One last day

This is it. According to the forecasts, this should be the LAST day we have stuff like this.

It’s been almost 2 hours since I took this screencap. We’re still at -28C/-18F, but the wind chill has gone from -37C/-35F to -40C/F. I don’t know what was different about this morning, but for the first time this winter, I was actually concerned about frost bite on my fingers. They HURT! I’m still doing short rounds, and the only extra thing I had to do was dump buckets of cat litter sawdust into the burn ring, and my fingers were hurting well before that.

The thermometer in the sun room, however, was reading about -17C/1F last night, while the outside temperatures had dipped below -30C/-22F. When their food was topped up for the night, it all went into bowls in the sun room, to encourage cats to stay in, or come into, the sun room. I think it worked since, this morning, there was still kibble and an almost full heated water bowl outside, while all the kibble in the sun room was gone, and the water bowl was occupied again.

Yup. This fluffy little bugger was curled up in the empty heated water bowl again. Look at that frost on his fur!

The lighting was better this time, and his nose actually looks pink instead of white, like it did in the last shot I got of him in there. You can see colour in his eyes this time, too.

I want to snuggle that baby.

Baby won’t let me snuggle him.

Sadness.

Our high of the day is supposed to reach -25 or -26C (-13 or -15F), depending on what app I look at, though the wind chill is supposed to be about -33C/-27F Yesterday, we had a hint of what was to come, reaching a high of -16C/3F. It was bright and sunny, and every time I glanced out the kitchen window, I was seeing cats running around and playing on the snow-clear sidewalk. The cats are really going to appreciate the back-side of today!

Tomorrow, we start to reach highs warmer than -20C/-4F, then warm up dramatically. One of my apps even forecasts 0C/32F on Monday! After about a week or so, it’ll dip down to the double digits again, but we are not expected to drop to -20C/-4F again, for the rest of the month. Possibly for the rest of the winter!

I’m glad things are starting to warm up tomorrow, though I will have to at least head over to the garage and try starting my mother’s car today. It’s plugged in, with its block heater, battery warmer and trickle charger, but… well, that car just does not like the cold, and has a very bad history of problems.

One of these days, we’ll have to invest in a heater for the garage. There used to be a kerosene heater in there, I’m told, that was used while vehicles were being worked on, but it’s among the things that disappeared before we moved here.

Tomorrow, I will be driving my mother to a medical appointment with a specialist in the smaller, closer city. She called me last night and, by the time we were done, we worked out a sort of schedule. I’ll head over early enough to pick up her prescription refills, since she doesn’t know if she’ll be home in time for them to deliver in the afternoon, and grab lunch. After lunch, we plan to leave early enough that, if road conditions are poor, we’ll still have plenty of time to get there. Then, depending on how long things take and how she feels, we might take advantage of being in the city so she can do some shopping. Since I also have parcels to pick up, and the post office isn’t open on the weekends, I’ll have to leave even earlier.

So I’m going to be out pretty much all day. While the temperatures are supposed to reach a high of -17C/1F, at the time I need to be leaving, we’re supposed to still be around -27C/-17F. Our current 15km/h (9mph) winds right now have the wind chill at -40C/F, and the predicted wind speed for the morning is -17km/h (11mph), which means that the windchill when I have to leave may be even colder than right now. Thank God we have a garage with room enough for both vehicles! Even if my mother’s car barely fits in the lean to addition it’s in. ๐Ÿ˜

My mother’s car has a habit of not starting in temperatures like this. The van does better in the cold, but not by much! Plus, it’s so hard for her to get in and out of the van.

I’m really feeling the fact that we weren’t able to get that replacement vehicle!

But, we’re almost over the worst of it.

Isn’t amazing how the weather can play such a huge part in planning things out? Especially at a time of year when, if things go wrong, it can be life threatening. I’ve long had an interest in weather and climate but, since moving back to the farm, it’s become almost an obsession! ๐Ÿ˜„

The Re-Farmer

Bitter cold, and it’s the little things that are going to do us in!

I am SO glad I was able to get the big shop done yesterday!

The temperatures were expected to go down over the next while, but still be just below average. Of course, the forecasts change constantly it still wasn’t by much.

Yeah, well… this is what we were at this morning.

Just in case the image isn’t loading for you, just after 8 this morning, we were at -31C/-24F, with a wind chill of -41C/-42F Our high of the day is still supposed to be -20C/-4F, which is actually our 30 year average low for the day, but the record low is -36C/-33F, so it’s still well within the norm. Will we actually warm up that much by this afternoon? I sure hope so, because we need to go into town! As it is, I cut my morning rounds down as much as I could, basically just making sure the outside cats had food and warm water, and that was pretty much is. I only counted 19 this morning. Most were in the sun room, but the ones outside were actually dancing around with their paws from the cold!

I’m really not looking forward to tomorrow morning. We have a vet appointment at 8:30 am, and it’s supposed to be about -28C/-18F at that time. Any wind chill on top of that will be brutal. We’ll be using the van for this trip because, for all the problems it has, it still handles the cold better than my mother’s car.

Speaking of handling problems, I finally got tired of one annoyance last night and did something about it.

I added string lights near my door.

This corner has the door to the old basement, and the door to my office/bedroom, and it is always really dark. It’s not too bad during the day but at night, even with string lights around the mirror hanging opposite my bedroom door, it is ridiculously dark. Usually, that results in tripping over or stepping on a cat at my door when I try to go in. Yesterday, it was an annoyance when I kept having to go into the old basement to check on things.

Also, those stairs really, really suck. And not just because my knees are shot.

The set of string lights I had on our Advent wreath got missed when the Christmas decorations were put away, so I added batteries and taped it around the basement door. It’s bright enough that I can now see the door handles, and even grey or black cats on the grey mat under my door (to protect the floor from their scratching).

As for why I kept having to go into the basement: noises.

Too many out of place noises.

Our well pump, every now and then, makes a vibrating noise when it starts. Of course, it stops by the time I get down to check it, and everything looks fine, but it really bothers me. At least it doesn’t make the grinding noise it used to. We have figured out that it would do that when too much water was being used at once, such as if the water for the shower was turned on too full. The pressure tank was being emptied faster than the pump could refill it, so it would start grinding. It means less water pressure while we are taking a shower, but that’s a small thing compared to burning out our pump and losing water completely. The vibrating noise is something else, though, and I can’t tell if it’s coming from the pump or the pipes to the tanks. Nothing has changed down there, though, so there is no obvious reason for it to start making that noise. It also seems to be a winter/cold weather thing, but I have no way to tell.

The pump has been going off more often, too. Even when no one is using the water, I would hear it start up. Some nights, I’ll be awakened because it’s turning on again. I’m the only one who can hear it, since my husband sleeps with a CPAP, which makes just enough noise to drown most things out, and the girls are on the second floor.

The problem is usually the toilet.

Ultimately, though, the source of the problem is our water. It is so full of iron and minerals, it’s messing things up. We’ll need to get a plumber in to fix the bathtub taps because the build up is getting so bad, the hot water tap leaks, even if only the cold water it turned on! When the plumber was here to clear the drain to the septic tank for us, he did take a quick look to give us an estimate, and he thinks he can fix it, rather than have to replace it, but we’d have to take off and replace the tub surround, since that’s the only way to access the taps.

It’s the toilet that is having more problems now. There must be quite a buildup inside the refill hose, as hardly any water flows through it, and it’s taking longer and longer for the tank to refill. The entire inside, which is lined with Styrofoam insulation, is coated with iron, which is also interfering with the flap. Sometimes, after flushing, the flap doesn’t seal right, so the tank keeps draining about as fast as the water is flowing to refill it, so the tank simply doesn’t fill. Unless someone happens to use the bathroom soon after and notices it – because there isn’t enough water to flush! – it’ll keep going for hours. Which is how I end up being awakened by the well pump going off repeatedly during the night! All that needs to be done is to give the lever a wiggle; the flap will settle in place and the tank will finally start filling. Looking at the parts and pieces, though, what I’d really like to do is simply replace all the innards. It’s all so coated with iron and minerals, that would probably be the best way to not just solve a couple of small problems, but keep them from happening again for a long time.

Which leads me to another little problem we’ve been having, thanks to our water quality.

The bathroom sink.

This still has the original tap and faucet set, from the mid 70’s or so. When the water flow starts to get bad, we usually just unscrew a piece from the faucet, give the parts a scrub, then put it back. If it’s really bad, we’ll soak the pieces in CLR for a while. The problem just kept coming back faster in between cleanings, though, and getting worse.

Last night, I had the pieces soaking in CLR again, but when I put them back, the flow was even worse than before the soak and scrub. I gave it some extra scrubbing, but that made things worse again, not better. I tried clearing the openings more directly but, again, it just got worse. When I put it back in place and almost no water could go through anymore, I had to do something more drastic! I took the part in question (I don’t know what it’s called) over to my craft table and tried to clear the holes with a pin. Which worked on one side, but not the other.

After much fighting with it, I managed to separate the pieces.

The grey piece at the top of the picture wasn’t too hard to clean. Especially when I was eventually able to get out the two other pieces inside. It was all so full of rust and gunk, each layer needed to be cleaned before I could get the next one out. The openings are large enough, the T pin I was using had no problem clearing them of scale and rust.

The real problem was the green piece.

The conical part you can see, with the fine mesh of holes, was still clogged. The holes on the bottom are even smaller, much fewer, and barely visible. I cleared them with a pin as best I could, but it was just not working well.

Eventually, I did get it to the point that the conical part started spinning around. Only then could I figure out where the pieces came apart. After much fussing – and the use of a tiny screwdriver – I was finally able to pop the conical part off.

Well, no wonder we were having problems!

Note that this is AFTER multiple soaks in CLR.

After wiping them down, I set the conical part aside to soak in CLR again, while I used the pin to clear the holes in the other part – holes that are much larger on the inside than the outside! Eventually, I got it to the point that I could see through all the holes when I held it up to the light. Not all the holes you see in the photo go all the way through. There’s just the circle of holes around the outer edge, plus another circle of holes half way to the centre.

Then I took the pin and cleared every last hole in the conical part.

By the time I was done and everything was put back together, it was 2am.

One of my daughters happened to be using the bathroom, so she put the newly cleaned part back together with the other parts and screwed it all back into the faucet for me.

Then we stood there and watched in awe over how much water was flowing through, as we let it run to make sure there was no CLR residue left. It hasn’t flowed this well in decades!

Now, if we could just get the toilet tank parts to flow as well!

At least this was a small thing we could take care of ourselves. There’s another new thing that is stressing me out.

The furnace has started making noises.

Of course, with this cold, the furnace is turning on more often, and staying on longer. This house is not very efficient, either, so we lose heat quickly. For all the time the furnace is on, the upstairs is still very cold. There’s only one heat vent for the entire second floor, and the girls have not noticed any real difference since the roof was done. Ah, well. It would have been nice!

Last night, I kept hearing the furnace turn on and start making a strange vibrating noise which – like the well pump – would stop by the time I hobbled my way down the basement stairs to check it.

I ended up turning the thermostat down, so at least the furnace would turn on less frequently, and not stay running as along. Oddly, after I did that, the vibrating noise seems to have stopped completely! Which doesn’t make any sense at all.

What we need to do is get someone to come in and give it a check, and do any maintenance stuff it needs. The problem is, we need to set aside funds for a replacement vehicle. Funds that would normally cover the cost of such irregular expenses. It becomes a battle of priorities over the dwindling “unallocated funds” part of our budget, since rising costs for everything else keeps chipping away at that, too.

It’s all these little things that are going to do us in. The well pump. The septic. The furnace. The taps. The toilet. The lights. The outlets. etc. All these accumulative things. Yes, it’s an old house. This sort of thing must be expected. Especially since there’s very little of this that we can do ourselves, and our resources are so limited.

So we try to focus on the stuff we do have control over, and juggle the budget to find ways to pay people to come in for the stuff we don’t.

The crazy thing is, a significant portion of these problems are caused by our water. It’s simply to loaded with iron and minerals. What I’d like to do is add a filter to the line going into the well pump. A simple filter would extend the life of all sorts of things! There are types that can be cleared without having to open it up to change filters, which would require re-priming the pump. Adding a filter is not going to be done until the pump is replaced, and we’ve already had three plumbers not want to do that (my brother already bought a new pump and all the fittings) due to the risk of the foot valve, at the bottom of the well, disintegrating and losing our water completely. That would turn a job of a few hundred dollars into a job of several thousand dollars, because of the set up we have, and the lack of availability of parts we would need. The valve itself is cheap. It’s all the other stuff that would have to be done to get to it that gets expensive!

Yup. It’s all those little things. They sure do add up!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: That was fast!!! and planning ahead

We had a light snowfall last night, making everything all white and fluffy this morning.

The outside cats didn’t mind it at all!

I counted 21 this morning.

Meanwhile, indoors, we have our first signs of spring.

When I checked the trays this morning, three out of four of them had onions sprouting. When I came back about an hour later, there were sprouts in the fourth tray!

I’m absolutely amazed by two things. One is, how quickly they started to germinate.

The other is, how much cat hair there is, all over the soil surface. These trays had lids on them. Where did all that cat hair come from? I mean, Beep Beep practically lives on top of the lights. She naps on them, rolls around on them, and even hugs them, so yeah… I can see some of her fur drifting down… but getting under the lids?

Yesterday, I marked on our communal calendar, two sets of dates. One was the number of weeks counted back from our last average frost date, June 2. This way, we can see at a glance that something that needs to be started 10 weeks before last frost, needs to be started around March 24, while something that needs only 4 weeks can wait until May 5th.

The other dates I marked was number of days counted back from our average first frost date, which is Sept. 10. We have exactly 100 days between our average last spring and first fall frosts. That’s the growing season we can mostly count on for frost sensitive plants.

For things that have really long days to maturity, it’s that “days before first frost” that we need to consider. If, for example, I have a gourd that requires 110 days to maturity, that’s May 23. If it needs 7-10 days to germinate, I would start them at least a week before that.

If I have something than need 90 days to maturity, that falls on June 12 and, by then, I could get away with direct sowing, instead.

One of the really useful tools I’ve found is the Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar. Most planting calendars just give number of weeks before first frost, because they’re meant to be generic. I can get that information from the seed packet. Farmer’s Almanac, however, lets you input your area code (or zip code, if you’re in the US). You can even put in your city (ha!) and province/state. It will find the climate station nearest you, then give you the calendar dates for starting indoors and transplanting, or seeding outdoors. It even gives you the choice of dates based on frost date, or on moon dates. Oh, and I discovered something very handy when I hit the print button on the web page. It allows you to remove things from the list that you aren’t growing, which greatly reduced the number of pages that got printed out!

It’s still a bit generic, of course, but the date range is pretty wide. For example, it tells me bell peppers should be started between March 24 and April 7. We have five varieties of bell peppers, and four of them are early varieties, so we could use the information on the seed packet to figure out which ones need to be started in March, and which can wait until April.

Of course, they can’t cover everything, so we still need to make adjustments. For example, their calendar says to start winter squash outdoors between June 16 and July 14. With some varieties, we could do that, but we’ve got some large varieties of winter squash that need more time to fully mature, so we would be better off starting them indoors. If we use the biodegradable pots that can be buried, that would reduce transplant shock.

We have always started summer squash indoors. I think, this year, we might direct seed them. The calendar says zucchini can be planted anywhere between June 16 and July 14, which is when we can expect the soil to finally be warm enough.

As for the things we’ll need to start the earliest, the herbs (except dill, which is direct sown) will need to be started at the same time as bell peppers; in March. The eggplants and tomatoes can be started in early April, melons can be started in early May, while pumpkins and watermelon can be started in mid May.

The direct sowing dates are pretty interesting for some things. If we decide to try growing radishes again, they can be direct seeded in early April – at the same time we’d be starting eggplant and tomatoes indoors. Carrots can be planted in late April, early May, which would be about the same time we’d be starting melons indoors.

All of which needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the calendar says to start onion seeds outdoors in early May. Sets, sure, but seeds? Nope. There’s a reason people out here start their onion seeds indoors in January! Also, it has dates to start lettuce and chard indoors, but none for direct seeding. Who starts lettuce and chard indoors? I mean, sure, you can grow them indoors, but for transplant?

As it stands now, though, we won’t need to start anything else indoors until March 24, at the earliest.

That gives us February and most of March to get the materials we need and build a removeable door and frame, to keep the cats out of the living room, and out of the seedlings!

We’ll also need to build a barrier to block an opening in the shelf to the left of the door in the image.

Frosty garden plans

We had fog roll in yesterday, so by morning, we were back to looking like a winter wonderland!

Nothing like seeing frost to get me thinking about the garden! ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

One of my goals for today is to mark out on our calendar, when we need to start different seeds indoors. We will also need to figure out how to build a barrier to keep the cats out of the living room, as we need to migrate trays out of the aquarium greenhouses and over to the rest of the room. Last year’s set up had serious issues when it came to protection from cats determined to get at the pots. The problem there comes down to funds. The “unallocated funds” of our budget we would use for projects like this are now allocated to make “car payments” into savings, so that we’ll have a down payment for a replacement vehicle before next winter. That’s not going to leave much wiggle room for other things.

Still, it will need to be done! We’ll figure it out.

With the ground still frozen and covered with snow, I’m thinking about where things will be planted, and when. The old kitchen garden is getting to the point where we can start making it into an actual “kitchen garden” – the place to plant those things that we would be wanting to harvest casually and continually, as needed for our cooking. It is also a good place to plant things that will need more protection and warmth.

The waffle weave bed is done and ready. The contents will, of course, sink as time goes by, but I deliberately filled it higher than I wanted it, so that won’t be too much of a problem. With the woven walls, I do want the top of the soil to be lower than the top of the bed by a fair bit, so it’s less likely to fall through the gaps. That bed gets full sun on the long, narrow side, while the short side that gets wider at the end gets quite a bit more shade.

The rectangular bed will be built up a bit higher on the sides, plus an even higher “wall” to hold back the pink rose bush, so that won’t take much to finish. The hard part on that one will be trying to pull up all those mint roots again!

The small raised bed along the south side of the garden is ready, and the strip in front of it has bulbs planted. The area right against the bed, covered with grass clippings in the photo, has bulbils from the single walking onion that keeps coming back, planted. Last year was the first time since we’ve been here that it didn’t get broken by something before the bulbils formed! We’ll see if they survived the winter. It would be nice to have perennial onions in here. This garden would be a good place to grow bunching onions, too, though those failed completely, last year.

There’s a section by the laundry platform that is overgrown with mint that needs to be cleaned up. That could be another bed for some flowers, perhaps – my younger daughter really wants to have a flower garden in here. There’s a bed along the retaining wall blocks that needs some work – it got very compacted last year, and I finally gave up trying to keep it weeded. That bed is where the bunching onions died. ๐Ÿ˜„

This garden would be a good place to start our herb garden. We transplanted mint into alternating blocks of the retaining wall, and they did survive and grow last summer. I don’t know what variety they are, but we now have spearmint seeds. We could plant the spearmint in the remaining blocks, so we can keep it under control.

I like having a retaining wall that doubles as planters!

Other herbs seeds we have now that can go in here are the thyme (two types), chamomile and oregano. I do not want to plant the dill here, as I want to plant that somewhere it can grow freely and self seed, without taking over a bed from everything else. The lemon grass, of course, will be going into a pot and set into a microclimate against the house.

I’m thinking this garden would be a good place for the Little Finger Eggplant, as well as at least some of the peppers. The free seeds for Jebousek lettuce we got would probably do well in the shadier beds, and I’d love to try the Hedou Tiny bok choy in here.

It sounds like a lot, but I think we’ll have enough space for all of this. For things like the peppers, we’re looking to have just a few plants of each variety, as we see how well they grow here, and which ones are enjoyed the most, so they shouldn’t take up excessive amounts of space. As for the herbs, we’ll only need a couple of plants each to meet our needs, so they won’t take up a lot of space, either.

Hopefully, with raising the beds higher, we’ll have less of a battle with all those invasive flowers my mother had in here, taking things over! The raised beds should also make it easier to have protective covers we can more easily move aside, to access underneath. That was one of the biggest problems I had with tending this garden last year. We had netting to protect the plants from critters, but it had to be fixed so thoroughly, it kept us out, too!

The corner around the honeysuckle and white roses really turned into a jungle of periwinkle and purple bellflower last year. I’d like to keep fighting those off as much as we can, so my daughter can start planting new – non invasive! – flowers to eventually out grow the invaders. The purple bellflower even buried other flowers – lilies, if I remember correctly – to the point that they never bloomed. That patch needs to be divided, so we could take advantage of that and perhaps use them to create a border. I am considering transplanting the rhubarb out of there completely. They are not doing as well as they could, right under the ornamental apple trees as they are. Though, to be honest, I’d like to get rid of those apple trees, They’re creating too much shade and preventing other things from thriving. They’re so beautiful, though, and they do provide food for the birds, so I’ve no plans to do that until we have something to replace them with – somewhere else!

It will be good to have more effective use of this garden. Having a small garden so close to the house should be very convenient, if we plan things right.

The Re-Farmer

A good day to burn things

We’re still having slightly above average highs lately. It’s been quite nice!

The outside cats think so, too.

I counted 21 this morning. I also found both heated water bowls completely dry, which hasn’t happened in quite a while! We had some very thirsty cats, this morning!

The tabby in the above picture is from the oldest litter, and one of the shiest cat, so it’s rare to get a decent photo of it. I love that pattern on the sides of its nose, the way the black lines are split, and those black, black lips.

The little one drinking water lets us pet him. I’ve even been able to pick him up and give him a cuddle! He’s one of two of that seem to be staying really, really small.

We had a pretty quiet day. Because it’s so nice out, my daughters got the fire pit going, getting rid of the clean burnable garbage in the process, then having themselves a cook out.

My younger daughter has been working really hard on cleaning up the new part basement. My “work shop” is down there, where I was hoping to be able to regularly do wood carving, but it’s gotten increasingly painful for me to navigate the stairs. That basement is where most of the litter boxes are, and most of the food bowls. Unfortunately, the cats have been making a mess down there, including peeing all over the work table. My daughter has been cleaning that up and even taking apart the table – which is basically a sheet of plywood laid on top of some legs, but not attached – and sanitizing all sorts of things. She brought up a bunch of burnable garbage, so today I took that to the burn ring (the burn barrel is no longer useable and needs to be replaced), to get a fire going and get rid of the accumulating wood pellet litter. I was even able to dig one of the old, rotten pallets from the junk pile out of the snow and get that burning. The sawdust from the pellet litter takes a while to smolder away, so I like to get a decent amount of wood burnt down to coals, then cover the whole thing with a sheet of metal, leaving a small gap for the air to get in, and letting it smolder. It can take several days before the sawdust finally smolders itself away.

I got that to the smoldering stage at about the same time the girls were finishing up at the fire pit. We’ve been keeping clean wood, such as maple and non-diseased apple branches, stacked between the tall stumps of three dead trees I took down, our first year here. We’ve been making a point of using it up lately, as some of it is getting pretty old and starting to decompose – we’ve had various levels of fire bans our first four summers here, so last summer was the first time we got to use the fire pit for any decent amount! As we were packing up their chairs and cook out supplies, they told me they’d been talking about building an actual firewood shelter. Those three tree stumps have been so handy to hold the fire wood, they were thinking we could keep using those, and just put some sort of roof over them, instead of the scrap sheet of fibreglass we’re currently using. We don’t want to build anything too elaborate, since we’re planning to build an outdoor kitchen in a different area – one that doesn’t have overhanging branches or trees nearby! – that will incorporate the fire pit, too. That might take a while, so slapping together something for firewood by the current firepit certainly won’t be a waste of effort.

Between the fire pit and the burn barrel, we spent several hours outside, burning things! It was perfect weather to do it. We’ve got maybe another week of these milder temperatures before we’re supposed to start getting below average highs, which will probably continue into February. Nothing extreme – it looks like Western Canada is going to be hit with extreme cold again, but by the time the system reaches us, it won’t be as severe. Of course, the different weather sources give different forecasts, and one of them is still saying we’ll have above average highs for most of February.

I’m happy, either way. After the extreme cold we had the past few winters, this is really, really appreciated. Not to mention easier on the vehicles. I wish I could say it was easier on the heat bills, but the rates keep going up, so we’re paying more with our equal payment plan now then ever. ๐Ÿ™ Ah, well. I’ll take what we can get!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Veseys order placed – potatoes and more

Yes, I have gardening on my mind!

Among the things we were talking about ordering that will be delivered in the spring were potatoes and, potentially, raspberries.

It seems we weren’t the only ones that had a bad growing year in 2022, because the potatoes I was looking for were simply not available. However, Veseys has potatoes again, and so I placed another order with them.

Among the items we have ordered before, we are getting the Purple Peruvian Fingerlings again. We were really happy with them, in their grow bags, two years ago. They come in 2 lb packages, so we ordered two of them.

I am also ordering a couple of seed mixes from them that we ordered before (and using the coupon code from Maritime Gardening saved me the shipping costs!). I ordered two each of the Alternative Lawn Mix, and the Western Mix Wildflowers. The areas we had planted them, in the fall of 2021, got flooded in the spring, and nothing came of them. With so many wood piles chipped, we now have areas of bare ground that I would like to seed before they get taken over the invasive weeds again! Two of those areas will get the alternative lawn mix. The third does get accumulated snowmelt nearby in the spring, but should be fine to plant in. That area is next to our budding food forest, and will be good for attracting pollinators.

The seed packs will be sent right away, but the rest will be sent in time for planting in our zone 3.

Here are the new varieties we are going to be getting. All images belong to Veseys.

These are Red Thumb fingerling potatoes. They are noted for their delicious flavour. Unfortunately, there isn’t any information about how well they store over winter. These come in 2 lb packages, so we ordered two of them.

These are Irish Cobbler potatoes, an early variety also noted for their exceptional flavour. They come in a 3 lb pack, and we ordered just one of them.

These last ones are for our food forest. Royalty Raspberries. They come in packages of three, and we ordered just one package to try them. They are a late maturing variety, hardy to zone 2. So far, everything we’ve tried that’s purple has done really well for us, even in poor growing conditions, so I’m hoping the trend continues! These will produce fruit in their second year, so as long as we can keep them alive this year, we should have purple berries to try, next year.

There are still other things we will want to order for spring delivery, such as replacement sea buckthorn. We’ll just have to be careful to set aside the budget for them as we place the spring delivery orders, because we’ll be charged for them all at once, when they’re shipped!

This year, I’m happy to have several items, with different maturing rates, added to our food forest. The raspberries for production next year, apples that should start producing in 4 or 5 years, and the zone 3 mulberry trees that should take a few more years before they begin producing berries, as we will be getting 2 smaller, younger seedlings, instead of the 1 larger, older seedling they normally would have shipped, but are not available.

Little by little, we’re getting to where we want to be!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: getting started (video)

Yesterday, after many delays, I finally sorted through all our seeds, old and new. I was happy to find I still had luffa seeds left, so I got those started, along with our onions.

Since I’m running out of media storage space on my WordPress account (the down side of having such a photo heavy blog!), I took my photos and made them into a video, instead. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to let me know what you think of it, either here or in the comments under the video at YouTube. If you watch the video on YouTube, you can subscribe to my channel there. I’ll be uploading it to my Rumble account, too.

I will probably be doing a lot more of these, since I’m not about to spend over $300 a year to upgrade my account, when all I want is more storage space! It takes a lot more time, and I borrow my daughter’s microphone for the voice overs, but it does allow me to use higher quality images, and more of them, than I would here. I’d call it an experiment, but it’s not like I have much choice!

On another note, I’m quite enjoying the Movavi Video Suite to make these videos. I’m just barely skimming the surface of what the software allows me to do, since my needs are really basic, but if I wanted to, I could create some pretty professional looking videos. The only complaint I have is how it keeps wanting me to buy into subscriptions to get more choices in media and effects, etc. But that’s pretty typical of most media software these days, I think.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the video!

The Re-Farmer

Those eyes! And this is $223

I counted 22 cats outside while doing their kibble and warm water this morning!

One of them was Pinky, the only kitten with orange we had last year. I was even able to pet him a bit, though he’s not quite comfortable with attention. I heard from the Cat Lady this morning; it’s been a while, due to her health issues, so it was quite a relief to hear from her. She had someone who was looking for an orange kitten and asked if we had any, so I tried to get pictures of him. This person might be okay with a young cat, instead, so I also sent a picture of Turmeric.

This, however, is not Pinky, nor Turmeric. It’s one of the cats we can’t come near, and I don’t usually see him sitting still when I’m around. I just had to zoom in to take some pictures, because this is the first time I’ve had a really good look at his eyes!

They are so very pale! Most of our cats have eyes that are gold or green, but this one’s eyes look almost like a pale blue! The photo doesn’t do justice to how light they really are. In the shade of the water shelter, they seemed to glow white. Just gorgeous!

After finished my morning rounds, I had to make a trip to a Walmart to get more kibble. The outside cats may be eating less again, but we still weren’t going to have enough to last until our next stock up trip to the city. I just went to the smaller, closer Walmart, and used the trip to pick up a few other things – including some extras for the freezer, and even some treats.

This is $223.46 – after taxes.

Usually, I get the biggest bags of kibble they have – and this time, there was plenty of cat food in stock – but I got the sense the cats were getting tired of it. There’s just one brand and one flavour in the 10kg size. So this time, I got two 9kg bags for the outside cats, and a 7.5kg bag for the inside cats, all in different flavours. The larger bags were just under $30 each, and the smaller one just under $22. Once I got home, I topped up their food, and they were eating quite enthusiastically, so I think I was right about the “getting tired of it” part.

They also had stove pellets in stock this time, so I got a bag for the cat litters. Just one, and it saved me from having to go to another store. When it’s time to stock up, I’ll get several bags from Canadian Tire. This bag cost almost $8. Canadian Tire has softwood pellets for just under $7.

Eggs were on my list, and the 18 count eggs were a good price, at $5.58 each, so I got two. Bread was on my list as well, so I got a couple loaves of rye bread ($3.47 each) and a couple packages of wraps ($6.27 each), which are bread products we don’t make ourselves. I also got a larger Walmart brand of hot dog wieners at $5, so there’s a couple of bags of hot dog buns ($3.67 each) to go with those. The weather has been so mild, we’ve been talking about getting the fire pit going, so these are a treat for the girls to cook over the fire. Also on my list was cheese, so I got Havarti, old and marble from the 2 for $10 selection. I had butter on my list, too, but I got just one pound. The cheap, no-name butter was $5.97. Much better than the local prices, but still getting quite high for no-name!

Not on my list, but at an excellent price, were a couple of chickens for the freezer. They were selling at under $2 a pound. I got the biggest ones I could find, but they’re still much smaller than the ones we got from my homesteading neighbour. At less than $10 a chicken, I won’t say no to something I can add to our supply if I can get it! I also got some sour cream, just because we were out, but I also got some carrots that were a very good price. We do still have the Black Nebula carrots, but we’re just not using them. They’ve got so many root hairs on them, and they’re so small, they’re not worth cleaning. Plus, the colour makes anything cooked with them look pretty unappetizing, to be honest. They’d be good for fresh eating or for juicing, if we could get all those root hairs off, but I think the last of them are just going to get composted.

Too bad we don’t have chickens yet. They’d love them!

Oh, and I got another bag of seed starting mix. We’ve got to get those onion seeds started! I was gong to do that this afternoon, until I realized I couldn’t put off getting more kibble. One last thing I got that wasn’t on the list was a deodorant for the girls to try. The price was really, really good, but it’s not a brand they usually use (my husband and I use antiperspirant), and I wasn’t sure they’d like the scent. I like to pick up stuff like deodorant, tooth paste and other toiletries when the price is good, to stock up our supplies, just in case. With this year’s mild winter, we’ve been able to get out as needed for a change, but last year, with the vehicles freezing and/or not being able to get through the roads or driveway at times, we definitely started to run low on such things before we could finally go shopping!

I also got some treats for my husband and I. The Valentine’s Day stuff is out, so I got some Cinnamon Hearts for my husband. One of the side effects of all the drugs he’s on is that he’s lost much of his sense of taste, so something that’s spicy hot is appreciated. He can actually taste it! It’s something handy to have, if his blood sugars suddenly drop again. He’s definitely had some scary moments. Which isn’t supposed to happen, since he’s on a slow release insulin that is taken only once a week, but it does. ๐Ÿ™ For myself, I got some dark chocolate mint wafers. I also got a vitamin water drink for the road, and a bag of chocolate almonds to keep in the van. I like to have some sort of munchy in the van for those days when we’re running around, but aren’t able to stop and eat. Usually, it’s a big container of mixed nuts from Costco, but we aren’t going to make it to Costco until the end of the month for our regular stock up trip. Not making it to Costco for our January stock up has left us making way too many smaller trips.

With what I got today, we should not be running out of anything until the end of the month, when we do our February stock up trip. This time, Costco is going to be done first! It seems that if we try to split our shopping days and do the other locations first, we end up not making it to Costco at all, but doing more smaller trips instead – and that takes more out of the budget, for less supplies.

December and January are always odd months for trips, but this winter, even more so than usual. Extra trips involving cat stuff certainly changed things, too!

Hopefully, things will start settling down again, and we can be our usual hermit selves. ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜„

The Re-Farmer

Well, that opens up our day

But first, the cuties!

How many cats do you see?

There’s actually five. It’s hard to see, but there are three cats along the bottom of the window. When I took the picture, I could see the one on the far left moving around. It wasn’t until I uploaded the picture to my desktop and used the auto photo fix to see if it would be any clearer, that I spotted the one way in the back!

It feels so strange to look out our bathroom window and see only a couple of cats on the swing bench, instead of dozen or more. In fact, yesterday I actually looked out once and saw NO cats in there at all! The cats are definitely enjoying the relatively mild temperatures, and using the cat house instead of the sun room. This morning, I counted only seventeen cats, and only two of those were adults. Junk Pile and Caramel. I still can’t get near Junk Pile but, every now and then, I’ve managed to sneak a quick pet on Caramel, while she’s on the cat house roof.

She doesn’t like that, though.

In other things, my husband and I were supposed to be out today. Last month, we had consecutive appointments with our doctor (having the same doctor saves a lot of time and travel!) that got rescheduled to today. Just a little while ago, we got a call from the clinic. A very apologetic receptionist was calling to reschedule us again! She was able to book us for the earliest appointment she could find next week, though, so at least we won’t have more than a month to wait!

So that opens up my day. A trip to the doctor is about 40 minutes on the highway, plus town driving and usually a stop at the gas station along the way, too. We like to arrive early which, at this clinic, often meant actually getting in to see the doctor early. They’re good about that. We’re both going to be getting our regular blood tests done. Lab and X-ray is right there, so what usually happens is, my husband and I go in together for his appointment (I’m there to keep him honest! LOL He has a terrible habit of making light of what he’s going through, which is not a good thing to do with the doctor), then he goes to do his more extensive lab work while I have my appointment. Then I get my lab work done, which tends to be much faster. This way, we get home as quickly as possible, with the least amount of time for my husband painfully sitting in the waiting room.

Between the driving and the appointments, adjusting to make it as comfortable and least painful for my husband, it takes up quite a bit of time, and most of that time is spent driving “gently”. He feels every little bump and vibration, painfully, so I am a lot more careful about things like how quickly I accelerate or decelerate, taking turns, etc.

Gosh. Now I have a whole day freed up! What shall I do with myself?

I guess I ought to clean out the litter boxes in my office I’d asked the girls to do while we were gone.

๐Ÿคจ

The Re-Farmer

New eyes

Almost 2 years ago, I found this video from the 2014 National Heirloom Expo, showing 300 varieties of squash on display. At the time, while watching it, my thoughts were along the lines of, “wow! Look at all those cool squash!”

While trying to find information about specific squash varieties, I stumbled on the video again and found myself watching it with new eyes. Last summer, we tried growing so many different types of squash, and I had been researching so many others, I found myself surprised by how many I now recognized.

Right near the beginning, there was a display of pumpkins I recognised and, sure enough, they were Lady Godiva hulless pumpkins. I was rather happy to see that our own Lady Godivas that we harvested were pretty close in size to what is in the video. For all the set backs, they actually did reach, or come very close to, their full potential.

There were several displays of Boston Marrow, and ours didn’t come anywhere near their full potential! I knew they didn’t, but it was by a lot more than I thought.

The nest egg gourds in the display were just like ours, though! I’m going to have to break one open to collect seeds to start indoors.

I recognised others from varieties we tried to grow but failed completely, and got to see what they would have looked like, had 2022 been a good growing year. Still others I remember looking at in catalogs and websites, trying to decide whether or not to get their seeds. Of course, I found myself keeping an eye out for others we’d grown or tried to grow, but not all of them were there. It’s pretty amazing, how many varieties of squash there are!

I started watching the video while searching for information of growing Crespo squash and kulli corn. There is very little information about kulli corn out there. I’m still trying to figure out why ours never even started to develop cobs. From what I did find, it has a 100 day growing season. That’s cutting it close for us, but not by much, and I’d started them indoors to make up for it. I do want to try them again, but probably not this year.

As for the Crespo squash, all I’m finding is a few – very few! – seed sources, before the hits are just generic squash links. If I look at images, I find my own pictures from the first year we tried to grow them! Other pictures come up that are labelled Crespo squash, but they look completely different.

Well, hopefully as we try growing them again and write about them in this blog, it will be helpful to others, trying to find information!

The Re-Farmer