First bloom!

Well, I did NOT finish off the cover for shallots I started yesterday. I did, however, get quite a bit accomplished. That, however, is for another post. For now, I’d like to share this…

Our very first tulips are blooming! When my older daughter and I checked on them this morning, these were still buds, but just starting to show colour. By evening, they were like this. 😊

The grape hyacinths in the maple grove have also exploded into bloom. Every time I try to get a picture of one, though, my phone keeps focusing on anything else but the spike of flowers right in front of it! 😄 My daughter daffodils that bloomed last year are coming up in lovely bunches right now. We’ve also found the leaves of some of her irises that barely made a showing last year. She’s absolutely thrilled, as she was sure they had died. Even the raspberries we got her for her birthday a couple of years ago are showing the tiniest of leaves. I thought they finally died last year, too. We managed to protect them from the deer, but couldn’t protect them from the horrible, no good growing year. The raspberries we planted this year are leafing out nicely right now, and even the newly transplanted apple tree has leaves unfurling. The mulberry, which are still in the house, have tiny leaves on them, too. The two surviving sea buckthorn have lots of leaves on them, as so the silver buffalo berry. The highbush cranberry are also showing leaves, though the one the deer got twice is a bit behind.

Near the tulips, the plum trees that didn’t get cut away are in full bloom. I love trees that bloom before their leaves come out! They will, eventually, need to be taken down, but I would rather not do that until we have something to replace them with. Like an edible variety of plum. For now, they are one of the few things in full bloom that the pollinators can enjoy.

We are most definitely well into spring out here in the Great White North!

The Re-Farmer

Hello, Kitties!

I had a HUGE and wonderful surprise yesterday evening!

Now that things are nicer outside, I’ve been able to do more extended evening rounds after feeding the outside cats for the night. My first surprise came as I was putting kibble out in the sun room. The Phantom was there, as usual, and I’ve been able to sneak some pets while she eats. I tried again, and she actually let me pet her more instead of running away! She was quite enjoying them until I left to her finish eating and continued me rounds.

I was just finishing up and about to come inside, when I saw Broccoli had finally come over to eat, and was on the cat house roof.

So, while she had her back to me, I decided to try and sneak a pet.

Not only did she not run away when she realized I was petting her, but she wanted more! She was absolutely all over, rolling around and pushing against my hands, wanting more pets. This is a cat we’ve been trying to socialize for more than two years, with no progress, and suddenly, BAM!

But would it happen again?

This morning, she came out for food later again, and much of the kibble on the cat house roof was gone, but there was still enough for her nibble. When I came over, she happily accepted pets again!

She was also clearly very, very hungry, so I didn’t bother her too much.

She is such a beauty!

She is also very skinny and bony.

Yesterday, I tried to touch her belly, to see if she was nursing, but I couldn’t tell. Yes, I could feel nip, but none seemed more prominent than the others. Without actually seeing her belly, though, I can’t say for sure. Given the time of year, it would not surprise me if she lost a litter. I don’t know. I’m happy to see her eating well, though, because this girl needs meat on her bones!

This girl, however, is fine.

Marlee is a solid slab of compact muscle!

While I’m sitting at my computer in the evenings, she comes over and demands I reach down to pet her, but she will NOT let me pick her up. She’s also been spending more time on my bed, even with other cats beside her. There’s quite the difference, though. Where the other cats are relaxed and tend to turn into big puddles on the soft, comfy bed, she is a tight little ball, with everything tucked in, and looking very alert, even when she’s asleep. She’s still got those survival habits in place, that’s for sure. She still won’t leave the room. I did try taking her with me into the living room while I was working on potting things up, but she just hunkered down at the barrier door and wouldn’t move until I opened it, and then she went right to my bedroom door, wanting back in.

Ah, well.

All in good time.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: new growth!

I’m back from doing the Costco shopping today, but before I post about that painful trip, here’s some good news!

While doing my rounds, I found new growth in various places!

There are more purple crocuses up and blooming, plus more white crocus buds are up.

There is no sign of the muscari/grape hyacinth yet, but I did have a wonderful surprise nearby.

Okay, I know they’re hard to see, but there are at least 14 tulips coming up here! Before resizing the photo to post here, I looked at it at full size to try and find them all. Some of the green is blades of grass, but I spotted the leaves of a few tulip plants piercing through the dried leaves above them. I’ll have to keep an eye on those. I remember last year, seeing some of them getting taller, but not able to break through the leaves they’d grown through, so they were all squished together. Once they get taller, and I know where not to step, I’ll go in and pull the dead leaves off, so they can spread out and grow properly.

I had another pleasant surprise in the old kitchen garden, too.

We have one Egyptian walking onion that’s been trying to grow every year since we moved here. Last year, it actually survived long enough to form bulbils. After building a new, little raised bed, I took those bulbils and planted them in front. Here, you can see two of them have sprouted! There were several more, too. I can’t remember how many were planted, but I’m pretty stoked that they survived the winter and are now emerging through the mulch. I didn’t see if the “parent” onion has started to emerge, but think I might have seen, maybe, possibly, leaves from one of the flower bulbs my daughter planted along the edge of this garden. Last year, some leaves came up, but none bloomed. There’s another spot, at one end, where she planted daffodils which did bloom last year but, so far, no sign of them.

I did also check the carrots, and there are no sprouts that I could see, but I was just peaking under the edges of the plastic and couldn’t see very far in. I need to put a priority on building covers for those beds, as the current set up is very temporary, and not as functional.

We’ve got highs of 9C/48F predicted for today and tomorrow, with a bit of rain now and then. After that, we’re supposed to warm up a bit more and have sun for at least 5 days. Great weather to get work done out there!

But maybe not today. City trips three days in a row has sucked all the energy out of me! Right now, I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for a week.

I really dislike shopping. 😄

The Re-Farmer

Foggy morning, and minor wind damage

This morning, we had new weather warnings – this time for fog!

This is taken through my bedroom window, and the phone camera automatically cleans up the image, so the visibility was actually for less than this. We had no wind, so it hung around until past 10 or so, and as I write this, it’s nice and clear. In fact, I’m seriously considering making another trip to the city. Not for the Costco shopping. That trip is going to be big enough, I’ll wait for my husband’s private insurance disability payment to come in, but the international grocery store we try to go to regularly has a case lot sale starting today. There are a few things we find only in this store (I’m not willing to drive around the city to find other stores that might carry them), so it would work out. However, it would also mean making trips to the city, two days in a row, plus yesterday’s trip to the smaller city.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, I had a bit of a surprise when I headed out to do the morning rounds.

We had several cats trapped in the sun room. The wind had blown the outer door closed. Since we keep the pair of doors just barely open for the cats to squeeze in, but still keep the weather out, we couldn’t tell when checking through the bathroom window that it was closed.

They did have food and water, but the litter box that used to be in there is in the cat house now.

Yeah. I could tell when I walked in!

The cats that were stuck outside were very hungry! The food trays outside get emptied a lot faster than the sun room trays that they could no longer access. I still counted only about a dozen or so cats, including Sad Face, skulking away.

Considering how high the winds got yesterday, I was rather impressed with how little damage there was. The girls did check repeatedly while I was out yesterday, so this is stuff that happened after I got home. The diverter over the rain barrel was knocked right off, which means the rain barrel was overflowing during the night. The diverter being knocked off isn’t all that uncommon, but this hasn’t happened in a long while…

The metal roofing sheets got blown off the garden shed! You can see the strap that held them in place, dangling off a tree branch.

We tried to fix these permanently to the roof, but just couldn’t do it. Not only is there too much rot, but there are too many odd… things… that were attached to it to cover the leak. It is also no longer flat, which I think is also due to a rotten section.

We really need to get another garden shed built!!!

So those metal sheets were just laid out on top and held in place with the strap. They used to get blown out of place all the time, when winds came from the north, until we overlapped them differently and found a way to get them to lie somewhat flatter. Yesterday’s winds, however, were from the south. Still, that strap didn’t break. It somehow got unhooked.

Well, one of my goals for this year is to finally haul away the junk from around this shed, add it to the pile that will get taken to the dump, and store away stuff that we can use again, like that roll of snow fencing. It’ll be good to get this clear. Once we build the new shed, I will quite happily tear this old thing apart! I’m curious to see what it looks like underneath. At the very least, I know we’ll find a groundhog den. The whole thing is sitting on top of rocks, which I think my daughters will find useful for the forge shelter they’re planning to build. I believe they plan to build mostly rock walls, to keep things as fire proof as possible.


So getting those metal sheets back on top of the garden shed roof is a multi-person goal for the day. It may leak and be falling apart, but we’re still using it.

Other than that, I found a few small fallen branches, and that’s it! Those first few years of cleaning up dead branches has been paying off! Best of all, the cover on the carrot bed held just fine. I’m quite pleased!

Meanwhile, the 10 day forecast has changed again. We were supposed to warm up, then cool back down again, but now it’s saying we will warm up, and keep getting warmer. We’ve even got a 20C/68F day in the forecast!

We’ll see if that actually happens! 😄😄

The Re-Farmer

My spot

I finally had a chance to do a burn yesterday. While setting up, I brought out a camp chair to use in between tending the flames.

I didn’t get to use it much.

Pointy Baby was quick to claim it as his own – when he wasn’t jumping up on me, demanding attention!

In the end, I wasn’t able to stay out too long. It to way too windy, so I covered the burn ring as soon as I could, then left it to smolder.

The cats are happy to have the camp chair back in the sun room, for their naps!

The Re-Farmer

So many! and… no wonder we were having problems

I counted 26 this morning!

It always amazes me how many of the cats have a preference for eating under the water bowl shelter. At one point, I counted 5 under there.

They also really appreciate that sheet of insulation under the kibble house in the winter. Every now and then, I’ll walk past the back of it and see a whole bunch of noses peaking out from under the back wall, where there is a much smaller gap.

I’ve been seeing Rosencrantz again and, unfortunately, she is looking pregnant, too. She had a really early litter last year, though not as early as Junk Pile did this year, and lost it. She went on to have a late second litter with 3 white and greys, Pinky, with his unique patches of mixed orange and grey fur, and a tortie.

For the third day in a row, Junk Pile followed me around while I was doing my rounds, all the way to the sign cam, and let me pick her up and carry her back to the house. She rode calmly in my arms, the back of her head nuzzled against my face. What a massive change in personality! I’ll take it, though. Hopefully, it means we’ll be able to catch her and get her spayed this year.

On a completely different note…

I made it to the Walmart with my mother’s car yesterday. I’m happy to say it ran well, and the roads that were so treacherous just a few days ago are now clear.

One of the things I was able to pick up was a universal fill valve and flapper kit for the toilet. We’ve been having issues for a while now, because … well… see for yourself.

That bit of white hose is almost completely blocked. It was taking forever for the tank to refill after flushing. The flapper would also get stuck slightly open, which meant the water was draining almost faster than it could be refilled. We would have to hold the lever down until the bowl was completely emptied, or the flapper wouldn’t close properly. The flow of water was so slow, it often wouldn’t finish flushing, so we’d have to wait 5 or 10 minutes to flush again.

The flapper couldn’t be replaced; there is something very different about it, and my daughter couldn’t even see how it was attached, but her sister scrubbed out as much of the gunk as she could, and it is working much better. The tank refills so much faster now! The only thing we have to tweak is how much water is in the bowl. For some reason, it has always been very low, and this old valve doesn’t seem to have any way to adjust water levels for the bowl; just the tank. Getting that adjusted will help a lot with reducing the clogs and slow drains we’ve had the entire time we’ve lived here! My daughters are also planning to scrub the inside of the tank as best they can, but it’s lines with Styrofoam insulation, which we have to be careful not to damage. I’ll have to look for the septic safe anti-iron tank tablets again. The last few times I’ve looked, they were out of stock. I’m hoping to avoid having to order online.

Oh, that reminds me. I made a quick stop at the post office on my way out, yesterday, and my new, low limit credit card was in. Once I was home again, I had to call the toll free number to activate it. Of course, the guy I spoke to had a whole spiel he had to give after activating it, to try and sell me insurance, so if I loose my job or something, the balance will be paid. Of course, I was laughing at that, since I cannot get a job. When I mentioned that I want to keep the limit low and just use the card to rebuild my credit rating, he finished off the call with some advice. He gave me the date for my billing cycle, which is the 7th. My intention was to use the card at the end of the month, for gas and groceries, when we do our city shopping, then pay it off right away. He suggested I wait until about 2 days before the due date, which would still be within the 21 day interest free grace period. Waiting to pay until just before the next billing cycle improves the credit rating faster. It would also be helpful to include regular automated payments taken from the card. This shows that the card is actually being used regularly. With the card I have, gas, groceries and automatic payments have a 1% cash back, while everything else has a .5% cash back. I don’t have anything I want to put on automatic payment, though. With our utilities, I like to pay manually, because I always over pay a bit, to build up a credit. That way, if we are ever in a pickle or things just get really tight for some reason, we could have a month or two of reduced payments, or even no payments at all, to free funds up in the budget.

Well, we’ll see how it goes.

Just a few things (updated)

We continue to be teased by spring. We had high winds yesterday and through the night, and while this morning, we are at a rather okay -16C/3F, the wind chill is at -24C/-11F. During the night, we had wind chills down to -28C/-18F! Today, we’re supposed to be sunny and reaching a high of -5C/23F, and a few days from now, we’re supposed to start getting consistent highs above freezing. The first official calendar day of spring is in only two days, but it’s going to be a while before real spring finally reaches us.

It got chilly enough in the sun room for this little guy to take advantage of an empty heated water bowl!

While putting their food out, I tried petting Junk Pile, but as soon as she realized I was touching her, she got startled and moved away. I was hoping, after being able to pet and carry her yesterday, she would still be okay with contact, but apparently not.

Then, as I was returning from the sign cam, there she was, coming up the path through the garden! I tried to pet her and she acted skittish, but kept coming back until she finally let me pet her. After a while, I tried walking again, but she wouldn’t let me! I finally picked her up so I could get back to the house, and she was quite okay with that. She kept snuzzling the back of her head against my face and making this noise that was kind of like a quiet growl! While holding her, I could feel her teats were slightly swollen, from not having any kittens left to nurse her, but they lived for so short a time, she should dry up quickly. She was not in any discomfort. When I got to the house and she wanted to jump down, she still wouldn’t move away from my feet, so I had to pick her up again and deposit her onto the cat house roof, just so I could walk!

Today, I plan to take my mother’s car for a run to Walmart; the kibble bin has reached the point where it’s mostly the cheap brand we got from the feed store, and they’re actually picking out and eating the other brand and leaving the cheap stuff behind. They do eat it eventually, but they clearly don’t like it. This gives me an excuse to see how my mother’s car is doing for a longer run, since we have to go to the same city for her follow up appointment with the specialist on Monday.

I’m happy to say that my tax return came in this morning, which means that we can finally call the plumber to fix our leaking taps, as well as pick up a replacement tub surround, since he’s going to have to rip the old one off. Not that there’s much besides the arm bars holding it in place, as it is. We’re going on the most likely assumption that the last time the taps were replaced, it was done from the tub side, then covered over by the surround. I highly doubt the person that I know was hired to do it would have gone through the bedroom wall on the other side. There’s no hole in the paneling, and no sign that the entire panel itself was removed.

We don’t know how much getting all this done in the bathroom is going to cost in the end. The girls and I talked about the possibility of not putting another tub surround up at all, but taking out the old paneling and tiling it. That would be a lot more expensive, though. Plus, I’m still hoping we can at least get my daughter her new glasses right away, now that she’s got a prescription. While she was getting tested, I looked around at the frames in the clinic, and the cheapest I could see was about $180. Most were in the $300+ range, and I wasn’t even looking at the fancy brand names. She is going to try getting glasses from Zenni, which was recommended to me (thank you!), as they do have a Canadian site. I need progressives, so those were the frames I went looking at in the site, and the prices are SO much better. Apparently, “premium” progressive lenses start at about Cdn$70, so my daughter’s very basic prescription should be quite affordable.

We shall see how that goes soon enough.

The Re-Farmer


I just asked my daughter about her glasses order, and it turns out it’s already done! She was even able to order a second pair of prescription sunglasses, and even with shipping, it was still under Cdn$100! I look forward to seeing what the quality is like.

Strange Behaviour (sad update)

I tried to do a head count while feeding the outside cats this morning, and I think I counted 23. What concerned me is that I couldn’t see the mama cat anywhere, nor could I make anything out through the windows of the cats’ house. I think I may have heard a squeak, but it could easily have been something else.

While switching out the memory card on the gate cam, a whole bunch of cats came running up the driveway to follow me around. Including one that had me doing a double take.

It was the mama.

(I’d thought she was one of the ‘iccuses, but now I realize she’s Junk Pile!)

This is a cat that I’ve only ever been able to touch by sneaking while she ate, and that was rare. Today, however, she was coming right up to my feet. I reached out to pet her a few times and at first, she nervously backed away, but when I finally got to stroke her back, she stopped and let me pet her.

While trying to walk back to the inner yard, she kept running ahead, then stopping and blocking my feet, then running ahead, then blocking my feet, over and over. Finally, I picked her up – and she let me! I started walking again, which was too much for her, so she jumped down, but was running ahead, then blocking my feet, all the way to the house.

At that point, went down another path to cross the main garden area, and switch the memory card on the sign cam. There is just a narrow, hard packed path through the snow, and if my feet slip off the packed snow, I find myself sunk up to my knee. I often have cats following me, running ahead, and trying to trip me up, and this morning, there were the usual 3 or 4 of them.

On my way back, there she was.

She was doing the same thing; getting under my feet, then running ahead, getting under my feet, then running ahead. On this path, that’s actually kind of dangerous, so I picked her up again and tried to carry her.

Not only did she allow me to carry her all the way back to the house, but she actually snuggled up against me!!!

This from a cat that wouldn’t even let us touch her, without being sneaky about it, before.

It wasn’t until I got in front of the house that the finally wanted to jump down, but allowed me to lower her closer to the ground, first. She ran ahead of me towards the cat shelters, then ran into the cat house.

I tried looking through the windows, but it’s so hard to see into there. The larger windows have too much reflection, and the small one is too dirty on the inside. I tried moving the strips of carpet over the entrance and could finally see her. The larger cat bed in there has been moved (and it pretty torn up!) and is now next to the litter box (which has not been changed in months, because we can’t easily get at it; I doubt the cats are even using it anymore), and I could see other cat blankets pushed around. While I was looking, she moved to the cardboard box with the pillow in it that’s still in the other corner, and where I saw movement yesterday morning, when I first heard kitten noises.

With this very unusual behaviour, I can’t help but feel that she is asking for help.

The problem is, with the snow around the back of the cat house, the counterweight will probably not be able to drop as far as it should, which means needing someone to actually hold the roof open. My daughter and I will be doing that soon; I want to wait until it’s a bit warmer (it was -17C/1F with a wind chill of -28C/-18F while I was out this morning). We’ll bring the hard sided cat carrier out, in case we need to move babies, and hopefully be able to straighten things out inside the cat house a bit as well.

If we do end up moving the babies, then what?

With her strange behaviour this morning, I’m guessing Junk Pile would be willing to come along. The question is, do we set up a “cave” for her in the sun room?

Or do we take her inside.

I still have the baby jail cage in my room. The other cats like to go into there for naps, or just when they want to be left alone.

Well… we’ll make that decision after we see what we find in the cat house.

The Re-Farmer

Update: warning; some graphic details to follow

well, it’s done. After having to chip the packed snow away from the crates supporting the counterweight, my daughter and I were able to open the cat house roof, with the cat carrier nearby for any babies we found.

My daughter is absolutely devastated.

What we found were pieces.

Nature at work. When mamas lose their babies, they “clean up” by eating the remains. If it wasn’t the mama, any of the other cats could have done it. I hadn’t mentioned before, but even yesterday, when I found the second dead kitten in the shelf shelter, it was missing its head, so the cats had already been at that one.

While my daughter looked away, I got the large pieces out, then had to use the snow scraper to bring the smaller bits close enough for me to reach them. A couple of times she looked back, only to be telling me where I’d missed another piece. Once we were sure I got all the bits, we straightened out the cat beds and blankets, then closed the roof up again. At that point, my daughter took the cat carrier in while I finished up.

After clearing the snow out of the hole and putting the crates back under the counterweight, I got a bucket to pick the bits up out of the snow to add them to the other remains awaiting cremation (it’s too windy to start a fire now). Only then did I realize there were two tails parts. These were the remains of two kittens, not one.


I guess the mama coming to me for attention this morning was her looking for comfort after losing her babies.

We knew the chances of survival for kittens born this early in the year was low, but this is the first time we’ve had to clean up the bodies. My daughter is very tender hearted, and having a hard time with it. She was totally unprepared for what we found.


Well… the first ones are here (sad update)

There was quite a crowd when I came out this morning. I think I actually counted 26 cats, though it’s possible I double counted one of the white and greys.

It was while I was by the cat house that I heard it.

The tiniest of squeaky noises.

It took a moment of standing completely still to listen, but the noise was definitely there, and definitely repeating itself.

After going around the other side of the cat house with the kibble, I was able to peek into the small window facing south. The window is half covered with frost, but there was enough visibility that I could see across the inside of the cat house, were we put a box with an old pillow inside for the cats.

Yes. There it most definitely was.


Our first litter of kittens of the year have been born.

I was pretty sure it would be soon, as when I saw the pregnant mama yesterday, she looked rather damp in the back. She is actually in the photo above; the tabby at the very top of the picture.

Alas, she apparently did not have her kittens in the cat house. At least not to start. We have the shelf shelter up against the shelf shelter, and the bottom two shelves have rigid insulation inside, and in front, along with extras like a cardboard box and cat beds inside. I always put a handful of kibble into the openings of each. The bottom one isn’t as open anymore, as the cats have slowly broken the insulation forming the front “walls”, making the opening larger and larger, and the top one has been used as a scratching post in one corner so much, the insulation is torn away with only the cardboard box inside keeping the weather out from the hole!

Going past the shelf shelter later on, I saw one of the white and greys in the bottom shelf, batting at something and looking very startled and confused.

It turned out to be a dead, newborn kitten.

It must have been further back in the shelf when I put the kibble in, because I couldn’t see it at all at the time. Other cats came around to check it out, also looking rather confused over the poor thing.

As the ground is too frozen to bury it, I wrapped it in some paper towel, and we were cremate it later. Poor baby.

I can say for sure there is at least one surviving kitten that I could hear and see moving, and one that didn’t make it. If there are any other survivors, I have no way of knowing. We’re not going to pop open the roof of the cat house to see, because the last thing I want is for the mama to get spooked and move them away. For a litter born this early in the year, their chances of survival are very low, but their best chance of survival is right where they are now. It’s unfortunate the mama is one of the more feral cats, or we’d find a way to bring her and the babies inside.

I suppose I ought to let the cat lady know about it, but she’s recovering from surgery right now and has enough on her plate. There’s nothing more we can do about them right now, anyhow.

One a completely different note, I found this interesting, while doing my rounds.

When we had that wind storm blowing snow two days ago, there was no new snow. Just what the winds picked up off the ground. Yesterday we actually reached 0C/32F, so things started to melt a bit. Now, you can really see that, along with snow, the winds picked up all sorts of dirt, too. Since most of the fields are still covered with snow, that would consist mostly of sand picked up from the roads. The blown in snow is incredibly hard packed, too. Part of my path to the sign cam was filled in, and the blown in snow is so hard packed, it actually holds my weight when I walk on it, just like the packed snow on the bottom of path!

We’re expecting more winds today, from the northeast instead of south/southeast, as it was during the wind storm. Nothing as severe as before, thankfully. We’ll still be taking the van instead of my mother’s car to my daughters eye exam this afternoon, though, just to be on the safe side!

The Re-Farmer

Update: Well, my daughter and I are back from her eye exam (and saying hello to some goats while picking up more eggs on the way home). As I was walking up to the house, I saw Rolando Moon start to go into the bottom of the shelf shelter, then back off strangely. I went to check but couldn’t really see anything, but I was able to reach in and pull out a cat bed we have in there. Sure enough, there was another dead kitten in there. Crud. I wrapped it up with its sibling for later cremation. Poor baby.

I topped up the kibble for the evening and tried to see through the small window of the cat house again, but no luck. The window is just too dirty on the inside. Wherever the surviving kitten is in there (however many there may be), it was no longer anywhere I could see. I was not about to keep mucking about, though. I saw the mama in there, then she went into the sun room to eat. The last thing I want to do is spook her into moving her surviving babies away.

More yard cats is the last thing we need, but we adore them anyway, and it’s always sad when the little ones don’t make it.