Winter doesn’t want to let go

We are slowly coming out of what should be the last bitterly cold night of the winter. Last night, we dipped to at least -33C/-27F, with wind chills in the -40’s C/F The sun room, however, never seem to get much colder than -10 to -15C (14 to 5F).

The cattens took full advantage of that.

My husband got this picture through the bathroom window last night. From what I can see, there is only one adult in the pile; Broccoli.

As I write this, we’re coming up on 9am. My desktop’s weather app says we are at -28C/-18F still, with a wind chill of -38C/-36F The app on my phone, however, says we’ve warmed up to -26C/3F with a wind chill of -33C/-27F We should warm up a few degrees before I have to try starting my mother’s car. She and I spoke on the phone last night and already talked about rescheduling her appointment, if I don’t think her car would be safe to drive.

While getting bundled up before doing the outside cat stuff, I noticed something that is a first since we’ve moved here.

There is frost on the doorknob of the main entry door! We do have a sheet of insulation between the doors, but it doesn’t cover about 8 inches on the knob side of the door. We’ve got frost on the bottom, and on the windows, but I’ve never seed frost on the doorknob like this before. Not even last winter, when we didn’t insulate the door at all, since the hinges were a problem and we didn’t want to open it if we could avoid it.

I just realized that’s quite the reflection of me with my parka tucked under my arm! πŸ˜„

I had another surprise as I fought my way past the barricade of cattens under the old kitchen doors to feed them. Several of them were wanting to get into the old kitchen (which is colder than the sun room right now!), including one of the tabbies. We have several tabbies among the babies this year and, so far, only Judgement, a brown tabby, has been socialized.

This baby?

I got to pet him.

And I don’t mean just sneaking a pet while he (or she) was eating, only to have him run away. Nope.

After filling a couple of kibble trays, he was still spinning around at my feet, so I started petting him. He was a bit startled, looked at me in shock – then started pushing his head against my hand for more pets!

After that, food was more interesting, but I’m just amazed!

Also… I’m not sure who’s baby this is. We have a dark grey tabby that’s got a bit of white on him, and we have one that’s almost a black tabby, also with a bit of white on him. There’s also a big, fully grey tabby with more spotty markings from the oldest litter that I haven’t seen around for a while. This tabby is smaller.

I’m so losing track of all the cats, but…

Is this a new one?

Unlikely, but possible. The only reason I even suspect it’s a new cat is because I was able to pet it!

I didn’t even try to do a head count. Even the brief time I was outside the sun room was brutal.

Ah, the irony. My husband got me an early Valentine’s Day gift – heated gloves. They arrived at the post office, yesterday. I didn’t dare drive either of the vehicles to get the mail, so I’m leaving early to do it before going to my mother’s.

I’m going to have heated gloves, just in time for the end of the bitter cold!

The Re-Farmer

Frosty garden plans

We had fog roll in yesterday, so by morning, we were back to looking like a winter wonderland!

Nothing like seeing frost to get me thinking about the garden! πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

One of my goals for today is to mark out on our calendar, when we need to start different seeds indoors. We will also need to figure out how to build a barrier to keep the cats out of the living room, as we need to migrate trays out of the aquarium greenhouses and over to the rest of the room. Last year’s set up had serious issues when it came to protection from cats determined to get at the pots. The problem there comes down to funds. The “unallocated funds” of our budget we would use for projects like this are now allocated to make “car payments” into savings, so that we’ll have a down payment for a replacement vehicle before next winter. That’s not going to leave much wiggle room for other things.

Still, it will need to be done! We’ll figure it out.

With the ground still frozen and covered with snow, I’m thinking about where things will be planted, and when. The old kitchen garden is getting to the point where we can start making it into an actual “kitchen garden” – the place to plant those things that we would be wanting to harvest casually and continually, as needed for our cooking. It is also a good place to plant things that will need more protection and warmth.

The waffle weave bed is done and ready. The contents will, of course, sink as time goes by, but I deliberately filled it higher than I wanted it, so that won’t be too much of a problem. With the woven walls, I do want the top of the soil to be lower than the top of the bed by a fair bit, so it’s less likely to fall through the gaps. That bed gets full sun on the long, narrow side, while the short side that gets wider at the end gets quite a bit more shade.

The rectangular bed will be built up a bit higher on the sides, plus an even higher “wall” to hold back the pink rose bush, so that won’t take much to finish. The hard part on that one will be trying to pull up all those mint roots again!

The small raised bed along the south side of the garden is ready, and the strip in front of it has bulbs planted. The area right against the bed, covered with grass clippings in the photo, has bulbils from the single walking onion that keeps coming back, planted. Last year was the first time since we’ve been here that it didn’t get broken by something before the bulbils formed! We’ll see if they survived the winter. It would be nice to have perennial onions in here. This garden would be a good place to grow bunching onions, too, though those failed completely, last year.

There’s a section by the laundry platform that is overgrown with mint that needs to be cleaned up. That could be another bed for some flowers, perhaps – my younger daughter really wants to have a flower garden in here. There’s a bed along the retaining wall blocks that needs some work – it got very compacted last year, and I finally gave up trying to keep it weeded. That bed is where the bunching onions died. πŸ˜„

This garden would be a good place to start our herb garden. We transplanted mint into alternating blocks of the retaining wall, and they did survive and grow last summer. I don’t know what variety they are, but we now have spearmint seeds. We could plant the spearmint in the remaining blocks, so we can keep it under control.

I like having a retaining wall that doubles as planters!

Other herbs seeds we have now that can go in here are the thyme (two types), chamomile and oregano. I do not want to plant the dill here, as I want to plant that somewhere it can grow freely and self seed, without taking over a bed from everything else. The lemon grass, of course, will be going into a pot and set into a microclimate against the house.

I’m thinking this garden would be a good place for the Little Finger Eggplant, as well as at least some of the peppers. The free seeds for Jebousek lettuce we got would probably do well in the shadier beds, and I’d love to try the Hedou Tiny bok choy in here.

It sounds like a lot, but I think we’ll have enough space for all of this. For things like the peppers, we’re looking to have just a few plants of each variety, as we see how well they grow here, and which ones are enjoyed the most, so they shouldn’t take up excessive amounts of space. As for the herbs, we’ll only need a couple of plants each to meet our needs, so they won’t take up a lot of space, either.

Hopefully, with raising the beds higher, we’ll have less of a battle with all those invasive flowers my mother had in here, taking things over! The raised beds should also make it easier to have protective covers we can more easily move aside, to access underneath. That was one of the biggest problems I had with tending this garden last year. We had netting to protect the plants from critters, but it had to be fixed so thoroughly, it kept us out, too!

The corner around the honeysuckle and white roses really turned into a jungle of periwinkle and purple bellflower last year. I’d like to keep fighting those off as much as we can, so my daughter can start planting new – non invasive! – flowers to eventually out grow the invaders. The purple bellflower even buried other flowers – lilies, if I remember correctly – to the point that they never bloomed. That patch needs to be divided, so we could take advantage of that and perhaps use them to create a border. I am considering transplanting the rhubarb out of there completely. They are not doing as well as they could, right under the ornamental apple trees as they are. Though, to be honest, I’d like to get rid of those apple trees, They’re creating too much shade and preventing other things from thriving. They’re so beautiful, though, and they do provide food for the birds, so I’ve no plans to do that until we have something to replace them with – somewhere else!

It will be good to have more effective use of this garden. Having a small garden so close to the house should be very convenient, if we plan things right.

The Re-Farmer

Frosted

I ended up doing my morning rounds later than usual today, but I sure had some beautiful views!

We got another frost last night, and the trees look just stunning!

I had a pretty frosted morning, myself – frosted at Nosencrantz, mostly! Way too early in the morning, I heard a strange scratching sound in the shelf behind my night stand; there is a wall of shelves behind my bed that can’t be taken out of the room without somehow dismantling it, so I have my bed frame up against in, blocking some of the shelves. The one behind my nightstand is only half blocked, and it usually the place Nosencrantz hides in when some of the other cats decide to go after her.

The scratching I was hearing?

Yeah. She decided to poop in the shelf, rather than one of the freshly cleaned litter boxes. In the farthest corner, of course.

Then, after I cleaned it up and went back to bed, Nosencrantz started scratching again.

In a litter box.

She wasn’t using it. Just scratching in it.

And on it.

And the floor around it.

And the baby jail walls next to it (yeah, we still have that set up; Butterscotch loves to nap in it!)

She eventually stopped, but then Butterscotch tried to make a jump onto the window ledge, failed and somehow managed to knock over the small food bowl I’ve got tucked in the corner, partially blocked by a shelf specifically to prevent that from happening!

After cleaning that up, I tried to get a bit more sleep, but then Leyendecker and Cheddar started scratching at the door, wanting in.

I finally gave up and got up, heading to the kitchen to start the kettle going to heat water for the outside cats. It was still kinda dark, and I didn’t have my glasses, so I was perplexed by a glowing blue box in the wrong spot. The Cat Lady had given us their older water fountain for the cats, and it’s plugged in and set up in front of a shelf in the dining room. It has a blue light that makes the base glow, and you can see the water level. Well, the base was several feet away, in front of the entry to the kitchen – and the top part, with the fountain, was gone! I found it pushed up against another shelf.

I’m blaming Susan for this. She has a thing for digging in water bowls and splashing all over. I’m guessing she must have pulled the top right off – then kept splashing in the water, from the looks of the floor!

Still better than having to crawl on the floor to reach and clean up poop, though!

Nosencrantz just climbed onto my chest as I write this, and is getting all cuddly.

As if I could forgive her that easily!

Awww… she’s curling up and settling down now, purring like crazy.

I am such a suck for the cats.

The Re-Farmer

A bunch of updates, and this is $261

This morning, we had a combination of light snow and more fog.

Only now, in the late afternoon, do we finally have sunshine.

We still haven’t received a call about financing the replacement vehicle. By now, I figure there just isn’t a lender that will accept our application. I’m sure our credit score is pretty low. After my husband went on disability and we lost 40% of our income, we had to go under a consumer proposal to finish paying things off. That was ended a few years ago, but we have no credit cards, no mortgage and no other loans. Basically, no debt. Which means, nothing to improve our credit score. Rather ironic, isn’t it? We have no debt, therefore we have a bad credit score.

With waiting on the financing, I’ve been delaying our stock up shopping trip. We’re still good for most things, but I didn’t want it wait too much longer, or we’d start running out of things. Mostly cat food, since that’s the one thing we haven’t been able to stock up on. Since the van is still prepped for trade in, including the summer tires in the back, that meant using my mother’s car. Which can’t hold as much, even with the back seats folded down, but it’ll do.

Once on the road, the further south I went, the thicker the fog and blowing snow. I was intending to go to Costco, but by the time I reached the town my mother lives in, I changed my mind. The highways were fine – and the surrounding fields and trees were stunningly beautiful! However, I knew the city would be a mess. So I decided to go to the nearer city and hit a Walmart. It meant a smaller shop, but I could at least get the most necessary items.

I almost didn’t!

This is $261.11, after taxes.

Lately, I’ve been buying 10kg bags of kibble (about 22 pounds). The shelves with large bags of kibble were almost empty, and I had to get the 7kg (about 15 pounds) of economy kibble, instead. Four of those for the outside cats, and more wet cat food for the inside cats, and we were already at about $110.

I got a container of black peppercorns, but they didn’t have the ground thyme and sage I was looking for, in stock. I had intended to buy more protein items, but ended up with just three different cheeses (of the 2 for $10 varieties), some pork chops, and some seafood for the girls. They also requested hot dog fixings, so I got a bulk package of wieners and some hot dog buns, as well as wraps. I got a box of granola bars and Kraft Dinner for them, too. That meant more milk for making the KD. The olives are more of a snack food for my husband, though I like to nibble on a bowl of olives, too. One of my favourite treats used to be a certain brand of sundried black olives, packed in salt, but I haven’t seen them since we moved, so… green olives it is. πŸ˜„ There’s paper towels and facial tissues, coffee creamer for the girls (my husband and I don’t drink coffee), and two boxes of Earl Grey Double Bergamot tea. It’s often out of stock, so I was happy to see it. Especially since the tea shelves were pretty empty, too!

Aside from getting this as Walmart, I was also able to swing by a Staples and get some ink for my printer. For some reason, I’m out of cyan again – why that one colour keeps running out, I have no idea. We don’t use our printer much. If the printer is out one colour, it won’t let me print anymore. Not even black and white. Frustrating! While there, I picked up some tax preparation software. NOT TurboTax this year. Hopefully, something that isn’t so frikkin’ counter intuitive. So that was another $55 and change in total gone.

The price of printer ink went up since I last bought some. The economy kibble prices also finally went up. I got excellent prices on some other things, though, so that sort of made up for it.

The unfortunate thing is, I’m going to need to do this again, soon. That kibble won’t last until the end of the month, though as things warm up, the outside cats aren’t needing to eat as much. We also need to get more stove pellets for the litter pretty soon, and that’s a Canadian Tire trip. If I’m getting both, I’d be taking the tires out of the back of the van and using that, rather than my mother’s car.

Another ironic thing, considering our major gardening plans. What I’d wanted to do, and will have to do when I finally make it to Costco, is stock up on quality proteins. We still have lots of our quarter beef in the freezer, but I don’t want to go through that too quickly.

I’ve mentioned more than a few times, that all four of us have various health issues. After much research and assessing of things, my husband and I want to try going carnivore. We’re not going to go cold turkey on it, but the more I look into it, the more convinced I am that our entire family would see significant improvement in all our different issues, by cutting out virtually all carbs. For my daughters, I especially think they need to cut out almost all vegetables. All plants have pesticides in them. It’s their natural defence, since they can’t up and run away from the animals and insects that want to eat them. Some people are sensitive to them than others. Ruminants are the best meat for a low carb diet, as they have digestive systems that ferment plant material, thereby removing those toxins and converting material indigestible to humans into high quality meat. Personally I don’t think I am sensitive to these plant toxins, and could probably do well on keto, but it seems the rest of my family is. My daughters, unfortunately, have been cutting meat out of their diet more and more – probably because of the cost, though one of them says certain meats make her feel sick. That this includes some cuts but not others, of the same kind of meat, leaves me thinking there is something else going on. Anyhow, what my husband in particular really should be doing is going completely carnivore, then slowly adding things back, as a sort of elimination diet. It won’t heal his back (which includes birth defects that were not discovered until after his back injury), but it should at least get him off a lot of medications. I’m hoping that, once they see positive results in us, my daughters will be more willing to go it, too.

Yet another reason why I want to include animals as part of our self sufficiency goals, and part of that includes growing their feed, because the cost of feed is getting pretty steep. If that means growing a garden full of animal food, then eating the animals, I’m good with that. But we have lots of preparation before we can start doing that. First, a chicken coop. Possibly some meat rabbits next. Then set up for a couple of pigs. For pigs, we would get piglets in the spring to be butchered in the fall, so we won’t be overwintering pigs, like we would with chickens. Pigs are social animals, so we’d get at least two. We might get milk goats at some point, but will likely keep buying our beef from the same ranch we’re getting it from now. I just don’t see us reaching a point where we will have our own cows – though we might get alpacas at some point. My daughter wants fibre animals.

Okay, so I’m getting off track here. πŸ˜„

Back to other updates.

I’ve been messaging with the Cat Lady. Her surgery was cancelled at the last minute. The new specialist wants to put her on medications, first. It’s so frustrating, but he’s convinced that if they do the surgery now, she’ll end up back within the year. She’s planning on going to the US for a second opinion and possible surgery in the spring. So frustrating! Months of tests and preparation, actually in the hospital and ready to go under the knife, only to have the whole thing turned upside down by someone she’d only seen for 15 minutes. The other specialist thought surgery was the best option. The health care system in this province really sucks. It’s not even the worst province in Canada for that, either, which is downright scary.

All that going on, and she’s worried about how Tissue is doing, too! I assured her that Tissue is doing fine. As I write this, she is burrowed under my sheets, sleeping. A few more days on soft food and medication, and we should be able to let her out of the isolation room again. πŸ˜„

On top of all that, I got a call from my mother. Her timing was perfect, as I’d just gotten home. The girls were still putting away the groceries!

I’m heading out again, to help her do her own grocery shopping trip. Then I have to head to another town to pick up a Purolator package. I thought they now had a depot in the general store our post office is in – I’ve picked up a Purolator package there not long ago! But apparently, no. Weird.

I’d love to finally get a call back from the finance lady. Even if it’s just to tell me that no, we can’t get financing. That’s better than hanging in limbo like this! But she’s working really hard to get us that vehicle! 😁 I do appreciate her efforts. But gosh, it’s taking a really long time!

The Re-Farmer

Living in a post card

The fog has mostly dissipated – I was still seeing touches of it while going my morning rounds.

My goodness, but it does make things beautiful, this time of year!

I couldn’t resist getting a picture from the same spot as yesterday.

The temperatures are nice and mild right now. As I write this, we’re at -8C/18F, with almost no breeze at all. We’re supposed to reach a high of -6C/21F today. A good day to finish clearing in front of the garage so I can open the doors to get my mother’s car out, and clear a few more paths.

One way we can tell how much more pleasant the weather is, is by the cats.

The usuals are back to preferring to eat on the cat house roof again. In this bunch, there’s only one that’s friendly. I can sometimes pet the black and white, but not often. Still more than I can come close to Broccoli. I don’t know how she’s been with her kittens gone. She’s been avoiding me, so perhaps she’s made an association between me and missing babies. I don’t know. I so want to socialize her more! We’ll have to wait longer before we can try to trap more females. The hard part is waiting for things to warm up, so there’s no chance of a critter freezing in the trap, but not so warm that they start going into heat and get pregnant, first.

Speaking of which, I saw Shop Towel skulking around when I put the food out. While I was switching the memory card on the trail cam (and melting the frost off the lens and solar panel), I heard a cat fight, and am guessing it involved Shop Towel.

Before going in, I tried to get some more pictures of the frost and was able to zoom in to get this little cutie.

We have not been able to keep up with the feeding this winter, because of the racoons destroying the hanging feeder, but the chickadees and blue jays have been raiding the kibble trays, instead!

While getting this shot, something strange in a tree above the storage house roof caught my eye.

Well, I guess we can see who Shop Towel went after! One of his older sons, no less. A couple of the grey and whites are much larger – more like their dad in size.

In other things, I spoke to my mother last night. She’s in need of a grocery shopping trip, which is why I want to clear the doors to her car. She was fully expecting to go to the grocery store today; apparently my sister is supposed to be visiting her, though my mother didn’t seem sure, when I spoke to her. I pointed out to her that it’s New Year’s Day. The stores will be closed. She sounded so surprised when I told her that. πŸ˜• So, if all goes well, I’ll be heading out tomorrow to help her with shopping – in her own car!

For now, I’m monitoring cats. With the littles gone, I actually got a full night’s sleep! The ladies seem relieved to have the room to themselves again – even if Marlee still hisses at Butterscotch and Nosencrantz sometimes. Leyendecker and Cheddar seem to be looking for the littles when they come in. Meanwhile, I now have grandma, who moved out here with us, in with me. My daughters just let me know she’s been behaving oddly, like there is something stuck in her mouth. We thought it might have been something stuck in her throat, but I’ve seen her eating. She seems fine, until she suddenly makes retching faces and started rubbing the sides of her face with her paw. My one attempt to gently move her head for a look had her meow in alarm and run off, so I do think something is hurting her. Hopefully, it’s something that will work itself out. So far, she’s eating and drinking normally. Right now, she’s on my bed, not far from Marlee, and settling in for a nap.

I’ll have to get one of the girls to take over monitoring her when it’s time to get outside.

The Re-Farmer

Still cold out there!

Man, am I looking forward to the backside of February.

I’m sure the cats are, too, in their own kitty way! Not a lot of them out and about this morning. Bright and sunny, but a very chill wind.

I’ve been leaving the sun room doors open while I do the morning rounds. After removing the frame of the mini-greenhouse, we no longer have anywhere for the heat bulb or light, but I went ahead and turned the power bar on for the heated water bowl again. I swept up the area a bit, poured the remaining kibble into one of the old ice cream buckets we store in there, then lay the sheets of rigid insulation on the floor again.

Potato Beetle may not want to be kept in the sun room anymore, but he was the first one to dash in when the doors opened.

Then started eating kibble out of the floor sweepings, instead of the bucket.

*sigh*

He did eventually start eating not-dirty kibble, but sheesh! πŸ˜€

Agnoose and Tuxedo Mask are quite happy to go into the sun room, too. The box nests we made in the shelf by the window are still there, and they made themselves at home in the sun spots. So I left the doors slightly open when I finished my founds and came back inside. We can close them after the cats leave on their own. πŸ™‚

With the really long fall we had, one thing we missed doing before the snow finally arrived, was putting the insulation back between the doors. With the door in the dining room, we would just put them in between the main door and the storm door, and leave it. With the main entry door, we’d attached the insulation to the inner door with self-adhesive Velcro strips. Some of them kept falling off, though, and we never found a satisfactory substitute. With the inner door breaking at the hinges and frame, we simply don’t use it right now.

This is the dining room door.

The loop of paracord is attached to the outer door, which would sometimes pop open. It allowed us to let the cats look out the window, and not worry the door would fly open and they’d get outside.

The main entry door just has some frost in one bottom corner.

This is actually a lot less than what we had during our first winter here!

At some point, both doors, and frames, will need to be replaced with proper exterior doors. The main entry first, of course. I was going to get an estimate from the company that installed the new windows the summer before we moved in, but I haven’t been able to find them. Even the sign they had on the highway is gone. I fear they were one of the many small businesses that disappeared, due to the government restrictions. I would prefer not to go with one of the big franchises, but they seem to be the only ones left.

In other things, I’ve been in contact with the cat lady today. She is going to swing by tomorrow with some kibble for us! We’re running low, and have no way to go pick up more. She’ll drop off an extra cat carrier, too, for the next time we bring cats to the vet that she will pick up for adopting out. It turns out she had all these bags just sitting in her garage. She was able to coupon them for 27 cents each. !!! But her own cats won’t eat it. They only eat the $80 a bag stuff. Which is what Cabbages is eating now, too. I also found out that they are vegetarians! She buys all sorts of chicken and cooks it for the cats, but they only eat fish, themselves.

Wow!

If you would like to contribute to our fundraiser to reimburse the cat lady for Cabbages’ vet bills, click on the button below, orΒ click here. If you would like to read more about it,Β click here.

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I also finally heard back from the garage about the van. I completely forgot that yesterday was a statutory holiday, and he was closed. He’ll be able to do the van earlier, and has ordered the part today.

Now we just have to figure out how to get there to pick up the van when it’s ready. Since we have to tow my mother’s car in, we could potentially have arranged it for the same day, and gotten a ride in with the tow truck, but they don’t allow passengers anymore.

We’ll figure it out. I do miss living in a free country, though. 😦

Yesterday, the House of Commons voted in favour of the Emergency Measures Act – with no end date! Not a surprise, since the NDP were going to support it, no matter what their constituents wanted, nor how many laws are broken. It’s now up to the Senate. I’m told they’re supposed to vote on it today.

If you’re the praying sort, place pray for Canada. We need all the divine intervention we can get right now.

The Re-Farmer

Frosted, and planning ahead

Well, it finally happened. We had a lasting frost, and temperatures were still below freezing when I came out to do my morning rounds.

My husband has still been up to feeding the outside cats earlier in the mornings, and has included putting warm water out for them, too, which they are really appreciating! It’s still not cold enough to plug in the heater in the cat’s house or use the heated water bowl, though.

While there was frost still on the ground everywhere else, this area was already warm and sunny. The kittens enjoyed that while watching me do my rounds!

It does show why what we planted along the chain link fence lasted so long. The tomatoes and gourds are finally done for, though. We can now start pulling them and prepping the beds for next year.

While we will be pulling everything else, the sunflowers can stay for a while longer. They sure are a cheerful sight on a chilly morning!

The chard was still quite covered in frost, as these beds are shaded longer in the mornings. We’ve never grown chard before, but from what I’ve read, getting hit with frost can improve their flavour. I don’t know that we’ll grow chard again. They did well, but none of us really ate them much.

I was already planning on pulling the lettuce. That last batch I gathered was so bitter, it went straight to compost instead of the salad I was intending to make with them.

A bit of a surprise was walking by the purple corn, the remains of which we were leaving to go to seed. They were pretty dry by now, yet most of the stalks were eaten last night! They had been left alone for quite a long time, so this was unexpected. Odd that, with so much fresh food still around, and even with the lettuce and chard uncovered, the deer would go for these dried up stalks.

We are going to have a lot of work to do over the next couple of weeks. We’re supposed to warm up again next week, so we do have time. The sweet corn blocks and, eventually, the sunflowers will be pulled, but nothing else will be done in that area until we get the berry bushes we intend to plant there. My daughter has been researching the ones we were looking to get, and Autumn Olive has been taking off our list; apparently, they are considered invasive! The Buffalo Berry and Sea Buckthorn are still on the list. Sea Buckthorn is also considered invasive in some areas, but not our climate zone.

The bean beds, pea trellises, squash tunnel and summer squash areas will all be used again next year, but mostly we need to focus on preparing the main garden beds closer to the house for next year. Once we get our straw bale in, we’ll start mulching some areas for new beds. We are already making lists of what we intend to plant next year, and will start buying seeds and trees over the winter, month by month. We will use that to help decide where to prepare new ground for planting next year.

At the same time, we are making lists of things to stock up on. Though things are looking mild, we’ve been either snowed in or had our vehicles freeze for two winters in a row now, so we want to be prepared in case something like that happens again. With food prices increasing so much over the past few months, and expected to get higher, it’s getting more difficult to buy those few extra things every month. Particularly since so many other people have realized that “prepping” is a really, really good idea, too!

Having grown up here, as a subsistence farm, I am very familiar with a lot of “self sufficiency” and “prepper” habits. That was just what everyone did, because there was no other option, really. So I’m no stranger to the lifestyle. At the same time, I am always wanting to learn new information and more about how to do it better, so I spend quite a bit of time researching. Which means I’ve lately been seeing a lot of homesteading resources – “subsistence farming” just isn’t a term that’s used anymore! – and “prepper” sites. Lately, it’s been feeling downright weird to go to them, as they are increasingly focused on giving information to people who are totally new to the concept, due to current circumstances. For us, this is just stuff we need to do. We are isolated just enough that we know we have to rely on ourselves if things go wrong, and there are always thing that can go wrong. The power could go out. We could get snowed in. We might have to evacuate due to wildfires. At least flooding isn’t a concern where we are, but running out of water is. We can’t just hope over to the corner store if we run out of things, like we could while living in the city. We can’t even assume we will have telephone (meaning the land line; we already can’t rely on getting a cell phone signal here) or internet for communication. The land line is pretty reliable, at least, but our internet starts kicking out as soon as there is a stiff wind, or if there are storms to the south of us. Of course, on top of all that, we have my husband’s health issues. He and I were just talking this morning about his prescription refills. He gets his daily meds in bubble packs now, including those that are restricted. For the longest time, he couldn’t get refills for his restricted medications until he was, at the earliest, 3 days away from running out. Now, his bubble packs aren’t even done locally. They’re done in the city and shipped to the local pharmacy, and with how crazy things have been, they’ve actually lifted some of the red tape surrounding restricted medications. Which means we should be able to get a couple of months of refills, instead of just one month. He just got his refills recently, so we’ll be trying to get an extra month of refills, next time.

Anyhow. It’s just been really strange to go looking stuff up for ideas and inspiration. So many people are now doing the same thing, with absolutely zero background in it. In one way, it makes me feel thankful for how I grew up. On the other, it’s frustrating, when people start panic buying, without any sort of planning or organization in mind, and it ends up causing problems for everybody.

Ah, well. People need to learn somehow. We just do what we can!

And right now, that means cleaning out the last of this year’s garden, and preparing for next, and making sure we are stocked up for the winter.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: almost frost

When I woke up this morning, we were at 2C/36F

We had not gotten any frost warnings the night before, but when it gets that cold, it’s going to be too much for some things, with our without frost.

The last few days, morning and evening, we have been hearing a cacophony of geese in the surrounding fields. Something must have disturbed them this morning, because they were not only louder than usual, but I even got to see them flying overhead.

Going north, for some reason! πŸ˜€

Last night, my daughters had picked more tomatoes and a few summer squash, and this morning I was going to pick beans.

It looks like we’re now done for beans.

They may not have gotten an actual frost, but the foliage was clearly damaged. The purple beans have a lot more foliage, which protected the pods, but I could see cold damage on the green and yellow beans.

I had taken some photos yesterday, which ended up giving me comparison photos with today. Here is the Crespo squash.

This was taken yesterday afternoon.

This is the smaller of the two squash in the previous photo.

This is the larger one, yesterday (on the left) and this morning (on the right). 😦

This is one of our biggest squash. Yesterday’s photo is on the left, and this morning is on the right. This squash is shaded for longer in the morning, and you can see there is actual frost on it!

These next ones are photos from yesterday and, from what I could see, they were okay this morning.

The one that’s hanging is in a spot where it gets hit with morning sun earlier than others. The large one on the ground has foliage around it that may have protected it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see, so I can’t actually say for sure if it was damaged or not. It’ll take a bit more time before we’ll know if they got cold damaged or not.

Then there are the Ozark Nest Egg gourds. I took these photos last night, but didn’t bother to take more this morning.

We will have a better idea as the day goes on, but as of this morning, they seemed to have no real damage at all. There are still so many little gourds all over, there are still flowers that look like they are opening, and there was no signs of cold damage, like on the Crespo squash. These gourds are in the south yard and get that morning sunlight nice and early, which may have made the difference.

The tomatoes on the south fence also looked untouched by the cold, but the one that had seeded itself in the lettuce bed looked like it was hit by frost. That bed gets shaded more, longer, this time of year. If we’d gotten a frost warning, I would have put the wire mesh cover back on and covered the bed with cloth. The lettuce is fine; it can handle temperatures even colder than this. The chard was also just fine.

It will be good when these beds all get converted to high raised beds. They get full sun in the summer, but when the sun is lower in the sky, several of them get more shade from the trees to the south. Once they are higher, they will be out of the shade, just a little bit sooner. Still, it is something to keep in mind for when we garden here in the future. It’s also another reason why I want to build permanent garden beds on the south side of the house, in the outer yard, where we don’t have so many tall trees to deal with.

As it is, we’re in the middle of October, and these have lasted far longer than we normally would have expected in our climate zone! So really, I can’t complain!

The Re-Farmer

Frosted!

Thanks to my dear brother and his wife, I had plenty of kibble to feed the kitties this morning. I would have emptied the bin this morning, otherwise.

Ginger was out and about, and covered in frost!

While the tips of their fur makes them look chilled, when I pet them or pick them up (at least the ones that allow me to!) feel surprisingly warm. Their winter undercoats are doing the job of keeping them somewhat insulated.

Once again, the heated water bowl was almost completely frozen over! I made sure all the water bowls were filled with warm water, before doing the kibble. Their food bowls are full, but even dry kibble must get pretty hard in these temperatures, as they definitely prefer the new kibble, which would be slightly less frozen! πŸ˜€ The thermometer in the sun room has shown it to be typically half the outside temperature or warmer, so when we are in the -30’s C outside, it’s at about -15C. (-22F and 5F). So everything in there is definitely frozen, but the cats seem to find it better.

While filling the water bowls, I made sure to look into the cat house.

There had been at least three cat in there, but only Nostrildamus is socialized enough to not run off when I come near. I got the picture of him in mid meow! πŸ˜€

In the upper left of the photo, you can see the timer the heat bulb is plugged into. It had been propped against some screws in the joist, so that the light sensor faced the window, but it keeps falling half off one of them. I have not tried to put it back, since it just means it will turn on earlier than if it was facing the window, and warm things up. The cats do love sitting in the sun of that one window! What I’d love to do before next winter is find a way to make another shelter for them that takes advantage of passive solar heat. I was thinking of making a smaller version of the kibble house to hold the water bowls. I’m sure we have some old windows in the barn that can be used as a roof and maybe even a back wall.

As I was coming back from putting feed out for the deer and birds, I found Creamsicle Jr had shown up in the kibble house. I only got a brief look at his injured eye, and while the fur is still dirty around it, the eye itself is looking almost normal again.

I did not run the van or my mother’s car this morning, as the cold was already getting to me. I wasn’t up to having to open up both sets of garage doors so I could run the vehicles, in a wind chill of -46C/-51F I’ll bundle up again and head out after I finish this.

Check out our long range forecast!

Look at that!!! Not only are we supposed to consistently keep warming up over the next while, but by the 22nd and 23rd, we’re supposed to be around 0C!! (32F) Things will actually be melting!

Assuming the weather actually cooperates, and this polar vortex doesn’t decide to just hang out even longer. It has messed up the forecasts a few times, now.

I’ve been thinking warm thoughts in response. Which has meant looking at the websites of seed companies. I’ve gone so far as to start an account with Heritage Harvest Seed, and have been filling my Favourites list! We don’t need more seeds, and much of what I’ve added are sold out, anyhow. It’s still fun to look. I love the little write ups that come with each item. Half the time, the thing that convinces me to add something to my Favourites is the words “extremely rare!!” I love the idea of keeping rare varieties going. We’ll have the space to do it, as we clean up and prepare more of the property and eventually expand into the outer yard. Even if we don’t necessarily grow things for our own use, they won’t go to waste, and we’ll have the privilege of space to grow them for their seeds. With this company, I can be sure that they will grow in our climate, too, since they are even further North than we are, though we’re in the same zone. From other cold climate gardeners I’ve been hearing from, the company has an excellent reputation.

I will just have to resist the temptation of ordering more seeds when we already have so many, and more on the way!

Our internet connection repeatedly cutting out should make that easier. Most of the time, it means pages don’t load well, or don’t load completely. Oddly, the most common thing that will not load, no matter how many times I try reloading a page, is the “like” button. !!

Now it’s time to see if I’ll be able to publish this post now, or have to try again later! πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer