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!