Feeding the Wild Bunch

Yesterday, Clay and I headed out into the clear cold day to feed our wild horses. My father-in-law feeds them every Sunday throughout the winter to help supplement their natural grazing. This would be Clay and I’s first time over there without him, and we were pretty excited about it.  We were loaded high with 8 bales of hay, 2 bags of oats and a 1 salt block. Now I was eager to go initially as a) I love the horses and b) it was supposed to be at least 20 degrees (according to the lying cheating weather app on my phone) but as we closed in on our destination after 3 hours in the truck, the temp hadn’t gotten above 3 degrees. Seriously! It’s almost freaking April! I mean, come on Mother Nature, can’t we be reasonable. I always get testy with her this time of year. Ah, the joys of being a northern girl. At least I dressed for the occasion in a very fashionable three layer ensemble.

We were a little worried we wouldn’t see any horses as per their typical range activity, but sure enough, early on the road we spotted a group of three – a stud, a mare and a new baby! Oh my goodness, my favorite thing. Days old and as tiny as can be. We drove to a pullout and opened some oats. It amazes me how quickly they correlate us with glorious tasty oats. The stud was a gorgeous boy and I think Clay may have his eye on him for a possible ridding horse. He keeps warning me to “not get too attached” to the littles as it is early in the season and there were plenty of wolf tracks to be found. But alas, it’s just a reality of having a wild herd and the circle of life (enter Elton John music here), and I feel fine with getting attached and taking lots of photos as I feel they have the right to be oohed and ahhed over, to be documented in our herd history even if it’s for a short time.

1-DSC_0031

Handsome stud

1-DSC_0040

New little

1-DSC_0047

Clay the oats man

After plenty of oats and a goodbye, we headed down the road to our actual hay drop-off spots (clearly marked on the map for us by Father-in-law). The first few stops we were alone, save a woodpecker and some squirrels. But this is beautiful country, albeit cold, and there is a soul soothing sense in the quiet wilderness of it all. This was my first time actually moving hay and my god, why do they make them so heavy? Seriously, 1400 lbs?? I mean, wow, that’s a lot of awkward pushing and rolling. I was happy to help though and Clay is so fun to watch in his role. He just loves it.

As we approached our final set of corrals, we were content in finding at least three of the herd and anxious to see more. Much to our delight, 17 more were waiting for us and their goodies to be delivered like a line at a buffet. Even more delightful was that we had found the second herd group we hadn’t seen the last time! They are beautiful!

1-DSC_0198

The herd happy for some hay

1-DSC_0162

Clay enjoying the view

1-DSC_0144

Curious

1-DSC_0130

1-DSC_0131

A favorite mare in the middle

Clay got out and started pouring oats as I walked around and  climbed on top of bales to start taking photos, attempting to document as many as I could (WAY easier said than done since they kept following me around thinking I was the lady with the oats). Adorable little buggers. We counted 16 adults and one teeny tiny brand new baby. Again, my favorite. We identified the stud as a beautiful bay instead of the pale face palomino we first thought. He was in fine form and being quite the show-off. Our three preferred mares all seem pregnant so we are very excited to see the new babies to come.

1-DSC_0090

Another favorite mare

1-DSC_0105

Love this mare! I call her Katniss because I think her mark looks like a mocking jay

1-DSC_0141

Favorite mare

1-DSC_0140

Baby!

1-DSC_0146

love love love

1-DSC_0151

Feeding time for littles too

1-DSC_0154

Those eyes

1-DSC_0165

1-DSC_0183

Feisty bay stud

1-DSC_0190

These two are some of my favs based on their wild hair and sweet, curious dispositions

1-DSC_0205

1-DSC_0207

Okay, okay… last baby pic

We dumped the bales and just took a moment to watch and interact with them all. I love how they are so expressive and each have such differing personalities. I’m already having personal preference for some. The young ones are very curious and I’m always drawn to the ones with kind, gently eyes. Clay was attempting to feed them hay out of his hand, but maybe it’s too early for that. He didn’t have any takers. But they really don’t seem to mind having us there, as long as we have oats.

As we headed back for home, we ran into the first three and stopped to give them some leftover hay from the trailer which they seemed happy for. With that, we settled in for the long drive home. Although it was a cold day, it was a gorgeous one and held with it so many miracles and so much hope, I think I can wear more layers for a bit longer. Plus, we saw swans on our way back, so maybe spring isn’t too far away after all.

~Katy

 

 

Advertisements

Wildlife on the Farm: Trail Cam March 2014

I have been in Canada for 7 months now, and thanks to a painfully slow immigration process full of, ahem, process errors, I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time on the farm. I love watching the land change with the seasons (fall, winter and now spring) and witnessing the beauty of the land and the creatures who share it with us daily. Coming from Alaska, I am no stranger to living among spectacular wildlife, but never where it’s been this personal. We get to be a part of and share in a an ecosystem that has been here for many years, and it seems to be a very healthy ecosystem at that.

One of my favorite days of exploring was after a big snow on a warm sunny day. The dogs and I walked down to the lower fields and found every kind of animal sign imaginable. There were small tracks, medium tracks, itty-bitty tracks, bird hunting wing tracks, ginormous size-of-my hand tracks, it was beautiful. Brought a smile to this Alaskan girls face for sure. The dogs were going crazy with all the smells too! It was awesome to add our own tracks to the biodiversity of our land, and learn about what animal creates each type of track and pattern.

Owl hunting a rabbit

Busy busy

Busy busy

Wolf track

Wolf track

It amazes me how much activity goes on around our small parcel of 160 acres, especially since we are stewards of over 1,000 acres total. Our 1/4 section is part of a much larger acreage purchased by Clay’s grandfather in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. Now, there are four groups of land owners which include us, Clay’s parents, aunt’s and uncle’s. We are the only ones living down here, which lets us provide stewardship over the entire acreage. It’s pretty awesome, just like Braveheart. Except without the whole war thing.

Anyway, we truly enjoy exploring and checking in on the happenings of the land. My daily ski’s this winter were never boring and my new favorite hobby is following game trails wherever they may lead. I ran across my first predator kill site and had fun investigating the possible assailants (with help from my favorite conservation officer). I think it’s important to know what to be aware of when we are out and about, especially with our “city dogs”. Summertime should prove interesting… we’re taking bets on who finds the first porcupine.

Recently, I bought Clay a trail cam for Valentine’s day. This came closely after I found all of those wolf tracks. We thought it would be a good idea to really watch what happens when we’re not present. The setup of the camera has been tricky and we’ve had to play with positioning, height and location. Last week I found a sweet spot on a trail overlooking the river as we captured two types of deer and our elk herd in one 24 hour period! We borrowed a second cam (thanks Robin!) to be able to widen our scope area.

The Elk herd

The Elk herd

Elk herd

Elk herd

Selfie!

Selfie!

Close up selfie

Curious

Little buck on a snowy day

Little buck on a snowy day

P048-431-256-312-11088

P025-256-256-256-17f006

Whitetails!

Whitetails!

P057-429-256-316-10079

Checking the game cams has proved to be exciting as well and we enjoy our nightly hikes down. Both are now located about 1/2 mile below our house, with about a 1/2 mile in between them. Last night we spotted 24 mule deer and 5 whitetails on our property just hiking down to check the cams. All within a span of an hour. Our “city dog” Wyatt found a herd of 13 of them before we did, and I tell you, I’ve never seen him run so fast in his life. You’d never know he had a bad hip and two major surgeries… well at least not until he plays it up around meal time. He didn’t get very close, and he definitely didn’t let that pesky barbed wire fence stand in his way of chasing off the intruders. I think we may need to work on someone’s manners before we get the horses.

Wyatt vs barbed wire

Wyatt vs barbed wire

~Katy

An elusive creature yet to be identified... believed to be a mythical beast in the maynardian classification

An elusive creature yet to be identified… believed to be a mythical beast in the maynardian classification

Sundays at the Farm: Brown Butter Banana Bread

Sundays have always been one of my favorite days of the week. It’s the wind down before the busy week ahead and I love to take the day to get organized, cook a big meal and bake if I get the chance. It’s also a day for a long walk, hike, ski, or snowshoe with the dogs to explore our new surroundings. This week I did my baking early so all I had to do this Sunday was take a hike around the property with the dogs, enjoy the sunshine, relax, have a cup of tea and enjoy my book while devouring my newest baked good love, brown butter banana bread from the blog Joy the Baker. I mean, brown butter… you had me at butter.

The recipe is fairly straight forward, and the smells are divine. I didn’t have any buttermilk, but used the old trick of stirring some fresh lemon juice into the milk I did have, and voila’! I love substitutions like that… I never seem to have buttermilk when I need it. I also used brown sugar as I prefer it over white sugar in baking these types of breads. And I threw in some walnuts for good luck. This is definitely not as healthy as my whole wheat and honey recipe, but my oh my, I don’t think any one cares. Serve it up with a nice cup of rooibos chai tea and a chunk of manchego cheese and I’ll be yours forever. Aren’t Sundays grand?

1-DSC_0030

Brown Butter Banana Bread (adapted from Joy the Baker)

makes 1 9×5-inch loaf

6 ounces unsalted butter (3/4 cup), melted and browned to just over 1/2 cup of butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 1/4 cup mashed banana (from about 3 medium bananas)

2 teaspoons molasses

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Place butter in a saucepan and melt over low to medium heat. Butter will foam and crackle as it melts. When it no longer crackles, the butter will begin to brown. This is a delicate moment as you don’t want to burn the butter and that can happen quickly. Swirl the pan around as it browns, and as soon as it smells nutty, transfer to a heatproof bowl and place in freezer or fridge to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, and buttermilk.  Whisk in the mashed bananas and molasses.  When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter.

Fold the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients and add the walnuts. Do not over work the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick or a skewer  inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes, before removing bread from pan and cooling it completely on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

~Katy

Homestead Goals 2014

As the snow starts to melt and “break-up” is looming, I start to realize how much freaking work we have in the months ahead. It’s always easier to see the hard work when the beautiful winter wonderland turns into mud soup. Break-up is what us Northerners like to call spring. It’s when the earth begins to weep and we subsequently get to wear muck boots 24/7 and never wash our cars. Where the world smells perpetually like dog poop and you forget why you even wished for summer for a couple of very long and drawn out weeks. But usually, once May hits, it becomes worth it. Although the swearing and the mud wearing that break-up commands may make one lose total faith in, well, everything. So for now, I will post this very lush, green photo of what is to come so I can find the strength to go on…

1-IMG_1296-001

Ah…. that’s better… Now where was I…

This, ahem, “spring” has us looking forward to a trip to the Caribbean with my family and a sh*t.ton.of.work. In January we sat down and started a list of our goals for this year on the homestead. I say “started” a list because we seem to be adding things to it daily and it continues to grow. We honestly tried to keep it short, but easier said than done. The Caribbean will be a wonderful break, but comes at an awkward time as we will be getting a shipment of chicks in the week after. It’s kind of hard to find someone to babysit 25 chicks when there are no eggs to trade. So we’ll be a little late in starting that game, but for the Caribbean after a long northern winter, I’ll do just about anything.

Our main goal is to begin our 50 year plan on a series of maps we’re having drawn up. This will be our mother plan and help get all of our hopes, wants, wishes and dreams onto one or two large pieces of paper. This will allow us to mindfully plan out where things will go so that we create a working piece of land for our children and our children’s children to enjoy. And hopefully cut down on having to move anything when we decide it is a better fit somewhere else. Also, it makes us seem like we really have our sh*t together, eh? (practicing my Canadian accent, coming along nicely I believe.)

This is where we will include our future house build site, alternative energy sources, greenhouses, other livestock areas, future gardens, a Christmas tree farm, etc…. just to name a few things we’ve thrown out there. Below is a photo of my inspiration plan from a book called The Back to Basics Handbook by Abigail R. Gehring. We have A LOT of books on all of this stuff, because y’know, that will somehow make it easier in real life practice… either that or give me a totally false sense of security… I’ll report back.

1-Land Plan

Below is the parent list of our goals for 2014. In the following posts, I will try and highlight some of the projects and go over our goals for each one, as each project of course has more work to it than meets the eye. I should be getting used to that I think. This blog is a way for us to not only entertain our friends and family, but also to document our first few years on the farm and to keep as a kind of farm journal. Since I have basically no idea what I am doing, I have a feeling the entertainment aspect will grow as time goes on. But hey, onward and upward!

2014 Homestead Goals:

  • Install workable gates throughout property fences
  • Clear trees & debris in horse pasture, secure fences (40 acres)
  • Build horse corrals & tack shed, move in horses, give them treats and scratch their ears
  • Build chicken coop, raise 25 chicks & figure out what to do with all the roosters at a later date
  • Build compost areas, figure out how to keep Wyatt out of compost areas
  • Landscaping: Lawn, perennial flower beds, fire pit area, figure out how to keep Wyatt out of the growing lawn area
  • Finish cabin for guests, entertain said guests
  • Build garden/orchard fence: 1 acre of 8 foot elk/deer fence
  • Plant garden: Include raised beds, permaculture design principles, sheet mulch beds, hugelkultur beds
  • Install orchard: Northern hardy varieties of apple, pear, plum, apricot, cherry and variety of fruit and nut bushes
  • Plan and install garden watering system
  • Continue to improve and upgrade the farm road
  • Install clothesline
  • Paint and finish power shed
1-DSC_0163

Future garden site

1-IMG_1298

Guest cabin

1-DSC_0170

Lawn, flower bed and fire pit site (and Maynard)

Whew…. good lord, now that’s a lot of work! Not saying we will finish it all, but it’s better to have more goals than none. I must say, it’s a very good thing we don’t have TV 🙂

If you had the chance to own 160 acres of raw land, what would you do the first year?

~Katy

In the beginning…

We started on this homesteading journey the first day Husband and I met. Our conversation led to the ideas of owning critters, growing our own food and we talked and talked about living a more simple life and getting back to the land and to nature. Pretty hot first date, huh? These were things I always thought, but never really envisioned happening, at least not in my next five year plan. I am a goal setter, and each year, I write down my goals and always have a five year plan. I think it’s important to put things out into the universe, otherwise, how will the universe respond? It sounds kind of New Age but seriously, in 2009 before I met Husband, one of my goals was to “Own my own house with a BIG backyard”, written exactly as that. Here I am 5 years later with my own house and the biggest backyard I could have imagined. So think what you will.

On our wedding day, his parents gifted us 160 acres of raw land on the Peace River in British Columbia (YES!). It was, and still is, being farmed by a local farmer, but only in the fields and we were excited to dream up all of the possibilities. Of course, reality butted in and after many nights of list making, dreaming and talks with the bank, we realized what a huge undertaking this was going to be. Not only did we have zero utilities, we barely had a workable road in. We also had to deal with a mess of immigration to get me legal. So we decided to find Husband a job and send him first, in the spring, and then I would follow in the fall regardless of my immigration status. We’d just have to deal with it. Our entire relationship was built on long stints of time apart, so we knew it would be hard, but we could most definitely do it. Husband left Alaska in April of 2013 with a truck full of belongings and my first born dog, Wyatt. Honestly, I think it was harder to say goodbye to Wyatt. We had never been apart. But I sent them down the road and embarked on one of the most epic summers I have ever experienced in Alaska. Husband embarked on one of the hardest working summers he had ever experienced.

Working a full time job and preparing land for a home is no easy task. Good thing Husband is such a “doer”. He loves to be busy and loves to work hard. Did I luck out or what? Our modular home was put on order to build after we secured the construction loan. It is true when they tell you that everything will take longer and be more expensive than you think, but we worked on our patience and our communication skills, a lot… Some of the things we had to contract out, but we tried (with help from family and friends) to do most of it ourselves. Not only for the cost savings, but because we really wanted to learn through this process and be a part of our homestead journey.

Here’s our list of what we accomplished in our first summer, 2013:

  • Upgrade farm road and add ditches
  • Fence all 160 acres with barb wire fencing
  • Clear, add gravel & compact house pad site
  • Drive piles for house to sit on
  • Dig and install well
  • Dig septic tank and have installed
  • Install propane tank
  • Clear and mulch trees for power line
  • Receive house and hook up gas, water & sewer
  • Build stairs front/back & large deck
1-IMG_1104

Father-in-law & brother-in-law fencing our acreage

1-IMG_1297

Our beautiful fence line

1-IMG_1778

Driving piles

1-IMG_1816

Compacting in my skirt and work boots

1-IMG_1812

Learning new skills

1-IMG_1259

Our helper

1-IMG_1810

It’s not glamorous, but somebody has to do it

1-IMG_1316

Digging for the septic tank

1-IMG_1181

Wyatt loves machines… and his Dad

1-IMG_1920

The house has arrived!

1-IMG_1934

Putting it on the piles

1-IMG_2300

Deck work

            

So, after an exhausting couple of months, our house was delivered. We didn’t get power until October (remember, everything takes twice as long as they tell you) and moved in November 2013. Not too shabby of a start to this wild and grand adventure! Now the fun part begins… our homesteading goals for 2014.

~Katy

Our Wild Horses

Husband and I took a trip with his father to feed our wild horse herd. After a 3 hour drive to our grazing lease, we were hoping to easily locate the groups. It was a cold day of -20F (ugh), but beautiful and sunny. The hay was loaded high on the trailer and the bag of oats were waiting as a bribe. Since the horses live without human contact for most of their lives, it’s not always guaranteed we’ll find them, but this day we were lucky. As we drove onto the lease, we found a large group of about 20 horses sunning themselves in a large field. A beautiful sight of fat and sassy well-wintered horses. This group was an especially welcome sight as  father in law hadn’t located them in awhile. They were all eager at the sight of the truck and even more excited about the oats. Maybe not so wild after all? It’s amazing to me that this is my life and I sometimes just stand there open mouthed in awe. Which is decidedly awkward for all involved, but hey, I’m getting better okay 🙂 Horses are such gorgeous animals and to see them in a large herd in the wild is kind of a cool thing. Definitely not something I thought I’d get to see let alone deal with on a daily basis. But life is funny like that, and I do like to laugh.

1-DSC_00051-DSC_00171-DSC_00181-DSC_0031
So where did these wonderful creatures come from and how did we end up with them? Well I lucked out in the marriage department as they are a result of my father in law’s old rodeo stock and outfitting pack horse stock. Our family used to provide rodeo’s with bucking horses and after they got out of that business, the remaining horses were released onto a grazing lease along with some mountain horse stock from the family outfitting business about 10-15 years ago. Now we have a hearty herd of wild horses with one remaining Tuchodi mare who they estimate to be about 30 years old (the white horse in the photos). She is the only one branded and the only one whose been ridden. Never thought I’d be in the business of breaking horses… I think maybe I’ll be the supervisor and ensure there is plenty of lemonade.
1-DSC_00401-DSC_0041
 There seem to be 2 main stud groups across the river grazing, a pale face pinto stud and a blue roan stud. The blue roan stud group is who we found and most of the mares look pregnant which means babies to look forward to this spring. We estimate the total count between 45-50 horses, so we will have our hands full this summer when we bring them over the river to our property and start managing them.  Managing them will include branding, gelding, breaking and introducing a new stud into the mare group which will be released back onto the grazing lease next fall. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. This is all quite new to me and I had to ask husband to check the above terms twice to make sure I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I think I nailed it. I look forward to learning and laughing and BABY HORSES!!  There will be plenty to do, but hopefully we have the resources and large men to help do it. I guess that’s the beauty of marrying a cowboy!
1-DSC_00511-DSC_0054
Springtime will bring the building of corrals, the clearing of pasture and reinforcing fences. Then we have to trap them, get them in a trailer and teach them some manners. All sounds easier said than done in my book, but hey, that’s what this adventure is for. Plus, I’ve waited 32 years for a horse of my very own… so why not start with 50… I was never one to half ass anything.
~Katy
1-DSC_00551-DSC_0061