2016 Goals

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Our backyard

We’re baaaaaaaaack!

So apparently we’ve been through some sort of Space-time Continuum here on the farm. Like seriously, what day is it?

It seems like only yesterday I was 8 months pregnant and reminiscing to the slow pace our lives once were in 2015. Fast-forward 5 months and holy.crap. Things have gotten very interesting at Canadian Acres.

After such a long absence, I started to get subtle (and some not-so-subtle) reminders that people missed the blog. But as so much has happened in these last few months, I honestly didn’t really know where to begin. So I’ve decided to start where I meant to last January, which is to review the goals we set for 2016, plus give you a short review on how our lives have been over the past few months. Sound good? Good, because I don’t have any time to argue with you. Shit’s gotten real, and the one thing I do not have time for is extra time. Also, some days I have trouble finding time to get pants on. But that’s besides the point.

When Clay and I sat down together to map out our 2016 goals on a quiet, non-hectic day in December, we wanted to keep things short and simple since we knew our lives would certainly change once our new son entered the picture. You know, make sure we didn’t over extend our expectations because we couldn’t possibly get it all done with a baby. Hahahahahahaha. Anyway, our list promptly grew and grew and although we’ve almost murdered each other a few times, we’re actually figuring out how to make it all work. Mostly. We’ve definitely had to readjust our level of expectations, especially the day-to-day. And we’ve definitely had a steep learning curve. And we’ve definitely felt absolutely nutso and insane and cried for an hour over an egg we dropped on the way back from the chicken coop while carrying the baby. Well maybe that last one was just me. But mostly, mostly, we’re very much making it work 🙂

So…. here’s the list and a review on what’s been accomplished thus far:

  • Birth and bring home a happy and healthy baby boy:
    • Success!! On February 24, 2016 our son Bowman Tuchodi Peck was born. I went into the hospital on my birthday, the 23rd, for a routine check-up and never left. He was two weeks early and delivered by C-section as I had pre-eclampsia (which is *SPOILER* how Sybil dies in Downton Abbey which didn’t freak me out at all!!!) We were the parents with the car-seat still in the box at the hospital. It was scary and real and crazy and amazing. And then we came home and never slept again. But I’m happy to report that he is the greatest baby on the planet and by far the most handsome human being I have ever laid my eyes on. We just took him on his first camping/Hot Springs adventure and it was awesome.

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      My heart

  • Wild Horses: capture and bring at least one wild horse from across the river to the house (I literally wrote that down on our list… boy was I naive)
    • So, funny story. On February 21, my father-in-law went across the river and through the woods to feed our wild horses. He found a few lingering in our corrals set-up and decided to catch them. So three days before our son was born, 10 wild horses showed up at the house. This is my life people. I was obviously thrilled and very very slow at getting down to see them. We were officially in the business of horses. The corrals held up, though we added one extra rail around the top and after that, more horses just kept showing up. We’ve had anywhere between 10-35 horses on the property since, had one major branding, one horse cutting, four babies born and too many stud fights to count. I will write more in depth on this in a later blog. I guess you could call this goal accomplished.
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      First day on the farm

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      First baby born this spring

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      Timber’s brand TT

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      First branding on the farm – 24 horses

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      Thor, our wedding present stud finally, FINALLY got some time with the ladies… they were impressed I think. He chased them around the fields for days like this and we laughed and laughed

  • Finish hanging the gates in the corrals: Done
  • Chickens: Keep them happy and add a few to the flock
    • For the most part we’ve kept this up. We’ve lost a few to predators this year, but they are a free-range flock so I suppose that’s bound to happen. There has been some talk of perhaps getting a Livestock Guardian Dog in the future (and goats!!) so we will have to see how that turns out. But the chickens live great lives and always keep us entertained.
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      New baby on the farm

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      Clay built me double doors in the coop which I love! I also set some Welsummer eggs (that I did not have luck with) but the ladies kept hatching their own so we had baby chicks this spring

  • Finish fire-pit area:
    • This was a two-year project for us as we collected all of the sandstone by hand off of the property. We have some pretty amazing date nights around here. Clay spent a good portion of a week getting everything measured out, some weed barrier laid down and the stone all placed in sand. It turned out spectacularly. I spent most of this time trying to figure out how to do farm chores with a 2 month old.
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      Working on the fire pit

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      Ta-da! 

  • Cabin: Clean-up for summer guests, install septic tank
    • The cabin is nice and clean for guests and now sleeps six. We have a propane stove and fridge and a large bear rug covering one wall. The septic tank remains on the to-do list for this summer.
  • Garden:
    • Get whatever we can planted with a newborn
      • So far we’ve planted flowers in all of the house beds, a small kitchen garden in the hugelkultur bed Clay built for me last summer, 100-ft of potatoes, 150-ft of onions, 36 asparagus crowns, 75 strawberry roots. beer hops and numerous amounts of veggies in containers on the porch. I still have some planting to do, but I call all of that a win.
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        Clay and our friend Liz prepping the garden

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        My wonderful helper planting asapragus

    • Kill as much grass as possible
      • Last year we really struggled with the amount of grass that came up in the garden. This year we are focusing on killing the grass bastards with lots of black plastic, sheet mulching and wood chips. The struggle continues.
    • Focus on one guild of the food forest at a time
      • This years goal is to plant one large guild under one fruit tree of the food forest and see how that goes. I have plants and plans, but we’ll see how time factors in over the summer.
  • Honey Bees:
    • I have always fancied myself a bee charmer (I’ve never been stung) and it’s been a dream of mine to be an apiarist some day, even if it just means I can say that word more often. This year, we received a beehive as a gift and we will be taking a bee course as soon as the weather cooperates. We were scheduled for May 28th, but then it snowed so… welcome to the North.

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      My legit bee keeping set-up

  • Install clothesline: fingers crossed for this summer.
  • Continue landscaping: y’know, in our spare time.
  • Install deck railing: since we will soon have a mobile baby and our house is less than baby-proofed.

Whelp, I think that’s it. See, were are totally sane and within reasonable expectations… The real test has been how to keep the baby safe, warm and alive during all of these things and so far, so good. Sleep is overrated (NOT) and we’ve only had one “oops-we-fell-asleep-and-left-the-chicken-door-open-so-a-fox-massacred-a-few-in-the-night” incidents.

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Oops

We left the dog’s 2016 goals to them this year, which basically consists of not getting attacked by wolves. Once again, so far, so good.

~Katy

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Practicing our tummy time!

 

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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

A farmer’s life for me…

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!

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Our garden

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.

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Friends definitely let friends do manual labor

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one excited to see her.

Laura

Maynard LOVES him some Laura, although he was wondering where Betsy and Mila were the whole time….

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.

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Just ready to be planted

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.

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Yeah… I’m going to need you to come in tomorrow and if you can come in on Sunday too, that’d be great…

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Supervising is hard work!

We planted 12 fruit trees and 25 fruit/nut bushes and canes. Things started to come together.

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My very first fruit tree guild! Apple tree with strawberries planted in the water berm, hyssop ring and sorrel… Much more things to come but at this point, I just needed to get it in the ground! Work in progress.

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!

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First row staked out and hand dug

Long story short – this next photo:

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Much better

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.

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I! I have made garden!

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.

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My thermometer and rain gauge… last few days this baby has topped out at 105 degrees in my mini little micro climate.

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The corn was the first thing to go in… it was desperate to spread it’s roots

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100′ of field tomatoes in the ground. Feeling mad accomplished at this point

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Where’s Wyatt… Oh yeah, supervising

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.

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It’s a side-by-side-wine-animal party! Wyatt seems miffed that Sake is in his spot

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We took a canoe trip on the Peace River

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Wild onions in bloom

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Wyatt’s not a swimmer so when we had to ford this back channel, he was less than thrilled with Mom

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.

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All planted and slowly but surely getting mulched with straw, trellised and irrigated

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My handy man

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.1-IMG_4338

Yo ho ho… a farmer’s life for me.

How did your garden grow this June?

~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

Wild Wednesday – Coyote Hunting

This past weekend brought warm (very warm) temperatures and blue skies. In February. We weren’t complaining (too much). What’s good for the spring yearning is bad for our farm road. It’s such a love hate relationship with that damn farm road. But we persevered and are back to cold weather, a frozen road and grey skies. I guess you can’t have it all.

Clay has been itching to get out and hunt some coyotes. He hunts coyotes for a number of reasons, mainly of which is to keep the predator population down on the farm to help protect our deer populations and our precious chickens. He also said he would someday make me a coyote blanket, which is awesome because I will then be straight up Game of Thrones Winterfell legit. Eat your heart out Ned Stark.

Anyway, we had some friends join us on Sunday for a lovely snowshoe, some unsuccessful hunting and overall a perfectly gorgeous afternoon.

We saw four coyotes, three moose, a bald eagle and copious amounts of mule deer.

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The mighty Peace River

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The hunting crew

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Mule deer in our yard

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Mule deer on the move because we showed up

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Coyote on the ridge

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Lucky duck

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We had an audience

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Moose down in a gully

I must say, being able to snowshoe, hike and hunt on our very own property with views like this is probably one of my favorite parts of our lifestyle change.

What did you do this Sunday?

~Katy

 

 

Fall on the Farm 2014 – A week in photos

Last September brought sunshine and warm temperatures. This September brings an early, gorgeous fall full of surprises. We’ve had snow, sun, wind and an amazing display of color. Hunting season is upon us and we are hoping to harvest an elk and some deer for the freezer. Our evening walks have turned into hunts as we are lucky to have over a thousand acres to explore. Clay packs his gun, and I pack my camera.

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Clay practicing for hunting season

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Maynard free ranging with the littles… he’s grown an appetite for chicken scratch

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The boys playing on the banks of the Peace River

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Back channel off of the Peace

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Hiking

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My old man keeping pace on a hike

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First canoe trip with the whole family. Boys did great!

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Maynard LOVES to swim and has been practicing very hard to look like a normal dog whilst doing it

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I got some new babies. Two turken eggers (like my Gerty) and four frizzles

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Glorious day on the Peace River

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Fall foliage on the farm

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Maynard matches the fall decor perfectly

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Hunting for elk on our evening walk

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Our rogue canola field

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Maynard hard at work

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Evening on the farm

 

Fall has proven to be just as busy as our summer season as we begin to put the farm to bed for the winter. There is much cleaning, mulching, harvesting, preserving and playing to be had. What a wonderful life to live.

Wishing you a beautiful and busy fall season.

~Katy