Sunday, 26 April 2015

Lambs and Layers

Today my boys and I set out to help my mom clean out her old chicken house. It has been years since she raised meat birds but we have been discussing it for awhile now. She has some eggs in a homemade incubator but we aren't entirely sure how that will work out, so she also ordered some pullets the other day. My boys are excited because they love all things fuzzy and cute, and I am excited because I want to relearn how to care for chickens and take part in the processing (something I was only barely a part of as a kid on the farm).

Besides getting ready for the baby chicks that are coming, my mom also tracked down two lambs and we patched some fence and had lunch before setting out to get them. As a  special bonus, we were given two bantam hens and a rooster when we picked up the lambs.

We aren't yet ready for the lambs to live in our yard...I'd like a rustic-looking rail fence and a small barnyard area with a chicken house/sheep shelter and greenhouse someday. For the summer I think we will work on some portable panels and a small shelter while we get ready for a more permanent (winter) structure.

Having some animals to care for has been on my bucket list since I had my first child. It is very important to me that my sons learn how to grow their own food and have the knowledge and skills to provide for their future families no matter what the world becomes. I worry about what life will be like for their children: will mainstream society have lost the skills needed to be self-sufficient? I want my sons to know how to compost, garden, hunt, forage, weld, repair an engine and a pump, sew, cook and butcher an animal. These might not just be hobbies but life-saving skills for my kids to pass on to their offspring. My parents and grandparents used to do all of these things but somehow in the last 20 years farming got more cattle-intensive and we moved away from the traditional small farm ideal. I am excited to return to the lifestyle we had when I was a child, and I am especially touched that my parents want to help and be a part of it. These are special days for us all, and I am ready to get started.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Signs of Life

We have had a lot of wind. It's noisy and bothersome, but it's spring on the prairies and to be expected. I didn't get the pictures I took a few days ago posted--some signs of green around the yard. Today I didn't get new pictures--but we worked in the wind and added manure to compost, mowed and picked rocks and only just began to clean up the messes the dog leaves on the lawn. 

A few strawberry plants survived the winter. 

Some ground cover is waking up and I'm excited to see how things look in a few months!

We have started some seeds, though I'm not the best at hardening things off and actually having things live outside the little greenhouse. It's fun for the kids though:)

The dining room will be crowded for 6-8 weeks, but such is life. I'm sprouting mung beans and I think we will eat them tomorrow (stay tuned for a report on the mung beans). I sat and picked hulls out of them today...I won't say how long it took as it was a serious misuse of time :/

That's a picture of the beans on day 1. 

I think today is day 3. Tomorrow we eat them :) hope spring is finding you in your neck of the woods!

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Red Wheel Barrow

Today is my birthday. I'm 38. I used to think 38 was old, until I realized how very long it takes to grow up. Now I know that 38 is young and that even at this age, the world is wonderful and bright and exciting and full of possibilities. Even when you're 38.

I am finally getting to know myself. I understand why I react in certain ways to social situations (introvert) and I am finally confident enough to pursue the life that makes me happy without feeling pressure to be popular or trendy or fit in. It is absolutely liberating to make choices that are meaningful and to adopt a lifestyle that FITS and fulfills and inspires. It is great to be 38 and OWN IT.

My little crew of men and I are in the "sweet spot" of life, as a friend called it. My kids are healthy, bright and learning so much every day. My parents are 3 miles away, independent and healthy and supportive--still here to teach me and guide me and love my kids without conditions. There aren't words to express how much that means to me. My Husband is a wonderful provider; he encourages me to pursue my interests--he gives me the time and support I need to do so. When I look back on my life, when I am old, really old, if I am lucky enough to get there...when I look back I know that these days that I am living right now will be the ones that stand out as the most wonderful because we are all here together. I want to fill these days with all the smiles and hugs and high fives and tickles and atta boys that are possible. We are in the sweet spot alright, and we are going to enjoy it like there is no tomorrow.

I asked for a wheel barrow for my birthday. Sturdy, practical, strong, not unlike myself. We are all about experiences, not things, and I knew when I asked for a new wheel barrow my 5 year old remembered the hours we spent last year "popping turds" from the cows off the frozen ground and hauling to the compost and garden beds. He loved it, and I loved that he loved it. The kids have kept it a "secret" all week in the shed and there has been much delighted giggling and whispering. Today, now that the secret is out, there have been wheel barrow rides and shouts of joy. That's all I needed today and it's all I'll need any day. Keep us healthy, keep us together, let us fill the wheel barrow together over the years. That is all I'll ever need.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Not Your Ordinary Thursday

It's a beautiful day today. I can hear the chickadees beyond the crackling fire and hissing pots as we boil one final batch of maple sap into syrup. 

Around 7 am. 

Below, 3 pots over the fire at 10 am. 

I'm having 3 close childhood friends and their kids over for the afternoon and supper tonight. I'm so glad we moved "back home".

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The "To Do" List: Saving on Insurance

Periodically throughout the year I sit down and make a list of places we might be able to save money. I knew that we could likely save by returning to our old insurance broker (we switched when we moved because the whole thing was too confusing for the poor guy we were dealing with, and I wanted to be sure we were covered). We received our policy renewal notice in the mail last week so I finally made the call to get a quote on home owner's insurance. And guess what? We are switching insurance agencies and saving $900/year.

Just like that, one phone call. (Okay, three, because they needed more information). But when I constantly think of how I can trim what we spend and use coupons when possible, it can feel hopeless at times. There are times when it feels impossible to trim our grocery bill no matter how I try, but in one morning I saved us what might be almost two months worth of grocery money. BOOM.

Now, what to do with the $900 saved? Let it absorb into the family coffers and trickle away to that mysterious place where our money trickles? Add it to the emergency fund? Or how about we put an additional $900 on our highest loan payment (camper) and save a bunch of interest?

I am thinking that I will give it until summer and make sure we don't need that money for an emergency, but once Husband's summer work is in full swing I intend to put the money we saved towards the loan we have on our camper. A double-win.

Do you shop around for insurance/ services to try to save money? 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter 2015

Sugaring on an old cook stove at the farm. 

Great memories for the kids and grown ups alike. Happy Easter!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Sugaring in Saskatchewan

When we planted trees on our acreage the year we had our house moved here, I purchased and planted over 100 Manitoba Maple trees with the intention that my sons could one day tap them and have a source of syrup, if they choose. Then this winter my brother mentioned he didn't think maple trees ran sap in our climate, so we discussed that possibility and he decided we should tap the maple trees at our parents' farm to find out.

A week ago my brother noticed sap leaking from where two limbs were removed from my mom's big old maple tree on her lawn. The following morning we tapped 21 of the maples in her hedge row using stainless steel tubing my brother had on hand. Although we only collected approximately 8 gallons of sap we wanted to boil it up before it spoiled.

There is A LOT of contradicting information online regarding maple sugaring. I recommend you do your research ahead of time using trusted sources (what makes for good photography on pinterest and some blogs may not be sound advice) and, if you have access to maple trees, give it a try. We only tapped about half of the trees available to us--next year we plan to tap all of the maples and purchase some spiles and a hydrometer if we can find them. Our product turned out a bit cloudy but tastes wonderful and the kids absolutely loved the experience of helping tap the trees, collect the sap, and participate in the boiling.

We ended up with about a pint of syrup this year so far--perhaps some might say that is not worth the effort and resources. For us, having the kids up and dressed and out in the fresh air every morning to do their "job" was wonderful and they are extremely proud of the part they played in making the the syrup. But, as my 5 year old pointed out, it's all thanks to the trees ;)