2017… And so it begins.

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Reminiscing about greener days on the farm

I almost just shot a coyote!

My god… how life has changed. But if a creepers gonna creep on my flock, I’m going to have to take them out. Just call me Laura Ingalls effing Wilder. No, don’t do that. I don’t think she’d approve. Plus, I don’t know if she’d actually shoot a coyote, but it’s 2017 baby, and this farm girl’s got a gun!

Hey all! It’s me, y’know that sweet sweet blogger you’ve missed hearing from? I can officially say that I completely failed all of you in the year of 2016. Like, seriously. I had three blog posts. Three. Ugh. The worst. But I’m back! And better than ever! Well, I don’t know about the better part, but definitely back. More prepared maybe. After having a kid, I seem to have snacks on me at all times so that is an improvement.

In the past, I’ve started the year out with a recap of our past years goals, how far we’ve come and what life is looking like for the New Year. I did a great recap of 2016 already, and for the most part it covered our goals and accomplishments. You can catch up here if you missed it. You will see in our current list of goals and aspirations, we seem to have lost our minds and decided that we can, and should do all of the things.

Who needs sleep anyway.

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“We do Mom. We need sleep. The baby is mobile and he is everywhere!”

I’m headed back to work a real job in March so things should get so busy that we’ll be taken down a few notches, but for now, here’s our list:

  • Install deck railing and child gate – we attempted to get this done before winter hit in 2016, but it just didn’t happen. But we need to get on it because we have the busiest little boy on our hands and he is just raring to get out there.  So definitely #1 on the list.
  • Landscape and clean up the farm for the family reunion – Every three years, my husband’s family has a family reunion, which is awesome! We were, um, voluntold a few years back that our farm was picked to host the family reunion and we were very excited… when it seemed so far away. Now, it’s here! In July.  And we have some things to do. The theme is Pioneer Days though and I am already planning a pack horse race so… it will be a good time regardless if our farm is presentable!

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    Luckily, I know a decent landscaper ❤

  • Honeybees – this is happening this year. Even if we just have to get some bees and learn the hard way. It’s happening.
  • Horses – Currently we have 20 horses on the property: 12 mares, 4 geldings, 3 colts and 1 stud (Thor is back!!!) We’ve been keeping everyone fed and the colts are finally weaned. They are hanging out with our stud horse Thor and learning that humans aren’t so scary… which means we’re actually managing our wild herd! My father-in-law is brining hay across the river to the remaining wild ones and we plan on bringing more across this spring. We still don’t have an exact count of how many total there are, so we’ll just have to keep catching them.
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    So. Fuzzy.

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    This little one is very friendly and just wants to be loved by me

  • Garden – Oh, the project that just keeps on giving…
    • Organic Certification: Our commitment to producing crops organically is going to be official! Clay and I decided to go pesticide free on our commercially farmed 88 acres of farmland when we moved onto the property, so the first summer would have been 2014. We need a minimum of three consecutive years of no pesticide use to qualify and plan on having certification by 2018. We are initially going to certify our crops and have plans to move into certifying our poultry, eggs, honey and any other products we may venture into on the farm. So. Exciting. We will continue to practice organic methods of fertilizing (compost, worm tea, cover crops) and pest control, as well as continue to strive for a permaculture balance on the property as a whole. Organic certification will mean that we are going against the grain of the farmer’s and fields around us to provide a healthy ecosystem for our family, our critters and the wildlife that share this land. It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time and I’m beyond thrilled to be learning and living the process.

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      The grass and weeds had a very healthy year in 2016. I promise you there is food in there somewhere!

    • CSA Farm Boxes: A long-term goal of the farm is to become a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation. Basically this means that people in our community will invest in shares of our farm and crops at the beginning of the season to help us buy the supplies we need and then, in return, will receive a share of our harvest throughout the harvest season. Eating local at it’s finest! So this year I want to commit to selling 5 boxes per week for 10-12 weeks… gotta start somewhere!
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      2016 dinner harvest

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      I am planning on getting some of my preserves tested this year so I can offer them through my farm boxes at the end of the season

    • Set-up small greenhouse, prep, dress and mulch 100′ beds, install drip lines, manage pathways, work on grass issue, plant 5 fruit trees (pear, plum, apricot, honey crisp apple x2), plot 2 fruit tree guilds in the food forest, fix raspberry bed and prep remaining 100′ beds on west side of acre garden. All while keeping a small child from burning and overheating in the open field…there’s going to be a lot of dirt eating this summer. Yup.
  • Chickens – my small little flock needs some filling out and my egg basket needs more colour (did you know that egg colour is addicting?). As of now I have 1 rooster and 9 laying hens, a mixture of green and pink eggs mostly with one blue one thrown in for good measure. I received an incubator for Christmas this year (thanks Mom and Dad!) and have my first set of eggs incubating as we speak! If all goes well and I don’t absolutely kill all of them, then I will be hatching many many more. Eggs on order include: Black Copper Marans (dark brown egg), Ameraucana’s (blue egg), Silkies (small white egg), Blue Isbars (green egg), Cream Legbar (blue egg), Icelandic (tinted white egg), Lavender Orpington (light brown egg), Wheaten Marans (dark brown egg), Olive Eggers (olive green egg) and silver and blue laced wyandotte (light brown egg). I think I can officially claim that I’m a chicken farmer…. or a crazy chicken lady? Same difference in my book 🙂 We are also embarking on the world of turkey ownership this year… it could go either way. They could be super awesome, sweet and fun to have on the farm or I could have to face one down and hit it with a shovel like that one time I was 12 at my friends house. Could go either way…

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    Current egg basket. Just set 24 of my gals eggs in the incubator and expect a hatch on February 28

  • Cabin – there is much to do in our 16×20 cabin on the property. After meeting with the bank regarding the build of our dream forever house it’s been determined that we must live in the cabin for up to 12 months during the actual building process. That means me, my husband, our toddler and 2 large dogs will be moving in and living that REAL homesteader life. So yes, much to be done in the cabin. But stoked to be planning our dream forever house!

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    Work in progress…

I suppose that sums it all up. Seems doable, and if not, definitely a lesson in patience. I must say, I can’t remember a time when I have ever felt more fulfilled with my daily life or with where I am. It truly feels as if we are in the exact right place at the exact right time. And with the state of the world today, it feels good to be connected to our land, our family, our community and our happiness. 2017 will be a year to learn, grow, be kind and over all else – love.

What’s on your plate for 2017?

~Katy

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Permaculture and Hugelkultur – Adventures in Gardening

Permaculture, what? Hugelkultur, who?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our journey in the wonderful world of sustainable gardening here at Canadian Acres. And it all begins with some funny sounding words with very big ideas.

Over the last few years I had the privilege of taking some beginner courses on permaculture in Anchorage. A beautiful couple named Saskia and Matt have made an amazing permaculture site in the urban setting of Anchorage, Alaska and have inspired many to make the switch from conventional gardening and overall living to permaculture and it’s practices. Once you take a class from Saskia, it all just feels right. Check them out at the Williams Street Farmhouse.

After getting my feet wet with a few courses I made the big move to our 160 acres in British Columbia. Quite a change from a townhouse with a few raised beds to this. Oh, but I’m so ready for the challenge. I spent winter dreaming and scheming of the perfect garden, and devoured material on permaculture. I fell in love with the idea of a food forest and making gardening work for me instead of against me. Sounds grand, sign me up!

Permaculture is defined as the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. Since we are surrounded by so many diverse and wonderful ecosystems here in the valley, I want to add to that with my garden.

My wonderful husband thought about me and my love of gardening when he fenced our quarter section of land and made sure to leave about an acre section off of the main farmland for my site. It’s beautiful. Right next to a dugout it has rich soil and south facing views. Conveniently he’s also a environmental scientist, so soil is his specialty. And our lab reports are good. Full of nutrients and pesticide free! Now, I just have to wrap my head around an entire acre to garden in… an acre… that’s huge.

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The future garden site from our yard this spring. We fenced off the u-shaped area in between two dugouts from the farmed land

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Timber tilling the soil this spring. Loving my garden view!

Like really big.

But, the nice thing about permaculture is the practice of using food forests and other types of design principles to make my job as a the gardener easier over the years. Less weeding, watering and maintenance as time goes on… yep, definitely sign me up.

The two books I really enjoyed on the subject were The Vegetable Gardner’s Guide to Permaculture by Christopher Shein and Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway.

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This year we are focusing on design. I want to get some fruit trees and perennials planted and incorporate different design principles that will set us up for success over the years to come. One of these principles is called Hugelkultur.

Hugelkultur is an old German word meaning “hill-culture”. The basic concept includes building garden beds upon rotting logs and wood, adding some nitrogen filled material to help balance the carbon overload and covering it all with dirt and compost. Over time, the wood will decompose, acting like a sponge to store and provide water and nutrients. Many of these beds are built into large “hill” like beds.

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Depiction of a hugelkultur bed after one month. Images from http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

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Hugelkultur bed after one year

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Hugelkultur bed after 20 years

The concept seems pretty genius to me. We decided to experiment with the first beds to be built at Canadian Acres, our house flower beds.

Clay built me a u-shaped flower bed around the west side of the house. This gives me southern, southwest, west, northwest and northern exposure. Plenty of room to experiment with my ever growing knowledge of perennials. Since we started from scratch I thought what the heck, let’s make this interesting.

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West facing bed

I spent an entire day with my close friend the wheelbarrow and two supervisors Maynard and Wyatt and went on a rotten-log-collecting-adventure. Sounds fun, right? Well, it was good exercise anyway. I filled up the bottom of my beds with lots and lots of wood. After the large pieces went in, I used all of the willow/stick/root piles we had just finished raking off of our lawn site. It was a nice way to get rid of an ugly mess.

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My two supervisors hard at work

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Bed filled with rotting logs and wood

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Our miscellaneous stick and wood pile. The woody matter on the right went on the beds

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Logs covered in woody matter and lawn rakings

I made sure to wet the ground before piling on the wood, and then gave it a good spray down after that layer was finished. Water helps the decomposition process and makes it nice and comfortable down there. Water from the hose also gives Maynard the crazy eyes as he.loves.that.hose.water.

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Suddenly a supervisor seems very interested in what is happening on site

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Maynard being helpful

On top of that I had some help to throw on our nitrogen filled goodies. Fresh grass clippings and chicken manure made a fine covering. Then we sprayed that down with the hose as well. Then we sprayed down Maynard with the hose again.

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My wonderful helper M

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Mmmmmm…. hugelkultur madness. Wood topped with grass clippings and pine shavings with chicken manure

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Loves it

Next, with the help from my husband and our awesome neighbor’s bobcat we borrowed we filled the beds with topsoil. Not fancy screened top soil because that would be expensive, but the topsoil we stripped from our building site last summer. We’re all about cheap around here.

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Filling beds with topsoil

Finally, time to get some plants in there. I’m new to flower gardening and know that I want to eventually have these beds overflowing with wonderful and easy to maintain perennials, so we’ll be working on adding to it through out the summer. I snuck a few dahlia bulbs in for good luck. Most hugelkultur beds do better in the 2nd and 3rd years, but so far, so good!

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Peonies and veggies for our first year south facing bed

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My small start to the west facing bed

Now to figure out how to do some larger scaled “hills” for the actual garden site. Our work is never done.

What do you think, will it work or does it all sound like mumbo jumbo? Only time will tell 🙂

Cheers to at least finishing one more project~

~Katy