen a little behind, but we are taking it as a learning experience and not giving up! When doing research before getting bees, we had read that starting with two hives is a good way to start so you can have something to compare. We are sure glad for two hives now. If i have learned one thing from the bees, it is that art of calmness. I thought I would be panicky and afraid of the bees, never having been stung by one, but it is the complete opposite. After chores I love to stand around the hives and watch the busy bees come and go. The odd time you get in one of their flight paths and can feel one bounce off of your head, but I am not afraid of being stung. I respect these little bees, and therefore I like to think they are respecting me.

With all these busy bees around, it will exciting to watch as our vegetable garden grows and hopefully, flourishes. We’ve been able so far to keep on top of most of the weed, with thanks to Dad for all his weeding and Dad on the rototiller. Rows of beans and peas, side by side to zucchini and lettuce, flowering squash vines and rows of onion tops. Our corn is standing tall in several rows, it looks like we should have cabbage for days, and we are hopeful for our broccoli and brussel sprouts, but not holding our breath. The garden is looking great so far this year, and we are excited to watch it grow these next couple of months. We also have a new keeper of the garden, Miss Fannie Lou, our Mrs. Scarecrow who is standing tall in the middle of the vegetable patch. Life’s too short not to have a little fun, and she makes me smile standing in the garden.

With the warmth of summer comes another season, rhubarb. It is the time of year for rhubarb everything! My favourite thing to make out of the rhubarb patch is cordial. I add this to many different cocktails and drinks throughout the summer and is now one of  my must haves. With the remnants of rhubarb left over from making the cordial I have been busy baking up muffins and cinnamon rolls too. Nothing beats some tasty rhubarb treats in the summer. While I don’t think we will have enough in our patch this year to try another batch of wine, we look forward to growing it out next year for just that reason!

Along with the vegetable, the flower beds have taken off since Mom and Dads visit and help. Everything seems to be in full bloom, from the hollyhocks, lupines and foxglove, to the wildflower patches we planted for the bees and beneficial insects. Little button daisies have popped out of the ground, sunflowers are starting to stretch for the sky and I am sure I have seen a couple of my favourites hiding, poppies!

While Mom was here, we spent an evening picking wild rose petals, boiling them down and making my first ever batch of rose water. It has so many health benefits, and is especially great for skin care. Since making it, I have been using it morning and night in my facial routine. I think this will come to be a new summer tradition, that I will be missing come the winter months!

With Dan being off work for the last couple of months, we’ve tried to make the most of our days together this summer before he’s back to work.  We’ve spent afternoons on the river, dropped the canoe into the water and spent the afternoon paddling and fishing our way along. Stopping along the way to get out on the sand bar and fish and sit in the water, catching up on life around us. Sometimes it a quiet evening spent out back around the campfire, dancing away under the stars and hanging with the girls who love napping on the benches beside the fire. We had a cloud free night to enjoy the full moon in all its glory. June’s full moon is referred to as the Strawberry Moon, because the Algonquin tribes would tell time by the moon and the moon in June symbolized the time when berries were ready to be harvested. She was a beautiful sight, and I was lucky enough to capture a shot on my camera! These are the moments I live for in the Summer, spent with my love, adventuring and enjoying each others company. Sometimes for us life gets busy, and we forget to stop and enjoy the little things we are blessed with. I like to think this is what summer months are for, reminding us to be thankful and grateful.

Today we are hunkered down in the house, as it rains outside. We were in need of the  moisture and so we are making the most of the day inside, catching up on little projects and those movies we’d been meaning to watch. It’s a great way to wind down from the long weekend and prepare for the week ahead. We hope everyone had a great Canada Day!

 

 

A Summer for Bees

A Summer for Bees

Bee-lieve it or not:

  • You can thank a bee for every 1 out of 3 bites you take while eating food.

  • A single colony of bees will pollinate up to 300 million flowers, per day!

  • 90% of the world’s nutrition is comprised of food crops which wouldn’t grow without pollination from bees.

 

Fun facts, but the not so fun truth behind it is the decline in bee populations world wide.  It seems as of late we are seeing more awareness on the subject, and we think that’s great here on the farm . This summer Dan and I decided we would do our part to help the cause, and so we became first time beekeepers!

Beekeeping has been something we have been talking about since the early days of starting out our little homestead. We always knew it was something we would get into one day, and it just so happened to all come together this Spring for us. We are so excited to learn and grow as we raise our two hives of bees this summer.

Being as we are the Burches, we obviously couldn’t do things the conventional way, and so instead of your common hive boxes, we purchased Flow Hives. If you haven’t heard of the Flow Hive, there are lots of videos and demonstrations, along with information online! One of our hives was a wedding gift from friends last Fall, they really do know us well.

First order of business was assembling the hives, picking out our protective paint colours, learning as much information as possible and then searching for our new tenants.  Working at the Farm Store in town had given me an in with one of our local bee farmers. He and his family have been raising bees for almost fourteen years now. We ordered two packages of bees along with the order he places to fill his hives (they fill around 100 hives). They arrived the first week of May, and Dan drover over to the farm to pick them up.

While there, he spent the day with Wayne (said bee farmer), learning the tips and tricks for getting yours bees out of their packages and into their hives, helping him do around 20 of his own hives. It was such a great learning experience and he came home with so much knowledge to share with me. When I got home from work we suited up in our bees suits (coveralls, a bee hat with protective netting and gloves that reach up to your elbows), and released our bees! I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck, as I had been slightly terrified of flying, stinging insects up to this point having never been stung. But I kept reminding myself over and over in my head “Respect the bee and the bee will respect you!”. My mantra must have worked, because I was more calm than I would have ever thought possible, and for 8500 bees being released for the first time in over a week out of their packaging, so were the bees.

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetOnce the bees have been gently dumped from their travel tubes into the brood box of the hive, we gently replaced the frames we removed to accommodate them. The lid was placed quickly on top while we got ready to deal with the Queen. It is most important to ensure you have a healthy, happy queen bee as she is what the hive revolves around. The queen arrives in her own special cage within the travel tube.

First steps for the bees are to comb out the frames within the brood box so that the queen can get to work laying her offspring. Wayne was kind enough to provide us with a pre-combed frame which we placed inside the hive to give our little bees a bit of a head start. Because pollen and nectar sources are still scarce at the beginning of May, we placed a feeder tray in each of the hives, filled with a solution of sugar and water. This allows the bees food and hydration to begin constructing their comb.

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We left the bees to their bidding for the next week, in the mean time we signed up and attended a local bee course in the city. What a great day! There was so much we already knew from our farmer friend, but we were able to take lots away from our class too.

We had decided already that we were not going to be raising our bees in a holistic manner, and that was our choice. Some may agree or disagree, but we felt it was what would work for us. So that meant that the first week after arriving, it was time to treat our hives. The first round of treatments are little strips of medication placed inside the hive in twos. The bees rub against the strips and their job is to kill the teeny tiny mites living on the bees. Varroa Mites have the ability to wipe out a hive if not kept under control. They feed off the fat of the bees, and lay their eggs within the brood cells. They are big spreaders of disease and sickness amongst bees. The strips will remain in the hive for up to 41 days so that they can be there for two complete brood cycles of bees.

Several weeks later the next treatment began, this one for the prevention of American Foul Brood. Once you have Foul Brood in your hive, the only way to get rid of it is to burn everything. It can be a devastating disease to bee colonies. Bee larvae will not develop and a pungent smell of decay is present in the hive, as well as the comb turning a shade of gray.  Medication is mixed with icing sugar and placed inside the hive for the bees to consume. You treat once a week for up to five weeks.

Doing these treatments give us an opportunity to peek inside of the hives and make sure everything is developing as it should. On our last check, you could clearly see the areas of white comb capped honey storages, the yellow capped comb of brood and even the cells with the larvae inside! The hives are fragrant f pollen and honey and it would appear as though we are on the right track.

We are so excited for this journey into beekeeping, and the rewards that will come with it. We have already seen our little orchard alive with bees as they fly from apple to pear  to cherry tree pollinating, stopping along the way at our Saskatoon and Haskap berry bushes. We look forward to seeing how our garden will thrive this season with an increase in pollinators. And of course we are excited for the fruits of our little bees labour, honey!

Follow along with us this summer as we start out on our journey of becoming the beekeeping Burches!

Spring Must be in the Air…Somewhere

Spring Must be in the Air…Somewhere

I am sure that Mother Nature must just be confused. That perhaps she fell so in love with Winter, that she’s forgotten what time of year it is supposed to be. Perhaps her love affair with the chill winds and dancing snowflakes, froze time and her heart grew solid as ice. Perhaps Winter whispered sweet nothings in her ear and sent chills through her being, and now she doesn’t want to let that go.

It’s the only reason I can think of that we’re still getting snow and frigid temperatures in April.

This should be a month of melt and mud. This should be a month of rain showers and new growth, of garden planning and Spring cleaning. Instead, it’s started out like the month of January, snow falls and temperatures well below -20 degree Celcius. But here on the farm, we are not letting it get us down!

While the month of March got away from us, flew by before we even had a chance to blink, it was a love filled month full of adventure. March is a special time of the year for Dan and I. It is  our anniversary month, and this was our first whole year of being the Burches, together. While it’s been an adjustment for me, learning how to re write my signature, figure out a neat way to write initials, I have loved this past year of being Mrs. Burch. When we escaped to the mountains to vow our love together a year ago, we hadn’t planned for a honeymoon at the time. We enjoyed our time, exchanged our vows and came back to real life. So this year we planned a special Anniversary get away / Honeymoon,  which took us down to the U.S. of A, music city, Nashville!

Nashville has always been on my bucket list. It has always been a place I have wanted to travel to. The history and the music called to my soul. So when we made it down there this past month, it was all I had dreamed of and more!

Our first stop, of course, was a show at the Grand Ol Opry the night we arrived. We sat in the audience staring up at that stage, listening to the music of country stars young and old. I don’t think you could have wiped the smile off my face. After the show, we got a back stage tour of the building and saw into some of the dressing rooms, saw where the musicians snuck in through a back entrance and saw the mail boxes where all the fan mail awaited.

Next day,  March 17th, our anniversary day and also St. Patrick’s Day, found us enjoying a couples massage at a local spa, touring the Rymann Auditorium and enjoying some drinks at the famous honky tonk, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. We spent the evening hopping between bars and enjoying all the live music and bands playing.

Sunday we hopped on the trolley and enjoyed a tour of the city, making stops at the American Picker’s store, a whiskey distillery and the Johnny Cash museum. We ended the day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and then back to Broadway to take in more live music and some southern hospitality. Last on the list was a visit to Ernest Tubb’s famous record store, bringing home a Merle record and some Earl Scruggs banjo on vinyl.

What a way to spend a long weekend with my love, celebrating one year of marriage. Nashville, we will be back to take in more of your sights and music wonders!

We left the warmth and T-Shirt weather of Nashville and returned back home to the snow and cold. But coming home always warms my heart, when we pull up the drive to the sound of busy hens in the coop, the snorts of hungry pigs in their pen and the hollering call of donkey boys from the back field welcoming us home.

The end of March brought us the Easter weekend, which was spent with Dan’s family here on the farm. Dan took the weekend off of work so that he could spend some time with his family amidst his busy work schedule. Sometimes life in the oil patch is hard and demanding, but we’ve come to learn that you appreciate your time so much more. We cooked up a ham dinner, and were surrounded by friends and family. To us, that’s what the holidays are about.

The donkey boys were in the holiday spirit, and the Easter bunny made a surprise visit to the animals on the farm. Carrot treats for all on Sunday morning!

I think the general consensus on the farm is that we are ready for the snow to go! In the back field where the donkey boys reside, there is still snow that’s past the knee in places. The warmer weather days with sunshine have the boy’s a little spunky, chasing each other, and the dogs, around the field. They are so entertaining. I can’t wait for the snow to be gone out back so that we can go for walk’s with the donkeys.

The longer days and increase in daylight have our chicken ladies in an egg laying frenzy. We decided to stick with our flock this year and not add any chicky babies into the mix. We are happy with the number of hens we have and the egg production we are getting. And I can’t complain about all the colours we are getting in our egg basket this year!

Even the three little pigs are venturing around more outside on the days when the sun shines hot and warm. Their little fuzzy hair doos are thinning out and that is a sure sign that it must be almost Spring!

With the winter chill still in the air, I am taking full advantage of having days stuck inside by finishing up a knitting project for a friend. I am knitting this blanket for a friends daughter who is a girly girl and likes unicorns. I couldn’t have found a more perfect yarn at Michael’s than these Bernat cakes. I better get cracking if I want to get this piece finished before Spring does finally arrive!

I’ve also been taking this time to learn more about and start my journey into essential oils. Whether it be for mood support, hormone balance or just a little lift throughout the day, I am finding all kinds of uses for plant medicine. I am also blessed to be a part of a great tribe of woman through my Instagram page who I am learning from daily about uses for essential oils. I carry my diffuser with me from room to room, for uplifting scents during the day to calming, sleepy blends for bedtime. I also have a diffuser cuff I wear daily with different potions. I have learned about cleaning uses, insect repellents and healing properties and am looking forward to carrying on using essential oils in my daily life. Along side my oils, I have also journied into the healing properties of crystals and have started a small collection of precious stones. Some sit on my bedside table for bed time, some I carry on my person on a daily basis. I am still learning, and look forward to where the journey is taking me. The other interest I have taken up is tarot readings with my Animal Oracle cards. While I am still learning and growing with my deck, I love the way I am able to open up and accept my readings. It has been a fun and growing process.

I took advantage of a snowy afternoon and got out my banjo to play a few rolls. While I am definitely no Steve Martin when it comes to picking, I love the twang of the strings and the calm of making music. I’d love to find some one in town for more lessons, and may just have a lead through work. Here’s hoping something pans out!

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We are anticipating Spring’s arrival and the warmer weather as we start out this season with a new venture on the farm, bee-keeping! We received the most wonderful gift of our first bee hive from friends last fall and now have our second Flowhive to add. We have the perfect spot picked out for them to sit, right in the middle of my wild flower circle. We have been in communication with a local bee farmer who we are getting two kits of bees from, and I look forward to chatting and learning from him as we start out here on the farm. Our bees are set to arrive here the last week of April or the first week of May and so we have been busy here doing lots of reading and prepping for their arrival. There is lots to be learned and I am sure it will be a learning experience this summer, but we look forward to doing our part to save the bees and one day indulge in our own honey!

Did you know that one of the first food sources for bees in the Spring months are Pussywillows? While we are way behind on them budding this season, they are finally making an appearance out back and we have loads of them. They have always been one of my favourite spring blooms, but now I love them even more!

Getting out back to check trail cams and explore the woods has been made a little difficult as things start to melt and the ground gets soft. The other day we ventured out with Dan’s drone he received for Christmas to play around a little and take some pictures of our land. While we may still need some pilots lessons or practice on flying, it is so much fun to play with! And the views just can’t be beat!

These last couple of days here on the farm have felt a little more Spring-ish. The doors to the house are wide open letting in a fresh breeze. The rush of water can be heard flowing through the eaves trough, which means the snow is finally starting to melt and while they are still calling for about 10 to 15 cm of snow fall for tomorrow, we decided to get our butts in gear and start sowing some seeds for the garden. Yesterday we started a tray of peppers, tomatoes, brussel sprouts and asparagus. On today’s list: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and onions. As well as Elderberries and some morning glory flowers. I think once we fill the kitchen table with seedlings there will be no doubt it feels like Spring and that will make the wait more bearable. I also took the opportunity to transplant my violets which had outgrown their pot, adding to my growing collection of houseplants I have actually managed to keep alive!

We look forward to Spring here on the farm, as it is always a busy month. Garden prep will be in full swing, animal housing clean up will begin and we will be one step closer to warm summer nights, bonfires and visits from family! Counting down the days until June when my Mom and Dad will be out to visit. SO looking forward to having Mom’s help in the flower beds, putting Dad to work with some kitchen renos and just getting to spend time with my parents. August is also going to be an exciting month as my brother and his girlfriend are finally making the journey West and coming to visit. Looking forward to showing them our home and taking them on a kick ass mountain adventure.

So Mother Nature, wake up! And please bring us our Spring!

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle a Little Love Wherever You Go

Sprinkle a Little Love Wherever You Go

Oh February, that blasted month in the middle of Winter, after Christmas and New years, where you’re fighting off the Winter blues. Where the weather is frigid and frightful one day, then verging on a Spring teaser the next. It’s that month where Mother Nature can’t decided what to do next, and the longing for Spring sets in.

February is also the month of love. Valentines’s Day brings cookies and cards and chocolates. It means holiday baking is in order, of course! Bring forth your best recipes for sugar cookies, it’s on! I must admit, today consisted of Nat King Cole crooning over the vinyl on my record player, as I danced around the kitchen decorating heart shaped cookies. What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic! And when the fridge is brimming over with cartons of farm fresh eggs from the ladies, I had to make some kind of a dent in the stash.

 

Along with kitchen dance parties, this weekend was all about me, and I took full advantage. I read an entire novel in 24 hours. I can’t remember the last time I took that much time to read a book I was digging. If it’s not on your list, you need to check out “The River at Night” by Erica Ferencik; I couldn’t put it down! It was just what I needed. I received my first essential oils in the mail, so I took some time to read up on those, and start using them in my daily routine. I am looking forward to learning and growing in this oil journey I’ve started on.  I worked away on my sock (yes singular still), knitting away the afternoons. I am sure to be finishing it up one of these days in the near future, or so I hope.

It was great having such a relaxing weekend but let’s be honest, I’m missing my Oilfield Man. Last weekend my husband Dan was off, so we got to spend some quality time together out exploring in the newly fallen snow we received. We got around two feet of snow over two days and it was so much fun trekking out back and cutting new paths through the bush. We snow-shoed for over 2KM, according to my google Fit app. I was impressed, and even broke a sweat, all bundled up for the elements. We had a great day out exploring in the woods and getting outdoors.

Everyone on the farm is surviving this sudden onset of ‘Winter Weather’ and all the snow Old Man Winter seems to be sprinkling over us lately. The Donkey Boys may be buried up to the knees, but they’ve kept clear a well worn path from their shelter, to the feeder, to their water bucket. Keeping their hooves cleaned out is an important daily task at chore time, so that the snow doesn’t compact up and under their little hooves.

The Three Little Pigs are keeping toatsy in the Pig Haus this Winter, and venture out only for food and water. Amidst noisy complaints on their end, they eventually snort and grunt their ways out of bed for dinner. Dan has kept a nice clear path for them through the snow to the waterer and back again. Life is tough when you are a miniature pot belly pig and the snow banks are taller than you are!

The chickens have all been keeping well during the cold and snow we have been having. They have even still been gifting us with any where from four to seven eggs a day! We appreciate it ladies, keep up the good work.

Even the ladies have been surviving the cold, getting to come in on the odd evening to spend a few hours sleeping by the wood stove. I am quite alright with their company. They even venture out with us for our snow shoeing adventures. Lily keeps up but Sophie follows along at her own pace.

We are excited to announce we will be adding a new little addition to our four legged family here on the farm. At the end of March we will be welcoming home a new puppy! We are so excited for our little bundle of fluff to arrive. His name is Hank, and he is a Pyrenees/Bernese/Maremma cross. I am sure the ladies are going to teach him the ways and they will be the best of friends.

When time allows, I am still playing away with a couple of quilt quilts I had, practicing and getting to know my machine. I have completed two baby quilts now, and am hanging on to my final kit for a special occasion.

We also have a new home brew we have been working on.  As always, there is something on the farm always being brewed and we enjoy playing around with some new creations. When we visited Ontario in September we brought home a case of Maple Syrup. We wanted to try a Maple wine or, Acerglyn, as it referred to. We bottled our first batch last month and are anxiously awaiting to try it out!

We are patiently awaiting Springs arrival here on the farm as the Winter days blow by. The sun is setting a little later, the sun rises a little earlier and its light is starting to carry with it a little more heat. We will enjoy these last weeks of Winter and look forward to what the Spring will bring with it’s new beginnings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Winter’s Reflection

A Winter’s Reflection

The week between Christmas holidays and the beginning of the new year is always a week for reflection. It’s that in between time, after building up so many expectations over the holiday season for it to all be done in a day. It’s the lead up to the new year, which brings hopes for new beginnings and the fruition of new dreams and plans. This year especially, we find ourselves in the middle of a deep freeze, where the only thing to do is snuggle up by a warm fire and give thanks for all we have.

Christmas is always a busy season, as we find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Christmas shopping, holiday baking, decorating for the season. This season Dan and I kept with our little traditions, and headed out to the bush to cut down our very own Christmas tree from our own land. After several rounds of our property out back, we had found the perfect one. My lumberjack, equipped with his chainsaw, fell our new tree. We loaded it up into the truck and brought it back to the house for alterations to ensure it fit into the house. What was cut off the tree was used for firewood for the season, making sure that nothing was for waste.

After the tree was placed inside our little Kitchen nook the decorating began. Each equipped with our decorations and a hot rum toddy, we were busy making the tree our own for Christmas. I love each year reliving the memories and old stories each decoration has to offer and reminiscing as we hang them on the tree. This year’s tree was one for the books!

Along with the Christmas tree came the decorations around the house and of course, Christmas lights outside. While the lights had been strung well before the world froze up and grew frigid, decorations around the house were continually popping up through out the season. Some of my favourites are my old set of snow shoes, the old kids toboggan and an old pair of wooden skis that make an appearance each winter. Our home felt ready for the holidays!

Even the farm yard was feeling festive as we hung wreaths around the garden fences and along the feed shed. If I could, each animal on the farm would have their own Christmas tree to boot. Perhaps next year!

Another holiday tradition is all the holiday baking that takes place on the farm! From my Mom’s Bits and Bites recipe that is always a hit, to of course chicken sugar cookies (because when you are a crazy chicken lady, chickens are always considered Christmasy) and even trying something new with home made turtles! It is safe to say there were probably a couple of extra pounds gained all around here on the farm over the holidays!

Along with home baked goods, there were also lots of home made / hand made goodies that were put together on the farm for gifts. A holiday tradition of gift giving from the farm includes a basket of home made items, canned preserves from the garden and a bottle or two of home made wine. I always feel like one of Santa’s elves leading up to Christmas as I knit away a stock of dishcloths to give as gifts. Along with the dishcloths comes a jar of my home made laundry soap, which is an absolute must here on the farm that I use year round! Baskets are packed with canned goods, and even though we didn’t have the most successful year with the garden we were able to add a couple of extras including canned peaches from out trip to Ontario and grape jelly from our passing through Manitoba.

While we had made a conscious effort this year to take a step back from spending and to not go overboard for Christmas, we still got pretty spoiled. I am so excited to start into some new quilting projects, while listening to some vinyl on my new record player, while Dan flies his new drone outside!

While we have had our fair share of struggle this week, dealing with temperatures here on the farm dropping well below -30 degrees Celsius, everyone is surviving and there is a light at the end of this cold, cold tunnel! Fresh, dry bedding for the donkeys, accompanied with a heat lamp to get through the drafty nights has kept the Donkey boys from becoming icicles in the back pasture. We even had some Christmas fun and a mini-photo shoot as the boys prepared to try out for Santa’s team for next year.

The three little pigs probably have the best house on the farm, with all three walls and the floor being insulated. My three boys keep toasty warm snuggling in the cold weather. The hardest part is getting them to come outside for dinner!

Of course we can’t forget about the chickens! While they do have an insulated coop, we try to stay away from too many extra means of heating during the Winter months. The coop is wrapped in plastic to  help protect from the wind and weather, and the nesting boxes get extra insulation along with a strip of heating tape. The chicken waterer is heated as well, but even so sometimes requires a chipping out of ice and a refill of warm water. Morning porridge and lots of extra treats high in protein help the ladies to get through the cold snap. We musn’t be doing too bad, because my lovely ladies are still providing us daily with farm fresh eggs!

Even the ladies (our farm dogs) are surviving this cold snap. While they really do fine in the cold and have a dog house filled with straw to escape to, there are still some frigid nights when they get invited into the house. Especially when Mr. Burch is away working! The last couple of nights us ladies have been holding down the fort. I really do love these two big goofy dogs and all the company and protection they provide!

I can also finally share my first quilting project as it has been gifted to a sweet little boy for Christmas. It may not have been perfect, but for my first baby quilt, I was beyond excited with how it turned out!

As we look towards the new year coming, there are so many things that we are thankful for for this past year here on the farm. This year I married my best friend, and we proclaimed our love from the mountain tops. We watched as our little farm grew before our eyes, as we added more fences and our dreams for this land grew. We traveled across Canada on a roadtrip that was so near and dear to my heart. I signed the bill of sale on my very first new vehicle purchase and brought home my own new truck.

We look forward to 2018, to all the new and exciting adventures we will find through out the year. To all the new animals we will welcome here on the farm, to using all the new knowledge and wisdom we have gained for our gardens and fruit trees. We look forward to the buzzing of Spring here on the farm as we await the arrival of our new bees we ordered this winter. We are so excited to watch our little farm grow and to learn and build on it each and every day. We are so blessed and so we welcome the new year with open hearts and wondering minds!

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A new thing we are starting this year, our year of reflection, is our little “Joy Jar”. Each time something important, life changing or just exciting happens, we will write it down and add it to our jar so that this time next year we can sit down and reflect upon all the wondrous things that have happened in our lives. I can’t wait to see what all this little jar will hold for us!

Wishing the happiest of New Year’s to our friends and family, far and wide. We will be seeing you next year!!

 

 

This Wild Winter Heart of Mine

This Wild Winter Heart of Mine

Here on the farm, November has shown us the many sides of Winter. From that first beautiful blanket of new snow laying untouched on the ground, to the crisp  and crunchy days when the temperatures reach below minus 20 degrees celcius, to the the complete opposite, with days of rain and slush and ice. Our first month into Winter, and we have been shown it all.

November brings a special season with it as well, as hunting season opens and closes with the month. Here on the farm, we are blessed with all the wildlife that passes through, perhaps even making our land their home. With several trail cameras set up around our property, we get a first hand view of some of Mother Nature’s creatures in their own habitats. We have a particular doe and her babies who we see on both cameras habitually. They come and go through out all hours of the day and night. Having does around brings in the bucks when rut season begins. We had several different bucks on our cameras this year, some who needed some growing yet and a couple who would have done well in freezer camp. While we put in some solid weekend hunts this season, we did not bring down a buck this year here. I am thankful for the time I spent outdoors, listening and watching the world unfurl around me. There will always be next season!

20171119_123014-01We are not going into the Winter months empty handed however. Our hogs were sent off to butcher and returned to fill our freezer. I don’t think we could fit another pork chop or loop of sausages in the deep freeze this year. We are thankful for this meat, for the pigs we raised and loved here on the farm, who will feed us along with our family and friends. I am happy to know where my meat is coming from and how it was raised.

The rest of the critters on the farm have hunkered down and settled in for the Winter months ahead. While the chickens don’t wander out much in the snow, they keep busy in the run of the coop where they still have access to their dust baths, food and open space. The nesting boxes stay toasty warm with the insulation and heat tape, and we are still collecting a couple of eggs daily from the ladies.

The three little pigs have a trail worn from the door of the Pig Haus, out to the water dish and feeders and back. They also don’t do much exploring in the snow, but would rather spend their winter days snoozing in their nests of straw. They are quick to wake up when they hear the latch on the gate open for dinner time though!

It seems the donkey boys are the least phased of our creatures by the snow. Their shaggy winter coats keep them warm as they paw around to find the grass hidden under the snow. They have a well worn path to the feeder where they have access to hay daily and fresh water in their heated bucket. I often catch Sophie and Lily out visiting the boys, eating up all the tasty treats the boys leave behind for them. No, I don’t accept kisses from our lovely farm dogs anymore!

The coming of the Winter months means that the holidays are not far behind. I am in a full knitting frenzy here at the house as I get dishcloths ready for gifts again this year. I have a total of nine completed, one on the needles and a lot more balls of yarn waiting in my yarn basket. I am eager to get dishcloths finished up so I can return my other winter knitting project that I started last year, my first pair of knit socks! Cozy winter days beside the woodfire are the perfect atmosphere for knitting. I’ve also completed my first major project on my sewing machine. Sorry no sneak peeks, stay tuned post Christmas!

Winter days make the perfect days for crock pot suppers. We finished up our last venison roast, have done several of our roosters and I am anxiously awaiting my favourite winter dinner, chicken and dumplings! And none of these would be complete without a lovely pairing of home-brewed wine. The last of our summer batches have been bottled and labelled and are ready to go out to the wine room. The last batch was rhubarb and raspberry, which will be absolutely scrumptious to sample in a couple of months. The last bits of canning and preserves were also added to the pantry, and I don’t think another jar would fit. From jellies, apple butter, apple sauce and fruit preserves to pickling and chutneys, we should be stocked up for another season of giving.

The snow and cold means it’s also time to break out the Mukluks. My Manitobah Mukluks are my go to winter footwear for any and all Winter adventures. From walks in the backyard, breaking out the snow shoes or trips to town, they are a mandatory for footwear. I have so much fun snapping pictures as well to submit for the fun hashtag #mocmonday on Insta!

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We make sure to take time to enjoy the company of one another too, as Dan and I both find ourselves extremely busy in our work lives. Our weekly adventures to the city for hockey games are the best date nights. While the poor Oilers may not be crushing it this year, we still love showing up to cheer them on and enjoy in a ceasar (or two). One of these days, my fingers are crossed we’ll be the lucky winners of the 50/50 draw!

Time for ourselves is also important, so settling down to watch a movie, getting cozied up in new winter sweaters or getting lost in a good book are not unheard of. Accompanied with a good cup of coffee or a glass of whiskey, we are ready here on the farm for this Winter.

 

Wild is the Music of Autumn Winds

Wild is the Music of Autumn Winds

Autumn slipped away in the dead of the night, leaving behind the barren tree branches naked of their leaves. She blew a kiss farewell to all creatures who scrambled through the brush, the last call for foraging. And in the morning when the world awoke, their eyes were greeted by Winter. No time was wasted as she painted the world white, and the frigid chill in the air was a sure sign she was here to stay.

While we have definitely settled in here for the long haul of the Winter months on the farm, there was so much left of Autumn to share with everyone. So before the pictures of the snow fall appear, and we talk about wood fires and temperatures dropping to twenty below, let’s take a step back and recap October.

October was a busy month here on the farm as we played catch up from our September holidays. There was garden harvesting to be done, fall clean ups and animal prep for the cold to come.

Before we had left for the East, we had tarped over our tomatoes in the raised beds in a hopes that should there be frost while we were away, the tomatoes would be saved until we could return home to pick them. It worked! While most of the plants themselves had started to wilt and turn to brown, we salvaged the tomato fruits and laid them out to ripen on newspaper in the man room off the garage. It was a slow process, but I would say over half of what we picked turned to a brilliant red and was used up. Whether it be in a home cooked sauce, canned for salsa or even turned into chutney, we were lucky to not have them go to waste.

It wasn’t our best year for the garden by any means, but we learn and appreciate it even more for that. We had only a couple of zucchini survive, a handful of cabbage, some carrots and onions, a few cobs of corn and a couple of pumpkins. But let me tell you, we will never go hungry because can we ever grow potatoes! We had planted six rows of potatoes in their own area of the yard, and we couldn’t keep up with digging them out. I think its safe to say, we’ll be eating potatoes all winter.

Gardening doesn’t stop in the Fall either. It’s the opposite of Spring gardening when you are breaking the ground and getting ready for new life. In the Fall, you cut back the dead plants, spread your fertilizer source and let the Winter prepare the soil for new life again come spring. A day was spent cutting back flowers, hostas and grasses. Cutting everything back from little garden circle of happiness was bittersweet. I had so enjoyed the sunflowers and wildflowers that had grown over the Summer months. But even in the last breaths of life, wildflowers are just so beautiful. I am excited to see how the circle will grow and fill next season!

Fall brings with it some bittersweet moments on the farm as well. Since Spring we raised seven hogs who would be for butcher. While I go into each year knowing this, so far it hasn’t made the task any easier when butcher time comes. I spend my Summer months caring for the pigs, feeding them each morning and night, watching as they run about the wooded pen they had this year. I am so thankful that my freezer will be full for the season and that we have helped to also provide for our friends and family. But I don’t participate. Not yet anyways. Perhaps as the years go on that will change. But for now, I am just happy to know that I raised them with love and care and that there is now pork for a year in my freezer.

But that is why we have an array of animals here on the farm to love! We were on the ball this year and were able to get the chicken coop winterized before the snow hit. We cover the run of the coop with plastic for wind protection, run heat tape around the nesting boxes with insulation to cover and keep them toasty and have to plug in a heated waterer. We also have heated waterers for the pigs and donkeys which are plugged in as speak. The chickens have all been moved to one coop for the Winter season and we said goodbye to all of the roosters. The three little pigs have lots of straw in the Pig Haus to keep them warm and the donkey’s also have straw bedding laid down in their shelter. Everyone on the farm is ready for the cold and snow!

We’ve also been busy catching up on all of our Home Brews. We tried out first ever batch of apple cider, with apples we had collected over our holidays across Canada. It is now in bottles and should be able to taste test for Christmas! We also bottled our first  batches of fruit wine, including one of rhubarb and one saskatoon berry. We sure are excited to try them out!

The chill in the air also means its time to get back into the knitting! If I am to have dishcloths ready for Christmas gifts its best to get a head start. I always have so much fun trying out new patterns and seeing how all the colours come together. Once I get a stash of dishcloths I am itching to get back to knitting my first pair of socks which are still on my circular needles from last winter. Who knows, maybe there will be time for a blanket or two , or even an attempt at a sweater! I’ve also got a new favourite spot for knitting, on my comfy cozy sheepskin rug by the wood fire. It was perhaps my favourite purchase of our whole holiday! I’m also trying out my hand with my new sewing machine and making my first ever quilt. Stay tuned for the final project!

For Thanksgiving we made a special trip with friends to the local corn maze. It was such a fun day of getting lost, sipping on hot chocolate and of course feeding all the animals at the petting zoo. And while we may have wound up stranded on the side of the highway in our friend’s “Wittalbego”, it honestly couldn’t have been a more fun day spent with any better people. If I was going to be stranded, it would be with them any day!

Halloween wrapped up the end of the month, and while we don’t get trick or treaters out in our neck of the woods, we always pop in to see our god son’s costume and drop off some halloween books. He was the cutest little troll and his mom Jackie put in lots of work to their costumes. I look forward to those days for us, especially incorporating the animals on the farm into the pictures. My mom even sent me some old photos of my kick ass costumes from when I was little, she did a great job too!

We look forward to a little quiet time here on the farm as we make our way into Winter. Everyone is ready for the cold and we can finally relax and enjoy each other’s company. With little projects here and there to finish up and the beginning of hunting season, I feel like this will be a great winter!