27 October 2014

Winter prep

More winter prep today: The Reluctant Farmer built a landing (with a nice railing and stairs and everything) outside the south wing door - which we will now be able to use in the winter. The south entrance has an airlock (interior doors that keep the cold air from rushing in) so it's better to use that door than the north one, which enters straight into the main hallway. 

The old temporary deck that was outside that door had started to rot, so it got pulled up and the weary bits cut up for firewood and the salvageable stuff set aside. 

Today I restacked the firewood, some still needs longer to dry so it went at the back, some was too long (we got free wood last year and some wasn't cut to the size we need) so that got chopped up with the saw and restacked. The logs still awaiting splitting are in a pile, and things are looking better over there. 

Earlier this week I cleared out the hallway so that when we change doors everything is where we need it. 

Progress is happening! Which is good, because it snowed a bit yesterday ... Time is running out. 

15 October 2014

Yes, I’m here.

I haven’t written much lately … I’ve been quite busy, doing one thing or another, recovering from a cold, struggling to sleep, catching up on sleep, working, all sorts of things.

So I’ll just jump in with a bit of a generic update.

The past couple of days I’ve done a bunch of outside work, because Winter is Coming. There’s almost always snow before Halloween, so I have to get a move on if I want to get these things finished before I have to pull everyone in off pasture! With fewer animals, though, we are able to still have everybody out grazing, which is awesome. Some years I’ve had to start on hay by now, to spare the pasture from overgrazing. We’ve still got lots of grass, so that’s wonderful.

I’ve been making bigger changes, as the remaining four sheep are going to be gone by the end of the month: Cherub, The Boy’s 4H lamb (who is now 7!) will be going to a friend’s house for her retirement, and the remaining three will be turned into sausage. Two are Icelandic, Lambie and Jellybean, and I plan to get their hides back and make sheepskin rugs from them … I know for ‘city folk’ that may seem awful, but they are simply gorgeous pelts and I want to be able to fondly remember them and keep my toes warm at the same time. And we love the sausage our butcher makes, so it is a good way to honour the gift of their lives.

Since we won’t need a separate sheep area this winter, then, I removed some fences from the winter pen, making one larger area. I used the nice tall fence  wire to fully enclose the barnyard, removed one gate (which I will need at the Self Serve Cow Buffet), and built the alleyway entrance to the aforementioned Cow Buffet. My Farm Helper will have to come put in the rest of the posts for that feeding area, but it’s almost ready to go, which is good - then I can have my hay delivered and roll the bales in. (We are doing this, if you are curious what I mean by Cow Buffet.)


Basically, we will be able to have the bales dropped in the driveway, roll them into the feeding area by hand (they are easy to roll when they first come off the truck, it’s just impossible once they freeze in place!), remove all the bale string, and run electric wire in front of the front row. The cows eat the bales, then we move the wire backwards when they have cleaned up what they have dropped. No more pitching hay into a feeder, no more trying to get bales up the hill in the winter, just a self-serve Cow Buffet. The space we are using for feeding is what used to be my garden – the quack grass is unconquerable with the energy and resources I have, so this is a better use for the space. Besides, come spring, the area will be trampled down and matted with manure and hay and straw … and I can feed a few pumpkins and zucchini to the animals in there, then close the gate. This spring I fed Sasha a pumpkin in the barnyard, and we got two pumpkin plants in the spot where she’d left some seeds! I can put a few potatoes in as well, because potatoes will grow quite happily in a pile of straw, so I can at least have a few things growing in the nicely fertilized and cow-and-donkey-weeded space.

And donkeys really DO eat thistles! I watched Miss May purposely munching down on thistles in the pasture yesterday, which is just FANTASTIC.

I also tightened a couple of weak/broken spots in the fences, so that I can be sure the winter pen is reasonably snug (come spring everyone wants OUT ON THE GRASS and they will push if the fences are weak). I have also thought some more about my winter watering plans, though I haven’t done anything with that yet, I’m pretty worn out from all the work I did so far!

I took Miss May for a walk down the gravel road today – she did pretty well, stopping a few times to make sure ewerything was safe, and even though a truck came down the other end of the road, everything went well (my neighbours are very good about slowing down around stock!). We both can use the exercise, and it’s good training for both of us as well. I can see that training a donkey will be very good for me: donkeys need a lot of time to ponder things, to be absolutely sure everything is safe before they proceed. They freeze when they aren’t convinced of their safety … a response I completely understand. It’s my job to be empathetic and encouraging, to show Miss May that whatever she is seeing is safe: For instance, she didn’t’ want to walk through the narrow gate by the water trough for some reason. It looked unstable, perhaps, or too skinny. So I tied her to the post and let her look at it for awhile, I walked through several times, and tried to coax her through, and let her stand by the post when she said she wasn’t ready yet. Eventually she decided it was all right and came through. The next day when I took her through, she didn’t even pause. Donkeys have great memories!

I’ve been reading a lot on donkey training – and I measured Miss May again today to confirm her size and weight: she is 48” at the withers (12 hands) and about 700 lbs, which means I can ride her! Only with a very light saddle, and only after we get some solid ground work under our belts, but it is a possibility!

So I spent the day researching, looking at saddles and tack and learning about ground driving and surcingles and lunge lines and bitless bridles.

It’s all very exciting.

Oh, and when we got back from our walk, I put Miss May in the pasture with all the other animals. Everyone was totally calm about it, having been able to get to know one another through the fence for the past couple of days. Then when I went back outside later in the day and called her, Miss May came running right up to me! Yay!

She is such a great animal. She likes to stand there and have me scratch her chin and hug her neck. I’m so happy she came to live here!

11 October 2014

Meet Miss May

Photo 2014-10-11, 5 45 47 PM
More pictures tomorrow - we got home as the sun went down.

This is Ellie May, my new donkey. :) I think I will be calling her Miss May - we have a cat named Ellie and it just seems confusing.

Miss May was NOT happy about loading into the trailer, though she is quite people-friendly and unloading and getting her into the barnyard wasn't too difficult. She is rather jumpy with all the stress and changes, but tomorrow we begin ground work.

My dream is to have her trained to pull a cart, and go to the corner store (a 15 minute drive by car, so that's a whole day adventure) for ice cream. :)

I am very happy.

She lived with a friend of mine who raises goats, and tended to play too hard with the baby goats. As all our animals are bigger (the last four sheep will be departing - that was the bargain I had to make with DH to acquire the donkey) she will have buddies that are a better size for her - cows and calves. I gave her a couple of sets of interchangeable needles, she gave me a donkey. My cow now has a buddy for when she has no calf around (which will be for a few months most years) and I have an equine friend.

Miss May is a full sized donkey - about the same height as Sasha, though lighter and not as long in the body.

Cherub, The Boy’s much loved 4H lamb, will be retiring to a friend’s farm, and the other three will be turned into sausage … and I plan to make a couple of sheepskin rugs from the fleeces, I think I’ll really enjoy having those here, and the process doesn’t look too daunting.

Sheep are just too hard to keep inside the fences – donkeys and cows stay behind barbed wire, and can feed themselves at a self-serve buffet … more on that in the near future, construction is underway.

Time to go grab a bite to eat – more tomorrow!

ETA Here are more pictures!

She stood nicely for brushing, let me pick up her feet, and came to me wherever I stood in the barnyard. She is very curious about everything – perfect attribute for a donkey! She wonders about things, stops, thinks, and then decides what she feels about it all. Training her is going to be really fun!

18 September 2014

Catching up

Been pretty quiet around the blog lately, but not because I don’t feel like writing – I’ve just been really quite busy!

My parents came to visit, and we had a fantastic time. We went to Fort Edmonton, where some of our family heirlooms have been donated – ate brunch in the dining room at the Selkirk Hotel, next to the buffet and hutch that were in the room for most of the holiday meals of my life, and saw the painting my great grandmother did hanging right behind the front desk at the hotel … that’s incredible! It’s so awesome to have it there where everyone can see and enjoy it.

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We also did a day run out to Jasper, and went on the new Glacier Skywalk – wow, what a view!


Family selfie:


And Dad and I conquered the glacier:


Had supper at the Jasper Park Lodge on our way back … oh my, it was fantastic! And we had this for dessert!

It was just awesome to hang out with my parents. Mom even came to the felting workshop I did, and mended the Boy’s quilt with a fantastic Apple Jack Creek themed applique!

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That was all really awesome.

Then The Reluctant Farmer and the Small People and I went to visit my in-laws, which was also fantastic. They are such lovely people and they live right on the lake, so there is always fishing! They are selling the lake cabin (too much to manage now), so this was probably our “last trip to the lake”.

Then more work to catch up on, then apples!

Which became juice (and some more that’s fermenting into cider):

And then more work, and then trying hard to get rested up because having done that much, my chemistry is all dialed up to eleven. Oi.

So, I have some audio books, some printed books, some knitting, and … I changed my hair colour.

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I love the henna red, I truly do, but it is simply more than I can maintain now. My real hair colour used to be very blonde, then gradually darkened to a sort of dull ash blonde, with plenty of silver strands in it. I like the silver – it’s like the sparkle in Frazzlebatts! – but the contrast between my own colour and the bright red was just too much. Having had henna in my hair for what, ten years or so, it was deeply, thoroughly embedded, especially in the tips. Getting it out was a bit of a challenge, but thanks to information found on the web and some careful experimentation, I was able to lighten and counteract most of the remaining red, and then just brightened everything else. Now as my hair grows, I can easily lighten the roots a little if I want to (it’s just peroxide, which is very easy to apply and does a fine job on my hair - since I don’t use heat or other products on it the rest of the time, it doesn’t do too much damage … nothing I can’t counteract with the usual oil, aloe, and flax treatments I use normally, anyway). As the silver gets more pronounced, it’ll just all … become sparkly. And in the meantime I won’t look like I just stopped taking care of myself!

That’s the hope, anyway.

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It’s a bit startling to see myself blonde again … my hair hasn’t been this colour since I was quite a lot younger than I am now!

So there you are, you’re now caught up on the happenings at Apple Jack Creek. Time for me to go grab a glass of apple peach juice from the fridge and some lunch!

ETA: I really was blonde as a child. Even lighter than this, actually:

Lonna and Dawn and Cunningham house sign

10 September 2014

Kitchen Day

It snowed here day before yesterday. Like, three cm on the ground snowed. Snowed more yesterday. It's almost all melted now, but it's still chilly. 

So I decided today is a good day to do kitchen stuff. I baked apple spice cake, chocolate banana bread, lasagne, cannelloni, and a pot of beef soup that I will be delivering to a friend. 

Also sorted the jam jars on the shelves, found what I have and what I need, what I should be using up faster, and some stuff to go to the chickens. 

Now I'm sitting down while the dishwasher does round two (and there'll be a round three yet); but there are snacks in the freezer for lunches, and some easy things to defrost for dinner on days I have less energy. 

Voila. :)

24 August 2014

Felting Workshop

Today I taught a felting workshop at the Pegg Garden … it was a load of fun!

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These lovely artists created felted vases … so many different colours!

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I did a quick intro, then worked on a demo vase while everyone had lunch … it was like dinner theatre but with soap and water and wool. (Mine’s the one on the far right with the thistle on it.) Everyone started their creations after seeing how it was done, and we had a lot of fun seeing everyone’s felting take shape. It starts out as this weird lump of soggy wool, and ends up as a shaped vase that stands up on it’s own!

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Look, this one is shaped like a pitcher.

My parents are here visiting from Ontario, and my mom came to the workshop with me today, which was really awesome. She arranged all the sample vases with flowers and greenery … the County Horticuluralist, Lorraine (on the right) cut the greens and Mom (on the left) did all the arrangements.

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Look how pretty they are!

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It was really fun.

When I came home, Dad and The Boy had been cutting deadwood out back – more firewood for winter, and less of a mess in the back!

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Look at all that!

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What a lovely day.