Well, I needed an attention grabbing headline 🙂
I might have been eight….maybe nine, when my mom taught me how to make bread. I don’t really think she thought it something I needed to know how to do – rather, she was sick to death of making bread – every single Saturday, rain or shine, whether she felt like it or not. Mom was an ‘outdoors’ woman, nothing put her in a mood like having to stand inside kneading bread while looking outside, especially if the weather was nice. As a result, it wasn’t uncommon to have a collection of odd shaped loaves, small dense loaves, oversized can’t fit in the toaster loaves…. proofing dough flowing over the big bowl onto the counter when she got sidetracked. She muttered a lot under her breath while kneading, and on one particular occasion I wandered through the kitchen just in time to duck a loaf sized blob of sticky uncooperative dough as it sailed over my head, ricocheted off the fridge and stuck fast to the spanish stucco wall we had in our kitchen. Apparently she’d had enough – and I do believe it was about that time I started making bread (I didn’t mind, it got me out of barn shovelling chores and it got mom out of the house).
Bruce and I have been on this piece of property for fifteen years now, not so long as many many homestead/farmers I follow on their blogs by any stretch – but long enough to ‘look back’ at what our ideas/ideals were when we came here, and long enough to see how many of those ideas/ideals have changed – or not.
‘Longevity’ has become our new catch-phrase. How can we continue to be here, do what we want to do, stay healthy and productive – for the next ten years? Or twenty? Or thirty? When I mention this to someone, they look at me in confusion – “longevity? You guys aren’t even that old!” But that’s the point….we don’t want to wait until we’re ‘old’ to suddenly realise we need to make changes, or that we can no longer do things. My neighbour to the south has been ‘getting the place ready’ for three years now – they’re going to sell. Neighbour lady simply can’t manage the place by herself and her husband isn’t well enough to participate in much more than firing up the tractor and moving some snow. Decisions they should have made years ago, weren’t made….there was always ‘tomorrow’ to fix things, or change things….and now they scramble. I do not want to be neighbour to the south.
I used to be very black and white in my homestead ideals. Kerosene lights (we still use them), no electric appliances (no stove, washer, dryer, microwave…..etc.) Now, I have to decide if I’m being stubborn and foolish, or just stubborn, or just foolish.
Long and short – some things have changed; I now make my bread in a commercial stand mixer. Toss the ingredients in, attach dough hook, hit the start button and walk away for fifteen minutes. I really like it. Yes – it’s only fifteen minutes – but it’s fifteen minutes I can do something else, and as an added bonus I’ve been able to add more whole wheat flour (by double) and get really nice loaves. Like my mom, bread making had become a chore, my carpal tunnel acts up, my hands ache. A mixer means longevity.
Other news: the bees made it through the winter. I think our coldest stretch hit -35 C, all of February was bitter and miserable. The first plus 15 day in March I went and checked- they still had food, I added some frames of honey from last season, pulled some empty frames, swapped brood boxes (saw some larvae and capped brood) added some pollen patty, put it all back together with the insulation box on top and left the insulation blanket on. We still have cold overnight temps – but during the day I see them racing in and out of the hive – somebody has dandelions, they’re bringing in pollen. I’m relived – not everyone in the bee club had their hives survive.
New life on the farm….25 meat birds, two weaner pigs (Thelma and Louise 🤣), and one fat happy calf born February 21 to our new milker. We still have Daisy – she is due towards the end of May. She is big as a house – I keep looking at her and thinking ‘please don’t let there be twins in that cow’. Buttercup was purchased last year as a pregnant 14 month old range heifer…..Bruce has done a stellar job working with her – she comes in for milking no problem, very mellow girl, excellent mom.
This year we have reconfigured the living quarters for the pigs. Pigs are never fun to load come ‘trip to the slaughterhouse day’. We’ve always walked them through the barn and into the stock trailer – bribing them in with garden goodies – usually it goes smoother than we expect. Last year – not so much. No way, no how were those two pigs getting in that trailer. Thirty minutes or more into the effort they were stressed, we were stressed, the slaughterhouse was waiting….I finally marched into the trailer, turned and grabbed the nearest rear leg and found myself on the south end of a squealing flailing north bound butcher weight hog – pulling for all I was worth, knowing if I lost my grip there would be no second chance. I got him in – his buddy figured following him in might be a better option, Bruce slammed the door. I lay there trying to catch my breath, covered in all manner of ‘stuff ‘ and figured there had to be a better way.
This year it dawned on me – we don’t need our stock trailer until October. The pigs go to slaughter in August. We parked the trailer alongside our hay lean-to, built a decent sized pen around it – they eat in the trailer, sleep in the trailer, spend their days rooting up the pen. If they get spooked – they run into the trailer. Happy dance! This year I get to close the door and drive away pigs in tow. Longevity.
Our barn project got done by the end of October….we now have a solid place to bring the girls in to milk, windows in to let the layers get some light in the winter, a new floor for the layers, ducting from the wood stove was moved to circulate heat better in the winter. I’m actually really simplifying- it was an enormous project that took up most of the summer and well into the cold months. Bruce no longer has to milk outside in the bitter cold. Longevity.
Come December we decided to tackle the bathroom – which has never progressed beyond minimum functionality- tore out the old derelict tub and installed a shower, finished the walls and ceiling, managed a few coats of paint and some flooring before we had to call it quits. Once you’re milking all house projects stop. The shower necessitated a trip to Edmonton at Christmas. We needed a unit that came in sections, that we could alter to fit the lower ceiling we have – none to be had here. So despite the fact that I haven’t done Christmas in years – there was no avoiding it 😂. Despite myself it was good to spend time with family. I actually stood still for a picture (generally I duck out when I see a camera), but it was worth it. Myself, daughter, her hubby and son, my son and daughter, his ex wife, my ex husband. Goes to show that all family regardless of circumstances can get along fabulously.
Hoping for warmer weather soon. By the third weekend in May we plant the gardens. So far I have my doubts, I haven’t even uncovered the garden beds yet. Still bits of snow and ice about. On the good side – the slow melt meant less flooding issues, less mud.
On a different note. On a nearly weekly basis I get asked questions about farming, livestock, homesteading, gardening. It’s difficult to properly answer someone when you’ve three minutes in the line up at the checkout (or wherever) and some questions come up on a regular basis. My next series of posts are going to address some of the most common queries – the answers won’t be a one size fits all format, but rather a general amount of information those who care to read, can use to make decisions. Most of the questions I’ll be dealing with are from people who want to start farming/homesteading/raising – growing food. Some of it I have covered in previous posts – but it’s a chore for people to scroll back and find them.
I’ll ‘try’ to keep on top of this…. and get a decent series posted.
Some of my bees clustering on the underside of the candy board.
Two hours old 🙂
Snowshoes – a good thing.