I’m back! Sorry it’s been awhile, I was on a gorgeous 10 day Caribbean vacation with my family loading up on Vitamin D and too much wine (and a little bit of whiskey for good luck). So it’s back to reality for us here at Canadian Acres. The snow is gone (thank god) and the burned areas are so nice and green. Everything else remains brown and dirty, but hey, baby steps. Up here in the North, sometimes you just have to say to yourself over and over – Summer is coming (eat your heart out Ned Stark).
Clay and I arrived home from San Juan on Sunday evening, after a very long and cluster filled line of flights. Our luggage didn’t arrive until Tuesday. In my own brilliance, I of course scheduled to pick up our 14 one month old chicks the following day, Monday at 6:30pm. Brilliant. Upon awakening Monday morning, we realized that the brooder was not finished, the set-up was not started and we honestly had no idea what we were doing. By the time 4:30pm rolled around, we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off (pun intended). I had a melt down because we didn’t have any staples that fit the staple gun (we did, I just put them in wrong) and when we finally went to put the brooder into the spare room, it didn’t fit through the hallway door (I did ask him a few times if the measurements were right). So basically we were total panicked first time parents. Since we had to leave to go pick them up, we quickly set up one brooder in the living room so that Clay could make some adjustments to the other one later that night.
With the extra large dog kennel packed in the back of the 4Runner we headed down the road to our neighbors house to pick up our chicks. I was so excited! Clay was… not as excited. The lady who was keeping them for us helped us catch them and get them into the kennel, gave us 2 dozen eggs and we were off on our very own chicken adventure.
Then I realized… chickens in my living room! Oh no.
But soon enough they were settled into the spare room and making a mess like nobody could believe. I fell in love instantly with their little peeps and their curious eyes. The brooder Clay made is wonderful and just perfect for their needs as of now. It is 4 x 4 square with a plywood bottom and has plastic chicken wire lining the sides. We hooked up a heating lamp from above, spread out some pine chips, built a perch, placed in a feeder, a waterer and a thermometer. The next day, I added some clumps of dirt and grass from outside to add to their activities during the day along with a bowl of grit to help with their digestion. Whew, it all seemed pretty easy.
Things I have learned thus far – Day 4:
All of the chickens are very wild and haven’t had much human contact for the first month of their lives. I make sure to take time each day to catch a few and hold them and pet them. I also feed them out of my hand which they have grown to love. So far, there are definitely a few favorites. When we picked up the chicks, the woman did ask me a few times if I was sure I wanted to take the “turkey neck” crossed chicken as she would always look like, well essentially a vulture with a toupee. I have never been one to shy away from the needy, less attractive critters so of course I would take her! She is definitely a favorite. Ornery, but adorable.
This batch of chicks are known as Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers. Basically, they have Americauna genes (blue and green egg layers) mixed and crossed with other breeds to make a variety of colored eggs. Just what I’ve always wanted 🙂
I decided to name them after popular Victorian names (old lady names as I call them) and without further ado, introducing a few of the newest additions to Canadian Acres (okay, catching and holding and taking photos has proven challenging):
With all of this chicken excitement, I bet you are wondering what our chicken coop is looking like. Well, for the first few days, it wasn’t even here yet. But Clay, his dad and his brother fixed that by bringing it (carefully) down our road and into our driveway. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing our soon to be chicken coop!
Our very own sea can which we acquired for free (amazing, thank you Mom-in-law). It has A LOT of work to be done to get it outfitted for the chickens, but we are very blessed and happy for the opportunity to make it into a coop that will meet our needs and the needs of our chickens. Not too shabby for only being home for 5 days 🙂 Let the games begin, and may the odds be ever in our favor!
It’s been a busy week for us at the farm. The weather is warm but the wind is howling! We’ve been having a major battle with our road (pictures to come soon) but for the most part we are anxious for the snow to disappear. The fields and hills have been clearing fast and the critters are out in full force. Even the hawks have come out to play. We have ravens building nests nearby and I am attempting to master my raven call. I’ve had luck calling one in, but then it stopped real short and looked very surprised to find me 🙂 I obviously need to get out more. They have quite the vocabulary so I guess I’ll keep on learning.
We just got back from checking all three trail cams and oh my, what we did find! We finally captured the long sought after wolf – this really is Winterfell!!
Now it’s time for spring to bring us some baby animal pics!
We’ve been busy around here at Canadian Acres. Spring seems to finally have sprung, and with it brings terrible farm road conditions. Will I ever be able to wear shoes other than muck boots again? Oh well, no time to worry about that now, there is so much to do!
This weekend we burned the land around both our house and the guest cabin. Now that’s what I call a hot date on a Friday night. Burning rejuvenates the land, clearing old growth to generate new growth. It also adds nitrogen to the soil and it’s good practice to keep wildfires at bay. The weather has warmed and I finally enjoyed my cold beer without freezing my hand. It’s the little things in life, y’know. This is the beginning of our lofty landscaping goals and we had a wonderful evening enjoying our backyard.
The farm has plenty of wildlife visitors as the fields clear of snow and uncover wheatie goodness from last falls harvest. What joy to wake up to such guests daily. The whitetail deer have become regulars (I just love those tails), and flocks of Canadian geese bed down at night and leave for the river early, making sure to wake us with their calling. Geese! It must be spring! Our dog Wyatt is unimpressed by all these new “intruders” and finds pleasure in his guard duties. Oh how thankful I am that he is slow. One of our trail cams captured our first predator, a wily coyote that has been eluding Wyatt for sometime now. My hunter husband is itching to spot him with his gun handy. I am adamant that we keep our upper field as a sort of refuge which means no killing things on purpose, so we’ll see how that goes.
The wolf pack came through again at the end of March and judging by the size of their tracks… my, what big wolves we have. I caught a photo comparison of our dog Maynard’s paw print next to a wolf track and it’s crazy! Maynard is not a small dog, a greyhound pit bull mix weighing in at 75-80 lbs, so that’s a big freaking wolf. Both dogs were on high alert for a few days and peed on, well, everything. We’re hoping to catch the pack on one of our trail cams, so fingers crossed. Clay got his spring bear tag and the season opened on April 1st, so we are hoping to find signs of waking bears soon.
Today was the last feeding of the wild bunch for a bit since the road is thawing and does not make for easy transport of large amounts of hay. Good news is that we have another baby! An adorable pinto baby that I love and want to keep forever. It’s a good thing I always listen to my husband and don’t get too attached. Our corral plans are coming along nicely and I just found out I get to learn a new skill – peeling logs for our corral rails… sounds fun, right? Well, except that there are 500 to do. At least once it’s done, it’s done. Next, we’ll be clearing the 40 acres we’ve designated for the horses of trees and finishing the fencing. Which will coincide with the building of the chicken coop and putting up the garden fence and planting said garden and teaching the dogs to love chickens and wearing our muck boots and occasionally sleeping and… Like I said, we have much to do.
Speaking of chicken coops, I finally ordered my chickens! Come end of May, we’re adding 25 little chicks to the family. I can’t wait to figure out how to keep Maynard from eating them. Ah, adventures in farming… where the mud runneth over and the work never ends. Happy Spring!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.