For the freezer

I just got back from picking up a whole bunch of meat for the freezer, from one of our homesteading neighbours!

The box on the right is almost all pork, with four HUGE chickens buried under them, for $200. The box on the left is leaf lard, plus some soup bones, that they added in for free.

The fat has been set aside in a giant bowl to thaw out. I had to cut some of it up to fit it in so I could cover it and protect it from the cats. Thankfully, even when frozen, fat is pretty easy to cut through. Once it’s thawed a bit more, I’ll cut it into small pieces, and we’ll render it into lard, leaving behind what my mother used to call “skvarki“. I’ve spelled that phonetically, because I have no idea how it was spelled in Polish, and when I try looking up “cracklings”, I get a different word! The cracklings, with a bit of salt, make a great protein snack. Lard is a shelf stable fat. Properly rendered and stored, it can stay at room temperature for months, or as much as a year in the fridge. Even longer, if it’s frozen.

We also will be getting a shed in the spring, that could be used as a chicken coop!

Sadly, our neighbour won’t be our neighbour for much longer. They’ll be putting the property up for sale and escaping Canada, going to where there is no snow, and they can grow food all year long! As we were chatting, I mentioned the shed roof that collapse under the weight of snow almost a year ago, that I was planning to dismantle it to use the wood, and hopefully build a chicken coop.

He pointed to a nearby shed and asked if I wanted it! He needs to get rid of it and, in the spring, he can load it onto a trailer and deliver it to us.

Of course, I said yes!

It will need some work done on it. It has a flat roof, so it started leaking. We’ll need to make an angled roof for it. The leaking rotted away the floor boards, but the joists are still good, so we could easily put a new floor down. It’s roughly 8′ x 10′ in size, so we’ll need to prepare a base for it that’s larger than that. It’s got some pretty large windows on the sides, and there is a screened window by the door.

The question is, where do we want to set it up? We could use it as a chicken coop, but I do still want to have a mobile coop. Or we can set it up nearer the house and use it as a much needed garden shed.

We’ve got a few months to decide on that.

Meanwhile, we now have a greater variety of meats stocked up in the freezer that should last us a good long time!

There is something very comforting about that.

The Re-Farmer

Snow and frost, bye-bye bitties, and this is $353

Starting last night, heavy fog started moving across our province. It was heaviest in the south, with major visibility issues. Today, it reached us.

It was pretty light by the time I was doing this part of my rounds, and gosh, it does make the trees look pretty!

Though it does cause issues with how well the trail cams work! 😄

Yesterday, I had to head out in the morning to pick up some parcels at the post office before it closed for the holidays. The road had been plowed. Which is nice, but I started to get stuck trying to get through it with the van. So in the afternoon, I headed out with a shovel to clear it.

Which is really hard to see, even after trying to increase the contrast when I resized the photo! 😄 I did the end of the driveway, from the gate to the road, with a shovel rather than breaking out Spewie. The plow ridge was too much for that little snow blower.

Which meant getting out today was much, much easier!

Today, we said goodbye to the bitties.

Tissue is the last of the inside cats that needed to be spayed. She is available for adoption, but we will be bringing her back home on the 4th. They’re scheduled to be spayed on the 2nd.

Walnut (who would be Tissue’s baby sister) may not be spayed right away, though. The littles are all dealing with upper respiratory issues, and the vet might not be willing to spay her until that’s been treated. Talking to the Cat Lady, she was thinking either the vet would spay her, and they’d keep her for 2 weeks of antibiotic treatment, or the vet won’t do it, they’ll treat her for 2 weeks, and then hope for another spay clinic (which is $75, instead of $350).

While I was working on this post, however, I started getting messages from the Cat Lady, asking what we know about Walnut’s age. We know she’s at least 6 months old, even though she is so tiny. Well, it turns out the Cat Lady has someone who is interested in adopting a tiny cat. Walnut may already have a forever home lined up! The bitties, of course, won’t be up for adoption for a while, yet.

Meanwhile, because of the respiratory issues, Tissue is currently isolated from the rest of the Cat Lady’s cats, who are all sniffling right now. The bitties, of course, will be isolated in their own kennel for awhile, too. Apparently, this particular strain of upper respiratory problems, which has been a problem for at least 30 years, is especially bad this year. Another rescue she is connected with has lost ALL their adult cats to it! For it to take out adult cats is very unusual. When she was last at the vet, all the other people with cats in the waiting room, their cats were stuffy and sneezing.

The lysine we’ve been giving them – even though they are probably not getting much of a dose – will help. It used to be, lysine treatment was only for a month, but the vet is telling her that now, it’s lysine for life. !!!

So we will all be taking extra care with the cats. Being as isolated as we are, we don’t have to worry too much about the cats being in contact with other colonies compared to more populated areas, but the Cat Lady has to take extra care, just in her own house, and she has more than 20 right now.

We meet in a parking lot near a Walmart, so after we parted ways, I took advantage of the situation and did some shopping. We are well stocked with most things, which meant that – aside from cat food (the Cat Lady casually loaded another bag of cat food into our van, along with another cat bed, while we were chatting!) – we could indulge a bit for New Year’s treats.

Which is why this cart load is $353 and change (plus a donation to the Children’s Hospital).

There’s 5 different types of frozen appetizers in there, which we’re having today – early, because none of us intend to stay up to midnight! – as well as a couple of cheeses, a couple of charcuterie combos and a couple of baguettes for tomorrow. I got a couple of pies as well, and some cranberry ginger ale. Along with the dry and wet cat food, I had a request for some “healthy-ish” cereal for my husband, plus a large jar of olives, both for the charcuterie, and for general snacking. There’s a bag of clementines, and two bags of avocados. Those were under $2 for a bag of five avocados! These days, we’re lucky to pay less than $2 for just one.

There’s also a couple of bags of pistachios for van snacks, and a couple of popcorn seasonings. Last of all are a couple of Command Strip hooks I remembered to get, some batteries my daughters needed, and some painkillers for me. I ran out a while ago.

That’s it. The cart isn’t even full, and it was over $350

Before heading for home, I messaged the family to let them know I’d need help unloading. We can’t drive up to the house right now, and the path shoveled to the garage is not wide enough for the wagon.

When I got home, however, I found my daughter had broken Spewie out and widened the path, and even got paths to the burn ring and almost all the way to the electricity meter. The extension cord wasn’t long enough to reach all the way, and she didn’t want to break out another one. So she was shoveling in front of the garage, instead.

When I came in, though, I had another surprise.

The driveway was cleared again!

I was going to work on it tomorrow, with Spewie, but now we just need to clear the rest right in front of the garage, and paths in the yard.

As you can see, even though I increased the contrast in the photo, we still had fog.

Driving out, the fog got thicker the further south I went. By the time I was driving home, it was the other way around. When I was loading the van, there wasn’t any fog anymore, but the further north I drove, the denser it got. One stretch of my route is nothing but open fields in all directions, with just the occasional shelter belt around a farmyard visible. With the white snow and the dense fog, there was no horizon, except on the highway itself – and even then, I was seeing a vehicle in front of me slowly disappearing, even though we were not getting any further apart.

That combination of snow and fog really affects the visibility!

I was certainly glad to get home!

So now, we will celebrate New Year’s early, and be in bed well before midnight! 😄😄

The Re-Farmer

We have the best neighbours!

We got a prescription delivery today. I headed outside to meet the driver. With how white everything is, it took me a few moments to realize…

Our driveway got cleared again!

It was the neighbour with the plow attachment on his truck again. He was in and out so fast, I even missed him on the security camera live feed!

We have the best neighbours!

(Also, we never got the call about financing the replacement vehicle. If we don’t hear by noon, tomorrow, I’ll call the garage and see if they know anything.)

The Re-Farmer

We have such good neighbours!

I wasn’t planning on writing a post today, but I just had to share. What an awesome Christmas surprise!

When I turned on the tablet and the live feed to the garage security camera, there was something different about our driveway.

I could see grass.

We’d only been able to clear the driveway just wide enough for a vehicle to drive through, not wide enough to uncover any grass.

Someone had cleared our driveway, and we never heard a thing!

When I went out to switch the memory card on the trail cam, I could see that this was not done by our lovely neighbours, and the renters of most of this property. They would clear our driveway with their front end loader. These were ordinary tire tracks. I could see that someone drove in, clearing the driveway on one side, almost up to the burn barrel, backed up to turn around, then cleared the other side on the way out.

Of course, the first thing I did was check the memory card to see who did it and when.

It turned out to be a pickup truck with a plow attachment. It’s one I recognize and see every winter, but I’ve never been able to see the driver’s face. I had no idea who it was. Also, it was done in the early afternoon! We were busy making our dinner at the time. On the trail cam, I could see the truck go by and stop on the road, then back up to our driveway and go in, then out again – just two quick passes to widen our driveway. Normally, we would have had the gate closed and locked, but with this weather, we’ve been leaving it open. He basically took advantage of that!

So I sent a message to someone I figured might know who it was, and got a name of who it could be. I was able to send a message to that person, and it was confirmed. It turned out to be someone who was a neighbour when I was growing up, and still lives in the area, though now further away. I’ve known him for most of my life, but I don’t think I’ve seen him since we’ve moved back here. In fact, after all these years, I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I did.

We have such good neighbours! It so makes up for the problems we’ve been having with our vandal!

There is other good news. The littles are settling in quite well! Walnut already settled in almost immediately, but it getting even more exploratory. The bitty tabby is also getting better, and not running away quite as much.

Then, last night, I woke to feel a cat curled up against my leg. It was completely dark, but I could reach my phone and try for a flash picture.

Yup! It was the bitty tabby!

The bitty and Walnut have been wrestling and napping on my bed a lot more. During the night, I could feel them walking across me and the bitty – which I could recognise by the almost negligible weight – even curled up on my thigh to sleep. Then, this morning, I was able to pick the bitty up and snuggle him for a while, and he even settled in and start purring, rather than staying tense and running off.

Also, yes. The bitty is now confirmed male.

Unfortunately, we’ve still had no luck getting his sibling in the sun room. After my last failed attempt to catch it, it’s even more skittish. I was afraid that would happen!

It is already noticeably warmer out there, though. Not the actual temperature – at least not that early in the morning – but the wind has finally stopped! What a difference that makes!

While doing my rounds – and checking out the driveway! – I ran the van for a bit. My daughter’s Christmas gift to the family is going to be Chinese food. We’re pretty sure the place we usually order from will be open, but if not, we have a back up plan. It does mean driving to town, though, so I wanted to make sure to start the van and run it for a bit.

I just realized I forgot to plug the block heater back in. I’d better take Walnut off my chest and go do that now!

Yes. I have a little kitten curled up on my chest and napping as I write this.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Re-Farmer

We’re clear!!

I am just so thrilled right now!

I was literally about to get my boots on to go outside and see if I could do some snow blowing, when I glanced at the live feed for the garage cam, and saw a lane down our driveway.

Our driveway was being cleared!

The renters, God Bless them, had sent someone over to do our driveway for us.

I came out and watched for awhile, as he piled more and more snow over the big branch pile that needs to be chipped. I knew it would be a lot of work to clear the driveway with our little electric snowblower, and we would have been able to clear just enough to drive through. Seeing how much snow he was pushing made me realize we probably could not have done it. Little Spewie could not have handled that much snow. Oh, we probably could have made a few passes, but would probably have been tripping the power bar the extension cord is plugged into, repeatedly. It’s something that happens when the snow it too much for it. Chances are, we would have burned the little thing out, if we pushed to get the job done.

After clearing the snow, he pushed a lane over to where I was standing by the gate, and we chatted a bit. Of course, I thanked him profusely.

That was just so incredibly thoughtful of them. And they would have had no idea how much it meant for us. It means that, for sure, I will be able to drive my mother out to meet her new great-grandson, on Easter.

That is a LOT of snow!

And yet, it’s warm enough that there’s still water in that low spot along the fence line.

He even turned around and cleared as close as he could to the garage doors. All I needed to do was get that last bit out.

Which I did right away.

What didn’t get done was clearing a path to the burn barrel. My daughters did the cat litter and dumped the sawdust litter into the burn barrel while I was clearing snow. They had a hard time getting to the barrel!

After I cleaned the doors and made sure I could open the swing doors all the way, I checked on the van, because I could see garbage under the door. We never made it to the dump, and I had to take the bags out of the van to run errands, leaving them on top of things to keep them up off the ground.

Unfortunately, critters still got to them. Pretty much ever single garbage bag was pulled down and torn to shreds, with garbage strewn all on the one side of the garage, and under the van.


In the time it took me to clean up the mess, using a garden hoe to pull as much as I could see/reach out from under the van – then moving the van to get what I missed – the ground I’d cleared in front of the garage had started to thaw! It’s -7C/19F with a wind chill of -16C/3F out there, but the winds are from the north right now, and the south facing garage was quite warm. In fact, when my daughters came outside with the litter, or to bring things I needed, they didn’t even bother putting on coats.

The next couple of days are supposed to be just below freezing, then for the rest of the week it’s supposed to be just above freezing, with even possible light rain at the end of the week, before things start o warm up again. It’s going to be that slow melt that we need, in order to keep all this wonderful moisture right here, instead of flooding and washing out all the way to the lake.

I’m just so happy right now! We have such wonderful neighbours.

The Re-Farmer

That was fast!

I honestly didn’t expect to see a front end loader at our place until much later today. So it was a surprise when, as I was making supper, started hearing the distinctive beeping down of heavy equipment backing up.

A glace out the window, and there was a front end load, starting to clear our driveway. !!

So I ran outside to talk to the driver, and show him where I needed clearing. We walked around the yard a bit as I showed him where the septic truck needed to back up to, and mentioned the warning I got, if the loader started sinking.

He also absolutely refused payment!

These folks are the best. I look forward to being able to do something for them, some day!

There turned out to be one area of concern, but it wasn’t in the yard.

It looks like, as soon as he drove through and the tires sank in the mud, all the water that had been in the paths just drained into it!

There is now a nice clear lane for the septic truck to back into.

Where the septic truck needs to stop was quite solid. The snow tends to get blown away from that area, so it’s not as deep, allowing the ground to freeze harder.

If this pile of snow seems a bit small for the amount that needed to be cleared, it is!

There were three other areas he pushed snow into, first. The path to the compost pile is mostly clear, though!

You can see another wet, muddy spot as well, but the wheels didn’t sink.

I’ve called the septic guy back and he hopes to be able to get here by about noon, tomorrow.

Now, we just need things to stay nice and cold overnight.

The Re-Farmer