It is a rare thing to hear a story these days that holds some truth, let alone a story that becomes truthfully grander as time goes on. Most hunting, fishing, and outdoor adventuring type stories become farther from the truth each time they are told, each time the audience reacts and each time the story-teller gets excited to share a tale. Well folks, around these parts, we take our story-telling very seriously, as well as our wildlife and apparently, as well as our barn cats.
As summer started to dwindle and nights became darker and colder, the family found it’s way to a fun-filled wedding weekend in Edmonton. We got to trade our muck boots and mud for high-heels and tuxes and left the farm to it’s own devices for just a few short days. Upon return, my husband reported that everything looked ok. The horses looked fat and happy, our Mama cat Rosie and her new kitten were good and the only problem was that we had lost one chicken by his account. There were feather’s everywhere on the lawn (that is the extent of his account because my husband has absolutely no idea how many chickens we have, what their names are or what color they might be). Bummed for the one loss, I was happy that our only issue was this. Our initial assumption was that a hawk had found it’s way into the chicken run and that was that.
Our chicken coop is a revamped sea-can with a large, fenced, partially covered outdoor run. The fencing is buried into the ground, but does have open areas above. The run itself is nature-scaped with plenty of natural trees and shrubs for cover, and for the most part, the chickens are pretty safe in there. When I returned home the next day, I did some sleuthing… checking out the feathers on the lawn (odd place for a predator to stop for a snack?) I realized it was one of my current Mama hens, so it would have been very strange for her to be so far away from the coop. The predator must have carried her to this place. Her chicks were accounted for and thankfully an Aunty had stepped in to care for them. Upon further inspection, I noticed a large hole in our run door that hadn’t been there before, and surmised that a coyote or fox probably got into the run and grabbed Mama. Well, mystery solved and farm life is hard and all that jazz. We stapled up the hole and moved on with our lives.
A few days later, I was sitting on the couch feeding my son. I heard the unmistakeable sound of my rooster Rollo alerting the flock to danger. I got up and looked out at the chicken run, where the chickens were all running and showing major signs of distress. Last summer we lost a few chickens to a black bear who I had to shoot (this is a story for another time) and I knew exactly what I was seeing… there was a predator in our yard. Thinking that the coyote had returned, I put my flip-flops on and headed out to scare it away. Typical day on the farm!
Coyotes aren’t the bravest animals on the planet and they usually just run off at the sight of a human. If it was a bear, I’d see or hear it and could run back to the house for the gun. As soon as the chickens saw me they booked it to the front steps (save yourself!) and left me for dead. I couldn’t hear or see anything, which was odd. I got up to the front of the chicken run and started to look around. It was very quiet. Too quiet.
Suddenly I saw our barn cat Rosie fly out of nowhere into the air behind the run and go after something like a Mama bear on a hiker. Rosie had previously kicked the sh*t out of a friends dog after having her kitten in July so I knew she was in full-on Mama bear mode. Then a very large animal jumped up out of the bush and turned tail to book it, with Rosie tasmania-deviling it out of the yard. Now Rosie is not a large domesticated cat, far from it. She is an itty-bitty thing, but has never had much fear growing up with two pit bulls, a toddler, a big ole rooster and the wild. But man did she just go toe-to-toe with this thing. Full body throttle.
This all happened very quickly and I immediately ran for the gun. How odd, I thought, for a coyote to just sit there and watch me as I looked for it, and how badass for Rosie to chase a coyote out of the yard! I grabbed our lever action 30-30 and headed back out to the road towards the Wolf Woods area of our farm. For those of you who remember, the Wolf Woods are where our pit bull Wyatt fought off several wolves about 100 ft from our house and lived to tell the tale (story here – I told you we take our wildlife seriously). Rosie came prancing back into the driveway, puffed up tail wagging and quiet proud of herself and I wasn’t about to go traipsing in Wolf Woods by myself. I gathered the chickens, locked them up and headed back for the house. But I couldn’t shake something… that it very much looked like a large cat turning to run, like, it used both of its back feet to push off and coyotes, and wolves and bears don’t run like that. Hmmmm… weird. Had to have been a coyote.
The next night, Clay went off to hunt for elk and I was outside at dusk doing evening chores. The kids were in bed and the chickens were tucked in and I was having a nice moment of enjoying the fresh air and night befalling the farm. I thought I saw something odd to the right of our house and headed that way to get a better look. Nothing scary odd, just, out of place, different? I don’t really know. As I started off in the direction of the oddity, Rosie cat came running up to join me. It is not unusual for any of my walks to be joined by some sort of farm critter, wether they have hair, fur or feathers so I was glad for the company. But she wouldn’t let me walk. She started attacking my legs and biting my feet, hard. I tried to shake her off, telling her she was a silly cat, but she persisted. After a particularly hard bite, I knew something was up. I stopped walking, told her (loudly) “okay, we won’t go that way anymore” and turned around for home. We both ran to the porch and I quickly went inside. A rush of panic flowed through me and I just didn’t know why… but I knew there was something out there and Rosie knew it. Clay soon got home after a scaredy pants text from me and all was well once again.
The next morning, Clay went out for an early elk hunt. Just as the sun was shining it’s full morning strength and the kids and I were having breakfast we heard a large “BANG!” from the driveway. I rushed to the door and saw Clay with his gun drawn staring into Wolf Woods. I opened the door and shouted “The coyote? Did you get it?” He looked at me and said “Nope. It was a cougar and I f*&%ing missed.” WHAT?!
He stayed out a few more minutes searching but figured the cat took off after being shot at. He came inside, sat down looking a bit shaken and told me he had run into a cougar coming out of our cabin road onto the driveway. He slammed on his breaks, grabbed his gun and his shells and ran up the road to see if he could still see it. Once he got around the corner, he had a split second to take a shot as it jumped into Wolf Woods (damn freaking woods!) and barely missed it. This was the first sighting of a cougar on our property in the five years we’ve been here and he was in shock. And.so.was.I.
All of a sudden it all made so much sense, the series of events over the past few days came together like a puzzle piece. A freaking big-ass-cat puzzle piece. WTF. Ok, cool, so I just had a cougar taking out my chickens, watching me like a sneaky bastard while I hoedy-doe’d around in my flip-flops, hanging out on the farm like it’s no big thang because I’m a mutha-effing COUGAR! I don’t trust a small house cat let alone a large man-killing cat just hanging out ready to maul me and my kin at a minutes notice, what the what. Wait, scratch that, I TOTALLY TRUST A SMALL CAT BECAUSE ROSIE IS A BADASS!!! We were officially on high alert. We tracked cougar tracks all over the yard and into the bush. The Conservation Officer that we called wasn’t interested in our story, just told us to keep the chickens enclosed and make sure we supervise our children (really?). We didn’t really know what to do other than hope that it had been scared off and be extra aware. The 30-30 was hung above the door (Pa Ingalls would be proud) and we did what we could, but to say we were shaken in a whole new way on the farm is an understatement. I did a few stories on my instagram, word got out around town, there was talk of hounds and hunters but mostly, things quieted down.
A few weeks have gone by and no new sights or incidents have occurred that we know of. The chickens have been free ranging again without incident, our guard puppy is growing, Rosie got spayed, we have a dead bear hanging from the tractor, you know, back to our farm normal (bear season is open and we have a plethora on our land). We finally had time to switch out some game camera cards last night after a busy week of hosting my parents and we were excited to see what we got (Game cam picture viewing is a big deal at our house). Like I said, in the five years we’ve lived on our property we’ve never once seen a cougar or captured one on our many game cams. It’s actually pretty unheard of in this area to do either. We know that they’re “around” but they’re cats, they are supposed to keep to themselves. Well ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our findings from a game cam posted about a quarter mile from my front door, just past our horse corrals:
Not one cougar, but two. Two. Cougars. As in more than one cougar. Like, two cougars. TWO COUGARS.
So, here ends my truthful tale, one in which ended up grander than where we began. Never in a million years would we have guessed we had a problem cougar let along two problem cougars. We think it’s probably a Mama cat and a yearling “cub” (ha!) and hope to hope that they have moved on out of our neck of the woods. I guess we can now start calling it Cougar Wolf Woods? Sounds like something a hipster would name their child. Good lord. It’s a good lesson in following your instincts (I knew it was a cat – I knew Rosie was trying to tell me something) and to always, always listen to your Mama.
And Rosie cat… you have forever earned my respect and fellowship and I am so honoured to have you on the Canadian Acres team. You are an original gangster and a legend. Wyatt would be proud.
Stay safe folks and always have your 30-30 handy.
Well, it’s been ages since I’ve last written, but I promise you I did not put waste to that time. Life got in the way of my writing time, hell, personal time and the blog was one of the first things to suffer. But I hope to remedy that as I find some new pockets of time after having my second baby and our summer season finds more rain than I’ve ever seen in this country.
It’s a bit intimidating coming back to the page… where to start, what to say, how to catch you up on the last hundred years of my absence…so here’s a general run down: I went back to work, we got turkeys, I started a small-batch gourmet canning business and started selling at local markets on the side of my town gig, we built a greenhouse, we had more colts, we had more chickens, I shot a bear who ate said chickens, we made, grew, foraged and hunted a bunch of our own food, we butchered the turkeys, I got pregnant, I got my Permaculture Design Certificate from OSU, we went to Hawaii, our first baby grew into a full blown toddler, we got a LDG puppy, I had the other baby and now, here we are. Phew. Some other stuff happened too, but I’ll get to that later. Or not. Let’s be honest, I’m in no position to make any promises to you. For now, I want to share a recipe that recently bloomed on the farm.
I am a huge lover of wild foraging in the Peace River Valley and just recently the Wild Rose came into bloom. I’ve used the Wild Rose in many creations over the years, my favourite is its use in my skin salves and skin products as it’s a highly beneficial plant. But lately I’ve delved into the wonderful world of the wild flower culinary scene and I can’t get enough. Fireweed was my gateway “herb” and I haven’t looked back since. Oh to be an adult.
I started by making some Wild Rose Sugar which is a staple in my morning (and 2nd breakfast and elevenses and afternoon and evening) tea. Hey, I’m breastfeeding and running around behind a toddler and running a farm and a small business, I need a lot of tea. I’ve also used it when baking delicious deserts and dusting anything frosted in this wonderful stuff. But how could I take that to the next level? I NEED MORE WILD ROSE IN MY LIFE AND IN MY BELLY! I won’t calm down, you calm down.
And so it was born, the combination of a few different recipes, but ultimately my favourite – my Wild Rose Jam. I LOVE the combination of something wild but delicate and ladies and gents, this is IT. So far I’ve mostly eaten out of the jar and on homemade bread, but hope to slather my cookies, my cakes and my meats with it real soon.
For those of you lucky locals, this product is coming to a Farmer’s Market near you real soon! It’s been pH tested by a lab to ensure that it is safe to can in a water bath method.
Wild Rose Jam – Makes 10 – 125ml jars (ish)
4 cups of fresh wild rose petals, cleaned
4 cups of sugar
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 cups of water
1 pouch of liquid pectin
Take some time on a beautiful day to harvest wild rose petals. Sort through your bounty and separate the petals from any pollen, stems, leaves, bugs and dirt. Rinse rose petals in a salad spinner and spin dry. Add the lemon juice and 1 cup of sugar to rose petals in a bowl and massage until makes a paste. This will release the colour and perfume. Let sit while you combine the water with the remaining sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved and add rose petal paste. stir well and bring to boil. Revel in the intoxicating scent that fills your kitchen, dancing encouraged.
Boil for 20 minutes and add pectin. Hard boil for another 10 minutes. Test jam in freezer on frozen spoon for consistency. You don’t want to cook for too long or you will lose the delicate colour of the jam. Clean and sterilize your jars, rings and lids by either running them in the dishwasher right before you fill them or wash in hot soapy water with a good rinse. Pour jam into hot jars, wipe rims clean and place lids. Tighten rings until finger tight. Place in water bath for 10 mins.
This jam is slightly syrupy and won’t set up as a hard jam. Once placed in the fridge overnight though, the consistency is divine and spreads beautifully on some home made whole wheat bread.
As for me, we continue to be as busy as bees on the farm and I will do my very best to bring this blog back to life. Happy Summer folks! It’s a beautiful day.
Spring has sprung! Just kidding, it snowed 5 inches last night. But I guess that’s the North’s equivalent to a March shower. Thank goodness it turned into a gorgeous bluebird day and all faith was restored in knowing that spring is just around the corner. Although I realize that many of the people I follow on instagram should go ahead and suck it because they remind me constantly that spring actually exists right now in other, nicer, prettier places (not that I’m bitter. My husband told me I sounded bitter, and I had to remind him that, well, yes, I am bitter). All I want in life is a greenhouse that I can putter in during these low temps, but noooooooo…. I don’t even have a south facing window to spare anymore because I have what I like to refer to as Hurricane Toddler living in my tiny indoor space. I also have chickens living in my spare room… You know, normal people springtime problems. Le sigh.
My last post was all about the many things we have to do on our goal’s list for this year. After creating this list, I noticed something… it all weighs a little heavy on my mind. I love planning and doing and working hard, but with the addition of our son last February, life has taken a new twist. I find myself wanting to surround myself with the things that bring me joy more often. It also could be due to the fact that I celebrated my 35th year on this planet recently, but life is just too damn short to be worried and stressed all of the time. Can I get an Amen?!
So I sat down and made a list of “things to do” of another kind – one that focused on my emotional being rather than the logistical reality that is our homesteading life. Because it’s all related, and I needed to start looking forward to our tasks instead of feeling heavy and dreadful. Dreadful. I like that word. Fun to say. Sucks to be.
Anywho… here’s the list:
This was huge for me. I’m always pushing myself to do more. I run a homestead and work a real job, so I’m always needing to do more, to be more… unless… Maybe I don’t. Maybe the key is to not “do more”, just “do different”. Take the things that don’t bring me joy in my everyday life and replace them with the things that do. Sounds simple right? Alas, not always so. Because life has a way of being a cock blocker and keeping you from happiness… and by cock blocker, I mean running defence on my frisky rooster Beatrix because he was being a dick today… or something like that.
It’s the small things in life that make all the difference and the small changes I’ve made have already lightened my load and brought me joy. I don’t need to plug-in to social media for too much time looking at too many things that make absolutely no positive impact on my life whatsoever… I’d rather be cuddling my son or hiking with my dogs (and cat) or training the chickens who live in my house. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I just make sure I am present and practice intention in making those decisions. You know, like doing yoga instead of drinking wine at night. Hahaha…. just kidding. That would be ridiculous. I can definitely do both of those things and have them equally me joy. I haven’t lost my mind completely. Yet.
Using this model I began to reshape our 2017 list of Goals to emphasize and focus on bringing more joy to the farm and spaces we live in. Things started to pop out – like how the acre garden has been too much work and not enough joy. Solution – creating a better and more useful space for me to spend time down there, especially with a toddler. Farm chores can be a hassle, so now we are brainstorming ways to make them more efficient… easier for us to accomplish them while enjoying the work we do. I realize this is no new concept and that there are a hundred ways to go about it, but for me, this has been a revelation and I am joyfully looking forward to the work at hand and ahead. And sharing it all with you.
So even though this morning brought 5 inches of fresh snow, the afternoon brought sunshine and blue skies, so me, my son and all of our critters set out and found lots and lots of joy.
How do you find joy in your everyday life or work?
I almost just shot a coyote!
My god… how life has changed. But if a creepers gonna creep on my flock, I’m going to have to take them out. Just call me Laura Ingalls effing Wilder. No, don’t do that. I don’t think she’d approve. Plus, I don’t know if she’d actually shoot a coyote, but it’s 2017 baby, and this farm girl’s got a gun!
Hey all! It’s me, y’know that sweet sweet blogger you’ve missed hearing from? I can officially say that I completely failed all of you in the year of 2016. Like, seriously. I had three blog posts. Three. Ugh. The worst. But I’m back! And better than ever! Well, I don’t know about the better part, but definitely back. More prepared maybe. After having a kid, I seem to have snacks on me at all times so that is an improvement.
In the past, I’ve started the year out with a recap of our past years goals, how far we’ve come and what life is looking like for the New Year. I did a great recap of 2016 already, and for the most part it covered our goals and accomplishments. You can catch up here if you missed it. You will see in our current list of goals and aspirations, we seem to have lost our minds and decided that we can, and should do all of the things.
Who needs sleep anyway.
I’m headed back to work a real job in March so things should get so busy that we’ll be taken down a few notches, but for now, here’s our list:
I suppose that sums it all up. Seems doable, and if not, definitely a lesson in patience. I must say, I can’t remember a time when I have ever felt more fulfilled with my daily life or with where I am. It truly feels as if we are in the exact right place at the exact right time. And with the state of the world today, it feels good to be connected to our land, our family, our community and our happiness. 2017 will be a year to learn, grow, be kind and over all else – love.
What’s on your plate for 2017?
So apparently, I can’t do it all. I apologize, as you all seem to get the brunt of that. Life has been amazingly good, but oh so busy and it seems that sitting in front of a computer in my office area does not make it high on the priority list these days. I’m saving for a laptop to change those ways hopefully soon, but until that day, pardon my manners and allow me to attempt to catch you up on what’s been happening on the farm. So.Many.Things. I suppose I’ll start where our biggest challenges began this summer. Managing a new baby on the farm, getting stuff done and keeping our sanity. We seemed to get at least two out of those three things accomplished.
Bowman is growing fast and keeping us on our toes. He decided to crawl at 6 months and hasn’t stopped moving, and now it’s a whole different level of parenting around here. The dogs have warmed up to the idea of having him mobile – well Wyatt mostly tries to poach his food and Maynard has become a full duty Nanny, which includes 20 minute check-ins, constant face/hand/area clean up, warning growls in case of intruding baby snatchers and judgmental stares if he thinks I’m being neglectful of the cries coming from the nursery. I finally understand the whole “pit bull nanny dog” title. So there’s that. The chickens seem curious and the cat is super tolerant. He also loves to hitch rides in the stroller on our walks. The horses too are curious, and nothing brings a smile to Bowman’s face faster than one of the animals. All in all, life has continued on the farm and our little one fits right in.
In the beginning, we were unsure how life, let alone farming life would happen with a baby added to the mix. It seemed… overwhelming I guess, to haul around a little person and get what we needed to accomplished done, especially outside and safely. How would we get chores done? Plant the garden? Tend the animals? Harvest? There was so much to do, and we lead such busy lives, how could we possibly do it all?
Well for one, I started drinking coffee. That helped.
But as I said before, even with coffee, we couldn’t do it all. That was the first thing we had to accept as new parents. It just wasn’t feasible to get it all done. I also had to relax a bit more on my level of perfection I’m used to. I had to learn to live with the weed infested gardens (very weed infested), the un-washed floors, the piling up paperwork in the office, the un-sent birth announcements (sorry) and the un-made beds (just kidding… I’m not an animal). Not an easy task for me, but with practice, patience and a few tears, I learned to let go. I also had to maximize nap time. That was huge. On nice days, our baby monitor could reach most places around the house or he would sleep outside. On rainy, stormy days I got a hell of a lot of canning done. Prioritize and maximize people.
Baby wearing has been a lifesaver for both of us. Yes, that’s right, my husband (proudly) wears his son, often. It frees up our hands to get chores done and is also a convenient way for me to ride with him in the SxS. We also relied heavily upon our Pack n’ Play, our stroller and a shade gazebo we put up on our deck. The days get very sunny and hot in the summer and it was imperative that I had a sanctuary for the baby as well as the dogs and me. We also made adjustments so I could have some garden areas closer to the house which made it easier to tend and gather dinner supplies. It all worked out to be a great system for us.
As we did more, we grew more confident and learned new ways of doing things. We also learned that our little guy is definitely a farm kid. He went with the flow for most things and took this lifestyle in stride. Our productivity went up and we started to get more things done. We also took time to enjoy ourselves, our new life and our newest family member. I think that was the most important lesson of all. We went on hikes, to parties, swimming, on picnics, lounged in the sun and even went on a quad trip into the mountains for the long weekend. And you know what? The farm thrived! The gardens produced, the animals were happy, projects got started and finished and the weeds lived happily ever after. It was a glorious summer and we took full advantage, and it turns out, living our life with a baby isn’t hard. It’s just our life, except now we have to remember to pack diapers.
So we adventure on and head into the winter months! We have lots of travel coming our way and I hope to update you more on our busy busy summer soon. Have a great day and remember, keep love in your heart and kindness in your thoughts, rise to meet your challenges, remain optimistic that anything can be done and never, ever underestimate the power of coffee.