The Past Month on the Homestead

The chickens are growing at an alarming rate.  They are also eating feed at an alarming rate.  I guess that’s what they’re supposed to do!  Only three or four weeks to harvest.  Anyone know of a butcher or abattoir in the Saskatoon area willing to process 15 chickens?  I’ve had a couple of leads on Hutterite colonies that may be willing to do it.  Time is running out.  I guess if all else fails, I do the work myself.  The old-fashioned way.  Just not looking forward to hand-plucking 15 chickens.  Although, their feathers aren’t exactly plentiful.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Will brooks (@1willbrooks) on

Work started on fixing up the barn, and then we were completely halted by the rain we’ve had this past week.  We demolished the old soffits and fascia, and attached new rafter ends to the rotted ones.  It’s funny how an old wood building like that can look like it’s about to fall apart if you touch it, but it’s actually incredibly difficult to take apart.  I thought we had to do the work immediately or the barn would start falling to pieces.  But no, that old barn has a lot of life left in it just as it is.

My father has spear-headed this restoration (thankfully – because I wouldn’t have a clue what I’m doing), and the barn is going to look amazing by the end of the summer.  New soffits and fascia, new windows, and a fresh coat of paint.  It’ll be one sexy looking barn when we’re done.  I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think the barn had soffits and fascia when it was first built.  It appears they were added later.  People more knowledgeable than I – would a barn have been closed in or would they have left the rafters exposed in order for air to circulate in the hay loft?

The garden is looking really good.  I finished the first round of weeding.  I found all sorts of things growing in between the weeds – corn, peas, squash, beets, radishes.

Now I’ve started on the second round of weeding.  The tomatoes could use some love and attention as well.  I have a feeling they’ve sprouted a lot of suckers.

Weeding the garden always starts out feeling like a chore, but by the end, I feel refreshed and full of energy.  It ends up being one of my favourite activities in the summer evening.  Especially if I’m feeling a bit blue or stressed out.  I leave it all in the garden.

Gratuitous pig pic.

Those darn pigs broke out of their corral last week, and greeted me at the back door of the house when I got home from work one evening.  Will bought an electric fence the next day.  We were going to try to fix up some of the old corrals, but we’ve decided to remove them as they fall apart and just use electric fencing instead.  It’s so much easier to work with.  Maintaining a wooden corral is a lot of hard work.

The little laying hens (and/or roos) moved into the big girl coop last Wednesday.  We had house guests and needed the spare bedroom, so it was time to leave the brooder.  I put them in a dog kennel in the coop, but then I needed the dog kennel, so I created an enclosed nursery under the nesting boxes.  It’s working really well.  Think I might make it permanent.  They’ve settled in nicely.  The big girls don’t even seem to mind.  There was a bit of noise the first day, but now they pay them no attention.

I needed the dog kennel because we adopted two barn cats from the SPCA:  Jedi and Liv.  Jedi is super friendly and awesome, and I haven’t seen Liv since I let her out of her kennel.  They told me,” Don’t approach her; let her come to you.  If she wants to.”  I’m pretty sure she’s still in the barn.  Somewhere.  The weather has been so crappy; where else would she go?

And in other news, I have joined the full-time workforce as a receptionist/admin assistant for a small accounting firm.  This is all so new to me – working full-time.  How do you get things done when both people in a household are working full-time?  Things like various errands and appointments and making supper and washing clothes?  Do you really have to cram all that into evenings and weekends?  When do you relax?  When do you sleep?  When do you spend time with your children or your friends?  I don’t get it.  But I’ll give it a shot.

I’m working for the money.  Making three times as much per year as I ever did as an actor.  Money is a very strong motivator.  As I get older, the promise of being able to afford to retire someday is also a very strong motivator.

That’s the news from the homestead.  Hope everything is lovely in your world, too.  And if you have any tips on how to survive being a mom/wife/homesteader who also works full-time, please let me know!

Back on the Homestead!


, , , , , , , , ,

I’m back at Sparrow Hill and all is right with the world.

I got back last Sunday evening and immediately got to work the next morning.  I had ordered 15 cornish cross chicks to be picked up on Wednesday morning, and they needed a brooder.  Will saved the day by building this beauty:

Picked up the chicks Wednesday morning, and they love their new home.  They’re cute and fuzzy.  Must keep reminding myself that I’ll be eating them in seven to eight weeks.  Now to start construction on the chicken tractor . . .

Then Wednesday evening after Will was done work, I packed up Liam and a picnic supper, and we headed out to our friend Sheldon’s farm to pick up our pigs.

Sheldon bought the Duroc pigs earlier in May, and he graciously agreed to get three for us and take care of them until I was back in town.

They are two months old, and about the size of a medium dog.  We brought them home in dog kennels in the back of the truck.

The stayed in the barn for the first couple of days, and then Will caught them one by one and hauled them into the corral on the north side of the barn.  Man, can they squeal!  They are so much happier in the pasture!  They run around in the tall grass, and dig, and chase each other.  In the barn, they just huddled in the corner and slept all day.

Will and I had agreed that he would take care of them, but I just can’t help myself.  I want to take care of them.  I know I’ll be eating them in several months, and I’ll probably get very attached, but I don’t care.  I’m a grown-up; I’ll deal with it.

View this post on Instagram

Our first pigs came home today!

A post shared by Will brooks (@1willbrooks) on

Liam’s a big fan of the pigs as well.  He’s not allowed in the corral, but he loves to peek at them through a small hole in the gate.

I canned cherry pie filling today.  The fruit truck has returned to the Farmers’ Market, and the sweet cherries are here.  Unfortunately, the sour cherry trees across the street from our old house were cut down to make way for new school portables, so I don’t know where I’m going to get sour cherries from this year.  But at least I got sweet cherries!

I am so happy to be home again.  Happy to be back to sunny mornings, like this:

And beautiful sunsets, like this:

Three Weeks Down . . . 


, , , ,

Three (possibly four) more to go.  I’m actually having a really great time.  The director is fantastic, the cast is fantastic, everyone is fantastic.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  I’m just incredibly homesick.  

When I did the show at Christmas, I thought, this is a very bad time of year to be away from home.  Spring will be better.  But no, turns out, there is no good time of year to be away from home.  

Things I am currently missing out on and/or really want to do/buy:

  • Planting the garden
  • Planting the trees
  • Transplanting the grapes and raspberries from our old house to our new homestead
  • Fresh asparagus (although that also would have had to be transplanted to the new place.  Hope the tenants are enjoying the asparagus)
  • BABY LIAM! He will be 18 months old by the time I get back.  His baby days are now behind him.  Sniff, sniff.  

We also had an attack on the chicken coop a few nights ago.  Two went missing, and two were found injured.  One of the injured succumbed to her injuries yesterday and kicked the bucket, but the other one is doing well.  Unfortuntely, Ginger was one of the chooks that went missing.  Ginger, the one who survived the great dog attack of 2014.  Ginger, who was more like my pet than a laying hen to me.  It was probably a fox.  Will has seen one twice in the yard since the attack.  Coming back for another lovely chicken dinner.  

It’s such a strange relationship we develop with livestock.  They aren’t pets exactly, but I do feel a great responsibility towards them, and it’s very hard when something happens to them – I don’t feel sad exactly, just a deep sense of having let them down.  It was my job to protect them and care for them, and I failed.  Anyway, I’m sorry Ginger.  I hope your death came quickly and painlessly.  I’ll try to do better going forward

In Memory of Ginger 2012 – 2016, Sweetie 2015 – 2016, and Sparky 2015 – 2016


Happenings on the Homestead


, , , , , ,

Awesome things are happening lately.

My Dad bought us a tractor.


And the tractor made a garden.


I’ve planted the garden with four rows of potatoes already:  Seed potatoes from our old garden, Russian Blue, Marilyn Fingerling, and Yukon Gold.


Will cut a large hole in the side of the new coop and installed an excellent window for the girls.


I made a nipple waterer for the girls, but alas, I cannot train them to use it.  I’ve tried showing them how it works, smearing yogurt on it, smearing peanut butter on it, putting scratch underneath it, and nothing works.  They refuse to use it.  If you have any ideas on how to train a chicken to use a nipple waterer, please let me know.


I found the old door to the outhouses in pieces, and put it back together like a puzzle.  It says, “The Rose Bowl.”


The seedlings are all looking amazing.  I predict an epic garden this year.  As long as wildlife doesn’t decimate it.


I leave you with this awesome picture of one of my chickens.  I call it “Chicken with a Shovel.”


How NOT to use 2500 Gallons of Water per Month


, , , , , , , ,

I starting writing this awesome post on all the water conservation efforts I’ve made this month, and how it’s really made a difference.  On Friday, Earth Day, I realized that the old toilet in the spare bath didn’t have a milk jug in the tank, which is a great way to cut down on the amount of water the toilet uses to flush.  Well, I have an empty milk jug, and it’s Earth Day, let’s pop that sucker in there and conserve some water.

I give you the text I sent Will an hour after executing my little plan:


typo – right=tight

I gently lifted the float about a centimetre to place the milk jug in the tank, and it snapped off in my hand.  Water started gushing into the tank.  In order to keep the tank from overflowing, I propped open the flusher, so the toilet continually flushed for at least five minutes while I wrestled with the shut off valve.  I whacked it with the hammer a couple of time, then threw all my might behind those damn pliers until the stupid thing started to turn.  Of course, my hammering and grunting and swearing woke Liam up from his nap, but thankfully, I got the water to the toilet shut off without breaking the tap.

We then went into the city and headed to Rona, where I told a salesclerk, “I broke my toilet,” and he showed me what to buy.  Got it all replaced, and the milk jug in the tank, after Liam went to bed that night.  Happy freaking Earth Day.

Anyway . . . back to the original story of the post . . . although the property has two wells, neither one is functional at the moment, nor were they ever hooked up to the new house on the property.  The previous owner was British, and didn’t like using the water for his tea!  (I don’t blame him; I have a feeling it’s going to be very mineral-y.  Ugh).

We’re trying to get one of the wells in good shape; we’ve shocked it and cleaned it, but it still tested positive for total coliform.  If at first the potability test doesn’t succeed, try, try again.  In the meantime, we have to haul our household water.  The cistern is in the basement and holds 2500 gallons.  We’ve found that we easily use 2500 gallons a month (!), and 2500 gallons a month is a $130 water bill. When we lived in the city, our water bill was $50 per month.  Ouch.

I put the call out on Facebook for my friends’ fave water conservation tips.  We already do most of the standard stuff, like using a low-flow shower head and using rain barrels to water the garden, but I needed some hardcore ideas.  One of my friends didn’t have running water until she was eight years old, so her mother had to haul all the water they used.  She became a pro at conserving water and using every drop efficiently.  Some of the tips below are hers; some are mine that I’ve picked up along the way.


  • Have a foaming soap dispenser at every sink.  That way, you don’t have to turn the tap on to lather the soap.  Just turn it on when you’re ready to rinse.
  • Shorter showers or reduce the number of showers.  I shower every three days now, which is approximately two showers a week.  Since one eight-minute shower uses 17 gallons (65 litres) of water, this means my showers only use 34 gallons (130 litres) per week, instead of 119 (452 litres).
  • Batch wash dishes.  I used to do dishes three or four times a day to keep the counter clean.  Now I do dishes once a day in the morning, and let them pile up until the next day.  This way, I’m only pouring one sink full of water a day.  If for some reason, I have to do more than one sink full of dishes, I try to time it so that I can use the dishwater for something else, like wiping down the cupboards or mopping the floor.
  • Fill a cup with water and use it to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth/toothbrush.
  • If it’s yellow, let it mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.  I also let it mellow if it’s baby poop.  We use cloth diapers, and Liam poops three to five times a day (I know!).  Cloth diapers do use a lot of water since they have to be laundered every other day, but I still feel like they’re the better choice over disposable.  I always wash a full load, and line dry them, plus I got all my diapers used, so even though they use more water than disposables to manufacture, I figure it’s essentially cut in half if you buy them used – spread the environmental footprint out a bit.
  • If you live in the country, use an outhouse.  I wouldn’t use it all year round (-40C and heading out to the outhouse to pee doesn’t sound like much fun), but I don’t see why we couldn’t have one to use in the spring, summer and fall.  There’s an old one sitting in the yard.  Might be time to dig a new hole.  The two thing that bother me about outhouses are the smell and the flies.  Perhaps I need to do a little research, and I’ve heard that if you keep if super clean, both problems go away.


  • Bathe the baby every other day, and save at least one of his bathtubs full of water.  I don’t always use soap and shampoo on his tender skin, so once or twice a week, I bail out the water from one of those soapless baths into a big bucket.  This water is then used to water my plants and seedlings, to clean (like cleaning the bathroom), to soak stained laundry, or even to flush the toilet (pour it in the bowl, not the tank).
  • I’m currently trying to think up a way of rigging up the sink and toilet so that grey water from the bathroom sink gets diverted into the toilet tank and is then used to flush the toilet.  I found a gadget that does it on the Internet, but it doesn’t seem to be for sale anymore.  If anyone out there has a brilliant idea on how to do this, let me know. I’ve also seen the toilet tank sinks, but I think it would be kind of awkward to have to straddle the toilet to wash your hands.




If you have any other tips/tricks for conserving water or information on old wells and how to get them back into shape, please leave a comment!


, , , , , , ,

It took more than a week, but I finally got over the stomach flu.  Then I caught a cold.  Which I think might actually be a sinus infection (going to the doctor on Monday).  But – I got out of the house and back to work.  Now things don’t feel so overwhelming and look so grey.

Must always remind myself – this is a ten-year project, not a one-year project.  Things don’t have to be completed by next summer.  One project at a time.  One small piece of the whole.

This year’s projects:

  • Chicken Coop
  • Barn
  • Chicken tractor
  • Water

Chicken Coop – 95%

This is (nearly) done.  I successfully converted the old grain shed next to the barn into a coop for our laying hens.




Fully enclosed run



Chicken wire extends out along the ground to discourage digging



Enjoying their new ladder roost – although this makes the pecking order painfully clear.  Poor Ginger.

All that’s left to do is set up a new water bucket (the water nipples arrived in the mail today!) and cut a window on the south side (I need Will’s help with that.  As much as I love the Sawzall, I don’t trust myself to cut a large hole in the shed).

Barn – 15% done


I finished mucking out all the stalls this week, including taking apart the disgusting old brooder made from pallets in the first stall near the front door.  I found a desiccated rat in the 8 inch pile of old manure.


So many times I’ve wished for straight hair.  Sigh.


Dead rat.  Gross.


Future home of pigs or goats?

What’s left to do on the barn:

  • Power wash and disinfect the stalls
  • Fix the back door
  • Fix the windows
  • Power wash the exterior
  • Prime and paint the exterior
  • Fix the eaves troughs
  • Fix the back corral

If all we get done this summer is fixing up the barn and the back corral, I’ll call that a giant success.  The wind was so strong the other day, it blew out one of the three remaining windows.  Grrrr.


Chicken Tractor – 5%

Haven’t actually started any work on building the chicken tractor, but I have a design and plans, so I figure that counts for at least 5% of the project completed.  I was hoping to have this done before I head to Regina for my next gig at the beginning of May so that I could order my meat chicks as soon as I got back in mid-June, but . . . well, we’ll see.  The plans I’m using say that you could build it in a weekend, so I figure it’ll take me at least two weeks.  I’m running out of time (and money.  Need to start bringing home a paycheque).

Water – 25%

We had a technician come out and look at the well.  He gave us lots of useful information – the pressure switch is good, the pump is good, the pressure tank looks okay, 29 feet top to bottom with about 20 feet of water.  The only thing that was wrong was that we needed 240 volts to run the pump, and we were only getting 100 volts.  Huh.  Turns out the electricity to run the pump is in the old house (so when we demolish it, we’ll have to get it connected to the new house – $$$) and the line from the main power pole to the old house was broken, so Will shut down the power to the farm, climbed a very high ladder, and hooked it back up!  Hurrah!  We have running water from the well.

So with Step One completed (get the well working), we moved on to Step Two (test the water).  We shocked the well, which involves a lot of bleach, and took a water sample in to be tested for potability at the Saskatchewan Research Council.  Bad news – it tested positive for total coliform and the nitrate level is approaching unsafe amounts.  Not drinkable.  Perhaps usable as household water if we can get rid of the total coliform, but at the moment, I don’t want to wash with it.  We’re going to shock it again and test another sample.

If we can move past Step Two, then Step Three would be hook it up to the house or at the very least, get a long hose and fill the cistern because right now it’s costing us $130 per month to haul water.

If Step Two and Step Three are a no go, then Step Four takes drastic measures – refurbish the old outhouse.



Farm selfie – Felfie?

Feeling a lot more optimistic about the property now that a) I’m not vomiting every hour on the hour and b) spring is starting to arrive.  The other night, Liam and I were wandering around on our usual after supper outside time, and there were geese honking, and ducks quacking, and cranes hollering, and frogs croaking – it was like everything had come alive suddenly.  The air was cool and fresh, and the sunset was amazing.  It felt good to be here.


You can’t take your chicken for a nightly walk in the city. 






Grey Day


, , , , , ,

Today, for the first time since moving to the country, I really miss living in the city.

I don’t know why I felt it today.

Maybe because I’ve been sick for the past three days, barely able to lift my head off the pillow, cooped up in the house with nothing to do.

Maybe because all the snow has finally melted and revealed just how much WORK there is to do around this place.

Maybe because the house is an absolute disaster, and I miss having 300 square feet less of house to clean up.

Maybe because the seeds we’ve planted have started to sprout, and it makes me miss my garden.

Maybe because of the mud.  THERE’S SO MUCH MUD.

Maybe because we put ten years of work into our city home, finally got it to where we wanted it, and now we’re starting from scratch.  I feel too old to be starting from scratch.

I don’t know.  I’m feeling nostalgic about living in the city today.  I miss my little house, my lovely yard, my amazing garden.  I hope the tenants are taking good care of it.  I miss my neighbourhood, and taking Ziggy for walks and saying hi to the neighbours.  I miss having friends and family living within five minutes of my home.  We haven’t met any of the neighbours here yet – we’re too shy to go knocking on doors, and apparently so are they.

Last week, I could look at the yard and see so much hope and potential – I could even imagine exactly what it’s going to look like ten years from now.  But today, as the wind howled and banged the doors and windows of the house, and blew snow and sleet across the dull grey sky, all I saw out the window was a run-down property with a shit ton of work to be done.


It’s probably just because I’m not feeling well.  It’s hard to be hopeful and optimistic when you haven’t eaten anything except broth in the past three days.

I’m sure the homesteaders had days like these.  I’m sure I’m not the first to look out the window and want to give up before we even get going.  At least I don’t have to break 160 acres with a plow and a horse.

Sunny days are ahead, I know, but today was grey, and it made me miss my former life.


Three, then Six, now Five


, , , , ,

For weeks, Will has been pestering me about getting more animals.  Goats, pigs, ducks, horses, cows, you name it, he wants it.  I firmly put my foot down – “Not until after I’m back from Regina in June.  You can’t be a single parent, AND start rehearsals, AND run a homestead all by yourself.  No more animals.”

Then we bought three more hens.

Because as Will pointed out, looking after six chickens is just as easy as looking after three.  Which, to be honest, it really is.

A couple of weekends ago, I drove out to Blackstrap Lake, and bought three hens from a guy who was downsizing his flock.  When I brought them home, there was a brief, but fairly violent scuffle, in which the new pecking order was worked out, and then they settled very quickly into a happy little flock (Ginger broke a nail, and I just couldn’t get it to stop bleeding.  Eventually dipped her nail in cornstarch, and then bought styptic powder for future broken nails).  In addition to Ginger, who is a Basque hen, and the two Barred Rocks (little Barred Rock and big Barred Rock), we added an Austrolorp and two Easter Eggers.


An Easter Egger and the Austrolorp taking a dust bath together.

That day, I discovered a secret nest in the barn with seven brown eggs.  It belonged to one of the Barred Rocks, the little Barred Rock I think.  I decided to start converting the grain shed into a coop, so that I could get them all set up in a proper coop with proper nesting boxes.  The girls were very excited and very curious.  It was impossible to keep them out as I tried to clean out the old grain and rat poop (yes, I wore a mask the whole time).


Nesting boxes made from an old table I found, and shakes and siding from the building we demolished.  I used the air stapler – what fun!


Feeding station.  There’ll be one more in the middle once I move them from the barn. 


They’re helping.  Seriously. 

The next morning, Will  went to the barn to give them water and found the big Barred Rock hen sitting on the floor with her pals around her.  She was nearly dead.  He brought her back to the house, and she died in my hands about five minutes later.  Poor dear.  I have no idea what happened.  She was fine the day before, scratching around the yard and foraging with the others.  Her crop was full.  My only guess is that she either ate something stupid, like an old nail or a staple, or she ate some rat poison.  I had been finding empty old packets of rat poison as I cleaned out the grain shed, and I found some in the barn, too.  There was nothing I could’ve done.  It would be impossible to clean the barn or shed well enough to get rid of rat poison if there was still some around.  None of the other girls in the flock have shown any signs of sickness, so thankfully, whatever did her in didn’t spread to the rest.  Moving to the country, I have reconciled with the fact that from time to time, I’m going to lose animals.  It’s not easy, but I’ve accepted that it’s going to happen.

That night, Ginger and the little Barred Rock slept together in big Barred Rock’s usual nesting spot.  The next night, they were back on the roost.  I think they were mourning.  Or am I anthropomorphiz-ing?

Anyway, now there are five.  Work continues on the grain shed.  I’ve got to make a very secure run, and I’m not a carpenter, so it takes me a really long time to make anything since I make it, then realize what I should’ve done, take it all apart and rebuild it.  Sometimes two or three times.


Attempt No. 1 – wobbly


Attempt No. 2 – sturdier


Third and final attempt – sturdiest!  Hurrah!

Yesterday, I discovered ANOTHER secret nest in the barn containing eleven pale green eggs.

IMG_0496One of the stalls in the barn has about a foot of manure and straw in it that we haven’t mucked out yet.  I knew one of the Easter Eggers had been flying over the walls and scratching around in there, but today I went it to take a good look at the feed trough, and sure enough, she had made a lovely little nesting spot in some old hay in the feed trough.  Eleven eggs.  Sneaky little chicken.  On a positive note, that means Ginger or the little Barred Rock are laying since I’ve been getting three brown eggs a day, and I thought they were all from the new girls!

This Week on the Homestead


, , ,

My show has opened!  Hurrah – I’m no longer working 48 hours a week.  I have time to breathe, cook, clean, organize, child-rear, and be the homemaker I really long to be.

Now I can start to settle in here.  I can set up the kitchen, the closets, the living room furniture and make it a home, instead of surviving with everything haphazardly thrown into rooms.  I can make bread and soup, and cook real dinners.  I literally cried last week when I had to feed my family Hamburger Helper for supper one night.  That was a low point for me.  I understand why convenient, processed foods exist.  If both parents/adults are working 40 to 50 hours a week, who has time to cook?  If you can take a shortcut here and there, and have dinner on the table in 20 minutes, you do it.  I even bought a package of already cooked rice that you heat in the microwave.  It tasted fine and was ready in two minutes instead of 20 minutes like the rice cooker, but the packaging kills me.  All that plastic for four small servings of cooked rice.  I still feel guilty and shameful about it.  I will say it right here, right now – in order to take care of my family the way I want to, I cannot work full-time.  Part-time is doable.  Full-time is not.  Not anymore.  Not for me.

All that to say:  survival mode sucks and I’m glad to be done with it.

This week, we started demo on the first outbuilding (and by we, I mean Will and our friend Greg).





Greg and Anita are fixing up the fire place in their house, and Will is building a mantel for them.  Greg and Will pushed over this old barn/shed to get the wood at the foundation.  It’s thick and aged and gorgeous.  I really hope it works out because I think it would be really cool if Greg and Anita have a piece of our farm in their house in the city.  We’ll be salvaging the rest of the wood from the building for other projects (panel wall in our living room, picture frames, coat hook boards, etc.) so if it’s in good shape (not rotten), none of it will go to waste.  I’m especially excited for the roof boards – they’re wide and thick and a beautiful shade of grey.  I felt sad destroying the old building but happy that it will live on in new, more useful, ways.  One down, five more to go.

I learned how to drive the John Deere and use the snowblower this week:


Ziggy helped.  (Actually thought I might run him over at one point.  He’s so deaf now; he had no fear of the snow blower).  It’s fairly easy to operate – one pedal to go forward, another pedal to reverse.  We need to put chains on the tires though.  I kept getting stuck, and because I’m only 100 pounds, I’m too light to rock it out of the snow.  My wheels just spin and spin.  Will pushed me out a couple of times.

I finally got the chickens out of the barn.  Being the chicken mama that I am, I gently called to them to follow me as I backed out of the barn, and eventually, they came outside!  We had some supervised free-range time in the yard before they went running back to the barn for shelter.  I get it.  They’re prey animals.  Being outside in a big, unprotected space doesn’t feel safe for them.  I’m working on fixing up their new digs this month.  Still gotta figure out a run for them on the old grain shed.  I want them to have access to the outdoors but still be protected.  At least until there’s more animals and possibly a livestock guard dog in the yard.


I organized my canning jars in the basement.  I’m especially proud of the large collection of Gem jars I inherited from my mom’s friend’s neighbour.  They don’t make ’em anymore.  Thankfully, they still make the snap lids and rings for Gem jars, but they don’t make Gem jars.  There was quite the uproar a few years ago when Bernardin announced they were going to stop making snap lids and rings for the Gems.  They eventually reversed their decision.  Can you imagine having hundreds of canning jars that you can no longer seal?  Having to start from scratch again with only mason and wide-mouth mason?  I like the Gems because they’re about halfway between mason and wide-mouth mason.  Sometimes, masons are too small, especially for pickles and larger fruit like peaches and apricots.  Gems fit the fruit better and still have “shoulders” unlike wide-mouth masons.  The best part of my inherited collection?  They came with glass lids and tall rings.  So if or when Bernardin decides to cease production of the snap lids, I can still use my jars.  Food security at its finest.


We also have a real cold storage now.  There was already a room built in the basement that would have been the cold storage, but it wasn’t fully insulated.  Only half the wall had insulation (bottom half probably got wet at one point and was pulled out).  One of the first things Will did in the house was finish the insulation in it so we could move our carrots and beets into the house.  It currently sits at about 7 to 9 degrees Celsius in there.  If we wanted it colder, there’s a small window that can be opened.  We have to put an insulated door on it yet, but it’s already working quite well.  It ain’t pretty, but it does the trick.  I moved my pumpkins and squash and canned goods in this week.  It makes me happy to have so much food in the house, not to mention the deep freeze full of moose and deer meat.  I’m currently reading Joel Salatin’s “Folks, This Aint’ Normal” and this quote really hit home for me – “The average person is still under the aberrant delusion that food should be somebody else’s responsibility until I’m ready to eat it.”  I learned what a larder is this week, and let me tell you, next fall, I plan to have the larder of all larders.


We’re still trying to think of a name for the farm.  I looked up the original homesteader, thinking maybe we could name the place after him – his name was Spurgeon J. Banks.  Ummm, no.  I thought of few more, but the one we seem to be sticking with at the moment is Sparrow Hill.  Sparrow, because the yard is lousy with sparrows, and Hill after the family that we bought it from.  They owned the property for over 60 years.  Before we decide that’s the name though, we have to make sure those birds are actually sparrows.  I’m pretty sure they are.  What do you think?


Have a great weekend!

Update on Acreage Living


, , , ,

Two weeks in.  Feeling a bit more settled.  More boxes have been unpacked.  Getting used to how dark it gets at night when there’s no moonlight.  Eerily dark.

Things I already love:

1.  This land.  I’m already in love with our little homestead.  In my eyes, it’s just perfect.   The sky is incredible, during the day and during the night.  We wake up to hoar frost almost every morning.  This morning, we learned that the previous owner had a HUGE garden to the south of the driveway, but the renters let it go to weed.  The owner’s father used to add manure every year, and she told us it was wonderful soil that would grow anything.  All we really need to do is turn the soil in the spring.  This news has put a smile on my face all day.


View from the kitchen window

2.  The stars!  It’s like I’ve never seen the stars before.  There’s so many more stars in the sky than I was aware of.  And they’re so clear and bright.

3.  The sunrise.  It’s so amazing that I’m sad it only happens once a day.

4.  The sunset.  Ditto my sentiment regarding the sunrise.

5.  The animals.  We have a great horned owl who hunts our property.  We’ve named him Blowfish.  We’ve also seen foxes and coyotes.  There’s often deer tracks in the snow, but I have yet to catch one in the yard.


He’s a beauty.  As long as he doesn’t eat my chickens.

5.  The drive into the city.  I thought I would hate commuting, but it’s only twenty minutes and it’s incredibly scenic.  I find it very relaxing actually.  And at the end of the day, it lets me unwind and let go of work stress before I get home.

6.  The barn.  I was in love with this barn as soon as I set foot in it.  In fact, I think it’s probably the main reason I wanted to buy this property.  The chickens are settled into a stall, and they’re very happy to have a large space all to themselves.  I was worried about them getting cold, but even when it’s -20 outside, the barn is warm and cozy.  We decided not to take their coop from the city with us.  Instead, I put it up for free on kijiji to anyone who wanted to move it (it was heavy!), and about twenty people responded.  Who knew coops were so in demand?  Today, I left the big front barn door open for them to wander outside (the back door to the corral is broken, and frozen in place, plus the corral is also broken – lots of work to be done in the spring).  When I checked on them after lunch, I couldn’t find one and panicked.  I thought for sure she had been carted off by a fox or coyote.  I checked again a couple of hours later, and there she was.  I think she’s found a secret place to lay her eggs.  Sneaky little chick.


7.  The adventures with Liam, Ziggy and Will.  We have trampled almost every inch of our ten acres (except in places where the snow is too deep).  It’s so quiet and peaceful.  Birds are chirping.  Chickens are cooing.  This is the life.


Ziggy following Will.  With every step, we sink into the snow, but Ziggy is light footed, and doesn’t break the crust.  You might say he is walking on (frozen) water. 


Just a boy and his dog, heading to the barn to do chores. 

I’m almost done with my directing gig – two more days.  We found renters for the city house – a young couple with a dog – and they’ll be in there as of March 15th, so that’s a relief.  Soon I’ll have some free time to really get my affairs sorted.  It’s tough moving and working nearly 50 hours a week with one day off.  Survival mode is almost over, for a while anyway.  Looking forward to March!