Cold climate seed sources (updated)

I have to admit that, right now, I’m rather obsessed with gardening! Mostly, I’m just glad we’ve reached a point, since moving here, where we even can garden at all, even if we really aren’t all that ready for it.

One thing I want to clarify when I talk about gardening. Growing up here, my mother maintained a HUGE garden, and in my mind “gardening” means “growing food.” There was gardening, and then there was flower gardening. They were always two different things in my mind. I still remember how startled I was, the first time I was talking to someone about gardening after I’d moved off the farm. I was so confused to hear her talking about planting flowers. Not a single vegetable! I eventually clued in that, when a lot of people talk about “gardening”, they mean growing flowers, and that very few of the people I met over the years grew any kind of food at all, except maybe some herbs.

It was the strangest of revelations for me! 😀

So I just wanted to make I don’t confuse anyone reading my posts here. Gardening, to me, is generic for growing food. My brain puts flowers, and even berry bushes and fruit trees, into completely different categories! 😀

With all the crazy going on right now, a lot of people are looking to grow their own food. On the one hand, I think that’s awesome, and it’s something I have always felt more people should be doing, if they are able. On the other hand, it means a lot of seed companies are running out of stock and are having a hard time meeting the demand!

Though I have already ordered what we’ll be planting this year, that hasn’t stopped me from researching, or just enjoying going through websites and thinking further into the future.

Image source

Researching is something I do for fun, which is handy, because I’m been spending a lot of time researching cold climate gardening and looking for seed, plant and tree sources. Unfortunately, most of the sources I’m finding that talk about “cold climate” tend to be US based, which means the coldest they talk about is zone 4. Mostly, zone 5. We’re zone 3 (or 2b, according to my Veseys catalogue label!).

So I have been making a point of bookmarking anything I find that is aimed at Canadians, where I know I’ll have more choices for things that will grow in our zone.

I will be including some of the sources I’ve found, here. My focus here is on Canadian companies, with items hardy to our zone, and I’ll talk a little about each one.

I will be including sources, in alphabetical order, that I’ve found for hardy fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and grape vines, as well as vegetables and herbs. I hope that these will be useful for anyone else who is trying to grow their own food in colder, short season zones.

Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company. This company, in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, specializes in Canadian wildflower seeds, specifically for the prairies. They also have a small selection of heirloom vegetable seeds. Mostly tomatoes. Their wildflowers are in many categories, including those that attract bees, butterflies, birds in general, or hummingbirds specifically. They also have categories for flowers that are deer resistant, flowers that prefer different types of lighting, and even a category of plants for tea. While my own focus is on food gardening, attracting native pollinators is really important, since our local pollinators come out at different times than in other zones. For us, we have to be careful where we plant flowers, due to my husband’s allergies to bees, but as we continue to expand our cleanup, wildflowers are going to be an important part of the ecosystem we will be building. More flowers -> more pollinators -> more food!

Green Barn Farm. Green Barn is a Quebec based nursery that specializes in hardy fruit, nut and berries that can survive our extreme winters. Their selections include nut trees, apples and crabapples, apricots, peaches and nectarines (!!!), berries and wild native species, cherries, pears, plums, grapes, passion fruit and kiwi (!!!), and permaculture plants. They even have coffee trees! Their varieties are amazing.

One of the things I like about their website is how easy they make it for you to see what’s already sold out – which, as I write this, is a lot! I find their prices are unusually high, but considering what they carry, and their efforts in genetics and agroforestry, I can see the prices are warranted for what you’re getting! They also have things like grafting workshops, seminars and consultations available. They do have a section for products for the US, but it seems to be down at the time I am writing this. They also have a YouTube channel. The last video was posted 8 years ago, but the videos that are there are very topical and useful.

Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery. When I started looking for food trees that would grow in our climate, this is the first place I found, and it’s still the one that inspires me! I really look forward to when we are ready to order from here!

This is another Quebec based company, and their specialty is fruit trees that can grow in our climate, but they also include a wonderful range of nut trees. They have quite a selection of trees hardy even to zone 2! They also carry plums, cherries, berry bushes, and more. Along with food trees, they also carry forest trees to reestablish and rehabilitate different regions. Their package deals include various collections at bulk prices, including a nut orchard, which I am pining for!

Harmonic Herbs. Unfortunately, this company will not be able to supply seeds for 2021, due to a combination of weather related crop failures, deer damage and the whole Covid thing. Hopefully, they will be up and running soon. This company is in Barrhead, Alberta, and provides vegetable, flower, grain, herb and other seeds. They don’t have a large selection, compared to other sites out there, but they do have things I haven’t seen anywhere else.

2022 update: sadly, another poor seed harvest has meant this company is retiring from their current format. They are changing focus, though, so keep checking on them.

Heritage Harvest Seed. This company is based out of Fisher Branch, Manitoba and… oh, my goodness… what an amazing resource! I’ll just cut and paste this blurb from the website.

All of our heirloom seed varieties are natural, untreated, non hybrid, open pollinated, non GMO seeds. We have over 800 varieties of rare and endangered heirloom vegetable, flower, herb and ancient grain seeds. Heritage Harvest Seed is a Canadian seed company with the largest selection of heirloom seeds in Canada.

I have spent waaayyyy too much time on this website, which was recommended in one of the cold climate gardening groups I’m on, and I’ve still only looked at their vegetables! They include all sorts of interesting information about the items, including historical background and even personal experiences with them, that I absolutely love. I’ve lost count of the number of items I’ve looked at and, after reading the info, wanted to order them just to be able to save seeds and help preserve the species!

Unfortunately, like so many other seed sources, they are overwhelmed with orders right now. Many items are sold out, and they’ve had to limit orders. I am really excited about ordering from here in the future!

2022 update: I was able to order seeds from Heritage Harvest for this year’s garden, and while it’s too early to say much about the resulting crops themselves, I can say that they have an excellent response time and great customer service. They have also revamped and updated their website, and it looks great!

Incredible Seeds. This Nova Scotia based company is run by an off-grid family. A small company with a remarkable selection of vegetable, herb, flower, fruit and tree seeds. Yes, tree seeds, not saplings. Which means they are much more affordable, but will take longer to reach food production stage. Nova Scotia has a warmer climate zone than ours, but they even have items that are hardy to zone 1! All their plants are heirloom and open pollinated, and they encourage seed saving.

Lindenberg Seeds. This site is a bit different, in that you have to look at their catalog as a pdf (or you can request a print catalogue). It’s 104 pages, so there is lots to look at! You can also print off their order form and fax it in, mail it to their Brandon, Manitoba address, or place an order by email. They’ve got vegetables, flowers, ferns, roots, bulbs, tubers, and more. Their selection is massive! They also carry growing mixes and pellets, plant pots and heat mats, fertilizers, row covers, and other useful things. I do wish they had a website you could view items on and order from, but I’m just spoiled that way. 😀

McKenzie Seeds. This is a company that’s been around since 1896, and in Canada, you can find their seeds all over. Like Lindenberg Seeds, they are also based in Brandon, Manitoba, and their selections of vegetable, herb and flower seeds, bulbs, crowns and tubers are massive.

Ontario Seed Company. This company is based in Kitchener, Ontario, and bills itself as the largest wholly Canadian owned and operated company. They started in Waterloo, Ontario, in the late 1800’s, and still have a presence there! They carry vegetables, herbs, flowers, lawn seed, ground covers, legume and forage crops, trees and ornamental grasses, as well as garden accessories and supplies.

Prairie Hardy Nursery. “An Artisan Nursery of Edible and Unique Trees on the Canadian Prairie. Cold hardy grown trees suited for cold climate growing.” Prairie Hardy Nursery is based on a third generation family farm north of Edmonton, Alberta, in operation since 1942. Their selections include apple, plum, pear, nut and apricot trees, as well as grape vines. Alas, for 2021, they seem to be almost completely sold out!

Stokes Seeds. This is a company that is in both Canada (Thorold, Ontario), and the US (Buffalo, NY). They also have a research farm in St. Catharines, Ontario. They supply a wide selection of vegetables, flowers, herbs and accessories. The accessories include everything from seed starting mixes and supplies, to decorations. They also have collections available, including herbal teas, sunflowers, stir fry, butterfly gardens, and more.

Saskatoon Farm. No, this is not a farm near Saskatoon, Saskatewan, but a farm that grows Saskatoons! They are a family farm in Alberta (their website gives directions from either Calgary or Okotoks) that includes a restaurant, bakery, outdoor Christmas Market, market garden, u-pick, gift shop, etc., and hosts events like weddings, private parties, cooking classes and other events. At least they did, until Covid happened. Some things are still open to the public, though closed for the season, and they do still have a catalogue, though only the 2020 one is on the website at the time I write this.

Silver Creek Nursery. This nursery is in Wellesly, Ontario, and ships bare root fruit trees. Their categories include apple trees, including a separate cider apple tree category, pear, quince, peach, plum, cherry, and apricot trees. They also have berries and vines (haskap, blackberries, grapes, kiwi, etc), nut trees, native and nitrogen fixing plants, and orchard supplies. They also have a lot of information on the site for each product (the most I’ve seen anywhere), a section on how to grow fruit trees, and they offer courses, including how to choose the right fruit trees.

T&T Seeds. I have to say, I was pretty excited to find this website. I remember spending many hours flipping through their catalogue as a child! I don’t know why we were on their mailing list, since my mother refused to spend money on seeds, but I sure was glad to get it!

T&T Seeds is a Winnipeg, Manitoba based company, where they also have a retail store. They have been around since 1946, and continue to be a family business. They claim to have the most extensive refrigeration facilities in Canada, to store dormant plants. On their website, you can shop by category: vegetable, flower, perennials, bulbs, sets & potatoes, fruit plants, shrubs and trees, garden accessories, home accessories, pest control, fertilizers and health products. You can also shop by catalog pages. Some of the more unusual items they carry (at least for Canadian suppliers) are things like lingonberry, jostaberry, figs, hops, wisteria, and sand cherry.

New: Tree Time. This nursery specializes in windbreak and shelterbelt trees, with a focus on a large selection of trees, shrubs and berries with a high survival rate and affordability. This is the place to buy in bulk! For 2022, we placed our first major tree order from here, which will be shipped when ready to be planted in our zone. They came highly recommended by people on several different cold climate gardening groups I’m on.

Veseys. Of course, I have to include Veseys! This is where I’ve ordered most of our items for this year’s garden, and the only place I ordered from, last year. Veseys is based in York, Prince Edward Island, where they have a garden shop and trial gardens. Their website has both Canadian and US versions. Their categories include vegetables, flowers and bulbs, herbs, fruits and berries, tools and accessories, plus a Gardening 101 section. They used to have a fundraising program, but that is currently on hold due to Covid. I can say from personal experience that they have excellent quality products, and their customer service is also excellent. I have been very happy with my orders from them.

West Coast Seeds. This is a Vancouver, British Columbia based, 4th generation family owned company. Vancouver is temperate rainforest. I don’t expect to find a lot here that will grow in our zone! However, it is another one that was recommended on one of the cold climate growing groups I’m on. Their seed categories include vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit, cover crops, microgreens, “lawn solutions”, ornamental grass seeds and plant stock, as well as garden supplies.

W. H. Perron. This company was founded in Quebec, in 1928, and “is the most important horticultural company in North America…” Their categories include garden accessories, annuals and indoor plants, herbs, fruits, sprouts and micro greens, vegetables, potatoes and bulbs, native seeds, perennials and biennials, organic or untreated and heirloom seeds. They also have sections for collections (patio collection, basil collection, cut flower mixes, easy pick green patio collection, etc.), urban gardeners and novelties, as well as top sellers. I admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time on this website, as I find it quite hard on the eyes. :-/

Whiffletree Farm & Nursery. This is a company based in Elora, Ontario and, compared to some of the others on this list, is just a baby company, having started in 2012. It is owned and operated by a family “of the Horse and Buggy Mennonite sect”. As such, they may take a bit longer to respond to calls, while using third party services for electronic communications.

On the website, you can scroll through an electronic version of their catalog, without having to download it separately. While in the catalog, you can click on individual item code lines to add them to your cart, though a lot of what I looked at had mouse-over notes saying they are not available this season. Among the unexpected items in the catalogue are things like persimmons, medlars, varieties of haskaps I’ve never seen before, and others plants I’ve never heard of before, like Schisandra Vine, and goumi. They also have items such as bee kits (for mason and leafcutter bees – bees included!), organic fertilizers and sprays, tools, orchard supplies and tree protectors. The catalogue also has a lot of very useful information included near the end. I do hope they are able to restock as the seasons allow, because there are some really awesome and unusual items here!

Update: Wiffletree has redone their website, and they did a fantastic job of it!

Wildrose Heritage Seed Company. This is another company recommended in one of the cold climate growing groups I’m on. They are based in Lethbridge, Alberta, family owned, and they grow, harvest, clean and package everything on site. Packaging is one of the more unique things about them: they use waterproof Mylar bags that are resealable and reusable, to encourage people to save seeds and still have all the packaging information. They offer bulbs (garlic and onions), vegetable, herb and flower (dwarf and giant sunflowers) seeds. At the time of this writing, they are shipping only within Canada.

William Dam Seeds. Another family run business, based in Dundas, Ontario, starting in 1959. They have a retail outlet, currently closed due to Covid restrictions. They offer a large variety of seeds for vegetables, herbs, flowers and green crops (including the largest selection of cover crops and nitrogen fixers I’ve seen, yet!), plus tools and supplies.

Younder Hill Farm. This company is based on a homestead in Nova Scotia, family run and commercially growing seed since 2009. They have farm stays and apprenticeships available. They offer vegetables, grains, culinary and medicinal herbs, flowers, live plants, willow whips, and even “basic apocalypse prep garden packs” in starter and deluxe! Both are out of stock, at the time I’m writing this, and from what I’m reading in the list of what’s included, I can see why. They are really well thought out collections.

Zappa Seeds. This company has store locations in North York, Brampton and Waterloo Ontario. You can even apply to become an affiliate or Zappa retailer. They offer a decent variety of vegetable seeds, as well as herbs and fruit (watermelon and tomatoes), but their most interesting offerings are their packs and collections. These include a beginners vegetable garden, a garden staples back, an East Asian international blend, easy seeds for kids, garden staples, and more. I think these packs and collections are a great idea, particularly for beginning gardeners. With so many varieties available, it can get pretty overwhelming to try and figure out which ones to try!

New: Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes. This Alberta company specializes in all things potatoes! It’s January, 2022 as I write this update, and I just finished ordering three varieties. The website provides all sorts of information, from maturity rates to storage capabilities to best cooking methods! I wish I’d found this company earlier, because they even have a list of what potatoes are good for grow towers – something that would have been handy when we tried to grow in bags!

There you have it! A selection of Canadian companies that supply seeds and trees suitable for colder climate and short season growing. I hope these are useful for anyone looking to grow their own food, even if you’re not in a cold climate zone! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Problem found

What a lovely day we are having today!

As I write this, we are at -5C/23F, and are expected to get a bit warmer. After the deep freeze we just had, this is feeling downright tropical!

I meant to post this picture yesterday, but I just didn’t have the brain space to do a blog post, so I’m sharing it today!

Their matched, angry looking expressions make me giggle. 😀

There were lots of kitties out while I was doing their food and water this morning.

The Potato Beetle brought luggage.

This was attached to his tail! A whole lot of stuff, stuck to a couple of burrs, stuck to his tail. The blue is from the tarp covering the kibble house. It looks like there’s some jute cord in there, too, and I have no idea where that would be from. I haven’t used any outside, yet. You don’t get a real sense of perspective on the size in the photo. It was like he had a small birds nest stuck to him!

Nostrildamus was quite eager for attention this morning.

He was trying to climb onto me while I was taking is picture. I am so happy with this shot!

Butterscotch was out and about, too, and followed me around. She let me carry her back to the house, and I took advantage of the cat house roof. I put her down on it, then kept petting her, and was finally able to get a really good look at her wounded leg. The gash is completely closed and barely visible. If there were not a suture in the middle of it, I probably would not have been able to spot it, as she moved around.

The whole area is still nekkid. The fur is not really growing back at all, yet. Which means she’s cold, all on the inside of her thigh. Which is better than a gaping wound, of course, but I can tell she’s uncomfortable when she sits in the snow.


I took the van in to the garage yesterday. When I got there, I went over again with him about what the van was doing (he sees so many vehicles, I’m not going to assume he remembers everything I told him before! LOL), and he asked a few questions.

When I had come to the front door I saw, for the first time, a sign about masking. Most other places have them plastered all over, but he had just the one on the door. So I paused to put on my Mingle Mask before going in. There was no one else inside and, while he had his back to me when I came into the office, I could see he wasn’t wearing a mask, so I asked “can I take this thing off?” He said yes as he turned around, then saw the Mingle Mask. He had this “wtf is that?” look on his face, so I told him, I can’t wear a mask, but I can breathe with this.

As we were talking and I gave him the keys, I mentioned I was going to go to the grocery store across the street, but might have to come back. There’s no place else to go to wait. He told me to take my time at the grocery store, because he’s not allowed to have people wait in his office anymore. Which is ridiculous, considering how much space he’s got in there.

I did take my time with the groceries, but still ended up sitting outside and waiting. Thankfully, the grocery store has a picnic table in a sheltered corner, where the staff takes their smoke breaks. While I was there, a woman came by for a smoke and we chatted for a bit. After a while, I walked into the parking lot to check, and saw that my van was outside the garage door. I asked if it might be okay to bring the cart over there to unload it, but she saw I had two of the big water jug refills and said it would be really hard to get the cart through the snow. Instead, she helped me bring it into the vestibule, moving a divider for me, so I got get it nearer the exit doors. There was a staff member in charge of cleaning the carts, and she ended up keeping an eye on my groceries for me, while I went back to the garage. She even offered to help me load the water jugs when I came back with the van! They were so sweet. 🙂

As for the van…

The mechanic was outside when I came over – it turned out he had just tried phoning me, but I never heard my cell phone ring! As I came up, the first thing he asked me was, where do I buy my fuel?

We always but our fuel at either Costco (usually once a month, though we haven’t been to Costco for quite a while) or at a co-op. As members, we get a check at the end of the fiscal year, with the amount based on how much gas or groceries we buy, though I haven’t tried to shop at the local co-op grocery store since the restrictions went nuts.

As soon as I told him it was at the co-op, he just shook his head.

My EGR (exhaust gas re-circulation) valve needs to be replaced.

I had no idea what that was, so he explained it to me. It’s no wonder I didn’t know what it was. It’s been so long since I’ve tinkered with engines, they didn’t even have these, yet. I was aware of the EGR valve’s function in newer vehicles, but not as part with a name to it.

Gosh, I suddenly feel old.

He told me the co-op gas stations have the worst quality fuel available. This is something I’ve heard others saying, too, but I didn’t seem to be having any problems, so…


It turns out he sees this a lot, and every time he does, it’s people who buy their gas at the co-ops. The crappy fuel leaves behind a lot of carbon, and these valves end up completely clogged. He said they can sometimes be cleaned, but usually need replacing. I figure, by the time he sees the vehicles, they’re long past the stage where the valve can be just cleaned out!

This is in line with my brother’s thoughts when I described what the van was doing, though he hadn’t specifically mentioned the EGR valve. It might even be why our van sometimes doesn’t want to start at all – something it did with the mechanic one time, as he tried to drive the van into the garage when I had the winter tires put on. That was a problem we’ve had every now and then, since we got the van. Whoever owned it before us did not maintain it well, and we spent an awful lot of money getting it fixed up after we bought it. Considering we got it at a price low enough, I could use my debit card to pay for it, I suppose we can’t really complain!

So while it’s only been a little over 3 years that we’ve been buying this gas, if there were already a build up in the valve before, it would have gotten a lot worse, a lot faster.

As I think about it, I realize that if we weren’t in the habit of doing a monthly shop, with the van being so heavily loaded, we probably would not have noticed it was becoming a problem, and likely would have kept going for months, if not years, before catching it.

The part is being ordered, and I am bringing the van back on Thursday morning. It’s going to cost $425, plus taxes.


I won’t be getting my new chainsaw this month! 😀

While we were in his office, booking the next appointment, he saw someone coming in and quickly put a mask on, so I quickly put my Mingle Mask on, too, so as not to get him in trouble. We were both muttering under our breath about not being able to breath without a mask, never mind with one. I think he he’s medically exempt, too, but is being forced to wear one when customers are around. This town has an awful lot of Covid Karens that would eagerly phone the snitch lines, or the police, on anyone they deem non-complaint. At least he’s alone in the shop, most of the time, and can take it off to breathe.

(Which reminds me; my doctor is going to refer me to a respiratory specialist. The puffer he got me to try has made no difference, and this is now something for the specialists. Hopefully, I will get someone better than the last respiratory specialist I saw, when we lived in the city. His conclusion had been, I’m fat, so that must be why I’m coughing, and he would react with open surprise when test after test came back showing me normal and healthy. :-/ Then he just gave up and sent me back to my regular doctor.)

Meanwhile, the van should be okay to drive, though I will be avoiding heavy loads until after the valve is replaced. He assured me that, while it might keep stalling on me, I would be able to restart it and keep on going. Once it’s replaced, that sluggishness I was noticing should go away, as well. It seems quite a few little things I was noticing, including the fuel economy dropping and the idle starting to sound rougher, were probably all warning signs of this problem.

Now I’m wondering about my mother’s car. She always bought fuel at the co-op, too, and I’ve noticed it has terrible mileage.

After booking the appointment and loading up the groceries, I filled the gas tank on the way home.

At a different gas station!

Dang it. One of our favourite places to stop on the way to the city was the co-op gas station in my mother’s town. There are such wonderful people working there, plus they’ve got an excellent convenience store. But getting a few bucks a year back isn’t anywhere near enough to make up for having to pay over $400 to fix the damage it causes. :-/

We’ll probably still stop there, just to go into the store for snacks, home baked by one of the gas jockeys. ❤

So that’s where we are at, with the van situation. It’s going to be an expensive fix, but knowing what’s wrong is actually a huge relief.

I must admit, though; I’m getting really, really tired of vehicle problems. It’s a lot more stressful, when living in such relative isolation, because we depend on having a vehicle so very much. That’s one of the more major downsides of living out here. 😦

The Re-Farmer

Cute stuff, and some productivity

Before I get into various things, I want to share some cute stuff with you, first!

Our collection of baskets that had been stored in the big fish tank ended up on top of the piano for now. The cats love to go up there, so I fully expected them to take advantage of the situation.

It wasn’t long before I found Tissue and Leyendecker among them!

Tissue is in three baskets at once! 😀

The largest baskets, with decorations on them, are the ones we use for our family Easter basket. There are some smaller ones in the collection that we found while cleaning up the house, including a basket that used to be my very own basket to take to church for blessing on Holy Saturday, along with the family basket, when I was a child!

Here is some more cuteness for you to enjoy…

This piece of foam is what was inside the new washing machine when we bought it. Our old mama cat, who moved out here with us, immediately adopted it as her favourite bed, and now Cabbages loves to join “grandma” for cuddles!

The cats also like to bite off pieces along the edges and spit them out.

Our living room carpet is continually covered in cat fur, foam from this thing, cardboard from their scratch pad, and the dirt they’re still managing to dig out of some of our plant pots! The cats leave trails of detritus, everywhere they go. 😀

Our old mama cat has been quick to adopt any new cats introduced to the house, and is STILL allowing several of the kittens – now almost adults – to try and nurse on her, including Cabbages. Cabbages has been taking a long time to socialize but, thankfully, she is getting along quite well with the other cats. Grandma and Keith are her favourites!

Cabbages and Keith will spend hours like this, all snuggled together and napping on my bed.

Cabbages has finally reached a point where we can pet her regularly, and she doesn’t immediately run off. She seems torn between not wanting those big, clumsy humans clomping about near her, and wanting those scritches and pets. She will even tolerate being picked up and held, if only briefly. That is significant progress!

In other things, we warmed up enough today that I finally switched out the memory cards on the trail cams. That micro SD card I put in the new camera this morning, which had been used only once and did not require formatting in the camera when I put it in the first time, needed to be formatted this morning. *sigh* Why would it work fine the first time, after I’d formatted it in the computer, but need to be formatted in the camera, the next time it was used? The other micro SD cards I’d bought at the same time had done the same thing. I had assumed it was because they were not as high end, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem, after all.

Ah, well. I’ll figure it out.

With the bitter cold we’ve had for the past few days, I was not expecting to find much on the cards. Especially from the new camera, which has been just dying with the colder temperatures.

I was surprised.

The older camera was shut down when I switched out the memory card. When it gets cold and the batteries can’t handle it anymore, it shuts itself off. When I turned it back on, the batteries were still at half power, so it was just from the cold. There were still a few files on the card, though, all from one day.

The new camera had files recorded on each day of the deep freeze! This camera displays the temperature, and it actually kept on recording with an internal temperature of -25C/-13F !! Previously, this camera would die before reaching -20C/-4F! It did shut itself down during the nights; the only night files we did get, had a warning displayed in large red letters, saying it was low power. This camera will actually turn itself back on again when the temperatures warm up. I am totally shocked – in a happy way – that it kept working through the deep freeze. I have no idea why it would stop working before, but is working now, at these temperatures. I’m not complaining, that’s for sure! I did still have to warm up the camera with my hands, so I could see the screen, but that would only be a real problem if I had to do it during the deep freeze, because of the frost bite risk. Since I don’t even bother switching out the cards in temperatures like that, it’s a moot point.

This afternoon, we warmed up to -14C/7F, which made me a lot more comfortable about heading out to help my mother with her grocery shopping. She didn’t need much, but took advantage of having access to her car and stocked up on other things. I gave her some of my extra Mingle Masks, hoping she would use one instead of struggling with the surgical mask she normally uses, but she wasn’t up to it. Still, she has them, and saw on me how to use them, so I hope she gives them a try. She will actually be able to breathe in those. She still would have to use the type she struggles with at the pharmacy, though, so she might not bother. Frustrating.

After helping my mother with her shopping, I went back to the grocery store to pick up a few things to tide us over until we can do our big shop, whenever that will be. I had to pick up some bigger stuff, like cat litter and cat food, so there wasn’t enough room in her car for her shopping, her walker, and my shopping, all at once. Which is fine by me. The final bill was a shocker, though. I didn’t get very much, but it cost almost $270. Considerably more than if I’d been able to go to the city to buy the same things.

Bird tracks in the snow, found when I came home. This is nowhere near the bird feeders, but those are sunflower seed shells on the snow. Which shows just how windy things go!

There’s a reason we try to do monthly shops in the city. We save at least several hundred dollars every month by doing that, which means we have more budget left over to buy fresh foods locally. The more we’re forced to make smaller, local shopping trips, the more gets eaten out of our budget, and the less we can get overall, either locally, or in the city.

I did splurge on one thing, though.

I bought a 240 count bag of those red plastic beer cups.

I’m on several cold climate gardening groups, which are all busily talking about starting seeds indoors right now. I’ve seen people recommend using these as pots to start seeds in. They just need to have drainage holes punched into their bottoms. While I will be starting some seeds (like onions) in Jiffy pellets, and others (like corn) in toilet paper tubes, I learned from last year, that I need something bigger to start squash in. I did transplants outdoors too soon because they had gotten too big in their starter trays, only to lose most of them to one last late frost. By starting them in something bigger, even if the weather is not cooperative and they get in the ground later, they will have enough room to keep growing in their pots.

Ideally, I would be using biodegradable pots that can be put straight into the ground, with no disruption of the roots. That’s what I will be doing with the toilet paper tubes and corn. I’ve been looking at pots like that. The Jiffy peat pots are relatively inexpensive, and come in larger count packages. I would have ordered some last night, along with the seeds and plants I got for my daughters, but they were sold out. The alternatives were “cow pots” – the same idea, but made with cow manure instead of peat. They are way too expensive, though.

So when I saw the beer cups in the store, I went for it. They are the size I need, and can be reused. With 240 of them, I have more than enough to plant everything we have that need to be started indoors, and need the extra space.

Now I just have to figure out what to put under the the drainage holes. I can think of all sorts of possibilities, but they all require buying something, and that’s just not an option right now. Even if I could find them, they are “non essential” and stores still wouldn’t be able to sell them. (Like with clothes.) Maybe I’ll find something later in the month that I’ll be allowed to buy. The first seeds need to be started the second half of March, so I have a bit of time to find, or even build, something.

One more little step of progress towards our gardening. 🙂

Tomorrow, we take the van in to the garage and hopefully find out why it’s been stalling. What we find out then will determine what we do and when, in regards to getting the monthly shopping done, and picking up the new hot water tank on warranty.

Ah, that reminds me. I asked around about how this location has been about medical mask exemptions and things like shields and Mingle Masks. It turns out they’ve gone full mask nazi, even to the point of staff following people around, harassing them and kicking them out.

That is going to be a problem. At the very least, I need to go to the customer service desk with the sticker from the hot water tank, and warranty authorization number.

I did find out another location has been safe to go to. As far as I have been told, I need to go back to where the tank was purchased, but that may mean only the franchise, not the specific store. The first tank we got was from a location in town that told me they don’t do warranties, so I had to go to this other location. The one that was recommended to me is actually a bit closer; just in a town to the north of us, that we almost never go to.

I’ll have to make some phone calls.

What a hassle even the simplest things have become.

The Re-Farmer

I couldn’t resist

Well, I’ve gone and done it.

I’ve made another order from Vesey’s Seeds.

What can I say? I couldn’t resist!

Truthfully, the things I ordered today are not for me. They are for my daughters. My excuse is, they both have spring birthdays, so this is my gift to them!

Here is what I’ve ordered. (All links will open in new tabs)

Purple Passion Asparagus: This is the one that got the bug in my ear to order more! The new Vesey’s spring catalogue had come in, and my older daughter came to me, all excited about these. They are not only hardy to zone 2, but apparently are so sweet and tender, they can be eaten raw. She didn’t ask about ordering it, though, since she knew we already had so much.

So I ordered it anyway. 😀 We do have some asparagus here; a few brave spears come up in the spring, but not enough to harvest. Asparagus takes 2-3 years to get going, so ordering fresh root stocks now just makes more sense. Once they’re established, they should keep producing for up to 20 years. We’ll be getting the 6 pack of these, delivered in the spring.

April Cross Chinese Radish: This is a Daikon type of radish. I actually don’t like these – or any radishes at all – but my younger daughter really likes Daikon radish, so this is for her!

Red Meat Watermelon Radish: This one is for both my daughters! A white radish with a pink interior and green “shoulders”.

Robin Beet: We got only one variety of beets this year, with a second variety my younger daughter had wanted being out of stock. It’s still out of stock. Both my daughters really liked the deep, dark, sweet beets that we grew last year, so these should be right up their alley. These are “baby” beets, maturing at only 25-30 days.

Black Form Iris: this is another one for my younger daughter. There is another black iris that she had wanted to get for our fall planting, but it was out of stock, and still is. I know she’ll like this one, too. Like the asparagus, this will be delivered in the spring.

So that’s it! Just a little order, at least compared to the last one I made at Vesey’s! 😀 I think the girls will really enjoy growing these.

The Re-Farmer

It’s still cold out there, and… on a more serious note

One of the first things I do in the morning, before heading outside to do my rounds, is check the weather.

This morning, at a time when I would normally be starting to head outside, it was -36C/-32.8F

Yeeeaaaaahhhhh…. No.

I waited a couple of hours before heading out, but it was still -28C/-18.4F At least there was no windchill, and the “real feel” was -25C/-13F

The wait meant I had a whole lot more cats to greet me when I came out! There were none at all, inside the cat shelter. They were all out and about.

They have quite a lot of food out, but still prefer the fresh kibble. Which they quickly abandoned, once they saw there was fresh, warm water!

One of them was eager enough to take a short cut through the snow! LOL

Once again, I skipped switching out the memory cards on the trail cams, but I did head out to the garage to double check that the vehicles were plugged in, and grab some sheets of insulation. We had used these to line the windows in the sun room last winter, when we were keeping the doors propped open so the cats could shelter in it. With the outer door fixed, and that cats having a lovely warm shelter of their own, we didn’t insulate the sun room this winter. That leaves the pieces available to use inside the fish tanks to help keep the seed trays warm.


It wasn’t a lot of extra time to do that, but even so, I could feel the cold in my lungs. Thank God I’m already a shallow breather, due to my chronic cough. In temperatures like these breathing deeply can injure the lungs.

Image source – available on t-shirts and mugs! (not an affiliate link)

There may have been no wind chill this morning, but as I glance at my weather app, I see we’ve almost reached our high of the day, at -24C/-18F – but the wind chill is now -30C/-20F!

Thankfully, tomorrow we should be back to more normal temperatures, and be warmer than -20C. Which is good, because tomorrow afternoon, I am heading out to help my mother with her errands, and have to do a bit of grocery shopping for ourselves, too.

It should be even warmer on Friday, when I take the van in to the garage to get checked over. I really hope he finds why it has begun to stall and have troubles when fully loaded. We were already splitting our monthly shop into a couple of trips, and if the van has problems with just a half load already, and have to make more frequent, even smaller shops, we lose all the benefits of bulk shopping. Plus, our province has kept up a lot of restrictions, loosening some but increasing others, with no change in the mask mandates. There are still a lot of places that refuse to accept medical exemptions, and going out to shop feels like going out to battle, every time. Being surrounded by faceless people is also starting to freak me out more and more. I’m even playing Pokemon Go less. The game has things you can do right from home, without having to go places, and among the thing you can do is exchange gifts with people that are on your friends list. You get to see each person’s avatar in the process, and people are putting masks on their avatars. It’s bad enough that the option is even available, but it’s like a punch to the gut, every time I see a masked avatar. Every avatar represents the person playing, and that person just turned themselves into an NPC.

It’s one thing to know, intellectually, the sort of psychological damage this sort of dehumanization causes. It’s quite another to feel it. And rather surprising, considering how little we go out anyhow. I don’t even want to imagine how wigged out I would be, if I had to be surrounded by it every day. I completely understand my friend who has self isolated for months, because being surrounded by masks triggers her PTSD!

At least I know what the cause of the discomfort is. Most people would have no idea. And why would they? All they would know is that their stress and anxiety is increasing, and there are so many things contributing to that right now. Unfortunately, that cognitive dissonance would cause all sorts of anger, even rage, towards anyone without a mask, and they wouldn’t understand why.

A bit of a rant, there, I suppose, but that lack of awareness directly affects people like myself, who can’t wear a mask. Even in places that recognize medical exemptions, it’s the other customers that become more aggressive and abusive. I have been fortunate so far. I may have been kicked out of stores that refuse to honour medical exemptions (which is illegal, but then, so are the mask mandates), but I haven’t been harassed by other customers, yet. It has, however, affected familial relationships and friendships in a negative way.

I have never enjoyed shopping to begin with. Now, it’s like walking around with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head, never knowing if it’ll drop.

The Re-Farmer


We are still in a polar vortex induced cold spell right now. I delayed doing my rounds outside until it had warmed up to -32C/-25.6F

I skipped switching out the memory cards in the trail cams again! Just the extra time to refill both bird feeders this morning was pushing it.

The heated water bowl was covered over even more than it was yesterday. Not just in frosted surface area, either.

This is after pouring off the old water. That’s a pretty solid layer of ice, left behind! Yesterday, it was more frost than ice.

The other water bowls were, of course, frozen solid. I had to do a fair amount of kicking to get them loose from the snow. When fresh water is added, the metal warms up enough to melt the snow around it, creating bowl-shaped pockets of ice that hold them in place.

Another reason why using old, broken frying pans make excellent water bowls. They can handle being kicked around, then bashed against things to knock the ice out. I used to use a wooden hand rail by the sun room to bash them against, but I didn’t like how much I was damaging the wood, so now I’m bashing them on the saw horses I’ve stored nearby. They’re old and damaged already, and I need to build new ones, so I don’t care if they get more beat up. 😀

Creamsicle Jr. didn’t move from his spot the entire time I was there! He’s under the terrarium bulb, but with the dusk-dawn light sensor, I don’t think it was actually on at the time. I don’t see the red glow of the indicator light, which would visible about 6-8 inches under the outlet.

I did get joined by Ginger, but he was the only cat I saw outside, braving the cold!

With our main entry door falling off it’s hinges, I’ve been going through the sun room to go outside. Which means going through the old kitchen, which is unheated and probably not insulated; at least not by any modern standards. We go into there as little as possible in the winter.

The old kitchen is where we had our crab apple cider vinegar fermenting, and where I now have the mother stored.

It’s almost frozen solid! You can’t even see the mother, which is in the middle of the jar, immersed in vinegar.

I have no idea if this will kill the mother or not.

Does anyone know?

When I was a kid, this room never really got cold, since the wood burning stove was kept going almost constantly, as much to help heat the house as for cooking, so lack of insulation was never really an issue. The old kitchen is an add-on to the original log part of the house, though I don’t know when it was added on. I only know it was already there when my parents bought the property.

The forecasts say we’ll have one more day of this bitter cold, though it will be a bit warmer tomorrow. Today’s high is predicted to be -25C/-13F, with a wind chill of -31C/-23.8F. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be -21C/-5.8F with a wind chill of -28C/-18F. After that, we’re supposed to keep warming up for the next week. Check this out!

It’s like temperature whiplash!

Time to think of warmer things. Like gardening. I think I’ve figured out a way to raise our seed trays up closer to the light in the fish tank greenhouse. If it works, I might not need to line the sides with foil.

But first, another cup of hot tea!

The Re-Farmer

Not a day to go out!

Well, I’m certainly glad my daughter and I have telephone medical appointments this afternoon, and don’t have to actually go anywhere.

As I write this, we are at -34C/-29.2F, with a wind chill of -39C/-38.2F

It has actually warmed up a bit.

The heated water bowl is almost completely frosted over! Only a couple of cats came out into the cold. Their food bowls are still pretty full – even the one inside the cat house – but I added some fresh kibble, anyhow. The sun room is at -12C/10.4F, so it’s still frozen. They like the fresh kibble better; I think it’s easier on their teeth.

At these temperatures, I didn’t even try to switch out the trail cam memory cards. I doubt our vandal would be engaging in nefarious things in this weather. Plus, we still have the hard wired security camera to keep an eye on things.

Meanwhile, I’ve made the call to the number on our leaking hot water tank. I now have an authorization number and need only to go to the store it was purchased at, with the sticker from the tank, to get a replacement. He even saw on the file that this was already a warranty replacement tank, but he asked no questions.

At these temperatures, however, I am not going anywhere. Even if we lost hot water completely, we’d just go back to heating water on the stove as needed. I suspect it’s actually a good thing the tank is leaking the way it is, instead of water pooling on the bottom as it did, last time. That is probably the only reason why it’s not doing the weird things the other one started to do, since the water isn’t reaching anything sensitive; just making the insulation damp. Just a guess on my part.

Thankfully, this polar vortex that’s hitting us should last only a few days. By Wednesday, we should be back up to a more typical -21C/-5.8F. By Friday – which is when the van is going in to be checked – it is forecast to reach a balmy -10C/14F.

It’s going to feel like spring! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Are you kidding me??

It’s past 1 am as I write this, but I just had to.

I went down into the old basement to treat the hot water tank with hydrogen peroxide before going to bed. This is what I found.

It’s leaking!

(That ring of minerals on the concrete is not new; it’s been there since the last time we had issues.)

We don’t go into the old basement often (and with the cats, we’ve put all the most breakable stuff into the old basement and blocked off the opening between the two basements, so there was no chance of kittens falling into the sump pump reservoir or otherwise hurting themselves). The last time anyone went down there, that I can remember, was my daughter, the last time the tank was treated. I called her over to see, and confirmed it wasn’t leaking the last time she was down there.

In trying to see where it was leaking it appeared to be coming from the bottom access panel, too. So we opened it up.

Yup. It’s been reaching that high!!

We’ve left the panel off. Tomorrow, I will call the number on the tank to talk about getting a replacement under warranty.


For those who are new to the blog, when we first moved here, this place still had the tank that was installed when my dad got the well dug near the house and installed running water. He got the tank second hand. When cleaning up the basements, I found the old warranty certificate and bill of sale for it, dated 1963, if I remember correctly.

It died shortly after we moved in.

Long story short, we went without hot water until we could afford to get a plumber to replace the tank for us.

That worked out well for a while, until the water started to get hotter and hotter, all on its own. We called the plumber and he changed the thermostat, but that’s when we discovered that it had started leaking at the bottom. When he opened the bottom panel, he found the insulation saturated with water.

Not long after that, we lost hot water completely.

We then had issues with discovering the local hardware store it was purchased at, not doing warranty replacements. I tried working with the company directly before finally finding a branch someplace else that had would honor the warranty. We then had to get the plumber back to install it for us, and it’s been working fine ever since. The only issue is one we’ve had since replacing the original tank; the hot water would start to get a sulfur smell. Every month or so, we would drain the tank a bit, then use the vacuum created to suction hydrogen peroxide through a hot water tap in what used to be the laundry sink. It needs to sit for at least 4 hours, so we would do it before bed, so the water could be used in the morning.

It’s been about 1 1/2 years since that tank was replaced under warranty. And not it’s happening again.

What the heck is going on? How does a second hand tank last for nearly 40 years, but new tanks aren’t even making it 2 years?

But at least we still have hot water. I guess it’s a good thing it started visibly leaking this time, before we started having problems. We don’t have the water getting super hot, like the tank started having issues last time. It’s “just” leaking.

This is ridiculous!

The Re-Farmer

Converting the fish tank to a cat proof greenhouse, part 4: padded

Today, I found the self adhesive felted pads that I wanted to use on the covers for the fish tank.

I found them while looking for something else, of course. 😀

Here is where, on the tank, I want them to sit.

The bar across the middle has extra surface area in the corners of the ledge the covers rest on. There’s lots of room, here.

The outer corners, however, don’t have that, so there’s a lot less margin for error in positioning the pads well.

The first step was to clean off the ledge the frame rests on. An old toothbrush worked very well for that!

Since the cross pieces of the frames have an angled edge, to better fit into the space, I figured it would be easier to place the felt pads in position on the ledge first, adhesive side up, then placing the frame on top.

The felted pads I have were from a larger package with mixed sizes of circles, plus long, narrow ovals. The larger circles were used up, and all I had left were smaller ones, and some of the long ovals. I’d hoped I still had some larger circles left. If I had, I would have cut them in quarters, and fit them right in the corners, but half circles would have to do!

Once they were in position, I lined up the cover and dropped it down, pressing just enough to make sure the adhesive stuck, then removed it to press the adhesive in more thoroughly.

In this corner, you can see the pad will protect the tank’s frame from the wire. This was the edge of the roll, so no sharp bits sticking out, like the edges I had to cut, so I didn’t trim it.

And this is why I lined the pads up to the corners of the tank, rather than the frame. Yes, there’s a likelihood that the pad will get pulled off where it’s overhanging, if I leave it like that (I will trim it later), but it also isn’t sitting on the screw head. It was supposed to be countersunk, but some of the screws simply stopped and would not screw in any further. I am not sure what was stopping them but, whatever it was, I was wrecking my screwdriver’s tip, trying to get them to go in further, so I stopped. The others were just fine.

So the corners are padded now, protecting the tank’s frame from being scratched up, should a cat decide to jump onto the cover.

When I was fussing with everything to prepare for this, I did have a kitten not only jump onto one of the covers while I was there, but also walk across on the light fixture! Not a problem for a light kitten, but a potential problem, if one of the heavy adults tries to do it. Thankfully, they seem to not like the new covers and are staying off. At least while we’re around to see! The few times I’ve seen one of the adult cats up there, they have stuck to walking on the wood and stayed off the wire and away from the light fixture.

Meanwhile, the baskets and other items stored in the tank have been removed. I’ll need to take a vacuum to the bottom to clean it, then see how my seed trays fit on the bottom. That will help me decide whether the rigid insulation will be lining the inside, or the outside, of the tank. Whatever I do with the sides, the bottom will have its own layer of insulation lining it, too.

It’s remarkable how handy that insulation has been. I’m glad my daughter bought so much extra!

I’m going to need the little step ladder to be able to access the bottom of the tank. I could barely reach to get the smaller baskets out!

The joys of being short! LOL

Another little bit of progress made! 🙂 I can hardly wait to see how this works for starting seeds!

The Re-Farmer