I don’t think we’re gonna make it…

We’re supposed to reach a high of -6C/21F today.

According to this, we should already be at -8C/18F as I write this, but we’re -12C/9F instead, with a wind chill of -19C/-2F. That wind is BITTER out there! I strongly suspect we’re not going to reach the predicted high today! Especially not with tomorrow supposed to be even colder.

But look ahead to Wednesday! We’re looking at 0C/32F! In one of my apps that has long range forecasts into December, there’s even a 3C/37F in the forecast!

I am good with this. The furnace is already turning on and staying on way too often, even with these mild temperatures (and yes, I did turn it down a bit. We just have a very inefficient house).

No word from the roofers yet. My brother is going to reach out to them. He wants to be here when they are, which means booking time off work, so the more advance notice the better, but it’s so weather dependent! Still, if it can be done before the usual colder months of January and February, that will help on our heating bill, that’s for sure!

The Re-Farmer

Tiny fruit!

Look at the itty bitty fruit I found in the mock orange this morning!

He was not impressed with my shoveling the paths after doing the food and water!

Also, it is confirmed that he’s a he. I was able to pluck him out of the tree and cuddle him for a bit, and finally got a chance to check.

We are all sort of dancing around when we will be bringing him inside. He is so tiny, it’s actually startling to come out with the kibble in the mornings and see him there in the snow, so small he looks like something one of the older kittens coughed up rather than another kitten!

We want to leave him with his mother as long as possible, or at least with whichever of the mamas is nursing him. So far, I’ve only seen Junk Pile nursing him with her own kittens, once – and I haven’t seen her nursing even her own kittens since! So it’s entirely possible that he’s on his own, weaned early, and getting only the food and water we’re providing. However, we can’t be sure of that.

So when do we bring him in? We have one cold day coming up, with a high of -11C/12F, in a couple of days, then it’s going to warm up quite a bit after that. We definitely want to bring him in before the winter temperatures really kick in. So far he doesn’t seem to be having any trouble with the temperatures we have now, and seems quite happy to run around and play in the snow. If I look at the long range forecasts, including those that extent to January, we are looking at a very mild December but, of course, the further ahead the forecast, the less accurate it is, so who knows right now.

Do we assume his mother has weaned him and bring him in now? Or do we give him a couple more weeks, to be sure?

Well, we’ll probably made that decision in the next couple of days, before we get that one day cold snap that’s been forecast.

In other things, my younger daughter and I headed out today. I was originally planning to go to the nearest Walmart, but my daughters had their own shopping list for the international grocery store, so we hit the city, instead, where we could do both very handily. Mostly, I needed to pick up more kibble. The difference in price on that alone makes it worth the cost of gas to go into the city. I was able to get 10kg bags for just over $25 each. Locally, the biggest bags they carry are 7.5kg or 8kg bags, and they cost almost $35 each – if they even have them in stock.

Of course, we picked up a few other things while we were there, then headed to the international grocery store for my daughter’s shopping. They have take out food, too, so we picked up some steamed dumplings in a dim sum combo for the drive home. I was leery of doing that, as the last time I got dim sum there, not only was the service terrible, but the dim sum was way over cooked and tasted horrible. I’m happy to say, I had no problems at all this time. Service was immediate and, oh my goodness, did those dumplings ever hit the spot!

Things like this are the treats we allow ourselves to make up for creeping out of our hermitage, making the drive to the city, and putting up with other humans. 😉

Once at home, I backed into the yard to unload. We used my mother’s car today, and one of the snow piles I made from clearing around the cat shelters was almost too deep for it! 😂 I think maybe tomorrow, I’ll shovel out a lane for driving into the yard and backing up to the house. May as well do that while the snow is light!

Once everything was unloaded, we gave the cats their evening feeding as much to get them away from the car, and out of the sun room, as anything else. After I finished parking the car in the garage, my daughter was still trying to get one last kitten out of the sun room! I never saw the bitty baby while we were doing all this, though. Which may be a good thing. Now that we’re all pretty much in agreement about bringing the bitty in (which will bring the number of indoor cats up to 15), it’s hard not to just up and grab him! But more time with the mamas is better for him right now.



The bitty!

The Re-Farmer

Looking good!

I’m happy to say that when I came out to do the cat stuff this morning (bringing 2 gallons of warm water, since we now have such a large heated water bowl), there was still liquid water left in BOTH heated water bowls!

The smaller metal ones were, of course, frozen. At this point, I think maybe we don’t even need them anymore, other than it allows for more cats to drink at the same time. It’s less of an issue with the water than the kibble. They don’t usually all try to drink at the same time, so having the four water bowls so close together works out. When the kibble comes out, though, they are all after the food at once. Not only do they not all fit in the kibble house (I counted “only” 25 this morning), but some of them don’t get along with the others. To avoid aggressive behaviour, along with the trays in the kibble house, I put a couple of handfuls of kibble into two of the shelf shelter shelves, a long line of kibble on the cat house roof – sometimes two, if I can reach – handfuls at three openings to under the cat house, the two trays under the water shelter, a tray just inside the entry into the cat house, a tray just under the eaves of the water shelter (the same spot it was in when the kibble house was there), and finally into a bowl under the shrine across the yard. Rosencrantz in particular prefers to eat at under the shrine, well away from any other cats. She’s gotten meaner to the other cats this year!

It sounds like a lot, but it’s still just a gallon sized container of kibble that’s spread out. This way, even the littlest, shiest and most picked on cats still get some food.

When I was finishing up my rounds, I found the bitty baby and Broccoli in the water shelter. Those ramps are being well used.

Broccoli got her name because she looked so much like Cabbages. This year, Broccoli had two calico kittens. (I think they’re both hers, plus a tortie. I’ve lost track!) I’m thinking we should call the new calicos Brussel and Sprout.

But I digress!

The bitty seems to be handling the colder temperatures really well, and has no hesitation about going outside and playing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see what the temperature was inside the cat house. The two south facing windows were frosted over on the inside, and the big east facing window…

… was full.

Actually, there was too much reflection in the window that I couldn’t see past, but it was really funny trying to peer in and realizing just how many kittens were crowded at the window! Including both of Broccoli’s calicos. Several had run away when I came close, but I can still see at least seven in the photo.

One of the things I made sure to do this morning was stir around the smoldering ashes from the branch pile, then bank it up again. The pile is slowly getting smaller! What’s interesting is that some of the cats have figured out that they can sit near it and keep warm. When I was first starting the burn, they were a problem, because they were so used to going into the pile and playing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep it lit, and had to keep chasing them out of the branches. Once it really got going, though, there was enough heat that they kept away. Now, it’s just a warm, smoldering heap, and every now and then I’ll look over, and see a cat or three, loafed on the snow-free ground around it, enjoying the warmth.

Speaking of warmth, I was just looking at the 10 day forecast on one of my weather apps. Apparently, we’re only going to have one day with the high dropping down to -10C/14F – but 10 days from now, we’re apparently going to get highs above freezing!

That would be a good time for the roofers to show up. So far, no word on when that is going to happen.

The Re-Farmer

The in between

Now here’s a kitty I don’t usually get photos of!

We have three black and white kittens right now. There’s Baby, the small one with the black splotch by its nose (I think the girls call it Pointy), and the long haired one that is part of the oldest litter that we sometimes get to pet.

Then there’s this one, from an in between litter. Two of its siblings are friendly. At the moment, I can’t remember which one is its fourth sibling. They are hard to keep track of when there are so many! We don’t see this one much. It’s there, but it runs off and hides behind things when we’re around. So I was pleased to be able to finally get a decent photo of him!

The tongue blep is just bonus!

The Re-Farmer


Well, it’s all done. The girls and I got things fixed up, moved around and set up with the cat shelters.

The first job was to open up the cats’ house and get things taken care of in there.

There was a whole bunch of incredibly shocked kittens looking up at us when we lifted that roof!

While one daughter was on safety duty to make sure the roof didn’t fall back, the other crawled in to put the heat shield back, then attach the holder for the thermometer.

Safety duty is extra important with so many cats crawling all over.

Including straight up the open roof to play gargoyle!

While they did that, I plugged in the second extension cord and got it through the entry with the other one, then checked to see if we could plug in the new heated water bowl.

As expected, nope! The bowl’s power cord wasn’t long enough.

Which meant a daughter and I did some shelter shuffling, while the other kept kittens distracted.

We really need to put handles of some kind on the water shelter and kibble house. They are really awkward to pick up and carry!

Here is the new set up.

I’d say they like it!

I’m going to have to get larger hooks to hold the cords up, but the small ones will have to do for now.

Once everything was in place, they were given their evening feeding and the water bowls were filled. The container we use to bring warm water out holds about 1 gallon/4L, and that was enough to fill the new bowl, with room to spare.

The board that was used for a ramp into the water shelter is too long for where it is now, so I found a short piece of scrap wood that I could set up near the entrance to the cats’ house. After I took this picture, I found a slightly longer one that is now set up in the middle and braced against part of the sledge under the cats’ house. The ramps are mostly for the bitty baby, since its the only one so small, it would have difficulty climbing our jumping up into the water shelter. Once the ramps were in place, they immediately had kittens using them.

After everything was done and the girls went inside, I hung around for a while longer, seeing if anything needed to be changed and playing with kittens. I ended up shifting one end of the kibble house closer to the water shelter. I’m debating shifting it more, to close that gap a bit more, but I haven’t decided yet.

When my daughter set up the thermometer in the cats’ house, she angled it so it could be seen from all three windows, so we can read it at different times of the day. This time of day, for example, the light is coming in through the smallest window in the entry, and reflecting on the plastic cover on the thermometer, so I couldn’t read it from the window you can see in the photo, but I could see it from the small entry window just fine. After being in there for a while, the thermometer was at about 5C/41F, which is what the temperature in the sun room was when I came inside. The outside temperature was -4C/25F. It should be interesting to see the temperature in there when things get really cold outside.

I think this new arrangement will work well. Everything is still easy to reach for refilling, and the two heated water bowls should make a big difference in the coming winter.

The Re-Farmer

A bit of running around, and thank you, M!

I had a bit of running around to do after the morning rounds, but nothing that had to get me out earlier, or needing to rush through things. Which is good, because I got more done, too. 😊

It snowed lightly all night, so the cats at a bit more to deal with for their roof kibble by morning!

I counted thirty while putting out the food and water.

The branch pile I burned yesterday smoldered all night. I left my computer on with the live feed for the garage cam aimed at it, so it could be monitored. When the camera switched to infrared, I could see hot spots glowing through the falling snow. This morning, I broke it up a bit to stir the embers around, then raked it into a smaller pile. This will keep smoldering for days, if I keep banking it like this, which is what I want. We still have the other, bigger pile to burn, but there is no hurry on that.

After I finished my usual rounds, I decided to go ahead and do some shovelling. It wasn’t really necessary, but I would rather open up the paths now, while the snow it still light, than be trying to do it after the paths have been walked on and packed down. Aside from around the cat shelters and the paths to and from the main doors, I cleared the cat paths, the fire pit and access to the covered firewood pile, a path around the house, and paths to the compost heap, the back of the garage, and the outhouse. It sounds like a lot, but it was easy and fast to do. If we warm up at all, what snow is left in the paths is more likely to melt away, making it easier to keep them clear later one – as long as it’s just light snow.

When I was done with the shovelling, I spotted Shop Towel visiting the kibble house (making 31). You can really tell he’s the daddy of all those white and grey kittens!

What a barrel chested beast he is!

Once all that was done, it was off to run errands. First was a stop at the post office to pick up a parcel, only it turned out to not be in the mail. Our general store is now a Purolator drop off location. Which is good for us, because we used to have to go to the next town to pick up our Purolator parcels.

After that, it was off to town to the hardware store, and then the pharmacy. The company my husband’s insurance is with had some changes made that didn’t affect his coverage, but did affect how/where things were billed. Everything was supposed to transfer over seamlessly, but for some reason, his slow release insulin was suddenly no longer covered. This stuff costs more than $500 a box without coverage, so he hasn’t been able to get more. Once we found out there was a problem, he checked the insurance company’s app, and it said this was still covered, so he sent them an email explaining what happened. It took until yesterday for them to finally respond and it was basically just a letter saying, yeah, it’s still covered. Your pharmacy can still bill us. If they’ve got a problem, they can contact us.

So I printed off the letter and brought it in, since it had the information they would need. Their system still came up as not covered, so I left the letter with them and asked for his prescription to be delivered tomorrow, if they were able to figure it out by then. Then I went ahead with getting a refill on my own prescription, since I was there, which meant I had to wait a while. That turned out to be a good thing, because they got my husband’s billing issues fixed and I was able to get his insulin, too. It was a bit of a shock when the cashier scanned the tags on the prescriptions and there was an extra almost $150 on it, though! It turns out they already have my husband’s next batch of bubble packs in the system. These are now put together in the city and sent here, so whoever is doing it in the city just does the refills every four weeks and sent the packs out automatically. Meanwhile, we just picked up a month’s worth of bubble packs last week, so he won’t need more until next month, but because it’s in their system already, he got billed for next month’s refills! Once that got cleared up, it was removed, so I just had his insulin to pay for.

It gets confusing at times, that’s for sure!

That done, I was finally able to head home, and soon we will be setting up this.

Would you look at the size of that heated water bowl!!! I put the container in it for perspective. That’s what I use to scoop the kibble and it holds about a gallon.

Thank you, M, for your generous donation. The kitties are going to be so happy!

I snagged an outdoor extension cord from the garage, so we can plug in both working heated water bowls. Unfortunately, the cord for the new bowl doesn’t seem very long at all. The older, smaller bowl we’re using now has a longer cord and it just barely reaches from its corner. What we may end up having to do is moving the kibble house over to where the water bowl shelter is, and putting the water bowl shelter where the kibble house is, for it to reach. I don’t want to buy longer extension cords for this, because the excess will just be in the way. I will have to buy a replacement block heater cord, since I took the extension cord for that, but our temperatures are nowhere near cold enough to need to plug the van in, yet. That can wait until next month.


Once we’ve got the water bowl situation figured out, we’ll have to make sure to put something beside the new water bowl for the kittens to climb on. It’s so tall, and some of them are so little, they’ll have a hard time reaching the water, otherwise!

Hopefully, with this new bowl, there will be enough liquid water to last until morning. Right now, the smaller heated water bowl is pretty much empty every morning, even though we refill it at least a couple of times during the day. It does make me wonder what creature is coming over during the night and drinking that much water! It’s certainly more than just the cats drinking it. One of these days, when we have a spare trail cam, it would be interesting to set one up facing the cat shelters to see what goes on when we’re not there to see it!

The Re-Farmer


Well, here it is.

Today is the 5th anniversary of all four of us finally being here at the farm today.

I can’t say “moved in”, since we had to put our stuff in storage for almost a month, but aside from that, it was done. We were here!

One of the things we did after spending some time assessing what we’d gotten into, as best we could at the time, was come up with a 5 year plan for what we wanted to accomplish, where we wanted to focus on, and a time line to shoot for.

Boy, did that ever get changed along the way!

Originally, the first two years were going to focus on clearing and cleaning the inner yard. Year one was going to be particularly focused on the maple grove to the west of the house, then year two would see us finish fixing up the inner yard with a focus on the spruce grove. Year three, we would continue working on the spruce grove, but also start moving more focus into the outer yard. By year five, we expected to be able to finish the outer yard. Through all this time, we were also going to work on where we wanted to put in gardens, and year five was going to be our first actual gardening year.

After year five, the inner and outer yards would be done, we could start planting gardens, and also start moving beyond the outer yard to start dealing with things like the car graveyard, junk piles, and so on.

Along the way, as things were cleared and cleaned up, we also kept our minds on where we wanted to plant fruit and nut trees, and other such permanent things.

Well… year one went pretty much to plan.

We got the old kitchen garden cleaned up and started to amend the soil with layers of cardboard, straw, leaves and whatever other organic material we could get.

We got the maple grove cleared and cleaned up. It still feels great to be able to walk through there again!

We got a lot done around the fire pit area and the west yard in general. It took months, and so much progress was made! We even were able to work on the perimeter of the spruce grove, and open things up.

In year two, the clean up continued, and I think it was around then that it became clear we would not be finishing the inner yard – more specifically, the spruce grove – as planned. In fact, we still haven’t finished the spruce grove, and won’t for some time. It’s a much bigger job than expected, and there are a large number of dead spruce trees that need to be cut down.

We did, however, start preparing our first garden area. We also got the retaining wall built at the end of the old kitchen garden. The clean up continued, inside and out, with quite a bit of storm damage to deal with when a blizzard hit us in October. I think the biggest accomplishment was getting that old wood pile area cleaned up – an area that uncovered some of the best soil in the yard.

A lot of work got done in our second year, but for our third year, our focus had to shift. There was no way we were going to be done with the inner yard, though we would have to do more in the outer yard at the same time. Things were getting pretty loosey goosey with our plans.

We still got a lot done. It just didn’t feel like we made much progress.

But, we got a garden in, with squash planted in the bed we’d prepared the year before, new beds made for potatoes, and the old wood pile area became a new garden, too. Our first year gardening was ahead of schedule – and right about the time when suddenly everyone else was starting to garden, too, thanks to the lockdowns and restrictions. We did repairs, patch jobs and replacements. General clean up in the yards continued, and we even got some bulbs planted. Hundreds of them!

Among the more difficult things we had to deal with was my husband’s health. In 2019, he ended up in the emergency room. Things got worse, and he later ended up in the hospital for about three weeks. It wasn’t until 2020 that he finally got into the pain clinic – after 2 years on the waiting list. That was difficult enough, since we were still under lockdowns and restrictions, but the whole thing was really a waste of time. Much like his visits with the cardiac clinic. After all that, right now, he barely even sees our GP, and the last time he had a phone appointment with the cardiac clinic, they never called. I think they’re pissed off at him for refusing to drive all the way to the city so they can make him sit in the waiting room, in pain, until he finally walks out without ever being seen. That’s one down side about moving back to our home province. The health care here is a lot worse than our previous province – though from what I’ve heard, things have gone seriously down hill over there, since we left.

For a lot of people, 2020 was the year from hell. My younger daughter ended up leaving her job at the pharmacy, but at least we had my husband’s disability income unchanged, unlike so many others. Being here on the farm meant very little actually changed for us. Our regular stock up trips and most other outings eventually became just me. I can’t wear a mask and had to deal with a lot of issues, since most places ignored the medical exemptions, never mind the fact that the mandates were illegal in the first place. We basically put our heads down and did the best we could, and counted our blessings.

One thing that did become clear is that we needed to step up on our long term goal of being as self sufficient as possible. Gardening became a higher priority. Our first winters here showed that we also needed to focus on having a stockpile of necessities in case we’re snowed in, etc. Getting chickens and, eventually, other food animals also had to be bumped up the priority list, though plans to build a chicken coop and brooder keep getting foiled.

We did have some fun things happen, though – like having a herd of goats show up at our place! One of which stayed for quite some time. In the end, I just walked over to the owner’s place with a bucket of feed, and the goat followed me.

I think most of us would like to forget 2020 happened, and had high hopes for 2021.

Except 2021 didn’t turn out any better. The illegal restrictions and mandates continued, people continued to have their health and lives destroyed, and we continued to try to keep our heads down and stick to our hermitage as much as possible.

Focus was once again on the garden, which required some creativity, and it was a difficult growing year. It started out well enough, with an early spring that had all sorts of trees blooming. It was very tempting to plant early, and some things, like a mulberry tree sapling we bought, did get planted as appropriate for our climate zone. Then one exceptionally cold night in May killed off so much. That year we had no crab apples, no saskatoons, no chokecherries, and the poor mulberry got killed off.

We expanded the garden by a lot, and it was a constant battle. Drought and heat waves meant watering the garden plots pretty much every day, twice a day. It also meant struggling to protect our garden from hungry and thirsty animals, with deer and groundhogs doing the most damage. We had to watch for racoons, too, though they were more interested in the bird seed and cat food than the garden. And yet, we managed to get a decent amount out of it.

We had plenty of other things to deal with, from van and door fixes, and even tire blow outs, to cat fixes! (Ginger is doing just fine now, and the missing leg isn’t slowing him down at all!) We got more clean up and improvements done around the yards, such as this path we added in the old kitchen garden. We even added to our longer term goals, and I hope to start working on these ones, next year or maybe the year after.

Again, we got a lot done, with all sorts of projects, but it didn’t feel like we made forward progress, other than in the garden.

Then there’s 2022.

Our fifth year here.

I’ll be doing future posts about how the year went, including a gardening review and goal setting, like I did for 2021, so I won’t get into that too much, now.

It did turn out to be another rough year, though after 2021, I don’t think a lot of people expected 2022 to be better. Despite the fact that data around the world has shown that the illegal restrictions and mandates not only didn’t work, but made things worse, our own dictatorial government is talking about bringing them back for this winter. Supply chain problems and increased inflation has been devastating to so many and, being on a fixed income, we’re certainly feeling it, too.

Through we did not have to deal with drought and heat waves this year, we did get a long, drawn out winter, followed by flooding that washed out roads around us in all directions, and more water in our yard than I’ve ever seen before, even when I was a kid growing up here. We did get long term progress done, with finally planting berry bushes and trees.

We expanded the garden so much this year and planted so many different things, we did not have to fight critter damage like last year, and yet we had a much worse growing year than the year before. Over all, I feel like we didn’t really make much forward progress at all, in any area. In fact, in some areas, we’re falling behind. We’ve got aging outbuildings collapsing or falling apart, and no way to replace them. We need to replace our van, as it’s really not worth fixing up anymore, but that’s out of reach now, too. About the only really good thing is that our vandal’s vexatious litigation against us, in response to our getting a restraining order against him approved, finally got thrown out and he didn’t appeal, so we don’t have that hanging over us anymore.

So what can we expect for the next five years? How do we even plan for such an uncertain future?

Well… honestly… the original goals haven’t really changed. They’ve just shifted. We’ve always wanted to live a more self sufficient life, and that’s simply become a greater priority over things like cleaning up the spruce grove or the outer yard.

In the short term, the gardens will continue to expand. We’ve learned a lot in three years of gardening here. We now know that we need to put a priority on things like raised beds and trellises, and that we need to work out how to deal with both drought and flooding, as well as getting around our rocky and nutritionally depleted soil.

We know that we need to work to grow a lot more food, with a lot more varieties, on the assumption that much of what we plant will simply not make it.

We know we need to step up on planting a food forest and other perennials that will feed us – along with things to attract and protect pollinators.

We know we will have to battle critters over the food we grow.

We know that we have to put a priority on getting food animals, even if it’s just a few chickens or meat rabbits – and that we need to be prepared to grow their feed, because we might not be able to buy feed for them.

We know that we can expect to be unable to get out of here for potentially months at a time, whether it’s due to vehicles breaking down or freezing, or roads impassable because of snow or flooding, so we have to be prepared for that. We know we need to keep at least a couple months worth of food, household necessities, and cat supplies, on hand, just in case.

We have been incredibly fortunate in that we have not had any major power failures, but I remember many times when I was a kid, losing power and having to fire up the old wood burning cook stove. That is no longer an option. We can at least cook on the BBQ or the fire pit if necessary, which means that the priority list now includes finding some way to pay for the original well with the hand pump to be repaired, so we will at least have water if the power goes out. Water is our biggest weakness.

We always liked the idea of cooking over the fire pit, but with the first years here having total fire bans, this past summer was the first time we could safely use it for any length of time. We now know we need to come up with an off-grid, outdoor kitchen that we can use at any time of year, whether it’s in the middle of a snow storm in the winter, or if we’re under a fire ban in the summer. This would also be part of bringing back the old idea of having a summer kitchen, to use for canning and preserving, without overheating the house or taking up the kitchen from daily needs.

These past five years have shown us our original goals don’t actually need to be changed. Just the priority list. Yes, it’ll be great to finally have the spruce grove cleaned up, but that is less important than building garden beds and shelters and getting food animals. The goals are not mutually exclusive, though. Since we can’t afford much when it comes to lumber and supplies, we’ll just have to make use of the dead trees we need to cut down in the spruce grove, and we have to clean up around them to do that safely, anyhow.

We just have to keep reassessing and adapting the how and when, but the what has not really changed at all.

The Re-Farmer