2015 in Review

New Year sunset

2016, it is upon us!

As Clay and I sat down to draw out our 2016 goals, we had mixed feelings on how we did on our 2015 goals.  I was disheartened as I felt with a full-time job and a pregnancy, I wasn’t up to the standard we’re used to. But after some time and reminiscing, it seems we actually accomplished a whole lot in 2015 and should be proud of what we could get done between long work hours, 40 minute commutes and growing a fetus.

So here it is… our list of goals we started with in January of last year and what we did and did not do, plus some extra items that got squeezed in there along the way:

  • The Garden:
    • This was one of our major goals of the year, and I must say, we worked our tail feathers off for this one. And to be honest, we could not have gotten near where we are today if my good friend Laura hadn’t sacrificed a week of vacation to come be our farm hand for a week – THANK YOU LAURA!!!1-IMG_4279
    • This included: Months and months of planning, sketching and plotting, fencing roughly 1 acre of land with 8 foot elk fence, digging and installing a 300 yard water line from our well, down the hill into the garden, rototilling the whole damn thing, multiple times with multiple machines, planting 15 fruit trees, 10 fruit/nut bushes, 10 raspberry canes and multiple perennials in the start of our food forest, creating 15 4′ x 100′ raised beds, implementing soaker hoses and planting most of them, and growing a mass amount of food for our first, very dry year.  I attempted to keep all of our beds mulched with straw but this was difficult because the grass and the weeds put up a good fight, but our little garden wouldn’t be discouraged! Sake and I ended the garden year by planting a mess of garlic bulbs so I’ll be happy when spring arrives.1-fencing 1Waterline1-IMG_4605harvest
  • The Corrals:
    • This was the other “major” goal of 2015 and has been in the works for the past 2 years. Remember all of those logs we had to peel? Well they’ve finally been put to good use! With the help of some family and friends, the corrals have been built with half of the gates hung. These babies are ready to house our wild horse bunch that we will (hopefully) soon  begin to transport from across the river. Canadian Acres is wild horse ready! Although the nightmares have started regarding wild horses escaping into our neighbors fields… lord help us all.IMG_7148 IMG_7146
  • Horse Management:
    • This was a goal we didn’t necessarily get to other than feeding during the winter. But I feel like getting the corrals done is a big first step!
  • Yard Landscaping:
    • We spent many summer weekends on this project and Clay built me some beautiful flower beds, one large one that we turned into a hugelkultur bed, an archway with stone path to the fire pit, we gathered stone from around the property to fill the fire pit patio area and planted/grew some grass in the front of the house. Clay did a lot of level work and I planted some perennials on the west side and the front of the yard.finished arch
  • Lattice:
    • We found a deal on white lattice, installed it around the bottom of our back deck and it looks beautiful! It also gives the chickens a secret, cool hangout in the summertime that they just seem to love.
  • Harvest:
    • I had enough energy to put away some food for the winter. 60 lbs of saskatoons in the freezer, 2 batches of smoked salmon, strawberry jam, blueberry peach preserves, dill pickles, pickled beans and carrots and a wild rose, plantain & calendula salve. Wish I had gotten more done in this department, but thus is life.saskatoons 211863331_10153601638502959_4713058634279907157_n 11811440_10153562589107959_8584941880818532417_n
  • Full-time Job:
    • At the end of March I got a full-time job as the Business Manager at the local Cultural Centre in town. It’s a great place to work and I really enjoy my co-workers, but it has definitely put the word “busy” in a whole new category.
  • Extra Project: Clay built a large woodshed that wasn’t originally on the list, but is coming in handy during this cold weather.IMG_6849
  • Extra Project: We got pregnant in June, found out in July and I’ve been dragging my homesteading ass ever since.

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Goals we planned for but didn’t accomplish:

  • Clothesline –  Not this year, but I’m optimistic for this spring when we’ll have plenty of baby clothes to dry!
  • Install gutters on house – this should be interesting come break up and with a new baby… hopefully things don’t get too slippery.
  • Rain barrel watering system for house area and chicken waterer – there’s always 2016.
  • 50 year plan plotted out on map – maybe someday.

All in all, I feel like we did pretty good. Thank goodness the major garden work got done before I got super tired in my first trimester.  It is important to keep up with our goals and at least write them down for we have so much to do on the farm, and well, in life.

My family members often ask – how do you find the time to do all of these things? And I have to chuckle to myself because I guess we don’t look at it that way. We don’t have TV, we don’t like to sit idle, we like to work to exercise. We try to focus on building a life that keeps us active, on this beautiful land and living life to it’s fullest. Plus, with a view like ours, it hardly feels like work. Though, this 20 pound belly I’m carrying around can put a damper on that quickly. 12119090_10153697948357959_6322904418634194563_n2016 is all about new adventure and new challenges and we are oh so excited to see how we handle it this time. Stay tuned for a list of our very realistic and not-overwhelming-at-all goals for when baby Peck arrives in March…. are we really dumb brave enough to try cloth diapers?

And because I always love to hear, what goals did you accomplish last year?

~Katy

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Winter and Wild Horses

IMG_7339Autumn is in full swing and slowly fading to winter. We have lucked out in the weather department as October has been relatively warm and nice, though we’re losing daylight which makes the work/farm/life balance more difficult. It’s hard to get home at 5:30pm and get things accomplished before the sunset at 6:00pm. But thus is life in the North and as always, we’ll adapt… time to find the headlamps!

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving and we had much to be thankful for this year. Plus, it’s only the first of the double Thanksgivings we get around here, so cheers to that! Clay, his dad Timber, brother Taylor and friend Fernando spent all day Sunday working on our horse corrals. Looks like we may get wild horses on the property this winter if all goes to plan.  And then we’ll be completely prepared to brand, cut and buck them in the Springtime… Hopefully right around March 12th since, y’know, we won’t have anything else to do. Except for that whole birthing-and-raising-a-baby thing. Minor details.

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Timber wants one more round of rails on the top – these horses don’t know what fences are and the last thing I want to do is chase them around the farm if they escape!

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Timber and Taylor working hard. Wyatt trying to act big and tough to his friend Cubby… although off the camera, every time she barks at him he falls over backwards. Real tough guy on our hands

As the boys worked hard on the fences, I took the critters on a nice long hike to one of my favorite parts of the property. It was a wonderful day.

The Mighty Peace River

One of my favorite spots and view on the property. The boys seem to like it too

Thanksgiving Monday, Clay and Timber headed across the river to check on the wild bunch.  If you’re new to the blog and are wondering why we have these wild horses or where they came from, check out one of my very first posts here.They found about 20 horses and everybody looked pretty fat and happy heading into the winter. Makes me excited to see them on the property soon.

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I’m in love with this little guy ❤

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This one needs an epic name… Harry Trotter anyone? (thanks Laura;)

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This group of horses is one of my favorites. I love the roans and the greys

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A different group of paints

Next steps will be to finish the fencing and install gates on the corrals. Then we’ll set trip wires on the “horse traps” across the river (which are basically just smaller corral enclosures baited with salt blocks and hay). Next we’ll accomplish the very simple process of loading and transporting them all in horse trailers to our house. Easy peasy. Now I feel queasy. I’m sure it’s just the pregnancy.

There’s always something happening on the farm and I can’t wait to see what new adventures bring our way. A very gracious thank you to my husband who took the photos for the corrals and the wild horses – 3 hours both ways in a truck did not seem compatible with my bladder this time around… maybe next time.

~Katy

Saskatoon Season

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Our canola fields in full bloom through some poplar trees

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.

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I leave the zucchini alone for ONE minute…

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!

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Beautiful saskatoons

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Clay and Maynard, my saskatoon monsters

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Maynard will just swim around the bushes like a little shark and eat and eat and eat saskatoons

Wyatt saskatoon

Wyatt is not as agile eating directly from the bush, he prefers to poach the bucket that is on the ground because, well, it’s just so much easier

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.

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Not too shabby for 2 hours of work

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?

~Katy

 

 

Garden Days are Coming…

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View of the garden from our lawn

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!!!

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Posts lined out for pounding

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We have a very serious post pounder

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And a very high tech fence stretcher

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Unrolling the wire

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This is my “It’s raining and I’m hungry so please stop taking pictures so we can finish this” face….

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.

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I made a trip to a local greenhouse (if you call an hour drive local) and picked up 40 strawberry plants, a few tomatoes, brussel sprouts, sunflowers and marigolds. My wonderful neighbors offered to house them in their greenhouse for me until planting time!

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Wyatt hard at work…

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.

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Clay built us a table screen for our topsoil

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It takes some time, but the plants will be thankful

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We have a large supply of sandstone on the property

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An hour spent piling rocks

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Oh look, Wyatt hard at work again… Also, I love that I would rather snap a photo than be concerned about their proximity to the chainsaw…

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Sake hard at work

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The start of our fence and pathway to the fire pit

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Clay found this in the woods somewhere and brought it home for me for an archway. I absolutely love it 🙂

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These stones will be buried into the grass eventually

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Start of the fire pit collection – also note how much Wyatt’s hair is growing in!!

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.

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Easter Egger and Sizzle eggs

 

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Little Miss Franny

May arrived and with it a freaking snow storm… seriously, this is a neighbors pasture on Wednesday May 6:

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Blarg!

But the beauty of the North is – what a difference a day makes. Our farm on Thursday May 7:

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My lunch break while working at home

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.

~Katy

 

Garden To-Do & Soil Test Results

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Current view of the acre garden plot

Well the frogs have emerged in the dugouts and are loud as ever, so despite the snow we got this past weekend, I call Spring!

Since we have approximately one month until planting time, Clay and I are busy with plans and logistics for the gardens. He built me some beautiful beds around the south side of the house/deck and we will be filling the largest one with hugelkultur this weekend. We are getting a load of compost from Uncle Ross sometime (hopefully) soon, and I’ll use that to top dress all of our house beds. The chicken garden is coming alive (even with all of the chicken attempts to thwart it) and my chives, mint and a few garlic survived the winter. I’m anxious to see what else will come up. I will be planting peppers and tomatoes against the house as well as grape vines, roses and peonies against the lattice of the deck, most of which will be a summertime project.

The largest item on our list is the acre garden and we have a lot to do. The plan is to plant the large trees and shrubs of our forest garden, build some swales, plant a traditional row garden with this years veggies, install a few perennial beds and put the rest under cover crops of buckwheat and red clover. In the fall I’d like to build some large scale hugelkultur beds, but we’ll see where we get. Oh yes, and then there is the building of a small greenhouse up by the house… By now you should know we are very optimistic people.

When starting this journey last year, we conducted a soil test. I even had my very own specialist on hand since my husband is an environmental scientist. We also tested for pesticides as our plot used to be commercially farmed and is located next to traditional farmed land. Here are the results:Soil Test Results

Since I’ve never done an actual soil test on a garden before I went to the all knowing Google to figure out what these numbers meant and what I needed to do about it.

  • Organic Matter: 10.7 – Apparently this is ridiculously good. The sources I found said the 4-6% would have been great soil, so we’re sitting pretty on this one.
  • Nitrate: 9 ug/g – Ideally we want this number to be 25-30, but medium lies in the 5-20 range so I guess we’re okay
  • Phosphorus: 24 ug/g – We are in the ideal range of 21-28, hooray!
  • Potassium: 397 ug/g – The highest ideal amount I could find was 120, so I guess this is good? Not sure…
  • Sulfate and Ammonium: I couldn’t find much info on this except that these are secondary nutrients.
  • pH: 5.8 – it seems we are a little on the acidic side of the pH scale but most veggies do well in a range from 5.5-7 so I’m not going to worry about it this year.
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After a good old fashioned squeeze test, it seems we have loam (ideal) soil! Not too much clay, not too much sand

Our pesticide test came back negative and we are glad for that. Although it was expensive, I really wanted peace of mind when it came to possible issues. We tested for over 40 types of pesticides and we are free and clear… phew! All in all, I think we are looking pretty good and I don’t plan on adding much to the soil besides compost and organic mulch. The cover crops will provide organic matter and extra nitrogen in the un-attended areas and we will address any issues in the fall.

Today I came home to a big box of goodies I ordered from westcoastseeds.com who specialize in organic, non-gmo and heirloom varieties. It included my seeds, potatoes, hops, cover crop (buckwheat) and asparagus crowns. Oh good golly it’s like Christmas in April! (don’t take that too seriously universe, we don’t need anymore snow I assure you). I also placed my fruit tree/bush/nut/grape order with a nursery in Manitoba who specialize in zone 2-3 plants. I’m SO excited to get it all in to my house, but less excited to get it all in the ground on my tightened schedule. Here is a list of things we need to do before we can plant:

  • Finish the 2015 aspects of the garden design, continue to work on design to finalize
  • Purchase and install 8′ wire elk fence – 3 rolls at 330 feet each
  • Install working gates – tractor gate + walk-in gate
  • Run piping/hose from well to northwest corner of garden site
    • Our plan this year will be to water mostly by hand which isn’t ideal, and as we grow into the full space we’ll need to come up with a better plan. But for the first year, I think we’ll be okay.
  • Till the entire acre with borrowed till from our cousins
  • Find a bunch of compost and wood chips
  • Buy a few bales of old, spent alfalfa for mulch
  • Plant, plant, plant

I am hoping to grow enough to make it to the local Farmer’s Market this year on Saturdays as well, so we’ll work it into the schedule. Ah yes, the farm/full-time work schedule. At this rate I’ll either be invincible by the end of the summer or they’ll find my body face down in the garden dirt with an invoice in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. Let’s hope for the first one shall we?

Any advice from those experienced gardener’s out there?

~Katy

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No trip to the garden plot is complete without a visit from these two

 

Work-Life-Farm Balance

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Our egg and crocus bounty on Easter Sunday

Oh hello there, long time no see…

Things have exponentially gotten busier around these parts as spring has officially sprung (thank god). I started a job in town 2 weeks ago and we are in the throes of dealing with this new concept we like to call work-life-farm balance. Just when we thought we were tired and had too much on our plate I was hired on a s a business manager for the Cultural Centre (yes!) and I’ve been getting back into the groove a 9-5. I definitely miss my time spent solely on the farm, but am finding I do enjoy meeting new people, taking on new challenges and getting to walk to yoga everyday. Yeehaw.

Within those two weeks, the animals (and the husband) had a tricky time coping with the lesser amount of attention from me and our road washed out. Again. So for the first week of the new gig I had a double vehicle commute – side-by-side to SUV. I made sure to change out of my muck boots and into my ballet flats in my car before I went in, you know, as not to blow my professional office person cover, but my coworkers busted me by the telltale sign of mud on the back of my pants. Apparently you can take the girl off of the farm but you can’t take the farm off of the girl… not even with crappy public washroom soap.

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Clay attempting to get our culvert to thaw and drain

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My commute

Wyatt is completely healed up as his nickname has changed from Pus Bucket to Scabs. The drains and stitches are out, he’s back to full patrol duty and seems to like all the attention he’s been getting. Not only did the local paper feature his story on the front page and an entire back spread, the local news channel came out to the farm for an interview. He got to show the nice reporter lady his manners, his chickens, his cat, his territory and his red rocket… sigh… I knew it wouldn’t all go to plan. His brother Maynard was so jealous, he willed himself an abscess (seriously, we have NO idea how he got it) and landed himself in the vet and on antibiotics as well. Never a dull moment people, never.a.dull.moment.

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Here we see Pus Bucket lounging on his bed… his two larger drains drained all over everything we own for two solid weeks. He managed to pull them both out by himself. Thanks Pus Bucket

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Healing up and getting some outside time in the soon to be melted snow

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Oh yeah… Maynard looks really sick here…

The chicks are growing fast and will be 6 weeks this Friday. Holy crap. It’s exciting to see their plumage grow in and their colors begin to show. Josephine sleeps with them at night but has left them for dead during the day as the snow is going fast and there is green grass to forage. Oh the life of a Canadian Acres chicken.

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Hazel and Mable chilling on the top roost when the big chickens are outside

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They get bigger everyday

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Philomena getting in some beautiful plumage

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The chickens enjoying the sunshine and the green grass

We spent the holiday weekend enjoying the nicer weather and Clay built me a beautiful flower bed along our back porch. The south facing location is ideal and I have big dreams of grapevines and peonies on the horizon. The compost piles are thawing and actually freaking look like compost (hooray!) and I am oh so proud of myself on that front. What a delight to finally see things happening after a long winter. The dogs and I hiked the hills in search of the springtime crocuses and found many popping up in the sunshine. The boys found a few old wolf kill bones to chew on and we were all happy to be in this place.

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New garden bed… we plan on putting up some lattice beneath the deck which would be perfect for grapevines

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The compost looks like compost!

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Look mom, one of those stupid wolves left behind this wonderful bone

Though life may seem over busy and hectic, nature and our land bring us together and remind us that all it takes is love, patience and gratitude to find the balance… and casually ignore the sh*t ton of work to do on the garden this month. Happy April!

~Katy

Warmer Weather

March has arrived and with it, warmer weather. At least today. I have spent most of the day outdoors with my critters enjoying the sunshine and thought you all might like a peek into our funny little world.

Wyatt and Sake have been working on their relationship…

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Wyatt is working on his “easy” skills

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They both got in a good sniff

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Then Wyatt was ready to play

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The intensity Wyatt, the intensity

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We also worked on his “lay down” skills

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My handsome old man

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Then she just started to taunt him

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She would tolerate playing under the BBQ

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Mostly…

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In the end, the sun won and they both took a nap

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Ain’t she purrrrty

The cat’s ratings went up when Wyatt noticed she could get ONTO the barbecue. The plot, as always, thickens.

The chicks are more active everyday as well as their Mama. Dad came in to see the babies for the first time, and although Josephine wasn’t stoked, she tolerated him a lot better than everyone else.

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Learning

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The four newest fluffs: Hazel (yellow), Mabel (all black), Malka (middle) and Phil (if he turns out to be a she, Philomena it is)

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Beatrix checking out the scene… and the food

The chickens are happy for the sun.

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“My mom cleaned out the chicken coop and all I got was this lousy chicken” ~Sake

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Georgia takes a dust bath in the sun

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I can’t sit down without someone on my lap

I hope you all are enjoying March so far, just keep in mind.. in like a lamb, out like a lion. Or in my case, in like a chicken, out like a Wyatt 🙂

~Katy