Our 2014 Harvest

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The sunsets on the farm grow more spectacular as cold weather settles in

As the days grow colder and more of the leaves fall to the ground, I find myself thankful for the year we’ve had. Also, thankful for Canadian Thanksgiving and the fact that I now get to celebrate two Thanksgivings. Sweet!

This weekend we spent time with family sharing the bounty of the agriculture season in the Peace Valley, made some new friends, laughed, drank wine & whiskey and it turns out, Canada is starting to feel a little more like home. Clay and I have been working our tail feathers off trying to get some projects finished up before the snow comes, and throughout it all, I’ve been squirreling away our harvest slowly but surely. I’m amazed at how much we gathered this year without even having a legitimate garden. Thank goodness for foraging on the farm, a small hugelkultur bed and some very generous neighbors, family and friends.

It all began with the purchase of some month old chickens and the onset of saskatoon season. It took some time for the chickens to grow, but saskatoon season was ridiculously bountiful this year. Starting in July, we started to notice the small purple and red berries ripen and the amount of black bear sightings grow. I’ve never had a fresh saskatoon and didn’t know much about them, but wowza… we have a gold mine on the peace valley hills of our farm. There was much fun to be had picking them, and had many a friend offer to help with the labor – for payment in fresh berries of course. Happy to oblige. I successfully put up 60 lbs of saskatoons in the freezer, made 7 pints of jam and 3 liters of cordial. I usually make my cordial with Everclear, but apparently BC doesn’t sell the amazing 90 proof alcohol… lame. Next year will warrant a trip to Alberta I suppose. This year will have to settle for vodka.

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Saskatoons

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It’s hard work with a terrible view, but somebody has to do it 🙂 My husband picking saskatoons on a gorgeous day

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Saskatoons ready for the freezer

After saskatoon season died down, it was time for the chokecherries to ripen. I’ve also never had experience with chokecherries and was glad for insightful friends to point out our bushes. My mom and dad came for a visit during chokecherry season and I enjoyed picking and exploring with my mom, who happens to love chokecherry syrup. 20 pounds of chokecherries went to the deep freeze.

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Chokecherries

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My first chokecherry harvest. Yay wine!

Some family went on vacation and gave us access to their raspberry bushes, which we gladly filled our pails. We picked enough for 7 pints of jam and 3 liters of cordial.

I planted two heirloom tomoatoe plants, 2 zuchinin plants and 1 sugar pie pumpkin vine in my small hugelkutlur bed on the south side of our house. It proved to be a powerhouse producer and gave us fresh zucchini for 2 months. With the onset of a very early snow (September 7) I pulled the crop into the house and came out with 30 lbs of green heirloom tomatoes and 3 sugar pie pumpkins. Not too shabby, especially for my first attempt at tomatoes.

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My small veggie hugelkutlur bed

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Green tomatoes for everyone!

I waited for the tomatoes to ripen and ate them fresh plus roasted 20 pounds with garlic, herbs and olive oil – they too ended their journey in my freezer. Recipe found here.

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Visiting the local farmers market and fruit stand, I canned 10 quarts of dill pickles and 10 quarts of honey vanilla peaches with rosemary. I picked up 3 whole wild sockeye salmon and turned them into my famous jalapeno teriyaki smoked salmon. It felt good to butcher a salmon again and pull out the smoker. A little piece of home.

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The guy at the butcher counter asked if I needed any help… no thank you sir, this Alaska girl has got this

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Maynard bomb

The chickens started to lay eggs and I ended up with 5 laying hens and 8 roosters. The ladies started laying the first week of August and with 10 weeks of laying time behind us, we’ve gathered almost 20 dozen eggs. 5 of the roosters were butchered and thrown into the freezer.

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My ladies lovely eggs, one of each color

As fall settled on the Peace River, crab apples came into season and my neighbors were having trouble with bears ruining their crab apple trees. I graciously offered to help harvest to help lighten the load. My friend Shellie and I spent a brisk day picking apples, drinking tea and watching Sandhill cranes settle in the fields near by. I froze 40 pounds of crab apples when all was said and done and I was quickly running out of space in the my freezer.

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Adventures in crab appleing

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Harvesting with friends makes all the difference

Whew… well, so far that’s it.

Last week brought two trips to the U-brew in town and with the help of some lovely ladies I’m fortunate to call my friends, we made a batch of chokecherry wine, saskatoon wine and two batches of crab apple wine. It should leave me with 15 bottles each of saskatoon and chokecherry wine and 30 bottles of crab apple wine. Happy girl!

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Making wine. We used 5 kgs of honey per batch, which proved slow and sticky… very sticky

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Crab apples ready to ferment

The only things left to do are finish roasting more tomatoes acquired from our lovely crab apple neighbors, butcher 10 more chickens and hopefully harvest both an elk and a white tail deer (my favorite). We still have some time.

Good lord, no wonder I’m tired and ready for winter 🙂 Although, the work is never done and it will all just turn into cold work. But at least at the end of the day I can sit down, relax and enjoy a glass of harvest wine. I think we may be getting the hang of this homesteading thing…

Happy Harvest to you!

~Katy

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Some of our stash for the winter

2014 Harvest List:

  • 20 lbs frozen saskatoons
  • 7 pints saskatoon jam
  • 3 liters saskatoon cordial
  • 15 bottles of saskatoon wine
  • 7 pints raspberry jam
  • 3 liters of raspberry cordial
  • 15 bottles chokecherry wine
  • 10 lbs frozen chokecherries
  • 20 dozen farm fresh eggs
  • 20 lbs of Cherokee purple roasted heirloom tomoatoes
  • 3 sugar pie pumpkins
  • Loads of fresh zucchini
  • 10 qts dill pickles
  • 10 qts honey vanilla peaches with rosemary
  • 20 packages jalapeno teriyaki smoked salmon
  • 5 chicken bodies
  • 30 bottles crab apple wine

Autumn Colors & Ugly Chickens

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View of the garden plot and upper field from our deck

The Peace River Valley has come alive with the season of fall. The colors of the Peace hills are gorgeous and I am lucky to have an amazing view of them outside my windows. Everyday they grow more beautiful, and everyday we draw closer to duh-duh-DUH… winter. Now winter is not my favorite season, but it’s got to be higher on my list than most since I am a Northern girl through and through and, well, have spent most of my life in the cold and snow. It’s a beautfiul time of year, but nothing screams nature’s creativity like fall.

The deer are finding their way back to the fields and the coyotes are having yipping parties at night. We are busy harvesting, preserving and working at putting the farm to bed for the winter. After sitting down last week to compile our “to-do” list before winter hits, it dawned on us that we had a 1,000 things to do and about two weeks to do them… sweet. Story of our homesteading lives I suppose.

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Wyatt on his own personal Pride Rock

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Autumn colors last much longer in BC than in Alaska I’m happy to report

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Mama and two fawns enjoying the future garden plot

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And then… it happened. I heard a familiar noise coming from the sky. The unmistakable sound of the sand hill crane. Every spring in Alaska you hoped and wished to hear that sound. It meant the spring had truly arrived and all was well with the world. They were always a delight to see on the beach, always a special part of the Alaskan summer.

Anyway, here I was, in British Columbia, a very long way from a beach and I swear, I heard them call. This spring we had a mating pair of sand hill cranes rest by our dugout on their journey up to Alaska. I was ecstatic. Not only did it mean spring on the farm, it also meant I didn’t have to miss out on this little piece of home.

Well, this elusive sound graced our farm last week. Thousands of sand hill cranes came to stay. It’s the largest migration event I’ve ever witnessed and it was breathtaking. For days, you heard flocks and flocks arrive and pass over the house. I stalked large groups in our fields in an attempt to photograph this glorious event and came up with a few good images to share. They are skittish birds for sure.

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Yay!

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A flock of sand hill cranes with the Peace hills as a backdrop

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What a very lucky place to be. I’m so happy to have witnessed it and my heart is now full of their wonderful song. Goodbye cranes, see you next spring.

In other news, I got more chicks. Yes, I know, I’m officially a crazy chicken lady and I’ve come to terms with it. I couldn’t help myself. The woman down the street had more Gerty’s, and mother-of-all-that-is-adorable, they looked like this.

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Baby Gerty

In pure Katy fashion, I took the ugly one.

It has s split beak which is a deformity in the chicken world so I got it for free. And I’m in love.

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How could someone not love this??

I also took a few Bantam Frizzle Cochins to boot. I call them my stinky-crazy-haired bunch, the lot of them. Maynard is stoked on more babies in the house and checks on them regularly, and Wyatt is stoked on the open bag of chick food in the guest room.

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My beloved Frizzle Dizzle’s

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That hair! Those leg warmers!

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Nanny Maynard. He does this every 20 minutes if I leave the door open

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Sweet sleeping babies on a Friday night. I live a glamorous life y’know

We also got KITTENS! After Clay discovered a mouse had taken residence in his hockey bag, it was time to get some barn cats. Introducing Sushi (black) and Sake (tabby), the newest additions to Canadian Acres.

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Sake & Sushi

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I bet you can’t tell which door the kittens are behind…

As Fall comes to a close in 2014, I am happy and thankful. Happy that we’ve accomplished so much these past few months and thankful my house is full of laughter, kittens and ugly chickens. Thus is life on the farm.

Stay warm and don’t judge me if my house smells like a barn, I’m working on it.

~Katy