After setting out food and warm water for the outside cats, I noticed a little face peeking at me from under the kibble house.
It wasn’t until I uploaded the photo that I saw there were three cats under there!
It’s a bit tight, but squeezing under there is a favourite spot for the smaller cats. Putting the sheet of insulation under there may have made it a bit tighter, but I don’t think they mind! There is also insulation under the floor boards of the kibble house, so they are insulated from above and below in there.
Which was sure needed, today! We were supposed to warm up a few degrees today, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. When I headed out, it was still -35C/-31F with a wind chill of -42C/-44F At least according to my app. We didn’t have any wind in the yard, so we at least didn’t have to deal with that. As I write this, it’s -31C/-24F with a wind chill of -40C/-40F. Our high of the day is supposed to reach -27C/-17F with a wind chill of -37C/-35F
A good time to celebrate New Year’s indoors!!! My FIL used to bring in the new year with a BBQ every year, even if it meant shoveling out the BBQ. We did keep that up for a while, but … no. 😀 BBQ’s don’t cook very well in these temperatures, no matter how high you turn up the heat!
The critters seem to be handling the temperatures just fine. With the long, mild fall we had, the deer will have built up a good layer of fat for the winter. The deer in the photo above is walking in the path dug along the garden bed at the fence. It’s one of a pair that come here every day, several times a day, to the feeding station. They don’t leave much behind for the birds! 😀
Well, it’s time for me to get started on our New Year’s dinner. We’re doing a prime rib today; something I’ve never done before. Until we got our quarter beef, we’ve never been able to afford one before! I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂
Happy New Year! And I hope you’re warm and toasty, wherever you are celebrating. 🙂
Well, we’re at the end of the year, and I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how things have been on the blog.
I’m actually going to do two “top 10” lists. The first will be the most popular posts of all. None of them, however, were posts written within this past year! Some of them were on last year’s list, too. So I will do a second list for posts written in 2021.
Here we are, starting with the all-time, top 10 posts for 2021. All links will open in a new tab, so you don’t lose your place. 🙂
If this were a top 20 list, there would be a lot more posts related to crab apples on there! A lot of people were looking for things do with them, which makes me happy. We had no crab apples this year, so it’s good to know that so many others had plenty, and were looking for ways to preserve the bounty. 🙂
Now we have our list of 10 most popular posts that were actually written in 2021 – and they certainly are on a different theme!
1. Our 2021 Garden: our Morado mystery And it’s still a mystery, as the Montana Morado got renamed Mountain morado. This fall, I found and ordered kulli corn seeds, and they finally made it through customs, so I should get them early in the new year.
There we have it! This year’s most popular blog posts of all, and the most popular blog posts written this year.
It seems lots of people have food and gardening on the mind!
I am most appreciative that so many people are finding these posts useful. Thank you for checking them out! I hope we will have many more useful posts for people to enjoy in the future.
I waited until things got warmer than -30C/-22F before starting my morning rounds. I guess the deer got tired of waiting for me, because I found them exploring!
I managed to get a picture through the windows of the front doors. They seem very interested in the kibble tray under the shrine! 😀
When I did get outside, my weather app said it was -27C/-17F, with a wind chill of -32C/-26F, and we’re still getting extreme cold warnings, but we were sheltered from wherever the wind was coming from, and it felt much warmer. Warm enough that I got the burn barrel going, then did some shoveling to widen paths enough for my husband’s walker.
The outside cats seemed to be enjoying the sunshine while I worked.
Nosencrantz is such a cutie!!! They were running around so much, I didn’t even try to count how many were at the kibble trays. I cleared their path from the kibble house to under the storage house again, too, and they really seemed to appreciate that! 😀 The snow is deep enough to form sheltering walls for them.
It’s much more pleasant today than yesterday. My husband’s prescriptions were delivered yesterday. With all the bundling up needed to get outside after the driver called to let us know he was nearby, he actually reaches our gate before I can! My husband was exchanging his sharps containers this time, and I was going to give the driver the full ones, but he didn’t know anything about them. He normally isn’t allowed to take medications back, but he tried phoning the pharmacy to find out if that applied to sharps containers. He popped into his car to make the call, while I waited at the gate. Which, in retrospect, was not a good idea! Once at the gate, I was right in the wind. He didn’t take long, though, because he couldn’t get a signal.
And that’s why we get him to call us before he reaches our locked gate! 😀
We’ll just have to give the old sharps containers back to the pharmacy another time. The driver did try again once he had a signal and called me back. It turns out my husband hadn’t mentioned the returns when he called for his refills, so they weren’t expecting it. Normally, that means we’d be charged for the new containers, but it looks like they skipped that this time. Interesting. We still have to bring them over for proper disposal, but at least he has fancy new containers to use. They completely changed the design for them since we last had to get new ones.
Today, I only had to make a quick run to the post office to pick up some packages and some distilled water for my husband’s CPAP humidifier. Happily, the van handled the cold fairly well, and all the roads are well plowed.
I’m glad to be inside again, though, that’s for sure!
As the year winds down, it’s time to review the goals we’d set, see what worked, what didn’t and what we want to accomplish next year.
Among the goals we had:
Starting a cordwood shed to use as an outdoor bathroom, with a composting toilet, to replace the outhouse over a pit.
Well, that didn’t happen. Which is turned out to not necessarily be a bad thing.
The location we want to build it is in that open space behind the compost ring. One of the things I did this past summer was go through the spruce grove and mark most of the dead spruce trees I found. I marked almost 2 dozen, and there were several others I didn’t bother marking, or couldn’t get at. These were trees that were intended to be used for the cordwood walls, however priorities have changed. They will now be used to build high raised garden beds. Right now, the space we want to build in is going to be needed to drag logs out of the spruce grove. Thanks to my mother, we now have a wood chipper that we can use to break down the branches, so we’re not adding to all the branch piles, and will have plenty of wood chips for mulch.
Until we can build the outdoor bathroom, we do still need something to use the next time we have plumbing problems, so the inside of the old outhouse was fixed up and made pretty (the photo here is from before it was finished). A goal for 2022 is to remove the old, moss covered shingles, extend the roof to create an overhang above the door, re-shingle it (or use some of the left over bits of metal roofing we still have in the barn), and do any repairs on the outside before giving it all a final paint job.
We did find that a groundhog had got into the pit and dug a den under the floorboards somewhere. Sadly, if we get an average amount of snow, this will likely result in a drowned groundhog. Our first two springs here, we found that snow melt would form a large puddle in front of the outhouse, and I could see in the hole under the door, which is now fixed, that the pit filled completely with water. There is nothing we can do about this. Hopefully, the groundhog will wake up early enough and leave the den before this is an issue.
Another of our goals is to have the branch piles chipped. While we now have this awesome new wood chipper, which can chip branches up to 3 inches thick, it is very slow going. The branches have to be trimmed of any sticky-outy bits, and be straight, or it won’t go through. For the sake of efficiency, it will be better to hire the tree guys and their massive chipper. When we got their estimate, they figured it would take 6 hours to chip all our wood piles. For our budget, I’m hoping that we can have them come out for three hours in the spring, to get at least the big pile in the outer yard done, and maybe the little ones in the maple grove. Then we can see about hiring them again, maybe in the fall, to do the remaining big piles. With the new wood chipper, we should at least not be adding more to the branch piles, as we clear dead trees out of the spruce grove!
Another goal that we once again failed to meet, was hiring someone to haul the junk pile away to the landfill. This irritates me, because that pile is getting so large, and we are getting to a point where we need to start cleaning up on that side of the chain link fence. If our budget allows, I’m hoping to at least have smaller loads removed, as we can afford it. The name I have for a guy that hauls junk uses a pick up truck, so if we can get him to come by a few times throughout the year, even that would be a help.
Our gardening goals were mostly met, as far as drought conditions allowed. We used poplars we’d cleared out of parts of the spruce grove to build trellises, and those will be used for another year. We planted in areas far from the house, partly to prepare the soil for permanent plantings. The corn and sunflowers were potentially there to provide privacy screens, too, but the drought and poor soil conditions prevented that. Having to use 300 feet of garden hose to water things, and still just barely being able to reach some corners, during a drought and heat waves, was something we could have done without! Add in damage from deer and groundhogs, and it’s a miracle we had as much produce as we did.
For 2022, our garden plans will continue, and this year we will start with the permanent plantings. We are pouring over websites and looking over what bushes we will be planting in those far flung areas. In one section, we will be closing off a gap in the hedge along the north fence line that the deer go through. My mother had been planting lilacs along this fence, but we are looking to plant berry producing shrubs and bushes, instead. We will also be planting them along the east side, both to help keep deer out and to create a privacy screen. We still need to make sure we can access the east fence line, and there has to be a lane kept open, over where the telephone wires are buried, so we will use other methods to close that off to the deer. We’ll have a better idea of what we can buy in January, when many of the nurseries will have their new inventory available. We might be going with sea buckthorn, if the other varieties we were looking at don’t come back into stock.
Other things we intend to order for 2022 are raspberry canes and, if all goes well, Korean Pine. These require shade for their first 5 years, so they will be planted just north of the spruce grove. If budget allows, we’d like to get new Saskatoon bushes, too.
We will have to take out more of the crab apple trees, to remove diseased trees. There are two trees that produce the best apples. If I can protect those, I will be happy. However, we will also be getting other types of fruit trees including, hopefully, a hardier variety of mulberry tree to replace the one that we bought last year, that got killed off by that one cold night that also killed off all the flowers that would have given us fruit and berries this past year. I’m not sure how many we will be able to squeeze out of our budget this year, but the more fruit trees we get, the better, as they can take many years before producing fruit. Berry bushes are also high on our list, as they will start producing much faster.
This past year, we expanded our garden plots significantly, but with our long term goal of growing as much of our own food as possible, we will need to continue to expand and prepare new ground. Now that we have a working chain saw, we’ll be able to clear dead trees out of the spruce grove and clean that up faster. Many of these dead trees appear to have no rot in them yet, and we plan to turn many stumps into benches and tables. We will also need to clear out the fallen rotten trees, and other fire hazards. Once things are cleared out, we will be planting more spruces in the spruce grove, as well as fruit and berry trees that require more protection from the elements. We’re also looking at getting some Rugosa roses, though they will likely be used more as a deer barrier!
Where the trellises are now will eventually be converted to our food forest, except for the lane that needs to be kept open over the buried phone line, but we will use them where they are for one more year. We ordered quite a lot of seeds already, from Vesey’s (including replacement seeds) and Baker Creek again, plus two orders from Heritage Harvest, which is a new company for us this year. The only seeds we’ve ordered that are still en route are the kulli corn. The only other seeds I still plan to buy are peas, but I will pick those up from a local store when they come available, rather than ordering them in. We will also be making use of seeds from our inventory left over from last year. Which means we will need to build more trellises, once we decide where, because we’ll have quite a few vining plants, and there’s only so much we can plant along the chain link fence. 😉
Along with the saplings, canes and root stock we plan to order, we will be ordering potatoes and sunchokes. This time, we will not try to grow potatoes in bags, but will use the Ruth Stout method again, as part of preparing new areas for either more garden plots, or permanent plantings, the following year.
At this point, we have three low raised bed boxes built, and one high raised bed. Next year, we will continue to use the current beds in the main garden area. The goal is to cut the dead spruce trees to size so that, after things are harvested in the fall, the remaining beds will be converted to high raised beds before next winter. With how much watering we had to do during the drought, filling the beds hügelkultur style will be an important part in moisture retention. Even under normal conditions, high raised beds are notorious for drying out too quickly, but with how we fill them, coupled with the judicious use of mulch, we should be able to prevent that from being a problem.
We will also be making new beds for corn and the many types of squash we have for this coming year, but those will be in areas that will eventually have trees planted in them. Ultimately, we will be building accessible high raised beds in the outer yard to the south of the house, where they will get more sunlight. Eventually, we intend to build a greenhouse or polytunnel out that way, too. It’s not something we’ll be able to start building in 2022, but we should be able to start preparing where they will eventually go. The renter plans to build new fences next year (maintaining the fences was part of the deal they’d originally made with my late father), since their electric fence has been not working as well as intended. I hope to talk to them again about putting a new fence line across the old hay yard, which will be much shorter (therefore, cheaper) than rebuilding the existing fence, but also takes away an area of pasture. We would need a gate in there, though, so that we can eventually haul away those old vehicles to the scrap yard. As that would not be something they’d normally include, I’d be offering to pay for the gate portion. If they are willing to do the new, shorter fence line through the old hay yard, we will be able to get rid of some old, messed up fences and a shed that looks ready to collapse pretty soon. Then we can start building new garden beds out that way. This is also the general area where we want to build the outdoor kitchen, as well as planting a wind break. None of which are worth starting, while there is a chance the renter’s cows can get through. There are also old, collapsing fences around the inner yard we want to take out completely, rather than repair or replace, but again, it can’t be done until the outer yard is fenced in. Long term, though, we won’t have an inner and outer yard anymore, but just one really big yard.
Which means that, on top of continuing our work in the inner yard and garden, we need to get more work done on cleaning up the outer yard. There’s a limit to what we can do, without heavy equipment, but we can at least get a start on it. That was something we should have worked on this past year, but accomplished very little. Hopefully, this coming year will not have the drought and heat waves that made heavy manual labour a very bad idea!
With what we’ve learned from the past year, we know that this year, we will need to focus on protecting our plants from deer, groundhogs and racoons. We will also be focusing on permanent plantings that are drought tolerant and can handle poor soil conditions, even with the amendments we’re working on. We are also looking into planting forage trees and fodder well away from the house and gardens, to give wildlife less reason to invade our yards, looking for food.
As we build our raised garden beds, we will also be ensuring they will all be the same size at the top, so that any covers we build can be interchangeable. The low raised beds are boards and are 3′ x 9′. The high raised bed is 4′ x 9′, and we plan to build them all that size. With the thickness of the logs, the actual growing space inside is closer to 3′ x 8′. So if we build covers to fit the low raised beds, they should also fit the high raised beds.
While most of our goals are going to be expanding or continuing previous goals, a new goal I want to add is to have chickens. For our egg needs, we would only need about half a dozen birds. The problem is, we don’t have anything to keep them in. I am wanting chickens to be part of our soil reclamation progress, which means being able to move their coop and enclosure regularly. Buying a new chicken tractor is well beyond our budget, but we don’t have the materials to build one, either, and with the cost of building materials right now, it’s as out of reach as buying a new one. Of the many, many videos I’ve looked at for making quick, easy and inexpensive coops and shelters for chickens, none of them are suitable for our climate. Oh, they could be temporary structures for the summer, and I do plan to build versions of them that will fit over our raised garden beds, but none of them would keep chickens alive during our winters.
That is something I need to work on. I’d love to get able to get chicks this spring, but if we can’t shelter them once they’re big enough to leave a brooder, there’s no point.
So there we have it. We did accomplish some of our goals for 2021, but many of our goals are multi-year things, so it’s more progress than accomplishment.
Now we’ll see how much we manage to get done next year!
I delayed heading outside for my (short version!) morning rounds. I figured the critters didn’t want to be outside any more than I did!
This was about half an hour before I got outside; -33C/-27F with a wind chill of -37C/-35F!
I’d topped up their food last night, so I knew there would still be some left by morning. However, when I saw the cats out there, anyhow, I figured there was no point in waiting.
I had to use the ice chipper to get the metal water bowls out. They were frozen to the ground and buried in snow. My daughters shovelled yesterday evening, which the cats – and deer – really appreciated, too. 😀
This is what we were at about an hour later. -31C/-24F, with a wind chill at -38C/-36F
Honestly, I can’t complain. This is warmer than what people have been getting out west! Plus, we’ll be warming up again and and staying just a bit lower than average temperatures for this time of year. For all the “extreme cold warning” we’ve got, we’re not breaking any records in our region.
It does mean my morning rounds are kept close to the house, though! As long as the critters are fed and watered, that’s the main thing, and not even our vandal is going to be out in this weather. 😀
I think this is a good time to catch up on my crochet.
I was going to make a quick run into town this afternoon, when things were supposed to warm up a few degrees.
While doing my morning rounds, however, I decided to head out right away, while the snow was still light and fluffy, and wouldn’t be too much trouble to drive in.
I counted 18 kitties this morning. 🙂
Any tracks at the feeding station were filled with snow, but there were clear tracks going into the yard and up the sidewalk! I must have just missed them.
The critters definitely prefer to use our paths to walk in. 😀
I made a quick stop at the post office/general store first. The post office itself was closed, so I couldn’t pick up a package, but I did get a bag of deer feed, and a couple of bottles of wine for New Year’s that I hope are good. 😀
The plows weren’t out yet, and visibility was quite poor for the drive to town. I found myself catching up to a cloud of snow on the road, and only then could I make out part of the car that was kicking it up. It was driving at half the speed limit, and I had no urge to pass at all! It was a bit clearer for the drive back, but not by much. Thankfully, when I reached the gravel road, I found that half of it was plowed. I almost caught up to the plow before I had to turn down the road to our driveway. From what I could see, the highways weren’t plowed yet, so it was a surprised to see the gravel road being done, even if it was the main one that’s almost as wide as the highway. The road crews are going to be busy!
I didn’t have much to pick up at the grocery store, but I wanted to do it now, before things got colder. The snow is supposed to pass after today, but the temperatures are supposed to drop. We are now getting extreme cold warnings. As I write this, we are at -21C/-6F, which is a few degrees colder than had been forecast, so it looks like it would have made no difference if I’d waited to make my run into town. The wind chill is -26C/-15F. Overnight lows are supposed to reach -30C/-22F, with a wind chill of -40C/-40F. By tomorrow morning, it’s supposed to be -31C/-24F with a wind chill of -42C/-44F Looking at the long range forecast, though, that’s the coldest we’re expected to get until past New Year’s. Thank God we don’t need to go anywhere! In fact, all my family is able to hunker down close to home for the next while. Even my older brother isn’t going to work right now, as they are out of province, awaiting the birth of their newest grand child. ❤ They made the drive out before the snow hit, so while it is quite a bit colder where they are now, they don’t have to commute in it!
Last night, I was able to treat the outside cats buy adding some warm (onion free) broth to their kibble trays. They were very excited about that! I’m going to see if I can have something warm for them tonight, too. They have plenty of places to shelter from the cold, but warm bellies will certainly help!
I’m feeling very fortunate right now! For ourselves and for the critters.
When I checked the weather first thing this morning, my app’s weather radar was showing us well under an area of snowfall, and yet when I looked out my window, there was none coming down! We did have some during the night, and it started up again later.
The extra water bowls were completely covered. 😀
Funny how the cats all like to crowd into one side like that; even the ones that don’t get along well with others! 😀
They were quite happy to have warm water! The heated water bowl keeps it from freezing, but what we bring out is warm to the touch, and they really like that, this time of year!
We’re having a warmer than predicted day today. We’ve been hovering about -11C/12F for most of the way. As I write this, the wind chill is only -17C/1F Not only does that make life easier for the critters, but the lovely snowfall we’ve been getting is much needed, to help the water table recover in the spring, from last summer’s drought. Hopefully, this will keep up, throughout the winter. Especially the mild part. The city we moved way from was at -35C/-31F this morning! While we are expected to get colder over the next couple of weeks, we’re not supposed to drop below -30C/-22F during the day. After being hit with polar vortexes through January and February, the last couple of winters, this is a welcome relief for us – and our electricity bill! Even so, this house is so inefficient, the furnace is on a lot. Not that it makes much difference upstairs, but the little ceramic heaters my husband got for them is making a huge difference.
Oh, before I forget!
Keith got his last anti-biotic dose last night, so his treatment is complete, and he is the picture of health! This is such a relief. The vet was pretty sure she’d seen a heartworm in the ultrasound, but not completely sure. The fact that he’s doing so well now, on just anti-biotics, confirms that it was “just” an upper respiratory tract infection that had him coughing up blood. His breathing is completely clear now, but he is quite upset with us and his nightly doses! It never did get any easier, and by the end of it, he was getting very hard to find when it was time for his medication!
All the cats, inside and out, seem to be recovered. There are just a couple of indoor cats we sometimes hear having a coughing or sneezing fit, but I don’t usually see which one it is when I hear it. No more crusty noses, either. On the down side, they’re all really active again, and Fenrir has discovered that she can jump straight up into the tree hanging against the wall! I don’t know who did it, but last night I heard a noise and when I came to check, the bottom of the tree was on the ground. I didn’t even know it came apart there! The tree doesn’t come down until after Three King’s Day, so we’re going to have to keep monitoring it.
We are still getting snowfall warnings, and my desktop apps keep flashing red alert symbols at me. From the weather radar, though, it’s already well past us, and there is no more visible. The road crews will be out, which means I should be able to run some quick errands for my mother, and pick up some more deer feed. I don’t leave much out, and the birds eat quite a lot of it, but we still get regular visitors. There’s a doe and her almost adult sized baby that comes by every morning, and yesterday I saw a buck going past my bedroom window. He antlers are just growing in again, so he had these 6 or 8 inch long spikes sticking out of his head. 😀
We are in a nice, quiet and boring time of the year right now, and I’m quite appreciating it! We’re making use of it to plan what we’ll be ordering with our “seed” budget, next. I’m done ordering actual seeds right now, and the girls and I have been talking trees and bushes. A lot of the nurseries don’t start taking orders until January, though, so their websites are still filled with “out of stock” listings, so it’s hard to make decisions right now. It’s only a little bit longer to wait, though. Until then, we can still plan!
Of course, we’re into the 12 days of Christmas, now, so we’ll be celebrating until the Feast of the Epiphany, aka: Three King’s Day, on Jan. 6. 🙂
Even the kitties get to celebrate with special treats from the kitchen. I’ve got more in the fridge waiting for them, too. 🙂
We did our big dinner on Christmas Eve and I was planning to bring a turkey dinner to my mother’s on Christmas Day. My sister (who belongs to a denomination that doesn’t celebrate Christmas) brought my mother over to her place for a Christmas dinner. I’m glad she was able to do that, and that my mother was up to the trip. So I visited Mom today, instead. I still brought her a turkey dinner for later. When getting groceries for her for the last while, I noticed she hasn’t been getting any protein, so I brought her one of the 2 pound packaged of ground beef from our freezer pack, too. Since she’s just feeding herself, that should last her a while.
I am happy to say she really liked the crochet mushrooms I made for her!
She even commented on how much it looked like her drawings. 🙂 I’m glad she liked them. She had wanted them carved of wood, but it turns out she meant for the younger of my brothers to carve them for her. He does chainsaw carving out of repurposed cedar power poles. He makes really great morels, but I’m not sure how he’d have chainsaw carved porcini mushrooms using his tools and techniques! 😀
I’m glad I was able to visit her today. We’re getting heavy snowfall warnings for tonight, into tomorrow. It doesn’t look like the worst of it will reach as far north as we are. After that, the temperatures are supposed to drop quite a bit again, ranging between -20C/4F and -27C/-17F for the highs. Mostly closer to -20C. Still pretty average for this time of year. I will make sure to get another grocery trip for my mother in there, at least. I don’t want her to be going out in these temperatures, if I can help it!
It’s going to be a nice, quiet Christmas season for us, which is just how we like it. 🙂