Ahhh spring is in the air! The sun is shining, the maple sap is flowing, the mud is three feet deep and the air is filled with the sweet, sweet aroma of ..thawing manure. I’ll take it!
Winter was not particularly cold or long for us this year. No snow tunnels along the roads and I dont even think we had a power outage caused by snow, but still, the warm sunshine is welcome. it’s been 2 or 3 days of this lovely weather and we’ve spent a very large part of those days outside. Mister is building my goat kidding stalls across from Clydes stall, I’ve been tapping maples and cleaning out the coop, stalls and pens and generally just keeping busy outdoors at the great expense of our house tidy-ness. Oops! So, in the spirit of “balance” (my word of the year), I stayed in for a good part of today and changed sheets, did laundry, baked bread and brownies and tried my hand at sourdough bagels! Well…Bagel, singular. I only made 1 haha! It was the ugliest bagel I ever saw, but a tasty little bugger it was! I called the mister over to the kitchen window and we all stood around, he outside and kiddo and I inside , and munched on this delicious new experiment. I’m excited to make more, although preferably somewhat more presentable.
I’m also excited to bring in the first load of line dried clothes of the year! I’ll most definitely have my nose in the sheets as I fold them 😀
Its been a relatively uneventful week here on the homestead. We had a mild spell with the sun shining bright and snow melting enough that it was actually worthwhile to put the goats out to pasture for a bit. The chickens loved it and barged out of their run and down the trail the moment I opened the door to feed them. Such a simple pleasure to watch a gunch of fluffy butts scratching and pecking at the ground!
I used the opportunity of good weather and empty barn and pens to do some cleaning in there. I got the coop cleaned out, roosts scraped and fresh shavings on the floor and in the nesting boxes. I’m trying out deep litter in the goat stall, so I just “fluffed” that and added some fresh shavings over the straw. I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about the deep litter method for the goats. It seems to be most efficient for us when I alternate hay/straw and shavings. A couple of my bantam hens got in there and had already done a major part of the fluffing and turning for me. Have I mentioned how much I love chickens yet? 😊
I also used the warmer weather as an opportunity to trim the goats hooves again and oh my! It had only been about 2 to 3 weeks since the last trimming and they had already grown significantly! I will be needing to keep a close eye on them over the winter months it seems. The frequent standing around in the wet snow must accelerate growth, which makes sense considering our nails grow faster when they are often in water too. Its good practice for them and me anyway and the wetness does make for an easier job trimming so thats a bright side to it.
After the warm spell we naturally got a snowstorm which has been going on since the evening before last. It’s so pretty out today! All the trees are draped in a heavy blanket of sticky snow and the flakes that are still coming down are huge and dancy. The less-pretty side is me pushing and shoving and pulling to try to get doors and gates open, but that’s just part of this life. Once the snow stops coming down I’ll scrape the snow down around all the doors/gates and they’ll be fine. I’m just happy its not ice!
Indoors, life has been calm, or at least as calm as can be with a toddler at play. I’ve been working on finishing up crochet projects that will be given as gifts next week for Christmas. I finished off 2 hats and a scarf and am still working on a blanket, another hat and a unicorn and missing a pompom to finish another hat. Hats are one of the only things I can crochet relatively quickly right now and I did not want to venture into uncharted territory so close to Christmas or I would have tried to make some mittens. Apart from the crocheting, I’m also baking several freezable breads and energy bites and other goodies for a gift basket I am giving my dad. I am running out of time however as tomorrow will be a busy day between errands, a few hours at work and getting last minute things in order before my husbands parents arrive Thursday morning from Belgium. This will be their first “real” Christmas in Canada and their first Christmas with us since kiddo was born. Kiddo, who I might add, is super excited! She is so determined that she will not be shy with her Bompie ( he is very tall and has a deep voice, a combination that always takes time for her to get used to) and her plans are to “dump out all my little guys on the floor for Granny and Bompie” 😂.
Oh yea..I also killed several hours daydreaming as I flipped through my William Dam seed catalogue the last couple of evenings haha! It occured to my that my Halifax seeds catalogue will probably have been sent to our old house. Ugh!
So there you have it, the moseying meanders of a winter week on the homestead! Happy last week before Christmas everyone!
That’s the short answer. This however is a blog post, so we won’t be sticking to the short answer. People ask me this question both in regards to my daughter and my farm. Both make traveling harder, but trust me, if I still felt the same way about travelling as I did 5 years ago, I would make it work. Our first home, the birth of our daugter, the purchase of our farm…these things never got in the way of travel. In fact, they only happened because my interests and curiosity changed.
No longer am I wondering what it would be like to wander the cobblestone side streets of Scotland or dreaming of the smell of the crisp morning air of a new continent at the end of an overnight flight. While that last one still gives me a feeling of nostalgia, its a happy feeling. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I did wonderful things, saw wonderful places and experienced wonderful things. And now? I am doing different wonderful things, enjoying a different wonderful place and experiencing different wonderful things. Thats a lot of wonderful isn’t it?
Ha, I’ll stop using it now.
So no, I don’t miss traveling because parenting and homesteading did not take that from me. I am a parent and a homesteader because my love of travel changed into a love of growing and nurturing a family, a garden and a little farm. You may think it strange that standing in the middle of my vegetable garden brings me as much excitement as standing in the middle of a new town square once did, but it’s true. Just because it is not an exotic, romanticized hobby or occupation does not make it bring me less happiness. I find great joy in reasearching plants, planning my garden, planting it, and watching it grow and an immense feeling of satisfaction standing in the late July jungle that it becomes. I LIKE waking up in my uncomfortable bed with tiny elbows digging into my ribs and big beautiful eyes pearing into my face from way too close. I like walking along the same trail in the woods with my family, week after week and seeing it differently every time, changing with the weather and thd seasons. I like the rhythm and routine that comes with barn chores and the connections you get with the animals you tend.
Maybe in 5 or 10 years I will have a whole new set of interests, a whole new lifestyle. Who knows! But until then, pity-looks can be put in pockets knowing that there is no sadness here at the thought of all the flights departing without me!
Traveling and I, we had a good thing. It was fun and we had good times, but now I’m trying something else! 😊
Isn’t there a song that goes “A-a-aye, I’m on vacation
Every single day ’cause I love my occupation”?
One of my favourite things about homesteading is the constant learning. Nearly everyday you learn something new, be it from a book, online, a friend or just hands on experience. Sometimes it’s a fun learning experience, sometimes its a stressful one.
Today I want to share with you a little piece of advice based on my experience over the last few months: Do not take on too many different animals at once! Particularly if you are new to having animals. I grew up on a farm and I like to think I learned a lot over the years, but seeing is not doing. Just because my parents had goats when I was a kid, does not mean I am an expert hoof trimmer or that I know basically anything about minerals or eye injuries.
I believe that when taking on livestock that will produce for you, you owe it to that animal to give it the best possible care. And that means knowledge and experience. Luckily(?), we have a small barn, so I was only able to expand my chicken flock a bit and add 2 goats this year, but looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t convince the Mister that we should get any other critters this year. Things like to happen all at once and it can be scary when a lot of the things happening are first time experiences for you! We have had goats for 7 months now and in that time, I have learned A LOT and still have so much more to learn. Over the summer, I learned about coccidia in goats, I learned to give vaccines and dewormer and all about Selenium and loose minerals. I learned a basic hoof trim, about absesses and leg and eye injuries and about disease testing. Most importantly, I got to know my goats, what is normal for them and what is odd behaviour. They enjoyed putting my patience to the test while we figured out what works and what doesn’t pasture wise. Long story short, you may bring home a bunch of new animals and have all smooth sailing while you get aquainted, but you could also have rough seas and stress and unexpected expenses at every turn which can often be avoided with a little bit of experience and a lot of cool headedness. While I am delighted to be learning so much, I am glad the goats are the only ones I need to learn much about right now. I think I would feel extremely overwhelmed if, right from the get-go we had dove right in, getting goats, ducks, alpacas and ponies! Haha and peacocks and guinea fowl?
Basically my advice is simply to think about all that is involved with every new animal you take on. It’s a learning curve and you can save yourself a lot of stress and vet bills by taking your time to grow your farm or homestead.
On that note, here is a picture of my beautiful girl and the most recent learning experience she has provided me with : Eye injury care.
Magda has been very rowdy and aggressive toward Gracie(our other goat) since the first big snowfall and drop in temps. As a result (most likely) she ended up poking or scratching or somehow damaging her eye. Notice how red it is? At first she hardly opened it, it was swollen and squinty and was runny. I asked around and did a not of research and then headed to the pharmacy for an eye wash. Wiping the area with a warm cloth and rinsing with an eye wash saw her eye gradually improving and now today, 2 days after this picture and a week after the initial injury, her eye looks to be back to normal.
Winter weather has been upon us for about 2 weeks now. We had an awful wind storm and it seems winter blew in in its wake, and that’s ok because A- we like winter and B-I had just winterized the chicken run 😊 For once I did not procrastinate. Nobody likes to be out in below freezing temps trying to winterize!
Just this fall my dear husband treated me to a new and improved chicken run 😍 He knows how to make me happy! It is a walk in run, so no more crouched crab-walking to fetch bowls or eggs and best of all, it has a tin roof. Dry run and no snow means happy chickens and happy mama!
I could have gotten away with just having a roof, but I really didn’t want to end up with 12 chickens huddling in the coop all day, so I plastic wrapped the coop. I highly recommend that anybody overwintering chickens in below freezing temps do this! Not only does it keep cold wind off your birds, but it also keeps out blowing snow and it acts as somewhat of a greenhouse, trapping the warmth from the sun in the run. This is a double bonus for us since the run runs(ha!) the length of our barn so it protects one of the outer walls from cold wind and the greenhouse effect warms that wall as well.
In -10c weather with a windchill of -15, the chickens water only got a thin layer of ice on it through the day and I’m pretty sure that if it had been sunny, there would have been no ice at all.
In addition to the plastic on the run, I am experimenting with a compost pile/deep litter method in the run this year. I have been slowly building a compost pile of used goat bedding in the chicken run. Chickens love working compost. Digging, scratching, pecking, doing what chickens do. This, in theory, should help speed up the progress of the composting and, again, in theory, give off some heat the way deep litter method does. I did worry momentarily about the gases the pile might emit, but if I’m being totally honest, my plastic wrapping skills are not very honed yet so therea plenty of air circulation, wether I want there to be or not.
So far so good. Aside from my huddly Bantams, everyone spends a majority of the day outside and if nothing else, the compost pile makes for a good boredom buster! I’ve tried to coax the gang out on nice days but snow is scary and cold and they much prefer to stay inside the door and soak up the sun from there.
Other winter prep I’ve done for the chickens is to start giving them a dash of apple cider vinegar in their water on a regular basis to boost immune systems and help prevent respitory issues and stock up on black oil sunflower seeds which I add to their feed daily. Black oilsunflower seeds are high in fat and protein which help the chickens get through the cold weather and molting. I also like to toss a handful into their compost pile for a little game of hide and seeds. Mwahaha see what I did there? Terrible word play. You’re welcome.
What is your favourite way to keep your flock happy and healthy in the cold winter months?
I’ve just gone back and read all my previous posts. Wow! What a trip down memory lane! The last 2 years were so busy with this big leap, buying this place, selling that place, raising our little monster-mash, moving, selling, renovating.. ppff I think I need a nap;) But all the chaos and work has paid off! Look how far we have come! We did sell our first place finally ( Huzzah!!) back in June and what a relief that was. Sad relief..but also happy relief…you know? Gosh I miss those pear trees though! We are well on our way to being well established farm wise, and in the house there’s only a couple of large projects left. I am amazed at and proud of all the progress we have made in the last year. In 2 days it will be a whole year since we moved in and I really did not see us being this far ahead so soon! Thank goodness for my handy Mr. who likes to get on a project and get’er done, because I am a terrible procrastinator. I am quite proud of myself however for planting and maintaining such a large garden considering I struggled so badly in our tiny garden before we moved. Crazy what happens when you aren’t planting in clay and stone baha!
Well, all that to say that I enjoyed reading back on all this! It was like reading an old journal, but less cringe inducing. If I never get another reader, all will not be lost because at least I enjoy it, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matter right?
I have a lot of childhood memories in and around my moms garden. From the little patch she gave me(and I did not maintain very well) to eating cucumbers freshly plucked from the vines to that time I got sent to my room for using the carrot rows as jumping obstacles one too many times. Of course theres also the countless tedious hours we all spent picking potato bugs, but even that I remember somewhat fondly(from the comfort of my for-now pickingless comfort). I think it comes as no surprise to anyone that it brings me such joy to see my own little daughter spending so much time out in the garden with me!
We had such a lovely morning out there together earlier this week! It was a gloomy morning, threatening to rain, so we dressed in our raincoats and boots to go do the chores and by the time we were done taking Gracie the goat for her breakfast walk, it had started to sprinkle. Not ones to shy away from some rain, I took the opportunity to get some seedlings in the ground and E was delighted to help dig the holes for them. I decided to get the last of the peas, corn and beans into the ground and when she found out I was planting peas, Oh my! Was she every excited! Peas are her favourite, so after I’d planted the whole row, I gave her the remaining seeds and showed her where she could plant them. I may need to do a lot of thining out later, but she was just so happy to help mommy!
Yesterday while I was weeding, she cane over and sat in a milk crate beside me and watched and asked questions. She’s only 2 so we agreed that mommy would be the one to take care of weeding for now! I’m constantly being amazed at how much she takes in! She knows where the spinach is, how to pick the chives and which plants are tomatoes! I know these are simple things, but they are big for a 2 year old! I just love when she reaches for my hand and we walk through the rows checking on progress. It may not last forever, but it sure makes my heart sing right now! I hope someday she will look back at her childhood and have lots of wonderful memories in the garden with her mommy just like I do!