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

Year End Review: Our top 10 most popular posts

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve! Let’s take a look at how things have been on the blog for the past year.

As we did last year, we will have two top ten lists. The first will be the posts with the highest number of views in 2022. The other will be the posts actually written in 2022 that got the most views.

All links will open new taps, so you won’t lose your place!

Here are the overall top 10 posts with the most visits, starting from lowest to highest.

10: Fall Garden Update: Crespo squash This one is from 2021. We did try to grow Crespo squash again in 2022, but they did so very poorly. Yes, I plan to try again!

9: Recommended: CS Brews This is from my 2020 Recommended series.

8: Presto, Change-o! I saw a traffic spike to this 2021 post in the fall. I suspect a lot of Canadians were looking for information on pressure canning in 2022. Particularly since we don’t have anywhere we can take the gauges to for calibration.

7: Making Crab apple cider vinegar: airlock or cheesecloth? This post goes back to 2020. In 2022, I saw a large spike in traffic to crab apple related posts. Last year, we had no crab apples to harvest, and I don’t think we were the only ones. This fall, it seems we were not the only ones to have an excellent harvest to do things with!

6: Sourdough Cornmeal Pancakes This one goes back to 2018, and remains a popular post.

5: Chokecherries, ready to freeze This post, from 2019 also sees a jump in traffic in the fall. We, however, have had no chokecherries to speak of for two years in a row, now.

4: Our 2022 garden: Baker Creek seed order is in! Our first 2022 related post – and it was written in 2021!

3: Making kluski; Polish drop noodles This post from 2020 still sees some regular traffic. I also now have the sudden urge to make some kluski! πŸ˜„

2: Making hard crab apple cider; will it work? Another post from 2020, and yes, it did. We have a 2022 batch of it fermenting right now, too!

1: Things with crab apples: apple cider vinegar Hmm… I see a pattern here! This post from 2019 saw the largest spike in traffic in the fall I’ve seen in a long time! It looks like crab apples did well for a lot of people in 2022!

I see another pattern in all these popular posts. They are all food related, and all but 2 are related to preserving food in some way!

I think that tells us something of what’s been important to people in the past year.

Now, we have the top 10 posts that were actually written in 2022.

10: First snow A 2022 cat post makes the first entry in this year’s top 10 list, and it’s not even two months old!

9: Cabbages update – and a fundraiser announcement We’ve had so much help from the cat lady and her rescue, but nothing compares to how she went all out in the fight for Cabbages’ survival. I’m happy to say that Cabbages is not only healthy and happy with the Cat Lady and her family, but her treatment is now being used as a case study by other vets, in the treatment of other severely ill cats. Saving Cabbages is saving the lives of other cats!

8: Large batch crab apple cider vinegar The crab apple theme continues!

7: Hard Crab Apple Cider follow up – I am the Queen of Procrastination! The end results of hard apple cider, that was started in 2020.

6: Getting Cozy (crochet talk) The cozy I made for my tea mug has disappeared. I think the cats dragged it off somewhere!

5: Thoughts on being prepared Okay, I just got distracted by reading this post over again! It remains quite relevant. With the winter storms that have just passed through much of Canada and the US a short while ago, I truly believe this is something we all need to consider, no matter where we live. There is one thing I would add to my commentary. We’ve found that ghee, purchased in restaurant quantities, can be a LOT cheaper than buying the jars in the grocery store. Ghee is a shelf stable butter, and would be an excellent addition to a preparedness pantry!

4: Remembered to order: from Lee Valley I’m rather curious about why a post about getting a sharpening stone and holster for our scythe got this much traffic!

3: Sometimes, I hate being right (convoy talk) The use of the Emergency Measures Act against legal, peaceful protestors has gone through its mandatory committee investigation. The investigation – as biased as it was – proved that there was absolutely no reason for it to have been invoked, and that our Prime Dictator and media repeatedly lied about the convoy. But will anyone be held accountable for it? Of course not. Our Prime Dictator should have resigned years ago, the RCMP should have laid charges against him (but didn’t, for political reasons) – and that was even before he went full dictator – but there has been zero accountability. And most Canadians have no idea what happened, or are too apathetic to care.

2: Two pounds! Another Cabbages update.

1: Recommended: RoseRed Homestead – That “Woman with a gadget” This is from my 2022 additions to the Recommended series – which I still need to add to the list under the Recommended tab! Rose Red Homestead is well worth taking the number one spot for 2022.

Well, the themes for the most popular 2022 posts are a lot more diverse, but not one of them made the overall list. Not by a long shot!

What I am seeing seems to show a trend towards people looking for more information on how to grow and preserve their own food.

After the past three years, that doesn’t surprise me at all. Food security has become a huge priority for so many!

Photo by Pixabay on

Here’s to a better year in 2023 for us all!

The Re-Farmer

Happy New Year!

The Potato Beetle does not approve of 2022, already!

Maybe because, as I write this, we’re at -33C/-27F with a wind chill of -42C/-44F, which is a couple of degrees warmer than when I was outside feeding the critters.

I made sure to top their kibble up yesterday evening, and there was still some left. Not a lot of the outside cats came out for non-frozen kibble. The warm water was of much more interest to them! At least it was sunny, and the yard is sheltered from the wind.

I hope you had a wonderful time bringing in the New Year, while keeping warm and cozy!

We had our prime rib dinner, which turned out very well, even though things didn’t turn out as planned. After going through a number of recipes, I settled on one that said to roast it at 500F for 20 minutes, then shut off the oven and leave it closed for 2 hours. The recipe even made clear that this worked on newer ovens with digital temperature displays that were more accurate than older ones, and since we did have to get a new oven…

Well, after 2 hours, the meat thermometer basically read “raw”. Oh, there was a fantastic crust on the outside – I coated it with a heavy layer of fresh crushed garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and enough truffle infused olive oil to make a paste – but the internal temperature barely moved the needle on my meat thermometer. I fell back on another set of instructions I’d read, which had been to sear at 400F, let sit for 3 hours in a closed oven, then roast at 350F until the internal temperature was right. So I turned the oven back on, and it took about 45 more minutes to reach medium rare, then it had to come out to make room for the stuffed squash. The squash took way longer to roast than expected, and we ended up increasing the temperature and cooking the appetizers at the same time. We ended up eating the squash as an appetizer, too. πŸ˜€ It just worked out better that way.

The stuffed squash was only thing I managed to get a picture of. I can’t remember the name of the squash I bought.

My daughter stuffed the halves with thin slices of Granny Smith apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. It was very good, though the squash itself was not as tasty as the Red Kuri squash we grew (which I’ve never seen in a grocery store), so we didn’t bother keeping the seeds.

All in all, it was a very good meal, and we all ate way too much, even though we spread the courses over several hours. My husband didn’t make it to midnight, and our daughters and I almost didn’t, either! πŸ˜€

Aren’t we just the party animals. πŸ˜‰

Today, we’re planning another special – much smaller! – dinner to continue celebrating the new year, which is also the 8th day of Christmas.

Until then, I think what I really want to do is take a nap.

I like my boring life.

The Re-Farmer

I see you…

After setting out food and warm water for the outside cats, I noticed a little face peeking at me from under the kibble house.

It wasn’t until I uploaded the photo that I saw there were three cats under there!

It’s a bit tight, but squeezing under there is a favourite spot for the smaller cats. Putting the sheet of insulation under there may have made it a bit tighter, but I don’t think they mind! There is also insulation under the floor boards of the kibble house, so they are insulated from above and below in there.

Which was sure needed, today! We were supposed to warm up a few degrees today, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. When I headed out, it was still -35C/-31F with a wind chill of -42C/-44F At least according to my app. We didn’t have any wind in the yard, so we at least didn’t have to deal with that. As I write this, it’s -31C/-24F with a wind chill of -40C/-40F. Our high of the day is supposed to reach -27C/-17F with a wind chill of -37C/-35F

A good time to celebrate New Year’s indoors!!! My FIL used to bring in the new year with a BBQ every year, even if it meant shoveling out the BBQ. We did keep that up for a while, but … no. πŸ˜€ BBQ’s don’t cook very well in these temperatures, no matter how high you turn up the heat!

The critters seem to be handling the temperatures just fine. With the long, mild fall we had, the deer will have built up a good layer of fat for the winter. The deer in the photo above is walking in the path dug along the garden bed at the fence. It’s one of a pair that come here every day, several times a day, to the feeding station. They don’t leave much behind for the birds! πŸ˜€

Well, it’s time for me to get started on our New Year’s dinner. We’re doing a prime rib today; something I’ve never done before. Until we got our quarter beef, we’ve never been able to afford one before! I’m really looking forward to it. πŸ™‚

Happy New Year! And I hope you’re warm and toasty, wherever you are celebrating. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Year End Review: our top 10 most popular posts for 2021

Well, we’re at the end of the year, and I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how things have been on the blog.

I’m actually going to do two “top 10” lists. The first will be the most popular posts of all. None of them, however, were posts written within this past year! Some of them were on last year’s list, too. So I will do a second list for posts written in 2021.

Here we are, starting with the all-time, top 10 posts for 2021. All links will open in a new tab, so you don’t lose your place. πŸ™‚

10. Making crab apple cider: airlock or cheese cloth?

9. Chokecherries, ready to freeze

8. Making a quick rope gate

7. Making Chokecherry Vinegar

6. Recommended: Kris Harbour Natural Building

5. Making kluski; Polish drop noodles

4. Sourdough Cornmeal Pancakes

3. Recommended: XiaoXi’s Culinary Idyll

2. Making hard crab apple cider: will it work?

1. Things with crab apples: apple cider vinegar

If this were a top 20 list, there would be a lot more posts related to crab apples on there! A lot of people were looking for things do with them, which makes me happy. We had no crab apples this year, so it’s good to know that so many others had plenty, and were looking for ways to preserve the bounty. πŸ™‚

Now we have our list of 10 most popular posts that were actually written in 2021 – and they certainly are on a different theme!

10. Clean up: our “second bathroom”, first coat inside done! Now we just need to finish the outside. πŸ™‚

9. Hinge fix done! And so is the van. πŸ™‚ Well, unfortunately, that hinge fix didn’t last, and rather than do it again, we’re avoiding using the door until we can replace the entire door and frame.

8. Garden plans for 2021 All the best laid plans…

7. Our 2021 garden: the pressure is on! A kind gift we still appreciate!

6. Ginger Baby Update He’s doing just fabulous, now.

5. Presto, Change-o! Alas, between the drought and the critters, we didn’t have the quantities produce we hoped we would, and had nothing to use the pressure canner for. 😦

4. Our 2021 garden: transplanting Crespo squash I am still determined to grow these successfully, at least once!

3. Cold climate seed sources Particularly aimed at those growing in zone 3, or even lower.

2. Making hard crab apple cider: bottling day To answer the question in the number 2 spot of the previous list, yes. It worked quite well!

1. Our 2021 Garden: our Morado mystery And it’s still a mystery, as the Montana Morado got renamed Mountain morado. This fall, I found and ordered kulli corn seeds, and they finally made it through customs, so I should get them early in the new year.

There we have it! This year’s most popular blog posts of all, and the most popular blog posts written this year.

It seems lots of people have food and gardening on the mind!

I am most appreciative that so many people are finding these posts useful. Thank you for checking them out! I hope we will have many more useful posts for people to enjoy in the future.

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. πŸ˜‰

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 hΓΌgelkultur 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

New Year Kitty, and looking ahead

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful time last night, kicking out the old year, and bringing in the new. πŸ™‚

For us, we don’t normally do a whole lot. Living away from town or city celebrations is quite within our preferences! We had good food, each other’s company, and the entertainment of cats that were very interested in those good food smells! πŸ˜‰

This morning, as I went into the sun room, I discovered one of the spice boys in there! He would have been there since yesterday morning. 😦 Not a very good New Year’s Eve for him!

Normally, when a cat gets accidentally closed up in there, we hear a ruckus or meowing and know to let them out.

We heard no such ruckus.

I suspect he didn’t actually mind being in there all that much. It’s much warmer than outside, and there are soft things to curl up on. He had to have been pretty hungry and thirsty by morning, though!

I’m not even sure which of the spice boys it was. As soon as the door opened, he ran and hid under the swing bench, then peeked at me. The two of them look so much alike, and move so constantly, it’s really hard to tell which is which unless they are next to each other. Even then, we haven’t decided which one is Nutmeg and which one is Ginger! πŸ˜€

That didn’t stop both of them – and four other cats! – from following me around as I finished my rounds!

Just look at that face! πŸ˜€ What a glare!

Today is going to be a quiet day of rest for us, then tomorrow is going to be a busy one! I will be heading into the city to do our monthly shop, as early in the day that I can. When I get home, we’ll unload the groceries, then load up the garbage and recycling for a much delayed trip to the dump. Earlier in the week, I had my days mixed up and thought we could do it on Thursday night, thinking that New Year’s fell on Saturday, not Friday. Thankfully, Saturday is the one day a week they are open for a full 8 hours – and it’s not a holiday – so we will have time make the trip to the city first. It’s been so long since we’ve gone to the dump, though, we might have to make two trips. We shall see.

Amazingly, it’s going to warm up quite a bit over the next couple of days. For Sunday, the predictions keep going up, and are now at 2C

Yes. Two degrees above freezing. In January! That would be 35.6F Then it’s supposed to stay warmer than -10C/14F for the next two weeks.

I had feared we would have another bitterly cold couple of months, as we had for the previous winters we have been here. I am really going to enjoy a milder winter – and the reduced electricity/heating bills. Even our equal payment plan payments will drop, with temperatures this warm! Before we were able to get on the equal payment plan, we were paying over $600 a month for December, January and February. Last year, we had a month were we would have been paying over $700 for our electricity. On months like that, our equal payment plan adjusted to a little over $300. Usually, it’s about $290, though it’s dropped to as low as $250ish.

This house is not very energy efficient, at all! 😦 And the upstairs is freezing cold in the winter, with it’s one heat vent for the entire floor. When I stand at the bottom of the stairs, I can feel cold coming down, like a breeze. The girls put sheets of rigid insulation on the walls by their beds, which they then covered with decorative fabric, which made a big difference. Without out the insulation, they were actually feeling waves of cold, coming off the walls. !! This year, they haven’t even needed to use their little heater, yet. Meanwhile, in the summer, it gets insanely hot up there. :-/

Of course, with snow on the ground, my mind keeps going ahead to garden plans. In fact, I’ve been almost obsessed with garden plans! In a good way. πŸ˜‰ I’ve been researching on different ways to start seeds indoors – something we had issues with last year. I am constantly reading about how important it is to use grow lights, which is something we just don’t have and can’t afford right now.


Maybe we do…

Everything I’ve been reading says ordinary lights can be used, so long as they’re bright enough.

We have two aquariums.

The little 20 gallon one I’ve given up on after the last fish finally died, has a light that is part of the lid, so no worries about the cats getting into it. It can hold one of the seed starter trays we have now, and maybe a bit more.

The big tank has two lights. The original that it came with, and one we got later. The glass lids on the big tank eventually broke and couldn’t be used. The original light rested very close to the glass lids, which actually caused problems with algae growth and scale forming on the undersides. When we had to get rid of the glass lids, the light was no longer protected from what little splashing there was from the filter output, so we got one that with risers that set it higher off the frame. It also has a built in timer.

Since a piece of the filter system broke during the move and we have not been able to find a replacement part, the tank has been used to store baskets, hidden by a cover that the cats can sit on. If we can find a way to cover the top of the tank to keep the cats out, while still allowing full light and air flow, that tank would make an excellent greenhouse for a whole several seed trays or lots of pots! We plan to use at least 3″ pots to start squash, this time, and we have a lot of summer and winter squash we want to start this year! πŸ™‚

So that is going to be a project for the next while. I’m pretty sure I have enough hardware cloth left cover the top of the big tank. I just have to figure out how to make a frame that can handle the weight of cats that are sure to jump on it, while making sure the stands that hold the light will still sit on the tank edges, where they are supposed to.

That would leave us with one more aquarium light from the big tank. If we can find a way to set that up over trays and keep the cats off at the same time, we could have even more seed trays well lit.

This might actually work.

The Re-Farmer

Year End Review: top 10 posts!

Today we come to the close of what has got to be the most bizarre year we’ve had in my 5 decades! I think many of us will be very glad to see the hind end of 2020, even though there’s no sign that 2021 is going to be much different. :-/

[edited for formatting problems. WTH, WordPress??]

Thankfully, one of the side benefits of 1) living in the boonies and 2) living on my husband’s disability income, is that not a whole lot of the crazy affected our everyday life. We were already living on a tight budget, and disability payments are not affected. We were already doing things like stocking up in bulk purchases once a month, so that changed only because suddenly, everyone else was stocking up, too! My “job” is taking care of this place, and only one of my daughters had to stop working outside the home because of the crazy. The other was already working from home, so as long as we’ve got internet, she’s good to go. We got to focus on taking care of the property and each other, moving forward as much as possible on our long term goals, and basically be hermits. Which is kinda how we like it! The only real negative thing affecting us is my husband not getting the medical care he needs, but honestly, I don’t know how much of that can be blamed on the virus response. We’ve been here for 3 years now, and he still hasn’t been able to get the same level of care he had access to when we lived in the city. 😦

For me, one of the things I’ve tried to do is keep up with daily posts here on the blog, even if it’s just posting a photo. I’ve learned long ago that if I don’t get at least some writing in every day, it’s not very good for my mental health, but I also hope that the things talked about here will be enjoyed by, and useful to, others.

Though I am making no efforts at all to promote the blog, somehow, people are still finding it and following along. I don’t know how you all are finding us, but I really appreciate you stopping by and giving it a read, liking and commenting. Thank you so much!

In celebration of the end of the year, here are the top 10 most popular blog posts written in 2020. I skipped over any that were written in previous years, just because I want to focus on 2020. All links should open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place here. πŸ™‚

So here they are, starting with number 10.

Comparisons. As this was our first year gardening, it comes as no surprise that we are starting with a gardening post! This one is from early August.

This year, I did something new, with a series of “Recommended” posts. These ended up getting their own permanent page, with a tab at the top menu. Number 9 is one of these posts. Recommended: Justin Rhodes. There is a massive number of videos on their YouTube channel! If you have any interest in self-sufficient living, do check them out!

This year, I finally started to do some more creative things with all the trees we’ve been cutting down, other than sticking them in huge piles for future chipping, or burning them.

The Wonkiest comes in at Number 8, showing off my first ever carving of a fork… and it truly is the wonkiest!! πŸ˜€

This year, we continued our attempts to brew booze, including our first attempt at making hard crab apple cider. Making hard crab apple cider: racking day – what happened? (updated: I found out!) comes in at number 7.

Every now and then, a post becomes popular, and I have no idea why! Like this one, at number 6: Let’s give this a try. It’s just a mix of all sorts of things, but apparently, people found it interesting!

No surprise to see another gardening post on the list! Number 5 is an analysis, First year gardens: what worked, what didn’t

Another Recommended post on the list. Number 4 is Recommended: Kris Harbour Natural Building. This YouTube channel is filled with years of videos, following along as Kris Harbour builds off grid in Wales. Well worth checking out!

Our first post about making hard crab apple cider is on the list, too! Here it is at number 3. Making hard crab apple cider; will it work?

Our crab apples were very popular this year! This time, at number 2, it’s Making Crab apple cider vinegar: airlock or cheese cloth?

And now we reach our number 1, most popular post of 2020.

This one blew away all the other posts, with almost triple (!!) the hits that number 2 got! In fact, it still gets hits almost every day. It’s another from the Recommended series of posts. Recommended: XiaoXi’s Culinary Idyll It’s another YouTube channel, and there are some really awesome videos to check out. Yet, I have no idea what makes this post stand out more than any other, that it should get so many more hits!

If you have discovered this blog through this post, I’d love to hear what brought you here! Please feel free to let me know in the comments. πŸ™‚

Well, there you have it! The top 10 must popular blog posts written in 2020.

I look forward to joining you again in the New Year! May 2021 be a year filled with many blessings, growth, healing and above all, normalcy!

God knows, we could all use some plain, boring old “normal” right now!


The Re-Farmer

A Year in Review

A great big Happy New Year to all our wonderful visitors and followers! May 2020 be a year of peace and good health to you and your loved ones.

Out of all the millions of blogs out there, you chose to pop over and visit our little corner of the world, and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate it.

Last year, I did a list of this blog’s top 10 most visited posts. I was all set to do it again, only to find it couldn’t quite work out as I intended. It turns out there are too many “tied” posts. A 2 or 3 way tie is one thing, but a 13 way tie? πŸ˜€ I also noticed that the top visited posts are almost all from last year. I was going to try skipping those and just do posts that were written in 2019, only to find myself back in that tied-a-dozen-times problem.

So here is the list of the top 5 most visited blog posts in the past year.

Five: New Range Hood – part 1 Thanks to my daughter, we finally replaced the original range hood, which was installed in the early to mid 1970’s. Part 2 is when we finally got the new one wired and working!


Four: Sourdough Cornmeal Pancakes These are still my favorite pancakes. Recipe to make yogurt cheese, as a sour cream substitute, included!


Three: Chokecherry Vinegar Drink This turned out to be a very refreshing drink.


Two: Making Chokecherry Vinegar Here is the recipe for the vinegar used in the Chokecherry Vinegar Drink. This year’s chokecherries were frozen, and we plan to use them in mead making. Depending on how many chokecherries we get next year, I hope to make this vinegar again, just so we can make that drink!


And the Number One most popular post in the past year: Gathering Chokecherries

I’m sensing a theme, here! πŸ˜€ This post is from 2018, but we got quite a nice haul this past summer, even though we gathered from just 2 out of 3 trees.

I hope you enjoy visiting these most popular posts of 2019 here at The Re-Farmer blog. Thank you, again, for choosing to visit our little corner of the blogosphere!

Happy New Year, from The Re-Farmer household to yours!

The Re-Farmer

2018’s Top Ten

The old year is slipping by quickly! A time to look back and plan forward.

This blog is not much past a year old, which means I can actually do this: make up a list of the top 10 most popular posts!

The Re-Farmer Top 10 posts of 2018

Let’s start with number 10.

Of the top 10 posts, 7 of them are recipes or food related.

I think our readers are hungry. πŸ˜€

Thank you all for visiting our site and sharing this past year with us. I hope you enjoyed your stay.

Happy New Year ClipArt Free For 2015

We wish you all a Happy New Year, and may 2019 be a year of blessings, good health and prosperity.

The Re-Farmer