What a wonderful day!

Today has been such a great day!

And not just because we can use our plumbing again. 😀

When I checked the basement this morning, everything had dried up so much, I could unplug the blower fan. The house gets so dry in the winter, it doesn’t take long, even without the fan.

The highlight of my day, however, was being able to get together with a friend from out of province, who happened to be in town for a few days. We were set to meet for a late breakfast, and ended up spending many hours together. It was so fantastic.

This is also the first time I’ve eaten in a sit-down restaurant in more than 2 years. This wasn’t something we did often, to begin with, so when the restrictions started, many places refusing to recognise medical mask exemptions, and then organic humans getting segregated, it just wasn’t worth trying. We just did take out with the placed we new were on the green list, and will continue to stay away from the places that got on the black list.

It’s also been ages since I’ve had the chance to go to the lake, and where we were meeting was right near it.

The ice fishing huts are gone, but it looks like the ice driving track is still in use. Or perhaps those are the lanes to get to and from the huts. Normally, once the ice is thick enough to support the weight, this area has what looks like an entire village of fishing huts.

After my friend and I had a lovely breakfast, we checked out some of the shops that were open; there are a lot of “new” ones, and shops I remember are long gone. One of the “new” shops turned out to have been open for 3 years!

As you can tell, I don’t shop much.

We ended up spending quite a long time in one particular store and got to chatting with the owner, and I discovered we are “neighbours”. She has an amazing store but, unfortunately, it’s been very hard for them. It’s very much a tourist town so, like many shops, they pretty much close for the winter. They have a lot of really amazing clothing, including some in my size, so I will definitely need to come back when I have a clothing budget. Normally, I just by work clothes for myself, but it’s nice to have something not designed to survive heavy manual labour for a change. 😉

We hung out together long enough that we ended up going for a late lunch together, too. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get together again before she has to leave.

Chadiccus was happy to see me when I got home!

I noticed their water bowls were frozen, and the heated bowl in the sun room was almost empty again. This morning, I looked out the bathroom window and saw one of the ‘iccuses curled up in the empty water bowl, sleeping! I’m glad they can use it to keep warm, but with the outside heated water bowl not working right now, and everything freezing again, I don’t want them to run out of water.

We’ll have to pop open the roof of the cat’s house again and check the cord. It looks plugged in at the outlet inside the cat’s house, when I look through the opening, but it may have been knocked loose by wrestling cats or something. The bowl itself appears completely undamaged.

While I was out galivanting with my friend, my daughters were hard at work at home, catching up on all the dishes we couldn’t get done until the septic and drain was dealt with. It was a huge job. It’s amazing to see how many dishes, pots and pans get used in just a couple of days, when you suddenly can’t wash them!

On top of all that, we are finally feeling warmer again, mostly because the winds have started to die down again. Starting tomorrow, we’re supposed to warm up to just around the freezing mark again for a few days, then it’s supposed to go above freezing and stay there.

In preparation for that, the municipalities have finished cutting a channel in the snow in one of the ditches that stretches from the highway near our place, all the way to the lake, to prevent flooding. Driving in town today, I noticed a lot of the paved roads are already torn apart by the freeze/thaw cycle. Driving on the gravel roads is already a combination game of “dodge the pothole” and “dodge the big rocks heaved out by frost”. It’s going to get muddy.

It’s going to be great. Everyone is SO done with winter right now!

The Re-Farmer

A lovely day, and getting ready

When we decided to go ahead and cancel our old satellite service outright, instead of waiting until the end of the month, after finding how excellently the Starlink system was working, I was working on the assumption that we’d have all sorts of cancellation fees. So, just in case, I budgeted more than what we would normally expected the bill to be, on top of adding on the new Starlink bill.

We were in for a pleasant surprise. We’re actually going to get a couple hundred dollars for a credit. We do still have to send back their transceivers (not the entire dishes, as I was mistakenly told) and their modems/routers/whatever they’re properly called. The packaging should be here when the post office is open again starting tomorrow. I figure we’ll get our credit once they get their items back. Until then, it still freed up a large chunk of our budget.

What a wonderful sense of relief that gives us!

While we did try to stock up as much as we could, the outside cats are going through the kibble a lot faster than usual. Which makes sense. There isn’t much for them to hunt these days, and they will be burning a lot more calories in the cold we’ve been having. Tomorrow was expected to be a warmer day, so I was going to make an extra trip into the smaller city to stock up on more cat food.

Today, however, turned out to be warmer than forecast, and already we’ve reached the high that we were supposed to hit tomorrow. So I decided to make the trip today. At -17C/1F, it feels like summer! Even with the -26C/-15F wind chill, which is coming from the north, so we are well sheltered from it.

The outside cats were practically having a party!

I had a surprise this morning, too. As I was coming back from leaving kibble in the tray under the shrine, I was startled by deer running through the gate in the chain link fence at the south side of the yard! This is the first time I’ve seen the deer going through, while I was outside. Then, when I came around the house with seeds for the feeding station, the doe and her little one were there. They hung back near the compost ring, before finally running off into the spruce grove, but they stopped and looked back repeatedly.

When I was finally ready to head out, I took a peek around the corner of the house and, sure enough, they were back and eating the seeds! They saw me and watched for a while, but didn’t run off until I crossed the yard to the garage.

I’m okay with them being used to finding food at the feeding station. I want them to associate that spot with food, not our garden beds!

Speaking of which, the new wiggle room in our budget meant I could get a few extras along with the cat kibble. Though I didn’t get as much kibble as I intended. They were almost entirely out of stock of the affordable big bags. I only got three. If I’d bought the six I’d intended, there would have been maybe one bag left, and I wanted to leave more for others.

Along with a couple of bags of seed starting mix, I got a heat mat. One of the big problems we had with starting seeds inside the aquarium greenhouses (besides the cats constantly trying to get at them!) is that the house is just plain too cold. Using things like heated rice bags or small water bottles filled with hot water helped, but some things just never germinated. I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers didn’t germinate until so much later.

I went through our seeds to look at what needs to be started indoors and when. Actually, there’s two ways we can look at it. Most seed packets go by number of weeks before the last frost date. The other way is to look at how long until harvest, then count backwards from the first frost date in the fall.

Our first frost date, on average, is Sept. 10. For anything that requires more than 100 days to harvest, the latest we should have germination is about May 4. If we want to give up to 150 days, we’d need to have germination by April 30. I would calculate when to start the seeds from there, using the days to germination information on the seed packages.

Which isn’t too bad.

If we go by the package instructions using our average last frost date of June 2, we have several dates to go by. Four weeks puts us at May 5, six weeks at April 21, eight weeks at April 7, and ten weeks at March 24.

Having worked that out, however, there are still going to be things I plan to start earlier. Some of these, people on my Zone 3 gardening groups have already started!

The main one will be onions and shallots. With so many varieties and so many onions we want to plant, space would be the biggest issue… except maybe not. I found this, from MI Gardener.

Based on that method, we should have no problem planting all our varieties in just the big aquarium greenhouse.

The problem with that is, it’s currently housing several aloe vera plants to protect them from the cats, plus my daughter’s two remaining orchids. She’d had them safely hanging in front of the living room window, only to discover it was too cold for them there, and a couple of them died.

There is still the small aquarium greenhouse. Depending on what I have for growing trays, I could fit all the onions in there.

There are a few other things that need to be started very early, too. Among the things that can be started at 10 weeks are the eggplants and peppers (we will be starting just a few of those, since only 2 people in our household like them), the Sophie’s Choice tomato (just a few of those), the Cup of Moldova tomato (lots of those, since they are for processing), the Wonderberry (just a few of those) and the luffa (probably all the seeds we have left of those). All of these are things I’m seriously considering starting much earlier. Especially the luffa.

With those, we might be able to fit them all in the big tank, and still keep the orchids with them, but I have no idea where we can put the aloe vera pots that will be safe from the cats!

Among the things we can start at 8 weeks are the rest of the tomatoes, ground cherries, Crespo squash, Tennessee Dancing Gourds, and the Ozark Nest Egg gourds.

I think at 6 weeks is when I will start the kulli corn seeds which, according the the tracking information, has arrived in the city and should arrive at our post office in the next couple of days.

At 4 weeks, we need to start the cucumber, all the squash and melons, the rest of any gourds we will be trying this year, and the hulless pumpkins. It would also be the time for me to start the kohlrabi, if I decide I will try those again this year, since direct sowing them has been a complete fail for the past two years.

Everything else we’ve got can be direct sown, some as soon as the ground can be worked, and others after the last frost date.

I’m going to need more soil, but that’s something we can pick up little by little, as we need it.

I have to admit, I’m really torn right now about starting things too early. I know there are people in our zone that do it every year and have no problem, and others have started winter sowing outdoors, using this method. We don’t have a lot of milk jugs, but I’ve been keeping jugs from the distilled water for my husband’s CPAP, which would do. They are that blue, transparent plastic. Theoretically, we could set this up in the sun room, which does get below freezing, but still stays a lot warmer than outside. That would actually be a good experiment for the kohlrabi, now that I think about it. With so many yard cats, plus the deer, I’m not sure putting the containers outside would be wise, unless we can put some sort of protection over them. In theory, we could drag over the covers we made for the raised beds. They’re covered in snow right now, and probably frozen to the ground! 😀

For any experienced cold-climate gardeners reading this, what do you think? Would I be severely jumping the gun if I start our onions seeds this early? Or some of the tomatoes, the eggplant and peppers? What do you think?

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 Garden: preparing to start shallot seeds

With our bulb onions already starting to show sprouts (so quickly!) I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about getting the shallot seed started, too. With how dry the loose peat in the K-cups are in the middles, this time I wanted to make sure the peat was thoroughly saturated before putting them into the planting trays.

After looking at what we had available that is cat proof, I settled on reusing a container from cheese balls that we would sometimes get at Costco. I’ve been keeping the containers like these, in various sizes, to cut open and use as cloche in the garden in the spring, but they are coming in very handy in other ways! We don’t actually buy these treats very often, which means that at this rate, I’m using them up pretty fast!

At least for this, I don’t have to cut it apart, so it will still be usable when it’s done. Because the peat is so very dry and fluffy, I made sure to scoop quite a bit into the container, filling it to just under half full.

Then it was time to add water. The arrow in the above image is the water line! The peat just floated on top.

It took a while to mix the water into the peat. Even when I thought I was done I’d uncover another dry clump of peat!

Then it was time to cover it, to keep the cats out.

They were very interested in the process. It the few seconds it took me to put the mixing spoon down and pop the lid on the containers, Saffron was pulling at the spoon, trying to drag it away!

Once it was set aside to sit for a while, before we can see if it needs more water or not, I checked the space I had in the big aquarium. How many egg flats would I be able to fit inside? One, for sure, but would I be able to fit two?

Yes!!! Each tray holds 30 eggs, so I’ll have close to the same number of potential seedlings as the seed tray the bulb onion seeds are in.

The next question was, what to put under them to support them when they need to be moved?

Handily, I had a piece of leftover rigid insulation that was large enough to fit both trays. So I cut it in half, and we’ll be able to move them around independently, even after the cardboard has started to get soft.

I don’t have anything I can use as a drain tray that will fit, unfortunately. If I did, I would be keeping them watered from below. Ah, well. We’ll manage!

Since I was checking sizes, anyhow, I checked to see if these would fit in the 20 gallon, for when we start the bunching onions. One tray does fit, but it’s a bit too snug. We would not be able to lift it out again later, without problems.

But that’s okay. When my brother and his wife picked up groceries for us, there were no flats of eggs available, so they got us 2 packs of 18 eggs. Those will fit, plus I have long, narrow scraps of the rigid insulation I can put under them, to support the bottoms when it’s time to lift them out of the aquarium.

This is going to work out rather well!

Also, that magnificent tail in the above photo is Fenrir, sitting on the light fixture. She did not approve of my activities! 😀

For now, it looks like I’ll need to add more water to the peat, so I will probably leave it to continue soaking overnight, and plant the shallots tomorrow.

What a fun and cheerful thing to do, to keep us thinking of summer on a cold, cold day! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Spring clean up started

I finally got to get outside and start doing some dedicated clean up around the house.

But first, I must share this adorableness.

Two Face is getting all of the love from her siblings as she recovers from her visit to the vet.

Speaking of visits to the vet, we discovered our inside mama cat has been throwing up, so we are stopping the pain killers the vet gave us to try with her.


My goal for outside had originally been to go around with a wheelbarrow and pick up all the little branches scattered all over the yard over the winter. Once out there, however, I changed tack completely. Instead, I removed all of the rigid insulation we put around the bottom of the house for the winter, removed the straw from over the septic tank area, and cleaned things up around the house.

When our septic failed earlier in the year, and we had to get the tank emptied, I had moved the straw covering the lid over to the side, on top of snow and other straw. As I cleaned away the straw, I uncovered a snow drift! 😀

That’s okay. The straw got moved over to the old kitchen garden, and the straw that was stuck in clumps of snow and ice will just add moisture to the garden. Plus, some of it was already starting to decompose quite nicely. Bonus! 🙂

This is all just the straw that was covering the septic tank area. Later, I plan to cover the rest of this little garden with more straw from the bale we still have in the old big garden area.

The sheets of insulation around this side of the house were held in place with whatever was handy. Bricks, chimney inserts that will never be used (now that is an electric furnace) and little benches we found while cleaning up in the maple grove. They all fit quite nicely together to make a little seating area. 🙂

In the future, we plan to make a path along the house, and a small garden of shade tolerant plants in this area.

On the topic of planting things, I was able to cover a future planting area with black tarp this morning.

The ground here is soft enough that I could actually use tent pegs to secure the corners. Unlike pretty much everywhere else, which is still frozen hard.

One of the things I want to do in this area as soon as the ground is thawed enough, is dig through it a bit more to make sure I’ve cleared out as many roots as I can. There were so many cherry roots running through there, it’s very likely we’ll end up with some trying to grow through our plantings, if I’ve missed any! Of course, we’ll have to be on the look out for any rusted nails and whatever else may have been missed when we cleaned this area out.

Also, the Potato Beetle decided to be part of my “found object” display. 😀

Him and his filthy, filthy nose! 😀

My other goal of the day was to start some seeds, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s time for me to pain killer up again and take it easy, so that I’m not too wiped out to continue tomorrow.

Ah, the things you need to think about when you’re broken. 😀

The Re-Farmer

So many cats… and a bit of a hang up

I was talking to my daughter a little while ago when she happened to mention the current indoor cat count we have right now.


I … really hadn’t thought about that. We’ve now got 8 cats upstairs, plus the 2 mamas and their 8 babies in the basement.

That is insane.

Two Face has changed noticeably after her surgery. She is so much more cuddly now. Lately, this is what I’ve been waking up to.

She now likes to lean hard against me while I’m sleep. Cheddar also likes to do that, so I woke up book ended in cats.

Then there are the boys outside. I think they’re lonely! All the ladies, except Rosencrantz (who didn’t make an appearance this morning) are now indoors.

Potato Beetle was funny this morning.

He wanted SO much attention!

One of the things I started to do this morning is dismantle the shelter we made with the old dog houses, so I can use the black tarp to help warm up the soil in one of the areas we want to plant.

There was a bit of a hang up.

The snow had accumulated in one area, enough for the cloth to touch the ground. Of course, that created a puddle when the snow melted.

Freezing the tarp to the ground.

I used a metal bar that was one of the weights keeping the tarp from blowing away to bash apart the ice, then left it to weigh down the tarp. The ice should melt away faster now.

But not today.

We’re barely above freezing temperatures today. Starting tomorrow, and for the next 14 days, according to the long range forecasts, we will finally hit double digit temperatures.

The dog houses were well used over the winter, I was happy to see.

I could see tamped down paths in the straw around them, the insides were flattened, and there was a hole leading under one of them. I even found a flattened spot on top of one of the dog house roofs, where something had curled up and made a nest in the straw, directly under the tarp.

The straw will be left here for now, though wind might be a problem.

In some places, it already is.

It’s been quite windy for the past couple of days. This tarp is being torn to shreds!

I would love to have someplace I could properly store this old post pounder, but the one shed that I could pull it into has a roof full of holes and is starting to fall apart. Like way too many other things around here! 😦 If I could clear enough space in a section of the barn, we might be able to store it in there, though at this point, I don’t even know how we would pull it. The hitch damaged, and both tires are flat.

We’ll figure something out.

I am really looking forward to the warmer temperatures. I’m just itching to get to work around the yard! Tomorrow, though, I have the rest of the seeds I have waiting to get started indoors.

Then I have to start scavenging around the various sheds and the barn, to see what’s available to build trellises out of.

I’m looking forward to the work! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Starting seeds indoors

Well, I’m glad I’d already written out which seeds needed to be started indoors and when. For some reason, I thought I’d need to be doing 3 starts, but I will only need to do 2.

At about 4 weeks before last frost (give or take a few days, depending on which town I look at), I had 2 things to start. Cucamelons and fennel.

I’ve never grown either, so this is a complete learning experience.

I got a couple of those domed seed starter trays with the pellets. These are self watering trays with a capillary mat between the pellet trays and the main trail.

For this seed start, I don’t need to use an entire tray.

The cucamelons will be planted in the chimney blocks currently sitting in the old basement. I have 8 of those left. With the spacing needed, I could plant 1 cucamelon per block. Maybe 2. So I am starting seeds in 16 pellets and will hopefully get at least a 50% germination rate. If I get more, I’ll figure it out when the time comes! It’s a completely new plant for us, so I don’t even know if we’ll like them, so I didn’t use the whole packet. I know we like fennel, so I kept more pellets for those. Then I added water to start hydrating the pellets while I looked at the seeds.


With how few pellets I’m doing for the cucamelon, there are enough seeds even if I put in a couple in each one, but fennel packet turned out to have fewer seeds than I expected.

So I took a few of the pellets out.

Then I had to wait for the pellets to hydrate. I was also waiting for a call from the garage (more on that in another post), etc., so I kept myself busy with something that could handle interruptions.

I crocheted a basket. 😀

Once the pellets were hydrated, I used a pair of shorter bamboo skewers to lift up the mesh at the top, because I know my clumsy fingers would just tear things. *L* Then, I used the blunt end of a skewer to push the seeds to the right depth into the loosened pellets.

If I felt the need, I could have marked the skewer for different depths, but I was only doing two. The cucamelons needed 1/2 – 1 inch, while the fennel needed 1/4 inch.

I made sure to mark the packets for their seed status, because I know I’ll forget. 😀 While I had extra for the cucamelon, I used up all the fennel seeds, and most of the pellets have only 1 seed in them. Hopefully, they will all germinate and be strong little seedlings.

Though the tray comes with its own cover, it will still go into the mini-greenhouse my daughter bought for me. That’s more to protect it from the cats, at this point!

My daughters and I ended up finally rearranging the living room, since my husband moved his computer set up out, before setting the mini-greenhouse up where we knew it would get direct sunlight.

Which is basically in the middle of the living room! 😀

I will eventually move the mini-greenhouse outside, but it’s still way too cold for that.

In one week, I will start the squash and gourd seeds. The remaining seeds we have will be direct sown outside, once it’s warm enough.

While I was working on this, my husband did some research and found a relatively local company that sells gravel and soil, with a price calculator on their website. Using that, we calculated that the amount of garden soil we would want to get, which is quite a bit, we are looking at about $650. We could probably get away with about half of that amount, though, and get more in another year. In time, we’ll have enough organic material to build up the soil ourselves, but we’re just not there yet, and probably won’t be for another couple of years. Buying garden soil would be a short cut.

Then we looked up their driveway gravel.

To get enough gravel for the driveway from the road to about the gate into the yard, including all of the front front of the garage, we’re looking at about $2100.


The main thing, though, is that the first batch of seeds are started for our first attempt at growing food since we’ve moved out here! It took a lot of work to get to this point, so it’s pretty exciting. 🙂

Now, if we can just have a good weather year, this year, and not another drought!

The Re-Farmer