Everything in bloom

I had my first spin of the season on the lawn tractor today and got an up close look at all the trees and shrubs on the property.  All of the apple trees are in full bloom and it is gorgeous!  Some are pink.  Some are white.  Some are blush.  One of them even looks like it has fluffy branches there are so many blossoms on it.  It’s amazing to me that each blossom is a potential apple.  We wouldn’t know what to do with all of them if they all turned into fruit.  The pear and plum tree are slower to come out but even those have creamy colored blossoms scattered throughout the branches and are so pretty.

We are really lucky that we have so much on the property.  When we bought the house it was winter and we couldn’t tell what things were, and it was a repo so we didn’t have any information from the previous owners either.  That first summer we were here we were amazed to find out what everything was.  Apple, pear, and plum trees, a giant hydrangia in the most gorgeous pink, a big bleeding heart, a tiger lily, several hostas, a snowball tree, a couple of lilacs, a big yellow bush that I think is forsythia, more choke cherry and birch trees than I can count, and a bunch of pine, oak, and willow trees.  We were also blessed with rose bushes and tons of blackberry canes which are taking over one part of the property.  Whoever took the time to plant  the trees and shrubs made sure there would be color around all summer.

I noticed a lot of butterflies this summer.  There was a little black one that had brilliant red on parts of its wings and you couldn’t see it until it started to flutter.  There were some that were baby blue, some were creamy beige, some were pink.

And then there were the grasses that I was mowing.  All shapes and sizes and every shade of green imaginable.  Then there was one that was a rusty red/orange that I don’t remember seeing before.  Maybe I was just in the mood to really look today.   I left one part of the grass long on purpose.  As I was going by I noticed a spot that was flattened out and I wondered if a deer had been laying there or if the kids used it as a hiding spot.  Either way, it looked like it needed to stay there so I bypassed it.

Any other day I’d be looking for my phone so I could take pictures but in the back of my mind I could hear Little Man reminding me to “just go out and have a fun day”.

 

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Mens/Ladies

There’s been a lot in the media lately about washrooms and which ones should or shouldn’t be used by some people.  This evening I have an issue of my own when it comes to washrooms and it has to do with The Littles.

We were at a mall having dinner in the food court.  We were having a nice time.  We were minding our own business chatting about the day.  Nothing unusual was happening until I sent the kids to wash their hands.  “Stay together and I’ll meet you down the hall in a second.  I’m just clearing up the trays.”  was what I said to them and off they went togetherbac.  Now keep in mind that we are in another town and The Littles are 7 and 9.  Not teenagers.  Not adults.  7 and 9!

So I throw away the garbage, pick up our stuff, and head down to meet up with the kids.  Little Miss is standing outside the washroom and Little Man is not with her. What’s going on?????  “the lady said he couldn’t come in with me and there’s no family bathroom so she said he had to go by himself” says Little Miss.  I was stunned!  I almost couldn’t say anything.  Why would this stranger feel it was OK to tell my kids they could separate from each other?  Why wasn’t it OK for a 7 year old to go with his sister to a washroom?  What was he going to do in there?  HE’S 7!!!!

Part of me felt like I was overreacting but a bigger part, that mom instinct, was telling me ‘no you didn’t overreact, those are your babies and you wanted them together and safe’, and that’s the part that’s right 99% of the time.

Now I’m not one of those moms who won’t let their kids do anything because they might get hurt.  In fact, I try to teach the kids how to do all kinds of different like how to cook and use sharp knives, how to use different tools and equipment around the farm, how to build things, etc.  I let them climb trees, jump around on hay bales, and play with sticks.  But as liberal as I am with the kids, sometimes I get the feeling that I need to be just that little bit safer in a particular situation and this evening it was it.

I did confront the lady in question (who was a food court worker) when she came back down the hallway, who then went back out into the food court and discussed it with the security guard loud enough for everyone around them to hear.  I just walked away at that point and let it all percolate in my mind.  No point in escalating the situation.  I did feel a little vindicated though when I heard the security guard say  to her “don’t worry about it, it’s alright”.

I was still a bit worked up when we got home so after some snuggle time I tucked The Littles in bed and wrote a letter to mall administration.  I tried to be factual and not put too much emotion in it but I’m not sure how successful I was with that part of it.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am quite emotional when it comes to my kids.

No matter the response I get from the mall, I’ll chalk this one up to experience…and I’ll keep on listening to that mom instinct.

Staying Put.

Our big plan was to list our house and move to something smaller with more land.  The real estate market/universe has other plans for us right now so we’ll just go with it.

Part of me is disappointed of course, but if I’m being honest with myself (and you) I think a bigger part of me is just fine with how things are progressing.  I look around and realize the place we’ve chosen to call home for the past 5 years is pretty good after all. Our children love it here, spend tons of time outdoors, and love their school and friends they have there.  We’ve made some pretty great friends here.  Our fruit trees are blossoming and there is color everywhere.  We have established places on the property for our animals and that is working out well.

Our house will always be a work in progress and I guess in that way a house is like a marriage; you always have to work at it to make it what you want.  Might be time for a little bit of house therapy over the summer. 🙂

Have a great day everyone.

Animals everywhere

Seems like there are animals everywhere around me these days. Chicks in the kitchen, rabbits in the living room, hens and ducks roaming the property. And yet I still think about adding more.

I’m finding rabbits extremely easy to care for and quite interesting to have around. They aren’t costing much money either. I can imagine they would cost very little if we grew some of our own food for them or used tractor cages in the summer time. Not sure if I like rabbit meat but I’m ready to breed them at least once to see. (The two that we have now are strictly pets/breeding stock and won’t be dinner).

I also find myself wanting more laying hens. We aren’t utilizing the ducks as well as we should and they are costing us more than they are worth so rehoming most of them and replacing with hens is my plan at the moment

Eventually when we have a plan with our realtor we will make a decision about having pigs again.  They were a good animal to have and depending on the breed you can really good meat yield.

AND because I’m just a little bit crazy, I keep looking at goats.  Depending on the breed they are good for meat, milk,fibre, or sometimes a combination.

I don’t tell my husband that I keep looking at alpacas because I know I’d end up a single alpaca farmer. 😳

 

Why are you moving to the country?

I’ve been asked that question a lot in the past few years.  People wonder why we would want to be “away from everything”.  One of the reasons came Friday evening as we were finishing up supper.  We heard a voice in the porch saying “hello, anyone home” and when I went to see who it was I found a stranger standing there.

Some of you would be totally horrified to find a stranger has just let themselves into your house, but out in the country  where everyone knows everyone else people just pop their heads in and holler.   If there is anyone home they’ll come to the door.  If no one is home someone will either go on their way, leave a note, or if it’s family or a close friend they’ll wait for you to come home.

So this evening there was a lady in our porch telling me that she was our neighbor from up the road.  This lovely lady who we had never met before saw one of our ducks being carried off by a fox so she got it and brought it back to us.  She didn’t have to leave her nice warm house in order to chase a fox away from one of our ducks.  She certainly didn’t have to go out into the field, pick up an injured half dead duck, and carry it all the way back to us.  But she did and she knows that we would have done the same thing for her or any one of our neighbors.

Its this kind looking out for each other that makes us want to be country folk.

To market, to market, to buy a…chicken?

I love going to our local feed store. I never thought I’d say that about a feed store, but I also never thought I’d be blogging about farming either, and here I am.

When we moved to the area we didn’t know anyone until Little Miss started school and we got to know the other families in her class.  Thank God for birthday parties that year or I’d still be wondering what parents went along with what kid.  After soccer or the beach or something like that one day, one of those parents that we met through school introduced us to this little corner store where he said you could get ice cream cones for a really good price.  Bonus!  I don’t do well in the heat so any time we can get in the air conditioned car and go get ice cream that won’t break the bank I’m game for that.  And so this became our go to ice cream place.  After a while I started to look around more and more and I realized that this “little corner store” was anything but.  They had something for everyone and that’s exactly who you’d see there…everyone.  They had coffee and snacks, groceries, clothing, jewellery, farm and hardware supplies, souvenirs, books, ammunition, bulletin boards with community events, etc.  I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of stuff but I’d be here all day listing it all.

Of course they have their feed section too. Not being a country girl I equated the Purina sign out front with dog food and thought that was all they carried until another school friend told me about their animal feed section.  What??? Animal feed???  From the corner store???  Yup, from the corner store.   They carry all sorts of different feeds for lots of different farmers around and the owners have been farmers themselves so they can talk about most every animal on the go.   When it’s not busy in the store it’s not unusual, like this morning, to stand around the cash register chatting about how well the new feed is selling and what others are saying about it, or discussing different bedding materials that we’ve used, or where to get piglets this year.

Something else I learned about getting from the feed store in the spring was chicks. Again, who would have known?  Not a girl from a small mining town, that’s for sure.   For now our meat chickens will come from our feed store.  They have a supplier that gives them an estimate of hatch dates and number of chickens they expect.  After the orders are placed we just have to wait for the call.  *Hatching birds isn’t an exact science, but like having a human baby, you have a window of expectation.  Chickens are normally a 21 day hatch so we know an approximate date that they should be hatching and are ready a few days before or after that.*  When we do get the call it’s so exciting and we can hear the chicks peeping in the background…hundreds of them.

After all that, my trip in there this morning was to order our chicks for the season.  I have a plan to raise dual purpose birds, meat and eggs, but that plan got weigh laid when we had to dispatch one of our aggressive roosters (I’ll post about roosters another time and give the rest of that story).

We’ve decided to do three batches of 12 meat birds this summer. Other summer we’ve tried to doing larger batches and have come across two main problems:

  • The first is that it’s a lot more work. They need more food, more water, more attention, more cleaning, more time.  More birds also means more processing time at the end.  An entire day spent processing chickens is exhausting!
  • The second reason I’d like to do smaller batches is so that they have more space in the bird house.  We’ve done several batches of different sizes and the smaller bird house (where the meat birds will live) is more suited to 12 or less birds.  We want them to have good lives and part of that means having room to be comfortable inside, and space outside to do what chickens love to do.

In the past we’ve always lost some of our meat birds.  Some of them as chicks, and some of them as full grown or almost full grown birds.  We’ve been pretty lucky actually and have come through each season with most of the birds we started out with.  That being said, I’m hoping that by the end of October we will have processed and packaged at least 30 chickens for the freezer.

So now I’ve got about 6 weeks to make sure all of our waterers and feeders are clean and ready and that the heat lamp is working well.  There is some controversy with using heat lamps and that will be another blog post later on as well.  For now we still use ours and are using every precaution with it.

It’s raining here and blowing a gale but I hope wherever you are it’s better weather and that you’re having a beautiful day.

How big is your footprint?

I read a post from TreeHugger on Facebook today on reducing the amount of plastic we use and it got me thinking about what we do to try to be more environmentally friendly.  I’m happy to say that where we live we have a great curbside recycling program.  Paper/cardboard/plastic/metals/compost.  There’s not a very big list of what we can’t recycle or compost and it leads to us not having very much garbage at all.  I know we can still reduce that as we produce more of our own food but for now we’re down to only one garbage bag per week.

Here are just 5 ways we try to do our part.

Cloth Napkins   We stopped using paper towel and paper napkins at home quite a while ago.  I have a huge stack of cloth napkins and they can just be thrown in the washer with a load of towels so that we aren’t doing a separate wash.  I have gotten them as gifts, made some myself, found lots at yard sales/flea markets, and gotten some as hand me downs.  They are super easy to make from fabrics you have lying around the house or maybe even from an old sheet, shirt, or pillow case.

Cloth Bread Bags/Bread Box I love making bread and I used to use a lot of plastic bags to keep that bread in.  Now I use a bread box and bags aren’t required for that at all. A properly designed bread box will allow enough air to pass through to keep the bread from going moldy but not enough to dry it out as if it was left out on the counter.  If you’re like my mom and you give bread to friends and family, try using cloth bags.  It keeps the bread clean and works similar to the bread box.  No airtight bags promoting mold growth.  People are always happy to give the bags back to be reused again.  If you are using cloth bread bags just make sure you don’t wash them in a smelly detergent and don’t use fabric softener.  No one wants their beautiful bread smelling like “crisp morning air” or tasting like chemicals.

Cheesecloth One of the reasons I liked keeping paper towel in the house was for times when we cooked bacon.  I would lay out sheets of it to absorb grease when the bacon came off the pan. In order to eliminate this I tried several things but nothing would absorb the grease well enough for me.  Then I spotted some cheesecloth in the pantry and decided to give it a try.  Worked like a charm!   When I was done I would rinse it in hot soapy water in the sink to get most of the grease out and  then throw it in the laundry.  I have several of these pieces of cheesecloth dedicated to this so when they are washed I fold them and put them in a kitchen drawer until the next time I need them.  Again, no smelly soaps or fabric softener.

Reusable Shopping Bags  As much as people like to think about being environmentally friendly there are still a lot who don’t have reusable shopping bags.  Most of the comments I’ve heard are about convenience but for me the “hassle” of bring bags far outweighs the hassle of trying to find space in recycling or storing plastic bags for something else later on.    I also have less issues with broken items than if i was using flimsy plastic.  Reusable bags don’t just have to be ones you buy from a store either.  I have lots of those, but I also have cloth bags that I’ve made (good for packing meat or messy items because you can throw them in the washer) and I have some that I’ve made from the feed bags we get.

Thrift Store Shopping/Buying Used  I love the thrift stores.  Not only can I save money and find things that a lot of the times still have original price tags on, but I’m helping keep things out of the landfill.  I’ve said before that my parents are great at reusing items and re purposing things and this i something that I’ve taken to heart.  Lots of my furniture has been used, most of my wardrobe is from one thrift store or another, our kids know that they can get much more from the back to school budget if we buy second hand, and when you reuse/re purpose you end up with an interesting style that you probably won’t find anywhere else.

I hope that’s given you something to think about today.  As I come up with more recycling/reusing ideas or find things around the house that are recycle/reuse items I’ll post that for you all to see.

Have a beautiful day.

Hello, Spring. Is that you?

Some sort of plague invaded our house for nearly two months before Christmas affecting all of us at one point or another, but then January came with the promise of better things to come and health returned.

Things have improved at our house.

Hubby and I have decided that we are going to declutter the house regardless of weather or not we sell.  Downsizing the house has been on my mind for a long time but we haven’t been able to find the right property so far.  Lots of smaller houses but most of them come with smaller amounts of land.

I have cluttered the house in a different way since acquiring packing boxes for the “declutter”.  I have boxes stacked in almost every room now but it’s good for me because I’m going through everything and deciding if what we have is useful and does it have a place.  A combination of being a pack rat and being disorganized has meant that I’ve lived most of my life in chaos (as most of my family can attest to) but I am trying to change my habits so I can concentrate on the things that we really want to accomplish.  One of these days I will force myself to have a yard sale or bring it all to the local flea market and try to sell off everything I’ve boxed up.

Aside from decluttering, we are getting some neglected projects done around the house.  After only 2 1/2 years we finally got the crown moldings put on the upper cabinets in the kitchen!!!  Hubby did most of it and he did a great job.  We had to redo some cabinetry and plumbing because of frozen pipes in the kitchen so that got done as well. Again, Hubby did most of it so I have to give him a lot of the credit.  I’ll take 100% of the credit for nagging though.  🙂

On the “homestead” front, the birdies have started laying again.  Not a whole lot but for a few weeks now the brown layers have been taking turns and we have been getting 2 eggs a day.  We have two Black Stars and two Australorps and they will lay anywhere from a medium brown egg up to a large brown speckled egg.

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Black Star
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Australorp (Bucky)

And then this morning Hubby found a green/blue egg from one of our Americauna hens.  We were told when we got them that they were pure Americauna but unless you buy from a reputable breeder you can’t be sure that the line you are getting are pure.  I’m still going on the assumption that they are pure anyway and enjoy the gorgeous eggs they give us.

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Americaunas (and a Black Star) enjoying watermelon.

If we get a rooster of another breed I might try crossing them just to see what color eggs we will get.  Some people have gotten all kinds of different greens and blues from cross breeding Americaunas.

The children have decided they want to reintroduce Silkies this summer. The first ones we had were the first laying hens we owned and unfortunately a family of foxes had them for dinner one evening while we were out.

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Roo, Fluffy, and Bat Girl

That was a sad lesson for the kids and a hard lesson for us on the need to secure the bottom of animal fences.  They still want them though and are picking out names already…like Fluffy Butt.  Part of me wants to get some Showgirls, which I just found out about, and they are Silkies crossed with Naked Necks.

 

showgirl
Showgirl photo courtesy of backyardchickens.com

 

 

 

 

 

Of course I’d love to have all kinds of different chickens but I’ll settle for adding one new breed this summer…unless I find an amazing deal somewhere along the way.

 

Our flock of ducks is 30 strong and we are planning on butchering some of them soon to add to the pork and chicken we have in the freezer.  It will also create room for a new generation of ducks this summer.  We ended up with two good hatches last summer and I am anticipating at least two this summer.  We still only have Muscovies  and without a pond I am reluctant to add any other breeds of duck.

Piggies went to freezer camp on New Years day and we are planning on raising at least two more this season.  I have been researching breeds and breeders so we should be ready for piglets just over a month from now.We didnt do any hams or bacon from the last two but one of the things we have on our to do list is a smoker so I am excited about that.

Hubby didn’t have much luck with hunting this past season so no venison in the freezer for us.  We did have a good day in the woods with him on one of his hunting weekends. IMG_5547

The kids have been interested in the whole process and where he goes so he decided we should all go with him one day.

Little Man is still a bit young and it’s too hard for him to sit still but Little Miss was more than excited to go out again and she spent the whole day out with Hubby in the woods.    It turns out she’s quite a good little tracker and I expect she’ll be a hunter when she gets older.  I think Hubby will be more than happy to teach the kids all about responsible hunting!

The past few weeks I’ve been planning our garden and doing lots of research.  I have never really had a green thumb and the first summer we tried a garden it wasn’t such a success.  I have lots more knowledge and lots more ambition this year so hopefully we will have something to show for all of it at the end of the growing season. Our pantry is full of mason jars all ready for a bountiful garden harvest and I have been compiling canning recipes based on what we have planned for the garden.  I am also researching year round gardening with things like cold frames and hoop frames so that will be an interesting experiment for us as well.  Wouldn’t it be nice to go out in December and cut some kale leaves or pull up some carrots to have with dinner.

That’s my update for today.  I am working on some more instructional/informational posts for the upcoming weeks so stay tuned. I was thinking about a Facebook page as well.  We’ll see how organized I can get.

It’s a beautiful sunny day here and I plan on getting outside to do something productive this afternoon.  I hope you all are having a beautiful day where you are.

 

Getting to work.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts by different people about how they are working on their weight and that made me think about my own life and how I used to “work on my weight”.  Not any more.  Now I’m working on my health.

Too many of us have been bothered by a number on a scale but didn’t take the time to think about what that number represented.  It didn’t tell us how healthy we were.  It didn’t tell us how big or small any particular part of our bodies were.  It didn’t tell us how loving or caring we were.  It didn’t tell us anything other than the fact that the force of gravity was working…and that’s just not good enough!

We need to start looking at our bodies instead of the scales.  We need to start eating real food again and forget about processed pseudo foods.  We need to start moving and working our muscles.

Have a great day everyone and make sure you get out there and move!

Real World Learning

I saw a post on Facebook a while ago, and it’s one that I’ve seen several times before, but it made me think a little bit more about what I want from not only my life but for my children and the family as a whole.

This is the post and it came from Homesteading / Survivalism  who shared it from  Tiny House Small Homes Little Cabins Treehouses Container Home Design and I’m sure it’s showed up on several other pages as well.  I’m not promoting any specific page, just letting everyone know where it came from the day that I saw it.

common sense

I think the part of this that I want to emphasize is the teaching aspect of it. (I don’t want to get into a debate regarding rewards for children.)  Too often we get caught up in thinking that kids can only learn by sitting in a specific room in a specific chair listening to someone talk to them about the real world.  I’m a big believer in hands on learning and letting kids be kids.  There’s a lot to be said for kids learning in different ways and giving them different experiences that will help them understand a concept and be able to put it into practice.

When you are teaching them about real world things out in the real world they are learning all the math and science they need to know; gardening teaches them earth science and math, cooking teaches them chemistry/biology/math, woodworking teaches them geometry/physics/math, hiking teaches them ecology/environmentalism, knitting/sewing teaches them hand eye coordination and art,  etc.

I love being a teacher for my children and helping them learn all kinds of skills that will guide them through life.

Have a beautiful day everyone.