Monday, December 14, 2015

Wintery farm

New view south with the chicken barn gone

Irene's tree
Jon clearing snow
Samson watching

Nova Scotia cranberries!  Made a batch of sauce today.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chicken Processing II

 Mom came over today and helped dispatch 8 of my 12 remaining hens.  We'll keep the other 4 until right before we leave for Christmas, this way we still get a few fresh eggs.
It's snowing heavily today and finally starting to look like December.  If we had done this yesterday, we could have been outside, as it nearly got to 10 degrees!  We set up the cone beside the house and I carried the girls over one at a time, and then the rest was done in my kitchen (which was way less gross than it sounds).  I don't have a problem killing chickens at all, but it's a task I always build up to be more than it really is.  I have been intending to get at this for some time now, but both Mom and I were shocked at how quickly it went!  We did 4 birds each in 3 hours total, including set up and clean up-- and neither of us profess to be fast. 
Not very often that we budget a day to do something and it only takes half a day, so we are excited to be able to get some other things done this afternoon! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Tree salesman

Jon is enjoying work at Patmore's-- mostly selling Christmas trees right now.  Here's one of my first photos and my first post from my new iPhone.  I didn't want to be a carbon copy of everyone else, but finally succumbed.  I've never had a proper smartphone which can help a lot with all the online things I do.  So, I'm excited to have a tool that will make things easier!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Samson the Fearless

Dear house tiger Samson got into a fight yesterday.  We think with another cat, but not Roseanne as she seems fine and is suspected sleeping in the barn at the time.  Samson is terrible with other animals, super aggressive and not friendly, even with baby kittens!  He was in pretty rough shape when I got home-- it was 6 pm and he was hiding in his kennel and wouldn't come out all night.  I cleaned up his wounds (a few punctures through the ears, a tail bite, and a big gash above his right eye) and treated them, his eye was swollen shut!

This morning I came down as soon as I woke up and he was eating at his bowl (his favourite pastime).  He's doing better today but still in pain and hiding lots.  It's funny how one day can make you realize what creatures of habit we are.  Samson is constantly underfoot looking for kibble, but not last night.  He also sleeps beside me and hogs the bed (not last night, I actually had the best sleep ever, lol!).  And we have a nightly tradition: kitty cuddle time, where he sits on my lap all night long, every night.  I missed him so much last night, even though he was sleeping 10 feet away!  Pretty attached to the house tiger, hopefully he pulls through without any abscesses (a very common issue with cat on cat violence, or even cat on people violence, for that matter-- dirty bacteria-full cat mouths!).  Will continue cleaning his wounds and keeping a close eye on them.

So, provided he heals up quickly, hopefully this will be a lesson to Mr. Aggression, don't try to stake your territory in the farmyard, it's already claimed!  Poor Sammy.  :(

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Faith in humans... Restored!

On October 3rd, I followed the stray that had been hanging around Mom and Dad's to this dear basket of kittens:
(They were not found in the basket, of course -- Under a wooden crate leaning against a railroad tie)
We adopted the kittens, who we determined were about 4 weeks old, and brought them to our barn to finish growing.  In the meantime, we went to work finding homes for all of them.  The orange one went first to one of the neighbours who was looking for an orange one.  Mom claimed the cream tabby, and we worked on getting Dad to come to terms with having another cat in the household (the departure of Harley helped).  I advertised on eBrandon and found the sweetest El Salvadorian family who took the grey one, and Bob, the grey one with no tail, awaits a home with the man who installed our internet-- in the meantime he gets to wrestle with Blondie at Mom's a couple of days a week and he's a pleasant ball of energy in the barn.  We decided to keep the mother, Roseanne, as she is a good mouser, a really nice cat, and we assumed the kittens would be easier to get rid of.  We had her spayed a week ago so that no more kitten accidents happen, and so she is officially ours.

Just when we thought we had control over the cats in our life, enter Callie.  We went into the barn to do chores when Roseanne and Bob were recovering from her spay surgery in the sunporch, and heard a cat meowing.  A little long haired calico appeared and wound herself around our legs and climbed us, purring expectantly.  She looked cold and slightly bedraggled-- I couldn't not feed her, even though I knew that by doing it I was making a commitment.

She hung around of course, sneaking into the barn when we left the door open, showing up in the morning and meowing for food, and climbing up to my shoulders to rub my face with hers in gratitude when I fed her.  It broke my heart!  And it made me think of all the people who don't do their part with controlling the pet population, people who drive unwanted cats out to the country so that softies like me are forced to deal with them.  They don't just disappear!  Cats are resourceful survivors.  Callie spotted me instantly as someone who couldn't resist helping.

So, I listed her on eBrandon, and got 4 leads of homes for Callie.  She is getting picked up this afternoon and will go live on a farm near Brookdale.  I hope they will take good care of her and have her spayed, but I'm not really in a place to insist this happens -- All I know is that she will have a better chance somewhere else than here, where we have 2 cats and no capacity for more.  Samson doesn't get along with other animals, and as we are going away at Christmas and have to shuffle our 2 cats and 2 rabbits in with Mom's 2 cats as it is.

So, I am grateful to find that there are others out there who can't resist helping, too, and are willing to take on friendly strays that find us.  I hope Callie does well in her new home, and I am enjoying having her in the sunporch today as she awaits pickup.
A beauty!

"What's a 'Bed'?"

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Goodbye, Chicken Barn

There was an old chicken barn on the property, which had been falling down for years and was a bit of an eyesore (though filled with lots of good scraps for building projects).  Enter Rob's backhoe:
Definitely changes our view!  There's so much space now that things are getting cleaned up (for perspective, if I had taken the above photo 2 months earlier, there would have been at least 8 broken down cars in the shot).  Our farm is taking shape!

As Jon furthers his knowledge about trees and shrubs, we are thinking about adding a shelterbelt/buffer zone and some variety to the trees on the property, which are mostly Manitoba Maples right now.  They are fast-growing but in their later years (now) tend to fall and break.  Eventually they will make room for more Oaks to push through, but now that we have more space we'd appreciate some evergreens and maybe some fruit trees.

An observation from Jon:  Ever since he moved here, this is how most conversations have gone:
"Oh, you haven't experienced a Manitoba winter yet??  Just wait, it's horrible!".  Jon said this morning that he thinks Manitobans secretly love the winter.  By going through hardship together and having something shared to complain about every winter we become closer.  I thought this to be a very astute observation by my husband!

Off to the barn to feed the chickens, rabbits, and cats.  Roseanne is recovering well from her spay, unfortunately there is another small female cat hanging around (click here to view my classified ad on eBrandon).  We don't really have any capacity to take on more cats, and so we're hoping she moves on when she doesn't find what she needs here.  As a cat lover, I find it frustrating and overwhelming that there are so many cats who need homes: If everyone would spay and neuter we'd be in a much better place.  The shelters are full, as are the online classifieds, and yet there are cats like Roseanne showing up and having kittens because someone along the line didn't do their part. 
We've re-homed 5 cats this year and spayed one mother, so I can feel good about that at least!  I need to keep my urges to rescue more cats in check, lest I turn into this:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jon the Christmas Tree Expert

Jon has been working with Mark for the past few weeks framing Dave and Kathy's house, but today he started work at Patmore Nursery Sales in Brandon (Dave & Kathy = Mom and Dad's friends/neighbours, Mark is their son in law, brother to Dale who is married to Marci who runs Patmore's-- Brandon is a small town!).  Mark's apprentice had to return to school and so Mark needed a hand and so the siblings have been "sharing" him for the last while... But, the Christmas Trees arrive today!  So, Jon is at work unloading Christmas trees and hanging them in the greenhouse.  According to their website, he's already a "Christmas Tree Expert":

Today is the first "winter" day so far.  It snowed a little last night and got cold and windy as an Alberta Clipper moves in.  The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and it's cozy in the farmhouse, which is surrounded by flax straw bales that Dad and I brought over last week.  I got all the outside jobs done last week and so have the luxury of staying inside and cooking and cleaning all day.

 First though were the animal chores, where I again lamented the lack of safe power to the barn.  I ambitiously bought a heated chicken waterer this spring, and the birds are inside the barn now, but the power is super sketchy and so we can't leave the water plugged in.  It was a frozen useless brick this morning, so I plugged it in anyway and I am keeping an eye in case the barn catches on fire (no seriously, it is knob and tube electrical in there and the lights flicker at the best of times!).  The rabbit bowls were also frozen, but easier to manage AND-- the hydrant is awesome.  It doesn't freeze all winter, and is our only source of water that hasn't gone through the softener.  (It's kinda chunky and brown, but so is the house water, and at least it doesn't have salt in it for the animals!).

Roseanne Conner and Bob Dillon are in the porch, recovering from Roseanne's spay operation on Tuesday.  I wish I could post a photo, but still haven't replaced my camera.  Roseanne is a great cat- she takes her meds with no problem and ignores Samson, who spends most of his time sitting in the window staring into the porch at the pair (Playing nice with others was not part of Samson's education, apparently-- Hate to think what our kids might be like!).  I'm sure she is missing catching mice & rats and having free roam of the barn, so she will go back soon, once her incision heals a bit more.  I built her a platform on the window she uses to get in and out last week so she won't have to be such an acrobat to get in and out.  As it's 5' off the ground and she has to jump to get to it, I think it is the best solution for raccoon & skunk proofing the barn and still allowing Roseanne access.  Bob has a home but is staying with us until he's bigger and has learned how to be a good mouser from his Mom.  He gets to visit Mom's cat Blondie once in a while (see photo).

Dad has been working on our van, and is putting the windshield in tomorrow.  This will be helpful this winter as we work different places, and also next summer when we have to haul things between the farms.  We went with a van because we don't have that in our Honda-Civic-heavy fleet yet.  Also, we went for a very specific van, a GMC Safari, because it is all wheel drive and on a truck chassis.  It may be used for deliveries in the winter, and definitely markets, too. Though the expense of a second vehicle makes an impact on our household, it's necessary at this point, and after sharing a car for the past 3 years it's also very liberating!

On the Brown Sugar Produce front-- things have slowed but by no means quit for the season!  We have all the crops in and even managed to cultivate before the snow flew-- though I had to do it as our tractor operator Jon is working.  I am looking forward to doing more equipment operation and irrigation work, etc next year and finding one or two great employees to help do weeding, harvesting, and packing-- though I am realistic about how hard it is to find truly great people, I am confident and positive!
We have about 1500 lbs of carrots in storage, 1200 lbs beets, over 5000 lbs of 5 different varieties of spuds, 300 leeks, 100+ squash, hundreds of jars of preserves, 500 lbs of onions, 100 lbs of shallots, three kinds of dried beans, and small amounts of coloured beets, baby carrots, celeriac, peppers, tomatoes, parsnips, etc.  Jobs at this time of year include lots of washing (indoors), getting the weekly orders ready and delivering them, data entry and analysis, starting to think about seed orders and definitely already making plans to make next year even better!  I work about 4 days a week right now and the rest of the time I am taking a bit of a breather and dealing with things around the house & farm that we haven't done since moving in.  Patching and painting, sorting and boxing the basement and two extra rooms upstairs, minor repairs and improvements are all on the to do list. 

I've got over 40 lbs of pumpkin to deal with (cat food for the year in the freezer), so must get to that! 

Bye for now,
Teri :)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mead Making in RM of Daly

I (finally!) started a batch of mead today.  Mead is wine made from honey-- I got mine from Bygarski's at the Brandon Farmer's Market.  Jon wants to get bees, but I'm allergic and so prefer to buy my honey, thank you!  Mead is special to my Dad because our neighbour used to make it.  Dad would come and visit Geoff Frank and they'd have a bottle of Geoff's mead and shoot the shit.  I think Sherman, the owner of our farm, was likely involved sometimes, too  :P.  Geoff has passed away, but shared his recipe in a letter to my Dad from June 1991.  His nephew Jim lives directly south of us and was happy to get a photocopy of Geoff's famous recipe as well!
So, had I made the first version of the recipe, we'd only have a week to wait (yeck), but as I am using the more modern version we have a few months, longer if we want it to be more better!

Fermentation has begun!!
Buzz, buzz, thanks to the bees for all your hard work!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sweet new ride!

Meet Margarita:
Margarita, named after the air freshener in the van when we got her.
We decided on a van because it suits the needs of our farming just as well as a truck, and the business already has a truck that we can use when we need to.  Mostly we are hauling tubs and pails of produce from our place to the main farm.  We will take the seats out and use it as a farm van in the summer, in the meantime we will need a second vehicle for Jon to get to work starting November 19th (for now he's working construction at a nearby site).  FARMVAN!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Ode to Harley

Harley Dillon

2001 - 2015

In early spring 2002, I looked out the window and noticed a lump of snow had moved in the yard.  I realized it wasn't a lump of snow, but a cat!  I went outside and coaxed the cat over (an easy job, he was very friendly), and brought him inside.  We already had a cat (Gremlin), but she was a grumpy thing and so we all fell in love with this friendly tabby, who I named Harley and we had neutered shortly after he showed up.  We searched for his owners to no avail, and so he stayed, despite Gremlin's grumbles about it.

When I moved to Calgary in fall of 2004, Harley came along with me.  We faced our first challenge on the drive: a few kms out of Swift Current, the half-way point, the alternator went on my car.  Harley and I sat together in the waiting room of the Canadian Tire, and I was glad to have company as I navigated the problem.

Harley stayed with me for 6 months until I had to find somewhere to live with roommates, when he returned to Manitoba.  He didn't like the car and would cry the entire trip, and insisted on sitting on the driver's lap.  Harley always loved going outside and didn't do well as an apartment/house cat, he once overate himself to a whopping 18 lbs out of boredom.

Harley returned to Calgary as I finished University in the spring of 2008 and lived with Jason and Sammy (a terribly behaved small dog who Harley tolerated), and then we moved to Winnipeg in January 2009 and lived with Jenn and Kahlua (a long haired sandy male cat).  Kahlua and Harley got along well and would often be found sleeping on the same windowsill or bed, or playfully chasing each other around the house.

In May 2009 I moved back to Calgary and left Harley at the farm with Mom and Dad.  We were all unsure what this obese apartment-dwelling cat would do on the farm, and were certain he would run off or be eaten by coyotes immediately.  Instead, Harley LOVED living at the farm, and brought Mom gifts of mice and other rodents regularly, and slimmed down to his ideal weight.  He and Gremlin continued to tolerate each other, and Harley developed a routine of going out during the day and coming in at night to the garage to sleep.

Harley developed a thyroid problem later in life and was on medication to control it-- Ironically his overactive thyroid caused him to lose weight uncontrollably.  He would wait patiently each evening at suppertime for his "treat" (medication mixed with wet cat food).  Mom diligently looked after this for a number of years at a big expense.

Harley hated dogs, starting with his first encounter with a chocolate lab, who chased him through the house and caused him to hide under a bed for half a day.  A few years ago, Harley encountered an aggressive Boxer on the farm and ended up in the cat hospital (the fate of the dog was worse, Thanks to Dad).  He recovered well from his injury.

There isn't a box made that Harley wouldn't jam himself into to sleep!

This summer, my husband Jon and I moved back to Manitoba to join Mom's business, and it's been awesome spending time with Harley every day.  He's become deaf in the past year and so we have great fun with that-- sticking our faces in his so he'll wake up and jump (and then start purring).  He will never pass up getting petted, and still raises a paw for attention when he wants to be petted.

Harley has been in my life for half my years, and so when he didn't come in one night this week, and then not the next day, either, it was sad to realize that he is gone when he's been such a part of our lives for so long.  At the same time, Harley's health had been declining over the past few years, and none of us thought he'd make another winter, so it was not really a surprise.  I'm glad we got to spend one last summer with Harley, enjoying his company while we work and laughing at his wretched deaf Miaows and his insistence on jamming his 9-lb frame into any box possible.

 So, Harley has left our lives, but we'll always remember him for the part of our lives he was for almost 15 years.  We have lots of cats in our lives now, with our cat Samson and Roseanne and the kittens, but he will always be remembered as a very special cat.

Harley was a big hit on YouTube, in this video I uploaded 7 years ago that got over 300,000 views:

Goodbye, Sweet Harley, you will always be remembered!

On the prowl at sunset

"Stop taking pictures of me!"

Chubby in winter

Sleepy in the shade

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Got em!

This morning, one of the kittens smelled like skunk.  We called him "Stinkitten" for the day, but finally clued into why the cats stopped using their strawbale house and where all the cat food was disappearing to. 
Tonight I went out to the barn to visit the kitties and Jon took the gun on skunk patrol.  I sat down on the bench with all 4 kittens on my lap, and then Roseanne hissed.  I looked in the stall and there was a huge skunk with its tail sticking up, less than 10 feet away.  I grabbed the kitties and ran, yelling for Jon!
Now we have to air out the barn!  The kitties don't seem to mind, but it is RANK in there. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Internet!!

It's been nice not having the internet for a few months, but we're stoked that we got connected today!!

So, our house has a shiny new tower.  Because we are in a rural area, it's not as simple as just getting hooked up.  We shopped around and asked our neighbours and the only people who were happy with their service were with RFNow.  This tower cost $800, plus the install and two months of service paid in advance (we had to save our pennies for a long while!).
Voting AND the internet, what a thrilling day!  The rest of my day has been spent picking up sticks and spray jugs.  Since the spray jugs have been laying in the yard for dozens of years, it's a really yucky job.  For now we are putting them in garbage bags until we can find somewhere to dispose of them.  I post this gross photo just because I know the "after" photo will look so great:

This is what years of spray jugs look like in garbage bags... Not done yet!!

Monday, October 12, 2015

The hens winter home

I'm still getting remarkable egg production from my hens, who have been out on pasture all summer.  As it is beginning to be cold, we decided to move them into the barn so that I can plug in their heated waterer and they will be happier.  We still get about 10 eggs a day (12 hens). 

We converted a stall in the barn, opposite the kitten stall, for the hens.  It is entirely sealed with hardware cloth and Jon built next boxes for them (which they have already used!).  The food & water can be up off the ground which is much cleaner for them (and the person who has to clean the chicken shit out of them).  The kittens don't know what to think about their noisy new neighbours!

Roseanne didn't want to pose for the photo

Blondie gets our vote for the sweetest!

Samson weighs 12 lbs and is on a diet.  A market customer who feeds their cat salad and pea shoots mentioned that we might try pumpkin with Sammy.  He LOVES it!  (He loves all food, who are we kidding?!).  There are tons of health benefits for cats eating pumpkin-- urinary tract & colon health, increased fiber intake, staying full longer and reducing caloric intake.  Sammy's lucky that he can eat local, home-grown pumpkin, too!  Keep eating Sammy-- we have a buttload of pumpkins!  I did up a cheese pumpkin and froze in individual servings for when I don't have time to cook it as he eats it.


Jon and the kittehs!!

 The kitties and Mama Roseanne arrived on Monday.  They were outside at Mom and Dad's under a wooden crate leaning against a railroad tie, and so we thought our barn would be a better spot for them.  I built them a house out of strawbales, and they love it!
Two of the kittens are accounted for, but the two grey ones are looking for homes in about a month when they are ready to leave their Mom.  If you are interested, please email me at


Though Jon and I would love a kitten, we have decided that Roseanne will be the hardest to find a home for, so we plan to keep her.  She needs to be vaccinated before she can come in the house with Sammy, as he has feline herpesvirus which is very contagious.  And she needs to be fixed so this doesn't happen again!  We figure someone from town dropped her off once they found out she was pregnant.  Poor Roseanne!  She did remarkably well as a mother despite, and the four kittens are friendly and adorable and love people!