Thoughts on being prepared

With all the crazy stuff going on these days, the price of food skyrocketing, and so many people losing their sources of income, all those “crazy preppers” out there are looking pretty vindicated!

There was a time, not all that long ago, when everyone was encouraged to be prepared for emergencies – usually around the time when whichever city we were living in at the time was faced with flooding or wildfires or some other natural disaster. I don’t know when reasonable prudence started being viewed as “crazy prepper” (and no, I’m not talking about the super paranoid doomsday types that have always been around). You know things have really gone bizarre when people on canning groups on Facebook start getting pop ups advising to report people who looked like they are becoming too prepared. !!

Going into our fifth year living here on my childhood farm, a lot of things now being recommended as preparedness was basically how I grew up, and not much different from how we live now. I mean, we’re already doing bulk shopping once or twice a month, with modest local shopping in between, so stocking up for at least a month is our normal. Stocking up for 2 or 3 months over the winter is also a necessary part of living here. We are nowhere near where we want to be, yet, but that’s where all the gardening and other plans are fitting in!

While the needs of living here hasn’t changed much since I was a kid, the resources and technology available sure has! I’m just loving the various groups I’m on for leading me to some excellent sites. Recently, someone shared a link to this Food Storage Calculator. It’s a really awesome tool for figuring out how much shelf stable foods you would need, for various lengths of time. This is for the absolute, minimum essentials recommended. I found this bit at the beginning interesting;

The below calculator is based on estimates from organizations like the CDC and recommendations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Home Production and Storage manual.ย 

Years ago, in an early email support group for homeschoolers, the topic of emergency preparedness had come up. One of the members had been a Mormon, and said that they were encouraged to have at least a year’s worth of food stored up. Though she had left the church, that was a habit she kept up. It came in very handy when her husband suddenly lost his job and was unable to find a new one for months. The one thing they did not have to worry about was how to feed themselves and their kids, and she talked about what a boost to morale it was to be able to whip up a pan of brownies, while in the middle of such hard times. Her story really stuck with me. Seeing that the Latter-Day Saints manual was used for this was a huge plus, to me.

In the end, though, it’s still just a guide. Something to use as a starting off point, when planning one’s own supplies. (Also, it’s a fantastic site, and I encourage checking out the many useful and informative posts in there!)

So I figured it would be a good idea to go through the calculator results for ourselves, and talk about how I would modify it to our own particular circumstances and why. Hopefully, this will give you an idea on how you might modify your own results to your own situation.

Let’s start with the demographics. We are a household with 4 adults, and no very young children. I chose 3 months as the time frame, as we could potentially be stuck here for that long, if we had a particularly bad winter. Here is what the calculator came up with, and how I might modify the results.

The first section is for grains: a total of 390 pounds.

For us, 200 pounds of wheat just isn’t going to happen! While it might be worthwhile to have some wheat berries to cook as a cereal, this is an amount intended for grinding into flour. We don’t have a flour mill. We do intend to get one, but for now, it would be a waste for us to have that much wheat. It’s the same with 30 pounds of oats. At the same time, 30 pounds of flour is laughably low, since we do quite a bit of baking. A lot of that wheat weight would get transferred to flour. I might get 15 pounds of rolled oats, then otherwise transfer the weights to rice and pasta. Both of which come in quite a few varieties, so there’s no need to be bored with just white rice and spaghetti. For our uses, I’d probably either stay the same with corn meal, or even reduce it.

That, of course, would change once we do get a mill. As losing power is something that is likely to happen, I would go with a hand crank mill, and since we are working towards growing flour corn, it has to be something strong enough to handle such a hard grain. Also, manual mills would be quieter than electric ones.

The next section is canned or dried meats.

Twenty pounds for three months? That seems so very low! Especially for 4 adults.

As we do have a chest freezer and I’m finding local sources for meat, we’re moving towards buying in bulk until we are able to start raising meat animals ourselves, so this is a flexible area for us. For now, we actually should be buying more canned meats for those “just in case” times, and we do need to take into account that if the electricity goes out for too long, we risk losing whatever is in our freezer. Hence the need for shelf stable supplies. Canning meat ourselves is something we are working towards.

So for our needs, I would increase this amount substantially, but not until we are at a point where we are canning our own meat.

Twenty five pound of fats and oils. Hmmm. Interesting that it lists more fats and oils than canned or dried meats!

The two gallons of vegetable oil would, for us, become a gallon of vegetable oil, another of olive oil, and probably a mix of other oils in smaller quantities. For a 3 month period, I would probably add in another gallon of vegetable oil. We don’t buy salad dressing. It’s an easy thing to make an oil and vinegar dressing. We do buy mayonnaise, but it is also easy to make, and can be a base for dressings, too. That’s where the “extra” oil would be used. Oil and fat can also be used for emergency fuel and lighting, so more would never go to waste.

We don’t buy shortening. Or margarine, for that matter. Just butter. We buy 8-10 pounds of butter for 1 month. More if we plan to do a lot of extra baking, like before certain holidays. For our usage, a 3 month supply would mean 24-30 pounds of butter. Not realistic! Butter is not shelf stable, so it would probably be a good idea to have a few pounds of shortening. If we were unable to get out, we could probably get away with using oil in place of where we might normally use butter, so we could play with the quantities and ratios a bit. The quantity of peanut butter could stay the same.

Beans and legumes: 70 pounds total.

That’s probably more than we would need, for how much we eat them. Soy beans and lima beans would be dropped completely. We don’t eat them. Also, I’d probably make my own dried soup mixes. It’s something I’ve done before, in quart jars, including things like dehydrated vegetables, mushrooms and bouillon cubes. They worked our very well, though I would do them in smaller jars in the future. Also, no black beans. They turn the end result a very unappetizing grey! ๐Ÿ˜€

One of the things I have been picking up at Costco is cases of baked beans. The prices of those has pretty much doubled recently. It would be cheaper to buy dry beans and cook them ourselves. Among our gardening plans is to grow beans for drying as well as fresh eating. Along with just keeping dry beans, I hope to can plain beans, as well as making baked beans for canning, too. I would add chickpeas to this list, canned or dried. There are chickpea varieties that grow in our zone, so that’s something else we could someday, potentially, supply ourselves.

Milk and Dairy: 87 pounds

Shelf stable dairy products are a huge gap in our pantry. We should at least have some powdered milk. I don’t even know what to do with evaporated milk. And what does “other dairy” mean, in the context of shelf stable products? We don’t drink a lot of milk; it’s mostly used in cooking. What we do use a lot of is dairy products, such as cheese, sour cream, yogurt, more cheese, whipping cream… and more cheese. None of which is shelf stable. Well. I guess the cheese is, if stored properly. And we do love our cheese!

Sugars: 60 pounds.

I did not expect to see jams, powdered juice mixes or Jello in the sugars list.

White sugar and brown sugar are things we use quite a lot, since we do so much of our own baking. For honey, the 1kg (2.2 pounds) container we last bought from my bee-keeping cousin disappeared fast, so if we were to stock up on honey, we’d be getting more than what’s listed. Probably a 5kg (11 pounds) bucket, which is the largest my cousin sells. We’d probably get more molasses, too, though we don’t really use it all that much. Corn syrup would be off the list. We don’t use it. That amount of jam is probably more than we would need. I don’t know that we would include the Jello at all.

I wouldn’t not have thought of powdered juice mixes. Now that I think about it, though, it would be a good idea to have a supply of drink mixes, as their own category; juices, iced tea, lemonade, hot chocolate, coffee and tea would all be good things to have in the pantry. Plain water gets tiresome, fast!

Cooking essentials! Gotta have these.

For the amount of baking we already do, I’d probably increase all of these. The vinegar would be used along with the fats and oils for those salad dressings we would be making ourselves. For salt, I’d want to have a variety, but if I had to choose just one type of salt, it would be course salt. We have salt grinders for seasoning meals, but I like to use course salt for a lot of things. If space allowed, I’d include a variety of vinegars, too. Salt, vinegar and baking soda can all double as cleaners, too, so extra of those would never go wrong.

Canned fruits and vegetables: 320 quarts, plus 90 pounds of dried.

This is another area where we tend to be too dependent on our freezer, and why we want to move towards canning our produce. We do have a root cellar, so that helps. Almost all the fruits and vegetables we eat are fresh, with a small amount of frozen. We pretty much never buy canned, but once we’re growing enough to make it worthwhile to can them ourselves, it would make a big difference in the winter months. Before we moved out here, I had a dehydrator and used it to dehydrate purchased frozen vegetables. It works really well; the vegetables are already blanched and most are cut to size, so they can be laid out on the trays while still frozen, with no extra work needed. They were great in our jar meals.

While I’ve bought dehydrated vegetable mixes once in a while (they always include peppers in them, which is irritating for me), we’ve never really bought dried fruit. Sometimes I’d get dates, with their pits still in them, for snacking, but they’re quite expensive. We hardly even bought fruit leathers for the girls when they were little. We don’t buy raisins. Dried fruit in particular is something I would forget about when it comes to emergency supplies, but they would be good to have on hand. Ninety pounds, however, would be way more than our family would use.

Water storage. This is our weak spot! We are already buying drinking water, so at least we do have the big water jugs. Storing 183 gallons, just for drinking, simply is not an option. This is a big part of why we want to get that old well repaired, so that we have access to water even if the power goes out. The bleach is something we don’t buy. We found a half empty bottle of bleach among the laundry supplies while cleaning up the old basement, and for the amount we use bleach, we’re still using that bottle we found! Still, it would be good to have bleach on hand. It’s something I would have forgotten about, so I appreciate it’s in the calculator.

That 183 gallons is the minimum water required for drinking. Much more would be needed for everything else. A safe supply of water is, typically, the biggest and most common hurdle in emergency situations for most people, I’m sure. At least for us, we have the possibility of getting the original well working again. Even here in the boonies, most people have wells that rely entirely on an electric pump.

Of course, in our situation, we would also have to add in wet and dry cat food. Since switching to the wood pellets for litter, we’ve been going through that a lot more slowly – and it’s a product that is actually a fuel, so it can do double duty. A single 40 pound bag goes a long way.

This calculator makes for a very interesting tool. I like that it’s just the shelf-stable essentials. There are so many lists out there that include everything but the kitchen sink – and then tell you what to use for a kitchen sink. Even just this list, for a 3 month period, can look overwhelming. However, it’s a place to start, to modify for our own circumstances, and the sort of thing that can be achieved, little by little, without taxing the budget too much.

It’s good to be prepared.

Even if Facebook thinks your a scary extremist for putting up a bit of extra food!

The Re-Farmer

2021 Goals: Review and Reset

It’s that time of year again!

As the year winds down, it’s time to review the goals we’d set, see what worked, what didn’t and what we want to accomplish next year.

Among the goals we had:

Starting a cordwood shed to use as an outdoor bathroom, with a composting toilet, to replace the outhouse over a pit.

Well, that didn’t happen. Which is turned out to not necessarily be a bad thing.

The location we want to build it is in that open space behind the compost ring. One of the things I did this past summer was go through the spruce grove and mark most of the dead spruce trees I found. I marked almost 2 dozen, and there were several others I didn’t bother marking, or couldn’t get at. These were trees that were intended to be used for the cordwood walls, however priorities have changed. They will now be used to build high raised garden beds. Right now, the space we want to build in is going to be needed to drag logs out of the spruce grove. Thanks to my mother, we now have a wood chipper that we can use to break down the branches, so we’re not adding to all the branch piles, and will have plenty of wood chips for mulch.

Until we can build the outdoor bathroom, we do still need something to use the next time we have plumbing problems, so the inside of the old outhouse was fixed up and made pretty (the photo here is from before it was finished). A goal for 2022 is to remove the old, moss covered shingles, extend the roof to create an overhang above the door, re-shingle it (or use some of the left over bits of metal roofing we still have in the barn), and do any repairs on the outside before giving it all a final paint job.

We did find that a groundhog had got into the pit and dug a den under the floorboards somewhere. Sadly, if we get an average amount of snow, this will likely result in a drowned groundhog. Our first two springs here, we found that snow melt would form a large puddle in front of the outhouse, and I could see in the hole under the door, which is now fixed, that the pit filled completely with water. There is nothing we can do about this. Hopefully, the groundhog will wake up early enough and leave the den before this is an issue.

Another of our goals is to have the branch piles chipped. While we now have this awesome new wood chipper, which can chip branches up to 3 inches thick, it is very slow going. The branches have to be trimmed of any sticky-outy bits, and be straight, or it won’t go through. For the sake of efficiency, it will be better to hire the tree guys and their massive chipper. When we got their estimate, they figured it would take 6 hours to chip all our wood piles. For our budget, I’m hoping that we can have them come out for three hours in the spring, to get at least the big pile in the outer yard done, and maybe the little ones in the maple grove. Then we can see about hiring them again, maybe in the fall, to do the remaining big piles. With the new wood chipper, we should at least not be adding more to the branch piles, as we clear dead trees out of the spruce grove!

Another goal that we once again failed to meet, was hiring someone to haul the junk pile away to the landfill. This irritates me, because that pile is getting so large, and we are getting to a point where we need to start cleaning up on that side of the chain link fence. If our budget allows, I’m hoping to at least have smaller loads removed, as we can afford it. The name I have for a guy that hauls junk uses a pick up truck, so if we can get him to come by a few times throughout the year, even that would be a help.

Our gardening goals were mostly met, as far as drought conditions allowed. We used poplars we’d cleared out of parts of the spruce grove to build trellises, and those will be used for another year. We planted in areas far from the house, partly to prepare the soil for permanent plantings. The corn and sunflowers were potentially there to provide privacy screens, too, but the drought and poor soil conditions prevented that. Having to use 300 feet of garden hose to water things, and still just barely being able to reach some corners, during a drought and heat waves, was something we could have done without! Add in damage from deer and groundhogs, and it’s a miracle we had as much produce as we did.

For 2022, our garden plans will continue, and this year we will start with the permanent plantings. We are pouring over websites and looking over what bushes we will be planting in those far flung areas. In one section, we will be closing off a gap in the hedge along the north fence line that the deer go through. My mother had been planting lilacs along this fence, but we are looking to plant berry producing shrubs and bushes, instead. We will also be planting them along the east side, both to help keep deer out and to create a privacy screen. We still need to make sure we can access the east fence line, and there has to be a lane kept open, over where the telephone wires are buried, so we will use other methods to close that off to the deer. We’ll have a better idea of what we can buy in January, when many of the nurseries will have their new inventory available. We might be going with sea buckthorn, if the other varieties we were looking at don’t come back into stock.

Other things we intend to order for 2022 are raspberry canes and, if all goes well, Korean Pine. These require shade for their first 5 years, so they will be planted just north of the spruce grove. If budget allows, we’d like to get new Saskatoon bushes, too.

We will have to take out more of the crab apple trees, to remove diseased trees. There are two trees that produce the best apples. If I can protect those, I will be happy. However, we will also be getting other types of fruit trees including, hopefully, a hardier variety of mulberry tree to replace the one that we bought last year, that got killed off by that one cold night that also killed off all the flowers that would have given us fruit and berries this past year. I’m not sure how many we will be able to squeeze out of our budget this year, but the more fruit trees we get, the better, as they can take many years before producing fruit. Berry bushes are also high on our list, as they will start producing much faster.

This past year, we expanded our garden plots significantly, but with our long term goal of growing as much of our own food as possible, we will need to continue to expand and prepare new ground. Now that we have a working chain saw, we’ll be able to clear dead trees out of the spruce grove and clean that up faster. Many of these dead trees appear to have no rot in them yet, and we plan to turn many stumps into benches and tables. We will also need to clear out the fallen rotten trees, and other fire hazards. Once things are cleared out, we will be planting more spruces in the spruce grove, as well as fruit and berry trees that require more protection from the elements. We’re also looking at getting some Rugosa roses, though they will likely be used more as a deer barrier!

Where the trellises are now will eventually be converted to our food forest, except for the lane that needs to be kept open over the buried phone line, but we will use them where they are for one more year. We ordered quite a lot of seeds already, from Vesey’s (including replacement seeds) and Baker Creek again, plus two orders from Heritage Harvest, which is a new company for us this year. The only seeds we’ve ordered that are still en route are the kulli corn. The only other seeds I still plan to buy are peas, but I will pick those up from a local store when they come available, rather than ordering them in. We will also be making use of seeds from our inventory left over from last year. Which means we will need to build more trellises, once we decide where, because we’ll have quite a few vining plants, and there’s only so much we can plant along the chain link fence. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Along with the saplings, canes and root stock we plan to order, we will be ordering potatoes and sunchokes. This time, we will not try to grow potatoes in bags, but will use the Ruth Stout method again, as part of preparing new areas for either more garden plots, or permanent plantings, the following year.

At this point, we have three low raised bed boxes built, and one high raised bed. Next year, we will continue to use the current beds in the main garden area. The goal is to cut the dead spruce trees to size so that, after things are harvested in the fall, the remaining beds will be converted to high raised beds before next winter. With how much watering we had to do during the drought, filling the beds hรผgelkultur style will be an important part in moisture retention. Even under normal conditions, high raised beds are notorious for drying out too quickly, but with how we fill them, coupled with the judicious use of mulch, we should be able to prevent that from being a problem.

We will also be making new beds for corn and the many types of squash we have for this coming year, but those will be in areas that will eventually have trees planted in them. Ultimately, we will be building accessible high raised beds in the outer yard to the south of the house, where they will get more sunlight. Eventually, we intend to build a greenhouse or polytunnel out that way, too. It’s not something we’ll be able to start building in 2022, but we should be able to start preparing where they will eventually go. The renter plans to build new fences next year (maintaining the fences was part of the deal they’d originally made with my late father), since their electric fence has been not working as well as intended. I hope to talk to them again about putting a new fence line across the old hay yard, which will be much shorter (therefore, cheaper) than rebuilding the existing fence, but also takes away an area of pasture. We would need a gate in there, though, so that we can eventually haul away those old vehicles to the scrap yard. As that would not be something they’d normally include, I’d be offering to pay for the gate portion. If they are willing to do the new, shorter fence line through the old hay yard, we will be able to get rid of some old, messed up fences and a shed that looks ready to collapse pretty soon. Then we can start building new garden beds out that way. This is also the general area where we want to build the outdoor kitchen, as well as planting a wind break. None of which are worth starting, while there is a chance the renter’s cows can get through. There are also old, collapsing fences around the inner yard we want to take out completely, rather than repair or replace, but again, it can’t be done until the outer yard is fenced in. Long term, though, we won’t have an inner and outer yard anymore, but just one really big yard.

Which means that, on top of continuing our work in the inner yard and garden, we need to get more work done on cleaning up the outer yard. There’s a limit to what we can do, without heavy equipment, but we can at least get a start on it. That was something we should have worked on this past year, but accomplished very little. Hopefully, this coming year will not have the drought and heat waves that made heavy manual labour a very bad idea!

With what we’ve learned from the past year, we know that this year, we will need to focus on protecting our plants from deer, groundhogs and racoons. We will also be focusing on permanent plantings that are drought tolerant and can handle poor soil conditions, even with the amendments we’re working on. We are also looking into planting forage trees and fodder well away from the house and gardens, to give wildlife less reason to invade our yards, looking for food.

As we build our raised garden beds, we will also be ensuring they will all be the same size at the top, so that any covers we build can be interchangeable. The low raised beds are boards and are 3′ x 9′. The high raised bed is 4′ x 9′, and we plan to build them all that size. With the thickness of the logs, the actual growing space inside is closer to 3′ x 8′. So if we build covers to fit the low raised beds, they should also fit the high raised beds.

While most of our goals are going to be expanding or continuing previous goals, a new goal I want to add is to have chickens. For our egg needs, we would only need about half a dozen birds. The problem is, we don’t have anything to keep them in. I am wanting chickens to be part of our soil reclamation progress, which means being able to move their coop and enclosure regularly. Buying a new chicken tractor is well beyond our budget, but we don’t have the materials to build one, either, and with the cost of building materials right now, it’s as out of reach as buying a new one. Of the many, many videos I’ve looked at for making quick, easy and inexpensive coops and shelters for chickens, none of them are suitable for our climate. Oh, they could be temporary structures for the summer, and I do plan to build versions of them that will fit over our raised garden beds, but none of them would keep chickens alive during our winters.

That is something I need to work on. I’d love to get able to get chicks this spring, but if we can’t shelter them once they’re big enough to leave a brooder, there’s no point.

So there we have it. We did accomplish some of our goals for 2021, but many of our goals are multi-year things, so it’s more progress than accomplishment.

Now we’ll see how much we manage to get done next year!

The Re-Farmer

Fun stuff and catalogue review

Today has been one of those days of getting things done that were also enjoyable. Like a morning spent converting feed bags into grow bags while watching/listening to videos about crossbow safety. More listening than watching, since I was, after all, hand stitching the bag bottoms into shape. ๐Ÿ˜€

I also got to enjoy watching deer through my window, making their way to the feeding station.

I saw a couple, earlier, but that early in the day, our East facing living room window is so full of reflections, I can’t get any good shots, but I could get some shots with my phone through the North window. At one point, I was seeing 4 deer, and I think there was a fifth hidden away in the maple grove.

I made a quick trip into town to refill a couple of our 18.9L water bottles, then pick up prescription refills. I timed it so that I could hit the post office on the way home. My husband had been expecting a parcel all week, and today we found out why it hadn’t come in earlier. The padded envelope it came in was sealed in a plastic bag with “apologies from Canada Post” on it. I had no idea what my husband had ordered, so seeing oil stains on the package was a bit alarming.

It turned out he’d ordered honing oil, and the bottle leaked! No harm done, thankfully. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was excited to see a catalogue I’d ordered had arrived. This is from a company I had included in my list of cold climate seeds sources, which also included nurseries. Whiffletree Farm and Nursery. They specialize in “Cold hardy, disease resistant, fruit trees, shrubs, vines and canes.”. I love how the back page includes phone numbers, a physical address (in Ontario), a map, plus their latitude and longitude!

How very… rural Canadian. ๐Ÿ˜€

I actually went through the Irrigation Instructions insert, first. They’ve got add on kits designed for new plantings, mature plantings and tree plantings. I found it a lot more informative, both textually and visually, that most of the kit sources I’ve been looking at. Though we don’t plan to plant our fruit and nut trees for a while, yet, where we are extending the garden to this year is well away from the house, and an irrigation system would be well worth the investment, even if we have to McGyver something cheap for the first couple of years.

As for the catalogue itself, I was very impressed.

First off, it’s just plain beautiful. It is printed on the heaviest paper of any catalogue I’ve seen. More than sturdy enough to withstand cats clambering all over it, demanding my undivided attention! Even how the photographs are lined up with the write ups is the best I’ve seen. There is a also LOT of extra information included.

The range of products they have available is amazing. After just a few pages, I started over again with a highlight marker, marking off everything that was Zone 2, Zone 3 or Zones 2/3. I didn’t bother marking Zones 3/4 or higher, because there were SO MANY Zone 2 and 3 choices, it wasn’t necessary. The only exception I made was for a mulberry tree that was Zone 3/4.

Did I mention how informative it is?

I learned something new that really caught my attention. There is a section on Buffaloberries, Peashrubs and Autumn Olives.

I was curious about what Peashrubs were, but it turns out that we already have some! They are caraganas! In our clean up, I’ve had to cut away and cut back a lot of caraganas that were either dying or overtaking other trees and shrubs. It’s been a balancing act between clearing them away and keeping them.

Though I am familiar with the shrub, I discovered that the seed pods are actually edible! At least the Siberian Peashrub (caragana arborescens) are. They have two other varieties. The Siberian variety is “A multi-stemmed upright growing shrub covered with delicate yellow flowers in spring, followed by small edible seedpods which can be eaten as a vegetable. By late summer the dried seedpods snap open, dropping the seeds which are 36% protein and make good chicken feed. So it is sometimes planted in poultry yards.”

Who knew?

I also learned that they are good nitrogen fixers, and wind breaks. We should see if we can figure out what variety we have here!

The catalogue also displays an excellent sense of humour. As an example, in the section on edible lilies and high bush cranberries, there is this write up for the Common Snowball.

“Okay, we admit it – this plant is neither edible nor medicinal to the best of our knowledge. In fact, it produces no fruit at all, not even for the birds. Our only excuse for offering it is for the nostalgic memories is evokes for many folks. Every year in early summer, these old-fashioned, carefree bushes become covered with fleecy, white pompoms. The ‘snowball’ name is visually very fitting, but that’s not all. Perhaps we should market it as a weather prognostic – according to a local, time-honoured adage, there is always a brief, unseasonably cool spell when the snowball bush begins to bloom. Like many weather maxims, you can count on it, it always holds true – except when it doesn’t!”

Ya gotta love it! ๐Ÿ˜€

While we are not in a position to start ordering food trees for this year, we are shooting to do so as soon as possible, given how long it can take for trees to mature enough to start producing fruit. And let’s face it; at my age, pretty much any fruit or nut tree we plant is for our daughters and future generations, because my husband and I will probably be long gone by the time some of them reach maturity!

There is so much information in this catalogue, we can use it for planning purposes. Especially when it comes to their orchard growing equipment and supplies.

With that in mind, these are some of the things that interest us, that also grow in Zones 2 or 3.

Apples: there are many varieties suitable for our zone, including larger eating apples, edible crab apples and cider apples. They have columnar varieties, dwarf varieties and varieties that are good for espalier training. When it comes to apples, they are not something we tend to eat a lot of, on their own, but we would be using them for things like apple cider vinegar, hard apple cider, or freezing them to use for baking later on. We will have to take into consideration that we need to cut down a lot of our crab apple trees due to fungal disease. It may be worthwhile to get rid of the diseased trees, then wait several years before planting new varieties, or planting new varieties in locations well away from where the diseased trees are.

Plums: This is one of those things that we almost never eat, but if we had them, we would eat them. We do have plum trees, but they are not an edible variety – more stone than fruit – that my late father used to make wine, but having larger, fleshier plums that can be eaten fresh would be really nice.

Pears: I remember we had a pear tree when I was a child. It was a variety that produced small, hard fruit that needed to be exposed to frost before they could be eaten. They are another type of fruit we rarely buy, mostly for budgetary reasons, but would eat more of if we had our own trees, so having cold hardy varieties that can be eaten fresh would be enjoyed, and this catalogue has several such varieties that can grow in our zone.

Cherries: the variety of cherry are from a tree from Poland, which has a warmer climate than we do. They bloom wonderfully, but in the time we’ve been here, produce almost no fruit. Their bloom time doesn’t match when the pollinators come out. So getting a variety or two that is good for our zone is something I would like. They do tend to spread through their roots, though, and can become invasive, so we would have to carefully plan where they would go. Some varieties make good hedge trees, wind breaks and privacy screens, so that’s an option, too.

Nuts: there are only two types of nuts suitable for our zone; several varieties of hazelnuts, and butternuts. We are still looking into planting other varieties. They may not have a long enough season to produce edible nuts, but the trees themselves are an investment.

Rugosa Roses: we already have wild roses growing in the spruce grove that we will be encouraging, as other types of underbrush will be cleared away, but these varieties are specially noted for their large hips, and high nutrient contents. These are for the “apothacary” plants we will also be adding, over time.

Kiwis, grapes, gooseberries and currants, saskatoons, haskaps, raspberries and blueberries: we already have some of these, but will be adding more over time. Some are poorly situation and need to either be taken out, starting over with new, or transplanted.

Companion plants and wildlife packages: they’ve got a number of different plants that are beneficial to plant near trees, for various reasons. Some because they attract pollinators, or attract predator insects that will eat nuisance insects. Others because they are good to plant in paths instead of grass, can handle foot traffic, but don’t need to be mowed. There are even seed mixes to provide grazing for deer and other wildlife, and even have wildlife tree packages, made up of a mix of excess trees, or trees that didn’t make the grade for orchard/yard use, which may not even be labelled. They would be useful for a food forest or permaculture set up to feed both humans and wildlife. These are all things that fit in with our long term goals.

All in all, I am very excited by this catalogue, and look forward to being able to order from this truly unique company as soon as possible!

The Re-Farmer