If you know me in my new farm life, you know that my life is never without chicken drama, most of which I refer to as The Young and the Nestless. It is a never ending cycle of broody-bitchy hens, obnoxious egg songs (some hens actually “sing” after they lay an egg, although it’s less of a song and more of a hey-I’m-being-murdered sound), a cat who thinks he’s a chicken, and too many roosters for one person to handle. I even got rooster sperm on my arm once trying to save a hen from a gang-bang. That’s right. Rooster. Sperm. On. My. Arm.
Lately, the drama has gotten real. My chickens free range during the summer months which means they are unsupervised on the property most days. Not only does this mean my newly planted perennial beds are forever mussed, it also means there is a chance of egg hiding. Add in ridiculously warm sunny weather and a stifling hot coop and you get no eggs for days.
After two weeks of getting one egg a day (thanks Izzie), Clay and I searched and searched and searched for their hidden stash to no avail. I even tried to bribe my so called chicken-cat into telling me where this elusive nest was. The dogs were no help and I figured I’d have to do some sleuthing (slash stalking) to find the treasure. The game was on.
Of course, the hens were immediately on to my plan and just gave me the run around… and the goose eye. Come on ladies, don’t I do everything for you? Don’t I feed you and give you snacks and fresh water and straw and struggle snuggle you any chance I can get? They weren’t having it. At least I knew I wouldn’t be dealing with more chicks since they all headed into the coop for the night. They’ve successfully tricked the two broodies in the coop who are confused as to why they have no eggs to set upon. Georgia and Florence – give it up ladies, you’re being broody for no one.
Sunday afternoon I was ready to give up… My biggest fear was that some adorable fox would happen upon this magical stash of easter eggs, devour them, go looking for more tasty treats and run away with my chicken-cat to have fox-chicken-cat babies that would show up in season 3 reeking havoc… typical chicken farmer stuff y’know.
But then I heard it…
someone was being murdered someone had laid an egg and they were singing their song! I rushed outside and found Georgia, curiously off of her broody horse, heading for the bushes. She was on the search as well so I put Maynard on point and headed into the depths of our chicken yard. And then I found her. Betty, setting atop a pile of eggs. Hooray! The search had ended and now, now I was in the loop. I waiting impatiently for Betty to do her thing and promptly scooped up 25 eggs. 25 eggs! The ladies were busy.
A friend recommended I do the water test by floating them in water – if they stay at the bottom they are good, if they float to the top they are bad. I was happy as could be. I had solved the chicken drama.
In retrospect, I should have known it was too good to be true. Rookie mistake in taking all of the eggs off the nest. Turns out they didn’t want me in the know and now I have no eggs in the coop and no eggs in the outside nest. Damn. The search continues. At least the chicken-cat is still with us and the broodies are back in the boxes. I’ll take what normalcy I can get.
Until next time folks, beware the rooster sperm… beware.
Almost one month since my last post and it feels like it’s been roughly 3 days. The garden is growing, the weeds are growing faster and the sunlight is lessening each day. It’s been a busy month at the farm, full of adventure, weeding, chicken drama and fun. Lately though, we’ve been focused on one thing. Harvesting.
Yes, it has begun. The garden is producing WAY too many zucchini and not enough peas, and the land has started our favorite time of year – saskatoon season. For those of you who may not be familiar to saskatoons, they are a delicious berry that taste somewhat like a cross between a blueberry and a plum. We have tons and tons of bushes on the farm and this year we’re in the middle of a bumper crop. Our hands (and faces) have been stained purple for weeks and Maynard has been leaving presents on the lawn that scarily resemble bear scat. Boy oh boy, he sure does love his saskatoons!
So far, I’ve put away 20 lbs in the freezer, given away 5 pounds to a friend and used fresh saskatoons on a baked brie that is to die for. Yesterday, three of us picked for 2 hours and walked away with I would say 60-80 lbs. No accurate count as of yet because they are still awaiting me to process them. Nothing like working an 8 hour day just to get home and process endless amounts of saskatoons! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve really enjoyed learning all of the ways to eat and preserve saskatoons, my favorites being a wine I made last year (yum) and this recipe for Saskatoon Crumble. I actually don’t remember where this came from, but it’s delicious and works like a charm:
Saskatoon Berry Crisp:
*1 cup flour
*3/4 cup rolled oats
*1 cup brown sugar
*1/2 cup butter
*1 tsp cinnamon
– Combine to make crumbs. Press half into a greased 8 x 8 pan.
*1 cup sugar
*1 cup water
*2 tbsp cornstartch
*1 tsp vanilla
*4 cups Saskatoons
– Spread the saskatoons onto pressed crumbs mixture. Boil remaining ingredients and pour hot over berries. Cover with remaining crumb mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown.
Enjoy! And don’t give any to Maynard, he’s already had enough to last him through next year.
Next on the list to make is jam, syrup, more wine, some liqueur, muffins and more. How blessed are we to live on land that gives so much.
What’s your favorite berry to forage?
2015 is officially half over and I must say, we do have much to show for it. The weather has been sunny and HOT here in Northern BC and although it’s nice to see the sun, this Northern girl has a love-hate relationship with 85 degrees (Fahrenheit that is). But it has made for some memorable days and my tomatoes are loving it!
That’s right folks, I have tomatoes planted in the ground and growing. I know, I know, I never thought I’d get there but after a lot of freaking work and a little bit of luck (that goes by the name of Laura) we successfully built, planted, mulched and irrigated about 1/2 an acre or our first ever Canadian Acres garden. HOORAY!! Though I will say that it would never have been possible without the help of my husband and my dear friend Laura, who most awesomely decided to make the trek from Alaska and spend her vacation doing manual labor. How great is that!After a bit of a, ahem, delay, Laura showed up on the last Sunday in May.
Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one excited to see her.
She came bearing work gloves and a cooler full of Alaska made beer (BEST.FRIEND.EVER) and we spent the evening plotting our next week’s work and exploring the farm a bit. I had drawn out a somewhat legit schematic of the start of the food forest and the beds I wanted to put in and it seemed impossible to get all that work done in one week. Well, as you may already know, impossible is our middle name – Canadian Impossible Work Load Acres. That’s us!
First things first – borrow a hand rototiller and rototill the area in need of planting. Laura was on the job and as I left early the next morning for my day job, I felt both hopeful and terribly bad for leaving my friend to do my farm job. The day was sunny, the ground was wet and she got the workout of a lifetime. And did an amazing job. Day 1 down.
Next up was plotting and staging the food forest and digging a ton of holes. Turns out, hole digging is not my forte so I was glad Laura was such a bad ass at it. I made up for it later, but man was I glad for her help. The cat and dogs were very good supervisors. Wyatt took his job so seriously that week he rarely left the side-by-side. He would refuse to get out of it, reminding us that we were slacker’s when we took a break. That’s Old Man Wyatt for you… well, at least when he wasn’t sleeping on the job/hatchet.
We planted 12 fruit trees and 25 fruit/nut bushes and canes. Things started to come together.
Day 3 Laura spent the morning staking out our 100′ x 4′ rows with stakes and string, preparing us to dig, dig, dig as I wanted to create raised beds. In the North it’s good practice as to help dry them out in our wet springs and warm them up for earlier planting. The plan is to eventually be a no-till garden so this will also come in handy when we are hand manipulating our beds. Laura and I each took a side of the first row and started digging and piling up the dirt. Our backs were aching, our hands were dirty and our lives would never be the same!
Long story short – this next photo:
After feeling immensely proud, we immediately rented a mini excavator after that first row. There was no possible way we a) wanted to hand dig 20 more 100′ rows and b) would possibly have time for it. I mean, we had lots of Alaska beer to drink. So I spent the $200, Clay picked up the machine in the morning and we spent that day piling rows. This was my redemption as apparently I’m quite talented in the excavator department.
We did it! We had our rows measured, staked and piled. Now we needed to rake and smooth and we’d be ready to plant! And then we’d actually have to plant, and water, and mulch and thin, and WEED and water and trellis and… Ah yes, the joys of gardening.
On the last few days of Laura’s trip we got down to business. We planted six of the rows and kept the newly planted food forest alive. The days were hot and we both covered in dirt, but we felt like real farmer’s and the sense of accomplishment was astounding. There is nothing quite like the feeling of planting and preparing to grow your own food. The dream was coming true.
Now, don’t worry everybody. I know what you’re thinking – but Katy, with all of that work how did you possibly have any time for fun? Remember who you’re talking to… there is always fun to be had at Canadian Acres.
The day after Laura left for my homeland, I spent the Sunday planting the rest of the garden, getting 5 more rows done. Over the next few weeks, Clay and I installed soaker hoses and sprinklers on a timer as to minimize the amount of after-full-time-job chores in the garden.
The garden is 3 weeks old and already I am reminded the gardening teaches patience, guidance and sore knees. The weeds are ever growing and I am entrenched in a grass battle I like to refer to as: I fought the lawn and the lawn won. But all in all, it’s amazing to witness our little seeds and plants start to thrive and spend my mornings and evenings surrounded by the sounds of the country… and Wyatt’s snoring from the side-by-side.
Yo ho ho… a farmer’s life for me.
How did your garden grow this June?
Whatamightygoodman… May chewed us up and spit us out into June. Where did the time go?? Ah yes, it went into 2 trip’s south, 1 trip east, 16 new chicks, 1 rototilling machine, 2 fundraisers planned (day job), 2 loads of aged cow manure, 330 feet of water line, 1 new farm truck, dozens of seeds/plants, 10 billion mosquito bites, 2 dog skin rashes, 2 seeded fields, 1 river crossing, 2 portages and a hummingbird in an aspen tree… and that’s just the half of it!
I traveled east to Washington D.C. for my cousin’s wedding in the middle of May. Although there was much to do on the farm, I was ecstatic to see my family and my best friend Melinda for 5 short days. It was an amazing trip and although a long trek home, my cup was refilled.
This is where I get to brag about that wonderful man of mine. While I was away, Clay was… busy. First of all, I hadn’t been gone for 24 hours and Florence’s eggs began to hatch. I received a semi panicked text message claiming he didn’t know if he was ready for this… well, turns out, he was and he did a great job. Florence hatched out 7 little chicks and I got updates frequently from the farm.
What else did this superman of mine get accomplished? Well, he finished our rock path and archway, rototilled the garden with the tractor, picked up 2 loads of aged cow manure from the neighbors (which we traded 2 bottles of homemade wine, 1 dozen eggs and a jar of saskatoon jam for), dug the water line from our well down to our garden, helped our farmer Colin seed both of our fields with Canola seed, took care of all the critters and even washed the sheets right before I got home (I LOVE clean sheets)… And let’s remember, I was only gone for 5 days. He also bought himself a new farm truck, so it wasn’t all work and pining for me. We can now officially haul all of those wild ponies!
He also cut himself some jorts… yes… man jean shorts. I mean, don’t worry, I was just informed today that he bought himself a denim shirt to match. so… y’know…Canadian through and through.
I guess you could say I’m a very lucky farm girl indeed. He really set the pace for the remainder of May, beginning of June and we’ve been off the races ever since. Thank you so much Clay, I love you to the moon and back and to the moon again, because there’s no point in resting now.
Update on the new babies, the garden and a lovely visit from my dear friend Laura coming soon!
It’s been awhile since I last posted and I do apologize. Life has become absolutely nutso around the farm and with the summer looming, I fear it will only get worse. I’ve really felt the effect of my crazy schedule this past week and as I attempt to catch my breath, I try to think of the times ahead. And then I had a meltdown because the stupid vacuum wouldn’t work and I didn’t have time to fix it because, really, it’s a brand new f$%#ing vacuum and it should work without having to do anything because I most definitely do not have time to deal with it… thank god Clay carefully turned the knob from “hose” to “vacuum” before I murdered it Office Space/fax machine style…
Anyway, work has been very busy and farm work has been very exhausting and the whole “side-by-side” commute has officially lost its charm. Like, seriously. But with challenge comes accomplishment and I can happily say that a longtime goal is coming to fruition. The garden is going in!!!
This past week Clay, Timber and I have been busy putting in the fence posts and putting up the wire for our 8 foot game fence. We have two sides completed, a third laid out and are taking some down time for travel. Clay is in Southern BC for a conference and I will soon be on my way to Washington DC for my cousin’s wedding, but at least we have it started. Next steps are to install our water source, till the acre, install gates and start forming the planting areas. And then of course, plant the hell out of it. I couldn’t be more excited.
In our spare moments, we’ve been screening our topsoil leftover from our build site to put in the garden beds around the house. Not super fun, but necessary. And cheap. We’ve also been collecting sandstone from the property to use as landscaping rocks in the yard as well as the fire pit. Nothing brings a couple together like slinging rocks. As long as it’s not at each other. I love that we have so many resources right on the farm and that we try to utilize them throughout our designs. Brings a whole new meaning to being grateful for what we have.
In coop news, I candled 31 eggs this weekend after realizing the other girls were sneaking eggs under broody Florence. She looked like one of those cartoon hens sitting atop a pile of eggs, poor dear. She was setting 19 eggs by the time I figured out what was going on! I finally got her down to a dozen and set Miss Josephine (who is broody once again) on 11 eggs I bought from a local farmer. I bought seven Easter Egger eggs (blue) and 4 Sizzle eggs (Frizzly/Silkie cross). I found one broken on the coop floor this morning, but the rest seem to be forming wonderfully. Pretty soon we’ll have more chicks than we know what to do with! I also added a wee little Cream Legbar to the flock whom I named Franny. She will also lay blue eggs and after a rough start with the Peck-a-little gang, she’s feeling a lot more comfortable.
May arrived and with it a freaking snow storm… seriously, this is a neighbors pasture on Wednesday May 6:
But the beauty of the North is – what a difference a day makes. Our farm on Thursday May 7:
I must say, even though I’m more tired than I have ever been in my life, I sure am loving this farm of mine.